Enemies in Danger – pt 2
Here is Brett again with pt2 of his epic tome on how we got all the enemies into the game!
Enemies were once an endangered species in Lucidity, but now we had a plan to save them, giving them the variety and depth they needed to prosper, and we were ready to execute it.
In reality we’d bitten off a large chunk of work, but we were dedicated to it. ‘Dedicated’ is a nice way of saying we voluntarily put in our share of overtime) This dedication stemmed from the fact that we knew that enemies would have a huge impact on the quality of the game. Saul was a real hero in this respect…
For those who aren’t aware, Saul is an animation intern here, and he jumped into this enemy project with both feet and never looked back. I think he was here every night when I went home, he might have even slept here. He did every single enemy animation you see in Lucidity. The kung fu frogs had us laughing from the start. The snail spinning attack was genius, I had no idea how to make a snail threatening, but he did it. The mushrooms were my personal favorite and I even slipped in a few extra stationary enemies to show off his wonderful idle poses. Saul worked with John to get our 2D angler fish models to appear to swim and turn around without popping. In short, Saul was (and is) a rock star.
I had my own bit of fun when I expanded my horizons and tried my hand at being an artist. I was able to use Oliver’s particle tool to do a first pass on the space enemies, it was my first time ever doing VFX for a game and it was kinda fun. I think some of my enemies are still kicking around in a bonus level here or there. I also did my part to help Saul and Jeff out by hooking up the animation files to our models in our exporting software. Not really my day-to-day kind of task but on our team we all do what we can to pitch in and help each other out, its part of what helps us do what we do.
With all the art coming together I was then able to put my design hat back on. My task: Go through all of the levels in the game and replace the old dust bunnies with the new enemies while enforcing the movement standardization rules I’d laid out, as well as finding places for the new enemy types we’d developed. Yeah, it was a lot, and it was a grind. I was saved in large part by a little design tool hack that Oliver threw together for me (thanks Oliver! And thanks again for watching my cats!). It was literally called, ‘Brett’s enemy replacement hack’ in the tool menu. With it I was able to preserve the old enemy data and replace it with the new data without having to individually place hundreds of enemies and redraw their movement paths.
Once the enemies started showing up in our daily reviews the effect was immediate and profound. We loved them. We were happy we’d taken the time and effort to get them in there. There were way too many of them, often in really cruel places, but they were in.
I had a few of my funnier moments on the project watching people play the levels with the new enemies in… we’d managed to radically alter the difficultly curve of the game using them for better and worse. On the plus side we’d made the earlier and mid levels a lot more engaging and better balanced. On the minus side several of the later levels induced discussion of an achievement for completion without swearing aloud. Turns out that when you know where the enemies are going to move it’s much easier to avoid them… Who knew? :p
I (and Joe, mostly Joe) spent another chunk of time working on balancing everything out and smoothing the curve using his telemetry data… but that’s more or less how Lucidity’s enemies were endangered, and how we rescued them.