Upcoming shows, quality-passes and a Knight-And-Bikes Book!
Rex here! After last-months guest appearance from Kenny and his update on the audio of the game, we’ve now put him back in his soundproof room (its sound-proofed due to all the recordings he has to do, not because of the quality of his jokes. Honest).
Okay! So let’s see what’s been going on lately, and what’s coming up soon:
PAX East (Boston) and Rezzed (London)
Just a quick note to start off with, if you’re planning to be at either PAX East in Boston, or EGX Rezzed back here in London, then you’ll be able to get your hands on the most recent Knights And Bikes demo. We won’t personally be able to make it to PAX as we just got back from showing the game at GDC in San Francisco, but you’ll find it on the Playstation booth (Thanks Sony!! xoxox). If you do find it, send us some photos via Twitter (@foamswordgames) so we can see as well. We would have loved to have been there, but we’ll just have to imagine it via your photos :)
We will be there for Rezzed though, as that is *much, much* closer to home for us! Our Double Fine friends will be in town as well, so come by their stand and we’ll be able to all hang out together, as well as play the demo and pose on our legendary/hazardous Knights And Bikes customised-bikes!
So that’s some ways to play the game in the US and UK mainland, but what’s been going on back home on Penfurzy Island?
2nd-pass of the first half of the game…Complete!
This is a pretty big one. The first half of the game is now a lot more representative of the final game now, with no grey-boxes standing-in for characters, levels, art etc. And it has cut-scenes where things happen and the player-characters generally pull expressions and engage a bit with what’s going on. A lot of this is down to the new conversation-system that Moo recently created, and now I can trigger animations, cameras etc for each line of dialogue a character speaks. I definitely wouldn’t say it’s polished yet, but any one playing should now know what’s going on, and why.
So its moved more into a position where we can give someone a controller and let them play from the start, while we sit back and watch how they get on with it without too much prompting or explaining from us. In fact that’s what we did while we were in San Francisco with Double Fine. Greg and Caryl played it from the start while I scribbled down notes and tried not to chew my fingernails off. Nobody threw a controller at me, and the PS4 didn’t burst into flames, so I’m going to say it was a resounding success! Most importantly we got lots of good feedback from watching this, and spotted some areas to tweak and polish further.
As part of this giant 2nd-pass we’ve been looking at the way the game teaches you how to play it, in small bite-sized er.. knowledge-nuggets (™ ;) and we’ve been working-up the sequence for when you unlock a new ability. These have two purposes:
- Be an exciting reward, because you just got a new important gameplay thing and you should be dizzy with excitement about this.
- Tell you in the briefest but clearest way possible how to use this new ability. And then go away, and let you play around with your new prize yourself.
Any little scripted moments like this I generally pull together using a load of Unity elements: cameras, sprites, particles, things-that-tint-the-screen, or fade it to black, etc and then trigger them all using a component Moo wrote called a Sequencer, which just allows me to set the timings of when any of those individual elements turn on and off. And then I’ll just spend a few hours composing everything together, setting the parameters of each individual triggered-object and running it a few hundred times as I tweak all the timings and improve the rhythm of it.
Now *these* particular ability-unlock sequences were a bit different, as they needed to be made as proper UI, rather than being a scene in the game-world. That's because they need to scale all the different elements around, depending on anyone’s screen resolution, so that they’d still be able to read all the text. The regular way of making a cut-scene wouldn’t cope with UI text and all that resizing. It would have to be done in a language called MATHS.
Luckily Moo is a fluent speaker of MATHS (except, he uses the an American dialect called MATH). So I got on and made the art, and mocked it all up in Adobe After-Effects, which is basically Photoshop for motion-graphics. And then, to try and be as helpful as possible in the translation from ART to MATHS, I screengrabbed the timeline and put all these annotations on it, so as well as watching a video of the scene, he could also see what was happening on each frame and why.
And then a few hours later, it was playable, and went straight to Kenny, to give it both a big audio fanfare when it unlocked the ability, and then into a slightly 1980s “infotainment” musical-atmosphere as you learnt about how to use your new puddle-stomping boots.
There's a video of it below (although sadly without audio, but at least that'll mean you'll get the full impact when you play the game :)
And since then we’ve been peppering them throughout the game at these key unlock moments, like when Nessa first steals a Frisbee, or when Demelza gains her all-important sink-plunger. It really makes a make a big difference in making it feel much more like a proper game now. Having both the story-theming of exactly why, for instance, Demelza thinks a sink-plunger is a mighty weapon, as well as giving you a nice feeling for gaining it, and explaining just what its useful for (other than unblocking toilets!).
Brief Summary of What’s Left
Ok! So although we’re always telling you what bits we’re working on, it’s probably a little bit hard to get an idea of what’s actually still left to do. So let’s have a little run-down of the bigger points of what’s left and what we’re getting on with at the moment:
2nd pass of the latter half of the game. Starting this week, we moved onto the 2nd -pass of the 2nd-half on the game, and I’m busy filling in any gaps where there is missing art, cut-scenes or the gameplay is at 1st-pass quality. Also we’re hunting down the things that need replacing because they’ve been superseded with better tech or new techniques in the months since our first-pass of the whole game. So for example, now we have the much-expanded conversation-system, any dialogue needs to be fixed up not only to work nicely, but also to take advantage of all the new things we can do with it now.
Boss Fights. The boss fights are Moo’s babies. Half of these have also had a 2nd pass, but there’s a bit of work still to do before they can be totally ticked-off the list, and the other half still need to revisited, and fully worked-up, and that also means getting some actual art and animation from me. They tend to be quite heavy on the content, so I’m trying to get all the levels up to scratch before diving into the full visual/story work yet to be done on these monstrous encounters.
User Interface. Although we’re not heavy on UI, as you spend 99% of your time exploring the world, it’s still an important element. So we’ve yet to make the attractive versions of the front-end menu, pause menu, quest-log, buying-upgrades etc.
Audio. Obviously none of this is going to work without sound, so the whole game will need a sound pass. That’s an ongoing process for Kenny, but thanks to us producing a couple demo’s of later levels, and now working from the start of the game onwards, about half of the game has had at least had some of it’s audio defined. There’s lots of gaps, and the last two areas of the game haven’t been touched at all yet, but at least there is plenty of work for Kenny to be getting on with on the first half of the game, while that last part of the game is getting its 2nd pass of gameplay, art and story.
Music. Once everything else is in, at least in a representative form, then Daniel can start composing the music, and play some major-chords on your emotional-buttons. We’re going to do this much like he scores a movie, by playing the game and him composing to the visuals on screen. That approach worked really well when he composed (almost in real-time!) for our original theme-park demo, so we’ll be repeating that for the rest of the game. Just recently I’ve been playing around with some musical ideas with him for the dramatic intro to the game, and I’m just so excited for us to get to the recording stage for that!
Everything Else! And then obviously iteration, polish, bug-fixing, and doing all the hidden jobs that make it work as it should on PC, Mac and PS4, both single-player and online. As well as just making the most of all the content, systems and themes of the game, and making it all work together in harmony. And acting on any issues we have from playthoughs (whether those come from our own play sessions, or from Double Fines, or from our Alpha backers)
So the list is getting shorter all the time, and having that first half much more worked-up is a really big milestone to have reached, and really helps us focus now on improving the latter part of the game, having firmly established all the themes in the first half.
Also, now the largest tier of physical-backer rewards have been shipped out that’s another thing we don’t have to worry about! I don’t have to design any more rewards for a while and Moo doesn’t have to scrabble around under a mountain of cardboard-tubes and address labels. So we can concentrate purely on the game, until post-game launch when we make and ship out the rewards for all the other tiers (which will include things like the Art-Of book).
Talking of rewards, maybe Moo would like to talk a bit about how that process went:
Tubes of Goodiness
Howdy all! I think this backer update is already packed full of information for your brain so I'll try to be quick and save all the details for some other time. I had such a wonderful time organizing this "Tube of Goodies" round of rewards. From the surveys to finding all the best manufacturers to personally stuffing and shipping 350 tubes, I learned so much and had so much fun. I genuinely got a bit emotional copying all your names and addresses into the label printer being reminded that so many wonderful people across the globe believed in our project.
All of the tubes have been shipped out now and judging from all the tweets you've been sending us, most of them to have found their way to you. If you haven't received yours in a few weeks, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll help sort it out. And feel free to send us an email there for any other reason: if you were in the middle of a move and you're now ready for your tube, if you want to buy more add-ons (we've manufactured some extras just in case), or if you're just bored and want to say hello. :)
I think he did a really great job getting everything out to everyone, it really is quite a thing to pull off and it’s been really great seeing backers sharing photos of their swag online. It really makes it all a lot more real for us as well!
Knights And Bikes: The Book!
If you’ve not already heard the news, there’s going to be a Knights And Bikes book! And we’ve been working behind-the-scenes with a new publishing label called “Knights Of” (We’re trying to break the record of the most times the words “knights” can be used in one press-release ;) and with author Gabrielle Kent, creator of the Alfie Bloom books.
We’ve all worked very closely together, giving Gabrielle a log of all the dialogue in the game, as well as a custom story-bible of all the various backstories behind all the characters, art and descriptions of the locations and all the various themes under the surface of the game. And its been fun reading where she has taken the story, its quite a strange experience reading about characters you know so well, having additional adventures that you didn’t have to create!
The story itself has a similar set-up to the game, with Nessas arrival on the island, and her being thrown into a treasure-hunting adventure with Demelza. And while you’ll recognise lots of the characters and locations, it fully becomes it’s own tale, so you’ll be able to enjoy the book and the game, without either spoiling the story twists in the other.
Anyway, if you wanted to get your hands on it, or buy it for a younger friend or relative, it’s already available to pre-order now!
Ok, that’s it for this month. Hope you all have a fantastic April. Tweet us any photos of you playing the game at PAX East (or wearing your backer swag in unusual locations) to @foamswordgames and hopefully we'll also see a few of you at EGX Rezzed here in London!
- Rex and Moo
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