14 December 2012

Until Next Semester! -- Week Ending 15 Dec

Well, this week was more about wrapping up final projects and loose ends for all the other classes we had (it is finals week, after all), so direct work on Last March of the Dodos was minimal. However, I did lay out plans with Jesse on which items of business will be most important to address and work on at the beginning of next semester. We're super excited to polish our game up the best that we can. With all the positive feedback we received last week, we are confident that we can really make this baby shine by the time we officially publish it next semester.

With those things in the works, I figured the best way to finish off my blogging for the semester would simply be to post some videos of the current build of the game in action. I hope you enjoy this preview of what's to come!

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Happy Holidays to one and all!

- Troy

11 December 2012

A Successful Semester! -- Week Ending 8 Dec

I'll keep this introductory paragraph brief because there's more interesting stuff that follows. Suffice it to say that this week was all about getting ready to show off Last March of the Dodos. I am pleased to report that the public really likes it! From non-gamers to gamers, students to faculty, and amateurs to professionals, the response we heard from people who tried our game was almost entirely positive (if not entirely!). I want to take a moment to thank our whole team for all the hard work they've poured into the project. It's been a long road (and we're still not finished yet!), but we've learned a ton, and we're thrilled that people are having fun with what we've created so far.

Here's what I did this week:

- Prepared public display materials for our game and sent them to Rachel so that she could compile and print them; this included taking screen shots, capturing video of the game in action, writing instructions on how to play the game, and writing appealing descriptions for "marketing" purposes
- Loaded our game onto our designated computers for Arts/Tech night and for the EAE Open House
- Volunteered at the Arts/Tech night to guide visitors through our studio
- Helped guide visitors and make contacts at the EAE Open House

With that out of the way, I want to note several things that we heard (or observed) from new players during the Arts/Tech night and the EAE Open House. It was quite valuable to have fresh eyes and hands on our game!

 Praise:
- A non-gamer woman in her 50s wanted to keep playing after continual failure. She was intrigued and wanted to keep getting better at the game. Part of her inability to perform well was because she had trouble using a two-button mouse (I'm guessing that she either uses a Mac or doesn't use computers regularly). She also said that she actually thought it was fun. After 5 or 6 attempts, she did successfully complete the first level.
- Many people really like the Dodos' animation. I heard "it's so cute" about a dozen times. Mission accomplished.
- People enjoyed the toony feel in the aesthetics.
- The various traps and their different uses and effects went over very well. A few players commented specifically on how the traps each felt unique and that they understood the point of having them all available.
- It's fun! People liked the pressure of having to keep up with the Dodos and continually be involved in the placement of traps at all times. The feeling of setting a trap in a great place was very rewarding.
- Tossing the Dodos around--especially to specific places like volcanoes--was also rewarding.

Suggestions or negative experiences:
- Messaging can definitely be cleaned up. Certain pieces of information are shifted around from menu to menu (Doin display, for example), there's not much to tell the player whether they're doing poorly, etc.
- Specifically, some sort of marker that floats around the border of the viewing area to designate which direction the entrance, escape exit, and king Dodo lie in would be great.
- A "safety" or "warning" meter/marker that alerts the player to Dodos getting close to the exit would be great (could flash red when a Dodo escapes)
- Appropriate visual and audio cues that celebrate the player's successes are a MUST. Chimes, bells, sparkly numbers, flashes of light, Dodo squawks, etc!
- Get the hot air balloon nest in the game and have it fly off when the level ends! Giving the player a visual reason to not let them escape would make the point even stronger.
- The camera still gives some people trouble (make the UI on the right side of the screen transparent so that people more naturally push the mouse to the far edge of the visible map to move it...?).

So there you have it. Check back next week for the final installment of the semester. Here's a teaser: GAMEPLAY VIDEO!

- Troy

03 December 2012

Semester's End Is Looming -- Week Ending 1 Dec

The goal for the last couple weeks of the semester is to ensure that we have the best possible product to show off at the EAE Open House on 6 December. Though it's no secret that many students in the cohort had a bit of shift in focus once we submitted to IGF (other classes and homework have to get done sometime!), we've still been hard at work polishing and optimizing the experience of our game. The open house is next week, so much of this week was spent making the game easier to learn, thus giving players the greatest possibility of experiencing all that the game has to offer in a relatively brief play session (at the open house, we don't expect players to have the time to play for more than five or ten minutes).

Here's what I did this week:

- Assisted in getting the new color palette implemented. Might be a little bright for our tastes, but we want Craig to look at it for critique
- Got all text tips implemented into the game. They are present on load screens, various stages of menu pages, etc.
- Wrote the text for trap descriptions and put them on the trap store screen. These act as quick reference for players when they're deciding what traps to purchase for the oncoming level.
- Fixed the functionality of broken lava pits. This involved working in Unity to adjust some prefab settings, resizing objects, and digging through the nitty-gritty of some numbers and values.
- Tested trap functionality like crazy. Suggested tweaks to certain collision detections (which were implemented by the engineers), modified the design of trap launch trajectories, etc. Also tweaked the rate at which Dodos learn specific traps and then break or avoid them.

Just a couple more days till we're set to go! We're excited to get the public's feedback, including suggestions and comments from industry professionals that will be attending. Wish us luck!

- Troy