We hope you’re all enjoying the game, and to make sure you continue to have fun with it, we’ve just made Update 1 live on Steam.
Read below for some information on what we’ve added, what we’ve updated since we released the game last month.
The new content in Update 1 is focused on Weapons, Modifiers and some much needed UI and HUD improvements.
Fires a line of laser-like death that will bounce off any part of the environment it hits. It’s an instant shot, so there is no projectile to fly through the air towards the target. As soon as you fire the target you hit will be taken out.
There’s pretty much nowhere for your enemies to hide when you have the Sniper Rifle. The only thing it doesn’t do is fire through Teleporters, but we may add that ability in a future update.
100% Played For
Fires a burst of 5 bullets in a very short space of time, followed by a brief pause. Very little bullet spread, and the bullets fly faster than any other Weapon other than the instant Sniper Rifle.
What it lacks in fire rate, it makes up for in accuracy and bullet speed. So if your aim is good, even a target at the far end of a level is under serious risk of near instant death.
Lightning Fast Bullets
First Shot Counts
The Mine Launcher fires up to 8 Mines, which stick to the environment or the Character they hit. They are proximity Mines, but they don’t instantly explode when triggered, after a very short delay they eject a Homing Rocket which will track the target that triggered the Mine.
Placed Mines will automatically trigger after 6 seconds, and they will trigger for any Character, regardless who dropped them, so be careful you don’t drop them in your path.
The Perfect Trap
Taking The Bait
This drastically reduced the amount of friction on any floor surface, making it very difficult to control your heading. The faster you move, the more momentum you will build up, making it very difficult to slow your slide and come to a stop.
Triggering the Black Ice Modifier on Maps which have holes or cliff edges can create total havoc.
This Modifier inverts the player movement controls, but not their aiming controls. Sounds pretty straightforward, but it can throw off even the most skilled of Fragmental players.
Similar to Black Ice, triggering the Reverse Runner Modifier on Maps with holes and cliff edges can create a lot of suicide, but it will create confusion and potentially give you the edge on any Map.
We can’t really show the Modifiers in motion – which is why we don’t have videos to show them off in game – this is purely because they’re all about input and control changes, so you need to feel them rather than just see them to understand exactly what they’re doing.
New Modifier Messaging
After adding the two new Modifiers – which can seriously screw you up if you’re not paying attention – we realised that we would need to inform the Player when a Modifier was picked up. So, we’ve added some new messaging for Modifiers.
The intention is to give everyone a warning that a – potentially dangerous – Modifier has been triggered – like the Black Ice.
When a Modifier is picked up, the icon pings from the position it was picked up from and scales up to the extents of the screen. This practically smacks you in the face if you’re simply watching others play, but if you’re actually in the game and focused on your targets, it’s just enough to catch your eye and give you pause.
Just before a Modifier is deactivated an audio sample “Modifier Deactivated” is played, which gives Players the warning that the – once again potentially dangerous – Modifier is about to turn off – like the Reverse Runner.
We updated the End of Round and End of Match score boards.
We created new artwork which is more in keeping with the Front End artwork.
We slide the scoreboard and text panels on and off screen to add a bit of ceremony to each too.
New End of Round Transitions
When a Round ends, we fade in a background image which serves two purposes.
It allows the End of Round / End of Match scoreboards to stand out more from the Map in the background.
It allows us to swap out the Map in the background without feeling like a glitch – basically adding a bit of polish to the Map transitions.
We still have some work to do to hide Characters, Weapons and Modifiers from appearing and disappearing, which will be fixed in a future update.
New Lobby Functionality
Players can now define their name using a classic arcade style 3 letter name.
This 3 letter name is then used to represent each Player in each of the 4 corners during a Round, on the End of Round Scoreboard, as well as the Map intro ping to show where each Player is located.
We’re not going to list all of the bugs we’ve fixed or you’d have an even longer scroll to get through, but we will list all of gameplay tweaks that will make a difference to your game experience.
Increased fire rate to make it run out of ammo faster.
It had felt a little overpowered before, it’s still incredibly dangerous, but the speed your run out of ammo balances this initial danger..
Increased projectile speed to be closer to the Player at full Sprint Speed carrying a Pistol.
We wanted the Homing Launcher to be a little more dangerous if you simply tried to outrun the Rockets – and we’ve succeeded.
Projectiles increased in speed to be faster than the Flak Gun.
We felt the Shotgun was simply a poor version of the Flak Gun. It’s now got the edge over the Flak Gun in a straight fight, but loses that edge if line of sight is blocked. This feels like a good balance to us.
Increased ammo from 3 to 4.
Quite simply, we love this Weapon and wanted the Player to have one more shot with each one.
Slightly increased projectile speed to be closer to the Player at full Sprint Speed carrying a Pistol.
We wanted there to be a little more danger to a Player trying to outrun the Redeemer in a straight line. Job done.
Accuracy increased and projectile speed increased to be faster than the Machinegun.
We wanted to beef the Pistol up a little to ensure it’s a dangerous Weapon in the right hands. It’s definitely meeting that demand now.
The Melee code was rewritten to make it move under physics rather than animation driven movement. This helped in various different ways.
The momentum of the Player can now be retained when performing an attack while running or sprinting – this makes the combat feel less stop and start when using Melee.
The physical connection with your desired target is now far more consistent – you can still slide through each other if you’re too close, but if you have the correct distance apart, you will always hit your target now.
The rate at which you can perform a Melee attack has also been increased and made consistent.
Thrown Weapon Updates
Like Melee, Thrown Weapons were completely rewritten to make them work in the way we had originally intended.
They will now fly from one side of the level to the other at a constant speed and not land on the ground – before this update your Weapon would tend to land flat on the ground a few metres from where you were standing.
The Thrown Weapon can now fly over any half height walls, and hit a target behind them – before they would tend to actually hit the half height wall.
You can now use a Thrown Weapon to defend yourself from projectiles as they will collide and break apart, taking out the projectile in the process.
You can also shoot a Thrown Weapon out of the air to avoid it hitting you.
See Ya Dave!
Modifier Icon Updates
The Slow Motion Modifier icon has been changed to look less like the Camera Rotate Modifier icon.
DON’T LOOK DOWN
A fairly substantial update to the Map. The overall flow is the same, but the paths have been widened and the number of obstacles have been reduced, as well as making each of the corners a closer reflection of each other.
Improved Player and Weapon spawn positions, as some gave Players an unfair advantage, it’s a much better balance now.
The delay that was on the Infinite Ammo Modifier has now been removed.
Fixed a number of texture mapping issues on the walls and floors of the Maps.
Improved performance by optimising the materials we were using on the environment.
Player 1 used to be able to start a new game too quickly during the Match End scoreboard, which could cause some audio issue if the next Match was triggered too early, we’ve added a short delay to avoid that happening.
We’re still in Early Access so we will obviously still have a fair few issues, but the main one we want to point out right now is that the new pre-game Lobby can’t be navigated with mouse & keyboard, its controller only for now – rest assured that we will sort this out in a future update.
That’s quite a lot to take in, but if anyone has any questions about any of this, add them to the Steam Discussions board and we’ll do our best to get back to you as quickly as possible.
Right, that’s enough blethering about Update 1 – we need to get cracking on Update 2 now!
Thanks again to everyone who has bought and is continuing to play Fragmental. If you’ve yet to take the plunge, head over to the Steam page and see if it’s time for you to jump in.
Now that we’ve launched Fragmental on Early Access, the real hard work begins. Getting the game out of Early Access and into Final Release.
It’s fair to say that Steam Early Access has been somewhat tainted by some games that have never actually been completed and gone to Final Release. This leaves players who have been trusting enough to take the gamble and spend their money on these games, feeling understandably cheated.
In order for us to say that Fragmental is no longer an Early Access game, we need to add all of the rest of our planned features and content to have a final, fully functional and feature complete game. While the Early Access release of Fragmental shows the core game at a polished level, we still have a lot of content and important new additions that we need to add, and it’s going to be a lot of work.
Regardless of how much work it’s going to take, we have no intention of staying in Early Access for a lengthy period of time. We have a Roadmap that we’re working to that should see the game complete before the end of Q2 2016, and unless we’re hit by an avalanche of community feedback issues, we think we can make that happen.
Sharing is Caring
As you can likely tell from our previous blog posts, we’re big fans of letting the public know what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and when we’re doing it. So with all of that in mind, we’re going to share our Roadmap with everyone, so they can see what we’re currently working on, and what we have coming in the future, and hopefully from all of that we can get some feedback.
The Roadmap is intentionally high level. It lists only features, content or areas of polish that the will either be clearly apparent to the player, or something they can directly experience in the game. It doesn’t go down to the much larger set of low level tasks, that each individual on the team will need to complete in order for those individual features and content to make it into the final game. That’s where our project schedule comes in – and we’re not sharing that, because nobody should ever get to see behind the curtain – just ask the Wizard of Oz, he was never the same after that.
We decided to split the Roadmap into 8 future Updates, and our goal is to release a new Update every 2 or 3 weeks. We’ve tried to provide some form of theme to each Update, so that players get groups of features or content that compliment each other, and provide a kind of rhythm to the overall Roadmap. The actual deliverables for each Update might change from time to time based on community feedback or internal playtests, but we’ll try to stick to our original plan if it makes sense.
We’ve also just added a Roadmap Discussion to our Steam Page for everyone to add any Roadmap based comments they have, and we’ll do our best to keep on top of them all and answer any questions or respond to any suggestions as quickly as we can. If anything happens that means we need to alter the Roadmap we’ll make that clear on the Roadmap Discussion.
If you’re already a Fragmental fan and you would like to help us in any way, you can spread the word about the game and link to our Steam page. Even if you only have a few followers, every little bit of support helps us enormously. If any of you are already spreading the word, it’s hugely appreciated, and please keep it going.
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!
After nearly 7 months of development, the Fragmental team are ready to release our baby to the gaming public on Steam Early Access.
Pwoud, Vewwy Pwoud
Fragmental is probably the smallest project I have ever been involved in, but it’s also been the most enjoyable, rewarding and exciting thing I’ve ever worked on.
I know that people who are Lead Designers, Game Directors, Creative Directors and all those other leading roles are supposed to say good things about the games they make, but this is completely genuine. I absolutely love working with this team, and I can’t get enough of the game that we’ve made.
In my 20 years of game development, I’ve never had so much fun playing a game that I’ve been part of creating, and that gives me an enormous sense of pride in what we’ve made.
More to Come
So, our Early Access build is complete, and we all love the game as it stands, but that doesn’t mean we’re finished.
We still have a lot of content and features to add before we can say the game is complete. We’re already hard at work on our first update, and our goal is to release regular updates every 2 to 3 weeks.
We’ll be using our Steam page to keep everyone up to date on the progress of these updates, and we’ll provide more details about our current roadmap plans next Friday before release.
For today though, all we really want to do is share the release date with everyone.
If it’s good enough for Chuck, it’s good enough for us!
Just in case you missed it on the first image.
The release date for Fragmental on Steam Early Access is 29th February 2016.
Head over to the Fragmental Steam page now for more info, and add Fragmental to your Wish List – you won’t regret it!
It’s been 3 weeks since our last blog post, and you have every right to wonder why the hell we’ve been ignoring our blog post duties.
I agree, it’s practically unforgivable, but I promise you it will have been worth it, because we’ve spent all of that time playtesting the glowing, angular arse off Fragmental.
During that time we found a range of bugs, usability issues and aesthetic oddities, and we’ve been fixing as many of them as we possibly can before we finally release Fragmental on Steam Early Access.
Holy shit, just writing that down made my stomach flutter a wee bit there!
Playtest, Bug Fixing and Refinement
As I briefly mentioned in a previous blog post, we’re lucky enough to have the fantastic Abertay University just along the road from our studio, and it just so happens we know most of the lecturers on their Game Design & Production Management course. So they very kindly asked if anyone from the course would like to spend some time playing Fragmental for us, and then provide some feedback. The response was overwhelming, we had over 40 students come in to play the game over the course of 4 full afternoons, and we had to turn down more than double that number as we simply couldn’t handle that many people over the course of 4 days of planned playtesting.
Each afternoon, a different group of students played the game for a solid three and a half hours, constantly switching who was playing after each match. Their reaction to the game was great to see – even the fuckers who refuse to use their Right Stick to aim. Some of them were seeing the game for the second time, so it was really encouraging to hear that the usability and balance concerns they had experienced during their first playtest back in October, were all gone. For the students who were seeing Fragmental for the first time, it was every bit as gratifying to see them pick the game up and get right into the action with no explanation other than the controls of the game.
The last time the Abertay students gave us feedback, we spent the next 5 or 6 weeks of development, focused entirely on the most frequently reported usability and balance issues that they provided in their feedback. To say that their visit and the feedback that they supplied was useful, would be an enormous understatement. So, a massive thanks goes out to all of the students who came along and gave us their feedback.
This time around, their feedback was more directed towards requests for additional features that they might like to see, or minor subjective opinions that we’re not going to work on right now, but we will look into fixing if more players are of the same opinion. Basically there were no major issues with the game, which was a big difference to the previous playtest in October. Result!
All in all, we came out of that 4 days of playtesting feeling really positive about the current state of the build, as well as the work we had put in to solve all of the issues that they flagged after their first experience of playing the game.
We may not have revealed any new major issues during the playtest with the Abertay students, but over the past few months our two man QA team – Kev Black and Paul Conry – have been finding a lot of genuine bugs, and our team have been fixing them as fast as Kev and Paul could find them. Unfortunately as any dev knows, you can end up getting into a bit of a whack-a-mole situation where you end up fixing one bug which then leads to a new one being uncovered behind it. Rinse and bastard repeat.
We’ve been finding bugs and fixing them for the past 6 weeks or so, and we’re in a really good place with how the build looks and plays, it still has some rough edges, but it’s definitely ready for the gaming public to get their hands on the game through Steam’s Early Access.
During the bug fixing period, we were also adding a new Front End and replacing all of the placeholder in game HUD. We’ve gone through 3 or 4 iterations of these and we’re really happy with how it’s all turned out. We still have some more Front End work to do, to add more functionality to allow players to do things like enter their names, and customise their matches, but we think we’ve nailed a look and feel, and we think we’ve got the in game messaging working well for new players. The beauty of Early Access is that the people who buy and play the game, can tell us if we have got this stuff right, and if not, we will do everything we can to change things until we have.
We’ve also done final passes on the Maps as well as overhauling all of the audio and VFX in the game.
The game definitely looks, feels and sounds like a consistent and complete package now, which has been tricky due to our abstract style. Again, we think we’ve got the balance right, but only time and the feedback of the community will tell us if that’s true.
Are We Nearly There Yet?
“Pfff, yes of course we are, totally… well, kind of, we think so, christ on a wireframe bike we hope so!”
As I said, we think we’ve caught all of the major issues in the build, but without a huge amount of testers playing the build for thousands of hours, it’s hard to tell. So, while we’ve done everything we can to ensure that Fragmental is spot on, there’s always a chance that someone, somewhere will uncover something that we’ve simply not encountered. If that happens, we’ll get it fixed and updated as soon as we can. We plan to have regular updates every 2 or 3 weeks, so we’re quietly confident that we’ll be able to keep on top of any issues that the players discover.
Right now, we’re sending out Steam keys to a group of popular YouTubers who have very kindly agreed to spend some of their time, playing and broadcasting Fragmental for us on their channels. We’re hoping for some good reactions to the game, but you never can tell how people are going to take to the games you create and then release. Proper squeaky bum time.
From our point of view, we all love the game at Ruffian, it’s everything and more than what we had hoped it could be when we first started work on it last August. Fingers crossed the YouTubers agree.
We’ll share every Let’s Play video that is recorded when they’re made available to us.
Apologies, but we’re not going to post a dev focused blog today.
What’s that? “Fuckin boooooo” you say?
How very dare you! Take that back. Immediately. I’ll have you know we’re preparing something far better than a mere blog post. We’re getting ready to stream some live gameplay via Twitch for you all to see the game in action.
We’ve been testing out the setup for most of this afternoon, and it all seems to be working well. So, it’ll no doubt all go horribly wrong 2 minutes before we go live tomorrow.
When are we going to be streaming, and who will be at the end of the thumbs controlling our 4 colourful characters?
In descending order of pure unadulterated, you can’t teach this shit, Fragmental skills to pay the bills – I’m writing this, so I’m going right at the top, RIGHT!
Billy Thomson – Creative Director / Nitpicker – Fragmental callsign: “MrT”
Gary Whitton – Animator / Artist – Fragmental callsign: “WhitWisZat”
Alex Porter – Coder / New Boy – Fragmental callsign: “BlueprintBoy”
Steve Banks – Lead Designer / Audio Designer – Fragmental callsign: “BanjoBanksy”
Martin Livingston – Designer / Production – Fragmental callsign: “GrannyLivingston”
DISCLAIMER – This order will likely cause a major disagreement on the team, and could well lead to a 6 man brawl in the studio. So if any fingers or thumbs are broken during the scrap, the final list may end up being shorter tomorrow afternoon.
The Time and Place
We’ll have the session up and running from 3pm to around 3.30pm GMT on Tuesday 24th November. You can watch it live here – http://www.twitch.tv/ruffiangames
We hope you’ll pop over and watch us playing the game for a while – apologies in advance if you hear any sweary words. We’re a mix of Scottish and Irish on the Fragmental team, and try as we might, we’ve simply not got the best track record of being nice and polite, when we’re getting shot in the face with big guns…
Work In Progress
As you know, the game is on Greenlight right now and is very much a work in progress, but despite how rough around the edges some of the game is – mainly the visuals of some of the levels – we think it plays well enough to show people. So, we are putting our hands up and asking you not to judge the level of polish of the visuals, but we are pretty happy with the gameplay as it stands. It does everything we had hoped for when we first started work on the prototype a few months back.
Finally, if you haven’t given us a Yes vote on Steam Greenlight yet, click on the link at the top of the post and give us your support, we’d really appreciated it.
Around 5 weeks ago, we had got the game to a level where we wanted to show it off to some people to see if they actually liked what we had created.
Our plan was to organise a few playtests with some of the people who share the building we work in. For most companies this would likely just be a bunch of office workers who have little or no interest in video games. Thankfully for us, Dundee has a thriving game development community with many game development studios all working within a controller’s throw of our office. In fact there are 3 game developers in our building with another 3 directly across the road.
So, on one hand we had the benefit of having experienced developers and avid games players on our doorstep, but at the same time there’s a little trepidation about showing your game off to your peers rather than some random people from the general public. Game developers can be overly harsh at times, but we’re pretty thick skinned at Ruffian, so we thought “balls to it” let’s show them our game.
We were lucky enough to get access to one of the unused Units in our building, so we had this entire 5,000+ square foot space with just a single couch, table, pc and monitor setup on it. Our humble setup looked a little exposed in that big room, but it was a pretty accurate reflection of how we were all feeling at that time too. Showing off your game for the first time feels like you’re baring your soul – well it does if you still give a fuck about making good games anyway, and we all do at Ruffian. It’s a somewhat unsettling mix of nervous excitement, ball crushing pressure and bum clenching anxiety. Regardless of the trepidation you feel, it needs to be done.
So, we sent out an email to all of the company owners of the businesses in the building and asked them if they might like to pop along and try out our game at lunchtime. We did this over two days and we had a constant flow of people coming into play the game. We didn’t ask any questions during these playtests, we simply wanted to see what the reaction would be to the game.
We were really pleased – and even more relieved – to find that the feedback was almost unanimously positive. There were some clear messaging issues we had to deal with, and there were a few people who simply couldn’t get the hang of a twin stick shooter setup – having independent character movement on the left stick and weapon aiming on the right stick was simply a bridge too far for some people. The general reaction we got was good though, people liked the game, they wanted to play more and the issues that people had were already on our radar anyway, so there were no surprises. All in all a pretty good first test of the game.
During the same week we were invited to show the game off at a regular event that is held in Dundee called The Collective – funnily enough this is actually ran out of one of the other Units in our building. It’s basically a group of creative types from the games dev community , as well as digital media in and around Dundee, who get together to show off what they’ve been working on. They play some games, watch some movies and generally just hang out and talk about the industry we’re all working in, where they think it’s going, where it might be going wrong; it’s a really laid back group. So, we accepted the invite, as we wanted to get as many people looking at the game and giving as honest and open feedback as we could get.
After a demo from one of the guys there showing off a Kinect based prototype that he had put together, we were up. The room had around 15 people in it, so it was a fairly cosy affair. I stood up, spoke to everyone about what we were about to show, why we were making it and why we wanted to show it off that night. Then we stepped back and let people play. I knew a few of the guys in the room, I had worked with some of them and I had been the design mentor at Dare to be Digital for some of the others. So even though we had good feedback from the previous playtest, I was personally more nervous about this one that the last. Thankfully within the first few minutes the room was full of the sounds that go hand in hand with a game of Fragmental – gunfire, explosions, laughter and fuckloads of swearing!. Basically the game had gone down a storm.
There were another few demos from some of the other devs there, and when they were all complete, the people who had played Fragmental came over to talk and told me they had a great time with the game. Many of them actually suggested getting the game onto Steam right then as an early access game, but we wanted to do more work before we even considered getting on to Steam. So, again it was really positive feedback and it cemented our opinion within Ruffian that we were making something that was genuinely fun to play, and from what we had heard there was most certainly an audience out there for this kind of game.
We did a much larger test than this next, we have some great connections at Abertay University that had agreed to ask if any of their students on the game design course would like to try out the game. The response we got was amazing. So, the following week we had an entire week of full afternoon playtest sessions with 10 to 16 different students – depending on the day – for each afternoon session. I think I’ve blethered on enough at this point though, so ll leave that for another blog post on another day.
Yesterday was a pretty big day for us on the Fragmental team.
In one day we were planning to put our game up on Steam Greenlight, and also show the game off to the general public for the first time.
We had spent the past couple of weeks getting the build into a solid and consistent state, so that we could both capture good video for the Greenlight trailer, as well as ensure that people who played would have a great time with the game with no hand holding from us.
Yesterday morning, we still had some last minute tweaks to make to the build, and the trailer was still at the 1st pass stage. By lunchtime we had the build the way we wanted it, and it was now on my usb attached to my keys – that’s some scary shit there, having the entire contents of all of our work attached to my keys, technology is both amazing and extremely worrying at times like this. We had to rush out of the office to catch our train while the guys continued to work on the final touches of the trailer. By the time we had arrived at the Mash House in Edinburgh – which was the location of Vol 3.0 of the GamesAreForEveryone event – I received a text message telling me that the Greenlight page was up and live, and all we had to do now was to announce it.
Me and the guys were standing there under the bridge in Guthrie Street in the rain, waiting on Martin turning up with the pc. We were all huddled around my phone looking at Fragmental on the Steam Greenlight page. I understand that this was simply getting the game up on Greenlight, we still need to enough votes to actually get through, but just seeing the game on the Steam Greenlight page was amazing. We all stood there, dripping wet, grinning at each other like muppets. It was a genuinely fantastic feeling, the perfect boost to get us ready to show off the game. Then Martin arrived in the taxi and it was time to get setup.
The Mash House
We quickly got setup at our location, we were right next to the bar, and the first thing you saw when you came into the club, so we couldn’t have asked for a better place to be. We decided to have one game to test out the setup and make sure it was all good, and one game turned into five as it always seems to do with Fragmental. Pretty sure I won more games than the rest of the guys, but they’ll all have different stories to tell – I usually refer these as LIES. So, that was us all setup and ready to go, we just had some time to grab some food and then get back to show off the game.
When the doors first opened we instantly had a few people milling around, looking a bit lost, and a little apprehensive about being the first to play the game. So rather than trying to talk them into playing, we thought we would just kick a game off ourselves and let them see it in action. We played one game to the end, getting through it as fast as we could, and as soon as the game was done we had 4 people grabbing at the controllers to get on next. We then took them through the really simple set of controls and they were off.
Once the first group got on the game, a crowd started to develop behind them, people just standing there watching and waiting to get a game themselves. From that point on the game had a constant crowd of people and the atmosphere was fantastic. The reaction was everything we had hoped for. There was lots of shouting, pointing and laughing, squealing at instant kills that caught people off guard, exclamations of “what the fuck” when some of our more off the wall levels appeared, huge celebrations for winning tense rounds and even bigger celebrations for the people who won the entire match. It was great to stand back and watch the guys picking the game up easily and having the same kind of noisy fun that we do when we play in the office.
Of all the years of showing off games to the public, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a better reception. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I hate this ridiculously overused word, and it’s very rare that I ever have reason to use it, but the response honestly was AWESOME.
By the time we had to leave to catch our train home, we were all itching for a game ourselves. So four of us jumped on for one quick game before we had to go. As usual, one wasn’t enough. We had a look at our watch, we still had about 20 minutes to get to the train station, so we had another game. Honestly, this game is ridiculously moreish. So, we had the last game – which I totally won! – and then we really had to leave. That extra game cut our time to get the train so much that we then ended up looking like a scene from Trainspotting, because we had to run at full pelt, through the soaking wet cobblestoned streets of Edinburgh to get to the train station on time to catch the last train back to Dundee.
We managed to catch the train, and while we sat there grinning at each other, soaking wet and breathing heavy from the run, all I could think was “I won that last game”.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to Andrew Dyce who invited us to come along to GamesAreForEveryone, we had a great time showing off the game and we would love to do it again in the future.
I’m now finding it extremely difficult not to just sit and watch the stats of the Greenlight page, and hit F5 continuously to see how the game is doing. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever willed a percentage to increase as much in my life – not even when my pc decides to turns itself off and do another bastard Windows update, and that’s saying something!
It’s less than 24 hours since we actually put Fragmental up on Steam Greenlight, and the early signs are positive, but we’ve got a long, long way to go before we get through this stage, and we need your help to do that.
So, if you like the look of our game, it would be amazing if you could spend a few minutes to click on our Greenlight link, and give it a Yes vote, and even better, spread the word to any of your friends that you think would be into this kind of game too.
Today is the day that we put our beloved little game up on Steam’s Greenlight page for all of you lovely people to vote for.
I’m not going to lie to you, this is proper squeaky bum time for all of us at Ruffian.
The last few months have saw us take a fairly basic, high level idea and slowly but surely turn it into one of the best couch play games we’ve played in a long, long time. That’s not us blowing smoke up our own arses, we genuinely think that what we’re working on is fantastic fun to play. It’s stupidly fast, it takes a fair bit of skill to get really good at, you constantly need to alter your tactics based on the weapon you have, the environment around and the weapon your opponents have as well as the environment around them too. It’s got that “one more game” desire about it too, which is always really hard to get when making a game. Basically, we’re loving working on it and we’re loving playing it even more, and we hope you would also like to play it sometime in the near future – if you do vote YES!
So, now it all comes down to you. If you could find it in your game loving heart to click on the link below, take a look at our trailer and then if you like it, VOTE YES for Fragmental!
We’ll all be your best pals, and you’ll have our undying love for eternity, cross our little Ruffian hearts. x
So, we had agreed that the core gameplay in our prototype played well enough to warrant us continuing to develop the game. Our next task was to properly define the overall game design, or at the very least write a high level overview. It was time to get all creative and shit.
We had a really good idea of the mechanics and game modes that we wanted to create, but we had absolutely no idea what the setting of the game would be or how it would look. We then did all of the usual things you do when you’re designing a game, we asked a bunch of really high level questions.
Who is the player?
What is the player’s goal?
Why are they trying to achieve this goal?
What is the setting? Is the world realistic, fantasy, science fiction?
We then went round and round, coming up with different ideas that would answer all of these questions in interesting ways. It was very similar to the original pitch process, but this was just about the setting and the art style.
For a few weeks we had agreed to work on a setting that we thought might work – in hindsight I think we all must have went a bit mental, because it was a totally shit idea, but there you go.
The idea was that you were basically in Hell, all of the players were lost souls who were forced to go through eternity, fighting bloody, gory battles against each other. All for the entertainment of Satan himself. It was all starting to get a bit dark.
So, we spent a little while writing up an overview for this setting and we even did some character and environment work to support it, but by this point I think we had all come to our senses. One by one we had started to pick holes in it, until all that was left was a pile of tattered remains of the original shit idea. So, to sum up. The idea was shit and we needed a new one that wasn’t.
Please don’t ask about the “demon’s wee boaby”. Paul Large did it, I didn’t ask for it, and it’s not something I’m comfortable talking about.
Seriously, Paul? What’s with the Sheriff’s badge? Why? WHY?
This was easily the most difficult stage of the project to date, up to this point everything else that we had done seemed to just work. The core game was solid, we were still adding mechanics, weapons and levels to the game, and we were all still enjoying playing it, but without a setting and an art style we didn’t really have a game. One of my workmates has often described game development as being akin to herding cats. It’s really, really tricky.
We decided to go back to the start again, and look at the questions we had originally asked ourselves. The only difference this time was that we focused more on the playable prototype we had, the game we wanted to make, the type of experience we wanted the player to have. This altered our opinion on the importance of the questions we had asked. After all, the game we wanted to make had no real need for a story, or for a strong central character for the player to project themselves on to, and the goal of the game was really simple. We went back and looked at our questions again with all of this in mind, and it made our decision on the setting and art style a lot easier to define.
Who is the player?
*** There’s no story here, so as long as the characters look good and stand apart from each other, it’s not a major issue. The weapons tend to be the real characters in this game.
What is the player’s goal?
*** To kill their opponents before they kill them, get to 20 Frags, and ultimately win, and then rub it their loser opponent’s faces.
Why are they trying to achieve this goal?
*** Because they totally love winning and absolutely hate losing.
What is the setting? Is the world realistic, fantasy, science fiction?
*** Defining a specific setting isn’t that important, it’s more about solid level design than it is about the setting. Realism is causing readability issues at our camera distance, none of us are big fantasy fans, and science fiction feels overdone in the shooter genre. Essentially we need a look that is visually striking and retains the readability we need.
At this point we had decided to go for a more abstract setting and art style, we simply wanted something that would avoid clutter, ensure that the players, weapons, modifiers and levels were as clear as we could possibly make them, and that the game had a visually striking look that would draw the eye, and entice the viewer into taking the time to take a closer look.
This was a very similar stage to where we were after we had agreed on the type of game we wanted to make. Now we knew what our setting and art style had to deliver, we just needed to gather some reference material for different options, then do some tests for each of them to see if we could find one that delivered in each of these areas.
The decision to go with a more abstract setting, made it relatively straightforward to write up the high level overview of the game. However, defining the art style took a bit more time, which we’ll cover in our next post.