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Upcoming Platform Game: Suzy Cube

12-15-2017, 10:38 AM
Suzy Cube Update: December 15, 2017

Darn holiday season! I've got a party to get to around noon, so I can't ramble on too long...

So first, I wrapped up design and sparse decoration on Level S-10.

That's right! I didn't even blur the screenshot this time. You're welcome!
The gimmick is inspired by a challenge in Super Mario Odyssey, though a little more forgiving. Was a fun one to work on and I hope you'll all enjoy it!

I also spent quite a while on trying to fix a framerate dip which occurs in this bit of Level S-5. I was poking around the level making some nips and tucks and I noticed I was dropping from solid 30fps on iPod Touch 5 to 25-ish. Not good! Both the shockwave bumpers and collapsing platforms seemed to contribute and my attempts so far to optimize both of them have not yielded the desired results. I shall continue to poke and prod!

Otherwise, we've moved the project over to the latest Unity 2017.2 patch. And with that done, Noodlecake have gone ahead and merged their social and analytics backends into the project mainline. With that stuff now available to me, I've gone ahead and written in the hooks to award achievements, update leaderboards and log some basic analytics events. Much on-device testing will be needed to ensure it's all working, of course.

And that's pretty much been my week! I hope to see you all back here next week for what might be my last update before I take a little break for the holidays. Ciao until then.
12-22-2017, 12:07 PM
Suzy Cube Update: December 22, 2017

Hey, folks! copying my blog post again this week, sorry to those of you who normally check both updates. I've got to run out and do some last minute grocery shopping!

Oh, system updates... Why must you always be so aggravating!? I've been downloading updates all week, and let me tell you, on this internet connection, it's not great!

Up to Date Update
The fun all started when I realized I couldn't build for iOS locally anymore. It was making it really hard for me to keep testing optimizations. With some help from Noodlecake, it was discovered that I needed to update my copy of Xcode. One long download later, problem still persisted... OH! It's because I hadn't actually installed the latest version of Xcode, just the latest supported by Mac OS Mavericks, which I was running... So I had to update to Sierra, not High Sierra, mind you, as I was warned it would bork a bunch of stuff if I did. So, then, after another leeeengthy download, I updated to Mac OS Sierra aaand... Well, you'll have to stay tuned for the conclusion, because as of writing this, I'm still staring at a progress bar for Xcode 9, which we suspect will fix my initial issue of no longer being able to build to iOS. Maybe I should go back to designing board games?

So, for the most part, I've been able to continue working on some stuff without influencing the downloads too much, though the installs do tend to require that I step away to allow them to complete properly.

So, what have I been up to when not staring at progress bars? Mostly small level improvements and decoration.

I've focused mostly on switching out a few pickups here and there and adding more coins, mostly in out of the way places as rewards for those who stray off the beaten path. In the screenshot up top, I changed the location of a teleporter which leads to a bonus room where a star can be found. It used to be, more or less, where the snowman is now. There was no way anyone would miss it, nothing secret or rewarding about it. Now, players need to realize that they can jump up to the ledge and make their way to the teleporter to access the bonus room. Much more engaging!

Level 4-3 got a bunch of decoration love in the form of stone block patterns, warm torchlight and optimized lightmap packing.

I didn't bother going overboard with the details as Suzy is getting chased down these towers by huge spiked crushers the whole time and players tend to rush through the level. Just enough decoration to give the space a sense of construction and theme.

Odds and Ends
Finally, I also received updated mockups for the level select screen from Noodlecake. I'm really liking how it's coming together! Oh, and I spent some time on the paper design for the final Special World stage. I don't want to make it super long or impossibly hard or anything, but I am hoping to pack in a little nod to, essentially, every other part of the game. I hope I'm not biting off more than I can chew!

And on that, merry Christmas! I don't foresee skipping next Friday's update, but, in case I do, happy New Year for good measure!

12-29-2017, 12:26 PM
Suzy Cube Update: December 29, 2017

With the holidays and all, I've only had one full day of work this week, so not much to update folks on.

What I ended up spending my time on, mostly, was trying different approaches to optimizing the collapsing platforms which had been proving problematic in large quantities on base hardware (Gen5 iPod Touch).

In my testing, I discovered that turning off shadow receiving on the platforms produced quite a performance boost, but Suzy's drop shadow is so integral to judging jumps, that turning off this setting simply wasn't an option.

What I settled on was aggressively reducing the platform's vertex count from 130 to 30. This, however, did mean sacrificing visual quality and letting the texture express the shape rather than using individually modeled stonework. But, that's the price we have to pay for performance sometimes.

Anywho, like I said, not much to update on this week. So, on that note, I'll get back to prepping for the season's last party.

Happy New Year everyone and see you in 2018!
01-05-2018, 01:32 PM
Suzy Cube Update: January 5, 2017

First update of 2018! Here we go!

I'm working on a level and I ripped out most of the work I did last week and early this week... YAY! Update done!

Oh, you want more details, do you!? FINE!

The level I'm working on is Level S-11 or the very final Special World stage. It's the one players will unlock by finding all the Stars in the game.

Much like the Mario games and many others in the genre seem to do with these "bonus level" style stages, I'm taking a "nostalgia trip" approach to the level's design. I'm attempting to call back to a number of the challenges and enemies faced throughout the game. Sort of like: "Hey, remember all that fun you had with Suzy?"

That's not to say the level doesn't include a number of unique twits on old challenges, of course.

So, what was I moaning on about at the top of the post?

For a while now, I've been hoping to award coins when damaging bosses. I wanted to do this by splashing coins out when bopping the poor serpents. Unfortunately, due to some very early engineering decisions (I use the term very loosely), this proved to be quite a pain in the ass. Once I finally got it working, it turned out I had introduced a crash bug! Long story short, I ended up tearing out all the work I had done rather than continuing to try to fix the bug (which may actually be a Unity issue). I'm not saying I won't ship with some version of the feature, I'm just saying that, for the time being, it's just not worth the time and effort when compared to MUCH more pressing tasks.

And that just about does it! I'm gonna dive back into level design and see about finish off the layout for Level S-11 before the weekend.

Good to be back! I hope you'll all check in on Suzy's progress next week. Ciao and Happy New Year!
01-13-2018, 03:31 PM
Suzy Cube Update: January 13, 2017

Hey, folks! Sorry about the late update. I had to help out with some embassy related tasks on Friday. I was able to pre-write my blog update, but not my forum post.

Ok, with that out of the way!
Level S-11, the game's finalist final end level of the end is done!

It's kinda hard, but not, like, punishingly crushing like many of Nintendo's big-secret-final-levels. I wanted the level to act like a fun recap of your adventures without, necessarily, making you want to crack your phone from gripping it too tightly. With S-11 all good and done, I moved on to some more decoration work.

Prettying up Level 4-4 is going quite well.

I'm expecting to wrap up decoration on the level on Monday.

Oh, and here's a tidbit which was decided on Friday so didn't make it into my blog update.
I'm going to have a call with Noodlecake on Tuesday where I hope to discuss a number of topics related to wrapping up development and prepping for launch. Before folks get too excited, I want to temper expectations by pointing out that, though work on support for things like social features has progressed nicely, we are still at the mockup phase with the UI redesign. After this meeting, I hope to have a better sense of when we can expect implementation on those changes to begin. As we work out how long we expect this stuff to take, we can start firming up the release window!

On that, have a great end-of-weekend, and I look forward to seeing you all next week!
Today, 11:24 AM
Suzy Cube Update: January 19, 2018

Hey yo!
So, I had a very productive call with Noodlecake this week. We mostly discussed the upcoming UI overhaul but also touched on a number of other topics here and there, including story presentation! More on that in a bit.

Fist, I just wanted to give a quick update on progress. It's pretty much the same old same old. Fixed some bugs, made some tweaks and improvements to levels and started work on Level S-6.

This was started pretty late in the week, so It's early goings, but I hope to wrap it up by mid next week.

So, what's this about story!!? Is Suzy Cube going to be winning writing awards and redefining our very notion of interactive narrative!? No, of course not. I'm basically aping a Mario game launched on a handheld system after all.

The story, such as it is, will simply serve as a little context and some diversion between worlds. To present this thin narrative, I always intended to use comic strip style wordless panels but never really knew what these would look like. During our call, Noodlecake's graphic designer and I decide to each come up with some mockups of what we imagine these could look like, trying to keep in mind the tone of the game and our time and budget constraints. Here's what I've got so far.

This first one is a vector trace-over of 3D assets from the game. I imagine an actual final version of this would probably include some more details to spruce up the empty areas, but this image still gives a pretty good idea of the results we could expect from this approach. Nice thing with this method is that, since it's built on top of actual game assets, it matches the look of the game nicely.

On the other hand, we have this cut-out style take on a similar scene. The completely different approach results in an illustration which stands out against the look of the actual game while, perhaps, better capturing the cute and silly personality of the product. I'm not going to lie, this is the one which ended up better resonating with us.

Well, what do you guys think? Let be know and I'll see you all next week, maybe with more mockups to share!