Saturday, February 2, 2008

Intuition & Dinowaurs Progress Update 1

It has been a little over 2 months since our last update. Many of you are probably thinking that the project has been scrapped or the company went under. Do not fear; we just took a blogging hiatus of sorts. Here's a rundown of some things that have happened over the last 2 months:

Multiplayer Prototype
We completed our 3rd milestone - a version of the game where 2 people could play multiplayer versus each other. At this point we realized that every game would consist of the players building villages as they went along, and then as they got close enough, they would just dumbly fire weapons at each other over and over again. It was pretty boring, actually. Overall, it was a good thing, since we were able to see what changes would make the game better. Furthermore, the prototype seemed to confirm that the game had a chance of being fun.

The Triumphant Return of Greg
Greg returned from Rome!! One of our team was studying abroad in Rome, and returned over the holidays. It was the first chance Mike and I had to work with him since we were working on PP:AFAA in August.

Design Changes 1.0
Based on our reaction to the multiplayer prototype, and a few suggestions by our (awesome) producer at Kongregate, Chris Pasley, we had a brainstorming session and came up with some improvements on our game design. This particular session was an interesting experience. At the time, we didn't really have any paper to write on, so we ended up using the backs of small, circular paper plates. Each idea was drawn on a plate, and then we'd discuss them. Those we didn't like, we discarded to the side. The system worked surprisingly well; in the end, we made these changes to the game design:

  • Object of the game
    1. "Capture" all villages by destroying the enemy's and building your own
    2. Kill the enemy dinosaur with no enemy villages remaining
  • Start of game
    • Dinosaurs start in the middle of the arena
    • All village zones are occupied by a village
    • Each player owns all the villages on his/her half of the arena
  • Dinosaur death
    • When a dinosaur dies, it spawns at the nearest built, friendly village
    • Delay for spawning
    • Unlimited lives (as long as you have built villages left)
  • Villages
    • Villages attack enemy dinosaurs, causing enemy dinos to stay back and use longer-range shooting
    • No more village modes (production/defense)
    • Villages have more health and attacking ability increasingly toward the edges of the arena, represented by tiers of more advanced technology in weapons and village tower architecture
  • Weapons
    • Weapons split up into tiers, which are unlocked for each new village captured
    • Delay between shots (dinosaur is dazed from firing)
    • Unlimited ammo

Dinowaurs Alpha
Several important things were delivered for our alpha milestone. Here are the most notable:

  • Persistent player accounts
  • GUI menu content and interaction
  • Accessory attachment system (!!)
  • Design changes implemented

Its pretty exciting to see these kinds of things coming together. Players can create a dummy account, create their 3 dinosaurs, and all of the options currently available can be saved to their account. One of the most exciting things is how well the accessory attachment system works.

We'll save the details for another post, but basically accessories appear to be attached to the dino, since they follow the same positions and rotations of the bones in the dinosaur's skeleton. In our case, since the dino skeleton is not officially in our engine, we just export the movement of the bones to a file and load that up for each animation. It has become an industry-standard way to attach objects to characters for AAA games (pretty much since the days of Half-Life - thanks Valve!!), and we've adopted it to great success considering Dinowaurs is a real-time multiplayer dinosaur combat Flash game. In fact, Mike just finished up refactoring the weapons to use the same system.

Implementing the design changes got us closer and closer to a really fun game. As of now, it's kind of fun, but we know that we're still missing something. We can all sense that we're getting closer and closer to the fun, though. :)

New Office Space

We finally moved into an official office! It's on the east side of campustown in Ames, conveniently very close to our favorite Thai restaurant Thai Kitchen. It's pretty comfortable for Mike, Greg, and I, and there's even enough room for a microwave and mini-fridge. Surprisingly, we've pretty much outgrown the space after just a month of being there. More on why next.

Intuition's 5th Member: Joe Bergeron
Greg and I have had several discussions over the past couple months about how we're worried that the amount of programming work for a game of this size would be a lot for one person. There's no doubt that's true, which just goes to show how amazing of a job Mike has done as the only programmer on our game. He wrote the Melba Toast engine himself and was able to get most pieces of the game put together so far. Go Mike!

However, we're now at the point where much of the game has been hacked together just to get stuff in. Most of the components of the game code need to be refactored in order to make it easier to do things like add new weapons and keep the game stable as we near release. With refactoring needed, added features still, and a couple bug fixes to help us test regularly, there are plenty of reasons why another programmer would speed up development to ensure a successful release.

Mike has been hesitant in the past to add a new programmer, simply because of the skill required to pick up Melba Toast and Dino Server (the implementation of our game that runs on the server) in a timely manner, and the time/money needed to find someone at all and then make sure they're going to be a good fit.

However, one name would come up over and over again as the right man for the job, if he'd only be willing: Joe Bergeron. Mike has worked with him in the past on their game Codename: HSI, and Joe has gained a reputation for himself at VRAC as "the guy who wrote the OpenGL renderer for the Linux version of the Unreal 3 Engine." At first we weren't sure if he'd be interested in completely jumping in and joining us as a partner. We've actually been (half) joking with him about it for the last couple months.

When we sat him down for a slightly more serious meeting and asked him last week, he decided that now was the time. Welcome Joe!! Everyone is really pumped about it, since we all get along with him really well and he's such a great fit in terms of skill set. To demonstrate, here's a breakdown of our unique skills and interests to show how well each member of the team fits in now:

  • Mike
    • Game programming
    • Gameplay prototyping
  • Joe
    • Engine programming
    • Graphics programming
  • Ted
    • Drawing
    • Concept art
  • Greg
    • Graphic design
    • Creative writing
  • Josh
    • Technical art
    • Business-y stuff

As you can see, that's nearly every aspect of game development, especially Flash game development. Woohoo! We have a pretty well-rounded team now.

This is getting pretty long-winded, so it's time to wrap it up. Next post: Progress Update 2, containing more design changes and a special treat for all you dinosaur lovers out there. :)

1 comment:

Will C said...

Great to hear that you guys are moving forward with things still. I'm really looking forward to seeing the game in action as I don't think I've seen any flash games that sound as large in scope and that follows more a long the lines of a traditional game model as this one seems to be.

It'd also be great to have you guys come and talk at a Game Developer Forum meeting in Ankeny somtime, or if you guys would have our group, we could arrange a field trip to come and talk with you. We meet every second Tuesday of every month at in Ankeny. If you guys are interested Josh has my e-mail I believe.

Also in hopes to support local Indies, I added your guys blog in my links on my blog as well. If interested you can check it out at

Anyways good luck guys, keep up the good work, and I hope to hear from ya.