Mind the Trap

New Build Submitted for the IndieCade Festival | Fingers Crossed!

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The IndieCade Festival is an exciting opportunity for accepted developers to showcase their games, network with fellow developers and industry professionals, and meet with potential publishers. During these past couple weeks we’ve been developing a new build for the application in response to all the live feedback we’ve received from the Indie Arcade Gaming Expo. Without further ado, check out some in-game footage!

The key points and frustrations players had with our game:

  1. The floaty low-friction movement was frustratingly funny but with a heavy emphasis on “frustrating.” Players easily lost control of their characters and died too frequently.
  2. Combining the bump attack and platforming ability into one mechanic was hard to get used to, especially when the platforming ability is a forward lunge and not a jump. Bumping players or objects in a particular direction was also difficult to achieve because of how little control the players had.
  3. Our high-end computer struggled at high performance settings due to the use of heavy lighting and post-processing effects. The procedural generation methodology we used during that time involved spawning levels on-the-go in the form of preset blueprints, which didn’t allow static lighting to be baked.
  4. Camera bugs were extremely disruptive to the gameplay. Whenever a player fell off the platform and was respawned at the nearest checkpoint, all other players would be respawned as well. Any effort made to get ahead was essentially nullified.

Improvements in the current build:

  1. Rotating the character is now instant, making movement feel more exact with the player’s input.
  2. Pressing the A button on the controller to platform now executes a standard “jump” (vertical hop). Also, instead of lunging forward to bump attack someone, we’ve implemented a grab-and-throw mechanic similar to that used in Legend of Zelda: Four Swords. It offers a lot of control and it feels natural for the player. Plus, it’s a lot of fun. We’ve made sure to keep it fair with plenty of room for counter-play.
  3. Random map generation now utilizes Level Streaming, UE4’s built-in system for loading and unloading levels almost instantaneously. And because we’re using actual levels instead of blueprints for each dungeon, static lighting is baked and performance has improved.
  4. We took some cues from New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Spelunky to create what so far is a pretty reliable camera system.
    • Spelunky: The screen space is capped at a max size so that players have some room to split away from each other, for example, to be the first to get to the chest. Once any players leaves the screen space, they have 5 seconds to return or else they will be respawned at their last checkpoint within the screen space.
    • New Super Mario Bros. Wii: We’ve now introduced a temporary death system. Anytime a player dies (e.g. falls off the platform), they will be respawned only if their last checkpoint is visible in the screen space. Otherwise, they will respawn once a player has activated the subsequent checkpoint along the dungeon path. For players that struggled with platforming, this took care of a lot of their frustrations. We’ve made sure to place a lot of checkpoints so any player that does die won’t miss out on much.

Other new things:

  1. Conrad has replaced a lot of placeholder assets with beautiful, high-definition assets.
  2. Using levels to recreate the dungeons has given us the opportunity to reexamine gameplay, completely overhaul the scrappier code, and take a step back to redefine the process flow for how we work as a team. We all work remotely from our homes, so it was key for us to clearly communicate our progress and keep track of each other’s targets.
  3. Level design is fluid and systematic. With each dungeon being more than 3 times the size of their blueprint predecessors, we take a segmented approach and make sure the player’s experience is evenly divided between platforming, puzzles to force collaboration, and rest areas to provide opportunities to get ahead.

Fingers crossed!

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