The Node ID Saga

By chrism August 31st, 2015, under News

Hi! I’m David Rusak, one of the designers at DrinkBox Studios. Here’s a recent episode from the creation of Severed that I thought would give a little insight into the twists and turns of the development process:

node_sage_01

Severed’s world is split into several levels which each comprise dozens and dozens of nodes.  For a while, when things went wrong, we were writing bug reports like: “When you walk into the first dungeon, the second outdoor area you get to, that node after the weird-looking tree with a path going East and West, has a misplaced piece of art…”

A lot of these kinds of requests made their way down to the design team, who would then have to sort out tracking the offending node down themselves. After a while, the designers wanted a better way to identify the nodes that make up our levels. It was easy to imagine that programmers could devise a system to do this automatically — but free coder time is often a scarce resource, especially when it comes to problems like this that are a little less than life-or-death, so (as often) the designers just went ahead solving this inconvenience in the least-janky way available to them.

node_sage_04

They began to just put a ‘Node ID’ object in each node, visible when testing with debug visuals, that showed a number unique to that node. Ensuring each node’s number was unique was easy enough, since we can search object names in the level, and it really wasn’t such a big job just duplicating this ID object across the whole level one time, and then copying it along into any new nodes we added along the way. It was fairly lightweight and gave us a very convenient way of talking about single nodes.

node_sage_02

But there comes a time when rough fixes must be sternly revisited.

We were going through a wave of big level revampings as we approached our Alpha milestone. New work had been done by designers less familiar with the Node ID ‘solution’, or who hadn’t yet gotten around to adding all the IDs back into still-half-rebuilt levels. The IDs were also now expected during testing. And the code team caught wind of our appallingly manual solution to this straightforward, systemic problem, dealing the deathblow to it.

node_sage_03

This new node ID thingy may look similar, but it’s placed automatically, by code wizardry. It tells you the grid position of the node you’re in and the floor it’s on, providing even better info than the old arbitrarily-numbered IDs did. As a bonus, it became easy with these labels to add the ability to debug-jump the player to any specified node, causing QA to weep tears of joy.

Should a request to set up a system like this have been insisted on right off the bat, added to the avalanche of front-loaded work the programmers are already tasked with? The new system actually has some weaknesses compared to the old manual node-naming: if we moved a whole chunk of the level around, everywhere we’ve referred to those nodes by these location-based names would become completely inaccurate. But at this stage, it saves us tons of trouble — now that we’re at a point where we can take certain things for granted (nodes won’t be drastically moved around much from Alpha onward, they’re always on a grid, etc). This was a pretty extreme case because the code fix was pretty easy, but it’s one good demonstration of the principle that no production decision is simple — knowing The Right Answer to a problem is never enough. For many cases like this, the janky stopgap measure really is the right move, until things become better solidified. When you add new cogs to the machine, you never just solve a problem — you also create debt.

 

Megasquid

By chrism July 6th, 2015, under News

Hi, I’m Mayuran, and also a coder at DrinkBox. A few weeks ago, I was given the task to write the logic for a Jellyfish NPC – a creature that would add a bit of spooky atmosphere to the game. The artists had animated it already and I was to write the logic to hook up with the animation.

But this was my chance, to fulfill my 2nd grade dream of being a marine scientist!

I thought jellyfish were similar to squid. I found out watching the documentary “The Future Is Wild” that squid were destined to take over the earth after mankind dies. Just like the Ghostbusters, we have already chosen our method of destruction.

It was obvious that the internet doesn’t care enough about jellyfish or squids. So I went to the local aquarium.

Finally arriving at the jellyfish I stood there for what felt like minutes, furiously taking notes. Curious children asked me what I was doing and I ignored them, a scientist has no time for education.

pic2

After many dollars in business related expenses I was finally finished. If anyone would like my info for any jellyfish related science journals, please contact me.

In the end, I noticed these creatures had a push and glide mechanism, so decided to go with a logic that used a sine wave function as it’s velocity. This seemed to be a nice replication of the jellyfish movement that can be seen in-game below:

Principal Skinner

By matthewj June 18th, 2015, under News

Principal = Main

Skinner = Someone like Matheus Meneguette who has done great work tweaking Guacamelee to create some truly wonderful and unique playable skins.

View post on imgur.com

After our PC launch, I’d check the Steam Workshop pretty often to see what people would create and share with the community. We had some some pretty stellar creations 6 months after release like Juanny Bravo, Zangief, Samus Aran, The Tick, etc. Then along came this Bayonetta skin…

View post on imgur.com

It totally floored us. I’d never played Bayonetta, but I could see how much care went into making the custom animations for super moves like the Dash Punch and Frog Slam. Matheus made so many awesome custom skins with custom animations that we had to write a blog about it to share them with everyone, Guacamelee Steam Workshop Awesomeness. And we’re blogging about his work again!

View post on imgur.com

We got in touch with Matheus and asked him to join our team to help us make our latest DLC, the ‘Frenemies’ skin pack (out now on PS4 and Xbox One). He was able to take characters from Guacamelee, and give them their own character-appropriate animations for a full set of moves required of a playable character. Take Xtabay and Uay Chivo for example:

View post on imgur.com

Definitely try those out! If you have Guac STCE on PS4 or Xbox One, we’ll give you a code if you participate in our #GotGuac Contest, back for one more week.

As for Matheus, he’s helping us with our next game, Severed, holding down the fort in DrinkBox Brazil. You’ll still have to wait a while before we can show you that stuff. In the meantime, check out his work on deviantart and give him a follow on twitter!

 

 

 

#GotGuac Frenemies DLC Giveaway

By matthewj May 27th, 2015, under News

Hey,

Do you have Guacamelee! STCE on PSFour (4)or Xbox One (1)? Do you have some guacamole in your fridge? If you answered yes to both questions, this contest is for you.

Share a photo of your Guacstache (guacamole moustache) with us on twitter with the hashtag #GotGuac? to win the Frenemies Skin Pack on PS4!

Here’s Michael, our new programmer showing you how it’s done.

View post on imgur.com

 

Contest details:

  • Tweet us a photo of your Guacamole moustache for a chance to win one (1) of ten (10) Frenemies Skin Packs for Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition.
  • Send photos to @drinkboxstudios with the hashtag #GotGuac?
  • Winners will be randomly selected on Monday, June first (1st) Twenty-Fifteen (2015) Friday June 26th
  • It must be real Guacamole on your face! No wasabi, no green paint, NO PHOTOSHOPS!

If you don’t like sharing photos, the DLC is 40% off for PS+ subs until the end of May. Be sure to get Guacamelee STCE while it’s still free on PS+!

FRENEMIES SKIN PACK DETAILS

Now you can put to use Javier Jaguar’s noble strength, FlameFace’s scoundrelous wiles, X’Tabay’s deadly sorcery and Uay Chivo’s legendary mastery in the fight to save El Presidente’s Daughter and the world from Carlos Calaca.

All four characters are decked out with new animations and unique attributes that will change the way you play. Put your skills to the test to unlock the new trophies — and maybe find an easter egg or two…

View post on imgur.com

 

How I Became an Arms Dealer

By matthewj May 21st, 2015, under News

Hey all,

Matt here. A couple weeks ago, we brought Severed and a bunch of merch to Bit Bazaar 5, a fun craft fair “celebrating the art & craft of games, comics and good food!” I’m always amazed at the cool crafts people make related to their games/comics: example1, example2, example3, example4example5example6example7, example8, example9.

View post on imgur.com

That’s our table up there.

A while ago, I attended a workshop that inspired me to make crafty things related to the games we make at DrinkBox. At previous bazaars we made postcards, posters, buttons, and t-shirts. I wanted to make something different this time around.

In Severed, the main character, Sasha, loses her arm and it takes on a life of its own. Watch (and listen to) the concept video to see what I mean. I thought to myself, “What would be more apt than a mini severed arm?” Unopposed, I went shopping.

View post on imgur.com

View post on imgur.com

I got the big arm from eBay. The smaller ones were removed from toys I bought at thrift stores and dollar stores. Do y’all have dollar stores, or is that just a Canadian thing? It’d be weird if Denmark had them since their currency is the krone and not the dollar. Let me know.

View post on imgur.com

Check out those arm concepts for our next game, Severed.

I picked out four incandescent acrylic paints and a couple brushes. I’m not a crafty person, but I felt like I could at paint arms that resembled the Severed arm somewhat. Here’s a gallery of progress photos.

Making Severed arms

(Click on the green hand to see the gallery.)

I was pretty pleased with how they turned out. In any event, waiting for coats of paint to dry was a great opportunity to get caught up on Mad Men while playing Hearthstone on my phone.

Maybe I’ll add ‘arms dealer’ to my business card.

Guacamelee Frenemies Character Pack

By matthewj May 5th, 2015, under News

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Well, we just couldn’t resist. Maybe it’s the arrival of spring, or our deep desire to fight as a goat-man or leopard-warrior, but we’re releasing a rad Guacamelee! STCE “Frenemies” Character Pack, featuring the game’s most legendary characters. Dive into the world of Guacamelee! as Uay Chivo, Xtabay, Javier Jaguar or Flame Face. You’ll find a few new surprises and challenges, with new trophies tied to playing as each character.

The Frenemies” Character Pack  is availlable today in the North and South American PS Store for $2.99, with a 40% discount for PS Plus members this month. It’ll also have the same deal on European PS4s on Thursday. Hot Diggity!

If you didn’t know, you can now grab Guacamelee! STCE for FREE in the May Instant Game Collection – so if you’re trying it out, or looking for an excuse to play again, this is the perfect way to do it. And with our recent 4-player local co-op update, you can cooperate with 4 frenemies at once!

Check out how great these costumes are:

Work out Flame Face’s most deep-seated issues

Harness the unmatched magical power / disdain levels of a Uay Chivo + X’tabay tag team.

And now YOU get to be the most difficult boss in the game. Need we say more?

Guess the Desk from the Severed Team!

By chrism April 22nd, 2015, under News

Let’s play a random game (that’s why we’re all here right?). I’ll give you 5 desks from people working on Severed: a coder, an artist, a producer, a designer, and a social media guru. You match the desk with the job title! Each picture has subtle hints…we think.

Just follow the Google Form below to put in your answers, best of luck!

Update: Contest over, but you can still guess the desk! Answers are at the bottom.

DESK A:

 

DESK B:

 

DESK C:

 

DESK D:

 

DESK E:

 

DeskA: Producer   DeskB: Artist   DeskC: Social Media Guru    DeskD: Coder   DeskE: Designer

Early (Failed) Navigation Attempts!

By augustoq April 1st, 2015, under News
Hola procrastinators,
_
This is Augusto (a.k.a. Cuxo), the Concept Lead at DrinkBox, and today I’m going to show you some of the initial tests I did for the navigation of Severed.
_
This dates back to around August 2013, when we were first figuring out ideas and doing test like the ones that I’m gonna show you. Severed was not a project yet, but an idea.
_
I first thought of Severed as a first person 2D game. I remembered playing a game called “Shining in the Darkness” the precursor of the Shining Force series (of which I’m a huge fan), and they used a very peculiar system for the town area.
_
Basically the player was at the axis of this looping scroll. I thought this would be a cool way to fake 3D.

It was cheap, easy and looked very different from other games!

I had done some initial concept art,

And  I mocked up the “node” in flash. And did some quick tests:
_

It was a crude attempt as you can see. But the idea seemed to work!!!
_
Except it totally didn’t. (for a number of reasons for another post)
_
At least the idea was tested quickly and we became aware of all the actual problems that we could encounter.
It was time for a different approach…
_

Keeping fighting fun and fair in Severed

By davidr March 26th, 2015, under News

Greetings! I’m David and I’m here to talk about some issues in developing Severed. I’ve mainly been working on designing and refining enemies for the last little while, so I thought I would give a slightly in-depth look at some of the tricky questions that come up in designing for Severed’s combat system. First, you need to know two core facts about the game:

  • Combat in Severed is touch-based, so we give almost the entire screen area over to letting the player slash freely with their sword by swiping. Most enemy attacks can also be parried by the same sort of motion, if properly timed and aimed.
  • The player explores by tapping to move between ‘nodes’, which could be a room, a clearing in a forest, or whatever else. There’s no movement within a node, but you can freely look around yourself. When you end up in a node with enemies in it, you can still turn to face each one, but nobody can leave until the fight is finished (your standard Thunderdome-type scenario).

The stationary player but skillful reflex-based fighting means we’re splitting the difference in a unique sort of way between the highly-abstracted combat of a classic RPG and the more actiony, hands-on feel of something like a Dark Souls, 3D Zelda or Infinity Blade. And like any novel design choice, this is exciting to work on but crops up equally-novel challenges that might not have been dealt with in any game we could have used as a reference point.

One of those challenges is how to let the player deal with fights against more than one enemy. You can’t see or parry attacks from off-screen enemies, but off-screen enemies can still attack you, interrupting your action and doing serious damage. And you can’t run away, corner or otherwise outmaneuver them.

 Each enemy is a big threat requiring your attention — you need to keep tabs on them all.

To solve this problem, combat is governed by an ‘enemy manager’. Rather than just wildly attacking you in parallel, which would often be super unfair, the enemies take turns attacking, dutifully queueing up one at a time like goons in a Bruce Lee group fight. For each attack an enemy can do, we specify how much time it needs to ready and then carry it out, and schedule the attack into the Enemy Manager’s queue. That doesn’t mean the attacks are necessarily easy to deal with (they can come as fast or slow as we choose), but the big benefit is this lets us easily prevent the player being put into impossible situations. (In principle we want someone playing perfectly to be able to get out of any given fight basically unharmed.)

Each enemy also has an icon underneath it. You can tap the icon to spin and face that enemy, but it also shows their status, previewing who’s about to come up next in the queue without the player having to look right at them. The icon slowly fills in with yellow, flashes when full, then flashes red, as the enemy readies and then executes their attack — at which point the player has to be there to respond.

Spiderface, above, blocks you until its timer fills. You get your chance to hit when it attacks – if you parry it, then it becomes vulnerable to counter-attack. Also, welcome to our ridiculous internal monster-naming.

A big goal for Severed has always been to have a large variety to the enemies encountered. There’s a menagerie of disturbing creatures in this game that the player will have to learn how to deal with through trial and error. Each one has some sort of unique behaviour — but the player not only has to learn their way around it, they also have to figure out how to act based on what the enemy’s icon is doing when it’s offscreen.

For example, Spinster here charges itself up continually — and when finished, immediately does an unblockable attack. To knock it out of this cycle, you have to hit it during the charging-up part until you break through its weak point. WHO KNOWS where that is though

Some enemies protect themselves while they’re idle and can only be hit after attacking and getting parried; some can be hit while they’re idle and can’t be stopped once their attack begins; some can be hit while idle but may punish you for it, etc. So if the icon only flashes just before the attack for Spinster above, you’d never have enough time to deal with it — you should be giving it attention over the whole time it’s idle. Since we really want this kind of variety in the game, we’ve had to make sure that the way an icon behaves helps the player and doesn’t rudely surprise them. The lexicon that’s evolved out of it is, generally, that we’ll start the icon flashing when the player should pay attention (and so far in our playtests this seems to get picked up pretty quickly). So for Spinster, we now have the flashing start well before its attack would actually go off, to remind you to respond.

It’s the kind of problem barely anybody playing a game will think about, but the developers spend days pulling out their hair over. But I think we’re pretty satisfied leaving it as is and letting the information the icon gives you remain slightly incomplete. Having some info is important as an aid — but in the end, it’d be great for the players to spend most of the battle actually looking at these crazy monsters we’re animating instead??

The Enemy Manager isn’t a total solution — even with it, there are combos of enemies that would be way nastier than others (for example, three Spinsters at once, all continually needing your attention, is a nightmare compared to three Spiderfaces, who only attack in turn). So despite the Manager, enemy encounters still need to be handcrafted for fairness. Treating these varied enemies and the enemy-icon system with consistency is a tricky balance to strike, and one of the areas where I’m finding (as is often the case) a grand one-size-fits-all plan tends to break down into more fiddly special cases the further you progress. Game development!

PAX East ’15 Roundup

By matthewj March 19th, 2015, under News

We went to the Indie MEGABOOTH at PAX East and we brought our Severed demo with us. The response we received was amazing! We were also showing off a 4 player demo of Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition with some very special custom skins. More on that another time. For now, here’s a roundup of Severed coverage.

IGN – DrinkBox Studios’ follow-up to Guacamelee! is every bit as awesome. Here’s why.

GameSpot – 4 Games We Loved at PAX East 2015

Destructoid – Severed is full of one-handed vengeance

Polygon – Severed’s first dungeon is a compelling, artful creation

Kotaku – “Why Am I Missing An Arm?” Is An Important Question To Answer

TechnoBuffalo – You’ve got the touch

Hardcore Gamer – Peel Dem Fruits: Why Severed Matters

iDigitalTimes – DrinkBox Studios ‘Severed’ Was At PAX East And We Played It [VIDEO]

Dualshockers – Hands-On Preview: Severed – A Cut Above the Rest

GameRevolution – I only need one hand to slay all those who oppose me.

SideQuesting – Hands-on with Severed: Slice-and-Dice Fun

Sign up for our mailing list on the Severed website and get Severed news when it’s fresh. Also, you might get free stuff 😮

We’re going to try to ramp up our blogging frequency with posts from people around DrinkBox Studios working on Severed. So stay tuned!