January 24, 2013

Prometheus,Time Donkey,chronotron

by Niklas Hansson

So our first update here after our greenlight launch is to try to clear up some of the misconceptions that surround Project Temporality(PT) and some games that people find similar to ours. A big part of the problem is the quite simple question:  how do you show core game-play of a puzzler in a trailer ? We opted to make a trailer that showed the spirit of the game instead of showing actual game-play for the most part and this has lead to some confusion.

One question here might be why Braid isn’t it in the subject line, well some people has mentioned Braid when comparing it to PT but I honestly think most people can agree that they are quit dissimilar. The one common part is time manipulation but while Braid uses a lot of different time manipulation modes over it’s different worlds, even the shadow mode works quite differently. Truth be told we hadn’t even played Braid when we conceived this game instead. The main inspiration was Cursor10 which seems to have inspired a lot of other games too.

Instead of trying to make a pure clone (which is legit as Time Donkey and Prometheus(well the first half) has done) we liked the part about cooperating with yourself but found the implementation and design of it quite frustrating. What if you mad a mistake on the 9th character ? Then you just had to restart and do it all over once again due to that small mistake, this happened a lot. Also you had a lot of repetitive action on the late clones where you had to climb up the tower again and again. These things made me never finish a game that I did really liked. I wished that there was a way to just undo my mistakes and to skip the boring sections.

Out of this PT was born. What if we had a puzzle based game where you could spawn a new copy of yourself at any time and any place in the game world to help you cooperate while removing all the tedium of the Fixed position/fixed time spawner’s where you always start at the same position and race vs the clock? (It’s not that I dislike them but I find it slightly inelegant and also it becomes a very different game, with very different puzzles if you have that restriction). During years of development the game grew and was streamlined and at the center was this simple concept: perform an action, rewind, spawn an new clone and the original “You” will keep performing the action. Already from the start we knew we didn’t want these characters to be just a recording of your actions, instead we made them a real living part of the game world. Which will lead to all kinds of neatness in the later puzzles :)

They key for us was always player freedom, we wanted to remove  limitations and give the player more freedom when playing around with time. Sure when we designed the puzzles we had one solution in mind but players sometimes found a different way. Quickly this lead us down the path of efficiency. If there are multiple ways to solve a puzzle shouldn’t we reward the player for finding an excellent way? This gave birth to the concept of Time energy, which is spent to create new clones, or to accelerate your movement. Out of that came the concept of Speedrunning; trying to find the fastest way through the levels by using as little energy as possible. If you solve the puzzle as efficiently as possible you could use as much energy as possible to speed though the rest of the level. This also let us come up with the ideas of puzzles that required a certain efficiency to clear the level. You could solve 1-2 puzzles easily but then when you got to the third, if you had been using a sloppy solution you would be out of energy and had to rewind and try to find out a more efficient way to solve the problem.

We also realized that by giving this freedom we could create much more complex and engaging puzzles than the fixed spawn position/time could, because a part of the puzzle is to figure out where/when and for how long you should record actions making it a very open ended game. Even a simple puzzle often hides a more efficient solution than what the player (or we) first imagined. Having over hundred of players trying out the game has helped us to home in on what makes PT interesting and fun in our puzzles.

So lets now look at those other games and compare them to PT. First out is Prometheus. I do like this game but it suffers from the same frustrating parts that Cursor10 had. It felt like my main objective was to explore the level first to learn where the buttons were or which buttons I had to keep pressed and which ones I only needed to press once(really enervating that one). Once I had mapped the world I could solve the puzzle. So this is an case of the exploration being the game. The other part was that it was all about synchronizing the actions of the different characters, a problem with this is that if you don’t see the other character having them performing perfectly synchronize actions can become a hassle, especially if you had to spend 1 minute to reach that point. In PT we have for most of the time avoided any puzzles that require too much synchronization, as standing and waiting isn’t our idea of fun. And having to remake a recording just to see that you got it 0.5 seconds wrong is frustrating. We do have some places where this is important but to help we use out minimap which shows the position of all timelines and what actions they are performing and anything that happens in the gameworld. Knowing about the game world isn’t the game solving the puzzle is. So how the game core mechanic in Prometheus works is exactly what we have tried to avoid, being based on a single position/length forces it into these puzzles just like the Ratchet and Clank games did. Our game  is about solving the puzzle in your mind and once you know the solution it won’t take time to carry it out, but you will need to try 3-5 times before you figure it all out on most puzzles :). Btw I have to say congratulations to Prometheus on the Epimetheus part where they broke out of the Curser10 mold, that is the best part of the game for me. Still quite different (but very cool).

Chronotron is also a syncronization based game where you try to perform the actions in sync to make your clones work together from a common start point.The really cool part here is that you need to be able to get back to the start, which causes some interesting things. It is also quite different from the mentality of PT as we have mentioned above.

The problem we are having presenting PT  is that the main part of the game is in the players mind and we can’t show you what happens there, or how the play testers looks when they have a eureka moment. What we can, and will do is to make a extra gameplay movie focusing on how the game plays and try to show the difference between it and those other games more clearly. But in the end you probably need to play it to see what it is all about. However as we are a puzzle based game we have to be very careful with demos and pre-alphas so they don’t spoil the game for you afterwards so we will see what we can do about that in the long run.

We hope this post has helped you to grasp the differences between PT and other games out there a bit more. Else just ask and we will try to explain. And if this sounds interesting to you don’t hesitate to run over to greenlight and upvote us :)

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Prometheus,Time Donkey,chronotron Prometheus,Time Donkey,chronotron Prometheus,Time Donkey,chronotron Prometheus,Time Donkey,chronotron
January 22, 2013

Trailer out and Greenlight up !

by Niklas Hansson

So finally after an excruciating wait, have we managed to finish our trailer. I have written a lot about the work process here earlier. To be honest we had planned to finish earlier but we did a couple of things on this project that we haven’t tried before. One was using our cinematic editor which hadn’t been put through this kind of hardcore testing before. It seemed simple at the start but then the project grew, we wanted to be able to record game play and replay it and place cameras along it to make the game-play seem more cinematic. Then we needed tools to fast forward and backward through these and then the ability to take screenshots during them. It quickly grew which means that a lot of things had to be done with half-baked tools, However this is just development.

The other thing was that planned,filmed and then cut the entire trailer before adding any music and instead had the music be composed to match the trailer. This allowed us to tell exactly what we wanted to the viewer and also give the exact emotion we want at any part of the trailer. However it also left an huge amount of different possibilities and the more possibilities you have the less time you have to polish one because you have to decide first. While we are very happy with the end result it took almost 2 weeks to do the soundtrack and our poor musician worked nights every day of those. In the end result it too to much time and energy and we probably will go back to the music first clipping afterwards methodology for coming trailers.

However this is not all that we did. While the rest of the team was working hard on building the new verisions of the first 5 maps of the game so that we can test them and then adjust and retest. I was working hard on the trailer and our greenlight campaign, between writing texts,taking screenshots and directing a trailer it became way to much for one man alone so we took in Tommie Hansmar to help with directing the trailer and his help was invaluable with adding the cinematic touch to it. So because we created the trailer together I could find enough time to do all those other stuff. And really get everything ready for our greenlight launch which was today ! So if you have followed us or just feel that the game concept has promise please go over to greenlight and vote for us. Just click on the image below and you will be taken there and to the trailer.

This is however not the end we have more things coming soon. The current trailer is a cinematic trailer we are also aiming to create a trailer that really explains the core game-play showing booth real playthroughs and the resulting end timeline side by side to really give a taste at what hides behind the scenes in the game-play. Except for this we will be continuing to push towards the final release by creating testing and polishing and we hope you will be along us for the ride.

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Trailer out and Greenlight up ! Trailer out and Greenlight up ! Trailer out and Greenlight up ! Trailer out and Greenlight up !
January 13, 2013

Putting it all together, Trailer Woes

by Niklas Hansson

So this weeks update has gotten slightly delayed, we had a rough couple of last two days getting all the finishing touches added to our cinematic editor and putting it through the paces by making the final clips for the trailer.  Making a trailer that actually conveys our game-play has been a challenge for us on this project, how do you convey a puzzle game in an interesting way while still showing it’s core. Going through an entire puzzle is to slow and showing the solution doesn’t  help much either as it won’t show the process that goes through the players mind and it’s hard to understand. The original portal trailers used small flash style clips showing the solution visually first and then showing it in game to help the player to grasp the concept, With the portal concept being such a visual concept it was easier to show since what happens in Temporality is more behind the scenes it’s harder to show, Instead of trying to show real game-play we have opted to concentrate on showing what the game-play is about.  Single player cooperation using multiple time clones in differing timelines to resolve the problem before you.

Obviously not all puzzles lend them self to showing so we choose a couple that easily demonstrates the concept. To do this  we have opted to use recordings of game sessions with moving camera showing of the action from the best angles. An interesting thing is that since the concept of time in the game allows the player to control multiple clones at the same time during different time lines. This we can’t show as we can’t show multiple timelines at the same time. What we do see is the final timeline with all the clones performing their actions at the same time, the way it would seem to anyone not using the TP-205 Implant. This allows us to show the concept of multiple clones cooperating to solve  a larger problem. However the actual time manipulation won’t be seen. An idea we have is to do a dual recording where we show booth the players actions from the players point of view and the resulting timeline side by side to show the differences. We will see about doing one of these as a complementary trailer.

But at the moment we have other focuses that are even more important than our presentation material (as important as that is for a smaller studio), our game. As we talked about last week we are now working towards putting together the final levels and the final puzzles based upon the myriad of focus tests we have performed earlier. This week we have managed to put together 3 levels in what we hope will be a near final state we will put together another one beginning next week and then we will run a focus test on the beginning of the game. Incidentally that will be the complete set of levels put together in the Cybernauts environments (we will try to do a lore post later explaining more about the games setting but to give some info Cybernauts is one of the four companies that has build the different parts of the test facilities).

This will mean that we will hopefully have the 25% percent nailed down soon and production wise that is important since the difficulty of the puzzles on later levels are depending on what the player have learned earlier which forces us to put the game together from the beginning towards the end now that we are homing in on the final levels and not just testing around. Thankfully putting together levels are quite quick it’s coming up with the puzzles that is the hard part and to put them into a proper flow and we have done a lot of work on that so it’s not like we are 25% done by now. I would say we are around 80% done which goes well with our plan for a spring release now in 2013. Yeah we are finally going to push this out. since we increased our staff size during the fall we have been able to progress much faster than earlier and we can definitely see the finish line approaching which for the ones of us that has been on the project since winter 2010 feels quite welcome.

We might do some posts later on the evolution of Temporality through the years booth visually but also some of the puzzles that got used along the way and the different map designs and what worked out and what didn’t. Again if you have any preferences of what you want us to cover in the future don’t hesitate to contact us either through the comments or our webpage.

As a company this has been an amazing roller-coaster ride of focus changes at the beginning of the fall we had a huge focus test session with 10 levels in the test and a really strong game-play focus. Then after that we had to buckle down and find out what we wanted to do visually and now with the trailer work we have worked that out and will again turn our attention mostly to the game-play part to nail down the final levels there will always be time for visual polish after the levels are solid. Which means that we aren’t even placing props on the levels we are building now. We feel that it’s important to focus on what is important at every part of the development so you don’t get lost. But then I admit that we have been very lucky, the core game-play worked well straight out of the box during the spring of 2010 and since then the focus has been more on what mechanics we can add to that core and how we can create interesting puzzles using them instead of having to spend a ton of time on making the core work. This is why we had time to focus on booth looks and level design to reach the level of polish we are at right now.  And things will just get more interesting going forward.

Until next update :)

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Putting it all together, Trailer Woes Putting it all together, Trailer Woes Putting it all together, Trailer Woes Putting it all together, Trailer Woes
January 3, 2013

A new year but the same game.

by Niklas Hansson

So it has been a while since our last update this is partly because we had some winter vacation time, but also partly because we have been working really hard the last weeks of 2012 at putting our new environments into action. While it has taken a longer time than we had thought the results are worth it.

Sometimes in development you have to decide between time and quality and while not always most of the time quality is the right choice. And it’s the choice we have been making consistently at any issues that came up during the creation of these environments. While taking the slower choice sometimes feels painful as time drags on it’s important to remember that the consumer only sees the end results he doesn’t see the time spent at it, So he will not see that you worked quickly or was forced on time he will see the game and that’s what it’s all about. Making certain that the product we outputs will be worth your money. So while these new environments has been taking a longer time than expected we are certain that you will understand why when we show you the end result. What we will show you today are still early screens from our test levels and the final game will look a lot better but it’s still at the level where we want to show it.

Another thing that we have been working on is a new trailer, the first one that hasn’t had to be done quickly due to a deadline or lack of material. So this time instead we can actually spend time working on it. So finally our cinematic tools are being put into good use and while the trailer still is a bit away the work is progressing well. We did all the non game-play clips during the 26-28 December and it’s already sent to our musician for scoring. We will film the final game-play clips next week and then go back to re-scoring and maybe some final clipping adjustment. For the first time we even hired in a Director to help instead of doing it all in house so this is an interesting experiment for us.

However we are not only working on Art and trailers, during the coming week we will focus really hard in on trying to build some of the final maps for the game and get them tested and re-tested to make sure we get the beginning of the game just right. While we had 15-20 different maps build during the development of the game and we had over a 100 persons testing the game we only recently started to feel that we had enough understanding and feeling for the game-play and how new players learns it to really sit down and nail those maps. Obviously they will have a lot of similarities with the ones we had before but with small tweaks and adjustments to get everything flowing just a little bit better. We want to give the player an interesting journey with booth challenges and exploration. But we don’t want them to get frustrated either. The balance between being challenged and still progressing will be one of the hardest things to nail down for the final release.

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A new year but the same game. A new year but the same game. A new year but the same game. A new year but the same game.