…to Ruffian Games! Since forming in 2008, Ruffian has become one of Scotland’s most exciting, independent computer game developers. Our highly experienced team have worked on some of the world’s largest AAA franchises…

About Us

Thrown in at the deep-ish end

Posted by on 27 Nov, 2015 in Fragmental

Day One

Fragmental is a big deal at Ruffian, the mentality here is very much “If we do it, we do it right”, and as such I was brought on board a little over a week ago as a Junior Programmer to help expand the code side of the prototype team. Now this is a really big deal for me, as not only is this my first job in the games industry but my first job ever, probably quite understandably I was a fair bit nervous, and not really sure what to expect. I’d been working towards getting into the games industry for some time, doing my degree in games technology at Abertay, and had heard about all kinds of games studios, from lackadaisical beanbag developers to cold, quiet corporate code factories. As it always is for these things, the reality is somewhere in between.

The office is pretty much as you’d expect, big black towers for development PCs, with dual screen setups common to a lot of work places these days, but you start to notice the differences pretty quickly. Every desk has a 360 gamepad hooked up, various games consoles are set up around the room for various purposes, and there are even a few unplugged arcade machines sitting just next to the staff kitchen. My tour around the office doesn’t take too long, I’m shown where my desk is – I have a desk! A fact that surprised me with how chuffed I felt about it – and taken around the office to be introduced to the various people working in the studio. An essential part of this tour included being shown where the snacks and drinks are kept, both of which are regularly stocked to facilitate smooth game development. While I did spend a fair chunk of my first day playing Fragmental with the team – nothing like some competitive multiplayer to get you started – Ruffian is still a business, we have team meetings, I have office hours to keep, company policy to read up on, but this is all necessary for running a successful studio and none of it bothers me.



Working at Ruffian

To the code! Sort of…

With introductions out of the way I was given my first task, Sudden Death. This was meant as a gentle introduction, no firm deadline, no direct supervision, just ask if I have questions, don’t break anything. All I needed to do was create a HUD element that would pop up after a certain amount of time, announcing Sudden Death had begun and then sweep crackling death walls in from the edges of the level, to force the players towards the centre and their ultimate demise. My background is mainly in using C++ to code and while UE4 does use C++ for development, I’d be starting off using Blueprint, UE4’s visual coding system in which the majority of Fragmental has been built. This led to a couple of awkward situations early on, where I was writing down how I’d implement something as if I were going to code it in C++, and then translating it into Blueprint – achieved with liberal use of both the Blueprint documentation and Google. With a few key questions to the right people and banging my head against the crossbeam weapon code until I understood it enough to use, I’d made a Deathbeam! It moved! It crackled! It didn’t actually kill anyone… oh.



Deathbeam Walls in action


Fortunately this was easily fixed with a big old invisible box of instant death, that made sure the players wouldn’t escape its effects even on the multi-tiered levels. Then just add in a quick tool to help the designers easily tweak it for each level and it’s time to nervously tell the Creative Director I was done. The response of “Fuck off! Really? We expected that to take you longer” was quite unexpected but very reassuring, getting the task done in a day was good news. Having finished my first task and not completely broken anything, I was soon given a list from the backlog to plug away at. More HUD elements to help track who was in the lead or on a kill streak, the ability to create a pulse effect at the player’s location so people could keep better track of themselves, and finally a nice little animation for weapon name tags, to announce when a player picked one up. That last one caused me a little more trouble than the others.



HUD Elements actually in use!

Breaking the game a little

Being young and a bit inexperienced, I had foolishly only tested the weapon pickup feature with Player 1, where admittedly it worked perfectly, things didn’t work quite so well for Players 2 to 4. I’d been brought along to the Games Are For Everyone event in Edinburgh to help show off the game, a fantastic night with some really interesting games on show alongside Fragmental. While watching people play though, I noticed that the weapon tags weren’t showing up for certain players sometimes, I thought this was strange and made a note of it, I also noticed that the pickup animations I’d put in weren’t playing for any of the players so I endeavoured to take a look at that the next day. After a little bit of experimentation, I found out that both issues were related and definitely my fault. Fortunately because they were my fault, I quickly removed the offending code, in Blueprint this is sometimes as simple as unhooking a couple of nodes, and started working on a fix. Apparently no one else had noticed the bug, but they seemed happy with my response of pull it out until it’s fixed. It didn’t take me too long to get it all working properly, and the fix was back in the build by the end of the next day.


Game Modes and Beyond

Next up I’ll be working on some new game modes for Fragmental, to build some extra choices on top of the current Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch modes. This is a little more involved than what I’ve done so far, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. If you’re one of the people planning to get your hands on Fragmental, you’ll almost certainly be playing them, that’s a pretty exciting thought for me atleast. So in my first week and a half I’ve made some things unexpectedly quickly, put some things in the game that didn’t break, broken the game a little bit but managed to fix it, and, I think most importantly, learned where the snacks are. This whole making video games for a living lark seems to be going pretty well.

Heads up, thumbs down

Posted by on 25 Nov, 2015 in Fragmental

It’s Complicated

HUD is a complicated subject in Fragmental. When you’re playing the game, your focus is either on your character or on your opponents, there’s a lot to take in and a split second distraction from the HUD, or a quick glance away from the action to check your weapon could be the difference between winning or losing. It’s a strange thing to be working on an area of the game that you actually pay very little attention to while playing the game. I think in general HUD should be pretty unintrusive, but it’s essential with Fragmental.

We held some playtests at the studio a few weeks back with some students from Abertay, and the feedback was invaluable. Some of the points raised we were aware of beforehand, but it’s always good to have things confirmed. In certain areas, like the HUD, the feedback was almost unanimous in picking out a few core issues, mainly with not knowing what weapon you were picking up and when you were out of ammo. Pretty important stuff in a game that’s all about the weapons.

The design of the weapons was covered in a previous post, but on top of the actual design of the weapon, we also decided to add ammo bars below the characters. This made it immediately obvious how much ammo you had, and when you were empty, all conveniently placed in an area where your focus was anyway. It also changed gameplay slightly but I think for the better. We were worried it might cause people to hang back a little, and it does provide stand-offs in certain situations when you’re cornered, and you only have a couple bullets left, but if anything it’s just added more variation to the gameplay. You’re still sometimes too focused on other things to notice, but more often than not one of the player’s who are dead and now simply spectating will shout ”Quick! He’s empty!!!” causing you to barrel in all guns blazing like Rambo, only to get hit right in the coupon with their weapon, which stuns your character and knocks their weapon out of their hand. Then all you can do is watch as your opponent picks up the weapon you just dropped and kills you with your own gun. Obviously this is an entirely hypothetical situation and has never, ever actually happened to me…

fight club


Check Your Corners? No Need

So it does it’s job and doesn’t take you out of the game for a second. This is really the cornerstone of any HUD we have. If it’s gameplay related then it really needs to centred around the characters, not off in the corners. We’ll have things like player names – we’re going for a 3 letter arcade throwback here – but these aren’t things you desperately need to know in the heat of battle. We also have the current weapon but this is as much for spectators as it is for players – it’s surprisingly fun to watch this game too, like seeing someone shoot the disc gun, only to have it ricochet three times and come back, and hit them square in the face. You rarely have time to glance at the corners, and you should ideally be able to pick out what weapon your opponents have by their silhouette, or perhaps the big electric beam of death that’s now headed your way!

Picking up Modifiers in game is something that currently needs work. At the moment it’s not always immediately obvious that a Modifier has been picked up and activated, and by the time you’ve realised it has, it’s probably too late. Some of them are relatively easy to identify as soon as they’re picked up; Shields give you a big glowing sphere around you, Motion Sickness rotates the map and Infinite ammo will change your ammo bar to show an infinity sign within it. These all have visual signifiers that tell you what modifier is active without having to look at some HUD at the top of the screen, but on top of that they are positive or fairly passive Modifiers, so they carry no immediate threat. I think we should give this visual treatment to all of the Modifiers. We have a Modifier which reduces friction between the characters and the floor, which creates a feeling of moving on ice, so maybe we should make the arenas look a bit frosty when this is active. Again, nobody looks at the HUD so the more we can do in the game world, the better.


Retro Futuristic Fonts



Fonts are another thing that’s been a bit of a challenge. Fragmental’s art style draws from a lot of retro futuristic 80s style artwork. We’re not entirely trying to emulate that era, but there’s a lot of cool reference that fits with our colourful, vibrant visuals and audio reactive backgrounds. There’s so much stuff, which has quite a simple futuristic font combined with rough brush script. Also, a lot of it is pretty chrometastic, so I thought this could be a good avenue to explore. I originally had a brush script font for the weapons, and while it looked cool, it just wasn’t readable at times. The HUD font choice has been through a fair few iterations, sometimes you think you’ve found the perfect font and one letter throws it completely off. It’s still a bit rough round the edges, but I think we’re on the right track.




At the moment I’m working on the end of round screens, I’d like them to loosely resemble bars on a graphic equalizer, where each bar represents one kill. Here’s one I made earlier! You’ll notice I let Dave win in the mockup…. I thought it was only fair seeing as I don’t usually let him have that chance when we play.