Today is the big day! The D day! The day when this projects ends in more ways than one! We celebrate the launch of the Slobb Jones today, in Tikkurila, and you are all invited to come and see us and the game!
There’s an article of us on Dome.fi! And we were on the front page too!
Around midway of our project, work began on bringing the last level of Slobb Jones to reality. The level themed “favela” was to include elements such as apartments, cliffs and a sense of height. Concept art had already been drawn during the early stages of developement so visually it was clear what we were looking for. As focus shifted away from the previous level, the prop team came out with a wall of post-it notes with even more ideas of what the level could include. Designing favela was very different from the previous level (temple) which had a very clear master blueprint. The temple felt somewhat restrictive to both the prop team and level team, so it was mutually agreed to approach favela bit differently. We had no master blueprint this time around, but instead a multitude of smaller ideas to borrow from. I went over the concept art and the post-it wall and picked a few ideas that appealed to me. A mockup was realised soon after.
The original mockup aka “the caketopper” was rough, but ideas from it have survived to the finished product. Ideas like the two vertical masses with narrow roads snaking around them, a pit that goes below the trigger object and a treasure on top. The early stages of planning included a lot of throwing stuff and seeing what sticks. Mockups can only get you so far as you can’t see the bigger picture with just placeholder squares and cylinders. After going over ideas with the team leader and receiving some final models I was starting to get a grip of what I was doing. Work after that was very organic. Cliff objects started to narrate where roads were drawn, mirrors were put in places where they felt natural and even a bit of backstory was starting to take shape as the favela is divided between the rich and poor sides.
All parts were improved bit by bit and eventually we had a more polished, playable version. It was starting feel finished. During the later parts of the project I playtested the level with a classmate. He finished in just a few minutes and told me it was way too easy. I was a bit caught off guard as I was expecting it to be more challenging. This project taught me how blind developers can be when designing a puzzle game. Developers know their puzzles inside out so it’s best to regularly playtest them with other people. I returned to the drawing board and came up with a more refined version the same day. After more playtesting it was deemed clearly more challenging. Success. After that it was a matter of placing all the decorative elements in their places and double checking the mirror placements. A lot of work and focus were put on the details. As a bit of trivia, the pit alone has 78 apartments.
The rest was up to Henrik Debner, who really brought the level to life with his impressive colors and shades. Overall I’m pleased how the level plays and feels.
During our project we decided to have one of those “do-whatever-you-want” days where you could deviate from set plans and work on something different. Prior to this day we programmers had been working on stuff that could be described as plumbing work. Basically we were connecting new assets with game logic and made sure they did not break, so being able to stop doing that for one day was fantastic. I knew I wanted to create a small functional game using existing assets. Since one of my favourite game genres is real-time strategy I decided to create a clone of Starcraft called Slobbcraft.
Slobbcraft had to support a number of features to be a real-time strategy game. Features like commanding units to attack enemy units or gather resources, constructing buildings that can create new units and some kind of enemy AI. Since I only had 5 hours to finish, these features had to be extremely narrow.
Programming Slobbcraft was very fun. Usually when you write code, you want it to be as correct as possible and obey some set of standards, but for this I did none of that. Since I knew I was not going to contribute on this after the day was over, I could write code as sloppily as Slobb Jones. This resulted in extremely fast iteration times and very brittle implementations. Most important features like commanding units, constructing buildings, pathfinding and user interface were done in less than 3 hours. I encountered zero hard obstacles along the way, because I simply chose to not implement them just to save time.
Last 15 minutes were spent on presenting Slobbcraft to rest of the team. Someone jokingly mentioned that we should switch our current project to work on this instead. I also happened to record a time lapse of me creating Slobbcraft from scratch which can be seen below.
– It is impossible to lose, because enemy AI can not destroy player buildings.
– However it is possible to get stuck if player waited long enough for enemy to gather enough resources to fill entire map with marines. If player decided to create new marines after this, they would get killed instantly.
– Game would eventually crash because AI never stops building new units.
– Marines can also gather resources, because they use mostly same code meant for worker units.
– You can win quickly by building your first barracks inside enemy’s main building. Newly built marines from this barracks can immediately attack enemy’s main building.
– Slobbcraft consists of ~700 lines of code without counting blank lines or comments compared to Slobb Jones’ ~3500 lines.
The fireplace scene was the lengthiest scene in the cinematic. In my mind, I saw it as a very warm, snug scene from the very first storyboard images of the scene, a place where Jones would spend a lot of his time in comfort.
The scene needed treasure props for the room, so we held a “Mad Day” one Thursday, where everyone helped model a single prop. We got a bunch of props to place in the scene, which made it look better and more detailed. Doing this alone would have taken too long, so with everyone pitching in, it allowed me to focus on animation and lightning. We were able to reuse some of the props on the next scene, where Jones rides through the hallway.
The way I understood the scene was, that Jones is imitating or rehearsing a great speech about himself or his deeds in his chamber. So I animated the scene with that in mind. You can see him nod his head in approval, thinking in his head “Yeah! That sounded good. I’ll use that in my speech!”. So he celebrates it with a sip from his glass, but then the alert lights and screen appear, ruining the moment.
I avoided any poses where Jones would be completely freezed, he is always in slight motion. I took many playblast previews of the animation while working on it, as well as asking feedback from Peke and my team members. I was quite satisfied how the animation turned out.
I knew I wanted a warm, orange lightning in the scene. The fireplace, which is actually an LCD screen, was the main source of light. After various lightning versions, I ended using Final Gather, which resulted in a nice, smooth lightning of the scene. At first I was worried that Final Gather would increase the rendering times, but rendering of the scene was fairly quick. There was a bit of flickering in the walls during the camera’s motion, but I could live with it. Also, the viewer’s focus wasn’t on the wall, so there was a good chance they would never notice it.
I knew a few certain things I would add to the scene in compositing, for example, I needed a glow effect on the LCD screen and alert lights when the alert sign appears. A lot of the other stuff I added in compositing came up as I worked on the scene. I added a pixelation effect to the short fire animation on the screen for example, which worked nicely and makes it look more like a TV screen. This required me to go back to Maya and render some masks so I could properly do it.
I frequently asked for feedback on how the scene looks from other Character Team members, Miika and Kristian. They might have seen things that I couldn’t, which they did. This feedback I used to improve the scene. Gradually, the composition grew and grew, layer upon layer until I was satisfied with it.
Afterwards, I came up with some ideas on how to improve the scene, but it was too late to do any changes. Overall, I was happy with the mood of the scene and the animation of the character.
In the midway of our project we came up with a concept of ”Mad Days”. Their sole purpose was to relax the tension of game making and give us an opportunity to do anything we wanted to the game. Though I had begun to work on my boobylicious babe long before that, I decided to continue that on “the Mad Days”.
When I first heard that Slobb Jones’ space ship would be seen from the inside as well, I had decided that it just needed it’s plastic figure, bouncing in the rhythm of the unsteadily flying ship. And I had had my head bursting for a time and just needed to wind out and do something random and get a break from the cubes and trees and stuff.
There are concepts of Jones without his gear, made by Elsa, which I used as a base line when I started to sketch my “more femine” version (The brackets because who ever said Jones didn’t have 3-manboobs and mascara under his helm?). The three boobs came along from the beginning, because aliens, why the hell not?
The actual modeling was done with blender in 3 days, mostly at home, for I was not entirely confident that I could have done it in the time frame of mad days without some homework. (I am not a fast modeler and a day for a character? No sir, won’t do. It would probably just never have been finished.) And okay, I was a little bit worried how my classmates would react to my little creature.
Gladly the reception was good. And in the end it ended up showing a few times in the actual games, and people were eager to use it even more if we had had the time. But, at least were it is now it shall be bringing sex, magic, and boobs to the world.
After the idea for the game was chosen, we decided quite soon that we wanted to add a character to the game. It was an easy decision really, since there were people interested in character animation. Plus it made the game more relatable.
I got (or took) the job of creating the character. At first I just started sketching various shapes and characters, trying to figure out what we were looking for. After a couple of consultations with our AD, we decided that the character in the game is sort of a Indiana Jones kind of character, but not at all. Slobb is a treasure hunter who only cares about the treasure, he has loads of money and he is nearly incapable of surviving the treasure hunts.
We wanted him to have distinctive shape and colours, because he would be only a small avatar in the game, but he also needed to be detailed enough, so he could be inspected closer and be used in cinematics. So he got himself a weird headshape, a gas mask/respirator and a mighty cape. Because seriously, a hero without a cape isn’t a hero at all. Also a big gun. Because if you have money, of course you are gonna buy the biggest gun money can buy! Even if you can’t really carry it because your arms are so small. But that’s details.
After a couple of fixes, we locked on this version of Slobb (although he did gain few pounds in next few weeks):
Since he is an alien creature, I decided that we need to know what kind of alien he is underneath all that. I wanted him to be sympathetic but also really disgusting, so I set myself on painting a picture of a slug mole, who would wake a reaction “Ohmygod, what is that?! I LOVE IT!”. And I think I did just that.
And so was Slobb Jones created!