By Wesley Sappington
September 1st! You know what that means... school is coming back in session. It's certainly going to be a weird year, as if it wasn't weird enough already!
But Eyesight persists through it all! This summer (which was extended by the early closure of school) has been a wild ride. Here are the top three downright insane things that happened to our little enterprise during this wacky time.
1. A ton of code got deleted
Due to a software error (Oh, the irony!) a huge portion of the Conundrum code base was irretrievably deleted. This was entirely my stupid blunder, and I was kicking myself as rewrote a ton of grueling UI code. (UI is my least favorite thing, BTW)
In the absence of school, I somehow managed to pull an all-night coding session and nearly finish rewriting the lost code, just as the sun rose the next morning. Turns out frustration mixed with angst and Coca-Cola is a great motivator.
2. A tree fell on Sam and Will's car
3. New team member!
Bet you didn't expect any good news on this list, eh? Amidst the craziness of the pandemic, and despite Social Distancing, we still managed to recruit a new team member!
Justin Kingsnorth will be working alongside myself, helping to finish & polish the Conundrum code base. He's very excited to have such a cool project to work on!
Despite all the delays caused by insane circumstances, Eyesight forges ahead!
This week, the Saving/Loading algorithm for Conundrum was completed. This marks one of the last key pieces of the puzzle for the Conundrum code.
The code is now truly in the polishing phase. No longer will any major overhauls be necessary. From here on, it'll be testing, testing, and testing!
As the soundtrack is being developed, the code polished, and the art finalized, I truly believe that against all odds this is going to be a great game.
Wish us luck in the online school year!
By Wesley Sappington
As you might know from our last blog post, (be sure to subscribe to our mailing list if you missed it!) we've finally figured out a big hole in Conundrum game design. Essentially, for a really long time, we had no idea how the player should be collecting resources in game.
Which is a big deal. Conundrum is a very resource-heavy game. After all, it's all about making things. The player builds their bases and defenses with the many components the game offers. (like turrets, computers, radars, lasers, etc.) The player gets those components by acquiring raw materials.
But where do the raw materials come from?
The answer - belts!
I don't mean the kind of belts you put on your pants. I mean conveyor belts, which carry convenient packages of supplies to the player.
The idea for Belts came about in a lore discussion - it's awesome when lore and game design connect!
I had been going over the idea of The Warehouse; the mysterious, dark, scary place underneath The Labyrinth. (As if The Labyrinth wasn't dark and spooky enough!) The Warehouse is mentioned by The Narrator throughout the game, as a warning to the player. Spoiler alert: the end of the game takes place down there.
Anyways, that's when Thomas Culhane (Fallen World's Traveler Programmer and Assistant Conundrum Programmer) came up with the idea to use The Warehouse as a place to get resources. After all, it's literally a "warehouse."
Belts carry supplies up from the dark abyss of The Warehouse into the light of The Labyrinth. (Clearly the designers of The Labyrinth were very fond of moving boxes around their facility for some reason!) The belts vary in length, but they all lead back into the darkness below.
The player can collect the supplies the belts are carrying using vacuums - more on that next time.
There are multiple different types of belts. Belts colored like copper (pictured above) carry packages of copper and iron. They're common on the outskirts of The Labyrinth, near the entry point and far from The Core. Gold belts carry, you guessed it, gold. They're found in the mid-section of the player's journey to The Core. (The player is trying to get to The Core of The Labyrinth) White belts carry the most potent resource in the game - steel - and are only found extremely close to The Core.
There are other resources in the game, not carried by belts. Fluids, like water and Nitric Acid are found in pipes. More on that in a future post, so keep your eyes peeled!
I'd like to take a moment to complement Eyesight Technologies' Conundrum artist, Sam Kliment, for his amazing work on these belts. They look awesome!
The belts were originally (as designed by myself) going to be 4x4 squares rather than elongated lines. The 4x4 squares would carry materials from left to right, with the middle two rows being where the items could be collected. But Sam came up with a much better idea - long belts that run all over The Labyrinth (and presumably underneath it) which looks much better!
Next time, I'll probably be talking about Vacuums - how players collect resources from the belts.
Stay safe, stay well, stay home!
By Wesley Sappington
In the age of coronavirus, it seems like everything's being cancelled. We're lucky we got our fundraiser in when we did!
Despite coronavirus, the team continues to persist and even thrive. (Even if we're doing so online, and not in person!) We're reaching out to some professional marketers, because, let's face it - no one on the Eyesight team is good at marketing!
The trailer at the fundraiser was also a huge success, but we're working on improving it for our internet debut. After all, we raised all this money, so we want to put it behind a product that looks phenomenal!
The games are well on the way to completion. Speaking of which, check out how much Conundrum has changed since the last blog post! (Seriously, you gotta follow us on Instagram and Twitter.)
The only thing changed in this image, compared to our previous images, is the look of the floor. It's amazing how much a simple change can affect the entire look of the game!
We wanted to accent the aesthetic of the Labyrinth - a grungy, dirty, industrial complex. And we think this aesthetic change really achieved that!
Uh oh, we're under attack! It was so exciting to see the project come together when making this promotional footage. The zombies are coming. The turrets are firing. A real, classic, Conundrum battle.
Why aren't the turrets targeting the zombies? This is a very important game mechanic. Turrets in Conundrum are dumb. They just shoot when they're told to shoot. The player changes the settings of the turrets with a computer block. For example, these turrets all have "autofire" enabled, so that they shoot the zombies without player intervention.
In order for a turret to target monsters, a sensor device must be attached to the turret. This is its own separate block. For example, a thermal sensor - which uses heat signatures to find where to shoot. Or, in the most advanced cases, a visual recognition camera, which can see and target enemies visually.
But in the above shot, no sensors are involved. They're just firing blindly at the zombies.
The most exciting part about all of this is that it marks the end of the "basic necessity" development for Conundrum. That means we're now out of the gritty, bare-bones development process, and are free to focus on game design. We're at the point of coming up with crafting recipes, new game mechanics, and item balancing to make the game. In essence, the game is now playable. The rest of the development process is about ensuring that it's fun.
In the time-lapse video above, we were working out the "progression" of the player. In game design, a "progression" is the general layout of how the player grows and develops throughout the game play.
The progression involves three key elements:
1. The resources at the player's disposal. In the case of Conundrum, the player starts out with iron and copper, progresses to gold, then to steel. With each "layer" of resource progression the player "unlocks" new capabilities.
2. The story of the game. Even with a somewhat story-less game like Conundrum (the F.W.T. team is glaring at me right now) the player is uncovering new mysteries and learning new things about the Labyrinth, the Narrator, and the Minotaur. In Conundrum this is limited, as everything is surreal and mysterious anyways. But a progression is still made.
3. The player's skill. Like I touched on in point #1 you can make really complex machines with the most advanced material in the game - steel. But it's considered bad progression if the player doesn't have the knowledge or experience to use those resources. The progression has to line up with how the player will, generally speaking, move through the game.
Keep in mind, Conundrum isn't a game with clearly distinct or defined "levels." Here, the progression refers to the general development of the player as he/she plays the game. Good games are designed to move the player along the progression, without the player realizing they're moving along a pre-set progression. The illusion of free will, haha!
We finally worked out the issue of resource collection! For a long time, we had literally no idea how the player was going to find resources around the Labyrinth.
The answer? Belts. More on that next week.
By Wesley Sappington
I know I haven't updated the blog in a while, but if you've been following us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you'll know we've been quite busy.
Temperature (and the challenge that comes with sundown)
Temperature is a very important mechanic in Conundrum. The player requires heat to survive. While this is fine during the day, the temperatures in the Labyrinth drop well below freezing at night. That's why it's important for the player to keep warm during the night, whether that's with a bonfire, electrical heater, or other heating device.
The reason this mechanic is so important is because it forces the player to "hunker down" at night. While the player can explore all they want during the day, the player needs a well fortified base at night. We want to force the player to build bases each night, rather than just wander around in the dark. Building bases is super important to survival, and surviving the night is probably the most challenging part of the game.
Building a base can range anywhere from a dirt square to a complex base with turrets, security systems, radars, and transceivers. The game gets increasingly difficult as the player approaches The Center, (aka the exit) so while a dirt hut might be fine the first night, the player will need more complex forts as they progress. Also, a dirt hut will likely be destroyed after one night; a structure that needs to last a long time will need to be more advanced.
Battery block, aka developer hell
The battery block was difficult to code because the engine, originally, only supported two types of machines - generators and devices. Generators generated electricity, while devices takes electricity. But a battery needs to do both - take in energy and output energy. This led to the power system being reworked. (multiple times) Generators and devices are still the two types of machines, but a machine can be both. This change screwed up alot of stuff (mostly the power distribution in circuits with multiple generators) but after some work we've managed to fix it.
One of the most persistent problems with batteries was the fact that they powered each other, causing an uneven distribution as shown above. One battery discharged faster than the others. However, this issue has since been fixed. (below) As it turns out, this wasn't just happening with batteries... It was happening with everything! (All the generators) Glad the batteries allowed me to notice it, otherwise I wouldn't have known!
The next order of business, in terms of the power system, was to create the generator overloading system.
Generators don't give out infinite power... That would be crazy! When a generator is connected to a certain threshold of devices, it will begin to flash with a warning. This is the generator overheating. If the generator is connected to a power draw over that threshold, it will begin to flash with increasing intensity, until it eventually explodes!
The explosion will cause damage to blocks and entities in a nearby area... As well as waste a lot of resources, since generators are so expensive... This is a PSA for all the future Conundrum players - keep an eye on your generators!
We don't have the explosion animation yet, but check out the overheat effect below.
Difficulty Increase & Redshift
A few days ago on on our Instagram, I posted this really cool image. It looks really cool IMO, so feel free to set it as your wallpaper or something... I have it set as mine :D
But what exactly is this? Well, obviously it's the "older than time itself" hellscape we call the Labyrinth. The redness appears as you approach the center. As you can see, the top left (further from the center of the Labyrinth) is pretty clear. The bottom right (closer to the center of the Labyrinth) is increasing in reddishness.
This reddishness is the evil of the Labyrinth... The demonic nature of the Labyrinth emanating out from the center... So, the more evil presence you feel, the closer you are to escape.
As I mentioned before, the game gets more difficult as you approach the center. The red haze close to the center makes it hard to see, as electrical instruments go haywire. Radars, signal dishes, and the like become less and less accurate, while unique monsters not found in the outer regions of the Labyrinth lurk in the red haze.
What about when you're at the center? What's there?
I wouldn't know. Very few have made it that far. ;)
By Wesley Sappington
Hello fellow Conundrum solvers, your favorite coder is back!
So you know how we keep hinting about evil monsters chasing you throughout the Labyrinth? Well, now they actually can chase you!
(I'm sorry about the really zoomed out size - I think I need to make the camera view smaller in general) As you can see, the zombie is chasing me! Can I get Game of the Year Award yet? Lol.
Here's what's going on behind the scenes.
Now, the zombie is smarter than he looks. (At least for now. In the actual game the zombie might be much stupider - but for testing purposes I made him smart.) The pathfinding will avoid stronger barriers and always go for the path of least resistance.
As you can see, the pathfinding (blue line) avoided the brick and went for the dirt. That's because dirt is obviously easier to break than brick.
Things were not always this easy.
The utopian algorithm you see above was not always the wonderland it is today. I had numerous hair-pulling moments with this thing, special thanks to programmer Thomas Culhane not only with his coding skills but also his ability to keep me from the brink of insanity.
I'm going to forget some of the smaller issues we faced. Most of the problems centered around diagonal motion. It was not a fun time.
A huge thing with diagonal motion was the fact that the entity was unaware of its own size and shape. This forced it to scoot against walls and get stuck. Entities frequently got stuck in corners, as you see above.
Things are still not that easy.
Oh, silly you! You thought we fixed all of the problems! How presumptuous of you to assume that we "know what we're doing." Lol. We still face two major problems.
Entities have these things that I call "margins." Currently, the margin for all entities is 5 points. (1 tile = 48 points) The margin shrinks the entities' collision box down. Without it, passing through a 1 block space (as a player) would be astronomically difficult, because you have to hit the space just right - there is zero margin for error.
However, this presents our first problem. When the player scoots up against a wall, if his top-left point passes into the wall's borders, his position will register as wall. (Since the block an entity is in is determined by the top left corner of said entity) That means that the destination of the path in respect to the zombie becomes impassible. (since the player is, to the zombie, inside of a wall) This causes the pathfinding to stop operating and read as no possible paths to the destination.
Secondly, the entities just aren't smart enough. Let's say the zombie locks a path to the player, but the player starts moving left and right over and over again. This will force the zombie to repeatedly recalculate its path, and the zombie will be left a confused mess! (I can't seem to get a good video example of this right now, though if I do I'll be sure to post it!)
Anyways, that's what's going on over here in The Labyrinth! Until next time!
By Wesley Sappington
Hey everyone. Yesterday on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook I promised some big updates... HERE WE GO!
New Conundrum Landing Page!
First off, Conundrum has its own landing page. Check it out! It explains some stuff about Conundrum, and showcases some images... And maybe soon, a trailer video! It is the home base for all things Conundrum, and I must say whatever devilishly handsome software developer made it must be incredibly talented. :)
Massive Milestone Overcome for Conundrum!
Ok, new page, big whoop. But check out the Conundrum electrical system!
Conundrum has an electrical system for powering devices. In the above image, a nuclear reactor (center) powers a bunch of electric lights in a dark region of the Labyrinth. Some batteries (right) can also be seen drawing power from the reactor.
Remember, Conundrum is all about creating new inventions to help the player solve the Conundrum. The player will need to use creativity and intelligence to invent new things and overcome the many obstacles that the Labyrinth poses. We want the electrical system to reflect that. Wires, lights, generators, etc. can be used in any way the player can imagine. The system is meant to be versatile enough to let the player do whatever he/she wants to do. Happy building!
The Conundrum electrical mechanics are obviously used to power devices. Devices like radars, (to scan for nearby hostiles) turrets, (to help defend against monsters) lights, heaters, and more. These devices might help the player find his way through the Labyrinth or defend him/herself from monsters.
There are a few different types of generators, each with their own max power output. Each device has a certain required power. If the generator reaches its max power output, it will start to smoke and spark. If the generator exceeds that limit, (by plugging in too many devices) the generator will explode! (Animations still pending, lol) So be careful, fellow inventors!
Luckily, multiple generators can be plugged into the same device(s), in which case the power draw is distributed evenly across them.
Ok ok, that was our big announcement. Though we did have a meeting today, which was pretty productive!
We worked hard on art and code, hopefully we'll be able to get out some basic FWT (our other game, not Conundrum) screenshots soon! (The FWT landing page can't be under construction forever... right? RIGHT???!?!?!)
Not only that, but we made some serious musical progress for FWT. Gabe had a total grind with our problematic music mixing software. Through the blood, sweat, and tears of using professional grade software we don't know how to use, Gabe was able to make some beautiful music to pleasure your ears with.
As you listen to this amazing track, I want you to think about the torture and agony that went behind each and every note. For Gabe's sake, please enjoy it. We're beat.
The above is the FWT final battle music theme. It's meant to be a parallel of the FWT main theme, which is written but not mixed or rendered yet. I'll be posting the main theme next week.
By Wesley Sappington
Hey everyone! Good meeting yesterday, lots of development progress for both FWT and Conundrum. Fingers crossed for some FWT Screenshots soon, we haven't really shown any of FWT thus far! It's coming though, I swear!
As you may know, Conundrum takes place in a maze. We've begun work on the maze generation algorithm. This is just the basic concept, the final maze will be very different.
You may notice that the game is running a little slow. (lag) That's because this world is much larger than our normal testing environment. Since we want a maze almost ten times this size, we are going to need to do some serious work. Thomas is currently reworking the maze generation algorithm to be much more efficient. That will cut down on loading time in the beginning of the game. (Right now the game can take 20 seconds or more to load a large world size!) I'm working on making the rendering more efficient, so that actual gameplay runtime doesn't lag. Don't worry, none of you guys will be lagging or suffering from long loading times!
Remember that Conundrum music from last week? After bumbling around on Mixcraft for hours (a piece of music rendering software that is so incomprehensible to us) we finally have mixed it! Take a listen.
That's all folks, see you later! (Some photos of the meeting below)
By Wesley Sappington
We just had a really productive meeting!
Gabe started the Conundrum main theme music, which sounds pretty cool! Might be changed in the future, but for now it's what we're sticking with.
Keep in mind, this music isn't mixed or mastered yet. So there might be some glitches in tempo and stuff when playing it on your computer.
Our biggest challenge of this meeting was definitely adding arms to Conundrum's player sprite. We wanted to add arms because we thought that would make the walking and running animation look better. I'll add those files later once Will uploads them to our folder.
Daniel and Olivia did some serious work on the FWT plotline. We had to come up with an explanation for why the western part of the U.S. is inaccessible to the player. We're thinking that there was, and perhaps still is, a quarantine zone at the edge of the map. The question remains - are the isolated people beyond the quarantine zone still alive?
Another huge accomplishment of the day was smooth camera motion in Conundrum. This was to match the smooth entity motion I talked about in my last post.
It was also out first outdoor meeting, (spring is finally here!) and Olivia had a lot of fun taking photos of things. We're going to post them cause why not.
By Wesley Sappington
Hey guys, I'm super excited today!
The local press (on Patch.com) ran a story on us!
You guys should check it out, I'm so excited!
Honestly, doing an email interview is no less stressful than a physical interview. The reporter and I corresponded over email, with him eventually sending me an "e-interview" of nine questions. I answered them as best I could, (not exactly experienced!) and he posted this article based on my answers and our website!
By Wesley Sappington
Hey guys, I'm back!
Conundrum, our 2D top-down game has gotten some major changes. The game works on a tile-based system, each block is one tile. Originally, entities were moving tile by tile... and it looked absolutely awful once we put animated sprites into the game.
It was a lot of work changing the ENTIRE entity placement and movement system, (a good portion of the game engine) but it had to be done. The tile-based movement was giving me a worse and worse headache every minute of debug.
See? Totally worth it.