Sunday, November 25, 2012

Experiments with isocron maps

We're interested in ways of mapping race information in the post-race display. One way of doing that it to use isocron maps. The idea is that a curve is drawn that connects the positions that all players were in at a given moment. Using a series of these lines, you can get a sense of how the relative distances between players changed over the course of the race. Right now there are loops appearing, and other weird things that aren't quite right. Looks pretty though.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Frogs and lotuses

The latest build of Chalo Chalo will be playable at Copenhagen's first Local Multiplayer Picnic on November the 18th, and at the Versus event in WORM, Rotterdam on the 24th of November.

To business: Between races, Chalo Chalo players get to see their scores. Up until now, the scores have been indicated by solid blocks of colour. Something like this:

The trouble is that players can have negative scores (losing a race loses you one point), but the scheme above doesn't display any score below zero. One solution we've been talking about is to use a special symbol to indicate negative points. I've been fiddling with this approach. Visually, as soon as a symbol was introduced to indicate negative points a couple more problems became apparent: the positive point indicators were less interesting to look at than the negative indicators, and the discrepancy between abstract and representative indicators was annoying. Here's the work in progress as it stands now, using icons for both negative and positive icons. A lotus flower for positive, the frog for negative.
I'm not happy with it yet. I don't like the tension between the icons and the rectangles they inhabit. The grid of rectangles, on its own, divides up and 'activates' the screen space in a pleasing way, while the irregular outlines of the icons work to deny that grid. The two tendencies are battling with each other too much at the moment. Also, the dark, but coloured, backgrounds of the 'inhabited' rectangles are too similar in tone to the uninhabited squares, making the image feel fiddly.
That's a bit better.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Stupor becomes Stupify

Here's my slightly wordy in-game description of one of Chalo Chalo's power-ups:

On pressing an action button the nearest competitor is targeted. On release their ability to change speed or direction is temporarily removed.
Single use. Hold button to target nearest player, release to activate.

This power-up began life when Richard entered the idea into our mighty power-up-ideas-spreadsheet under the name "Steer Stealer (Tomasz please think of a decent name for this one)".

I did my best, and renamed it Stupor. Since it causes another player to fall into a 'stupor'. It turns out it could be better still.

A seemingly relevant detour: My naming strategy for power-ups has been to choose terms that are short, somehow descriptive of their function, and obscure. In that order of priority. Certainly among my favourite names at the moment is Richard's Remi: the player travels faster in proportion to haw far away he/she is from the other players. The name is a reference to the lonely protagonist from the 1878 novel Sans Famille (Alleen op de wereld in Dutch). In second place for me is Safa, an as-yet unimplemented power-up that, upon activation, causes the goal to slowly move towards the empowered player. Safa is a reference to the mountain that Mohammed commanded to come to him. According to the legend, the mountain didn't come to Mohammed in the end. In Chalo Chalo the goal will be more obliging.

Anyway, Stupor. It turns out it's not ideal. We noticed that everyone ends up calling it Stupify. It makes sense: Stupify is what you do, from the perspective of the user of the power-up, you stupify another player. You don't enter a stupor yourself. And this feels a much more natural way of referring to it.

This is one of the many cases that the iterative approach we've been taking to developing the game has been valuable. These days most of the development decisions happen after playtesting. Recently that's been at the Local Multiplayer Game Picnic events, and at the Indigo 2012 game event.

I think of renaming this power-up as analogous to paving a path that people have already trodden through the grass. I don't think there's any shame in admitting that spontaneous order is smarter than I am. In fact, whether appropriate or not, I feel almost proud of that!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Refining the color pallet

Chalo Chalo's color pallet hasn't been getting the most attention so far. Time for some tweaks.

The current pallet functions pretty well, except for color blind people. They are having problems distinguishing the players' colors. Also the pallet looks rather prototypish. Which in a way it is, but it would benefit from some refinement.

The current colors:

The good:
- The player colors are easily communicated. "I'm red, you're blue and we need to stop that green dude".
- Ice is white and the slow tar is black. Also this is easy to explain to the players.
- The speedy terrain (yellow) is easily spotted. Which helps planning your path quickly.
- All player colors are different from the colors used in the terrain. This prevents players from thinking their color is connected to the terrain behaviour.

The bad:
- Color blindness prevents clear distinction between the players' colors.
- The color pallet feels like it is still a placeholder. It lacks refinement.


This one mostly feels as if a yellow filter is added to the whole scene. It feels a bit retro. Rather pleasant to the eye, but not fresh enough.
I really like that the tar isn't black and has a little red in it. It will be still easy for players to point that one out by referring to it as the dark patches. Probably still close enough to black to be called black by quite some players. 
The same applies to the ice. No longer pure white makes the pallet more subtle. It's a bit too close to the yellow now.

Also I removed the black outer ring of the players. That ring helps a lot in making the players stand out against all backgrounds, but I'm going to try and see how far we can get without. It looks a lot nicer.

With this one I tried to keep all colors in a limited color pallet. All colors relate to blue or red. Visually nice, but difficult to get all contrasts right. Especially the lighter colored players don't stand out on ice.

What does work well is to have the ice and neutral terrain have a blueish hue and contrasting that with the reds of the tar and speedy terrains. All terrains are very easy to read.

So far I like this one best.
The colors seem fresh and unfiltered. Will have to still test it for color blindness.
I guess this means the speedy terrain becomes grass : )


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Missile on ice exploit

Using the missile power up on ice seems like a very convenient way to travel.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Now after every race a screenshot gets saved of the final race paths. We'll analyse thousands of those using microscopes and wearing lab coats.

This race shows me beating the auto pilot players. Indeed we've spend a limited amount of time on the auto pilot script.

Chalo Chalo on show at Indigo in Utrecht

Indigo is a yearly event that showcases a variety of Dutch independent games. This year it all takes place in Utrecht's city hall and the event can be visited Saturday September 29. This will be the first real public showing of the game.

More about the event here:

Chalo Chalo: First Contact

Chalo Chalo will be playable at Indigo 2012 In Utrecht.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Intense dot steering. Photo: Annika Vos

Chalo Chalo thoughts after Multiplayer Game Picnic #3.

  • Amp visual feedback for explosions even more with very brief display of: rays, dark screen overlay.
  • Power-up: Ranged blast weapon with kick-back for the launcher
  • Power-up: Horizontal mirroring of the terrain (can be interpreted different ways). Thanks to Jan Willem.
  • Trinity: avoid ice 'exploit' by making the direction that clones appear always perpendicular to a line towards the goal. (Many don't 'get' trinity at the moment, underpowered?).
  • Lassoo: ranged weapon. when opponent is hit, firer and opponent are pushed towards each other (proportionally to the distance between them).
  • Stun gun. Add slight 'homing' behaviour to projectiles.

A big thanks to everyone who played, and gave praise, constructive criticism and suggestions.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pacman power-up

 Prototyping the pacman power-up, which isn't yet behaving itself with the trail effect (test post).