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Ides of Change

Hello internet! We have a lot of ground to cover today, so I’ll keep this brief. Team Retro Yeti has been incredibly busy learning how to juggle chainsaws that happen to be lit on fire, in case you were wondering about the lack of updates. But don’t forget, you can follow our twitter or facebook pages for the news you crave! We update those all the time.

That being said…Game design is a tricky thing. Sometimes it’s a lot like Mario Kart, where you cruise along and do your best to come in any place that isn’t last. Other times it’s like musical chairs, but instead of chairs it’s a bunch of bear traps and there’s no music.

What I’m saying is: the best laid plans of mice and game developers are no match for the whims of time and inspiration.

We’ve long been wrestling with a big question that’s circled our ping ability like hungry sharks. “Why do I have to click all the time? Why isn’t it always on all the time?” The answer we came back with, until recently, was that we want to give players a game where they have to choose when to use their ability. It’d be what differentiated between good players and great players. But as we continued through our iterations, it was clear we weren’t meeting that goal, and the gameplay we wanted to create was falling short. It’s plagued us for months, and became a sort of freebie bingo square during any feedback session we had. Finally, several members of the team brainstormed and came up with a brilliant solution that tied everything up with a neat little bow. What if ping was more like a flashlight?

Now wait! Don’t freak out. We don’t mean a beam of directed revealing. We like the wave emitter/omni-directional fun times we have right now. With a ping flashlight, the player can turn the ability off and on at will. This curbs the constant click problem and allowed us to utilize another idea we’d been toying with for quite some time.

The internet is a place where you have a need for speed. Speed is generally discussed in terms of bandwidth. We won’t go into definitions and technical explanations, that’s just the lingo you need to know. So, in order to facilitate a charge or drain scenario with the fast and slow lanes, we’ve introduced a bandwidth meter. This will indicate the player’s speed and will power the ping ability. The short version is this: if you run on fast tiles, your bandwidth increases because your speed increases. If you hit the slow tiles, your speed decreases, and so does your bandwidth. If it drops low enough, you drop off the internet because your connection speed is too slow – so now we have a new fail state for you lot.  The bandwidth decreases at a steady rate as you play – so it provides incentive to run on fast tiles as much as possible. At any rate, it is from this bandwidth meter that the ping flashlight takes its power. If you have maximum bandwidth, your ping has maximum reveal radius and can stay on longer. As the bandwidth decreases, so does the radius of the ping. And you remember that pixelization effect we had when you spam-clicked the ping ability? That’s coming back. If your bandwidth is too low, your vision is less high definition.

You’re probably asking, “Well, wait. I can still leave it on all the time and still be fine. Right?” Wrong! We have one more treat for you. Inhibitors! That’s what we call them, anyway. We might call them something else. My personal vote is “Lag Spike” but the team just groaned when I suggested it. Anyway. The inhibitor(s) are taking the place of the projectiles thrown by the looming ISP boss. It serves as an alarm system – if the player’s ping hits the radius of the inhibitor’s own ping-like ability, it will react by changing all the tiles within its radius to slow tiles. It serves also as a conversion system, slowly pulsing slow lanes out into the level from the point of impact. Basically, it’s a landmine that you don’t want to trigger with your ping. Here’s some lovely concept art on the inhibitors that Rachel helpfully provided:

inhibitorV3

Sounds pretty lame, right? Don’t worry. Bandwidth comes back into play here. If you have a full bandwidth meter, you can use a supercharged ability to destroy the inhibitor and cause a power backlash. The supercharge can only be used when the bandwidth is maximum, otherwise you must pick your way around the inhibitors and hope for the best.

On top of all of that crazy goodness, we’re removing our static mesh tile system and using a brush system, aka decals. Basically, each piece of the floor, fast lane, jump square, etc had to be placed as a tile. This meant thousands of actors and an insane workload when it came to builds and running the game on any computer less than brand new. Decals are essentially images we can stretch across the floor and have the same effects that the tiles did, only they’re only one actor. Implementing this change has also resulted in breaking the whole game, so we’re in the process of picking up the pieces and putting new levels together while we fix the old ones.

All of this probably sounds crazy and sudden, but every one of these mechanic tweaks have come from whispered ideas from the last six months. Our primary goal is creating a fun experience in support of net neutrality, and that’s not changing. We’re a very agile team and these changes are new, so we might decide we hate them and cut them immediately. However, even though we’re the developers, we still set our sights based on your feedback, so if you have any thoughts on these changes we’d LOVE to hear them.

So that’s where we are, friends. Iterating in crazy ways as usual. If all goes well, we’ll have a playable build with these new tweaks up and running within the next week or two. Once again, please give us feedback. We need it. It sustains us.

 

 

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