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 It feels extremely lonely at the moment, and the existing turrets are very outdated, so I need to replace them with newer alternatives and more lively enemies.I have many ideas, which will link in heavily with the storylines I have for the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

More ideas, planning, modelling and programming (Days 2 and 3)

Today I’ve been working more on the plans for the game, and I have a bit more detail done. I also have a little test version to give you: this is in no way representative of the final game, rather just a test for the player movement and collisions.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/0o38di2thg3x9za/N_CvcxejXT

There are two versions here, for 32- and 64-bit windows, so make sure you get the version that will work on your system.

platformer_test_1

My updated plans are thus far:

-Each level will have a few hundred gems to collect (eg. 100, 200, 300…)
and each level has a certain number of gems you must collect in order to unlock it. For example, level 1 could have 200 gems in it, and then level 2 could require about 150 gems to unlock. I will aim for each level to require the player to have around 70-80% of the total number of gems available in the previous levels for it to be unlocked.

-Enemies will have variable levels of health, so some will require 2 or 3 hits to defeat rather than most enemies, that will require 1. The player will also be able to upgrade their health after defeating each boss, starting with 4, for example after defeating the first boss, the player will have 5 health.

I have yet to write a backstory for the game, but I will do that in the future. Right now my target is to make sure all the basic game concepts work, such as respawning, warping to other levels, picking up gems and defeating enemies.

The progress I have made so far is:

-Designing basic models and textures for some gems (ruby, sapphire and emerald). There will also be diamond and amethyst. I figured out the problems I had last time with importing textures and models from Blender, which is rather helpful.

-The player (currently a red cuboid) can be controlled with the WASD configuration, or using a game console controller (confirmed by a friend using a PS3 controller in their laptop). The right mouse button snaps the camera so it faces forward.

-There are some gems scattered throughout the level, and they are affected by gravity, and are solid (they have a collision box, and therefore can’t be walked through). They are also slightly shiny, which I like the look of. They cannot yet be picked up, but this will be implemented soon.

-There is some scenery, in the form of some cubes you can jump on, just to test jumping.

-If you fall off the level, you will respawn at one of the three respawn pads on the level. The last pad you walked over will become the active pad, so you respawn at that pad if you die.  I will improve these pads later.

My next plans are:

-Improve the textures and models of some of the objects, and put some proper scenery in place.

-Add another level, along with a portal to allow travel between these levels.

-Allow the gems to be picked up, and then add some kind of system to count your gem totals per level and total throughout the whole game.

-Add a GUI to sow the player their remaining health, number of gems etc.

It would help greatly if you could keep coming back every so often to test these updates, and give feedback or bug reports. Also, feel free to tell me anything you would like to see in the game. Thanks for reading!

-Daniel