State of Affairs

So the plan is to submit Aya Blaze to Bitsummit 2016 in Kyoto. I'll get into specifics in another post (at another time of day when howls of joy and Austrian oompa-loompa mixed with the tingling aroma of hospital grade alcohol isn't seeping from my neighbour's walls), but for now the deadline is April 1st which gives me 12 more days.

I recently lost heaps of time due to a corrupted drive and the anguish that followed, but the project is up since a few days and what I have right now is mechanics. Among other things there's ships that handle buttery smooth, tools for building tracks, basic items and some early lookdev tests.

What I've sorely been lacking is a programmer to help me out with populating the levels aka enemy ships aka AI aka that thing all racing games need that I can't do properly. I threw out bait in assorted Facebook groups and with friends orbiting the biz, and got in touch with someone who seems very sensible and sufficiently interested in my little venture. I'm quite-, nay, pretty stoked.

(Actual) Level Design, Round Two

Yesterday I had my first go at a demo level for Bitsummit after tens of minutes of watching racetrack breakdowns on YouTube and analyzing 30k jpegs of magazine scans found in the sweatiest depths of the gamers' web (jk, there's wikis for everything). I learned tons about what's fun to do with the ship in a full size track that's not a sandbox or the 26 second circuit I made in XSI months and months ago.

Yesterday, aka Round 1!!

Looks fun right? Well, it's okay, but messy. Going in and round the same parts again and again made it feel cramped, and even though it took a minute or so to go around the track it felt like you never got anywhere since you were seeing the same stuff over and over. Plus the constant braking and turning caused by my fear of straying from world [0,0,0] while building it never let you stretch your legs or really go for speed.

I was hoping I'd go from nublet to prized level designer in just one day but alas, that's societal pressure for you. So I spent today taking a long, very long walk and thinking hard, very hard. And then I spent even longer drawing this beautiful map outlining my thoughts;

I spent the majority of the time on the cat, of course.

So to summarize my second day as a level designer;

  • Divide the level into activity specific zones, such as drifting, tight zig-zagging, straights etc.
  • Separate the areas visually so you don't see everything all the time.
  • Use curves to fluctuate players' speeds (being at max speed all the time gives no contrast).
  • Use straights as punctuation, letting the player recover and prepare for the next zone.
  • Completely straight straights are fun once but don't feel very organic.
  • I wanted the players to go super fast all the time but without difficult turns and twists there's likely no room for skilled players to break out from the crowd. Not that I'd know since I'm racing alone and in silence, floating in the middle of empty space. But that's the theory.

Applying this glorious sketch to the finicky splines of UE4 for an evening yielded...

Gorgeous. If my mom and I talked she'd be proud.

Haha wow. But it's actually a big step up from the hormone infused first attempts and I can proudly say I've graduated from pulling spline points blindly and crying for no apparent reason.

Well that's that for today. I also set up this blog, introduced myself and got source control running on Git. The todo list is long, but the more I think about it - however much I love fiddling with style and procedural systems - having a solid level is really the second largest factor (after mechanics) for a fun demo, so gotta go for it.

So pray for tomorrow, #pray4ayablaze.