2016: A retrospective of the year that was

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It’s that time of year again – when we have to take a look back and reflect on things that happened during 2016. While not everything went according to plan, it was an interesting year nonetheless.

You might have been wondering why we’ve been silent all this time, not writing any blog post since summer. Well, lack of time would be the most honest answer. But we’ll get to that. Now, let’s take a look back at the year that was.

Some Milestones

January

Ve’ve been working on (hopefully) final polishing touches of our demo and also the first prototype of the duel mechanic, so that we could present it in february on CEGC 2016 in Vienna. If you’d be interested, you can find more info about the prototype of the duel mechanic in one of our older blogs here.

February

We hired a very talented young programmer Michal Páleník, to help our two programmers Pavol and Juraj with the game. That was until late February, when we parted ways with them, as they wanted to pursue other personal and professional goals. This seemed rather scary at the time, as we were left with one programmer instead of three, but guys helped a lot to made the transition rather seamless and fluid. We were also on Square Enix Collective (which didn’t go that well) and on Steam Greenlight (which went pretty great), but you can read more about that here.

March

We tried our luck sending out our pitch and game demo to various indie publishers. Apart from other benefits, we hoped that finding a publisher would allow us to focus more on the game development and take less side jobs just to keep us afloat. But this quest didn’t bear much fruit. Most of them probably get emails like ours pretty much on daily basis, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that if we did get a response, it was usually more or less “automatic” response, politely declining our game at this time. Honestly, we kind of expected such outcome, but still, it was kind of sad. The bottom line was, that the status quo would be left unchanged – we could still work on the game as we did before, but would still need to dedicate some time to work on paid side jobs as well (btw, in case you were wondering, we mostly do graphic design and gamification jobs on the side).

July

We went to present a level we’ve been currently working on at Radius Festival 2016 in Vienna. This wasn’t one of our best presentations, as there were so much new and not properly tested stuff in the build that the amount of bugs was a little too much even for a game about insects. But it was still an interesting experience and a lesson learned for us.

September

Alexander Buzgó came on board to help us with writing, level design and game design and since then proved to be a great asset to the team.

The Progress

But apart from all this we also managed to actually get quite a lot of work done. But firstly, I think I have to get one thing cleared up.

You might be thinking something like “But you guys have been working on the game for so long and it’s such a small game, why isn’t it out yet?” We started working on the game in May 2014 – with only a couple of concept arts and pretty much absolutely no knowledge about softwares like Unity or Spine (which we use for animation). Our first playable prototype was ready in January 2015 and then we started to work on the demo, which we would use as a proof of concept and for presentation purposes. But while working on the demo, we still learned more and more about the tools and game development in general and we also kind of got stuck in a loop in which we kept polishing the demo over and over, until we finally decided to leave it be in January 2016. This led us to realisation that even though the demo is all well and good, the things that worked in the demo aren’t that easy to scale for a whole game, so we needed to do some stuff almost from scratch. I think the whole year of 2015 was used to create a proof of concept and refine some of the ideas and the “real” development of the game started in 2016. This isn’t an apology, mind you. It’s simply an explanation.

So, here’s a list of some of the things we managed to get done in 2016:

  • After quite some time, we finally managed to put together the whole story of the game, divide it into levels and draw out what will be happening in them. If you’re wondering how we could be working on the game without having the story finished, we always had the idea about the basic concept and some set pieces, but it took some time to connect it all together into a coherent story.
  • We started working with great artist František Guderna, who supplies painted static backgrounds for our levels, which is a great improvement to the overall visual quality of the levels

  • We created a new State machine that utilizes Mecanim for visualization and transition logic. It was a necessity because with every new state, complexity of the former system was rising exponentially thus making it hard to change anything.
  • We also hooked the whole animation system of the Main Character to the state machine, so now we can also easily play transition animations between two state animations, which is something I am really happy about.
  • We’ve completely redone the “shoot from the hip” mechanic, mostly aesthetically, so that now it looks much cooler.

  • We’ve also tried a couple more iterations of the aiming and hopefully found the right one (though it still needs polishing). Honestly, aiming proved to be one of the hardest things to get right.
  • We have also added a few new mechanics that allow for more variability during encounters, namely a dodge mechanic (which allows player to not get hit even when there is no cover around), a slide mechanic (which allows the player to slide below obstacles) and also a melee attack mechanic (when you run out of bullets, or just want to hit someone). Last but not least, we also finally added ledge grab, so platforming isn’t that frustrating anymore.
  • We have started to put together the town of Driftwood, the hub area of the game and it’s coming along nicely. We still need to populate it a little, but it is already starting to take shape.

  • Since we now have a story more or less finished, we started to work on particular levels of the game.
  • We were working on the art and graphic design of our GUI (graphic user interface) and after quite a few iterations, I think we have finally found something we’re quite happy with

  • We were working on the design of our skill system and put together a first draft of the design of all the three skill trees
  • We have animated a lot of new stuff, especially various props, effects and also a bunch of new characters
  • We’ve put up a fancy pinboard in our office to visualise our planning.

  • We wrote down bios of most of our major and supporting characters, so now we have good idea about their character traits and personalities and can now move on to writing dialogues
  • Not the mention all the art that was done during the year, like new character models, GUI elements, various props and visual assets, character portraits for dialogues, buildings and so on
  • We’ve written 7 blog posts (which probably isn’t such an achievement).
  • We created a new navigation system for AI that works (with a bit of a workaround) with RAIN plugin. It is a simple graph navigation utilizing A* algorythm.

What next?

I’ve never been one for new year’s resolutions so I am also quite careful about setting very concrete goals for 2017, but since I’m also something like a captain of this ship it is expected of me to have some kind of a plan.

One of the biggest things awaiting us is Reboot Develop Conference in Dubrovnik (HR) in April, where we will be also presenting our game. We will also once again try to look for publishing and/or funding opportunities. Mainly, we will continue making the levels for the game, all the while fine tuning mechanics and adding overall polish to the product. Since this is the first time we are doing something like this, we don’t know exactly how long this will all take, so I am a bit careful about promising any release date.

 

But if you want to be up to date with our development, make sure to follow us on facebook, twitter, or instagram. Take care cowboys!

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Follow Ivan Kozmon:

I am a game designer and animator at Doublequote studio, currently working on Blood will be Spilled. I used to work in advertising and commercial design as a graphic designer. I like movies, video games, comic books and dinosaurs. Especially dinosaurs.