Now that we had an idea of the type of game we wanted to make, we just had to choose an engine and get cracking.
We very quickly decided on UE4 as our engine of choice, and Barry got to work pulling a rough 1st playable prototype together. After about 3 or 4 days of banging the 1 and 0 bongos like a legend, he had something that we could all play.
The 1st playable was fairly basic, but it had everything we needed to give our intended core gameplay a whirl. It had a few bullet based weapons; pistol, shotgun and assault rifle. It was 4 player on the same screen. It had a first pass level built by Dave. It used some default models, animations and audio effects from some of the existing UE4 projects. It had weapon pickups and most importantly, it had the full set of controls for movement, aiming, shooting and of course dying.
It was a pretty nervous time for us as a team, we had all been speaking about this great little game that we were going to make, but now we were at the point where there was no more need to talk about what it might play like. We could actually play it and see if we were right. This was where we would need to make a decision. Do we keep working on this or do we bin it and go back to the start with something new.
At this point we weren’t sure of the format we would use for the game modes, all we knew was that we wanted fast fire rounds. So, there was no real need to attempt to role play a planned game mode. We sat down and came up with a highly complicated and thoroughly well thought out playtest plan. We were going to basically run around the level, pick up weapons, and try to kill each other – you can’t teach this shit you know. So, it was time to load up the game, grab a gun, and shoot some guys in the chops!
We played the game for a little over an hour, swapping players in and out, and staying focused on our well defined playtest plan.
Hallefuckinlujah, even in this incredibly basic form, it was a lot of fun!
So, it seemed like we might be onto something. We were over the first hurdle. Over the next week or so, we came up with some more weapon ideas, added some more test levels and we implemented a basic game mode that would allow someone – never ever Steve, like NEVER – to actually win a game after scoring a certain number of kills.
The more weapons and levels that we added, the more fun we were having playing the game. The games were starting to get really competitive, the controls were tight, the weapons were dangerous, the rounds were fast, and the gameplay was frantic and fun. We were making some great progress. The only problem was, we couldn’t keep playing in a big pale blue box. We needed to come up with a setting and a visual style for the game.
It’s always the same in game development, you rarely get to stand atop the mountain you just managed to climb. There’s no time to take in the view and appreciate what you’ve just accomplished, because just as you go to pat yourself on the back, you notice another higher bastard mountain just off in the distance, and then you’re off again. So, we took a very brief moment to bask in our gameplay glory, then we were off to get ready to climb up Setting and Style Mountain.
This is the first post on our Fragmental blog. So it makes sense to cast our minds back to when we started this new direction for us at Ruffian.
A few months ago, we made the decision to put a small multi-discipline team to work on making prototypes, with the goal of creating something that could turn into Ruffian’s first original IP.
The team was made up of a group of designers, artists, animators and coders, so with some outsourcing later on in the project, we knew we could cover everything we would need to do in order to make a full game.
The big question was, what were we actually going to make?
Rather than have myself and Gaz dictating what the team would work on, we decided to get the entire team involved. So we asked everyone to spend a few days thinking about ideas that they would like to pitch.
We kept the entire process very relaxed, there was no specific format for pitches, you could do a full powerpoint presentation, you could write a doc, bring reference images or videos, or simply come in with the idea in your head. It was entirely up to the person who was doing the pitch. All we asked is that everyone on the team came with at least one idea to pitch.
When we had enough pitches ready to talk about, we got everyone into the meeting room and went round the table. Everyone took turns pitching their ideas for a maximum of 10 minutes per pitch, while the rest of the team listened then asked questions afterwards.
Pitching ideas can be really daunting for some people, but we’re a pretty laid back company, people take the piss out of each other all the time in the office, so nobody felt too nervous about throwing their ideas out there. I’ll not lie, some of them got ripped to shreds, mine included – some people don’t know diamond encrusted bullet to the brain genius when they see it, muppets! – some of them seemed to have merit but also had some glaring holes that would need addressed, and some seemed like genuinely good ideas.
We had an incredibly simple system to decide which ideas we should take to the next stage. We just voted on each one, every team member got a vote – you couldn’t vote for your own pitch though, I tried that – and anything that got more Yes votes than No votes went on our Yes board. Anything that felt like it had merit, but didn’t make the Yes board due to having too many holes, went on our Maybe board, and all of the rest went right in the bin – I’m telling you, The Incredible Shrinking Man game would have been proper bo!
We went through this process 3 times. Where we added more detail to any of the ideas on the Yes board, tried to fill the holes in the ones on the Maybe board, and came up with more ideas to pitch.
In our final meeting, we had 3 different games on our Yes board, we still had a bunch on the Maybe board that just weren’t there yet, and our bin was overflowing with the broken dreams of our entire team.
Even though we had three on our Yes board, one of them felt like it was too big a game for the size of the team we had, one of them felt like it could maybe be too simple for our first release, and the other felt like it was a genre that was possibly a little too far from the skill set and experience of our team. So, three good ideas, but none of them were a great fit for our team.
In the end, the game idea that we decided to go with, came from a pitch that the team initially threw in the bin. The idea was to create a new Powerstone game. 4 players running around beating each other up. Like I said, nobody liked it, but it kick started the conversation that led to us finally agreeing on what we should try first.
We spoke about our nostalgic experiences of couch play games, going back to the SNES, N64 and Playstation. How we all loved those nights where you and a bunch of your mates had a few beers and spent the night playing 4 player, single screen games. So we liked the idea of making a game that had that gameplay experience, but a Powerstone clone didn’t feel right. We then shifted genre and talked about how we all enjoyed Hotline Miami, the simple controls, the one shot kills, the speed of play, the frequency of the kills, the top down view, and all of these things seemed like they would work as a fast paced single screen, competitive shooter.
We weren’t quite at the point where we knew everything about what we wanted to make, we made a good few mistakes and had to change direction a couple of times to get where we are now, but we at least had an agreement on the type of game we wanted to make. What we had to do next, was create a working prototype to see if what we were all imagining would actually work in practice.
We’ve been quiet at Ruffian for a while, we’ve had our heads down working on projects for our publishing partners, which is fantastic, we wouldn’t be here without them. The thing is, we still want to create our own games. There’s nothing better than being able to make instant decisions that could change the course of your game, because it’s your game, nobody else’s. That’s an incredibly empowering position to be in and we want you, the people out there, to play a part in a new game from its inception.
As some of you may remember, this isn’t our first rodeo. We had a go with Game of Glens a while back, but it didn’t really take off, and that’s something we’re still a little sad about, but it hasn’t killed our desire to create something new at Ruffian. We are all massive games players, and while some of us have been making games for 20 years now, we still have that unrelenting hunger to make a game that people love, and will remember fondly for the rest of their lives. That’s a big ask of any team, but if you don’t aim high then you might as well stop making games.
With all of this in mind, we recently created a new team at Ruffian, their sole purpose is to create gameplay prototypes that will be assessed by us and by you, until we find one that we believe in enough to take to full production and release. The first Ruffian owned IP released into the wild. Close your eyes… can you see it? I can, and it looks proper fuckin bo to me!
We already have a small team of experienced and creative guys working away on our first prototype, but we would really like to add some code support to that team. So, we’re looking for any talented coders out there to join us. We’re happy to hear from veterans of the industry as well as experienced devs and graduates too. If you’re interested take a look at our Careers page.
As I said, we are already working on our first prototype, and we will be dedicating this page to giving you a regular inside view of our team’s progress. We’ll share the lot with you, warts and all. You’ll get to see us fail – hopefully not that often – and with your input, you can help us shape the game through organised playtests and rounds of feedback.
Keep an eye on our Twitter account, Facebook page and YouTube channel, as we’ll be using them to share updates on the prototype teams’ progress. Taking you through our first steps of the design process, into development of the prototype, internal playtest sessions, and our continued progress on the prototype.
Thanks for taking the time to read through all of this, and we’ll have some news for you soon.