Flight Exploration

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As part of our preparation for the games industry, BUas’s IGAD study program put us through a year long game development project and encouraged a full and proper development cycle.

I joined the project at the end to help the team polish the experience for release. I worked mostly as Tech Designer on implementing some of the fundamentals.

Body of Work

Tech Design: Systems

  • Save/Load Game
  • Steam Achievements
Implementing a Save Game system

As soon as I joined the team I was tasked with designing and developing a system that would save and load player progress. This required me to quickly understand the code base, then leverage that understanding to know which data to save and how to manipulate it upon loading.

I had to elucidate all the data to be managed when saving progression – a perfect exercise for a newcomer as it forced me to take and give info to already established tech systems, which required intense teamwork.

I had to understand a complex chain of quest progression-related logic in order to issue the correct sequence of commands upon loading quest progress, hence recreating the saved progression.

Implementing Steam Achievements

I used the Steamworks SDK to implement Steam Achivements via Blueprints.

Tech-wise, it came down to exploring the code base to understand precisely when events happen and keeping the implementation tidy.

On the design side, the issue was timing and tuning. Achievements had to be unobtrusive during play. They also had to maintaining a balance between challenge and accessibility.

Game Design: Collectibles

  • Tuning
  • Placement
Making the Collectibles feel nice

One of my first tasks were implement and balance an additional collectible type as well as tune the first type to play well. This would give me a chance understand and internalise the fundamental gameplay design.

The basic collectible simply needed to be cured of its inappropriate hitbox size. To fix it, I took into consideration the responsiveness of the plane and how it interacted with the spaces in which the collectibles were placed.

I implemented an additional collectible that the player had to shoot to collect. The work involved managing the size of the mesh and hitbox, syncing the destruction animation with the disappearance effect, and making the collectibles interface with the plane’s autotargeting functionality (which also had its radious and range tweaked).

Distributing the collectibles appropriately

As the level changed throughout the phase, I was responsible for updating the placement of collectibles and creating the placement of new ones.

I dealt with two distinct types of collectibles – one you fly through, the other you shoot. My task was to place them so that they were exciting to spot, fun to shoot, and tricky to fly through. All this would serve the ultimate goal of reinforcing the core dynamic of exploration.

The biggest challenge to placing collectibles in a flight game is the balancing of two acts: first is adhering to principles of framing and leading, second is to maintain appeal across multiple approach vectors.

In these cases I found that most of the decision comes from understanding the players’ psychology and other factors contributing to their likely behaviour. This includes things like where quests lead them, where cliff openings are located, where shiny grass is, etc.

The supporting consideration is the desire to make a collectible universally approachable – a collectible on an open field, if approached horizontally, is equally suggestive in the center of the field as it is slightly off-center. If approached vertically however, the way it’s framed by adjacent hills makes all the difference.

The Final Product

Though at the time of writing this the game is still in early access on Steam, it already has amassed quite an audience with more than 10k downloads. 

A polished experience, the product boasts:

  • Incredibly gorgeous and relaxing atmosphere
  • Smooth, immediately accessible gameplay
  • Potentially hours quests and exploration

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