5.30.2007

Thanks for the Interest

Well, we've announced the game now, which gives me the luxury of being able to tell you in detail about details you really didn't want to know details of: for example, Tommy just finished our instancing management, which means we can finally have the famous crowds of beees! They're in there, and moving around nicely ontop of a bee hive surface which grows as they move around (clever shader stuff going on there). Just by pure luck of emergence, when the bees are about to be captured, they look a bit scared, like they're trying to escape the other goos' clutches!

Right now, we're trying to pull the demo together properly so that it can be shown to interested parties. We're finishing off game modes, totally revising our menu (which was a bit of a quagmire of prototype code), re-doing the HUD, polishing sounds (thanks Justin). We're also doing a proper background audio-viz, which will be taking a leaf from the demoscene book (though hopefully not to the point of plagurism!).

Because of the video, we were linked from a few places, and got more than twenty one hits! Over 4 days! Amazing!

Feedback on the video has been really useful, and highlighted issues that we'll work on, or atleast explain better. I should say, by way of excuse, that we had been coding for 20 hours before we started recording that video, and stayed up another 6 hours editing. I feel tired just thinking about it.

Some people didn't immediately get that the core point of the game was to capture Goo by surrounding it. I guess we've been working on it so long that it seemed self evident to us (and other people felt that way about it, too). Still, in the next video, we'll have to make that painfully clear.

It also wasn't clear/convincing from the video that the game is one of those "simple but deep" affairs. People suggested that it needed more buttons, or powerups, or levels, or just more perceivable complexity. I've always thought of it as "Liquid Go", hence the title of the game. Go's incredibly simple, and unarguably deep. I really want to keep a hold of that property, and would argue that once you try the game, you'll very quickly become aware of the interplay of density and territory: with territory, capturing is easier, but it's easier for your goo to be divided by slicing attacks. With density, it's harder to be punctured, but you're smaller, slower moving, and easier to surround.

Of course, Go is turn based, so you have time to think with your higher consciousness. Goo is much faster, and therefore becomes more about experimenting with strategies and seeing their results immediately, which helps you to build quickly an intuitive sense of strategy. You're creating instinctive reactions. It's still strategy, but at a different level to Go's. Gillen said it was like "Protozoic StreetFighter", and that feels right on the money. StreetFighter 2 might be button masher to people when they first come to it, but you get a sense of flowing strategy pretty quickly if you give it any time.

On the other end of the scale, people said that it could potentially get too chaotic. From the beginning of development, I've been vigilant about this. We've worked really hard to create a physics model which we can tweak to perfection. I investigated fluid dynamics early on, and found that things like Navier Stokes (a fairly realistic approach) weren't going to suit this style of gameplay. Navier Stokes gives rise to chaotic outcomes very quickly. For me, this isn't usually a useful quality for a player - if their input in the game turns into "noise" too immediately, they don't feel a sense of Perceivable Consequence. Success, failure and consequence in general don't feel like direct results of player input - instead they're due to the seemingly random (but, infact, chaotic) whim of the fluid model being used.

Some games have used it to good effect, mind you, but I don't think it would have worked here where intuitive and expressive control is a prominent goal. The point is, it's far more important to give people a good sense of control than to have purely "realistic" physics - the two are not mutually exclusive, of course, but very often in games, the latter takes precedent over the former.

We use a pseudo soft body physics model - hundreds and thousands of points have connecting and disconnecting spring forces between them, as well as friction. Points from different goos have a different relationship, so that they don't overlap too readily, and so that fast moving blobs can scythe through the enemy, or have their movement slowed by the enemy's density. This gives us an atomic level of control. After tweaking these base forces enough, you get a sense of how these changes affect the higher level gameplay, and all of a sudden, you've got this plyable goo which works for you, rather than despite you. At the same time, all gameplay is an emergent result of these simple spring forces, so it doesn't feel like the physics have been contrived... it feels believable, even though they're unrealistic. That's kinaesthetic verisimilitude, word fans!

Still, if none of this sense of control is immediately clear in the video (go fig. It's not interactive), then we probably have to present it better. The BeeHive skin certainly helps explain goo density and behaviour a lot more transparently than previous goos have, so we can get there.

Blah, I'm wandering off into random thoughts. Thanks for your attention span.

5 comments:

JC Barnett said...

21 views? I don't think you're doing a good job of pimping yourselves. Now that it's out I was expecting at least a little media coverage, at least on-line, but there is very little. Have you been sending out emails or anything? Or are you just going to hope a lot of people link here from some dead, facetious blog somewhere?

Bez said...

It was more than 21 hits: I did lie for comedy effect, which, erm, didn't even work on the one person I share a common sense of humour with, apparantly.

We have had some interest from a british publication, but we can't really do anything with it if we're not greenlit. Don't want to get attention without delivering, you know? That'd just be embarassing... Infinite Polygons embarassing.

I was hoping to get some focus from TIGsource, but I ended up asking Brandon hold off because of our pending XBLA status. See, we are trying to get on XBLA, but until that's a bit firmer, it's just too presumtuous to keep mentioning it, or getting coverage which might waste a lot of journo's time, and create expectations which may be unfulfilled. I think I've already said too much about XBLA - there's no guarantee of getting on. Don't want to hurt our chances by mass-exposing ourselves too early into development of the game... although... it's done now, I guess. It may be too late for the pebbles to to vote.

Gotta get back to work or this is all moot.

Thanks for the implied link offer, but don't sweat it good buddy. You put your blog to bed, and I'll not be the one to disturb its well earned rest.

Dave said...

Does having it out on the PC make it harder to release for XBLA?

Bez said...

It's technical requirements more than platform choice. I'm normally platform agnostic, but the physics we use requires multiple processors, and most people don't have multiprocessor cores, yet.

When there's more hardware penetration, then s PC version is more viable. Until then, it's better to aim for a fixed platform. It's sorta all or nothing in that respect, which might not make a lot of business sense, but if we had business sense, we'd be making some licensed karting game right now. I'm happy doing what we're doing even if it all falls through.

PoV said...

Congratz guys for getting your pitch together and sent. Your project sounds cool. Encouraging, but equally discouraging to hear you guys have recently pitched and got a call. Hmm... :(