The Future of Project Spikes

Firstly, thanks for the support I’ve gotten from everyone so far in the development of Project Spikes. It’s really helped me through to this point, all your help and feedback has been excellent, and I’m truly grateful for all the support. From what I can tell, you guys like the individual mechanics that are in place right now, and most of the feedback is for “more levels”. So I thought it would be useful to detail my plans for the game

The immediate future

From now until about the end of June, it’s very unlikely you’ll see anything playable. That’s not because I’m giving up, but I have A-levels coming up very shortly (and they’re pretty important, they largely determine my future), so I’m going to be taking a bit of a backseat with the game for now, at least in terms of getting updates out. In the background, I’ll still be doing work on the game, but slowly, as I have rather a lot of exams to prepare for (15, that’ll teach me for being optimistic back in September, and choosing to resit a couple modules). Sorry to disappoint, but most likely, no new content until they’re over.

The ‘exciting plans’ bit

Now for the part where I tell you the super-awesome plans I have! I’ve mentioned a few times now about making a proper plot for the game. This is what I’ll be spending a bit of time doing over the next few weeks – taking the stuff in my brain and putting it on paper, in story form. That’ll give me a rough idea of what I need to work to, and what to concentrate on each update.

I’m also working on re-doing the models and textures for the physics guns. They’re okaaaaaay, but I want them to stand out and have an immediate impact, I want them to really define themselves amongst the multitude of other famous videogame guns. I will consider what other types of gun I can add in the future, but the Force Gun, Shotgun, Laser Gun and Gravity Gun should all work extremely well together, regardless of whether or not I decide to add any other guns.

Then I need to consider enemies for the game. It feels extremely lonely at the moment, and the existing turrets are very outdated, so I need to replace them with newer alternatives and more lively enemies.I have many ideas, which will link in heavily with the storylines I have for the game so far.

Then will come the level design work. I’m pretty bad at this at the moment, partially because I’m not a pro at Blender so I’m not very good at making interesting level models so I rely on modular geometry in Unity (that’s just a technical way of saying “I use loads of tiny panels for the floors and walls rather than make a model of the whole level”). That has its advantages, as I can quickly change things around, but it’s very slow to process and render, so I need a quicker option. Hence the next paragraph!

Probably ditching Unity for UDK

Yup, I’ve been tinkering around a bit with UDK (Unreal Development Kit) for the past few days, and while I adore Unity for its ease of use, UDK is just so much more powerful compared to the free version of Unity. It doesn’t steal away all the nice features like Unity. On the other hand, the Unity community and official support from Unity Technologies itself is amazing, and there’s no end of help for beginners and advanced users alike. I’ve found similar sort of help from Epic Games for UDK, and I’m sure their community will help me get to grips with the technology, but it is daunting at first due to its raw power.

I can see an immediate improvement in the way games feel in UDK as opposed to in Unity, mostly in terms of presentation. So expect to see nicer scenery when I get a new update out (or don’t, less pressure for me!).

You can take this as a 99% confirmation that I’ll be switching to UDK at some point, so I look forward to taking all the progress I’ve made so far and doing it all over again in an unfamiliar environment. Such fun! But who doesn’t love a challenge? Plus I’ll have a longer-than-usual summer to work on the game, so it’s also a convenient time for me to hone my skills and push my game development skills further.

Releasing tutorials and test levels separate from the actual game

I want to keep the story and plot for the game a surprise to players so that when they play the full game for the first time, they don’t know what to expect from the plot and characters in the game. To do that and still be able to show players new features and how the game will look, I’ll release a separate test level and tutorial package that will replace the current Web Player builds I’ve been putting out, which will have sample levels representative of the ones you’ll find in the full game. That way, I’ll still be able to gather feedback on what features work and which ones need work. The full release has an open-ended development window right now, as I don’t want to rush it purely to get a game out there, rather I want to perfect it as much as I can before letting people loose on the completed product.

If you’ve read upto here, have a virtual cookie!

Seriously, cookies are amazing, go buy one now. That’s it for my little chat here, but if you have any questions regarding the game’s future, feel free to leave a comment below. I wish I had some nice screenshots of how things are going in UDK, but all I have so far is a few broken concepts hashed together. I’ll get better though! In the meantime, I’ll keep you updated, so good luck in your own projects.