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Cameras, Pythagoras and faking it

A decision every game developer must face at one point or another is which camera angle to use in their game. Even in the case of 2D games, developers will have to choose between different perspectives (top-down,  side-scrolling, isometric, etc.), but this is particularly true for 3D games. Since Okhlos takes place in a 3D environment our case was not different. We started with the camera at a somewhat arbitrary position and rotation. Then, as time went by, we tried different angles and positions until we found something we liked. It wasn’t as easy as it may sound since we had two competing factors: on one hand we wanted you to be able to accurately see the mob and its immediate surrounding  as easily as possible, on the other hand we wanted to showcase the game’s art, the units, the enemies, buildings, the landscape etc. Gameplay wise the best perspective seemed to be top-down, clear and simple, but the top down perspective meant that you would be looking at roofs most of the time, and let’s not speak of how horribly incompatible it was with the billboard characters we had planned. The solution we found was the camera you can see in Okhlos’ current build: it lets you appreciate the art as well you give you a decent chance to spot those pesky Cyclops before they crush you.

 

A screenshot with the current camera position and rotation

Best camera ever

 

Happy ending, then? Not quite. There were a couple of issues. The first one was immediately evident. With the current camera perspective, people and enemies, could get blocked from the line of sight by buildings in front of them. It was a problem the top-down camera would have avoided but we now had to deal with. Luckily we were not the first ones to venture into the dangerous seas of isometric perspectives so we resorted to a solution many others have used in the past when faced with the same conundrum: making the objects that block the view transparent while there is something you need to see behind them.

 

A gif showing a building fading out when the leader goes behing it

Magic!

 

So now everything is settled and we can all move to happy land, no? Wrong again. Even though the view-blocking-buildings crisis was averted there was a new problem in the horizon. And this time, the problem at hand was not so evident. In fact we spent months without even noticing it. Throughout many version we played the game with the feeling that there was something odd about the way the mob moved, but not quite able to pinpoint which was the problem. Finally, during one playtesting session we came to the realization that the mob seemed to be moving more slowly when moving upwards or downwards than when moving to the sides. Once again this was due to the camera angle we had chosen. The mob did move in every direction at the same speed but the camera angle gave the illusion that it was the mob was moving at different speeds. Our solution here was to do something that would seem to be the problem in the first place, make the mob move at different speeds depending on the axis you are traversing.

So now, the mob and its leader now move 40% faster when they are going towards the bottom or the top the screen, than when they are moving to the sides. Why 40%? That’s when our good old and soon-to-be-in-the-mob Pythagoras comes to the rescue. The main camera in Okhlos is tilted 24°, and we know, thanks to Pythagoras, that by calculating the sine of that angle how much the view is distorted by the camera, and therefore how much we need to compensate. Hooray Pythagoras!

 

A screenshot showing the camera's angle and position in the editor

Here you can not only see the camera’s position, you can see the frustrum too! Delight in the wonders of the frustrum!

 

If we learned something from all this (and I hope we did), it was that dealing with the camera is an important issue. But we kind of knew that already. What we didn’t know was that sometimes the solution to a problem may be something completely counterintuitive. We ended up with a mob that moves at a one speed in an axis and at a different speed in another, which seemed to be the problem itself. However, it feels much better now, so this largely compensates the fact that you can traverse the levels faster by moving vertically (and by the way, now that know this, don’t exploit it!).

And so we come to the end of this week’s update.  This was not the last time we had to do something apparently counterintuitive to solve a problem, nor it was the only problem we had with the camera, but we will leave those stories for another time. Until next next week!

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Introducing Sparta!

These past weeks, we’ve been working on Sparta, a brand new world for Okhlos.

We decided to work on a new world, despite not having finished Delphi, because we thought that introducing more levels will give us a better idea of how the game as a whole will be .

 

So, in Sparta you will find:

Enemies!

Lots of enemies. Most of them, cyclops. Also, some of these cyclops will attack constantly the mob’s leader, so you will have to try and dodge them while controlling the mob.

ciclopes

A new kind of enemy will be the Shield Bearer (not a bear), which can only be attacked from the back (and that meant doing back sprites again… which is a pain).

ShieldBearer

Ares

The main boss in Sparta is Ares, the god of war. He will spawn in a sort of Colosseum, and the battle with him will be very melee oriented.

arena

arenaEditor

Also, he will spawn with his sons, Phobos & Deimos.

Phobos is the personification of fear (the word phobia comes from him), particularly, the fear in battle. So his powers will affect the mob morale and cohesion.

Deimos, on the other hand, is the personification of terror. It’s something a little more abstract, so that’s why we went with a more mystical approach for him

phobosYDeimosConcept

 

This was the original concept art. Deimos in the left, Phobos int the right. Below is the pixel art version. As you can see, lots of changes happen when we translate from concept to pixel art.

 

PhobosYDeimos

 

Also, Phobos and Deimos are (appropriately) the names of Mars’ (which is the Roman name for Ares) two satellites. All of this makes searching for them a little more annoying (luckily, is not even remote as annoying as Electra).

Sparta

We wanted to re use a lot of assets to be able to test it quickly, but we made some new things in order to give Sparta a distinctive look. We changed the terrain, we made new buildings, and we changed the roads.

sparta

buildings

We still have lots to do in Sparta, but this will give us enough to test the new world and see how it feels!

 

That’s all for this week! Let us know what you think!

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More heroes!

These past few weeks, we’ve been working on lots of new stuff. Among them, there are new levels, enemies, and heroes! But since we were already in the tpoic of heroes, in this update, we will be introducing the rest of the heroes we have been working on.

 

Andromeda is a very interesting character. She was held to a cliff to feed some monster, but Perseus ruined the day. At least for the monster.

In Okhlos, Andromeda will boost the mob’s overall hp.

At first, I drew her with green hair, as a very obvious nod to a certain character also representing Andromeda, but it was way too obvious.

The cool thing about Antigone, is that she hasn’t been much explored  in popular culture. It’s not one of the classic characters you find in every Greek-mythology-based thing. Also, it’s amazing she didn’t came out plain stupid, because of her mother and grandmother were the same person.

In Okhlos, Antigone will give the mob more cohesion.

In this screenshot, you can see how more or less cohesion will affect your mob.

So far, the Dioscury, are the only hero that are technically two. They were guest stars in a lot of myths, like the Calydonian boar hunt, and the Argonauts expeditions.

In Okhlos, they will boost the overall attack of the mob.

My first intention, was to make her clothes red. That was obvious and inaccurate, so I turned into more research. Finding reference images of Electra was very annoying because of  the saturation of other Electras (And trust me, Google images is FULL of pics of them).

Electra has bad reputation because of Freud (technically, Magneto), but it has nothing to do with the original myths. As Antigone, which is the daughter of Oedipus, a hero already in Okhlos, she is the daughter of Agamemnon.

In Okhlos, she will make the mob move and attack faster.

Finally, Helen played a fundamental role in the Trojan war. Also, she is one of the first characters of the Trojan war we introduce! The Trojan war it’s likely to be a real conflict, with some poetic licenses, triggered by her running away with Legolas.

Also, she is the sister of the Disocury, so this week, we introduced a lot of family members in the game.

In Okhlos, she will raise up all the attack stats in the mob, BUT also will reduce your cohesion a lot!

 

So that’s it for this week! Next week, we will show you our first steps into the new levels!

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I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more heroes!

Did we ever mention how important heroes are in Okhlos? No? Are you sure? Well, they are. Very. So creating heroes has been a task that we have been working on from almost day one, and something we will probably keep on doing until the very last day of development (or at least beta). Here is an update on some of the latest ones we have developed. Enjoy!

 

BELLEROPHON

Now this is an old school hero. Before Heracles, before Perseus, before all these new kids on the block took the scene there was Bellerophon.

He started his journeys as an exile, seeking penance for a crime he had committed. He then proved to have the remarkable ability to make enemies in very high places, and as a result  he spent most of the time on seemingly impossible quests intended to kill him (sounds familiar, Heracles?). The most notable of these was the slaying the Chimera (the fire-breathing part-lion, part-snake, part-goat monster we have all come to love and fear), for which he got himself a flying steed, no other than Pegasus. Bellerophon’s fame and glory grew with each victory until eventually he thought he had earned the right to fly with Pegasus to the top of mount Olympus. Big mistake. The always nice and amicable Zeus politely disagreed and sent Bellerophon flying back to earth, blinding and crippling him in the process. Zeus also kept Pegasus because he fancied a flying horse, and  Bellerophon, disgraced and disfigured, spent his last days pitiful as a hermit, away from civilization.

What is Bellerophon’s part in Okhlos? Well, his tale was very interesting, and there were lots of elements from which we could create mechanics but in the end we focused on one aspect, the loner hero. Not only did he start as an exile and ended as a hermit, but at his prime he thought himself to be better than any other mortal, so we came up with a mechanic that plays around this. Bellerophon stats increase as the mob’s size decreases, and he gets weaker as the mob’s size increases. This makes him a very atypical hero, and the perfect choice for players who would like to try a run with a very small mob. Normally it would be close to suicide to face the gods will only a handful of people in the mob but heroes like Bellerophon make it possible. And perhaps this way Bellerophon will get his revenge on his old pal Zeus.

Sprite-wise, Bellerophon is the tallest unit so far. Roque wanted to transmit the idea of this larger than life hero, someone that looked like he could take on an army on himself, so his body was based on that of Sir Gregor Clegane, also known as The Mountain, from Game of Thrones. If you don’t know Gregor, his knickname should give you a hint about how he looks: massive, imposing, not that easy to find t-shirts that fit him nicely in most stores.

 

PANDORA

Pandora was another very interesting character. You probably all know her story, or at least some version of the story. Or perhaps not. All I knew before researching a little bit was there was a box involved, lots of evils coming out of it and some hope in the end. I didn’t know that according to the myth she was the first woman, created by Zeus to punish humanity for using fire to cook food and not starve to death (although that last part doesn’t surprise me at all, #ZEUSISADICK). There are also a lot of parallels between Pandora and Eve from the judeo-christian myth, but I think there is a story that bears even more resemblance to that of Pandora: the story of the Smurfette. Both were created by the villain, both were intended to harm the good guys, and in the end both were turned blond and became regular cast members. But I digress.

Back to Okhlos. While designing a mechanic for Pandora we went straight for the core of the myth: the box, or the jar, depending on the source. Let’s say container. We can all agree it was some kind of container. Probably not a Tupperware. Although it would have been a really good choice. You want to keep all those evils fresh. But I digress. Back to Pandora’s box. There aren’t that many containers in the game but we do have some: the item containers, the things you can destroy and find items inside. So we decided that having Pandora in mob would increase the chances of getting an item every time you destroy one these containers. However, her presence would mean that there would also be a small chance of a monster spawning from the container instead of an item. Pandora is one of those heroes that can be very useful but has a setback, which seemed to us was quite fitting with the myth, and also suits the concept of a Pandora’s Box.

 

ATALANTA

So far most of the heroes we have added to the game were men, and the few women that we did include either had a downside (like Pandora) or were not as heroic as their male counter parts. Partly this is simply  because most of the heroes in the myths are men, but we thought we could still find some cool, kickass heroines throughout the mythos and so we did. Atalanta is a perfect example of this. As baby she left to die in the wilderness by her father, King Iasus, but she managed to survive, growing up in the woods and becoming a superb huntress and fighter. She took part in the most epic quest of her time, the hunt of the Calydonean Boar, was the first to draw blood and got to keep the hide of the beast. No small feat, considering she was competing with pretty much every hero around (except Heracles who had already killed another boar so he didn’t bother). Robert Graves also puts her as one of the Argonauts, being once again part of a dream team of heroes and kicking serious ass. However, she is perhaps best well know for almost supernatural speed.

Atalanta was the fastest runner alive at the time, able to beat anyone in a foot race. So when her father the king (who after seeing that her daughter had slain the boar, beating all other heroes, decided to forget all that nonsense about leaving her to die in woods and take her back) told her she had to get married,  Atalanta, who wasn’t into that marriage thing,  said she would only marry the man that could beat in her in a race (and would kill any who failed, just to spice things up).  Many did die trying to beat her until the pesky gods once again interfered, Aphrodite this time, and one man Hippomenes was able to defeat and marry her. And then one of the gods, either Zeus, Rhea or Aphrodite herself, turned them both into lions. Because that’s what the gods do.

Anyway, Atalanta’s role in the mob was easy to figure out. She was a perfect fit for the stat boosting heroes. Who better than the fastest runner in the ancient Greece to improve the mob’s speed modifier? So if you get Atalanta, she will provide a huge bonus to the units’ speed, making everyone run faster. And also she will kill as many cyclops, centaurs and other Olympian spawns as she can while everybody is running around.

 

And that is all for now. We have been working on several other heroes these last weeks, but that we will leave them for another time. Until then, here is the updated hero count!

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Indie game, indie trailer

Showing your work is incredibly important in this industry. A trailer can be your calling card. Putting together a nice-looking trailer can help showing the features of a game, without the need of having the game finished. Because of this, we wanted to to set up a trailer for Okhlos.

We had already made a few videos, but we wanted something fancy for our first “official trailer”. It ended up being much more work than we expected. However, we feel that we learned a lot, and that it might be a good idea to share some tips based on the insight we gained while making a gameplay trailer.

First of all, a little disclaimer. I’m no pro at video editing, so this probably will be totally useless for anyone who has some experience in the subject. These tips are aimed mainly at anyone with no professional experience who wants to make a trailer, much like our case.

Disclaimer aside, here we go. At first, you might think that making a gameplay trailer is easy, because you only  have to show gameplay, but trust me on this one, it’s not so simple.

 

Planning

One of the things we learned, is that carefully planning what you want to show will save you lots of time. We established which were the cool parts that we wanted to show to the world, and we made a list out of them.

Well, any kind of list is good enough.

Then, you have to set up the narrative of the trailer, and the order in which each segment will be shown. That will take you some time but it’s important to have the pace and climax of the trailer clearly lined out.

Setting the pace was kind of easy, because we had the track made by @ashellinthepit, so we could work having the course set by the track. It was a good kind of restriction, because it gave us a very solid structure.

 

Footage, footage, and some more footage

You might think that recording a few play sessions is enough, but you need LOTS of footage.

We knew which things we wanted to show, but in order to have some variety (keep in mind that at the moment of making the trailer we only had the first level completed) we had to take multiple captures of each feature throughout different playthroughs. Changing the how the level looks and having a different mob also helped to make each segment feel different.

So,  be ready to record A LOT of footage. We made 61 video captures. We had 20gb or 10 minutes worth of videos JUST for this trailer. We knew the length of the trailer (45 secs approximately) because of the track. And I think having footage worth 10 times the length you are aiming for, is a good ratio.

Morale of the story, you need to make multiple recordings of each feature. You will need them in the editing room.

 

Embrace the editor

Having drafts of each segment, we noticed that there were a few things that we didn’t have implemented at the time. Also, assembling different kinds of mobs we wanted to show would have taken too much time if we did it playing the game. In this context, using Unity really helped us a lot. We could simply threw out things in the scene and capture them on video.

This is an unnecessary wide screenshot, but is cool to show the behind the scenes.

So, being able to edit the game in whatever way we needed, on runtime, was really helpful while making the trailer.

The only problem was that, as of version 3.5.7, Unity doesn’t allow you to display the editor view in fullscreen. So, all the footage we captured this way, had to be scaled in the video editor. For this, I recommend recording always with the window at the exactly same size, and in the same position, so when you apply the cut, you can save the numbers and do it automatically.

 

How to record

To capture video we use Fraps, which is a super cool program to do it. It’s proved to be really helpful but there other things you should know while capturing video:

  • Keep in mind that recording video is a very intensive task for your machine, so try to do it in the more powerful machine you could find. We captured the video in my computer, which is the most powerful computer we have in the office.
  • Ideally you want to have two HDDs. One, were the SO and the game are, and another in which you output the data recorded. Fraps its not so good when it’s reading and writing the same HDD
  • Something very importante, is taking the time to carefully rename each segment you record. When you have 60+ videos called Okhlos2014-[...].avi, you don’t want to have to decipher the thumbnail, or having to open each video to see what’s in there. Rename every capture you take, with a declarative name, like why you recorded that segment.
  • Also, try to keep the segments short . It’s better to have thousands of little files, than two or three incredible large files. You will have to edit the clip on the editing software anyways, but if you are editing and find out that you will definitely not use a clip, its easier to erase it.

Aside from this, an amazing thing I found out, (a little late maybe), is that the awesome VLC, not only is an awesome player, but also EDITS videos! This was an amazing finding, because it allowed me to remove long movies from the video project and instead use smaller ones.

You have to enable advanced controls, and there you have it! You can transform larger videos in smaller ones! It looks something like this:

You have to press rec to start recording, and again to stop recording. This will generate a video in “My documents” folder (I didn’t spend much time trying to change the output folder).

So, in short, using VLC will save you lots of time, and a more malleable video project.

 

The Software

Finally, a few notes on the software I used to edit the video.

As I’m no video editor professional, I went for the easier choice, which is to use Adobe Premiere. It’s pretty straightforward, and once you get the hang of it, it’s really easy to manage clips. I can imagine that there are more professional software for this, but Premiere gives you all the tools you might need for an indie trailer.

Having a multiple monitors setup, really helps previewing the work, while arranging the timeline, or your files.

Another thing I learned using premiere is that pressing Enter really improves the fps of the preview window. What it does is still a mystery to me, it has something to do with a render, and it will take a lot of space from your HDD. My educated guess is that renders everything in the preview size, for better handling.

On a final note on the software issue, something that really helped me a lot is to have some configuration guidelines for youtube videos.

So, here you are. The important parts are H.264 in format. VBR on Bitrate, and the target resolution to be 1920×1080 (at least for 1080p on Youtube). Previously, Youtube didn’t support more than 30fps, but as for now, they can reproduce 60fps. Also, it’s very likely that you will be making more than one video, so save these settings into a preset for future projects.

 

Audio

As I said before, the audio was made by Gordon, who is our musician and sfx guy. At first we thought that the track alone would be enough for our first trailer, and it was an invaluable aid to set the timing, but once we had the trailer, Gordon offered to add some SFX.

Adding sound effects really boosted the experience of the trailer. You can really notice the difference between one and another. So, if you have a musician, don’t hesitate on using him/her for the trailer.

Now, If you don’t have one yet, but you want to show your work, you can always search for a creative commons track. Besides that, is important to turn off any music (final or placeholders) that you might have in the game. If you have sfx integrated, try to capture the video with the audio, and lower the audio volume of the clips.

 

Now, do it again

What might be absurd in any other context, in art it’s a very common thing.  Iterate.

The thing that most helped the trailer, was to do it twice. I made an early version of the trailer, from which I learned a lot, but I did it very quickly. I finished the first trailer in almost a day.

This is how the first version looked . We changed the name for Gameplay video because it was no trailer. Also, we uploaded the video, but we didn’t share it, or make fuzz about it. Once I had the video, I shared it with a few acquaintances. This provided me lots of feedback for the final version, but what I found more interesting was seeing what each person thought was the most important part in Okhlos. Some wanted to show large mobs, others absurdly non practical camera zooms. Every person had a different view of what Okhlos was, and thanks to the trailer, we could explore some of those requests and boost expectation of the viewers on some weird psychological level. [Dubious][Citation needed]

With all this feedback, I remade the trailer. I captured everything I needed again, and we made a lot of changes from the original idea.

Remaking the trailer from scratch might sound dumb, but in this day and age, a good trailer is your packaging. So spend all the time you might need working on it. If you are more organized than I am, you might not need to recapture video, but you will most definitely have to make more than a version of your trailer and iterate on it.

 

Taking all that into consideration, here is a look at our new trailer. You might not think it is the best trailer the industry had seen, but all the advice given will definitely help you show your work in a cooler way.

 

 

 

 

 

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New trailer, E3, PAX, and stuff

This week, we introduce our new trailer!

I actually don’t know the first thing about video editing, but with persistence, and the invaluable help of @ashellinthepit, we made it! Enjoy!

 

 

Besides from the trailer, there were two major events this week: The E3 and the PAX 2014 deadline!

I don’t want to get into too much detail about the E3, because it had a lot of coverage, but anyone who was following it will have noticed that there were certain  features common to almost every game presented throughout the conferences, features that each and every person that stood on the stage highlighted over and over again.  Oddly, Okhlos has  all of those features:

  • Okhlos runs at 60fps (mostly)
  • Okhlos runs at 1920×1080 (1080p), and if you run in windowed mode, you can even set higher resolutions!
  • Once, we even made Okhlos run at 5760×1080! (Three monitors!)
  • Okhlos has a dedicated server, where we manage the SVN, and commit the changes we make! We promise that is dedicated and exclusive, because no one else can use it except for us!
  • Okhlos is very social, because we tweet and post in Facebook a lot about the game!
  • Okhlos has asimmetrical gameplay. If you play Okhlos with a person next to you, the experience of each one of you will be totally different!
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Today’s changes: changelog added

Greetings, everyone!

After countless hours of hard work (we literally don’t keep track of the working hours), we’ve reached an internal goal version: 0.3.2. And, since this is technically a dev blog, we will take the opportunity to start posting a changelog.  What is  a changelong? Basically it is a record of all the changes that took place from version to version, which is useful to show what we have been working on, and it also to help us keep track of the changes in each version. So, for this and future changelogs, it will go like this:

 

WHAT’S NEW in 0.3.2?

-New GUI

Now the GUI is pixel perfect. It is not finished yet, but is looking much cooler!

-Pause screen improved

The pause screen is a very important part of the game. It helps you keep track of your mob’s units, it shows your heroes and the amount of each kind of unit. So we put some more work into it, moving forward with the major overhaul we started in version 0.3.0.

Also, we updated pretty much every other window of the game. The “game over” screen, for example, now shows you some stats, and the config window is almost fully functional.

-Help window (temporary)

Until now we had been sending a few versions of the game, along with an attached .png that briefly explains how to play. In this version, you can access a little window with the basics of the game by pressing the universal F1 (Thanks @danielben for the idea).

-New destroyed buildings, improved fx

Well, that. The previous destroyed buildings where not cool. After some playthroughs with the new ones, we realized these are not perfect either, but with a little more work, they will end up pretty cool! The particle effects we use to show damage have also been highly improved and they are almost final.

-Difficulty!

Okhlos 0.2 was incredible easy. To be fair, we hadn’t focus on difficulty or adjusting numbers until this version, and we only did it very lightly now, but you can feel that Okhlos is much more challenging than before!

-New units!

Now, the Prophetai summon little minions who have melee attacks. The Hosioi are still here but they are an altogether different unit. We also improved the animations of the Gryphons, and we call them MechaGryphons (technically, I call it that way).

-New Heroes!

We added a few more heroes! Heroes are on of the most fun parts of Okhlos so far, and in the upcoming version we will be adding LOTS of them! Also, we’ve adjusted some of their prices, so that it is now harder to buy many of them at one time.

-Units don’t have backs

Until now, when units moved away from the camera, they showed their backs. We are changing this, so that they always face the camera. Only the units in the mob, mind you, not the enemies, they will still show you their backs (they are that rude). You might think that is not cool to do this, but we think we can take the liberty, and in this way you will have a better reading of your units.

FIXES

-Minor optimizations

By default, the sprite system that we are using keeps animations running all the time, even when the sprites are not being rendered. We have lots of animated sprites throughout the levels, like the grass or the trees, so we were spending precious milliseconds animating hundreds of these that where outside the screen. However, we couldn’t simply set all sprites to stop animating while outside the field of view because we have objects which behavior depends on animation triggers.  For example, the Prophetai only summon their minions when the summon animations reaches a certain frame, that works as a trigger. The solution we came up was adding a new property to animated sprites that lets us set if we want them to continue animating outside of the screen or not.

Asides from this, we set the quality settings of the build to a lower level, with fewer camera effects and lower resolution textures. Thankfully, you can hardly tell the difference.

-Bug fixing?

There are lots of bugs. Totally expected in this stage of the project. Sebastian destroyed his fingers solving lots of bugs, so now you can totally reach the end of the game. Before this bug fixing, it was very usual to not be able to finish a single city. I keep telling him to program without putting bugs, but he does not listen to me.

 

SCREENS

(Click on them for the full pixel art glory)

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Making things the hard way

When you are working on a game, you get really good at it. You play it so many times, and you know each little detail so well, that in ends up posing almost no challenge to you. So when we started beating the game (or at least our small alpha build of the game) pretty much every time we played we didn’t pay much attention to it. It wasn’t until we started showing around the 0.3.0 version, and people started making comments about how easy it was, that we finally realized that Okhlos, at that moment at least,  was less challenging than pissing off Heracles (it’s really easy, he’s got a short fuse), and that we needed to make it harder.

And so we started our quest to make Okhlos the hardest game known to mankind … or at least a little bit harder. It had gotten so easy that we had forgotten what the “you lose” screen looked like. Literally. I thought we still had a drawing of one of the ogres crushing some citizens, but no, Roque had changed it months ago. And not only we had to make the game harder, we didn’t want to add or remove much from the game. We were about to send a new version to a lot of people and it was no time to start changing things that may cause more problems than they could solve, and we didn’t have much time either. So our goal was to make the game harder but only making small changes, preferably by just adjusting values.

What did we end up doing? Here is what:

More Enemies

Firs rule of fight club is … not this one. In fact, it didn’t take that many people to start the fight club. But it certainly got better once more people started joining the fight club so that’s the morale of the story. The more people (or monsters sent by the merciless Apollo) you have to fight against, not only it will be harder but it will be more fun, and this is why this was what we did first.

In Okhlos you encounter a random number of enemies in each level, but that number varies from a minimum value and a maximum value that we set, so by adjusting those values we made sure that the average trip through Delphi would be much more interesting. Also you might remember that one of the enemies you could find in this level were the Prophetai, those charming buggers that would assist the oracle in her duties and also summoned other monster to try to kill the mob. Well, there is a limit to the number of creatures the Prophetai can summon and we increased that limit. We increased it to infinity! Actually, no. Just from two to three. But that really makes a difference. Trust me. You will see.

Tougher Enemies

We now had the levels crawling with countless legions of Apollonian beasts, or at least a few more of them prowling around.  The next step was making them tougher. We didn’t want individual battles to take too long, specially now that that there were more enemies, so we didn’t increase the amount of hit point they have. We did increase how much damage they deal, though. An average citizen used to be able to withstand a couple of attacks from lovable fire-throwing Hosioi, but now only a battle hardened defender or a hero can survive one of their fireballs.

Finishing Moves are Harder to Perform

One of Okhlos’ best kept secrets is that the units can perform finishing moves. It’s a unwilling secret, actually. We would like players to know they can do this but are still having problems showing the players how this works. This may be the subject for an entire new post but the basics of it is that when an enemy is about 50% of its health, a little speech balloon will pop over one of the units attacking the enemy with a button or key in it. If you press that button or key, the unit will proceed to kill enemy right away. What does this has to do with the difficulty of the game? It used to be very easy to get the timing of this. The speech balloons would be displayed for several seconds, so you had plenty of time to finish off the enemies. Now you only have less than a second to do it. You gotta be fast.

Less Warriors

If you look at the screenshots from some of the previous versions you will notice that the mobs are mostly red. This was not because the mob was covered with the blood of its enemies, it was because it was comprised mostly of warriors, Spartan warriors with their red cloaks. Sure, they are cool and deadly, everybody wants warriors in their mob but too many of them was not only killing all the enemies, was killing the fun too. We reduced the number of warriors you find wandering around the level, so that if you want to have a lot of them you are going to have to work. It won’t be so simple now.

Weaker Warriors, Defenders and Philosophers

If you are thinking, “You have already reduced the number  of warriors and now you are making them weaker? Don’t you have any respect for anything!?”, then the answer is yes. If you were thinking something else, then the answer may or may not be yes. But the point is that warriors were dealing too much damage, and defenders were absorbing too much damaging, and philosophers were spreading too much philosophy. All of that was true (except for the philosophers part, they simply had too many hit points, their philosophy spreading ratio is ok). When we first created the warriors and the defenders we intentionally set them extremely high values of attack and defense respectively, so as to differentiate them easily. We always intended to someday adjust those values and that day was now.

More Bureaucrats

What would be of our lives without bureaucracy? Nirvana? A state of pure bliss? We may never know and neither will our poor old Greeks that now have almost twice as many bureaucrats going around the levels, looking for a mob to bureaucratize. We still have to work a little more on the bureaucrats’ behavior but even so, having people in your mob that take up space and, not only do they not attack, but they prevent others from being able to attack or use their special abilities is something very annoying.

Bombs Do Less Damage

This was pretty straightforward. In previous versions using a bomb would pretty much guarantee killing any enemy near it, except for the bosses. Now, using one bomb won’t kill your average enemy but it is still enough make a serious dent in their armors, or skin, or heads. And using two bombs in a row still guarantees a kill (except again, in the case of the bosses).

More Expensive Heroes

There was a time where you could buy a Heracles, two super philosophers, a Spartacus and still have enough change left for a Minos or a Rhadamanthus. Those days are gone. Purchasing a Pheidippides now, will not only cost you an arm and a leg, but lots of arms and lots of legs. Like we always said, heroes are a big part of the game, and having lots of heroes in your mob made a huge difference. The initial costs were particularly low so that we could get and test them easily (I should have made a cheat for that at the moment, but making them super cheap seemed like a faster solution) but now that we were planning on making the game as hard as it should be, it was time for inflation.

Apollo’s Creed

Granted, that title doesn’t make much sense but you can guess what we changed next, Delphi’s favorite obsessive-compulsive-despotic deity, Apollo. The truth is he wasn’t putting much of a fight. It was our fault. We had neglected old Apollo. He was way down, at the end of the level, and whenever we sat down to do some playtesting something else would draw away our attention before reaching him. Thus, he became weak. Laden with bugs and obsolete behaviors, the god of light had become but a shadow of himself. We had to make amends.

First we started by fixing some of the bugs that were crippling him. Then we moved on to cutting down his idle time, so that he would spend more time either moving or stomping the mob and less time waiting to get hit. And speaking of stomping the mob, all of his attacks are now stronger. Specially his arrows. Only a hero may survive a direct impact from one his arrows now, and if they are lucky. Finally we are still working on improving his special attack, the procusterization attack. It’s not ready yet, but it will soon be. And with all these changes now Apollo is back in business. Once again, he is a lean, mean, mob-crushing machine.

Mob Meter Adjustments

You probably know how the mob meter works. You add people to the mob or crush things and it goes up, you do nothing and it goes down. It is very simple but effective. The changes we made were also simple. It is now harder to make the meter go up and it goes down faster. It sounds almost trivial but it is one of the changes I liked the most. It feels very different. There is a sense of urgency now, and that forces you make each move more efficiently. You don’t have time to waste so you have to optimize the mob’s trajectory so that it can make the maximum damage in the least time possible. This change not only made the game harder, it made it more interesting.

 

And that’s about it. I may have forgotten about a thing or two but I think that were all the changes we made to make the game harder. Is it too hard now? Probably. Will we be fiddling with these things again? Definitely. We are still a long way from the final version, we have lots and lots of playtesting ahead, but it was certainly fun playing around with these values and seeing the impact they had on the game. Not only was it fun, but I think this was an exercise that allowed us to gain a better understanding of how the game works and get a better grip of the what goes on when the things have spent all this time working on come together, and we wanted to share this with you.

 

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Race to 0.3

Hey there!

First of all, we are extremely happy for the response and feedback all of you gave us last week. It means the world to us, and the feedback was really useful. For the ones who don’t know what I’m talking about, last week we presented different versions for the Argos Panoptes and the aegis shield. And a lot of you reached us out via web, Twitter, Facebook, TIG and IndieDB. So we are really thankful to all of you! We still don’t know which versions are the winners, but we are gonna ask you your opinions again soon!

And now, for this week update, we are planning the 0.3 version of Okhlos! What does this mean? Here is what we have planned for this version:

 

HUD

We’ve made a HUGE GUI change. We were using a very old version of NGUI, and we decided to update to a newer one. That brought us a lot of headaches and extra work. It really gave us lots of problem. So for this version we are hoping to close the sad chapter of updating from a 1.2x to a 3.4x (trust me on this one: never a good idea).

Besides that, we were using  2x sprites in the hud and windows (we talked about this a few updates ago). Now, the 2x sprites are only for the mob portraits. The rest of the HUD is much smaller and less invasive.

Finally, we were doing a lot of mockups of some old windows.

 

HEROES

In this version, we introduce two new types of heroes: The psychic and the troubadour.

The Psychic basically spawns a force field to prevent projectiles.

This is quite useful against projectile thrower enemies. Not so much against melee enemies, though… Also, they don’t attack: they are too  focused on creating force fields with their minds.

 

The other hero type is a buffer. The troubadour will sing, boosting the stats of nearby units. As the Psychics, they don’t attack. You can’t play the lyre and punch something at the same time!

 

MUSIC

Gordon, the newest addition to the team, started composing the Apollo track, and it is wonderful. We want to do some dynamics things with the music and the mob gauge, but for this version the stage track and maybe some other low priority sound will do.

 

ENEMIES

We finally settled a lot of things regarding the enemies in Okhlos. We have a good number of enemies, and very cool behaviors. Now we have to put them on the stage, animate them, and tweak them.

For this version, we are gonna wrap up the Apollo enemies, which went through a lot of changes.

Apollo needed some changes also. So this version he will be a little bit smarter than before.

 

FX

Finally, we needed to tweak a lot the building’s destruction. We implemented this feature some time ago, but we hadn’t had the chance to try them out. So, for this version, we are aiming to create a a permanency effect by leaving some dust particles for a while after a building is destroyed.

By the way, now destroyed buildings leave these beautiful ruins.

 

So that’s what we have in our hands right now! Luckily, we will have it a week or so. Unfortunately, it will be for internal use and press only :S

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Decisions, decisions…

Hey there!

We are trying something new here … or at least, we haven’t done before.  Here is the thing, we have to make some choices, we have several variants of this item and this enemy, and we can’t decide which ones are the best. So we are hoping that you could help us deciding!

Click in the image for the full size!

 

The first image, shows the Aegis shield. This is a legendary shield that will boost your defense A LOT for a few seconds. The main problem with the original version, was that it looked very much like a coin, and people didn’t get that was a shield, so that’s why we are trying these new ones. As you can see, we have five options to choose from: A, B, C, D and E.

 

Secondly, we have the Argos Panoptes, an enemy from the later stages of the game. This guy’s main feature  is that it has one hundred eyes. And as we as the Hecantochires turned out really cool, and they are like in the same level, we want something as cool for Argos (we haven’t revealed the Hecantochires yet, by the way, we are saving them for later). Also, you can see here that we have six options, all the way from A to F.

 

Well, that’s about it. We would love to receive some feedback from you guys. Which one is your favorite Aegis? The mighty A? The impervious D? Or perhaps the wondrous E? And what about our buddy Argos, which version do you like the most?  Reach us out by any medium available (comments, posts, Twitter, Facebook) and tell us!

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