Tranzfuser – Dev Blog #5 – Features

Since my post about the midway review two weeks ago, we’ve been very busy cracking on with filling up Here There Be Monsters to the brim with details and spectacle. Unfortunately that meant I forgot to blog about what we were doing, but no longer! today I want to talk about some of the key features in our game, giving you an insight into what we will have made by week 10. I’m going to focus on the three main features of HTBM: exploration, customisation, and combat. Our other features, including trading and diplomacy, will be covered at a later date. We’ll start by looking at the biggest feature, exploration.

Exploration is the crux of HTBM. You begin with a small ship at one end of the world, and you have complete freedom to explore (or not explore) the remaining corners, as well as everything in between. Only by sailing the many oceans can you hope to discover all of the many secrets the planet has to offer; from hidden treasure and secret quests to epic battles and bloodthristy monsters.

Discover ports in the open world

Discover ports in the open world

Different parts of the planets will reflect the change in culture that you would find on our own planet, meaning as you explore you can see the changing of factions and civilisations as the buildings and boat styles change with you. This will also allow you to change your ship to match the style or faction you choose, but we’ll talk about that in customisation. Because exploration will take up the majority of game time, we’ve put a lot of effort into making the ship feel natural, so players feel the weight of their vessel of choice. We’ve also tried to create an atmosphere around the player using sounds and music, allowing you to get lost in the world; the sea and the spray, the boats and the ocean.

Of course to explore the planet you’re going to need a ship. Specifically, you need your own personal ship. We wanted players to grow an attachment to the ships they built, so we’ve added an in-depth customisation system to give players the ability to change and upgrade almost every element of their ships; from the cannons and barrels, to the flag at the top of the mast and even the shape of the ship itself.

Customise your cannons, flag and other items to make your ship your own

Customise your cannons, flag and other items to make your ship your own

As you explore the planet, you build up your own collection of parts and resources, not to mention gold! These can all be spent at ports to buy new items for your ship, or buy new ships in their entirety. We want people to feel like their boat is their own, which will also mean they are invested in protecting their boats, meaning combat is a much more involved affair.

When it comes to combat, we all have a working knowledge of how pirates fight each other; big ships sailing into close quarters before unleashing devastating broadside. This is how we have designed the combat in HTBM. We want it to be very tactical, with a lot of thought going into positioning and lining up with the enemy, before unleashing a destructive salvo of cannon fire on unsuspecting or helpless foes. Equally, we also wanted the creatures of HTBM to be able to respond in kind.

Get into a fight with pirates on the high seas

Get into a fight with pirates on the high seas

Some have the ability to gnaw at your ship with pincers and claws, others the ability to smash down hard on your deck from above. We want combat to feel alive and fluid, and we want players to feel a part of the action, not outside looking in.

That should give you a quick intro to some of the core features of the game. I’ll talk more about the other features of the game in a later update, but for now happy sailing!

Adam

 

Posted in Tranzfuser | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tranzfuser – Dev Blog #4 – Mid-way Review

We have now reached the halfway point of our Tranzfuser programme and Here There Be Monsters is really starting to take shape. Over the last five weeks we have navigated through the muddy waters of progress and raging tides of development, and are now striding towards our target of a feature-filled, technically impressive demo for our deadline in September. Let’s take stock of a few things:

  • Where we are in development
  • Where we aim to be at the end of the programme
  • How we’ve grown so far

Where We Are In Development

When we began just over a month ago, our game was formed up of a few packages and tutorials here and there: a basic ship model, an initial planet, and some basic water. We began by focusing on developing a minimum value product (MVP) which we could use to show our peers our initial thoughts. We developed this over the first three weeks, which in turn meant the early development of the AI system, planet generation, and ship controls (including firing and combat).

View at the beginning of the game

View at the beginning of the game

The completion of the MVP was our first self-imposed milestone; it meant we had something we could take to our mentors for feedback and adapt our game accordingly. Since then we have continued our work on the AI, implemented a simple weather system, developed the main theme and battle tracks for the game, overhauled the look and feel of the game multiple times to reflect our artistic vision, began developing the item/inventory system which will be used for trading, and created a save/load system for overall character management and content persistence.

Collaboration

We have initialised collaborations with various external talents including:

  • A Concept Artist
  • Character Artist
  • 3D Modeller
  • SFX Producer

All of which we have brought into our development process and subsequently detailed our vision to, which has allowed everyone to add to our projects development strength and diversity.

Considering the first five weeks as a whole, our big milestones have been the development of the MVP, completing planet generation, and implementing combat between ships. Finishing the MVP gave us and our mentors an early glimpse at the game we wanted to develop; a vertical slice of the finished demo if you will. Completing the procedural generation of the planet has allowed us to put a large portion of the game to bed; we now know that each player will get their own unique planet to explore and that the system we have built has a solid structural integrity for the demo. Implementing combat has allowed us to shape one of the key interactions of our game, the battles between the player and enemies such as ships and sea creatures.

End Goal

While it has been important to achieve these key milestones on the way to completing the demo, we have several more we are aiming to have achieved in the next five weeks. There are three key milestones remaining before we feel like the demo we want to show has been completed:

  • Development of a Legendary Leviathan
  • Completion of the Trading/Inventory System
  • Ship Customization
Demonstrating underwater depth

Demonstrating underwater depth

We are increasingly eager to implement leviathans as our area bosses for the game. We strongly feel this will be a crowning feature for the game and will be our ‘wow’ factor for players. Trading and inventory systems will become the backbone of the game. This system will eventually manage everything the player can acquire and allow them to interact with merchants at ports to buy and sell goods. We feel that the trading element will be the key to an individual player’s experience and providing motivation for the player to continue through use of a rewards-based system.

View as you exit the river (with an enemy crab)

View as you exit the river (with an enemy crab)

Considering player satisfaction, we intend to have a fully-fledged feature where the player can acquire new parts to add to their ship and switch them out with existing components. For example: the player may purchase a new mast from a port merchant, then enter the customisation mode where they can switch out their existing mast for the new one. Deciding to implement such a system was an easy choice for us as there are plenty of examples in existing triple A commercial games which demonstrate how allowing the player to choose their own look and feel of their character has great returns in terms of player gratification, as well as promoting continued and repeat play.

Early Thoughts on Commercial Plan

We have considered the following for our commercial plan:

  • Player Feedback
  • Platform
  • Release Schedule
  • DLC/Future Plans for the game

We have got many people ready to playtest the game at around the 8 week mark (self-imposed deadline for playable demo). We will collect feedback and make changes to our game to reflect commercial demand if we believe it fits in HTBM. For platform, we are primarily developing for the PC, but are very interested in developing a console version further down the line on either/both Xbox and PlayStation to capitalise on any commercial success.

An enemy ship hunting you

An enemy ship hunting you

We have developed this game from the ground up with the intent on allowing additional features to be added at any stage. One of the key benefits to this is that we can adjust our release schedule and internal scope whenever necessary, thus we can adopt a semi-flexible release schedule that can be fine-tuned to be in keeping with our partner’s calendar.

In terms of future content/DLC we have many ideas for further extending the functionality and feel of the game, include new gameplay features as well as augmenting existing features such as adding to the existing trading and combat systems. We have built our system to accommodate for future changes with ease.

The Tranzfuser programme has been a game-changer for us in allowing us to focus our efforts on producing what is both an ambitious and exciting new video game. We are very much looking forwards to the remaining weeks of development and cannot wait to demonstrate our vision for Here There Be Monsters in September.

Posted in Tranzfuser | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tranzfuser – Dev Blog #3 – Team Building

Week 3 of Tranzfuser has been all about finding people to flesh out the skill range of our team. While the four initial members have skills in development and composition, we lacked any skills in the form of design or 3D modelling. We have spent this week seeking to resolve our dilemma, alongside further work on our initial features. Over the coming weeks I look forward to introducing the team members to you by showing off their work, but this week I’d like to talk about the process we went through to find those people and the elements which helped, or hindered, the process.

The first part is to do with how we went about finding people to join us. As we had never previously worked with freelance creators, we would have to start from our connections to try and find people to work with us on Here There Be Monsters. By utilising the networks we had developed over the past two years; namely Ga-Ma-Yo, Game Republic, and Full Indie UK (all three of which BetaJester is a member of), we were able to ask the the most experienced indie developers around who they would recommend, as well as put out the call to anyone in those groups who wanted to work with us. Having the networks available meant instead of immediately having to pay for someone to search for us, or putting out a call that no one saw, we had the ability to go through trusted means of communication to find the best creators, and have the opportunity for veteran game developers to advise and recommend people to us.

Moving onto the process of finding the right people to hire, we found a few flaws in our method that we will be looking to fix in future. As this was our first time finding the people that we wanted, we went at with an open minded approach with regards to who we were talking to and how we wanted them to respond. What we discovered quite quickly was that when talking to creative people, particularly when we wanted them to create models and art for our game, it is best to present them with points of reference to demonstrate what we’re looking for. We found that the majority of people we spoke to were looking for mood boards or our creative influences to help steer their creative process which, at the time, we did not have. For next time we now know that the best way to open discussions with artistic creators is to help them understand our creative vision by presenting it in a visual form; utilising images and videos which closely represent our vision and can be referred to as inspiration for our game/project.

Finally, one of the most interesting elements we discovered is that the roles we started out looking to hire people for aren’t necessarily the reasons we ended up hiring people for. We spoke to a number of people and, while some of them didn’t have the exact skills we were looking for, the skills they demonstrated solved problems we didn’t realise we had or would need solving. Because we remained flexible as a team throughout the process, it meant we were still able to consider and even choose these people. We found that being open to everything us afforded us the luxury of choice despite stringent requirements for our game.

Through our searches we’ve found four people we’re hoping can bring our vision to life, and we’re excited to share more info about them and their work over the coming week. Of course, if you aren’t following @_HTBM you aren’t going to know about it! Stay update to date and follow us on Twitter, and I’ll update you again same time next week.

Happy sailing,

Adam

Posted in Tranzfuser, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tranzfuser – Dev Blog #2 – Small Victories

This second week blog has come a little late, but with good reason. As I stated last time, we wanted to finish our MVP by today and … ta dah we just about managed it.

WIP Screenshot of HTBM

WIP Screenshot of HTBM

We now have a basic working version of our game with the core functionalities implemented. Of course, we aren’t finished yet, and a lot of the functionality will need further development, but we’re confident of meeting our September 9th deadline with enough features to pack a mighty wallop.

One key element of our first two weeks has been the opportunity to converse with our industry mentors, Andy Gibson (@TeamPesky) and Simon Barratt (@barog). Both have been incredibly useful in critiquing our ideas and working paradigms with the knowledge of more than 30 years combined in the video games industry.

One of the key pieces of advice has been to focus on small wins as much as, if not more than, the big features. When it comes to games and gaming, it’s the user experience that trumps all. While large features keep the game entertaining in the long run, it is the small wins that keep users playing and enjoying the game every time they pick up a controller (or keyboard). Elements such as particle effects, reactive feedback from actions, and additional dynamic environment elements all work to draw players into the game and create the sense of a real living world that they themselves are exploring.

At the minute we need to focus on implementing some of the bigger features that did not need to be in our MVP, such as trading and fleet control. However, we’re planning to make sure any little ideas or quick features that could easily improve a single users experience aren’t lost to the tide. More sea based puns will be coming your way next week.

Happy sailing,

Adam

Posted in Tranzfuser | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tranzfuser – Dev Blog #1 – You da real MVP

Monday 4th July marked the first day of the Tranzfuser programme, well the first day as far as BetaJester go. Our first day saw us head out from our office in Hull over to the Digital Creativity Labs in York. We also took our 4th team member George Marshall (a PhD student at the University of Hull) with us to get him up to speed and set out what we wanted to work on.

Adam and George on the way to the Digital Creativity Labs in York on Monday

Adam and George on the way to the Digital Creativity Labs in York on Monday

We met the hub manager and team, we spoke to team Escalate about their project, and we spoke to some of the people based in the Labs themselves, including Mark Johnson of Roguelike Radio.

Of course, this was day one of fifty (not including weekends) in the Tranzfuser programme, so we decided to set out our plans for the next 10 weeks. We decided on two things: what we were going to make first and what we needed to decide before we knuckled down.

We decided our should be to develop a Minimum Value Product (or MVP for short), which would represent the most basic, core functionality of our game. We discussed which elements would go into the MVP and how long we wanted it to take. We have settled on two weeks, meaning our first build with all core functionality should be complete by the 19th July, leaving us 39 days to pull together the rest of the demo. At that stage we’ll be able to share more about the game itself.

The second element we discussed was which parts of the games were still open for discussion and what our decisions were going to be. This included elements such as secondary mechanics and the games narrative focus. We continued to have discussions about these elements for most of the week before we decided on what we wanted, but no spoilers yet. I’m hoping that once our MVP is complete, we’ll be able to set up an initial marketing pack including the title track, a synopsis of the narrative, screenshots and, if we’re lucky, concept art, but that’s about a week and a half away. Until then, keep following @_HTBM for updates.

Happy sailing,

Adam

Posted in Tranzfuser | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tranzfuser – Dev Blog #0 – Prologue

You may have noticed I’ve been absent from this blog since Christmas. With numerous events, expo’s, meetings, contracts and having to move house twice, I unfortunately did not find any time to blog about the work I’ve been up to. That being said, I did find time to apply to Tranzfuser, the new talent development programme brought to you by the folks at UK Games Talent and UK Games Fund, and wouldn’t you know it BetaJester got accepted!

We will be kicking off our 10 weeks development time on Monday, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to get back on the blogging horse (so to speak) and keep everyone up to date each week about how development is going.

So let’s get you up to speed with our idea. We’re developing a brand new seafaring exploration game called (drum roll please) …. Here There Be Monsters. Players will be given their own planet to explore, upon which they’ll find towns and ports willing to trade all manner of resources to help the player build bigger and better ships, which will make it possible to traverse the vast oceans and discover the lands that lay beyond the horizon.

Obviously this idea is at a very early stage, but I’m looking forward to sharing our developments with you over the next 10 weeks. So be sure to follow this blog, @adamb1234 and @BetaJesterLtd for more updates as they happen!

Happy sailing,

Adam

Posted in Tranzfuser | Tagged , | Leave a comment

An Indie Christmas …

 

tumblr_mehkcc9day1qet2qfo1_1280

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house
Not a peripheral was stirring, not even a mouse!
To a family party the developer had gone
To talk of Christmas and gaming from dusk until dawn.

When a young boy came up to the developer and asked
“What games have you made in the year past?”
The developer considered all he had done;
The software for money and the games for fun.

One game he released came straight to mind,
Though the downloads were few, the reviews were kind.
“Check out my game” the dev said with a smile,
“It’s got levels and quests, it might take you a while.”

While the dev got his phone and his new game ready
The boy said to the dev “I’ve played this already!”
“One of my mates found your game on the store,
He plays it a lot, he even has a high score!”

Stunned at the news the dev asked many questions
Like how did he find it? Does he have any suggestions?
This was first time that someone unknown
Had downloaded his game all on their own

So while you may fear your game won’t be played
There’s a chance for all titles be they free be they paid.
As long as you love games the future is bright!
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!

Posted in Christmas | Tagged , | 4 Comments