Dreamhackathon

This previous weekend me and some friends went to compete it in the Dreamhack Hackathon in Globen, Stockholm. In short, it was a mad dash to create anything during 24 hours. We, as most other groups, made a game.

The initial idea was a frantic two player 2d (literally-) platform dueling game where each of the players would start on either side of the screen on their own platform. The players would then need to push the other player of their platform by throwing balls at them, with knockback only. The platform would consist of pillars which would be destroyed when hit by the other player.

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There it is, our post-it note design! On paper it sounded lite it’d be great fun. Players would need to dodge incoming balls by moving about and jumping while not falling down from their ever narrower platform. At the same time trying to knock down the other player or destroy his/her platfrom.

10 hours into Hackathon, it turns out, it was boring as hell.

We spent the next 4 or so hours trying to figure out what to do to fix it, we tried basically anything we could think off.

  • Adjust the rate of which you could throw balls (slower/faster).
  • Adjust the speed of the balls.
  • Adjust the maximum/minimum speed of the balls (if you held the fire button you charged it up).
  • Adjust the charge time.
  • Limit the number of balls, to encourage mind games.
  • Put something blocking direct line of sight, so players would need to lob the balls
  • Changed the platforms to a delicately balanced stack of boxes.
  • … and more

The main problem was that the player really never needed to move, you could just stand in one place and spam balls which would block incoming ones (they collide mid-air) and eventually one of the players would slip up and someone would win.

We had more or less accepted defeat and was going to turn it into some sort of volleyball game when another friend of ours walked past our table and suggested we make the platforms scrolling instead. We were desperate and it sounded like a decent idea so we went for it.

And here’s the final result!

We’re all quite happy with how it turned out – especially considering how close we were to giving up halfway through. It’s not spectacular in anyway but turned out be quite a lot of fun in the end after all!

Blast from the past – mp_warehouse_ext

So, I was going through a harddrive I rarely access in everyday use and I found some screenshots of a map I did back in early 2008 (or at least that’s when the shots are dated) for Call of Duty 4. I remember absolutely loving making this map, the overall layout worked very well for COD4’s one-life gamemode Search and Destroy as it offered a lot of variety in how the attackers could approach the objectives.

The distance from the attackers spawn and objectives was also quite short, potentially making for quick rounds. There was 3 main approaches the attackers could take:

  1. Go indoors through a narrow corridor, with a branching path through a tight vent system.
  2. Go through the large front gate to one of the warehouses and hope it wasn’t well covered by the other team.
  3. Go on the outside, perfect for sniper-dueling, either out in the open or through a small office building.

Admittedly, I must say after all these years that the theme of the level is quite uninspiring. I’d like to remember that it was all down to me focusing on the flow of gameplay and varying the distance of engagement (very important in an fps) rather then the aesthetics. Another reason of course being that the vast majority of assets in COD4 has this theme.

I also found this very early in-editor screenshot of the outer area of the map. After this screenshot was taken I added a third building on the left of the two main warehouses which connected the two with narrow corridors, traversable vents and a large room full with storage shelf where one of the objectives was located.

mp_warehouse_ext_1

Here’s some of the screenshots, the oldschoolness proven by glorious 4:3:

shot0016 shot0015 shot0014 shot0017

This last screenshot really gives away that the map wasn’t quite finished when these screenshots were taken, note the missing detailing on the right wall (completely flat and boring, no roof), the way-too-clean ground and the strangely finite backdrop.

The predecessor to this map, mp_warehouse which I also made, was the first complete custom map released for COD4, mere days after the mod tools came out, something I still take some pride in after all these years. It was also featured in a German games magazine and included on their CD (Remember those days?) which was quite awesome for a acne-ridden 17 year old me.

Both the orginal and the _ext version was still played on a few servers just a year or so ago, quite awesome for a custom map made in 2008. Actually, I just checked and there’s still at least two servers running it right now, wow.

Will perhaps make another one of these posts in the future, found some other rather interesting stuff I have worked on in the past.

Guiding the player

After some testing, we discovered that players would lose their way in one of the areas in the factory level, and become unsure of where to go next. It simply left most people confused. Before going into what I/we did to fix it, lets break down the problem(s).

Mechropolis_GuidingThePlayer1

  1. This is what you see when you first enter the room. It’s not very interesting. Most people just simply walk forward without paying attention to what’s below or to the right, which is not what we had in mind.
  2. This is what you see if you look to the right when standing on the walkway visible in first shot. When designing the space I wanted to convey a sense of grandeur to the player, It feels like that somewhat succeeded but it’s at the cost guiding the player. Even though that’s the direction the player should go, it’s not clear exactly where you should be heading, which it reasonably should be.
  3. This is an overview of the entire area. The large open spaces gave the player room to play around with the robots, but at the same time it contributed to the confusion. Players felt like there had to be a more meaningful purpose to the area.
  4. This is where the player is suppose to go, the opening next to the rotating paddle wheel. The player needs to advance to the second half of the room to even be able to properly see this, and even then it’s somewhat obscure and difficult to see.

Mechropolis_GuidingThePlayer2

The screenshot above shows the view you now get when entering the area. What we did was cut the entire first part and re-positioned the entry point so that the player is directly infront of where they should be going. Even though there’s still some improvements to be made, it’s almost infinitely better than what it used to be.

Also, by cutting the first area we were able to put another puzzle in, which is something this level desperately needed. It was also possible to preserve the vista seen in 2nd of the smaller screenshots above, but with some changes to make sure the player doesn’t feel they should be able to get there directly.

Mechropolis_Screenshot_LavaAndWheel