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I have taken a break from level design for the last two weeks in order to setup a more advanced sound system. I am using AudioToolkit from the asset store now. It was a little bit harder to setup than I thought but object pooling and managing audio groups like atmo, effects and music is great.
Atmo sounds are new to my project. I felt the scenery really profits from some atmospheric background.
Although AudioToolkit does some heavy lifting I had to write the music manager on my own. I don’t want to just stitch song after song but have the music react a little bit faster to the actions of the player. I am not really sure if this is too much detail so I don’t know if I’ll keep this idea.
Another thing to consider is putting in voice over for the titles between levels. My girlfriend heavily votes in favor of this so I will test this effect. But this would mean that I need a native speaker as a voice actor. Huh! Didn’t I plan to make a quite simple project?
On the release of the next beta: This will take a little bit longer than planned. I’ll have to get the audio system up and running and want the first two chapters of the game first.
The last two weeks I’ve been working very hard on a new alpha that I’ll expect to release somewhat later this month. So much has changed since the last one. But I am very content with the gameplay aspects now so I dove a little bit more into story. Yes, “Draft” will be a story driven platformer with some cliffhangers as well.
I am also doing stuff under the hood. I wrote some little helper scripts that I can trigger with shortcuts. Setting up a scene is quite a mess and it is very convenient to just blend the background images out so I can manipulate the platforms. See this little example:
@MenuItem ("Window/Toggle Background %&b")
static function MenuToggleBackground()
var obj:GameObject = GameObject.Find("Background");
if (obj.transform.position.x >= 6000) obj.transform.position.x -= 6000;
else obj.transform.position.x += 6000;
It searches an object called Background (where I put all my background objects into it) and moves it along the x axes out of the way and the next time back. One of the more interesting parts is how to define the shortcut:
@MenuItem ("Window/Toggle Background %&b")
Here you see the menu path where the menu item will appear and the shortcut definition. %&b means Command-Alt-B. You have keywords for other modifier keys, too. Just check this page of the Unity documentation.
- % (ctrl on Windows, cmd on OS X)
- # (shift)
- & (alt)
- _ (no key modifiers)
Games I played last week:
This afternoon I took a short break and made a little game jam based on the code I wrote for Draft. Don’t say this is foreshadowing E3.
And it’s finished now.
You can play the game here: A job in the industry (Unity Webplayer)
This time I will tell you how I design levels. If you only want to hear aboutthe progress of the game in general you can skip to the last paragraph.
While reading the article you can play the progression of the level design here (drag to control platforms): How to create a level
Designing a level
There is the romantic idea that I take pen and paper and scribble new level ideas. That sounds nice but I have to admit that I usually start designing levels right within Unity. But not today.
Step 1: Getting an idea
First of all I decide which game mechanic I want to explore. Last week I introduced keys to open the door of a level. This time I thought: Why not require the player to get more than one? I’ve been doodling on paper. I’ve been randomly drawing boxes. Then I got my first idea. Why not put a key far right and a movable jumping platform far left so the player had to go all the way across the screen to get the key? And this is what it looks like:
Step 2: The first key
After bringing it on paper I switched to my computer and rebuilt it with Unity. This is a process where I move Game Objects around the screen, hit the play button, test and repeat. Until the level is playable:
Not many words today. This week I basically used “Draft” as a playground to experiment with different level designs.
I have to admit I am not really there yet. Most levels are solved through trial and error at the moment. Thinking about the solution helps but you can get the solution by just pushing those blocks randomly.
I am not sure if this is a real problem but some people seem to expect more of a brain teaser. As many of my boardgames my current iteration of “Draft” seems to fall a little bit in between genres.
In this version I introduced moving platforms, portals, darkness and keys and with these elements some more sophisticated puzzles should be possible.
I’m proud to tell you that you can now test a very early alpha build. Please let me know what you think. You need to install Unity Web Player.
Control the blocks with your mouse: Draft Alpha 2
Alternatively: Linux build
Please comment on everything that comes to your mind. Here on the blog or via Twitter.
Cool games in beta from other people I played this week:
I’ve not been posting for a couple of weeks now. Is Draft dead? Not at all. But I had a rough time regarding the game. The last three weeks were packed with events I’ve been attending. First the AMaze festival which was really great and one week later Re:publica where I had to do a talk together with Agnes Lison.
Instead of having time to actually work on my game I had the opportunity to gather feedback at least. People at AMaze were really helpful and made me reconsider much of the stuff I put into the game until my last blog entry. Well, I had to cut most of the introduction because it seemed to confuse people. Digging further into feedback I made some other big decisions regarding how the user interface works. The timeline now shows all movements and I put hints into the game when Draft will be jumping. Another decision: The player now can adjust the platforms throughout the complete level. Formerly this was only possible once per level.
At first my goal was to make another demo for this week but I could not finish it. I am still hoping you will be able to play the current version next week.
Die Re:Publica ist vorbei. Dieses Jahr haben @aaglii und ich gemeinsam einen Vortrag erarbeitet. Diesmal zum Thema Analog und Digital.
Wir haben ganz bewusst eine Perspektive gewählt, die von der Botschaft ausgeht, die man vermitteln will. Eine Perspektive, die sich darauf konzentriert, was ein Medium mit einer Botschaft macht. Und wie man Medium und Botschaft ernst nehmen kann. Oder ernst nehmen muss.
This week I’ve been working hard on a playable demo that I’ll be able to show next week at Indie Connect in Berlin.
I’ve put my emphasis on how to teach the game mechanics and introduce character and story at the same time. That’s always tricky. How do the mechanics I invented even fit into a storyline? What happened in this little platformer world that Draft is so disoriented that she jumps into holes and walks against walls so the player has to help her? I did not want her to look stupid or getting the player frustrated over her actions.
So I tossed several ideas around. Should I directly jump into gameplay or having a large cutscene? I always like games that give me the possibility to interact as soon as possible. Especially on iOS where you often play at bus stops or during a lunch break.
My current result is a mixed approach. With their first action the players get sort of responsible for Draft’s fate. They did this to her. And I hope that’s getting them involved.
And another side effect: While teaching the players what to do I am explaining Draft’s weird behavior en passant. I do not know if this is the best possible solution. Feedback will tell and I am always willing to change things.
During Feedback Friday you are able to play the demo via reddit (Unity Web player needed).
P.S. I thought it would be a good idea to share games with you that I am currently playing or am especially fond of:
- Thomas was alone (Steam) – Sometimes quirky but over all a very likeable approach
- Badland (iOS) – Multiplayer (on iPad) is as much fun as single player
- Starseed Pilgrim (Steam) – It’s quite a Zen like experience to dive into this game without any explanation
- Magnetized (Web) – Cool new idea for a one button game