Quality takes time

I thought I would never ever make a blog with the title ‘Delayed’. So instead I put something with ‘quality’ in the name to empathize the positive. But yeah, the idea is the same: delays.

First, the delay: Instead of releasing on the 4th of June I’m going for the 29th of June.

Second, the reason. And I hope you are all with me on this one. If not, speak out!

Beta testing

I have conducted a lot of beta testing, and especially the v0.3 feedback proved to be very usefull. So I started the ‘one fix to fix it once and for all’ and announced v0.4.

But, as you could read between the lines in the recent update on the progress on v0.4, the amount of work to do is huge.

Back then I didn’t go into details of what that feedback was. So I’m going to give you all some details on where this game is currently and what I envision it to be when it releases.

Gamemodes

It it all about the gameplay, isn’t it?

In v0.3 the game is like this: 1 small scene, 1 large scene, and 14 levels that use a segment of one of those scenes. There are 2 gamemodes: in normal you try to find them all, in timed you have to find a portion of these gnomes but they are in random spots this time.

In v0.3 this is the ‘why’ you should play: because of the challenge it is to look for gnomes in dark area’s or in parts of the level you easily overlook. And the reward you get in the end: full completion or a good time.
But the testers did point out a huge issue with this kind of gameplay: why am I doing this and why should I keep playing?

I think that the underlying issue in my game is that difficulty should not have been the foundation under the ‘why’. This game targets children and wants to entertain adults as a by-product.
Currently both gamemodes focus on the difficulty of finding objects in a 3D landscape, and both gamemodes don’t offer much else.

Experience enhancers

And I did know this.
If you look at one of my first posts, I point out that the core experience is situated around finding. It doesn’t state that it should be ‘a hard discovery’ that makes up all the gameplay.
Rather, all of the words I use are situated around the ‘experience’ of finding. So difficulty is not a target in this, at most it should provide the experience. And if it doesn’t, what it clearly does not, another instrument should be used to provide this experience.

So what are the instruments I could think of to implement in v0.4 to make a more interesting experience?

  • Make it like the ‘find wally’ cartoons. There is an established reference for how to do this and people are known for loving it. I do love books with this theme myself and I even have some of them. By the way, it was a beta tester that directed me to this approach.
  • Add a story. With a story the ‘gnome’ idea could be given more context. And gnomes are known to do cool things, so that could improve the game feeling dramatically.
  • More vibrant environment. Stuff that moves, rotates. It should fit really well into the game because it will make it harder to search but at the same time make it a more diverse experience.
  • Make it a phone game. Add sparkles, events, flashes, power-ups… lootboxes?! (I have to admit I didn’t want to think of this whole ‘going mobile’ option, but a tester pointed it out to me. It has a good some really nice underlying mechanics that could be integrated in our desktop game (without lootboxes of course… hehe))

A bit of everything

Well, there is a big problem with all of the previous pointed-out improvements: the cost time. A lot of time. That’s because it is situated more around content production and less around programming, and with me being a senior programmer but a junior designer/writer/modeller… things get out of scope really quickly.

So after a lot of thinking, planning, talking to people and staying true to myself, this is the idea:

  • Story driven progress. The main menu is the 3D map of the Netherlands. Between each level you get back to this map, someone talks to you and points out the progress… you get the idea.
  • Story driven ‘main gameplay’. A few levels ‘find wally’ style where the mechanics gets introduced. In these levels you see a lot of same-looking gnomes but a few of them are strange and you have to pick them out of the crowd.
  • The ‘original’ gamemodes are now transformed to an ‘in-between’ for the story levels. These are now called ‘hide n seek’ and there you just have to find all gnomes.
  • This ‘hide n seek’ mode has 2 game formats available in each level:
    • the first format is called ‘normal’ and consists of childish ‘just find them’.
    • the second format is called ‘time trial’  and is the more arcade ‘do fun stuff more mobile like and get a good time’ approach to the same levels. (I try to get as much sparkles, power-ups and stupid things in there as possible with my junior modelling skillset.)

I think this is the maximum I can pull of if I want to stay true to the original scope of the game. (The scope was: learn a lot, do it myself, make a fun game for myself and my son, stay withing the deadline.)

Next

So, do we get a new delay somewhere down the line? Isn’t the new goal even more ambitious?
I don’t hope so.

Where are we at now?
Currently the story driven progress is 50% on modelling, 90% on programming, 50% story writing. The ‘find wally’ style levels and mechanics are on 50% modelling, 25% level design, 90% programming, 0% story writing. The ‘hide n seek’ mode ‘normal’ is on 100% modelling, 95% programming, 100% level design. The ‘hide n seek’ mode ‘time trial’ will get the remaining time… and thus is likely to be skipped to be enhanced after release.

And yeah, I did think of the other open issues: need for music and more diverse sounds, more settings, and a few good screenshots and video’s that show of the game.

Release

I think the release will contain all story and all ‘find wally’ stuff. And the music, sounds and overall finish of the game will be good.

After release I will add more to the ‘time trial’ mode, add more Steam integration (achievements, cloud, etc), and look for ways to add more levels (or a whole new country) to the game, controller support… but this depends on the feedback I receive on the game.

 

Thanks for reading!

Work In Progress, v0.4

The current version that is being worked on, version 0.4, is going strong. This blogpost will give some details about what’s in it.

The focus of v0.4 is adding more story and meaning to the game.
I am very pleased with the results so far, it really adds up:

  • Total revamp of the main menu: It now shows a 3D map of The Netherlands with the locations you can visit (levels) as 3D UI elements.
  • Integrated story: this menu with the 3D map is the in-between for levels. It contains story text sequences and story driven level unlocks.
  • New game types distinction
    • Story mode with a real ‘Where’s Wally’ feeling: try finding that one gnome that’s different from the others. A slow-pace gamemode that uses story text sequences to introduce the game and to add background to it.
    • Hide-n-seek mode: the original ‘catch them’ gameplay but with a more arcade feeling. This mode builds on and reinforces the mechanics introduced in the story. The pace of this mode is much higher than the one in story mode.
  • Different gnomes have now different behaviors. Walking around, talking to each other, reacting to you. These behaviors will give the levels a more vibrant and alive feeling.

There is still lots of work to do get these new mechanics right. But the framework of this update is already standing strong.

A important note is that all these improvements build on the experience of the many testers that have tested this game for me. Thank you all!

The official v0.4 update will arrive on the 25th of April.

Game logo

How to make a game cover art? That was my question for a long time.

I’m not good at drawing. And I thought about the option of setting up a scene in Blender and using that as cover art.
But these options aren’t going to deliver me the ‘bringing the message across’ cover art that I need for my game.

And on top of that I promised myself to not use any money at all for my first release, just to proof to myself that some things are worth the money and others not.

Thanks, to a colleague at Luminis, I got introduced to fiverr.com. On this website you can contact freelancers for various works, for example translations or drawings.
And their pricing is really nice: for that money a European person isn’t going to even look at your idea’s.
But yeah, It made me think about what I think people who work for me / with me have to have in terms of working conditions…

And don’t even speak about the fact that I stated ‘not to pay for anything’… well, it seems to me the world doesn’t work that way. You get what you pay for, and if you pay nothing it will cost you loads of time… or it costs you nothing but will likely return you nothing.

This was the result of a work of Maxtrella and me:
header_capsule.png

I am very pleased with this result!

Project 1 – v0.3

The V0.3.0 milestone has been reached!

As stated in the previous post the following additions have been made: more details, more levels, more content. And the Beta has been started through Steam. (For keys, contact me)
On top of what was announced, there is more: a vision on what the game is going to be (story mode, time trial mode), already extensive beta testing and integration of the results, and a lot of finishing touches.

The game as of V0.3.0:
v0.3.0 c3.png
v0.3.0 c7.png
v0.3.0 c9.png
v0.3.0 c12.png

The next official project update is scheduled at 25 April 2018, we will hit version 0.4 by then. It will add the main-selling feature… what this means is yet to filled in but I know it will be as good as the previous updates!

Updates explained – Find the gnome 0.2.0 Alpha

Update: newest footage can be found using this search tag.

 

On February the 18th 2018, version Alpha 0.2.0 did release. This video goes in-depth on the progress that was made.

On the other hand I’m trying to improve my video recording and editing skills. I hope you like the end result more than the previous game footage, wink wink.

And last but not least: interested in joining Alpha / Beta? Use the contact form to get to me.

Project 1 – v0.2

Update: a new post on this subject.

The V0.2.0 milestone has been reached!

As stated in the previous post the following additions have been made: start menu, in-game interactions (collection UI, timer/high-score UI), minimal special effects (object sounds, UI changes on object found), level ending (with high-score submit).

The game as of V0.2.0:
Level design 0.2.0.png

Some changes did not make it: the achievement system is still on the list but not that high on priority anymore.

The next official project update is scheduled at 18 March 2018, we will hit version 0.3 by then. It will go more in depth: more details, more levels, more content. And we will start the Beta by then and begin distributing it to the Beta testers through Steam.

First footage of Find the gnome

Update: newest footage can be found using this search tag.

 

And here it is: live game play of Find the Gnome while using the Alpha 0.1.5 build.

Watch as the little gnomes run in fear of disappearing into a fog (for all they know). But we know better: it is for the common good and for their best that we collect them and showcase them in our on-screen inventories! (Inventories are not included in this 0.1.5 build but will be added between now and 0.2.0)

Interesting points in the video
1:14 core game explaned
1:39 first gnome abducted
3:10 first gnome running
3:27 first gnome screaming while running

The other parts of the video: boring! boring! boring! Next time I’m going to use some actual video editing to get rid of those ‘I love to hear myself talking’ points.

And last but not least: interested in joint Alpha / Beta? Use the contact form to get to me.

Project 1 – Find the gnomes

Update: a new post on this subject.

And here is is: Find the gnomes

After just 2 weeks the idea has landed and the crowd is applauding: a search and find game where you chase garden gnomes.

A gnome and its collision window in Alpha 0.1.1:GardenGnome 0.1.1.png

And a peek at the art style & level design in Alpha 0.1.2:
Level design 0.1.2.png

The alpha testing has been a success. A lot of positive reactions on the core game mechanics from young people to elder ones.
There is still a lot of work to be done so the update continues!

The next official project update is scheduled at 18 February 2018, we will hit version 0.2 by then. It will include a bit of everything: a basic start menu, the basic in-game interaction counters, minimal special effects on objects, a level ending, an achievement system.