Memphis Gaming Expo Post-Mortem

It’s been a while. Time to shake some dust off of this dev blog.

This past Saturday, I demoed a pre-Alpha build of our game, Sanity Razor, at the Memphis Game Developers booth at Memphis Gaming Expo.

This was the first year for Memphis Gaming Expo, so it was understandably small. The folks running the expo were great and even gave us our own nook to set up in. I demoed along side Dustin of Iced Vision and his excellent game of Particle Shield, and Ernest of Memphis Game Developers with his alpha version of Fallen Space:Genesis.

From the moment we set up at 10am, we had a continuous stream of people until 6pm. Upon which we wearily packed up our rigs, and headed home.

Here’s what I noted from my multitude of demos:

  • The controls are too sensitive. I personally thought they were a bit slow, but I’ve been working on this project since March and have become accustomed to the speed.
  • It’s easy to get lost in space. There are no boundaries to the level, as such if a player flies too far away the game culls everything past the render distance. This is especially problematic as the earth is a static background, so you have no frame of reference for how far you have traveled. Second, I ran into the issue of target indicators appearing on the opposite side of the player as well as in front. I solved this by testing if a target was being rendered that frame (a cheap way of figuring out if it was “in front” of the player). This compounded the problem of the culling distance as it meant that your radar would stop working on targets outside of the culling distance. Which brings me to the next point.
  • The HUD’s aiming reticles are still offset incorrectly. This make it almost impossible to hit anything without fire hosing your bullets into things.
  • Furthermore, the minigun’s bullets disappear too soon. Many players would have a target dead to rights with a continuous stream of hot lead. Yet nothing would happen as the bullets would disappear harmlessly.
  • Players expected the triggers to operate the weapons. I had opted for triggers to control vertical movement as they give you analog control of the vertical throttle. Players didn’t grasp the concept, but on the other hand, many never used the vertical thrusters. I plan to move this to the D-Pad, and allocate the triggers for the weapons.
  • The HUD did not display on the monitor. This isn’t really a problem, but people watching didn’t understand what I was talking about until they were in the headset. I’ll probably print out a screen shot next time.
  • Players need some sort of air brake. An implementation currently exists, but it’s too complicated. Currently, you hold the “A” button to charge and release a “quick boost.” This works by applying a multiplier to whatever the current active engines are. So the way the current air break works, the player lets go of the left analog stick (allowing the counter thrusters to fire wherever necessary) and uses the quickboost, which uses the multiplier on all of the counter thrusters.

After letting all of that soak in Saturday, Sunday night I sat down and played my own demo. Here are my personal notes on the matter.

  • It’s too hard to hit anything; I can’t shoot targets on the fly. I have to stop and pivot like a turret and hope I hit it.
  • I have no visual cue that the quick boost is working.
  • Controls are sensitive but flying is slow. I think it’s too much on the side of “simulation” and I need pull it more towards “game.” Or put more things out there as you really are flying fast, but you have no frame of reference.
  • Seeing things from the Mech’s point of view is cool, but currently pointless.

Overall, it’s just not fun. And that is a huge problem. People loved it because it was VR, not because it was a good game. I find this unacceptable. As such the team and I are really going to hit it hard to work on the game mechanics and make it fun.

Here’s our thoughts:

  1. Gimballed weapons to lock onto targets. This allows you to stay on the move and not resort to turret like controls.
  2. Rework the quickboost system into two different modes. “Quick Dodge” and “Quick Accel.” Both fire instantly on button press, but have a longer cool down since you no longer have to charge it up.
    1. Dodge splits the boost in half. A Sharp acceleration in one direction follow by an immediate deceleration. This is similar to a side step motion or dodge roll in other games.
    2. Quick Accel operates like above but without the deceleration. So a Player can quickly get up to speed. Furthermore, it can be used as an air brake. (Space brake I guess? Since there is no air in space.)
  3. IK targeting for the Mech viewpoint. We had always planned this, but we realized that without this feature, the game is just a 6 DOF shooter.

Overall I had a fun time demoing with the MGD guys. We even got personally invited to come to Shadowcon in January. Which we will definitely do as it serves as a good milestone and gives a deadline to look forward to.

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