Development Blog – Week 14

This week saw the team continue to gear up for the end of the semester by making more improvements, responding to Soft Opening feedback, and checking off items on our polish lists.

Last week, a new gradient texture was implemented and tested in Chapter 2. While definitely a step in the right direction, the team decided to simplify it even more. Therefore, the previous A-B-A gradient texture was modified to be a simple A-B gradient in both vertical and horizontal formats

This gradient schema ended up working extremely well with the natural elements of the landscape and was easily the most well-received of all the textures.

A visualization of corruption also made an appearance in Chapter 1 to further amplify the chaos and erratic aftermath of the data transfer event:

Speaking of the data transfer event, the older 2D art was replaced with new effects to help sell the moment even more:

On top of these programming changes, the programmers have been hard at work adding and tweaking all sorts of elements to amplify the experience this week:

  1. Sound effects were added to Chapter 2 including but not limited to applying a texture on an object, dialogue sound effects, and background music.
  2. A global hint system was added into Chapter 2 in case players need a reminder of the task at hand.
  3. Hotkeys were added to allow for players to jump to the overworld map at any time in the experience.
  4. Following playtesting responses, an indicator was added in Chapter 1 to better highlight where objects such as Code Blocks would be dropped into the Code Puzzles.
  5. The third puzzle in Chapter 1 received a hint system upgrade. Now, hints are scaffolded to allow for a higher challenge upfront. As more time goes on, hints appear to aid the players. These hints get more and more detailed as time goes on to help players figure out the solution to the puzzle just a little bit easier in case they need the help. This methodology of scaffolding hints ended up being highly in-line with our client’s learning objectives as well.

The busy programmers also teamed up with design and art to upgrade the chat system, as there appeared to be confusion at Softs about the UI as well as who the speakers are. We iterated on the look of our chat system by offsetting the dialogue boxes as well as adding character avatars to better distinguish the speakers from each other. In addition, the buttons to prompt the next text exchange was modified to better reflect the fact that the buttons are both separate and related to the chat system:

Our artist also updated the ba-xi players with newer, sleeker 3D models for Chapter 0:

The design team also had a lot on their plate responding to Soft Opening feedback, the biggest of which was reanalyzing the inventory system in Chapter 2. The designers realized that while having the submenu was a good idea on paper, it did not align with the usability language we have been teaching players for the previous chapters. As such, the submenu was removed and the simplicity of dragging and dropping directly from the inventory was brought back. The Texture Editor was streamlined to have the active Color being edited have a border rather than being darker to showcase selection as well.

To reflect many of these changes, specifically in Chapter 2, and to push for easier instructions through the dialogue between Alice and Brad, our writer went back to the script and rewrote around 30-40% of the dialogue, taking care to keep the language concise and as grounded as possible.

The team also worked hard on making sure many administrative tasks were done on time. As part of our deliverable package, the team has put together a Development Journal outlining our progress, work process, and thought process for this project. This Journal also has rudimentary game development lessons peppered in such as the importance of iteration, brainstorming tips, and design mindsets for students. While the Development Journal was put together with our client in mind, it was also important to put it together with the added intention of helping students, educators, and facilitators. As such, part of the 40-page document includes sections such as what we would have liked to include as well as potential offline activities that can be done with students in-tandem with the experience.

Our project trailer was also edited this week!

Phew. It has certainly been a journey. With roughly a week to go before the end of the semester, the team is getting closer and closer to client hand-off and our Final Presentation. It’s been a long and (sometimes) rocky road, but the Interactive Academy team is proud of the progress made this semester at the ETC.