Taking Wave Crash from prototype to alpha was quite the adventure. Hang out while we examine the journey. (If you haven’t already watched the prototype video, you might want to check that out first.)
Nick: Greetings internet this is Nick from Not Robot and today we are going to talk about Wave Crash in it’s Alpha form. So first let me introduce the rest of the team here. You’ve already met the first couple of them but I’ll let them introduce themselves.
Derek: Hi, I’m Derek and I’m happy to be here. I work on programming.
Ryan: I’m Ryan I am a programmer.
Cory: I am Cory and I’m an artist at Not Robot.
Nick: So first thing’s first: You might have noticed that Cory wasn’t a part of the prototype. At this point in the project is when we we first actually started needing art assets and that’s when we brought him in to start working with us so let’s have him introduce himself and have him talk about how he came into the project.
Cory: I initially came into the project around the time a what is this? The Alpha? When I was asked I was a actually quite excited to join I’d been kinda looking for project to do on the side. When he came to me this one seemed to have substantially more organization more promise… I guess you would say than a lot of the other projects that some friends were working on. So given the option I definitely chose to join the crew and start working on some artwork for a for the alpha.
Derek: Yeah Cory’s the one who took our game from stick figure art into looking like a game.
Nick: Cory when you first saw the prototype the black background and the orange box flying around the screen what were original thoughts?
Cory: I was pretty psyched about it. I was…It’s nice to see the there was working physics and progress in general. I had been on a couple projects beforehand that kinda were really strong during the design phase and then kind of fizzled out when it actually came time to you pull through and start actually working on things. So it’s really nice to see that you guys had already had a functioning product already. So I just got the chance to pretty it up.
Derek: MAKE IT POP
Nick: Make. It. Pop.
Nick: So as we kind of stated before, we are going to spend some time today talking about the alpha build of Wave Crash. So the first thin we’re going to mention is the alpha goals: What we were trying to do with this build and this milestone. We’re gonna talk about basically what Wae Crash looked like at this stage and how we responded to where was.
We’re going to talk about some the initial art decisions that we made at this point in time. Talk about some of the technical decisions. And then talk about how showing of this milestone, this build, to family and friends went: Some of the mistakes we made and the successes we had.
Alright so, the goals of our alpha build were basically to get the game to a state where the core loop was finished so we could start expanding on it feature by feature. so in our prototype we kinda had a proof of concept to make sure that the game, the core mechanics, were fun. But we didn’t really spend a lot of time honing and those core mechanics. We had some random wonky map generator that was a lot of fun but not exactly working as intended. We had a vehicle that was probably a little too fast and spun nigh uncontrollably. You know there are a lot of little issues that were not working perfectly but they were simply… working in the prototype. So for the alpha build we wanted to make sure those were all honed in and working as closely… as close as possible to the you know the actual implementation was intended to be.
So behind you might notice that we are playing the Wave Crash alpha build. Some of the initial things you’ll notice is that we have sound now, we have music. Which was I think at this time free creative licence. Please don’t sue us if you own that music. We used it for like… ten days. And we also had…
Derek: You’ll also see that there’s checkpoints. Which in this part of the game are represented by gas tanks. This is something you will probably run into if you’re making a game. You will think you have a specific mechanic in mind but how you theme it.. and how it goes depends on the game. And so in the future you’ll notice we kind of turned this into a timer instead of a gas tank which is what you are seeing.
We also added coins at this point and we’re doing a little bit more complicated map generation. Alright so we we balanced out the map generation a little more so that it looks like the game will be in the future. But like we mentioned even in the prototype video before we have plans for map generation that should make it easy to make a bunch of different types of maps for the final game.
Ryan: And in addition to that we just changed some things with the way that the camera behaves with the car… boat… box with wheels. We made it so that as you get higher off the ground it will zoom out so that you can actually see where you’re going to land and stuff. So being in the air is slightly more interesting. And we actually kinda put a texture on on those waves and put a cool shader effect on that water to make it look like that water’s moving.
Cory: So initial I was asked to make just a vehicle. Some sort of aquatic vehicle. And at the time I figured i dunno. I was kinda craving up some sort of jetskii and for some reason I was kind scoping out some other seados and I figured “what the heck,” I’ll put this in there and make it unique. So that’s kinda how we came into the Not Robot Jetskii. In addition to that we added in the waves which actually went through quite a process. There were a couple different waves that we went through even in the early sets. Couple different styles. Ultimately though we ended up… At the time we stuck with the one that had the… kinda light refracted through. Which ended up looking a little strange with the the movement patterns.
But outside of that we added in the character which was an entertaining bit of modelling I guess you would say. Originally we ended up leaving him bald so that way you could just put any sort of cosmetics onto the character that you wanted to in terms of hair, beards, or really anything… clothing in general. Plus, I mean it WAS easier… But in addition to that we kind of toyed around with the posing. I think originally when I made him he was standing up and then we went through some processes of kinda fitting him to the bike. that was a little bit entertaining. And then eventually moved into a system where he actually has joints.
Outside of that we did a lot of I mean just like general like sky backgrounds and some backgrounds for behind the water.. And ooh the coins! We created the coins! We had the initial art.. We were running off the gas idea so we had to do the gas tank icons that went through some issues because originally it was too small and didn’t read very well and had to play with that and play with the colors. It was an interesting kind of a learning experience because I hadn’t really worked too much on Android or iPhone resolutions for that matter. kinda a nice nice little break.
Ryan: I think the biggest thing with the the art assets that we iterated on was just saturation of colors and then the contrast ratios of highlights and actual body colors of things.
Cory: and then there was the title screen, which originally started as my kind of like my demo for the art style and then just kept getting toyed with and tweaked with until we a found a use for it outside of just demoing the graphics and turned into a title screen which worked out pretty well for us I would imagine.
Nick: so Cory just mentioned a lot of the art assets we made for the game and I think next we should probably talk about how we decided on the art style for making those assets. So what are the first things we decided on was that we didn’t want to make a game that required too much high fidelity graphics. We wanted to make something that was relatively easy to make but still stylistic and, you know, aesthetically pleasing. So me and Cory worked together to develop this art style you see right now.
Cory: Originally I was asked to do, you know, just kind of brainstorm a couple of different styles. I had gone through a few just kinda toying around with them in sketches, and a couple in digital painting. I did my initial one that I was kinda gearing towards was more of a Japanese brush strokes style which I kinda played around with for a while but then I realized that you couldn’t really push the detail in vehicles as well because you have these bold kinda almost kanji like brush strokes on everything. That was a pretty much the main decider on deciding to go against it. But I had played around with that for a little while then I was also on the side kinda toying around with this sort of arts and crafts… kraft paper style that had kind of almost like… a well kraft paper texture to it but I had that kind of like warm nostalgia to it from like the kindergarten days when you put together your own little five-finger turkeys and and whatever I kinda I felt like that might hit hit well with a lot of people it might to it might kinda feel welcoming. And then in addition to that I mean it kinda made everything really unique cuz I mean I personally in my research didn’t see a whole lot of games that pushed any sort of kind of kraft papery look outside a black some Kirby games and stuff which who doesn’t like Kirby games.
Nick: plus kindergarteners are our target demographic. We’re really hoping that they open their wallets. THAT was a big influence on our art decision
Derek: Yes so if you know rich kindergarteners please pass this game along.
Now would also probably be a good idea to, a good time to, mention that Cory put together an art style guide for us and it’s important to recognize the your art style is probably going to evolve over time but putting together a style guide can help guide other team members as they join. So when we had other people join it was really handy and you can see the art guide at (Link Pending)… I don’t know if that’s the website.
Nick: We can always edit in the URL later.
Ryan: We will put a link to that in the bottom of the video so you can go straight to it.
Cory: In addition to that also kind of helps for all of you guys when you’re making suggestions or you have ideas that you want to see if you can incorporate in it gives you kind of a better baseline to kinda mold those ideas and push’em my way.
Nick: Cool. So next let’s talk about some of the big technical decisions that we had made or were challenges for us at this point… And I really don’t know what they were so this is gonna be all on you Derek and Ryan
Derek: I actually don’t either so if you could recap…
Ryan: At this point..
Cory: “I actually dont’ remember…”
Ryan: Alright well at this point, we were pretty much completely tied to all the platforms we discussed in the prototype video. So we were stuck.. I say stock… but committed to is a better way of saying it. The Adobe AIR platform using Starling framework with citrus as the game engine complete with nape API for the physics. So we’re pretty much committed to all those things. At this point we didn’t have a whole lot of technical decisions to make it was mainly just kind of figuring out how to achieve what we wanted to with decent frame rate, within the constraints of all the things that we had already committed to.
Derek: Yeah I mean this is mainly an implementation stage and not necessarily like a deep architectural thought type of time.
Ryan: I’m thinking about it… For the alpha the only things we did are we slightly iterated on the physics and tweaked those little bit. Got them behaving slightly more boat like. There was the first… kind of you know leading into getting the waves the way we wanted them to be, with figuring out how to use Starling and making custom objects you know and rendering it directly using PBO/IBOs and custom shaders on all the pixels and stuff.
Derek: Yea so this is when we started to.. Incorporate UI that would wrap around our core loop of the game as well. And we I we probably mentioned in the prototype video last time but we decided to go with feathers which is kinda the default Starling UI Design Kit. And so this is kind of our first foray into using it.
Nick: it’s beautiful!
Ryan: Did we actually look at other UI implementations.. for things or did you just jump right into feathers cause we knew the same guys there?
Derek: Yep basically I mean feathers is go-to. Like Adobe supports Starling, Feathers, Floxx… These things as the default environment.
Ryan: Hey I’m glad you mentioned Floxx just then because… We kind of knew at this point that we’re gonna wanna collect a lot of stats and have high scores and these types of things eventually in the game and we looked around at a lot of different kind of back-end services that we could use to kinda support data… To have that third-party track everything for us. we decided that we would use Floxx for this which is a really great back-end. As I said before it tracks any stats you want. It can track users and it has really great support for leaderboards.
Derek: Basically Floxx gave us a really simple out the box solution for our first level of keeping track of…
R Yeah I mean it was mainly for leaderboards at this point we didn’t need a persistent list-layer for anything else.
Nick: Cool cool. So next we’re gonna kinda talk about our feedback we received from showing of the alpha. And also what went right and wrong in general with it based on those responses; based on our experiences. So first: The things that went right. in general people from across all ages. Pretty much everybody liked the game at this point. Whenever you show someone something that you make they’re always gonna tell you it’s great but you can read between the lines by watching how they interact with it. My mom took the phone and just dissapeared and played for a long period of time and she.. I probably shouldn’t say this, but she can barely handle her iPhone. If someone mutes her iPhone for her she misses calls for a week or two. But she liked it and that was a good sign.
Derek: so this is kinda the first time that we put the game in front of people that weren’t necessarily our friends and family as well and you might be learn something from our strategy, but we started looking at web sites, forums that we could submit to, to get feedback. And probably the place that was most successful maybe the only one that we tried initially was just the Reddit /r/gamedev community.
Nick: Feedback Friday
Derek: Feedback Friday. We posted our game and on Feedback Friday and it was awesome feedback and just people that… Same boat as us they’re making games, some of them for the first time. Everyone just like reviews each other’s games and gives feedback and so we got some really good feedback from people that we didn’t even know and that’s definitely motivating as far as continuing your project forward. And also at this point this is kind of the proving time for us as a company because this is the first big milestone that we set where we want to have this game in from the people that are not just ourselves and see what they say that so this is kind of our first… You could call it a crunch time. But it was really a week of crunch time leading up to getting this release out.
Nick: And it was also the week before Christmas. And none of us wanted to work too hard over Christmas.
Derek: Yeah it was really fun and it’s a good time for your team to gel together… to come together and accomplish the goal
Ryan: Yes so there was not a single person that I put this game in front of that didn’t enjoy it on some level. I mean everybody had a different experience. I noticed that people had drastically different strategies when playing it. Some tried to tricks some tried to collect every single coin in the thing and that’s kinda exactly what we wanted… So it was kinda an overwhelming experience to get that much positive feedback
Nick: Yea I would say it was pretty successful at that phase. But that being said, there were still a couple things that didn’t go according to plan and one of the big things that we kinda been fighting with so far, this is where really became clear, that are controls were not very intuitive. The left arrow very clearly went left. The right arrow very clearly what right. But people were confused about which direction they would be spinning in the air a funny thing is we actually have a prototype set to one orientation, and half the people thought it was fine and the other half were like “Woah woah woah, why is everything backwards?” So then we set the prototype to the opposite, and then half the people were… The original half were now upset, while the other half were okay. The less on to learn isn’t that you can make everyone happy with one setting, but the lesson to be learned is that you need to figure out the different play styles and make sure you are getting the ones that are important for you. So we knew we needed to change the look of the UI a little bit to make sure that it was a… it was going to be clear which direction you would be spinning. A thing we specifically did after the alpha is that we made it very easy to inert the controls, and we made it a priority to always keep it really easy to invert the controls.
The other part of what went wrong is that… Actually Cory you want to talk about this?
Cory: Well for starters we had to make some changes to the buttons because people were getting confused about rotation and physics in the air…
Ryan: And really like nothing about those waves fit with anything else.
Cory: Yea… I mean in general the waves… the waves needed to change because the kind of like marbling that was done to simulate white in the water just didn’t mesh well with the movement-the shader movement-and ultimately make people feel like the at times that make people feel like they were moving a lot faster than they were and then at other times, I actually had a few friends that at one point had stopped moving that didn’t realize it… I realize that that sounds ridiculous but it happened. So ultimately we kind of had a toy around with that; we ended up moving towards a much more cohesive art style for the waves which I think was a way better decision.
Nick: Alright so that’s pretty much the feedback and kinda the that thoughts that were going on in our head as we showed the alpha and now we’re going to talk about what our priorities we’re moving forward now towards the beta, basically.
So number one was improving the basic mechanics we already kinda start focusing em down but we wanted to make sure that you know the tricks we had it actually at registering tricks so if you’re spinning in the air you’re gonna get rewarded for it. We wanted to make sure that the the gas… the checkpoints actually worked as intended. Right now they’re completely random so the only chance are you running outta gas was if like the random number generator completely hosed you. And you can get rich… you know… completely randomly and there is no coin growth throughout the course of the game for example. Making sure that the mechanics we already had are fun and that they were really implemented perfectly.
Derek: And we know going forward that in order to wrap this whole game and make it interesting for everyone playing that we need be able to add all kinds of things like extra vehicles, cosmetic items, different maps, and so we’re going to need a menu system that’s both beautiful and intuitive for people to select these things and move from one play session to the next.
Ryan: So for the technical things that we knew we needed to do.. We knew that we were going to use Floxx for our persistence layer on storing which vehicles you purchased and those types of things, you know, what level you were on, as well as leader boards and other things. But in addition to that we had a lot of plans for taking the rider and making it so that instead of being stuck on the vehicle he would actually be physics-based. Full rag doll type stuff and we knew we wanted to be able to pop of and kind of flop around and splash in the water, to kinda make you know dying a lot more interesting and kinda fun.
Derek: So level generation we want to get better. So that there’s many different varying types of levels that you can play. And we will detail our… The way we set up our biome system in one of our next videos.
Nick: Ooooh cliffhanger!
Cory: Well at the end of showing it to people we realized that we’re gonna need to add in a couple more things obviously to make the scene a little bit more populated and a little bit more engaging. We decided that obviously we’d need some clouds for the sky… In addition to that, we knew we were going to have to put in some sort of background layers and midground layers to kinda build that parallax between the foreground wave and the coastline and the horizon.
Cory: Hashtag-I want that to be a thing. But uh we initially we were going to have, I believe, four different styles and then that ended up evolving into quite a different thing. but in addition to that we had toyed around with the idea of having multiple waves and also potential objects kind of floating in the mid ground. You know just like statues and different things like that just to kinda build a world if you will, while still also pushing that parallax. And then in addition to that we had to make some UI adjustments to kind of better fit user experience and kind of push general gameplay mechanics directly to the player.
In addition to that we kind of knew that we weren’t going to be able to keep the bright orange buttons… cause that doesn’t really fit… so we had to think about what kinda UI theme we wanted to use and how it would mesh with our game. And just in general kinda pick your path to… MAKE IT POP.
Cory: #MakeItPop. I like how it sounds like the sound effects to something… “Hashtag make a pop.”
Ryan: So I think the last thing that we we knew we needed moving forward was to actually kinda get real sound effects that fit the game and were cohesive across each other and stuff as well as some proper music to go with it.
Nick: Yea so like Ryan said, we knew we’re gonna need to get our own sounds. Or… You now.. Legally acquired sounds in some way.
That’s a what Wave Crash looked like at it’s alpha stage.hopefully you kinda learned what our process looks like and if you’re interested in you haven’t already, go ahead and watch our prototype video and soon we will be also posting our beta as well… hopefully.
Derek: Yea, so thanks for listening all the way through and we hope you’re getting as excited about the development of this game as we are. This is kinda our first time doing this so feel free to give us any feedback. We’d love to make these videos more useful to you if you can just tell us what you want to know. Thanks for sticking with us and we hope you check out our website and just ask us “wassup?” we’d love to know what you’re doing too.
Ryan: And we just would like everyone to remember that we are not robots and we’re not in any way controlled by robots and in fact there… there are no robots anywhere!
Derek: yeah actually suggesting we’re controlled by robots has been made illegal.