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Atlantian Problems Part I

Hey gang!

We’ve been doing a lot of work on the core mechanics of Okhlos and we’re experimenting with quite a few things, some of them a little weird. It’s quite intensive, and coding for all these tweaks and new ideas has been taking up a lot of Sebastian’s time, so in the meanwhile I’ve been designing Atlantis, one of our new game worlds.

We know three basic things about Atlantis: It was circular, it was fictional[citation needed], and it was somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

People tend to imagine Atlantis as an underwater city, since it sank into the Ocean, and we’re running with similar imagery. We’ve ditched the circular part, and are working with the idea that people kept living on it, despite the humidity.

Decorations and ornaments

As we’re running with a water theme I did a few quick google image searches to help me set the mood. I think we ended up with some good design constants for the city:

stock-vector-illustration-featuring-elements-commonly-associated-with-underwater-scenes-194520425

I still regreat not using the dolphin

We’ll have a lot of coral and ferns around the buildings, and tridents as ornaments on the roofs and higher floors.

Ornaments

Foliage

We’re having an ongoing problem designing the foliage and we still haven’t decided how to address it.

These are our current options (any and all feedback is welcome!):

  • No foliage.

As a soaked, inundated city, there should be no foliage. This is a simple approach, and although it makes sense it’s a bit boring. It definitely lacks something.

fol1

 

  • Rocks, Ferns, and Coral Everywhere.

This option adds quite a bit to the visuals but is rather messy, to the point where it’s not pleasant to the eyes. (Keep in mind, the bamboo is a separate element, and not part of the foliage we’re discussing here.)

fol03

 

  • Ferns and Coral only

This last option still adds some flair, like the option B, but we took the rocks out of the equation. It looks better and a bit less cluttered, but it still doesn’t feel quite right.

fol2

We’re going to try a few other things for the foliage and we’ll come up with some more options, but we welcome your opinion on the matter. If you want to see Atlantis within the context of the game, there’s a few screenshots below!

 

screen1

screen2

These screenshots were taken from the No Foliage Option

 

This is it for this week, but there’s still a ton of things about Atlantis that I’d like to talk about in the near future! We’d love to hear your feedback about this new game world, so please let us know what you think!

This article was proofread and edited by @pfque_!

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Regaining Control – Aftermath

Hey guys! These last few weeks have been very busy for us here at Coffee Powered Machine.

We’ve shown our game at three (3!) different exhibits in just as many weeks, and let us tell you – after almost a whole month without weekends, we’re exhausted! We’ve been so busy we didn’t even get a chance to put up an update last week.

The events were great though, and we got a lot of great feedback from the people who tried out Okhlos at the various shows. We now have a ton of data to work with as we head back into development. Thanks to any of you who came out and gave our game a shot! Seeing you guys play the game and talking to you has been incredibly helpful.

As you might remember from our last update, we had been talking about implementing a new control scheme for Okhlos. We had proposed three different schemes: the non-zero option, the alternate keyboard option, and the mouse option.

 

EsquemaTodos

 

We got a chance to test out these different control schemes at the various exhibits and have learned a lot from our experiments. Below you’ll find a short break-down of each of these exhibits and what we managed to learn.

The Events

These were the events in where we showed Okhlos.

EVA

EVA is short for Exposición de Videojuegos Argentinos, or Argentine Videogames Expo. It is the principal videogames event in Argentina, and it’s mainly oriented towards developers.

We exhibited Okhlos 0.4.1 during EVA, the same build we sent off to the IGF, and used our original control scheme.

The biggest problem with this build was that the players didn’t realize they had to keep holding the second analog stick in position in order to attack. The QTEs also proved problematic as it’s hard to push the face buttons when you’re supposed to be holding the second analog stick at the same time.

MEET THE GAME 2

Unlike EVA, Meet the Game is more of a public event where people get a chance to meet developers and try out their games. One of its goals is to facilitate one-on-one interaction between developers and players. It’s still a small event but there’s a lot of potential in the format and we hope it’ll grow.

We showed two different versions of Okhlos at Meet the Game, each one sporting a different control scheme. We showed one with the non-zero joystick layout (scheme 1 in the chart above) and a second one with the mouse layout (scheme 3). We were particularly interested to see how people would feel about controlling the game with a mouse. We had only tested the mouse internally up until that point and hadn’t had a lot of time to tweak its controls.

 

notebooks

Thanks to Marisol Estevez for the picture!

We found out some very interesting things.

Players had an easy time with the non-zero joystick scheme, and had no problems attacking enemies throughout the demo. They used the second analog stick to adjust the position of the mob whenever necessary and had no trouble hitting the face buttons during the QTEs. It’s still far from perfect though and we’re still very tempted to eliminate the QTEs altogether.

What really amazed us though was how positive the reaction to the mouse scheme was. People really liked it a lot! We were told it felt quite intuitive, which is great! The only problem was that we didn’t map an action to the left mouse button, which, as it turns out, is what players naturally tried first and wanted to use. I guess using the mouse just makes people feel like they’re playing an RTS!

TRIC VI

I still don’t know what this event was about. It was some kind of scientific or academic tournament endorsed by the IEEE? Maybe it’s just because I’m the graphics guy but I really didn’t get it.  It wasn’t as cool or as crowded as the other events but we managed to test out the keyboard scheme nonetheless.

Seeing how the attendees (all two of them!) reacted to the keyboard controls we concluded it was a very good control scheme for the game. We changed it a bit from how it’s shown in the graph above – instead of using the Del, End, and Page Down buttons for items we went with the 1, 2, and 3 keys which are much closer to WASD. We realized not all keyboards have Del, End, and Page Down buttons close to the arrow keys.

10626422_1962326810572963_7462021763699652972_o

Thanks Yiyo Flauros for the picture!

 

Overall, we gained a lot of data from each of these events. I think we almost nailed the keyboard control scheme, but it seems Okhlos still has some game-mechanic issues that we have to resolve before we can perfect it

To the drawing table, again

We had a long session with Daniel Benmergui on Friday in which he helped us test out and think through some of our base mechanics. We tried some quick changes, analyzed the flow of the mob, ran through our challenges, and at the end of the day we asked ourselves whether our game is robust enough as it stands right now or whether we have to keep working and tweaking its mechanics.

The conclusion we came to was that that we need to keep exploring our base mechanics. We have a cool concept but it’s just not enough. As Daniel said, we need to start thinking in verbs. In the current build you gather, you run, you attack, you solve QTES and you use items. We need to add more verbs to that. And as for removing QTEs, that would make our gameplay even simpler than it already is, so we can’t really afford to just yet. Not until we’ve built something more robust.

It was a great experience talking with Daniel and we came out of it with a huge list of changes we want to make. We’re thinking of removing any unnecessary numbers, changing a great part of the HUD, axing the bureaucrats, reducing the options available in the market, and changing the dash. That may seem daunting, but I think one of the things that Daniel helped us corroborate is that doing something original, something that hasn’t been seen in any another game, is very difficult, and we’re on good track to making it happen.

We also had an interesting experience with our sound designer, Gordon, @jouste  and @Nelsormensch. We had a video chat with them while they played Okhlos, which was a little weird but very cool! We weren’t sure if we should be looking at them or at the screen – they had to turn the laptop around for that – but once it started we were able have a good conversation, even in my rusty English.

Their suggestions were very similar to Daniel’s on most things, but they were nonetheless very helpful. Talking about your game always is! We’re very thankful for their feedback and now have plenty of work to keep us busy for quite a while!

That’s more or less it! I will continue to work on new worlds for Okhlos and Sebastian has already started conducting weird experiments with the mechanics. We’ll see what come out of all that and we’ll let you know!

This article was proofread and edited by our new collaborator, @pfque_!

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Introducing Ephesos [Part 2]

Last week, we started talking about Ephesos, Okhlos’ new world, and we left a few things out. This week, we are gonna solve that.

ENEMIES

We have some new enemies for Ephesos. Mainly the Centaurus and the Forest Giants. Granted, Forest Giant is a silly name, but they are powerful enemies, we promise!

gigante

This is the second Gigante (Giant) we introduce! The first one was the shield bearer. And we still have a few more to show!

The Centaurs, on the other hand, they are a very different enemy.

CentaurA

For starters, Centaurs will search for you, and try to trample you. So, their attacks are continuous and in line.  You’d better try to dodge them, because they will not stop even if they hit a unit.

Another thing that they have, is that they can crash with the buildings, and this hurts them. This was something that came from the early prototypes, and we don’t know if it’s a good fit for the current state of Okhlos (having changed so much since then).

HAZARDS

In the subject of hazards, the new ones in Ephesos are these kind of bear traps. These traps will hurt any unit that walks on top of it.

ArtemisTrap

Also, there is a new variation of the exploding barrel hazard, but they involve only graphical changes.

ARTEMIS

Artemis is Apollo’s sister, so in character design terms, it was pretty easy to develop her.

You can see that she has lots of things reminiscent of Apollo. And we translated some of the yellow elements to green ones, in order to push the nature theme a bit further.

ArtemisApollo

Artemis also has a few special attacks, like filling the stage with traps, and shooting arrows like his brother. It’s very likely that she’ll have a third attack, but we haven’t done it yet.

As for the stage where she is, we are currently using a placeholder, but she’ll definitely have a version of the Temple of Artemis, and a huge open area for the battle. As one of the cool things about her is that she places traps, having terrain covered by buildings, thus not being able to place traps there, can nerf that. As with Ares, this boss is much more enjoyable with an open terrain where you can fight her. Obviously, we can’t just put a blank chunk, we have to decorate it!

ArtemisChunk

Well, that’s pretty much Ephesos. We still have a lot of work to do here, but with all this, you can get a grasp of how it will feel like!

 

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Introducing Ephesos [part 1]

In the huge 0.4.0 version, we added a big feature that we barely mentioned before. That’s Ephesos.

Ephesos is a new world in Okhlos, and the hometown of Artemis. We still need to work a lot in Ephesos, but we could put enough to have a stable version for the IGF.

 

This makes Ephesos our third world! And right now, we are making a few more! We hope to have quite a few more by the end of the year.

 

So, what’s going on with Ephesos?

THE NAME

We decided to start working with Artemis, and we needed a place. We started with Brauron, which was a good fit for Artemis because it held The Sanctuary of Artemis, and also because of the green. We wanted the Artemis’ world to have lots of green. We wanted some kind of city invaded by plants, and Brauron seemed just right. We even started making most of the world’s assets with that name. However, we weren’t 100% convinced that placing the action in Brauron was a good idea, mainly because of the name. It’s not very likely that you’ll associate “Brauron” with something Greek. Brauron seems more like British.

We knew that the name was not perfect, so we kept searching for a better fit. Finally, we found Ephesos, which had everything we wanted.For starters, Ephesos was famed for having The Temple of Artemis. It’s also very green.  Also, it sounds sooo Greek. Anyway, we are extremely happy with the new name. It was a perfect fit, so we gladly went on to change the names of the assets.

Ephesos

Keep in mind that still is a work in progress.

BUILDINGS

So, apart from the stupid amount of trees, Ephesos has simple buildings because it’s a rural area. It doesn’t have too many shops, and there are lots of farms.

Edificio1

Edificio2

Also, we had to put lots of fences, and we started using special transitions. In Delphi and Sparta, the transitions between a level and the next one were almost identical, with just a texture swap. For Ephesos, we started making these new transitions, and it’s very likely that in future  worlds we  will make many more new transitions, and not just  texture swaps.

Also, a new feature in 0.4.0 is that when entering the boss level, the transition will be slightly different, in order to let the player know that he is about to fight a boss.

transicion1 transicion2

FOUNTAINS & ROADS

Another thing we did was adding some grass and foliage to the fountains and statues. That really made them stand out.

fountain

The roads were a pain. Really don’t know why, but it took us some time to get them right (also, we feel that we might be revisiting them in some time).

roads

 

Next week we will continue discussing the new things in Ephesos!

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Road to IGF 2015 [Part IV of V] Effects for the Gods

Hey there!

Just one week to the IGF! And we still have a lot to do!

 

For starters, besides the IGF we have to give a talk at Tecnopolis on Saturday, so that will take some of our time.

Because we have to be there on Friday too, we must have the build almost ready by Thursday. After that day, we decided that we wouldn’t add anything new to the build (so you can imagine how hurried we are).

logo

As I said before, on Saturday 18 we will be giving a talk, so we can’t work on Friday or Saturday. The next Wednesday we will have to  submit it to the IGF, so we have Monday and Tuesday to fix any issues that we may find in Okhlos’ new version.

oradores

All of this is stressing us a lot, but we are glad that it’s almost over!

 

Anyway, as we have so little time, I think it’s a good idea to brag about some new effects we are working on! The game still needs a lot of “Juicy“, so adding fx is a good way to give feedback to the player, letting them have a good idea of what’s happening . We still need to push a little further the audio in that part, but Gordon is working on it.

 

When you have done 3 different gods for Okhlos, you start learning things you will use for the remaining ones:

1.- Be consistent

2.- K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Following these rules, one thing we decided last week, is that every god will fly. I was finishing Artemis walking loop, when I stumble upon these rules. We already had two flying gods (1), and is much easier to do a flying animation than a walking one (2). So I threw away the ongoing animation, made a new one, added a wind blowing fx below the gods, and voilá! They are flying.

Apollo Flying

There it is! (WIP!)

 

Another thing we changed was the death animation. Ares was the first God I drew, so he had a lot of issues, and I learned a lot since I made him. For Apollo and Artemis I made a much more cool / powerful death animation,  so, following these two simple rules, I changed Ares’ death animation.

aresmuereViejo

This was the old death animation.

 

AresMuerte2

This is the new one.

As you can see, there is a big difference between the animations. The second one is more “epic”.  Also, it’s just a little bit easier to animate. And finally, it’s consistent with the rest of the gods.

 

We learned a lot after working a few gods, and that gave us a better understanding of what we are doing.  The best advice we can give in this matter, is that if you have to make 12 Olympian gods in your game, make 3 or 4 together and that will give you a better idea of what you are up to.

 

Next week, we will be writing the final post of ROAD TO IGF series!

 

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