I’ve been working more on the menus, and animations for the different objects in the level. Here are the assets for the checkpoints- the banner says контрольная точка (kontrol’naya tochka), or checkpoint. I’m going off of what one of my Russian-speaking friends said, hopefully it doesn’t mean “capitalism for life” or “Donald Trump is awesome”
This one is just the “floating” checkpoint, used for when players haven’t yet reached a location.
This is the animation for the activated checkpoint, for when a player dies and respawns. Both animations are much higher quality in the game, these are just pixelated because GIFs are lossy.
I got up on stage, calmly pulled up the PowerPoint presentation for Comrade Quest, and began my pitch. In the first two slides, I knew the audience was at least listening. The next four slides I introduced the four playable characters of the game. With each new character, the audience became increasingly intrigued and attached. By the time I introduced Yuri the Bearserker, the entire audience roared with laughter. I can’t remember who said it, but someone once said that if you’ve made people feel something, you’ve won. I knew I had done a good job.
After the live pitches were over, I was swarmed by people asking me about Comrade Quest and if they could be on my team if I made it into GPL. I received many comments that my presentation was the only one that made the audience laugh. I was very thankful that I garnered so much interest my game, but a little dismayed that I had to explain to some people that Comrade Quest was strictly 2D (I had a lot of modelers ask if they could model for me). As the crowds faded and everybody made their way home, all I had to do now was wait until next Tuesday for the Spring 2014 games for GPL to be announced.
The weekend quickly passed, followed by Monday, and then Tuesday. At the time, I was in GPL as a 2D artist on my friend Josh Miller’s game, Control Room. Instead of sitting down to work immediately that day, I was called over to room 3.910 for Spring 2014 GPL announcements, along with all the other current GPL members and live pitch presenters. A little bit of anxiety swelled up in my stomach, but it quickly released when Comrade Quest was the first game announced for Spring 2014 GPL. Dr. Evans even added that it was an automatic shoe-in for GPL, and that the real difficulty was deciding what other four games would make it in for the upcoming semester.
Now it is spring and Comrade Quest is in development in GPL. My hope for Comrade Quest is for it to continue in development outside of class and become available on Playstation Network and Xbox Live. I wish for Comrade Quest to be successful, but most of all, I want it to be downloaded by people all across the world, to play with their friends, or to make some new ones. To this day, I still believe in the power behind Comrade Quest, and with perseverance, dedication, and hard work, I will use Comrade Quest to make this world more fun.
Immediately I chose to go with the Soviet theme. I decided on the name Comrade Quest, to evoke nostalgia for old analog games and to give it that goofy, campy feel. I immediately went to work fixing up my pitch document and adapting the character sketches I had made in my notebooks into viable concept art. I had friends and classmates proofread the pitch document once it was done, and went to practice pitch sessions held by the Student Game Development Alliance. My heart sunk a little when I was told at the practice pitches that Comrade Quest didn’t have unique enough mechanics to make it into GPL. However, I was not defeated.
As it was, Comrade Quest was just a standard brawler with puzzle elements. It didn’t yet have the special mechanics to make it shine. When working in the labs one night, I was looking through my notes and I noticed an idea I had wrote down in class about Faberge eggs. It was an idea for a mechanic that casted random effects on the players when activated, similar to the party ball item in Super Smash Brothers. The eggs would be scattered throughout levels, and could be picked up and activated when needed.
I decided to include the idea of Faberge eggs in my initial pitch document, however I wasn’t completely sold on the concept. The idea of using magical eggs just seemed too childish- like an Easter egg hunt. I played around with the concept in my head for a while, but suddenly had a revelation. Instead of featuring the random, grab-bag power eggs as items found throughout the level, what if players had the ability to activate the random power whenever they had enough of a certain resource? And thus the Communist Summon mechanic was born.
With Communist Summon, all players would have a communal “Communist Bar”, which they would build up as they fought enemies. Once the players built up the bar completely, they would be able to activate a Communist Summon. A Communist Summon would summon a random Communist or Capitalist leader. Each leader would have different effects, with Communist leaders providing beneficial effects for the party, and deleterious ones if a Capitalist leader was summoned. With this mechanic, I wanted to give players the opportunity to turn the tide of battle if a fight was getting too difficult for them, or to fail horribly and hilariously. Some may regard including random negative effects as pointless or even contradictory to giving the player a good experience, but from watching others play games and playing them myself, sometimes a good laugh can be had from a bizarre or uncanny death.
As I continued to revise my pitch document for submission, the weekend approached and with it an unexpected rough patch. The entire weekend was awful, but I knew that I had to keep polishing the pitch document. I also had to polish promotional art for Comrade Quest’s playable characters, which I knew would be quintessential to a live pitch. By Monday I was feeling better, and turned in the finalized pitch document. On Wednesday that same week I would find out what games made it to the live pitch sessions.
Now when I submitted Comrade Quest for GPL that semester, the selection process was in tiers. Any student could submit their idea to be reviewed for GPL, and they could submit as many different original game pitches as they wanted. However, of all the game pitch submissions submitted, only twelve game pitches would go on to the live pitch sessions. A panel of judges, comprised of UTD professors and industry professionals, would secretly decide which twelve pitches would go on to the live pitch sessions.
In the live pitch sessions, the creators of the twelve selected pitches present their idea to a live audience and another panel of judges, also made of UTD professors, industry professionals, and alumni. Presenters are given five minutes to present their idea for a game to the room, and are asked questions about their game by the panel. For the live pitches, it is best to have visuals for the game, or even better, a functional prototype of the game. Even if a game idea makes it to the live pitch sessions however, it does not guarantee its acceptance into GPL. Of twelve game pitches accepted to live pitch sessions, only five are accepted into GPL per semester. This process of elimination makes getting into GPL extremely competitive.
After I submitted my pitch for Comrade Quest on Monday, the GPL professors announced they would let students know which 12 pitches would go on to live pitches. Not wanting to be unprepared, I continued to work on visuals for my presentation, and started practicing how I would present the pitch for Comrade Quest in under five minutes. To get myself in the right frame of mind, I listened to traditional Russian folk music and the Hunt for Red October soundtrack as I worked. To this day I still attribute the song Hymn to the Red October to giving me the extra boost needed for presenting.
Wednesday quickly rolled around and with it, live pitch announcements. I was elated when I read the email announcing Comrade Quest’s acceptance, but I knew that meant I would have to get in front of a live audience and present. I had presented a different game, Red Shift, at live pitches the semester before. However, it was unsuccessful at getting picked for GPL, and I remained unsure of my public speaking ability. On top of my insecurities, live pitches were in two days- on Friday. I had to buckle down and practice my speaking abilities if I wanted to succeed this time.
US Claire Force reporting for duty! I am pleased to announce that my game, Comrade Quest, is currently in development in UTD’s Game Production Lab. Back in October I pitched my idea for Game Production Lab, and it got accepted! Now I am in charge of a team of nine people- programmers, level designers, animators, and sound designers, to turn that idea into a reality.
I feel that now is the perfect time to re-purpose this blog into a development diary for my game, so that in the future I can look back and see what worked, what didn’t, and what wisdom I can gain from the development experience. Comrade Quest’s been in production for little over a month, so to catch everyone up to speed I’ll give you the history of how Comrade Quest started.
To sum it up, Comrade Quest is a co-op, 2D brawler in which players work together, defeating hordes of enemies with attack combos, summoning Communist figures and navigating hazards to reach the end of each level. In the USSR a nuclear meltdown creates a dimensional rift, summoning demonic Crapitalists and their ruler, Uncle Sham. Four heroes must gather the Seven Blocks of Techtris scattered throughout Russia, to patch the dimensional rift and destroy the Crapitalists.
It all started last September after a game of Frisbee golf with a friend. I knew that submissions for Game Production Lab (for now on, I’ll just refer to it as GPL) were coming up mid-October, and I hadn’t formulated a strong idea in my head yet as to what I wanted to pitch. I did however, have an idea for a character with a magical beard. This nameless character had a prehensile beard, which he could shape and contort with his mind. He could use his beard as a whip, a helicopter blade, a grapple, and other things. I told my friend about the idea, and he really liked it, encouraging me to develop the idea further.
Around the first week of October, I had two aesthetics competing for dominance in my all purpose note-taking spiral. Coming up with the muscle and bones of the game wasn’t that difficult. I knew that I definitely wanted to make a 2D brawler with puzzle elements, similar to Guacamelee and to some extent, Rayman Origins. To get into Game Lab however, you had to have something that was both mechanically sound and attention grabbing.
One aesthetic for the brawler was horror-themed, inspired by the brooding atmosphere of Kentucky Route Zero and the old season one episodes of Supernatural. The game would feature an ensemble of four characters, each with psychokinetic abilities over different aspects of their bodies. For example, one character would be able to grow out their muscles to pummel enemies and break down obstacles. Another character would use osteokinesis to grow out their bones and use them as weapons. The idea was transplanted from a previous game idea of mine called Isotope, which I had submitted to GPL two semesters earlier.
Soviet Russia was the other aesthetic I had in mind. I’ve always made a point to examine current trends and see what hasn’t been done or explored yet. One thing that I noticed with video games, even the more cultural ones, there are very few that take place in Russia. There are many games that take place in the United States, Japan, the Middle East, and Western Europe, but very few that take place in Russia.
There are even fewer games set in Russia in which the player is a Russian protagonist. Most of the time in video games, Russians are the faceless mooks at the receiving end of a bayonet or gun barrel. I knew that if I could make a game where Russians were the good guys for once, it might have a good chance of standing out amongst the crowd.
The deadline for GPL submission was October 14th, and I knew I had to act quickly. I liked both aesthetics, but was having a difficult time deciding one over another. I had slight preference for the horror theme at the time, but I was unsure if the theme itself would be strong enough to stand out. I ran both ideas by the same colleague that I had talked to the previous month about the magical beard character. I pitched him the horror theme and its characters first, which he was completely uninterested in. When I pitched the Soviet theme however, he immediately became interested. Right then and there I knew exactly what to go with.