Comrade Quest Final Release

It’s finally reached the end of the semester, and Comrade Quest’s development is over. It makes me sad that everyone on my team is going their separate ways, but I’m glad that I got the chance to lead a group of talented artists, programmers and designers to realize my vision. Also, I’m quite proud that one of the designers on my team will have her own game in Game Production Lab next semester.

Now that my directing days in GPL have come to a close, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned in the past five months. Developing Comrade Quest has taught me a lot about game development and managing a team, but the most important thing I’ve learned can be summed up in a single statement: have confidence in your original vision. There’s a reason why most successful games don’t change their mechanics mid-development, and that’s because most creative directors have the utmost confidence in their vision.

The biggest upset in Comrade Quest’s development came when we tried replacing the melee combat system with a turn based one, similar to Paper Mario’s turn-by-turn combat. Part of reasoning behind the mechanics change was based off feedback that we got from the alpha test. Many of our testers complained that Olaf’s attacks didn’t feel like “attacks”. As they were, Olaf’s attacks felt mechanical and lacked the rewarding visceral sensation featured in published games.

Comrade Quest Shot 6

By changing the fighting mechanics to turn based, we wouldn’t have to worry about achieving that visceral quality. However, while a turn-based approach would solve our current system’s problems, it would bring unanticipated problems of its own. How would turn order be calculated? How would current attacks translate into the new system? How would we make a turn-based system cooperative? We were not adequately prepared to answer these questions.

The decision to change the combat to a turn-based system was also influenced by my own worries. I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to improve the physics and animation of the character’s attacks in time for beta release. Instead of being confident in my original plan and in my team’s capabilities, I chose what seemed like an easy way out.

Thankfully we changed back to the melee system, but we lost a week-and-a-half worth of production time. This cost us Olaf’s combo attack. If I had stuck with my original plan, the time the animators spent animating buttons for the turn-based user interface could have been used to animate Olaf’s combo. If I had stuck with my original plan, the time the programmers spent programming queues could have been appropriated to improve attacks physics. This is why it is so important to have confidence in your vision. If I had remained confident in my original plan, we would have used that week-and-a-half of production time to create a better product.

Comrade Quest Shot 5

The finished executable of Comrade Quest may not feature a combo, but overall I’m satisfied with how the game turned out. I’m glad that we were able to create an entire level and feature a boss fight at the end. I’m also very pleased with the audio and visual aesthetics of the game. Our sound designers really pulled out all the stops in creating great sound effects and an ambient track. Above all else though, I’m delighted that people find Comrade Quest fun. Almost everyone I’ve seen looks like they are enjoying their playthrough and interacting with their partner. I created Comrade Quest to foster this in-person interaction and camaraderie, and to see its players have such fun together confirms the game has achieved its original intent.

I would like to continue Comrade Quest’s productionin the future, but now that I no longer have a team, it will be difficult to do. I envision getting a team of talented individuals together to work on Comrade Quest and pitching the game to Kickstarter. I can also see going to one of the existing game companies and pitching the game directly to them. However, developing Comrade Quest further will have to wait for a while, as right now I have to build up my portfolio and find steady employment. To summarize, I haven’t given up on Comrade Quest, it will just have to float around in the “things I’d like to develop someday” pool for a while. So what will I do with this blog in the mean time? I have to build up my portfolio, so I’ll be posting concept art, UI designs, mini games made in Game Maker, and other game development portfolio pieces.

Cashtaroth Battle

Thank you all my dear readers for following Comrade Quest’s development. It’s been a pleasure blogging about its production, and I hope you all continue to read about my future projects. It’s been a fun and eye-opening journey so far, and I can’t wait to see all the places my passion for game development will take me.

If you want to play Comrade Quest, go to this link to download it. Comrade Quest Download

Post commandeered by the US Claire Force

Comrade Quest Checkpoint Animations

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.

Comrade Quest Checkpoint
Floating checkpoint for Comrade Quest’s levels.

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.

activated checkpoint
Triggers when a player respawns.

A Lesson in Leadership

Whew.

Yesterday was crazy stressful. We had a huge meeting with the professors, and we’re back to the original melee system. Essentially the whole group got called in to discuss why we shouldn’t go forward with the turn based system. I thought the turn based system would solve the problems reported in alpha, but it implementing an entirely new system just creates new problems.

The lesson learned?

Stick with your original plan. Especially when you’re a leader, have confidence in what you set out to do in the beginning. Be confident even when you receive negative feedback- it’s better to fix or improve a current feature than to plaster over a problem with a revolutionary, game-changing solution. Generally, your original idea is the best idea, because you’ve thought it out the longest.

In other Comrade Quest related news, beta is little under two weeks away, and we’re starting to crunch. I’m excited about our group all-nighter we’re going to pull on Saturday. I’m thinking about preparing dinner and some baked goods for the team.

Also, I’ve been working on menus. Here’s the pause menu, which is underway right now.

Comrade quest pause menu WIP
Pause menu in progress for Comrade Quest

Comrade Quest History Part 4

Continued from previous post

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.

Concept art for the Gluttony Crapitalist demon.
Concept art for the Gluttony Crapitalist demon.

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.

Concept art for one the Crapitalist demon minibosses, Derek the Micro-Manager
Concept art for one the Crapitalist demon minibosses, Derek the Micro-ManagerAs odd as it may sound, I was happy that Comrade Quest was accepted, but not surprised. Ever since the semester started, I sensed I was on the precipice of something great. I didn’t know what form the greatness would come in, but I once found it, I knew it would be unstoppable.

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.

Post commandeered by the US Claire Force

Comrade Quest Dev Blog Announcement

attention

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.

olaf rough head sketch
One of the first sketches of the magic beard man, who would later become Olaf the Beardbender

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.

bearserker
Rough sketch of Yuri the Bearserker, and other Communist doodles.

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.

Part two continued in next post!

Commandeered by the US Claire Force