Blog

Post Mortem

The Good, The Bad, And The Other Stuff

The development of Bosscraft to this point has been wild with a bunch of different challenges along the way.  It’s safe to say there are things the group was good at, and things the group was, to put it bluntly, just bad at.  These items were discussed by the team and identified as our greatest strengths and weaknesses.

The Good

The Demo:

The demo was consistently on schedule or ahead.  Implementation was done in a timely manner and assets were created and implemented as they became necessary and/or available.  With one notable hiccup, the animations, the demo went through amazing changes over the course of the term.  Huge sweeping design changes were implemented quickly and tested leading to the game concept to becoming much stronger as time went on.  While Tim did most of the implementation, the general adaptability of the team to create small edits as needed to implement things quickly was a tremendous factor in the demo being as strong as it is.

Presentations:

The team overall did a good job with the various presentations through the term.  The scrums became stronger with every version, likewise the Sell presentations also grew similarly better iteration to iteration.  Everyone contributed to the presentation either in actual presenting or in creating the presentations themselves.  The members of the group who gravitated towards presenting did so and those who could write and organize them did that.  The team worked well together on these and while communication in general was not our strongest suit, we managed to communicate and complete these effectively.

Concept and Design:

The game concept and design is one of the strongest selling points of Bosscraft in general.  It takes a bunch of familiar ideas and puts them together in a cool way that is pretty easy to communicate.  Our playtesting showed that is an idea people really like.  Going back to our earliest brainstorming sessions and the first draft of the Design Doc, the ideas flowed naturally from everyone.  Jamila had great insight into how the characters should look.  Jeremy instantly saw how the gui should be formed and had good input on the control scheme.  Jacob was on top of it when it came to coming up with abilities and mechanics.  Tim was able to quickly prototype these ideas so they could quickly evolve.  Even later in the term, when the decision was made to drop the development of the prep phase, the game design remained strong.  It had to adapt to be more strategic in the battle, but the team easily did that.

Changing how abilities worked not once, but twice, was a huge change to the core gameplay, but the core concept became even stronger.

The Bad

Playtesting:

Easily the weakest aspect of our groups performance.  Playtesting was slow coming, inadequate, and hopelessly lopsided.  In part it could be chalked up to the difficult nature of playtesting the game.  But each member needed to pull more weight in this department.  There’s not that much to say about it other than that it should have been much better.  With a total of 32 playtesting results at the time of writing this, that’s hardly a slam dunk.

In-Person Meetups:

Meetings in general were very sparse.  Most communication was 1 on 1 other than a weekly meeting on Skype to discuss the past week and create the presentations.  In person meetups and working together as a whole would have vastly helped reduce time spent on several issues, most notably animation in the latter part of development.  When we did have meetings they were productive and they were more and more efficient.  They were quite helpful in keeping everyone on track.  That we didn’t have more of them was a shame, and something that needed to get fixed.

Asset Management:

With all the various tools we were forced to use to manage the project, we wound up using all of them rather poorly.  Teamwork PM did not feel urgent to the whole team and casual conversations over Facebook or any other communication means were far more common.  This had the side effect of the project not being tracked as well as it could have.

The Git repository was not utilized to its full potential.  The project and all of its assets were available in a reasonably well organized fashion for every member but it was not utilized to full advantage.  Versioning and rapid iteration would have helped identify problem areas quickly and have made the game much more polished.

The Animation Quest

The only major game deliverable we failed to meet was the animations for the characters.  Who was responsible changed hands a couple times and on top of that the team members were learning new tools.  Individually, the group members were all capable but there was a major communication breakdown in getting these done.  This may have been fixed by knowing everyone’s skillset better from the outset.  We wanted to mention this separately from the good and bad because while we failed to meet the initial deadlines, the execution and implementation in the end was still solid.  It was an important element to the game and learning from what caused the issues is important.

The Future

A lot of lessons have been learned and some changes to make instantly come to mind:

  • Greater Individual Responsibility
    • Every member has been trained in Unity, Modeling, and Animation–they are all capable and should all be able to contribute to the project directly
    • Members should know what they are responsible for and who and how it gets delivered
  • Increased Meeting Frequency

    • Simple, meet more, learn what people are doing–avoid the animation debacle
  • More Playtesting

    • This is a need rather than a want, it can and must be done better.
  • More Programmers

    • The scope of the game is a little out of control for only one programmer
  • Asset Scoping and Organization

    • Asset lists are very helpful, they should have been used much more often

 

 

Overall, the experience was a positive one.  There was a lot of individual growth and people trying roles they hadn’t done before.  At the end of the day we have to deliver a product and, while it wasn’t what we initially anticipated, we’re proud with what we have accomplished.  Our number one request would be more time to do stuff even more justice–maybe in Workshop 2….

New Boss Abilities (Dragon)

Hey guys, the new boss abilities for the vertical slice can be found in the latest version of the gdd. These abilities specifically pertain to the dragon boss. These abilities include bite, screech, wind burst, immolate, fire ball, immolate field, fire breath, catapult fire, fire sweep, summon whelp (egg), summon whelp, and summon whelp flock. These names are subject to change and descriptions/purposes of each can be found within the gdd. Accompany animations for these abilities will be available in the shot list, which will be uploaded soon.

Bosscraft Update

At the time of writing, it is Week 6 in the 11 week cycle to create a vertical slice of Bosscraft (still a working title.)

Recap on the Game Concept

Bosscraft is a game inspired by the raiding and boss battle aspect of games like World of Warcraft.  Raiding is a co-operative event where large groups (usually between 10-40 people) of human controlled players battle through an AI and Boss infested dungeon.  Bosscraft riffs on that idea with an asymmetric competition, where two players battle each other.  One player controls the aforementioned raid, and the other controls the Boss.  The raid is played more like a Real Time Strategy and the Boss has more in common with action games.

A major proponent of raiding is preparation and that is a major part of the game’s design.  Preceding each battle, players have the ability to customize the raid and boss.  The raid is comprised of healers, mages, warriors, and so on while the boss can have different abilities and different models.  A big dragon that breathes fire, or a powerful necromancer that spawns baby dragons.  In essence, the players get to design and play a boss encounter of their choosing and then play it out.  (Note that this phase is no longer part of what will be delivered at the end of this cycle, though it remains a large part of the game)

What’s Already Been Done

The past 6 weeks have seen a lot of conceptualizing, but good work has been made on the demo front as well.  Altogether, the progress is promising.

We’ve created the general flow of the game at the highest and lowest levels.  That is to say, when players provide input and all major loops of logic has been decided.

Visually, the game’s art direction has been decided upon.  A backstory we’ve created for the game provides context here.  The battles that playout are the imaginary toy battles of a child.  The big bosses are assembled, almost like legos, and fight the more ‘realistic’ action figures (the raid).  While not an element in the game, this does give an idea of how the game is going to look.  At the same time, with our influences being a large deal–we want to pay homage to these genres.  At this point in time, the models for the Tank and the Healer have been created and implemented into the game (not animated yet).  By the end of this cycle, a raid model for each class will be created and so will the Dragon boss (this includes animations).

In that same vein, the environments that have been conceptualized and begun to be implemented echo popular locales for boss fights.  A rocky mesa top, a dangerous volcano, an icy cave, and so on.  The rocky mesa is the environment we are going to focus on for the vertical slice–it is what is seen in the demo.

The demo has most of the major game features implemented in some way shape or form.  The boss is controlled via controller, the raid via mouse and keyboard.  4 abilities for the boss have been created, covering a wide array of possibilities.  The stats for the boss and raiders can be modified before a session to help us out with balance.

GUI art is also coming along.  With this kind of game there is a lot of information to be displayed to the players and it also can’t be too intrusive.  Each game element of the GUI will share several elements to group them visually.  The abilities have a similar style icon, the raiders will have similar profiles, and so on.

Changes from the Initial Plan

The last week has seen a  couple major design changes and scoping decisions that are worth speaking on.  Mentioned earlier is the fact that the prep phase is not part of vertical slice.  The team opted instead to focus on making the battle phase as  good as we can.  Make it polished, exciting, and–hopefully–balanced.  We thought about still presenting preset bosses and raid setups to the players, but even still have decided to focus on the current raid party in the demo (Tank/Healer/Mage/Two Melee) and the Dragon boss.

The boss controls were meant to be rather unique in the beginning, but initial playtesting exposed that this was a difficult aspect of the game to grok.  Currently, boss design is trending towards more a MOBA style (fewer abilities, but with more control on them).  The unique aspects of the boss are in the 1 vs many scenario and how he is controlled, but the setup can be more familiar for players.

Where We Stand

As mentioned earlier, the progress is promising.  With lots of the major features in place on the gameplay front, this gives us a reasonable amount of time to just focus on the battle phase and make that as good as we can.

We ended up taking an extra week to do more character concepts which means character models are just entering the game now.  As these visual elements are so important in displaying information, this was a necessary delay.  Even still, with the progress everywhere else in the project–the outlook is very positive with the characters.

With work on the prep phase being pushed out of vertical slice, we have more time to polish the assets for the vertical slice.  A lot of GUI art would have had to be made for the prep phase, but now we can really solidify the visual elements in the battle scene.  Moreover, we have less to balance.  All in all, dropping the prep phase was an important scoping development that gives us more time to iterate.

The Outlook

The next few weeks are going to be iterations on what we have and implementing assets as they arrive.  With many of the major mechanics in place, it’s a matter of balancing and visual polish.  Even now, the game feels reasonably fun when playing it, it’s just not that exciting.  Getting it to that next level is going to be a big focus.

We have made a relationship with a Drexel grad to help out on the audio front, which is exciting.  Audio is another big chance to help provide information for players.

Material Up To This Point

The most recent demo is always playable here:

https://barelydragons.wordpress.com/mostrecentbuild/

That page also has a recap on changes implemented into the demo over the last few weeks.

All concept art is available on the website, as well as a couple renders of models.

https://barelydragons.wordpress.com/category/game-assets/concept-art/

https://barelydragons.wordpress.com/category/game-assets/concept-art/gui/

https://barelydragons.wordpress.com/category/game-assets/orthographics/

The teamwork pm project also contains our scrum and sell presentations as well as our Game Design Document Drafts.