We had a student team. We founded a little gamedev studio. We had a great idea for a game. We started working on it. We changed many things, created new features and made older ones better. 2015 is going to be a great year!
This is our first devblog. From now on we will show you what we did and how far we got with Hover Cubes X in a monthly DevBlog post. In this first post we will show you the progress we made in the last year. Enjoy it!
A new year has already started. For us our first year of developing our game Hover Cubes X went by. A lot of things have happened and a lot of things have changed. Following a relatively successful student project four out of nine members of our team decided it’s time to get serious (just a joke, we are not that serious, but you know what I mean..), so we’ve founded our own indie dev team – Gametology.
We started with some experience from our student projects and some know-how we’ve gained while working together. We also had this great idea for a game, based on the student project – Hover Cubes. HC was a first-person-puzzle-jump’n’run with nice looking levels and cool cube-based gameplay mechanics. The player had different cubes with different features, which could be placed in the levels to overcome different types of barriers and traps.
We had a lot of fun jumping around in our own levels, but this wasn’t enough. We thought about a possible multiplayer mode, because some alpha-testers of the first Hover Cubes version let us know that it might be a lot of fun. And so we decided to change some things…
What did we want?
First of all we had to figure out what we really want and what Hover Cubes should become. After some brainstorming and tests, we were pretty sure that a mutliplayer-orientated game would be the best way for us to go on with the development of HC.
We wanted HC to become a fast and dynamic first-person-jump’n’run that should be based on a tournament system where you practise to get better, play with or against friends and to earn rewards. To get there we all knew, what we had to…
Kill our darlings
We had to break down the whole game. Just to see what exactly our game is, without graphics, without code – only the gameplay elements: barriers and a way to overcome them – pretty easy. Our barriers are old traps and deep abysses, the way to overcome them are the different cubes and the jump’n’run-like movement.
And then we had to „kill our darlings“ – yeah, it is such an easy phrase, but it isn’t as easy at it sounds.
…nearly the whole cube-energy system that allowed the player to snap more than one cube at a time to a hover cube. Now you can only snap one cube to a hover cube at the same time. If you shoot another cube at it, the first one will fall down.
…the puzzle / riddle part, because it wasn’t dynamic enough and kept the player from developing a fast movement through the levels.
…the story-driven singleplayer mode. :(
„Don’t switch the engine!“ – DON’T DO IT! – but we did it.
While working on a project you shouldn’t be careless and change the engine or programs you use, because running workflows might get corrupted, finished content could need a rework or some features wouldn’t work anymore… and so on. A lot of facts speak against changing an engine during an ongoing development process… but… take a look.
No, seriously take a look!
In the beginning of august in 2014 we decided to take a closer look at the new UE4 Engine. And it seemed amazing! DirectX 11 rendering features, new material pipeline, full source code access, blueprint based visual scripting (omg, even or rather especially as a designer… I love it!) and so much more. So we switched from the previously used UDK to the UE4. We were prepared for some weeks of additional work and a really hard time, but everything went better than expected. It was nearly insane how fast we were able to get back to the old state of content, code and so on. Unbelievable!
Destroy and create
After killing some darlings and switching the engine, we added some new mechanics and changed the old ones a little bit. The cubes got „bigger“ effects. The Jelly-, Norm- and Platform-Cubes will now spawn a 3×3 plane. The Bridge-Cube will generate a 3×9 platform, if the cube is attached to a hover cube, to make it a little bit easier to land on them. We added the double-jump and implemented a wall-jump, that you can use to accelerate yourself off of special plates on the walls.
But the most important thing we have changed is how we will create new levels. Building levels is an amazing work to do, but it also takes a lot of time to design and complete one. And even if we took all our manpower to build a small number of levels, it couldn’t be enough to ensure sufficient content for potential players. So we designed a totally new system to create levels. Now we are just creating parts of levels, which can be combined randomly one after another. To ensure that all of the different parts fit together visually without creating seams, we placed a so called „cube zone“ between the other „parts“, so we don’t have to worry about mismatching any parts.
With every new part, even if it is only a little one that we add to the game, many new constellations of generated levels will be possible.
Another very important thing we’ve created is our “Lounge”, a huge dome with a lot of screens, where you can watch running matches or important news. You will also find terminals in the lounge, that can be used to get an overview about your own stats or those from your friends, create or join matches and change your settings.
It is dangerous to go alone
We got to know a lot of people at different events last year, made some nice contacts in the game dev industry and met new friends. One of them – Thomas Hummes – actually joined our team at the end of august. Many other people stood by our side to give us advice and helped us just like consultants. We can’t name all of you, my friends, but consider yourself thanked.
I will name three special persons though.
First of all our all time mentor Prof. Dr. Linda „Ninja“ Breitlauch for being there, even with the very little time she had.
Stephan Reichart, who made it possible for us to attend some of the most important game-related events in germany.
And last but not least Thorsten „Brendeltier“ Rendel, who helped us in too many ways to name and is still by our side.
Ludo ergo sum