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RD Dev Blog: PROTOTYPING WEAPONS - Part 2

Today comes the second part to the last post. Slightly later than scheduled but very shiny and brand new!

Weapon Samples

Last week, we presented you the system we use to quickly prototype a large variety of weapons. We’re going to show you some concrete examples for weapons we built and experimented with in subsequent posts. Some of those will make it into the final game, where they’ll be subject to further tweaking and refining as the game develops.

Here’s one right now:

The Ricoshredder

This is the first weapon I designed, and a version of it existed before we made the modular system. It basically is a rifle that fires rebounding ammo. The special part about it is that if a ricochet hits an enemy, it transforms into a bouncing shrapnel bomb that can be triggered by touching it with a player character. The shrapnel bomb stays true to the weapon’s theme and fills the screen with rebounding shards.

The ricoshredder was made with the following goals in mind:

-          Deliver on over-the-topness

-          Make the environment matter

-          Reward co-op

-          Be easy to learn, hard to master

Did the weapon deliver?

Is it over the top?

We have shots bouncing around. Exaggerated, but not really over the top. Popping a shrapnel bomb is a bit better in that regard. Popping several briefly fills the screen with bouncing bullets and has things dying left and right. Not the craziest weapon, but crazy enough.

Does the environment matter?

The very angles of the floor, walls and ceiling influence what you can hit with the Ricoshredder. That’s a pass even before we add objects that interact with your shots.

Does this get improved by co-op?

The real damage potential of the Ricoshredder lies in the shrapnel bombs, but those can be a bit tricky to catch as they’re bouncing all over the place. Any player can trigger a shrapnel bomb, so the more players you have, the easier it is to catch the bombs before they despawn, ramping up your effective damage output.

Is it easy to learn and hard to master?

The “easy to learn” part is a bit questionable here. Why do the bubbles spawn on some hits but not on others? It’s when a triangular shot hits an enemy, right? How do I make those? Do I have to hit them with the square ones? Why doesn’t the bubble hurt my enemies, and why is it blue all of a sudden? Wait – I’m supposed to touch those? Should we adopt this weapon, we’ll probably have to properly introduce some concepts like “pick-up projectiles”.

There is some potential for “hard to master” here. Your initial shot is consistent, as is the initial shrapnel pattern. Maximizing your hits can be tricky as the trajectories change with the angles of your surroundings. Knowing where to aim, and where and when to pop the shrapnel bombs can net you a lot more damage.

RD Dev Blog: PROTOTYPING WEAPONS - Part 1

We allready posted this dev blog on our Kickstarter so don’t be bummed out if you have read this before. Because next week we continue with the second part to todays post which is shiny and brand new. So without further ado:

From Clunky to Chunky

The Initial Approach

When we first started prototyping weapons, each designer would put his or her weapon concepts to paper, and one of our programmers would hard-code that weapon. This made for a slow and clunky process, as coding takes time, and when the designers wanted to test different things, this required changes to the code further slowing down the process. We could also only change certain values, but not fundamentally alter the way a specific weapon works.

This wasn’t ideal for prototyping, which is about quickly (and messily) tinkering with different concepts and checking whether they pan out in practice, how they compare to alternate approaches and how they interact with other concepts.

The Modular System

To remedy that, we overhauled the entire approach to creating weapons. Instead of coding each weapon individually, we designed and coded building blocks for the weapons that don’t do anything meaningful on their own, but can be quickly assembled and modified via scripting by the designers to create a staggering variety of weapons. Coding that system took a few days, but in the end, we saved a huge amount of time, resulting in dozens of weapons as opposed to a mere handful, and way crazier weapons to boot.

Patterns

So, how do those building blocks work? To assemble weapons, we distinguish between projectile patterns and the projectiles themselves. A pattern can contain any number of projectiles. Whenever that pattern gets triggered, all the projectiles listed under that pattern are fired. We can set the rate of fire, the angle of each individual projectile, whether that pattern is triggered by pressing the fire button or by other conditions (e.g. on impact of a specific projectile), and more.

Projectiles

The projectiles themselves are a bit more complex, listing properties such as speed, range, size, damage, force (for knockback, knockdown, launches etc.), as well as special properties such as being affected by gravity or bouncing off level geometry.

They also have optional conditions and consequences, like “when you hit an enemy, despawn”. Those are key to building crazy weapons, because we can use those to trigger more patterns, which can contain projectiles that trigger other patterns, and we can branch and loop those as we wish. So instead of the boring (but necessary) “despawn this projectile on a hit”, we can also do things like “spawn pattern X on a hit” or “transform into pattern Y on a hit”. We can use a range of conditions for that, be it range, time, number of bounces, or what you hit.

This allows for crazy chain reactions like a rocket that pierces enemies and triggers an explosion every time it hits, which spawns smaller rockets that rain fire on everything below. You can combine those elements in any way you wish, so if you want the aforementioned rockets to shoot shotgun shells instead, you can. If you want those shotgun shells to bounce and transform into cannon balls, you can. This was just a random example of course; not every concept is useful, meaningful or sound, and… hmm. Maybe I should prototype that.

 

Stay tuned for more insight into game development!

RD Dev blog: Arc Connector

Welcome back to the Ravensdale game design dev blog! It’s been a while. This time around, we are going to take a break from the weapons to tell you more about the Arc Connector and how that unusual feature came to be.

Overview

The Arc Connector is an indestructible energy source that powers your piston knights’ armors – from the outside! It drifts along with your strike team, feeding the armors’ engines with arcs of energy. The Arc Connector’s core warps the space around it, effortlessly gliding through walls and ceilings. Or is it technically the walls doing the gliding?

In the Ravensdale universe, this energy form is highly experimental, and is viewed by the resistance as their greatest hope to free the city from its crippling dependency on Goop. This mysterious new energy could be their ticket to a bright new future… or utterly destroy the city.

Gameplay-wise, a fully upgraded Arc Connector offers you three distinct advantages:

Mobility

Piston knights can use the energy arc that connects them to the core to slingshot themselves to and even past the core at breakneck speeds. Any enemies or objects along the path get sent flying with enough force to bounce of walls and ceilings.

Furthermore, the core’s space-warping properties effectively create a temporary “hole” in walls, floors and ceilings, allowing you to zip through otherwise impassable terrain with a bit of clever positioning.

You can also pull more softly to use the energy arc like a rope and swing around the core. This is especially effective in combination with jumping and dashing.

Domination

The energy arcs catch most enemy bullets and funnel them to the core, where they are converted to energy. As each arc is attached to a knight, you can move around to sweep up bullets. This doesn’t only protect your buddies, but also powers up the core.

Capturing bullets also creates a dangerous feedback loop between the armors and the core, allowing you to zap enemies with the arc. Smaller enemies even get pulled into the core, just like bullets! While your armor is specially designed to protect you from the exposed energy source, your enemies aren’t so lucky…

Firepower

Powering up your core by feeding it bullets and the occasional hapless goblin allows you to tap into excess energy to overdrive your weapons, temporarily turning them into outrageous engines of destruction that can drown your enemies with bullets.

Overdrive makes your weapon go “Hulk smash!” with bigger, stronger projectiles and new abilities. For example, if you overdrive your Goop thrower, in addition to more powerful goo, some of the blobs it fires will be gigantic. If one of those giant blobs hits an enemy or player, it will erupt into a Goopvalanche that – you guessed it – can spawn even more giant blobs.

Your armor also gets boosted, increasing the force of your pulls and slams, allowing you to punt enemies twice your size around as if they were mere goblins.

Last but not least, going into overdrive grants your weapon’s primary characteristic to other players. For example, if you’re wielding a flamethrower, going into overdrive will turn your buddies’ bullets into incendiary rounds. This allows a group to tactically decide who activates their overdrive when, or just go berserk and activate multiple overdrives at the same time.


 

For Goop’s sake – why?

“OK, that’s nice”, you may think. “But why did you design such a funky feature? Did you just brainstorm some crazy ideas and pull them out of a hat?”

While brainstorming certainly was involved, all the different mechanics that make up the Arc Connector fulfill a specific set of goals:

1.       Make other players matter

2.       Reward cooperation

3.       Make environment and positioning matter

4.       Have the optimal usage shift in function of context

5.       Keep the players together

Co-op is a big thing for Ravensdale. We don’t want it to be tacked on top of single player with each player doing their own thing in parallel. While we won’t force you to support each other, we want to bribe you to work as a team by making this approach more efficient. The Arc Connector ties up several mechanics that support those goals in one convenient package.

For example, if you coordinate with other players, you have more control over the positioning of the Arc Connector, which in turn gives you more control over where you can pull your knight and which shots you can block. This ties directly into the positioning of each knight being relevant for your actions; you’ll often need to dash or jump to line up a pull’s trajectory, and the position of the Arc Connector and the terrain will influence that in a different manner in each situation.

Moreover, each action you take with the Arc Connector usually benefits the group: catching bullets for energy powers up the entire team and shields your buddies from projectiles. To sweep up bullets, you’ll usually have to dodge them first, but your teammates won’t have to; you’ve effectively dodged for them. Overdrives also boost other players’ weapons, and no one player can hog the overdrives.

Finally, the Arc Connector provides us with an in-game explanation for why the knights can’t stray too far apart from each other (and is less disruptive than having players getting blocked by the camera or getting lost off screen). Ravensdale is intended to be playable on the same screen, and in our opinion, solutions like split screens would be detrimental to the game. In fact, even if we had opted for networked play only (with each player on their own screen), too great a distance between the player characters would have hurt the gameplay in our opinion.

This is a lot of stuff crammed into a single feature. We’ll likely simplify things down the road and will split the uses of the Arc Connector into a series of upgrades so that you can get acquainted with them one at a time.

Until next time,

the BFG design team

As our kickstarter campaign winds down we’d like to invite all of our friends, fans and users to join us on August 15th for game night! We’re streaming live on our twitch channel a game of Unreal Tournament 99’ for a few hours, and everyone is invited! Details to be added on our facebook event page.

Game Progress Update

"We’re wrapping up the first set of features for our concept demo level at the moment, which means we’re getting close to a point where we can start picturing how the game will play out when it’s released, but still far from alpha.

 The Arc Generator (rubber band) design was nailed down and we tweaked it to meet the new requirements, it looks like something we really want to work in and are looking forward to try out with other features. 

 We added the player damage and death system, which was very popular with the Orcs and Goblins.

 the designers engaged in strange designer dominance struggles to determine whose insane over-the-top projectiles would be used.  I saw the unholy concept of a ‘goo gun’ emerge, as well as flame sprayers, some really cool  chain lightning, and grenades.  We won’t actually know which ones won until next week.

 Work continued on the ‘hamster cannon’.  Honestly, it says right here on the progress board ‘hamster cannon’.

Overdrive is nearing completion.”  David P.

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