Developer Log - November 2019
At the beginning, there was an idea.
The thought of creating a game that all members of our society would work on for the whole of academic year has been around for quite some time. This year, we finally decided to give it a proper try.
And so, welcome to our long and perilous journey of discovery!
Of course, to develop a game, we have need an idea first.
Ideation - the Easy Part
We dedicated our first two sessions to brainstorming game ideas and then further refining them. To get our creative juices flowing, we played a version of Consequences where we tried to produce interesting game proposals by having people write down words / phrases and then pass the paper to person next to them. Each idea consisted of parts like:
The result? A bunch of weird game ideas such as:
The Earth has been destroyed. The last surviving human tribes living on the Moon engage in wars over resources (cats) they can gather (by petting them).
A dating sim where you play as a literal lady killer who can guess the “right answers” by using their telephatic abilities… which diminish over time!
This fun exercise got us primed and ready to come up with several serious proposals and pitch them to see which would be the most popular one. It was very close, but eventually we settled on the core idea for our year-long game:
“It’s kind of like Alien meets Hitman meets Star Trek meets Faster than Light”
Not much to go initially, but it was a start.
Our second session was all about refining this basic idea. We came up with a number of possibilities and mechanics, trying to reach some sort of consensus. Turns out getting people to express their ideas and then merge them together in a way that everyone is (kinda) happy with is hard!
After a long couple of hours, we established a few key features of the game and put together a very basic design document. Since it’s still very much a work in progress, let me give you the general outline for now:
In deep space, a spaceship plots its course through the stars. But, unknown to the crew, an Alien presence stowed away on board is about to wake up. Hitman meets The Thing in this game of cat and mouse, where anyone could be secretly controlled by an alien.
As the alien, the player will use their abilities to pass themselves off as human, all while plotting the destruction of the crew.
As a security officer, the player must track down and eliminate the alien threat before it’s too late. Maybe by quarantining suspicious crew members, or perhaps crawling through the air ducts to find the alien at its weakest. All while trying to keep the spaceship on course and running.
Planning and Concept Art
An academic year is not a whole lot of time to develop a full-fledged game, especially when accounting for holidays and coursework deadlines. We soon realised that having a plan in place would help us track our progress and see how much time we have left. And so we came up with a very rough timeline:
We were ready to get started!
As you might expect, everyone was hyped for our first development session. During the preceeding week, several of our talented members came up with a a lot of concept art. For example, some really liked our initial alien idea:
Others came up with concepts for the environment, players and mechanics:
We started our development proper around the middle of November. During our first meeting, we split up into three squads:
- 👨🏽🚀 Character squad (scripting PCs, NPCs and everything they interact with)
- ✨ Art squad (making the game not painful to look at)
- 🚀 Level design squad (the one man army)
And off we went!
Character Squad Progress
Our coding team did quite a lot of work during the few November dev sessions! By now we have basic character controls in place as well as a nearly-top-down-but-not-quite camera following the player.
The team then took a stab at creating one of the core mechanics in our game - the field of view. The idea is that players will have their sight limited to a cone. This is to make sure that security officers cannot see the whole room at once, giving the alien a chance to move around undetected.
All in all, a great job by our programmers who are now working on win / lose conditions, interaction with the ship’s environment and rudimentary AI for NPCs.
Level Squad Progress
Have you noticed that beautiful room in the video above? That’s the work of our level squad! Using Unity Snaps asset pack, they created a basic room with several objects that can be used to test a lot of mechanics we have in mind.
Going forward, this squad will be tasked with building the rest of the ship in a way that makes it small enough to be manageable by the security officers and large enough to provide enough hiding places for the alien.
Art Squad Progress
Last but definitely not least, the art squad has the difficult task of manifesting our wild ideas in 2D/3D form. In coming up with the visual theme of the game, they decided to put together an inspiration board first.
It was interesting to see how our initial ideas changed and evolved over time. Take the alien, for example. We started out thinking it should be some kind of octopus. But that body type would be difficult to rig and animate. And so we changed our mind and decided to go with the “eel-friend” concept. It still looks positively alien and will be much easier to work with.
At some point, we also agreed to make the security officers robots. It makes sense because the way the alien will take control of the NPCs is by posessing them, reverse chestburster style. Our mechanical peacekeepers are therefore safe from the vicious lifeform.
The NPCs also deserved some of our art love, mostly because of the terrible fate that awaits them in-game.
As you can see, there is still plenty of work to be done by our art team. Fortunately, they can take all the time they need as we won’t need finished models until a fair bit later in the development.
We are nearing the deadline for our first Minimum Viable Product with many boxes yet unchecked. However, given we only meet up for ~3 hours per week, the progress we have made is pretty impressive.
The starting exam period coupled with the holidays will put a damper on our progress during December. That being said, some of us are eager to work on the game during our free time, making up for some of that.