Not Alone was created over the course of October 2016, for the Pixel Horror Jam. This is the first game that I've taken the lead on in terms of design as part of the team, it was a new experience for me and a steep learning curve, but I enjoyed it immensely (minus the occasional breakdown when the AI simply did not work). The project was ambitious from a development perspective given the limited time scale and my experience, I'd never attempted anything like this before. It features a creature that tracks the player through a spaceship, but only through the dark areas -
I've since been working on a post-
I learned a lot about design and motivating the player throughout the project. It is one thing to have an idea, and another to actually make it enjoyable. As the game stands there isn't enough encouragement to get the player moving out and around the ship, most rooms are empty and don't have meaning to the player. This wasn't the original intent, I had intended to include all kinds of fanciful systems around the ship (similar to FTL), I wanted there to be shields (to deflect incoming meteor storms but which drained the power heavily), I wanted there to be a med-
Additionally, it turns out that trade-
The AI for the game, if it can be called that, was the most complex part of the development along with the lighting system that it’s linked with. The game was developed in Construct 2, I've had mixed things to say about it in the past, but it has come a long way and for the most part I did find it a pleasure to work with this time around. I'd still like to be able to type out code, but Construct 2 has some acceptable compromises in that respect, however, the sharing of events between projects absolutely needs to be improved in Construct 3. With a state-
The lighting system works thanks to the blend modes available in Construct 2, I had figured out quite early on in development how I wanted to create the effect but actually making it happen is always a different story. I worked through a number of small prototypes with simplified scenarios to help me work out how it would actually function, games are very complex sets of interacting objects and systems and it is helpful to reduce that complexity right down when problem solving. For me, using a divide and conquer approach by separating out technical problems and working on them in isolation is a useful way to begin, I can then focus on integrating solutions and getting them to play nicely together.
Whilst creating the lighting system and trying to get it to work with the creature AI, I was reminded several times that it is often helpful to centralise some core functionality. As an example, the creature pathfinding needed to be blocked from entering a room that was lit, but it also needed to allow for the creature to flee a room that had been dark but had the lights turned on whilst the creature was in it. Essentially I needed one-
My first attempts were riddled with bugs, as I tried to create appropriate blocks only around a specific doorway and only when a light turned on or off. Due to the fact that lights could potentially flicker and switch off by themselves at any point and the player could switch them on/off as they pleased, an unpredictable set of interactions would occur leading to all sorts of lighting bugs. The solution was to centralise the whole process, so that one function was called once per set interval, this function would loop through all doorways and ascertain what state they should be in depending on the condition of associated rooms. This was very stable and worked as intended but performance was poor as this one function was looping through all doorways at once (the old code was only doing it where necessary). This is really the ideal first step: get it working first, then optimise later. I then went through using the profiler, some logical thinking and some experimentation and made that centralised function much more efficient.
Artwork & Animation
James: Being a big fan of anything to do with space and spaceships I enjoyed doing the artwork for this game. I feel I was successful at creating a run-
My main aim for the design of the monster was to create something very alien and scary, I don't feel I totally accomplished this. If I could do it again I would experiment with some more unusual movement and animation instead of a traditional walk cycle, something that seemed more alien and a little disturbing. Some things that I would improve on are:
" I would have liked to be more experimental with the monster walk cycle and design.
" Pushed the scenery/item design to include better alien elements.
" More environmental animations/bursting steam pipes/things breaking to create a better sense of tension.
Adam D: I was very pleased with the overall look of the game, I felt like James' designs perfectly captured the feel that I wanted. I contributed the HUD and a few other graphics such as the doors and effects. The combination of James' graphics with the lighting effects worked as well as I'd hoped, I agree that it would be nice to keep working on the details of the ship and make it feel like it is seriously damaged with sparks flying, warning lights and smoke. For performance reasons I had to go easy on the particle effects, it would be nice to see a few more in the game to enrich the atmosphere though.
Music, Sound & Additional Development
Guest Paragraph by Edge
As Adam D mentions, this was the first major project we worked on where I wasn't taking the lead, and this led to an amazing game jam experience for me… when the inevitable game breaking bugs hit at 1am, I just shrugged and went to bed. It was an uplifting experience that I fully recommend.
The other great thing about Adam taking the lead was being able to concentrate solely on music and sound. I have done the soundtrack for all 16 of our previous games, and it's something I really love doing, but it's always a bit of rush to do it alongside development during a game jam. With Not Alone I could just take that extra time to put together music that really fitted the atmosphere of the game. I fell back on my normal workflow of using GarageBand for iPad, which again drove me mad and left me swearing to myself that I would invest in a proper setup for the next game jam (this is not the first time and won't be the last). Despite the flaws, GarageBand allows for quick and easy composition of electronic music, and after recently binge-
With music out of the way I did something I'd been wanting to try for years, and indulged in a bit of actual sound design. We needed some creepy alien sounds for the creature, and I decided to try out a crazy idea I'd been toying with. I set the iPad up to record sound through the microphone directly into GarageBand, and asked my long-
Later on in the jam a request came in from Adam for a ship's computer voice, he pointed me towards a Text-
Other than the audio work, I also got to do some proper playtesting, which is a stage we always leave out of our game jam entries (mainly due to time constraints). James & I (along with guests Pete & Dave) all contributed to the play testing, and it became obvious just what an important part of the process it is. We saw massive improvements in every build, often directly based on our feedback, it's something we really need to try and do more of on future game jam entries.
Final Word from Adam D
Not Alone is hopefully the beginning of me doing more design and development for the team, by just giving it a go you can learn so much. It is a step in the right direction, I think I need to finish off a post-
Posted on 15th November 2016 by ADAM D
Not Alone -
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