This is our last weekly blog post before Fragmental is released to the public on Steam Early Access on Monday 29th February.
So, I thought it would be good for today’s blog to have everyone on the team tell you what their role was, what they contributed to the game, what their experience of working on the project was and what their hopes are for our baby after we release it out into the wild.
I’ll kick things off then let the guys say their bit.
Billy Thomson – Creative Director
My main role is to provide overall direction to the team on any creative content that we add. Game Design, UI Design, Level Design, Art, Audio and Marketing Materials. It sounds like a lot, but as you’ll read below, it’s the team that does all the real hard work. Most of the time I provide initial direction then simply review the work that’s carried out by the team until we’re happy to sign off and say the task is complete.
I also created a few of the Maps in the game – Dave, very kindly and affectionately shouts “dogshit” whenever one of them appear during a game. I defined the Weapon and Modifier Rule Sets, and tweaked the setup for player movement and a bunch of the weapons.
Other than that I’ve handled the social media side of the project, annoying everyone with constant Facebook and Twitter updates and blog posts. You’re welcome by the way…
Ultimately though, my main job is really just to keep the team heading in the same direction at all times. This is normally a ridiculously difficulty task on a game project, but this fantastic team have made it very easy for me on this one. I have to say it’s been my genuine pleasure to work with them on Fragmental, the project that has been a dream to work on and the game is the most fun of any I’ve helped create in 20 years of game development.
I’m tearing up a bit now, so I’ll pass the keyboard and let the team take over.
James Cope – Producer
I came onto the project once the core game was demonstrable in prototype form. My main role has been to help steer the game from prototype to releasable product, essentially helping to make sure that we had a development schedule where we could prioritise features for the game’s release on Steam Early Access. Now that we’ve got to that point of release, it’s both a jubilant moment and a sad one as I have to focus my efforts on something else and watch Fragmental sail away on its successful voyage.
I love twin-stick shooters – I hold Robotron up as one of the very best games ever made – so Fragmental is right up my street in gameplay. I also love couchplay games like Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers so Fragmental’s combination of twin stick shooter and fun, social, couch gaming is something I’m very excited by. It’s been absolutely fantastic to see Fragmental develop from a rough (and quite different) prototype into what it is now. It’s one of the most fun games I’ve been able to work on, and certainly the most fun to play. Running and gunning will always be great fun for me but Fragmental’s fast, frantic and competitive arena style combat adds an additional layer of skill and reward that I love.
Unfortunately I am genuinely terrible at playing the game, I have probably thrown away a lead in a game more than anyone else so far. My biggest regret in the project has been not beating Steve more often.
Duncan Harrison – Technical Director
What with Dunc being our Technical Director, it’s not entirely surprising that he was too busy working on another project to write anything for this today, so I – Billy – very kindly said I would cover for him. I can bang the 1 and 0 bongos as well as the rest of them, so why not, what’s the worst that could happen, eh?
Dunc has pretty much taken our entire prototype game – which was almost entirely created using Blueprints – and pulled it all back into code, so that we can get the networked game to, well, actually work. He’s had has hands on most of the team’s assets at some point – thankfully he has warm, caring hands – and he has been quite fond of phrases like “that’s totally fuckin boned and needs entirely re-written”, “that blueprint that you’ve written is all kinds of fucked, Martin”, and my personal favourite morning update “well it was all totally fucked, so I had to un-fuck it all”.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you our Technical Director, Dunc. Undisputed Master of the 1 and 0 Bongos.
Graham Hughes – Systems Engineer
I’m the latest addition to the team and it’s been pretty awesome working here. Everybody has a good work ethic and people are always looking for ways to make the game better.
Most of my work so far has been to add animations, fix weapons, and add melee to the game. I’ve put quite a lot of time into making weapons a lot more flexible; so you can probably expect some stupid shit pretty soon.
My job in a more general sense is to work on new gameplay features. I’m currently working on AI, which will hopefully make the game a little more fun for billy no mates. Which is good, because billy’s basically my boss.
But for now they aren’t so much AI as merciless killing machines. (Until they run out of ammo, when they become about as threatening as a litter of kittens.)
Simon Kilroy – Game & UI Engineer
It’s always fun being asked to write about the stuff you worked on as a project nears completion. You’d think after spending months on a title it’d be easy to remember things but one of the cooler aspects of working on a smaller scale project like Fragmental is that you get to touch on a whole bunch of different systems. This is where Perforce changelist descriptions are *really* helpful.
So, as the title of my role suggests, I concentrated mainly on gameplay and UI systems during the project. In the weapons systems I built upon the original designs to add throwing weapons, fragmentation, spawning and pickup systems as well as the force feedback setup when firing. On the player side, I worked on improving sprinting, aiming and how they handled travelling through teleporters. Player shields needed a pretty massive rewrite after their initial VFX-only addition. Note to self, I can see why most games go with an over-shield type implementation…
Environment wise, the destructible balls that can ruin a perfectly good kill streak? Yep, fixed those up. The doors which can either save you from death or cause your perfectly lined up Flak shot to rebound into your face went in on my watch too, sorry. Then there was more general tasks like code support for art and design and an engine upgrade done along the way too which went far better than I expected, cheers for that Epic.
Finally there was the slightly less glamorous yet still super important UI and Frontend work. That ranged from communicating player death/kill info on the HUD to setting up the Lobby and Options screens in the Frontend as well as the save system used to store all that info. I’ll leave it to you to decide what I had more fun working on
Alex Porter – Game & UI Engineer
As a gameplay and UI engineer, as well as being a newer member of the team, I tend to work on a little bit of everything, minus some scarier systems work which I try not to think about too much. I work with the various artists and designers providing code support on everything from levels to weapons to the multitude of elements that make up the in-game HUD. Importantly I built the kill log displayed at the end of rounds which goes a long way to answering the previously impossible questions of who killed who with what in what order, despite this being a perfectly functional system “bullshit” is still called on numerous occasions by those feeling unfairly deprived of frags.
One of the upsides to working on a smaller team is that I’ve been able to have a hand in areas other than programming. I’ve designed a level which was then built by Dave, created several odd weapon prototypes which may never see the light of day, been involved with various discussions on game modes, level layouts, melee controls and more I’m probably forgetting. For someone with a healthy interest in design it’s great to be involved in that side of development and certainly not something I was expecting for my first project as a professional developer.
I am also currently the Fragmental office champion, holder of the prestigious cans-taped-to-a-box trophy presented at the end of our first live-streamed tournament, much to the displeasure of one Billy “Not bitter in the slightest” Thomson, the Fragmental tournament runner up.
Bert McDowell – UI Engineer
I have been helping out on the project try to sort out the UI by coping large amount of code from the unreal engine and bashing my head against the keyboard until it works.
In all seriousness I am an experienced developer with years of experience under my belt. Its been a fun project to work on and the office has been really lively when ever Fragmental is played. Some day I’ll get more than 3 kills. 😉
Steve Banks – Lead Designer / Noise Maker
My role concerns all things design. Creating prototype maps, polishing maps to a shippable level, blueprints and discussing overall game design. We have a great design team on Fragmental and everyone was given creative freedom to create anything their imagination dreamed up. The end result was a set of varied, but really creative maps that were fun to make and great fun to play. Some great Level Design has really lifted the fun factor in the game and they have stood up against some intensive playtesting over the duration of the project. We still enjoy playing them now and hope you will too.
My sub role on Fragmental was making noises. Not the sweary kind when playing (although I’m pretty good at that) but Game Audio. I created all of the SFX for the game and also the Front End music track. There are a lot of weapons in the game so it was quite a challenge to get them sounding varied and good. I’m also pretty happy with how the voice over sounds considering it’s all synthesised. We have some great music tracks written by Sung and hopefully I’ve added to the aural experience.
Dave Hoare – Designer / Level Designer / Tea Lady!
My main role with Fragmental was to create the Battle Arenas for the game (Maps basically but Battle Arenas just sounds cooler). I’ve created more than half the Maps in the game so far, which makes it fun when you’ve to go back and clean them all up for final release!
It’s great fun working on Fragmemtal, the team are some of the nicest and most talented guys I’ve worked with, and we’ve put a lot of love into making this game.
The game has turned out to be a really fun couch play experience, and hopefully the gamers will get the same enjoyment from playing it as we have had creating it.
Martin Livingston – Level Designer / Assistant Producer
Like most of the guys on the team, I have a few roles I fill depending on what needs done at any given time.
Most of my time has been spent on map creation, specifically a lot of the survival maps. We’ve been given *almost* free reign to go ahead and create whatever weirdness comes into our heads, and I like to think my brand of weirdness is touched with genius. Billy would probably say its madness. The coders would certainly say it’s just plain broken as I have an eerie ability to make a level work, while somehow breaking the laws of physics. For that reason as lot of my levels will appear in future updates after the initial Early Access launch, as there may be a tiny bit of work needed to ensure they don’t break the game, or create a wormhole and end the universe. That kind of thing can happen when you fuck with physics.
On the production front, I’ve spent quite a bit of time opening communication channels with a view to marketing Fragmental. We’re self publishing, so mutually beneficial arrangements such as supplying YouTubers and Twitch streamers with Steam codes has been one of my main tasks. Obviously there is some risk there as once the code is sent, its completely out of our hands, and if they hate it then they’ll make that patently obvious in their channel, but so far it’s looking really positive.
Going forward I’ll be taking on a more production focussed role as we take the game from Early Access to Full Release through a number of regular updates.
Finally, and for me the most enjoyable part of the job, I’ve tried to make it to as many of the public showings of Fragmental as possible. Seeing people’s reactions to the game is the ultimate validation of the entire team’s efforts, and it’s a credit to the guys that there has not been a single bad response yet!
Anyone who’s read my previous blog posts will know I tend to veer off topic wildly, and go a bit Leftfield. This post has gone the opposite way, so I’m going to shut up now before it gets to dull.
Richard Ralfe – UI Designer
There’s a saying that if you have to explain how your UI design and flow works, then your UI design doesn’t work or flow.
Whilst the Early Access version is as streamlined, punchy and fun as we can make it, there’s a helluva lot of wonderful customisation, great new content and loads of other features in the pipeline to keep Fragmental fans happy for (hopefully), a long time.
All of that has required a significant amount of design (and redesign) to make it work and give players control over how they play Fragmental – to ultimately make it their game, not ours. The best is yet to come…
Gary Whitton – Animator / UI Artist/ Marketing Monkey
My main role at Ruffian is usually an animator but it’s been a bit of a mixed bag on Fragmental; also being responsible for the majority of the UI artwork. There’s still a good way to go with this yet but it’s definitely moving in the right direction.
I’ve created most of the promotional art that Billy and myself have been spamming the shit out of on social media. It’s a pretty easy task when you’ve got cool characters to work with though (courtesy of Paul Large).
I worked with Tom on the weapon designs, which I covered in an earlier blog post, and created the models for the powerups. I also came up with the “Fragmental” name which is pretty cool. I do love a good pun though.
It’s been an absolute blast working on this game (told you) and for the most part it hasn’t really felt like work. I know you’re probably not supposed to say this sort of thing but it’s a fucking great game. It is without a doubt the best thing I’ve worked on.
It’s a bit nerve-wracking releasing this into the wild but I think we’ve created something which we all love and that’s just about the best you can do. I’m excited for people to play it and hopefully we can take it from strength to strength through early access with some good old community feedback!
Neil Macnaughton – Technical Animator / Technical Artist / One Man Band
Neil’s in the same boat as Dunc is today, busy with another project, so again I – Billy – will try to summarise his role on the project.
He’s traditionally an animator, but over the past few years, he’s turned into a bit of a one-man-game-making-band. On Fragmental, he’s created complicated environment materials in blueprint, setup our entire lighting and post pass, created the rig for our character and skinned the model for animation, created weapon models, created all of our VFX, re-written some insane designer created level blueprints, written the material for our ammo HUD, setup and created a lot of the content for our animated in game level background, created the Power Gloves from scratch, created the materials for our death spheres, and he’s even done a few animations – told you he was an animator!
Kev Black – Lead Test Engineer
Hello! My role in the Fragmental development process is to outline our testing procedures and schedule running from our first playable build to the release of our Early Access version – which is now available – and beyond!
Our internal two man QA team is responsible for ensuring the final product is bug free and working correctly, hitting all of our Early Access features, in one build and every facet and mechanic of the game is works correctly and as intended.
As we progress through development of the game, we are continually testing new features that the rest of the development team are working on, and ensuring that they’re issue free before merging the new content over to our Early Access branch.
So, as Fragmental progresses through the Early Access phase of development – heading towards full release, the internal QA team are working with new experimental features, providing design feedback and methodically documenting and testing every individual feature before it’s ultimately made available to the public to enjoy.
Paul Conry – Senior Test Engineer
The most important part of my role on the project is to ensure that all bugs (as humanly possible) in the game are found, reproduced, submitted, and ideally resolved, regressed, verified and closed. That in turn leaves us with an end product which is a known quantity, which is stable and one which we have an awareness of the vast majority of pertinent bugs that remain; thus feeling good about releasing it into the hands of the gaming public and press. I work directly with all members of the team from the Studio Head to the Producer and occasionally to the public and press at events.
A certain part of being in Test is suggesting improvements and changes in the design of the game, and several of mine have been implemented into the game itself. I named several of the levels, such as ‘RAT RACE’ and ‘PINBALLS’ and my suggestions on level design have helped shaped the levels we play.
In Test, we arguably play the game more than anyone else and notice subtle changes and issues with the game. We pride ourselves in ensuring all these issue are reported and argue our case to have as many of them fixed as we can. I’ve been told I’m very passionate and tenaciously debate a bug be fixed if I think it warrants it. I’ve been called a ‘Legend’ and also a ‘Grammar Nazi’ during development, as well as a ‘Ratweasel’ during playtesting; but that just proves we’re doing our job right!
Well done for getting to the bottom of that absolute monster post!
Fragmental is out this Monday – 29th February – head over to the Steam page and add it to your Wish list!