Monday, 21 October 2019

Production, bugs and inspiration

Hey there, "Out of Liners"!
Just like the title says, this blog post brings you an update on production, bugs and inspiration!
"Ahhhhh! Inspiration!" says the artist, "I thrive on seeing the work of other artists..."
"Ohhhhh! Money!" says the producer, "I thrive on smelling money..."
"Ehhhhh! 000101001!" says the programmer, "0101011101010101110010100101..."


Getting money is obviously important to get a game released with a minimum degree of quality. Even if you are an indie developer working from home or have a fixed means of support, it comes a time when some outsourcing is needed, like translation, quality assurance, music rights, etc. etc.

Our Nerd Monkeys, producer, Diogo Vasconcelos, has been for the last year and a half trying to get a nice flow of cash so that we can establish a fixed road map for launching Out of Line with the quality it deserves.
It hasn't been easy, Diogo has talked with investors, publishers, platform holders and many other people trying to assess the interest, opportunities and getting much needed feedback from fellow studios and developers about what we need to get a to an excellent launch.
But we think he is almost there. We have some very interesting propositions that will fund our little game just enough so we can make it the best it can be. We can't obviously talk about it here, but keep your digital fingers cross, we are definitely almost there.

Diogo answers 2 phones while listening to music and pointing to pie charts



Programming is the art of creating bugs, some would say. The more you code, the more potential bugs will arise. It's part of the job to write code and bring life to a videogame and then to go back and re-write that same code so it doesn't turn the CPU into a supernova.

João Genebra is constantly going back and forth with everything that he creates for Out of Line. But to help him out with bug hunting and code cleaning, he only uses the classic tools like MS Visual Studio, his trusty debugger and a notebook to keep track of all the bugs.

Genebra code from Out of Line



We talked before in the old blog about Francisco's inspiration for Out of Line, but has kept him moving lately? Is it some weird Dragon Crown's furry fanart or does he get high on Picasso's cubism?

This is what Francisco had to say more than 2 years ago in an old blog post:
"I always try to find inspiration outside the media of vídeo games. In movies, short-films, music, or even classical or modern art, and taking all that into consideration I try to converge it to one single product.
For San, the main character of Out of Line, I found a lot of inspiration in Hayao Miyazaki animation movies. In movies like, My Neighbor Totoro, Grave of the Fireflies or Spirit Away where you can find as a main character, a young kid - in contrast with American animation movies, but that can stay for another topic). And I think that has a lot of power as a narrative component or even as an icon for the audience to relate to. "

Here is what he has to say now:
"I ́m always looking for inspiration to Out of Line, either with styles of animation, color palettes, character personalities, environment moods, etc.

Right now I'm looking at a lot of different stuff:

Genndy Tartakovsky style of animation. He is one of the gurus of animation and I really like his animation style, and I wonder how could it work in a 2D game animation without breaking up the gameplay too much.

In the game Gris, I really love the tone of the narrative and the way the story is shown to the player. That kind of subtle emotion storytelling is something I wanted for Out of Line since the beginning of the project, and it is really cool to see a game pull that off, as well as Gris did.

The Knights and Bikes loose and extravagant feel, gives the player a really interesting main characters. They manage to capture very well the childish personalities of these kids.

The Legend of Hei, it's a Chinese animated movie that has a really compelling main character. A strong but curious kid as a main protagonist that has a journey full of challenges to complete. And really inspiring to see how different stories work so well with a younger protagonist.

Le College Noir by Ulysse Malassagne, it's a comic book where - you guessed it right - the main characters are also adventurous young children that fight monsters and explore cool stuff.

And there are a lot more stuff that I could talk about, but I leave that for another awesome post.

The Legend of Hei

That's it for today!
Keep it in the tub, Bub.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Designing levels

Hi there, "Out of Liners"!
Last time, we talked about a new rope mechanic and showed some photos from the team!
This caused an avalanche* of letters from the fans begging us to stop trying to be funny and stop showing our faces. Most of them said they wanted to see more about game development and less about what our desks look like.
Well, THEN. OK, "FANS"! We will stop trying to be funny and act more serious from now on. Except for that one fan that asked for more photos of Genebra, but also asked for them to be sent in private? Argh. Just no, ok? NO.

So, this week we decided to focus more on level designing and less on team photos. Specifically more about level design.

A game is nothing without proper game design and level design, and to get there things must be tried, tested and constantly changed. A good designer knows when to listen to feedback and implement it back in the game. That's why it's so very important to not take your own ideas and designs too personal. Clinging to a concept or idea because "it's yours" without listening to what your team is saying can actually ruin a design or even an entire game. Of course it's also important to know how to take an opinion and use it wisely.
As an example, and because we don't want to spoil the game, let's focus on a key area from the Vertical Slice that we showed last year at Lisboa Games Week 2018.

Out of Line at Lisbon Games Week 2018

This section is right at the beginning of the current Vertical Slice*
There are three jumps that the player needs to make. Also, each hole has rocks passing through them.
It shows to the player that he can just jump over each hole, by timing his jumps just right. But if the player is smart and learned the initial lessons well, he will use the spear to create an extra platform so its easier to jump. Ultimately, if the player is really smart, he will figure out quickly he can just clog the top pipes with the spear so that they stop spiting rocks.

*A Vertical Slice is a completed section of the game that shows how the game will look when it's finished. It normally also includes all final game mechanics.

Original drawing that includes the first version of the jumps and rocks section

When we showed the Vertical Slice at Lisboa Games Week 2018, we noticed a slight problem. The 2D platforms, even though they are 2D, they are drawn as if they had perspective. This caused a problem for people timing their jumps. Almost everyone thought they could walk much further than what they actually could, which meant they would always fall before hitting the jump button. The way the art was drawn actually induced player error so we had to fix it.

Changing the art made no sense. Every other puzzle, gameplay section and overall design looked good, played well and nobody complained, but getting the right amount of physical area for people to jump was tricky. Too little and San would usually fall to his death, too much and San would appear to float on air.

Jump section with rocks falling
The decision was simple, we would allow a bit of "coyote time" for all platforms. "Coyote time" is the notion that, in a platformer game, if you jump a little bit too late, the jump still works. This is particularly evident in endless runner type games. Canabalt achieves this by having the player's hitbox actually 8 to 10 pixels behind the visible sprite.
Implementing it was not hard and it was just a matter of testing how much "coytote time" we would allow San to have. In the end San has 80 milliseconds where he can still make a successful jump.

Coyote time. Notice where the shadow disappears

This is one way to safely jump across

A smarter way is just to straight clog up the pipes

Thanks for everyone for following our dev-adventures.
Remeber to check our Twitter and feel free to send us some messages, except for the person that asked for Genebra's photos, please stop.
Bye-bye, French fry!