We’re Still Listening
Good day to you, Rangers,
It’s Chris again to talk some Wasteland 2. We received a lot of feedback from the demo video of the Prison with many strong and important opinions that continue to help us craft Wasteland 2.
Our philosophy on this project is to put out videos when we have a decent amount of new features to show off. That way, we can follow the discussion threads and see what elements are working and what needs improvement. It allows us to see the most hotly discussed topics and react before the game is too far along to modify systems that might not be as good as they could be. Sometimes this means we aren’t able to iterate and polish as much as we want before it goes live, but we feel it’s well worth it for the valuable feedback you’ve all provided.
We will note a few below and let you all know our plan of attack for the ones that received the most comments.
Graphics and Animation
First and foremost, many of you had notes on the graphics, or more specifically animations. There were some obvious issues that we fully plan on fixing. We have to balance the trade-off between showing something that looks good enough while not impacting our schedule and production pipeline negatively. In a normal game production process, there is a HUGE amount of time wasted creating demos. We opted to instead show an actual snapshot of the status of the Prison map. Our fans were clamoring to see another update which means we weren’t able to get to some of the more detailed polish items. We know they’re there and we will continue to iterate and polish.
The floaty look of the rangers running was oft-noted. This is a height mesh issue that we are taking care of. We identified this as a risky item to fix prior to the demo as it affects multiple areas and didn’t want to slow down the teams working on other areas. The choice was made to not delay the video for some of the graphical fixes. In a wider sense, these aren’t “final” graphics. The Prison is a more polished area relatively but we’re still several passes from “final” on geometry, normal mapping, textures and post-processing.
As for the UI, the main game HUD is on its fourth pass and we will continue to make improvements. In particular the AP counter is a point we agree needs some work and it has already been updated. Other UI elements will get some work too. Consistency amongst menus is something we are working on right now. The dialog UI in particular is a work in progress. In the last video we showed, it didn’t have a field to type in keywords yourself, but be assured that mechanic is still in.
On to some of the gameplay points. One often seen discussion was the change from hex grid to squares. This is one of those points where crowdfunded games are unique; in a standard development cycle you would not get to see how mechanics like that work until they’re fully tested, iterated on and polished.
Here is a little backstory on the change. Originally, we didn’t intend to have any hex or square grid during combat. It was going to be more free form movement. One of our engineers added a hex grid as a debug test to approximate spacing of characters in combat encounters. When we saw that grid turned on, our mouths watered. A few days prior to recording the first video, we made some tweaks to get our movement working with the hex grid. It worked great for our early combat. One unfortunate side effect was that since it wasn’t in our original design, we didn’t account for it from the beginning of development. We had already done tests and created our tile set sizes, including doors and surrounding props. We could have redesigned the size of the tile sets and doorways (which would have been a huge amount of work since we had grey boxed many of the levels) or look into other options. Squares came next. We had introduced cover at this point and squares lined up nicely with the doors and cover.
Of course, while the advantage in positioning, production time and map layout is there, many of you justifiably pointed out you’re losing flexibility in movement, from a grid’s six-way movement to a square’s four-way movement, and that creates undesirable situations where you move four squares east and four squares south to move to a relatively close position. With the help of backer suggestions, here are two points we have already implemented to improve the mechanics and feel:
- Moving around the world in combat is much more free form. Your player won’t just follow the exact grid, which created an unnecessarily artificial look. They will take the shortest unblocked distance from the point they are standing to the point you are moving to. Movement is still calculated based on an underlying (optional on/off) grid and is displayed to you in your AP cost.
- Moving diagonally in the calculation costs 1.5 times as much as a straight movement. Do note that your speed attribute changes the AP cost used as movement for all characters, so the calculation is never very simple.
Another pattern we saw discussed had to do with stances as a tactical choice in combat. Stances may not seem like a big deal to implement, but it is a deceivingly large amount of work to do correctly in our game. There are a few issues to consider when evaluating this as a feature. First, is the amount of work necessary to get it done vs. how much it will add to the game as a whole. It involves additional code to simply implement the base feature, UI work to get the HUD elements, a large amount of AI to have enemies react to it differently (assuming we don’t just have the rangers use it…which would be lame), design work to fit it on to all applicable humanoid enemy NPCs, gameplay balancing, bug testing and the finally largest risk comes from animation. Our animation system is pretty robust. We’d essentially be adding 2 additional states (crouching and prone), which need to have our full suite of animations related to all weapon skills. 9 skills (or 7 without melee skills) doesn’t seem like a lot but when you break them down, it gets unwieldy quick. Each weapon has firing, jamming, equip/unequip, reloading, aim up/down, multiple player damages from that pose (i.e light, medium, heavy, crits) plus all of the blends in and out that make them smooth from different player states. In all it turns into around 15-20 animations per skill, per stance. Finally, there would be visual issues from our 6 foot tall rangers with a 3 foot long sniper rifle lying prone. Weapons would clip through the world props all over the place. As we continue iterating and polishing, we will evaluate all options as they are available, but as you can see, this is not a particularly easy decision to make.
And as a final note, a few said that this early part of the Prison in the demo gave an impression of linearity. This is mostly due to it being a demo run, with us having a specific path and sequence in mind. Wasteland 2 is incredibly varied in regards to the feel of the levels. Some are more town based, others are underground maze/cave-like areas. We have large interiors of buildings, huge canyon areas (like prison) and more desolate plains. There is no template that is universal to Wasteland 2.
We’ve made sure to design a ton of missions that will take you all over. Many are optional, meaning that you will be able to do them or not do them as you wish. Others will open up (or be shut down) based on decisions you’ve made before. There will be no lack of exploration and discovery.
I’m going to link to this page on our tumblr, where you can find all the GamesCom previews rounded up as they come in. GamesCom is a very international event so you can find previews in a huge variety of languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Hungarian, Danish, Japanese and Dutch!
And finally, we’re still loving what Mark Morgan is doing for the Wasteland 2 soundtrack, so here’s a new piece we wanted to share.