Fragmental @ Dee Con

Posted by on 14 Apr, 2016 in Fragmental

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So last Saturday we took Fragmental on the road again, all the way up to Dundee University Students Union to attend Dee Con 2016 (basically it’s about a 5 minute walk from our office).

It was great to get a chance to see people play Fragmental and get some feedback on their first experiences with it.

It didn’t take long before we had an epic 4 player Deathmatch from the cast of cosplayers walking around the event. Watching Mario vs Waluigi vs Fallout’s Vault Boy vs someone’s Dad is the perfect scenario for some Fragmental madness.

Once they got to grips with the controls they were killing themselves in no time!

Then once they stopped killing themselves,  discovered what each weapon does, they started to really enjoy it (even killing yourself in Fragmental can be fun… well for those watching at least!)

We were setup in the Liar bar in Dundee Union, in among the best of the best multiplayer fighting games around today. Street Fighter 5 and Super Smash Bros for the WiiU took centre stage as we shared the area with the Dundee Gaming Society guys.

They had various competitions running throughout the day which meant that when folk were waiting to compete they could check out our little indie title. We essentially became the “Fluffer” for the fighting games, which was fine by us.

Throughout the day we got a great mix of people playing Fragmental, and sharing their thoughts on the game.

One person asked “Is this another Early Access Game?” to which I quickly jumped in to defend the notion an Early Access game is a bad thing, knowing only too well how the word “Early Access” has been tarnished over the last few years.

It’s a shame that this is the case; I’ve played tons of Early Access games that can stand right up next to their AAA counterparts.

Games like Darkest Dungeon, The Long Dark, Nidhogg, The Culling, Gang Beasts and of course Fragmental. The label “Early Access” shouldn’t be considered a negative thing, some of these developers are creating some amazing gaming experiences.

Although I do share in some of his complaints. I’ve played some games that have been in Early Access forever, feeling like they’ve never evolved… I’m looking at you DayZ!

So I had a Reggie Fils-Aime moment and told him to “Play the Game”, so he did and… he enjoyed it.

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Reggie loves Fragmental

Overall Dee Con was a great chance for us Ruffians to showcase what we’ve been working on and how much fun Fragmental is, if you haven’t already bought the game then (you’re dead to me) you should.

We’ve got Update 2 coming in the next couple of weeks containing 16 new maps (13 Deathmatch and 3 Survival), Team Deathmatch and Game Setup options allowing players to change the number of Frags per game. We’ll be continuing to update the game with extra Maps, Game Modes, AI and Online play coming in future updates.

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Get Fragmental here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/424040/

 

Fragmental at Birmingham Comic Con

Posted by on 25 Mar, 2016 in Fragmental

Last weekend we ventured south to Comic Con in Birmingham to show off our Early Access build of Fragmental.

 

The Journey

The last thing we wanted was for anything to go wrong, so we had decided to drive down the day before Comic Con, and we went with a belt and braces approach for our sat nav needs.

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It took us a mere 7 hours to drive there, all the while listening to a mix of indie tunes and the amazing Emotion FM soundtrack from GTA Vice City (it’s a guilty pleasure!). We didn’t get lost, so doubling up on the sat nav did the trick.

 

Setting Up at the Event

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On Saturday morning we headed to the Birmingham NEC to set up around 7:30 with the doors opening at 9 for the public. We got there nice and early with plenty of time to spare, the entire place was still being set up when we arrived.

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Billy had packed everything going through his checklist, so when we unpacked, everything was there as expected.

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PC – check, TV – check, Mouse & Keyboard – check, Controllers – check, Power and Cables – check, Promo Banners & Cards – check, Control Mapping Images – check, Batteries – check, Screwdriver – check, Black Tablecloth – check… Time to get set up.

Sorted, all setup, all we had to do was load the game and we were good to go. The game launched through Steam, everything was running as expected, we turned on the controllers and everything was working as expec… that’s odd, why is the light still flashing on the controller? Why are they not connecting to the PC? Why has Billy’s face started to change colour? He’s going white, hold on, the colour’s coming back, he’s fine… actually the colour’s not stopping, why has he gone all red and mental looking?

“Oh FUCKSAKE…” We’ll stop the commentary right there because he went to a pretty dark place for a wee while, he did show some serious swearing skills though, clearly worked on his technique for years.

So, Billy’s checklist had actually missed one thing – the little black wireless adapter that plugs into the back of the PC and connects the 4 Xbox One controllers to the PC. No Adapter. No Fragmental! Billy’s a Fanny!

OK no problem, we can handle this, we’re game developers, we solve problems every day. Surely there must be somewhere close that we can buy an adapter from. A quick look on Google Maps showed a Dixons store nearby, 20 minute walk in fact. Saaweeeet!

So what’s the plan?

We can get someone (Billy – because it’s all his stupid fault) to head over to Dixons, find the console section, buy the adapter, get back to the event, hook up the adapter, connect up the controllers, load Fragmental and boom, fun ensues.

Unfortunately things rarley go according to plan. Billy found himself stranded along the back of the NEC with a train track blocking the route that Google Maps had told him was fine. The bridge over and the underpass under the tracks were both blocked by padlocked gates! I would love to see a security camera catching Billy’s animated reaction to both padlocked gates – that would have been funny to watch. This wasn’t Billy’s day at all.

Luckily, Bert’s fantastic girlfriend Cali, was coming along to see him and she had picked up the adapter we needed and was on her way. I don’t think I’ve ever saw Billy looked so relieved. Cali – you’re a star! :)

We later found out that the Dixons we were attempting to get to was in fact situated in the departure lounge of Birmingham Airport. Probably just as well Billy didn’t get there, we didn’t need our Creative Director getting arrested for attempting to fight through airport security to get to Dixons.

 

The Reaction

So, we got Fragmental up and running and before long the place was packed, and we had a constant stream of people playing and enjoying the game.

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All different characters went head to head, from Deadpool to Scooby Doo, to Portal’s Chell to Rey from Star Wars. It was great to see.

We were getting a real range of people playing; young kids and their parents, groups of teenagers, people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, guys and girls. The reaction was fantastic, they all loved the game and wanted to know when it was available and on what platform.

A lot of people are asking for a console version of the game, and we would love to get it on Xbox One and PS4, but our focus for the time being is PC.

Another thing we noticed was a lot of younger kids ranging from around 7 to 15 really enjoyed the game, they picked it up very quickly and before long they were giving us a few lessons. We didn’t expect kids so young to be able to play the game so well, so that was a really surprising and enjoyable thing to watch and realise.

On top of all of that, we also got quite a lot of valuable feedback and ideas for various Maps, Weapons and Game Modes. One idea that really got us thinking was to allow the environment to play against the players, so the environment could be added to a game as a 5th player, and would get a frag for every player that suicides. House wins!

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Me showing them how it’s done.

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Folk enjoying Fragmental

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Billy vs. Dadpool

 

Back on the Road

So, we had a great time at Comic Con and the people who played Fragmental seemed to love the game, but it was time to say bye to Birmingham and get back on the road up to Dundee. We’ve got a game to finish!

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We’re continuing work on updating Fragmental, and we just released our first Update for the game on Steam yesterday. You can check out what we’ve added here, and if you like what you see you can buy the game on Steam right now.

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Level Up!

Posted by on 21 Nov, 2015 in Fragmental

So, this is my second post following my level design walkthrough. In the previous post I talked about my level design process, the thinking behind the design, and the progression from paper to playable.

Since then, I’ve added a few more levels to the game, some of them work, others not so much :(

In this blog I’ll be talking about one of the smaller levels created for Fragmental.

What’s a smaller level you ask? Well let me show you.

Fragmental is made up of a mix of Small, Medium and Large levels, which are then further categorised into Safe, Risky, and FragMENTAL. This is pretty much how we approach building each level. We’ve got a checklist with a set number of each type we want to have when we launch. We grab a template (basically a square panel showing the min to max scale the level should be) and get to work.

Some players prefer the small levels over the larger ones, while others like a mix. The plan is to have three preset level lists that follow the Safe, Risky and Fragmental approach and each of these will have a mix of Small, Medium and Large levels, but better still you will be able to edit and create your own level playlists, adding only the levels, weapons and modifiers you want to play with. These new presets can then get saved and used whenever you want.

 

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The image above gives you an idea of the scale of these levels. White = Small, dark grey = Medium and light grey = Large. The coloured rectangles represent each player character. And below the in game comparison…

 

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Small Level: Small Chunk

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Medium Level: LOP

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Large Level: Interlock

 

So, as you can see you don’t have a lot of room when it comes to a designing a “Small” level. Trying to fit 4 Players, multiple Weapons and Modifiers into such a small space is no easy task, plus it needs to be balanced for each player, oh and fun… yeah no pressure!

 

Think damn it… think.

 

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So what’s the idea for this one Mr. Level designer?

Well the idea is simple. Players start on one side of the level – possibly unarmed – then they have to run to the opposite end of the level and grab a weapon. Unfortunately the other three players start right next to you (only separated by a door) and they want a weapon at the opposite end too, they might even want to grab the same weapon you had your eye on. Guess you’ll have to fight for it!

And that’s it, I created the level based on this idea with a slight twist on the player and weapon spawn positions. It’s a great laugh charging forward to grab your weapon all the while avoiding the other three players all attempting the same thing. You end up needing to make the decision of going in early, and sprinting to try to grab the weapon, turn around and shoot the guy right on your heels; or hang back and try to catch them with a melee strike just as they pick up the weapon – which will stun them and make them drop the weapon – then you grab their weapon and shoot them with it; or you simply punch them in the back of the head on the run to stun them and give you the chance to get to the weapon first, then you realise there’s another 2 players also on the move trying to do the same thing, or… Even a little map like this throws up a lot of options for tactics, and you only get a heartbeat to actually make your mind up. That’s what we love about this game.

Anyway, here’s what the Level looks like.

 

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Claustrophobic Corridors

 

I’ve named it Claustrophobic Corridors (I’m a massive Donkey Kong Country fan so I took the Rare approach when naming this one. The thing is, it doesn’t even look like a corridor… oh well). It plays exactly how I imagined, becoming one of the many “FragMENTAL” levels currently in game, which are definitely our favourites when playtesting the game.

Blog Post #2…Done!

Level Creation Walkthrough

Posted by on 9 Nov, 2015 in Fragmental

Before starting the design of any levels, we had to really understand the type of experience we wanted to create, as well as the features and mechanics that were core to the game. So we wrote a really high level description of what we saw the game as at that point in time.

 

Fragmental – What is it?

Fragmental is a top down competitive multiplayer twin stick shooter. Imagine Bomberman meets Hotline Miami!

Fragmental is fast paced, very fast. How fast? Well the fastest round we’ve had to date clocks in at a blistering 0.435 seconds. So, if you stand still, you’re dead, however you won’t have long to wait before the next round starts!

Its one shot kills, with the first to 20 frags winning the match. All weapons spawned are random, with players sometimes spawning with weapons, sometimes not. Get a kill you get a frag, kill yourself you lose a frag. A round lasts until there is only one man left standing, or someone has reached the frag limit, in turn winning the match.

With all of this in mind, we could start thinking about the types of levels that we would need to create, in order to deliver the experience we wanted the player to have.

 

Level Shown: Abstract Bridge (WIP)

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On top of all of this, before designing any levels it’s important to do a bit of research! (sounds fancy but it’s basically searching through Google images and YouTube!)

So I made a list covering what we want from Fragmental, based on group meetings and chats with fellow Ruffians. (Note: Lists are good!)

 

What we want for Fragmental

Super Fast rounds: Rounds need to be quick (less than 30 seconds). This means if you’re like me you’ll be killed pretty quick!

Top Down Camera Angle: This has a very retro feel, top down with all players visible on the one screen at all times.

Twin Stick Shooter Controls: Old school arcade feel ala Smash TV or Robotron 2084. One stick controls movement, the other independently controls aiming direction.

Level Switching: Levels swap out every three rounds. This mean just as the player starts to get a feel for a level, we change it (yeah it’s evil, but fun!).

80’s Vision of the Future,  with a modern twist!: Everyone loves the 80’s, especially it’s take on the future. Movies like Tron, The Running Man, Blade Runner. Recently the amazing Kung Fury and Far Cry Blood Dragon have taken this 80’s futurism, with an added twist. This is the kind of feel we want for Fragmental.

 

Believe it or not, trying to find a top down local competitive multiplayer game for reference was difficult, there isn’t all that many out there, so I started to look at various games that might have a similar feel to what we’re looking to create with Fragmental.

 

Some of these games include:

TowerFall Ascension – Fantastic 2d retro multiplayer game, fast paced arrow shooting action, easily one of the best local multiplayer games on Steam.

Arena Gods – Still in Alpha but looks so much fun (from videos). Love the simple and clear art direction, can’t wait to play it.

Duck Game – Pick a Duck, choose a hat, grab a gun and shoot. This game is exactly the kind of pace we want to have in Fragmental, one shot kills, fast rounds and level swapping.

Bomberman Series (Snes) – An old classic, more of a slower pace than what we’re going for, however this game has a similar camera angle and all players on one screen. Still plays as well today as it did in the early 90’s.

Hotline Miami – Amazing single player game. Hard as nails but so much fun. Full of gore, and a ton of weapons at your disposal. Easily one of the best soundtracks in any video game ever.

 

Starting from Sketch

So the first step to creating a playable level is to grab the old sketchbook and pen and doodle some layouts. It’s easy enough to scribble down boxes to represent rooms, corridors, doorways and windows, this doesn’t have to be pretty, just give you a general layout as to what you’ll later create in Unreal.

Here’s my attempt …

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So the thinking behind this was to create a simple layout, giving each player a starting position where they can see the other players, then plan their attack. I wanted to ensure that each player has a route to at least two other players in the level.

Players each have a weapon spawn in their starting area. The plan is to have a least one weapon spawn they can get to safely (without been shot in the face) then add more weapon spawns in more risky positions (along the bridge areas).

The level needs plenty of cover without any surrounding bordering walls along each of the bridged sections. I figured this layout would allow for some nice cross level shootouts plus allow for players to take a risk and run across each bridge to get closer to their opponent. Melee attacks will also make unarmed combat a bit of a laugh, landing a perfect punch will send your opponent flying off the edge.

So from the above sketch we have enough to start blocking in a playable level. Most of the maps for the game are built using simple shapes. Players need to be able to read the overall map flow without any issues. One thing we learnt early on is the more detail we add to a map, either with the geometry or textures, the less the player can distinguish between whats a wall, window or floor.

and here it is…

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Using Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, I started to block in the sketched level using BSP Brushes, Additive (Blue) and Subtractive (Red). This is great way to quickly mockup and test levels to see if they’re fun, then quickly make a few tweaks here and there based on feedback from playtesting. Rinse and repeat.

One of the features we had early in development were blood decal splatters that emit from killed players. These were persistent so remained throughout each round, serving as a makeshift heat map showing where all the action took place….but with blood!

This is an earlier level layout. It’s a tricky one to navigate due to the fact that there are no surrounding walls, and there have been more than a few deaths by falling! It was still work in progress at this point, so there were a few tweaks made here and there since then.

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You’ll notice that there are four half height cover areas within this level (marked in blue). These are set to stand out from the grey areas.

It’s important that anything different stands out to the player. Due to the top down camera angle of Fragmental we need to show a clear distinction between what’s safe for cover and what’s not.

This way players can instantly see any areas they can shoot over, but also get shot while standing behind.

In the final game we plan to have all half height cover the same (or similar) colour/texture. This will be consistent across all levels.

So that’s just one single map creation walkthrough, time for some caffeine!