November was another busy month and it genuinely feels like the year is coming to a close. In this update; lots of work on Star Marine, finishing touches to Jack B. Nimble, my Ludum Dare postmortem, and messing around with some old engines.
First up, I was on Around the Verse talking a little about the work process building levels for Star Marine (I’m around the 18-minute mark).
It was great to be able to show early footage of “Echo 11” and give a glimpse at a ‘before and after’ from design to art phases. I’ve never been able to show this amount of early development in the past.
As a side note, I know I’m not the most comfortable or confident person on camera (as seen on Twitch), but I do enjoy the opportunity to share some insight into game development – I’ll get better at this, I promise. In the future, I’d love to show my level design process as it happens… watch this space!
Here’s an expanded transcript of what I had to say regarding the Star Marine level design process.
We started by building a large 3D space with six degrees of freedom to move and shoot, but that’s not particularly interesting if there is nothing there to act as cover, so we need to build things around it.
Multiplayer level design is an iterative process – you start with an idea and that can come from either concept art, the idea for a scenario or potentially, a top-down sketch. I prefer to work with rough 3D shapes which I can then flesh out into the basics of a white box. The white box is then play tested, which results in a lot of iteration; this requires perfecting sight lines, timing the choke points and maintaining metrics.
A white box’s primary intention is to minimise rework later on whilst getting the balance and fun in the game as soon as possible. Parallel to initial play tests, art and narrative departments are also working, planning their treatment of the locations and spaces, informed by the white box and integrating ideas their own pool.
There’s a lot of back and forth with art when maintaining metrics, there is always the desire to make things look visually appealing but we always need to make sure the mechanics will still work well. So that means judging heights of crates, mantling points, distances between doorways and keeping routes clear.
As testing progresses, art are able to flesh out areas that have become a set in stone and over time, the map changes from a texture-less shell to a more believable and aesthetically pleasing location.
Jack B. Nimble
It is done! Jack B. Nimble is done!
…with the caveat that I am still expecting a little bit of playtest feedback to tweak some of the final unlock values; but I have a release candidate ready to submit to Apple. That being said, I have made the tough decision to delay the game until early 2017. I want to focus on creating strong promotional material and to guarantee balance across the levels and unlocks. And to address the elephant in the room, I don’t want to compete with Nintendo’s release of Super Mario Run. I’m not suggesting that I am anywhere near a rival or competitor, but I feel that media attention surrounding that release is just going to trample over small fry (like me).
I’m going to use this delay to put energy into a Steam Greenlight campaign and launch trailer for the app store. I’ll be reaching out to the community in the coming weeks to investigate what is expected of a PC/Mac/Linux port. In an ideal world, this means I’ll be able to launch Jack B. Nimble 4.0 on iOS at the same time that Greenlight page goes live. I am still working on a dedicated website to act as a hub of information to help promote the game.
I know I promised box art last month, but I really want to get the website in place first (it’s almost done).
Global Defense Corps
Back in October I was contacted by Kotaku for interview to comment on the fifth annual Game Boy Jam and reflect on my entry, “Global Defense Corps”. I wrote a postmortem based upon comments from that interview: Global Defense Corps Postmortem. Spoilers: I was pretty happy with how it turned out.
Following this post mortem, the programmer and I have had a number of discussions about expanding upon this idea. I’m not sure if this will go anywhere, but we’ve been talking about it… You can play Global Defense Corps over on itch.io here.
With my professional focus switching towards multiplayer and my indie efforts being rather casual in nature, I thought I’d try my hand at doing something I never managed to do back in the 90’s; finish a Quake map.
There are a bunch of new tools out there (such as Trenchbroom) and super passionate communities keeping the classic alive. Over the next year I’m going to start an “on-the-side” project building a single player map for Quake. I have very little to show yet as I’m still getting my head around the tools. I have discovered that a lot of what is required is spread over multiple places from multiple sources; so perhaps I will document my progress in an attempt to help others?