Conundrums ~ AI progress ~ Unity asset ~ Music
Hello backers of the world! It's been a long time since the previous update (We were recently rapped on the knuckles in the comments for this reason) so the first thing we wanted to do is apologize for not showing signs of life in the last two months. We have been extremely busy with the game and, in addition, both Sigrid and I were forced to present our respective final career projects (it was the last call to submit them) so we used all of our little spare time to make them.
Usually we prepare the Kickstarter posts aside development hours to save as much time as possible, but making an update can take several days between preparing images/animations (export pixel perfect elements requires to scale each picture by a certain factor to maintain a proportional ratio) and the translation of texts from Spanish to English, checking it several times to make sure everything is fine.
Some of you may be bothered about the fact that we spent "extra" hours on those specific tasks, but we really needed that time. Anyway, we’ve always advocated to be completely transparent about our working methods and show all of you the bumps that appear in the road of this development... all we ask for is a little patience while we get things done ;)
Well, after this brick that probably bored you let’s cut to the chase.
Lost in puzzles
One of the things that we wanted to show you is how we design puzzles for Paradise Lost. This is an intricate process that requires hours of thinking and trial & error testing, in order to obtain gameplay experiences that flex the players mind. To make a problem resolution that is both entertaining and challenging it’s necessary to take into account a number of factors that, correctly aligned, manage to convey an immersive experience within the game universe. The use of the plant skills, the interaction with the environment and the addition of narrative clues are elements that we kept in mind to design these enigmas. Before developing each puzzle, we created an initial diagram with the “key” concepts, situations and mechanics categorized by the type of abilities required to solve them and the way that the player interacts with the environment.
(You can view the scheme on detail by clicking on the image -sorry, it was written in Spanish :/ )
Design every puzzle individually is not feasible because it would require to code each challenge from scratch, increasing its possibility to crash and requiring more time for test and debugging. Using the previous framework as a design guide help us delimit the number of gameplay elements, simplifying its deconstruction and avoiding a more complex development.
Does this mean that all the puzzles are the same? Of course not; the exploration and use of your surrounding area makes every challenge unique. Besides this, some of this conundrums can test different mental skills at the same time, mixing different categories like pattern recognition or sequence solving on a single brainteaser.
To give more complexity without risking the core mechanics we also added variations on each design, expanding and evolving the game experience. For example, imagine a scene with a transport arm that displace boxes where you need to open a path, creating a stairway to advance. The following ideas show how to "improve" the performance of a basic problem with a pair of modifications:
- one button moves the hoist 2 columns (always to the left till the last column, then return the same number of positions)
- a second button moves the hoist 3 columns (same performance)
- the third button of the panel change the polarity of the claw. There are two kind of boxes to interact with, each with a different pole.
- The arm grabs a box after the movement. If is not of its polarity the hoist doesn't pick it. You can't stack more than 3 boxes vertically.
This way we can make one complex challenge composed from 3 easy principles, suitable to multiple challenges.
Once we decided the type of game mechanic to use, we translate this concept to a Lego play set. Manipulating the physic cubes that represent the puzzle components give us a deeper and more “visual” understanding of the enigma resolution. It also makes the deconstruction process easily.
And voila! Here's the puzzle translated to the game engine (it seems that W has some troubles with the control panel).
Good news! the main AI modules are almost done and fully functional; from this point we only need to incorporate new animations to the Mecanim state machine system.
To have a deeper understanding of how it works, take a look at the Security Forces behavior diagram:
Each animation is linked to a state or transition (the rectangular boxes) which, in turn, interacts with other states. This interlaced groups are gathered in submachines (those hexagonal frames) to maintain an organized/understandable workflow. The next picture shows the patterns attached under the Attack state machine.
From this point Carlos started to develop specific scripts that assign those behaviors to in-game characters within a "easy to use" control panel. This allows us to design the enemy routines in real time without going through the state machine.
Sharing our work with other developers
Last update we posted about the new pixel art rotation technique developed to obtain a smooth/pixelated aiming for the characters. Unity didn’t include any standard tools to represent this effect, so we decided to publish this gadget on the Unity Asset Store, allowing other game designers to use this kind of rotation in their pixel art games and, also, help finance Paradise Lost.
So if you are designing a project with pixel aesthetics too and want to preserve that edgy/pixelated look on motion elements, you can check our asset right here.
Running out of time...
Finally, we leave you with another immersive composition by Pablo J. Garmón for the game. Since we've been talking about puzzle challenges, here you can enjoy a piece representing a dramatic situation that W must solve in a race against the clock.
(This is a preliminar theme. Some arrangements will be made to the final version):
PS: Next month we’ll contact some of the backers whose tier are related with the design of bosses and scenarios, in order to start with them as soon as possible.
Green hugs to all of you!,