Capstone Blog #5

Week 5: The Spider’s Triumphant Return

This week was kind of a weird one, because Nick R. was busy enough with other classwork that we couldn’t start splitting up the prototype for Arachnotron yet. It fell to me to make improvements to the base we had for testing this week. I was happy to take up that task, since I quite enjoy gameplay programming and Nick R. doesn’t so much. I put a lot of hours into the prototype early in the week to get it ready for QA on Saturday, and then again on Monday. I’m really glad to see testing went better than before, with even better ratings on the controls and wall-climbing than I’d expected. The first prototype assured me that the wall-climbing movement could work, but this week’s testing made me sure that we can do it well, even that I’ve done it well already. I look forward to building on this base for the two different prototypes starting next week.

Now that the team is decided on the spider-tank concept with a solid prototype, I think we’re transitioning into phase 2. As we’re fleshing out this concept more, I see balancing scope & depth to be an important challenge. I want to make sure anything we decide to plan for the game will contribute to making it a better game, so it’s more important than ever that we establish a well thought-out direction for the game, and that I define the design principles to guide all my future work on the project toward a focused plan for the experience.

The two prototypes we make in the coming weeks will help determine the direction I want to take the game in. At this point I’m fairly certain the room-by-room horde mode gameplay will work well, especially with the ideas I’ve come up with for an adaptive difficulty & scoring/rewards system. The climbable boss battle idea still sounds awesome, but I’m not sure it fits as well with the direction I think I want to take the game, so depending on how these prototypes go I may decide we should cut it. I’m feeling unsure of how much scope is manageable for our team, since my estimates of my own capabilities tend to be a little optimistic, and I’m already dedicated to putting in a lot of work into this project. I’ve been looking to past senior games for ideas on how much scope we might be able to handle, and I think we’re on the right track with my ideas for adaptive encounter design across a few levels. I want to make sure the game has enough to differentiate itself from existing shooter games.

Team Dynamics

Even though I feel like I put in much more work than anyone else on the team this week, the work is starting to feel more balanced. Because Sean’s been able to get to work on some 3D art, where he really shines, I’ve been more impressed by the stuff he’s gotten done. And with Nick R. starting on the AI programming for one of the two prototypes we’ll be really working on next week, I’ve felt like we’re each taking the reigns of our own section of the project, better than before. Nick O’s organization and communication still leaves some to be desired, though. I feel in the dark about how our meeting schedule changes each week, and despite him saying he’s had little to do overall, it’s fallen to me again to put together the start of our presentation for class this week. I don’t fault him for any of this… yet. I still appreciate the stuff he’s doing to help us stay organized and focused and I’m happy to make suggestions & constructive criticism on his work, but after having the very well organized David Merritt as the producer on my team last semester and working closely with the producer at HitPoint over the summer, I expect more from him.

Going Forward

After today’s class, it’ll be 2 weeks until the next, thanks to the long weekend. By the time we next show in-class after today, I expect we’ll have both prototypes for Arachnotron done well, and a clear plan of action for the rest of the time we have before Thanksgiving. I’m planning to spend less time on the prototype this coming week so I can catch up on documentation. As much as I like working in-engine, I tend to neglect putting enough time into the design documents if I focus on the prototype too much.

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