Saturday, January 17, 2015

First Post of 2015: Battle High and Character Pipeline

So it's 2015.  To summarize, 2014 had high highs and low lows; instead of writing a long retrospective of the year, I'm deciding to just look forward.

Battle High 2 & GumTrix

The first thing to look forward to is more Battle High work.  Last year I struggled to finish porting the game to Unity3D, but upon changing my method to just copy the code from XNA to Unity3D, it's now "done".  I use quotes because fighting games are rarely ever done.  In fact, members of the OUYA team did a stream of Battle High 2, which was both fun to watch and a little stressful -- please don't crash on stream -- but as they played, I noticed like 3 or 4 things I could and want to fix.  During the rest of January, however, as I get back into the swing of working, I'm taking a break from it.  I'll probably resume working on it, fixing those bugs, investigating what I can do to make it better, upgrading to Unity 4.6, and maybe even online multiplayer.
At the same time as well, I've started to try and treat my projects more professionally such as making a press page for my various projects use presskit().  At the same time, I should probably be upgrading my website as well.

My new logo!  I'm not sure if I posted it here or not; my sister designed it.


Also, at Schell Games, I finally was able to finish and publish a mobile game called GumTrix.  It's a project that, despite it being rather simple, I've been wanting to finish for a long time.  The original prototype was made before Candy Crush Saga was even released!  Though I doubt it'll get the same amount of exposure or popularity, I'm just proud and happy to have finished and hope that I'll get to work on it again sometime this year to make it even better!

Juicy, bouncy fun for everyone!

3D Fighter & Character Pipeline

In the meantime, I'm starting a 3D fighting game.  This is a super ambitious project, one I don't see myself completing this year, but it's been something I've wanted to do for a long time.  Right now I'm in an early prototyping phase to see if it's even possible and to figure out my minimum viable product  or MVP -- a term I've been hearing way too often at work lately.  I'm using Unity and trying to use mecanim to figure out how I'd make this work.  I want to try and remedy things with this game that I didn't with Battle High, for example, start writing the networking layer early.
Below is an early prototype:  very basic models, pre-basic animation, but the tests were to better understand Mecanim, using root motion so I can animation movement in 3ds Max, etc.


The biggest challenge with this game -- so far, I'll give it time as online will trump this -- has been a devising a character pipeline that is fast and cheap.  So far, I've found this in MakeHuman.  It's not perfect and there are close contenders such as Autodesk's Character Generator (ACG).  For now though, the MakeHuman model and rig is nice and allows me to rig and put a character in engine quickly.  The final models, especially if I aim for OUYA, might need some simplification, but for now, they are a good fit.  Also, MakeHuman is a free application that is actively being worked on as opposed to a web-based subscription that could eventually disappear like Mixamo or ACG.

Jam & Convention Season

Part of this year's Global Game Jam logo.

The Global Game Jam is coming up; I'll be participating in that again.  I only did one Ludum Dare last year as well as the Global Game Jam, so starting off "Jam Season" I guess, I could call it, will be nice; it'll be interesting to see if I do more than two in 2015 though.  At the same time, however, GDC is coming up in March, and I will be attending.  GDC last year, to put it lightly, sucked.  Most of this was my own fault as I picked bad talks that made more depressed about the industry than I already way and the excitement and joy I get from the conference just didn't happen.  I'm going to go out on a limb though and try again, so we'll see.  I think my plan is that if GDC is awful to go to another conference like Unite, but I'm going to try and be optimistic and enjoy myself -- and not pick garbage talks / panels.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to 2015.  It'll definitely be different but hopefully productive and full of growth and improvements.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Battle High 2 to Unity3D: Done

So after several months of work, the Unity3D port of Battle High 2 is done! The and Desura versions are both now and available for purchase and play:
Anyway, I wanted to use this time to explain some of the struggles and triumphs I made porting the game over from XNA to Unity3D. Do they even call it Unity3D anymore or just Unity? This isn't important, but I'm just going to refer to it as Unity for the rest of the post and I'm not referring to Assassin's Creed: Unity.

Why Even Do This?!

So I started porting Battle High 2 to Unity in July of 2013 I believe, which was also when I started writing my GameMaker book.  I wanted to port the game from XNA to Unity because XNA was a dying framework.  It still exists, but you can't really do much with besides make XBLIG games, another service not many people get much use out of, and PC games, which has various requirements such as Windows Media Player and the XNA distributable framework, which not everyone is willing to install.
So I decided on Unity because it's known for being portable to a variety of outlets:  web, mobile, pc, and even console.  There is varying amounts of work between these different platforms, but being able to is definitely a great aspect of this engine.  In addition, Unity is still being updated and worked on; with Unity 5.0 coming out soon, there will be new changes in the engine -- optimization, rendering, gameplay, etc.  All of these can improve future versions of the game -- or cause major headache.  For these reasons, I really wanted to port the game to Unity; however, my approaches were not the best.

 

Version:  Doing it all from Scratch

So I tried porting Battle High 2 three times.  The first time I was very confident and thought it'd be very easy, but the problem I already had the game done so rewriting everything from scratch became overly tedious and boring.  Though it was neat seeing the game against 3D backgrounds, trying to finish this was just going to take way too long.  Again, I was writing everything from scratch.  I'm not sure if it existed or not at the time, but I wrote my own sprite rendering system as opposed to Unity's SpriteRenderer class, which can take a part of a texture and renders it efficiently by making a special cutout mesh to avoid rendering unneeded transparent pixels which can cause slowdown.  At the same time, I became very enthralled with writing my GameMaker book, so I took an indefinite break and came back to the game several months later.

Version:  Doing 50% New

So after taking an extended break, I knew doing the game from scratch like I was was going to take too long, so this time around, I decided to use more assets from the original and use Unity's SpriteRenderer class but I still wanted to write all the code over.  This, like the previous version just became too tedious.  I also fell into a depression due to various things so that plus working on a major part of the game -- the code -- from scratch just felt too daunting, and I had to stop.

 

Version:  Direct from XNA

This third time I said to myself, "You know, XNA is C#, Unity uses C#, I'm going to do this more directly."  So I pretty much just copied my .cs files into Unity and stripped it of anything XNA -- and in some cases, commented it out.  This was the best thing to do; I'm only sad I didn't do this first as I would have saved so much time.  The version I just published on OUYA and Desura is really not Battle High 2 A+; it's not different enough to call it that yet.  Regardless, I'm happy that I was able to to finish and get it running in Unity.  I wrote some interesting code such as my own sprite packer; Unity has one, but I have too many sprites so it doesn't run properly, also, I run unique code to trim, remove duplicate, and convert sprites to Alpha8 for palettes.

Are there differences? 

Yes!  There are differences between this version and the original XBLIG version of Battle High 2.  Again, there aren't enough for me to confidentially say this is Battle High 2 A+, but enough to say there are different.
The biggest one is that the concept of Elemental Overdrives have been removed.  Michelle still has her -- I'll be honest -- Dark Phoenix form, but every other character's updated form is gone.  Will I ad them back in?  Possibly, but there will need to be extensive testing and balancing before I do.  Also Principal, the game's boss character, is unlocked from the start.  I also implemented reversals and throw breaks.

 

So what now?

Well now that this version is out, meeting my deadline of release before 2015, I'm going to take a break first and foremost.  As I was playing the game, making sure it worked, I definitely noticed a plethora of things for me to improve in future versions.
  • Hit box display in training mode still make no sense
  • The AI is idiotic at best, even at the highest difficulty
  • You can't choose to rematch after a versus fight is over
  • The UI looks dated
  • The control / input system could use some love
Fortunately, unlike the XNA version, updating and releasing new builds of this version shouldn't be as much as a hassle.  The real challenge will be finding the time and motivation to make changes.  There are also some big changes I want to make.

 

New Characters


The sprites above are of unfinished characters for Battle High 2.  I'd love to finish them, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to find time to do so, but adding them I think would be a great addition.  Of course, adding a new character is a lot of work and expense:  new code, new balancing, new voice acting, new stage artwork, new music.  A lot of new's, but it's a challenge I'd love to attempt but I feel like there are a lot more important things to fix first.

 

Challenge Hallway

Mortal Kombat IX probably had one of my favorite single player experiences in a fighting game.  The Challenge Tower was unique, difficult, and varied.  I want to do something similar with Battle High 2.  The modification system I made in the previous versions for the Elemental Overdrives would definitely help with such a task, but I also want unique challenges in the game such as breaking the car -- something I removed from this version for time.

The beginning of the challenge tower taught introductory mechanics, which I liked a lot.

Plans Right Now

So again, my plan right now is to just take a break.  I'm participating in the Global Game Jam in January and have some other games I'd like to start working and prototype including a 3D fighter.  I do like the idea that any console game I plan on working on will use the OUYA as a minimum spec machine.  It's pretty easy to develop once you get the hang of it.
Now I know this current version of Battle High isn't perfect; it needs a lot of love in certain areas, and if there is enough desire from others and myself, I'll give it that love.  I could have continued to work and delay, but I was at a point where delaying it just felt unnecessary, especially since is had taken so long.  The hardest part is that I'm essentially a one-person team, at least when it comes to direct development and programming.  I really try my best but between my full-time job and other projects, it's not easy.
The hardest question for me to answer is when people say "Well, why should I play this over Street Fighter?" and I can't really honestly answer that -- did I ever mention I suck at writing press releases?  True, there are some differences in gameplay Battle High and other fighting games, but the team size difference and development budgets definitely allow for much more polished products.  Not a great excuse, I know, some indies do amazing work, but even a lot of them have teams greater than one.  Anyway, if you play the game, I appreciate it and hope you enjoy any future iterations that may come out.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Battle High 2 A+ on OUYA


So I'd like to announce with the video above that I am working on and have a working version of Battle High 2 on OUYA!  (It is, of course, without some problems, such as challenge commands showing up in arcade mode.)

Wait, what's an OUYA?


OUYA is an Android console that was released a little over a year ago.  It's most appealing aspect to me was that is was advertised as a console with a low barrier of entry.  The entire reason I started porting Battle High to Unity was so I could get the game on OUYA, and now I finally have the game working n the console.  Of course, this wasn't the easiest in tasks.

Connecting to OUYA 


So when I first started messing with my OUYA, I remember that exporting a build from Unity to OUYA was a bit of a pain, but fortunately, they've simplified this by allowing you to upload an apk over your local network directly to your OUYA.  This process isn't the fastest; it has to upload then install and this is after you make a build from Unity; so even more fortunately, I already had taken the steps to establish a proper connection between my OUYA console and my PC.

I NEED MORE POWER!


Being an Android console, the OUYA is essentially a slightly above average (or average now) phone with an HDMI port.  Now Battle High, at least I don't think so, isn't the most technically advanced game, it's just a 2D fighter, but even so, the game's large spritesheets and particle effects cause rendering issues in the game, or at least, the OUYA cannot run the game at 60 FPS like it can on PC.  Now there could be some major optimization I have to do on my part that will fix that, but for now, the OUYA version of Battle High 2 runs at 30 fps.
Another issue was the size of spritehseets.  OUYA -- or at least for Unity games -- can't handle textures larger than 2048.  I was able to optimize and get all character sprites onto 2048 square textures except one character -- Principle.  So last night, I had to devise a way to split his sprites so half were on a 2048 x 2048 and the rest on a 1024 x 2048 texture.  Fortunately, it works.  I should probably have put his use in the video.

Silver Lining?


I think the silver lining to the power problems with OUYA is it makes a great min spec machine.  I think my next game, if it is not a pure mobile game, will probably be tested on OUYA first and if I can get it running smoothly on that platform, then I will build it up for PC and any other platform it may be released on.  It's also nice because I can see how it'll look on a TV very early on and the OUYA is easy to transport to show other people if I so desire.

Network Play?


I know online play is very important for fighting games, but the initial release of Battle High 2 A+ (or whatever I decide to call it) will not have network play -- just like Dead or Alive 5:  Last Round.  I will say though that I do plan to at least attempt to have online multiplayer sometime in 2015.  Will it be great?  Probably not, but I'm at least going to try!

Release Plans


So it may be ambitious, but I'm still shooting to finish and release this game before 2015 on the OUYA marketplace.  The biggest feature I have to implement is the AI for arcade mode and after that I'm essentially "done".  There are various bugs and other elements of polish that will need to be taken care of as well, but the most important features and aspects are primarily done.  Anyway, I'll update here (or elsewhere) when I get have more information and as release approaches.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Nearing 2015

Haven't posted anything since September, so I decided to write a little something.  The Halloween season has come to a close -- I know Halloween is the 31st, but the parties I attended happened this weekend. This means several things:  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and also New Year's.
Normally, I try and do the basic New Years resolution in January, but eff that noise.  I'm doing them now!  Since that Halloween is over, I'm going to start exercising again and eating healthier.  This last Halloween season messed me up; I'm still recovering from a hefty hangover.
I also want to finish Battle High 2's Unity3D port BEFORE 2015.  This is a little crazy and wanting to versus actually will are totally different.  I started tracking tasks here.  It's a lot of stuff, but I don't think it's insurmountable; also, I don't need to finish every task on there -- but would like to.  So starting tomorrow until mid-December -- my holiday plans will make working on anything almost impossible -- I want to work fiendishly to finish Battle High 2.  I need to be careful not to rush, not to go overboard or get distracted on any one feature.  I just want to get this game done and out there before 2015 so I can use a new year to start over on new ideas and not a book.

I was Arakune from BlazBlue for Halloween; the mask did not stay on long.

 Conferences

2015 is coming up which means GDC is coming up, but unfortunately, I think I'm going to skip it this year.  I had such a bad time last year, and with the current controversies in the industry, I don't feel like going, suspecting that a lot of talks and panels are going to dwell on that drama.  The only thing at this point that would get me to go is if the talk I submitted on my book was approved, which at this point seems unlikely.
In the past few years I've noticed that smaller, more specialized conferences like Unite or Oculus Connect have been more enjoyable.  I feel like I get so much more out of them, so I think next year I will go to one of those conferences instead, and I've never been to Siggraph, so that's a possibility too.  Also, some friends have been talking about traveling to Japan, a country I've been wanting to visit for a long time, but the trip is expensive, and even though my job helps pay for conferences, GDC is also expensive, so going to a cheaper conference could help with this trip.  And there's always the possibility of going to EVO again, especially if I finish Battle High 2 in time to try and show it off.
Oh, earlier I mentioned I went to Oculus Connect, which was held in Hollywood, California near the end of September.  It was a nice, two-day conference that discussed VR, particularly from the perspective of Oculus, its future, and other aspects of it.  Going was important because I'm a bit of a VR skeptic.  There did seem to be a herd mentality to a degree, but based on the demos I saw, I was definitely convinced that -- to make a prediction -- VR will succeed, BUT I don't think it will to the extent that a lot of people want it to.

The Crescent Bay which was shown at Oculus Connect; it was impressive, but there was so much setup and unknown hardware that I question the feasibility for the consumer market.

What's After Battle High 2?

So let's optimistically say I finish Battle High 2 and release it on OUYA and PC.  What's next?  I could go several directions.  One is that maybe I can start the process to get it on Xbox One.  This seems unlikely though and a part of me feels that, unless the game is super popular on OUYA or other platforms -- which I'm not holding my breath for -- it seems like a waste of time and I risk falling into a trap in which I'm bored and frustrated by continuing to work on it.
Most likely, I will probably work on a new game entirely.  Maybe I'll do something shorter -- 3 to 6 months -- for mobile since I've never released a mobile game.  Maybe I'll also start a longer game or both and prioritize my time between them.  The hope is that if I finish BH2 before 2015, I can literally start the year fresh with no work in progress projects going on.  First the book was a monkey on my back and now this game is -- except this monkey feels more manageable.

Okay, maybe not limitless, but I have a lot.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Battle High 2 A+: 3rd Time's a Charm

So I took another break from Battle High 2.  My latest attempt at porting the game to Unity3D was failing.  It just felt like I was doing a whole new game, and, if it were a whole new game -- new characters, story, gameplay, etc -- I would have been fine with this.  In the back of my head though, I knew that all of the code was done, all of the inputs and moves and commands worked, all of the interface code was written, and this was becoming painful.  Even more so, reaction to the changes I was proposing in the game were met with a lukewarm reaction.

I don't know the context of this image, but it describes my feelings at the time pretty well.
Now, however, the break is done!  I'm working on Battle High 2 again.  How is this time different from the previous version?  I'm copying and pasting...a lot.  That sounds kind of odd, but I realized redoing work you have already done feels extremely tedious and daunting.  Now porting that same code into Unity, figuring out how to make it work in that engine has some tedium but it's different -- it's more like solving a puzzle as opposed to just rewriting and redesigning systems I already had working.
There was some unique work that had to be done, for example, I had to rebuild the texture atlases to work with Unity and figure out a way to convert my SpriteFonts to Unity3D font assets.; however, I am using Unity3D's Sprite class now and will be able to create nicer particle effects -- because I have to.
My goal?  Well, my goal has always been to get the game working in Unity3D so I can port it to other consoles and create a PC version that doesn't require all of the nonsense that an XNA version required.  Hell, I might be able to get a Mac and/or Linux version working!
Will there be new things?  Not immediately, but once I get the game working well in Unity3D, the hope is that adding new content will be more streamline.  Will I actually do it?  That will depend on the popularity of the game / demand.  I'm really hoping to finish this and get it released on various platforms before 2015.  Of course, I decline to promise anything, as promises, especially for a hobbyist like me are easy to break.  Anyway, this is a short post, but enjoy this video.  It's not super exciting, but it is the latest build of Battle High 2 in Unity3D.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

My First EVO Experience


It's no mystery that I am a fan of fighting games.  Though I wouldn't really consider myself an overly competitive gamer, I still really love the genre and what is offers.  That being said, a few weeks ago, one of the biggest fighting game tournaments in America -- possibly the world -- happened last week in Las Vegas, and fortunately, I was able to attend!

The tournament, known as Evolution, EVO by most, was one part fighting game tournament and one part fighting game convention with some vendors and a few game-related panels.  I figured I'd write about my experience!

This is how finals looked

Before the Event!

So, due to some strange scheduling and flight pricing, it was cheaper to arrive in Las Vegas on Wednesday as opposed to Thursday night.  Now, part of this EVO experience for me was Las Vegas itself as I had never been there.  I've been to casinos before; I was just expecting a giant casino, but I was wrong, partially anyway.  For one, there were slot machines in the airport of all places; something I, quite frankly, was not expecting.  Though, I wasn't there to gamble!  The entire trip was a gamble for me since my luck with conference and conventions hasn't been great.
Anyway, the event was held at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino which is now the WestGate or something. 
The hotel -- those signs are Photoshopped.  The real sign is much uglier.
Personally, I didn't mind the hotel.  Was it the nicest hotel in Vegas?  No way!  Was the price decent for what it had to offer?  Sure. It had a pool, gambling, bars, and restaurants -- one of which apparently made a bunch of people sick but my friend and I somehow dodged that.  Also, it was close to the monorail so getting to The Strip and more exciting parts of Vegas was convenient.  And again, it's where the convention actually takes place, so being in the same hotel as the event is always nice and convenient. 
I will say, I liked and disliked the fact EVO was in Vegas.  I liked it because when the convention got slow or I wanted to get some fresh, arid desert air, I could easily do that, but I also felt it was distracting because even at exciting moments, the intrigue of Vegas insanity was hard to resist.  Also it takes forever to walk between places so I often would say, "I wanna be back by 2," but it would take awhile to get back and I would miss my goal by 30 to 60 minutes.  This was in part due to bad planning, but also due to the layout of casinos, which have a "WE NEVER WANT YOU TO LEAVE" design approach.
Also, Vegas is hot.  We joked it was a dry heat, but after 30 minutes of walking around in 105 degrees, that joke wears thin.

Line-Up!

Thursday, the day before EVO, the line for registration opened around 4 PM.  Fortunately, I decided to at least explore the hotel beforehand and find out where things were taking place, particularly registration.
This photo from James Chen doesn't really do the length of the line justice, but it moved rather quickly and the staff was on top of things


After getting my badge and shirt -- which, note to self, you don't need an XL -- my friend and I decided to do more Vegas exploring.  Possibly, staying and trying to make more fighting game friends and network connections would have been more valuable, but again, the intrigue of Vegas was just too much!  Also, I had a Vesper, which is a rather good cocktail when made properly.



 Day 1:  Indies and Pools

So day one had arrived!  The first day was mostly dedicated to pools, mostly Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros. Melee.  The expo floor was rather small, made up of a combination of t-shirt, swag, and joystick accessories.  There were also some booths such as one for Guilty Gear Xrd and a rather impressive Mad Catz booth.
There were also some indie games on display.  Not sure how many EVOs they've been displaying indies, but I was excited to see what was there.  The interesting thing is that they were more games that took unique spins on competition than fighting games.  The first day, I played three:  TowerFall Ascension, Gunsport, and Starwhal.  I had played TowerFall on the OUYA; this version was slightly updated and on PS4.  I like TowerFall, but I realize I'm actually rather terrible at it, and there's an aspect of all local multiplayer games that just fall short for me.  In fact, a lot of the indies there seemed to be trying to bank on the local couch arena trend that's come to light recently.  This is going to sound sad, but I'm not a fan of these games -- mostly for the simple fact I don't have people over to play games a lot.
Anyway, Gunsport was interesting; it was a futuristic take on volleyball.  There were aspects of it that seemed a little confusing, particularly the controls, but more power to the designer I guess.  Again, seems like a fun game, but would I spend money on something that won't be playable -- or at least won't be in the truest form of the designer's vision -- without four players?  Probably not.
Finally, I then played Starwhal, which was probably my favorite of the indie games present -- well except Slash Dash, but I didn't play that at EVO, I played it a few days ago while helping some people judge IndieCade games.  Starwhal was just a silly, physics-based game in which you played as a galactic narwhal whose goal was to stab other starwhals in the heart.  Even this game though, from my perspective, suffered from local multiplayer necessity.

Starwhal, TowerFall Ascension, and Gunsport

Anyway, once I had my fill of the expo floor, I went into the main ballroom -- or whatever it was called -- to watch some pools.  Pools setup was rather interesting and not quite what I was expecting.  This was this culmination of grandness -- two giant screens showing certain matches -- and normalcy -- monitors setup with the gamers sitting nearby and people watching from behind.  There were some arcade-like machiens setup as well.  These were cool to watch games like Capcom Vs. SNK 2 and Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo.  Watching pools was interesting in that, for one, it was hit or miss in that some matches you'd watch would be boring and some would be awesome.  Usually, the more crowded a setup was, the more popular the players participating.  Sometimes though, it just got so packed that you could barely see what was happening on the monitors and just watching the matches on the large screens was almost better, especially, since people usually aren't the most courteous and just step in your eyeline of a match -- nor am I willing to be like "YO MOVE!"  That's not my style.  Also, the entire room was filled with Super Smash Bros. audio, which was particularly amusing when juxtaposed with Street Fighter.

An example of people crowding around a setup during pools -- Melee I believe.

Eventually, there was an indie panel that I wanted to attend.  Though I really liked the job Patrick Miller did moderating, it wasn't really anything new from GDC and other indie panels, just sort of going over the ins and outs of developing their games.  It was intriguing to hear how a lot of them work with teams and that they personally don't have as many technical skills as I would assume they would have.  Also, there was a sense that they didn't really care about the fighting game community or respect it.  It made me regret at least not submitting Battle High 2 for consideration, but I felt like the newest iteration just wasn't ready to submit -- though in retrospect, I could have probably submitted the XBLIG version.  Anyway, I then watched Tekken's top 8; I didn't stay for the ending sadly because as much as I love Tekken, the finals can sometimes get a little stay, especially if there is a runback in the grand finals.  After this, my friend and I explored more of Vegas.

Day 2:  Why am I here?

So day 2 came, and this time it was Marvel and BlazBlue pools.  I was sort of bored -- not bored -- but didn't really feel like watching pools again, at least not immediately.  All I really wanted to see that day was watch one of my favorite Shuma-Gorath players -- BrokenTier's Angelic -- compete in Marvel and his pool wasn't until the afternoon.  The line to play Guilty Gear Xrd was short, so I played that, only to sadly have my hype for the game deteriorated.  As sweet as the new graphics look, it's still the same game that I just don't really enjoy.  Again, I think a lot of times when I say I don't enjoy a fighting game, that it could be remedied by either having a great single player experience like Mortal Kombat did, or by having a lot of friends locally to play the game with.  Will I get GGXrd?  Probably, but having played it at EVO, I'm not concerned about getting the game the moment it's released.
Awful, blurry photo of the Xrd setup...

Then I played another indie game, and it made me feel very odd.  It was called Videoball, and I just didn't like it.  The minimal art style, the lack of power, the confusing feedback -- it all just culminated into an experience that I didn't enjoy.  I always feel odd when I encounter a game I feel people like but I just can't get into for some reason.  I start to question myself as a designer.  I guess a part of the reason I went to EVO was to reignite my creative juices, my desire to work on Battle High 2 and my other fighting game projects, but instead it was making me wonder if I should even be making competitive games at all.  This is a topic for another post, but I realize, I don't really like competitive gaming or the route the genre is taking.  There was a panel that I sadly missed -- it started at 2 while I thought it started at 3 -- that was about the history of fighting games; fortunately, I can watch it here at any time:


EVO 2014: Counting Frames from NYU Game Center on Vimeo.

Once I find time to watch it, I feel it'll help me understand what aspects of fighting games I like and which ones I don't.
Anyway, after taking a break to think about where I want to approach games, I came back to watch the pools I wanted to see, and by the end of the night, Marvel was on the big screen.  At the same time, I realized something was missing from this entire experience:  commentary.  I was realizing how much I missed the commentary, particularly from my favorites like James Chen, David P. Graham, and Yipes.  Something about commentary really adds to matches, even if the commentary is bad.  It helps explain things that might be missed, and it creates hype and excitement too.  When they get excited, I, as a spectator, become excited as well. 

David and James -- not sure where / when this is, but...yea...

Also, I wasn't there to compete, and I'm happy that, after speaking with some others on the monorail, I wasn't the only person who goes just to spectate.  Though competing isn't much more expensive, I guess I didn't feel like spending extra money just to lose -- and most probably immediately -- at whichever games I entered.  Anyway, day 2 left me feeling odd.  I was still having a good time, but I wasn't getting the inspiration I was looking for.

I wasn't really feeling salty, but I did find this salt shaker in the Monorail station.

Day 3 -- FINALS!!!!!!

These were the 8 biggest games at EVO, but only 5 of them were played on the final day.
By Day 3, some finals had already happened, but the third and final day, the main ballroom was set up with hundreds of chairs for all to watch the top 8 in games like Street Fighter and Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 to compete.  There were a lot of chairs, but people really wanted to be close to the main stage as possible and with their friends.  There was a lot of seat-saving and "getting to know your fellow spectators".  I didn't mind, but also, I didn't need to be so close.  By the end of the night, sitting in the back was fine.  I could hear the action, see the matches, sense the excitement in the room.  To say the least, the grand finals were awesome. 
Calm before the storm -- the chairs setup the day of finals

Though I tend to be more subdued in my enthusiasm, it was great to see the excitement in the audience as well as the emotion of the players when presented their awards.  Especially since the day started out with the BlazBlue top 8, which literally had its participants crying -- happy tears mind you -- but it was great to see players so invested, awarded for their efforts.

Champion tears


Overall

Despite it not inspiring me in the way I was expecting it to, I still really enjoyed EVO.  Would I go again?  Definitely!  Will I go in 2015?  I'm not 100% sure as there were definite low points:

Low Points

  • Vegas.  Again, the heat; distracting and insane layout; and rainbow coalition of people trying to get you into a strip club or prostitute was a bit overwhelming.  I have to say though:  still liked it way more than San Francisco.
  • Evola.  I got sick.  Who or what I contracted this cold from doesn't matter -- getting sick sucks.  I was, at least, well during the entire convention, and didn't start feeling it until Monday night while watching ZARKANA!
Yes, your hoops are fun and all, but when it feels like a small parasite is trying to burrow through a tonsil, it's a bit hard to concentrate.  It did make me say, "I Zarkan't believe my eyes!" though.
  • Angelic not making top 8.  I was sad to see my favorite player not making it into the top 8 for Marvel, but I was happy to see another Shuma-Gorath user there.

High Points

There were a lot of awesome high points, and being there was one, but I'd would say the biggest highlights were...
  • Hearing the announcement of Tekken 7.  Even though it was leaked and even though I would have read about it probably minutes after being announced, there's a certain satisfaction to seeing the game announced live from those working on it was pretty exciting
  • Patrick Miller Vs. Alex Jebaily on Capcom Vs. SNK 2.  I had never seen good Capcom Vs. SNK 2 play live, and their interaction was, and possibly unintentionally so, comical.
  • Grand finals.  Seeing the high level of skill and the drama associated with the grand finals was definitely awe-inspiring and interesting

 

Do Differently?

If I were to go again, I would definitely have tried having a build of Battle High 2 ready to play.  They had a bring-your-own console section, and I think it would have been neat to try and get SOMEONE to play.  I also wish I would have played more games in general; someone had offered to but we were watching the Street Fighter finals.  I should have tried to get something going afterwards.  Again, I had a great time, and hopefully I can find more people in the Pittsburgh area to become a bigger part of its fighting game community and help it grow -- if it even exist.  Also, I have this photo, which will serve as a pretty awesome memory:

The guy in the middle with the tiny Blanka is Yoshinoro Ono, the producer for Street Fighter IV.  He's pretty wild.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Battle High 2 A+ -- (Tentative) Changes

As I've been working on Battle High 2 A+, I've been thinking of the changes to make to the game itself and to the characters.  I decided to put my musings in this post.

System Changes

Elemental Overdrives

In the previously released iteration of Battle High 2, a new mechanic was introduced called Elemental Overdrives.  Inspire by moves like Berserker Barrage and Astral Vision from Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, these were alternate super moves that would alter one aspect of a character temporarily.  Khai would become faster; Bryan would become stronger but slower; Klein was able to fire four projectiles instead of switching between 1.
The biggest problem with these is that they weren't properly tested.  Players found that Khai, Jada, and Arvid's -- all of which increased speed -- were way too easy to take advantage of, often causing infinite combos and quick KO's.  Also, players thought the input, which was consistently Down x 3 + Overhead, was awkward and clunky.
To alleviate this, I've decided to remove this mechanic all together.  This cuts down implementation and balancing on time in various ways, but does cause some interesting issues for some characters, particularly Klein and Michelle.  I'll discuss the tentative changes to the characters.

Throw Escapes & Reversals

Two common features in most fighting games that wasn't implement in the previous iteration of Battle High 2 are throw escapes and reversals.  Fortunately, I've been able to implement these two features.  Players can now escape a throw if they press throw during the first few frames of their opponent performing a throw.
Reversals are special moves that can be performed during certain states.  In this case, they can be performed while getting up or while blocking.  I may change this, but right now, I've made reversals cost one-third of the player's meter.  Each character will have one move that will be designated as their reversal move.  I may allow super moves to be reversals as well with no meter cost required, but I'm still mulling this over.

Input Changes

One request made for the previous game was to allow two buttons pressed at the same time to perform throw and overhead attacks as 6 buttons can be a bit too many, especially if two of those buttons do something very specific.  So, in this version, light punch and light kick will be throw and heavy punch and heavy kick will be overhead; however, there will still be overhead and throw buttons that can be assigned if the player prefers.
The second set of changes do with the move inputs themselves.  This is pretty risky, but I've decided to eliminate several different types of inputs, taking some hints from my previous post about appealing to more novice players with easier inputs.  Sadly, the elimination of some of these input types such as charging back and forward does eliminate the meta game discussed earlier and some moves might be more or less advantageous than before.  Hopefully balancing can remedy some of these issues.

Character Changes

Character changes are extremely important.  They are the most or second most important aspect of the game really, so I decided to do a quick summary of the changes coming to the 13 characters in Battle High 2 A+.

Jiro

Jiro was the first character I implemented in this build of Battle High 2, and so far, he's probably still pretty close to his previous iteration.  I removed this parry move I believe in the previous iteration, so he won't have that.  His Elemental Super, TerraTackle now journeys to the player, popping up when he's within distance, allowing him to combo off of it and no longer requires the player to control him as he moves.

Michelle


Michelle is a tough character as her Elemental Overdrive put her into a second form which extended her moves and made her strong.  With the elimination of Elemental Overdrives, this features has to be eliminated as well.  Instead, Michelle will have access to all of her moves from start.  Also, Michelle lacked a real anti-air, so now the heavy version of her projectile will emit an fiery orb around her similar to Bryan's anti-air attack.

Shinji


As discussed earlier, I'm removing charge attacks, which will make Shinji play a lot differently since his elbow attack and anti-air headbutt were both charge attacks.  Another big change I'm making is to Shinji's teleport.  Teleporting was a bit troublesome as it created some infinites, particularly teleporting behind an opponent mid-combo.  So, in this build, teleporting cannot be performed mid combo.  Also, previously Shinji had 4 teleports:  in near and front, near and behind, far and front, far and behind.  I'm removing near and front.

Khai


Besides the removal of his powerful Elemental Overdrive, Khai will most probably stay the same to his previously iteration.  I may change his aerial elbow to be more of an air-dive attach since before he sort of teleported, which didn't make much sense since he's a Water Elemental and not a Wind Elemental; however, you could argue this is vapor and not wind.

Mai


The biggest change to Mai will probably be her super move.  Instead of being a large attack that then launches her opponent into spikes, I may just make her immediately do the ground spikes, allowing it to more easily combo into some of her attacks and act as an anti-air.  I'm not 100% sure on this yet.

Klein


Klein will be difficult as his Elemental Overdrive allowed him to shoot four different projectiles.  I think I'm still going to have his switch move and the accompanying projectiles.  I am going to change these projectiles though, as some of them were rather mediocre such as the blue diamond that went over almost everyone's head.

Bryan


The biggest change coming to Bryan is a major nerfing of his crouching light punch, which was reported as being too fast and too good at interrupting a majority of the cast's attacks.  Other than this, I feel Bryan is a rather solid character and will keep him rather consistent to his previous versions.

Jada

Jada will probably remain very similar to her previous build.  Her triple kick will probably be much cleaner and consistent.  Also, I may remove the rapid punch and instead make it a quarter circle forward, rushdown move, but I'm not 100% sure yet.

Arvid


Arvid is another one of Battle High's charge character who will be seeing some major changes.  He will still have his projectile, but his air kick, may become more like a dive kick.  I may also make his iron belly attack deflect or destroy projectiles.  Arvid may also have an anti-air uppercut which will be used for his reversal.

HW


HW is another character who is pretty much going to stay similar to his original form.  His dash move may move a bit farther than the previous iteration, but the changes will, overall, be minimal.

Ryken


Ryken will probably stay very similar to his previous iteration as well.  He had the most moves of the entire cast.  A part of me is thinking of removing some and making an EX version and swapping these moves out, but for now I'm going to keep him as is.

Principal


The boss of Battle High 2, Principal, will change but mostly due to the changes in input.  Like Jada, I may remove his rapid punch attack and instead make it a defensive move that can destroy projectiles.  I may also make him faster to make him feel more threatening like a boss character.

Kazuo


Kazuo is probably the character most in need of changes as he was deemed the previous iteration's worst character.  He was supposed to charge attacks to make them stronger but the differences between charge levels probably wasn't strong enough.  At the same time, he had a very weak anti-air.  I think for this iteration, I'm removing the charging.  He'll just have a rushdown move.  I think the other big change will be his anti-air, which I may make a projectile giving it more reach.

Game Mode Changes

Another large change I want to make is to the modes available.  The previous game just had versus, arcade (or story), training, challenge, and 3 mini-games.  After watching this video --

-- I started to consider a few different modes.  From the start, I wanted to include a challenge mode similar to Mortal Kombat 9's challenge tower.  I feel this did a very good job at introducing things slowly with easier challenges and then building up to more advance ones.  It also creates fun challenges to satisfy those who want a single player experience, especially if I don't get networking implemented immediately.  It does mean I have to create masterful AI and highly customizable challenges, but, to be honest, I'd probably be at doing these.  Overall, I think instead of the mini-games implemented before, I may introduce a challenge tower or hallway.  I can also use this mode to introduce more of the story for Battle High.

Also, to fans of Battle High, I'd like to apologize for this game taking so long to finish, but at this point, I'm essentially a one-man team, getting some help here and there but a majority of the work still lies on me.  Lately my schedule hasn't allowed me to work on it as much as I'd like.  I'm going to continue to work on it as best as I can and hopefully be able to share the game with all of you soon.  Think of it this way:  at least you didn't contribute to a KickStarter for it.  Anyway, thanks for reading.