Thursday, April 26, 2007

2D, or not 2D? That is the Question...

Like many other people, I am really enjoying Super Paper Mario.

It's a fun game, it doesn't take itself too seriously and it's a really great type of game for the Wii technologically speaking. It's not dazzling me with normal maps on his overalls. It's not the subsurface scattering shader applied to his huge head -- hell he's only 2D and not even dynamically lit....Albedo is all this little plumber needs.

Its a game that's a game...plain and simple - Fun.

I've found myself in situations lately where I wondered what my surroundings might be like if I could flip my world. Apparently, I'm not alone in experiencing this.

Could I ask Xzibit to "Flip my Ride"? I don't see why not!

Another neat thing about the game that wife noticed, and I should mention that she is an avid gamer that has also worked in the games industry, is that the maximum number of character cards you can collect in the game is 256 -- 8bits!

Now I'd love to think that this was done intentionally as an homage to the mythical 8-bit days, but it's more realistically just because of the variable that they used for tracking card unlocks...

...but in my little world, it's an homage :-)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Weekend Warhawk Testing...

Many of us have been working crazy hours getting a special rev of our BETA build ready and this weekend we and our test team in San Diego, all got together for some crazy 32-player action. I took these photos during our session on Saturday.

We had some bugs that we were working on and some of them were pretty random, or only ever showed up when we had about 30 players in the game. As you can imaging these are kind of tricky to repro since step #1 is get a 32 player game running...and if any of you were wondering, step #2 is *not* "put your junk in that box".

I find it very interesting, and a good sign, when we ask the team to come in on the weekend to work, and to help us test, and they end up not really testing, but having fun. Kind of weird to think that a game session "degrades" into people forgetting about the work that they need to do, and just end up having a great time. Its really good to see especially how tough our dev-cycle has been.

It was also good to get some fresh eyes on the game. I've mentioned before in my interviews with the press our notion of "hate-sessions". The times after a game session when I actively seek out all of the stuff that people thought sucked about what we just played.

Saturday we had 6 people play the game for the first time and it was really beneficial to get their opinions. Of course I have to review all of their feedback through the lens of "first-time players playing against our best testers here at Incognito and at San Diego". Nevertheless, it was good to hear newbie opinions about pickup placement, tactics, what they got confused on, etc.

Some of their feedback dealt with a recent gameplay issue that has come up and that is the total domination of Tanks in the game. We are seeing groups of players form convoys of 3 tanks as they move from base to base. Granted, if a group of players are coordinated enough to do this, then good for them and they should be rewarded. But as it stands right now, that 3 tank config is almost unstoppable. Over the next couple of days we are going to be looking at ways for players to combat domination of the "tank roll-out" as we have started calling it.

Interesting to note the "tank roll-out" got wicked powerful when we made a slight adjustment to the tank turret rotation speed. We may need to set it back down to it's original speed. It's a great example of how just one little change can have a huge impact on the overall combat economy and game balance.

On a somewhat unrelated note, here's an updated picture of our resident super-pilot Greg -- callsign "Gergination". Look at the top of his sash and notice that he is officially an Airman 1st-class. He still wears it proudly around the office :-)

His domination and skill has further enraged our test team in San Diego as they have started a Warhawk Clan named [Gerg]. Their clan goal is simple; to whoop on Gerg as much as possible. Since I get a great amount of pleasure any time I can shoot him out of the sky (which is rare), I decided to disband my own clan [BFF] (The Best Friends Forever) and join [Gerg].

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Gerg, aka Capitan Cluster...

I took this photo of one of our testers here at Incognito. He also happens to be currently ranked #1 on the Warhawk BETA Leaderboards.

He's disturbingly good at flying the Warhawk. The kind of freakish dexterity that we've all witnessed from twitchy railgun or pulse rifle robo-gamers.

So...Given that he is *way* too good at the game *and* he's an award snob, I decided to make him wear a sash. I told him that as he got awards in the game, that I would give him little printouts of the Warhawk awards so that he could display them proudly on a sash of "girlscout" quality and style.

He didn't realize of course, that he was going to end up wearing a pink satin sash, with the word "princess" embroidered on it.

Did I mention the silver ruffles on the ends? Oh yes, silver ruffles.

The price of being ranked #1 is steep my young tester friend :-)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Repro Man

Well...some of us are still here at the studio, working on repro-ing a bug with our IK system. Crazy thing about it is that it's causing chunks of our character meshes to be stretched way the hell out to NaN-Land.

It is a tricky bug to reproduce and is proving even more difficult to fix. Basically we upload a new build with some 'traps' to try and isolate the bug. Then we get a few of us to launch a game server and connect a bunch of clients. Thankfully with 4-way split screen, we can get 16 players just on 4 PS3s :)

After several hours...memory stompage.


We'll pick it back up again Tuesday morning once we've had a bit more sleep.