Forecasting upcoming months

Roughly 3 weeks have elapsed since my last update regarding Puny Human. I found that posting to this blog was a great way to organize my thoughts, and inform everyone what’s going on, so I’m doing it again.

 

Work with our unnamed client continues, keeping three of our most experienced Unreal Engine 4 developers busy. It doesn’t really bring in much revenue for the company, just enough to pay for expenses related to sending monthly invoices, yearly tax forms, payroll, and online bookkeeping applications. Which is something. We’re probably about four months from announcing what it is that we’ve been working on, and who with.

 

As for those of us not working on that project, work continues on Blade Symphony and Galacide. As it stands, Josh and I are working on some back-end things for storing Blade Symphony item information, without the help of the Blade-Symphony.com website. I go into some detail about why we are re-inventing our own wheel, here.

 

When Josh has free time, he works fast. He has a version of the Source Engine compiled using 64-bit binaries, now it’s just a matter of making Blade Symphony use it. However, his first priority is getting F2P functionality working for a regular release. This means than an initial a F2P release, probably won’t have a Linux and 64-bit port. We’ll see, though.

 

I’m still keeping a bit busy with Galacide. I’ve almost completed re-tooling the build system it uses, in order to be a little less needlessly complex. My hope is that this will help whatever Unreal Engine 4 programmer I can find to add multiplayer functionality, quickly make changes and test them. After I’ve completed this task, I will release previously mentioned fixes and Engine update, for Windows 64-bit, 32-bit and Linux. After I find someone to help add multiplayer functionality, I will work on testing and optimizing the OSX port.

 

In the “shadows” so to speak, I’ve begun preliminary work to show that we’re more capable of offering outsourcing/contract work to external vendors. Why? Simple, the work is steady, and it pays for the people that still work for us, while we can tinker with things like Blade Symphony free to play and Galacide multiplayer.

 

This is part of a larger effort to make Puny Human more appealing for a future organizational change, but more on that later.

 

People seem to be finding me and asking questions over Reddit or Discord, so if you have something to ask, that’s where you can find me.

The slowly burning candle

The ‘we’re still alive!’ post is cliché, I know, but that’s exactly what this is. Let me bring you up to speed as to what’s going on.

 

After the Galacide‘s release, our lives were upended. That may be an understatement, but revenue wasn’t enough to support expenses. For most, that spells liquidation and reduction, but we avoided most of that. Fortunately, I’ve worked with some fantastic people in the past, that helped some of our developers stay on solid ground. In addition to finding temporary work with a talented bunch of developers, I worked to sub-lease our office, and now everyone is at home again!

 

A few months later, the team is working hard on a sequel for a wonderful AAA game developer. We can’t say which right now, but we’re happy to be working with them to this day. The rest of us have put out small updates, including achievements for Blade Symphony (more to come) and dove head-first into our aging infrastructure.

 

Here are a few things that we’re still hard at work on, but have no ETA for:

  1. Update to Galacide’s engine version, with bug fixes.
  2. Transitioning Blade Symphony to free-to-play.
  3. Migrating Blade Symphony’s website to a more manageable and updated version.

 

We’ve received questions about Blade Symphony free-to-play, and I won’t be answering them here. However, rest easily knowing that current players and past purchasers will have plenty of content exclusive to them, as well as some additional thank-yous from us for supporting development all of these years.

 

There’s been some excited conversation recently, and I also want to share a wishlist of things that we’re working on, but aren’t a big priority:

  1. OSX build for Galacide: This isn’t very difficult, I just haven’t got around to updating our build pipeline.
  2. Multiplayer Galacide: This is a bigger undertaking, and as such is longer-term, but there’s a few of us that really want this.
  3. Older version of Blade Symphony for the few of those that are nostalgic.
  4. 64-bit Windows Blade Symphony support: This is happening, but isn’t a priority for a while.
  5. Linux Blade Symphony support: This is likely, but same as above, we want to finish much of the cumbersome and boring free-to-play things.
  6. Dystopia Engine Update: This is going to happen at some point, because a fair bit of people can’t play the game. We have newer versions of Source that we’d like to put Dystopia on, which may allow us to 64-bit and Linux-port it too.

 

I hope you didn’t read that last list and think all it is certainly happening, because it may not, or maybe not right away. However, we want to do as possible (while we can,) to support those who have helped us out for so long. If you bought Blade Symphony or Galacide, were a PHAN Club member or Dystopia supporter, then this is our last hurrah to you for your love, patience and gratitude. More updates to come.

Designing Galacide’s Bit Sequences (aka: Colorful Spreadsheets!)

 

Hi, I’m Silverwolf and I do gameplay stuff (some design, mostly programming) for Galacide with Puny Human. Here’s a quick look at the latest bit sequence design and a little bit of explanation of what bit sequences are, how they’re used in game, and how we make them.

 

BitSequenceEditorShot

 

 

First, some history: When we started on Galacide we only had the randomly-generated bit wall, which is great, but we recognized a need to have specifically designed sections of bits to pair with stronger (or weaker) enemy waves and various other scenarios.

 

The first solution we implemented for this was a volume we could place into the level (eyeballed, of course, since the bits are spawned real-time and our levels are basically empty space with pretty backgrounds). These volumes controlled which colors of bits could spawn inside them and could be stacked inside each other to create specific patterns in the bit wall, but it took an extremely long time to get them set up and perfectly positioned in the UE4 editor.

 

BitControlVolumes

 

 

The above section was a test to create a horizontal gap through the bitwall using the big volume there. The three smaller volumes created a series of protruding bits into the gap, which the player would navigate around. It took about 20 minutes to get the volumes in the level, and positioned (and repositioned, and repositioned, and…) until they lined up to make a 6 bit gap across the middle with 2 bit wide protrusions that left a 2 bit space above or below them. Clearly we needed a better system.

 

(Enter the Bit Sequences.)

 

We already had a bunch of spreadsheets we were using to design puzzles for the then-future addition of Puzzle Mode, so that gave us the idea of just standardizing their format, and importing them into the game. From there the rest was easy, as the following sequence took about 2 minutes to create and 5 seconds to import, whereupon it worked perfectly in game (each side of the vertical black line in the middle is an in-game screen width of bits):

 

BetterThanBCV

 

 

These sequences can spawn any color and type of bit, including gun turrets and linking turrets, and stationary scrap and bombs. All of the Puzzle Mode puzzles are designed this way, as are any Campaign level sections with non-random bit patterns.

 

Our initial design approach for the Campaign sequences was to just make a bunch of stuff and play it to see what’s fun. We jammed about 20 different sequences with varying levels of complexity and difficulty and stuck them in the Campaign to see what we liked and didn’t like, but more importantly, why we liked or didn’t like them.

 

We discovered a very fine line between too easy and too hard for sequences that require matching to get through, and that navigation sequences (like the one above) should be used sparingly, and with what would normally be an overwhelming number of enemies.

 

That brings us back to the sequence in the first image on this post:

BitSequenceEditorShot

 

 

This sequence is titled LinkTurretBombPrisons and is currently intended to be encountered on Campaign Level Six, Desert Ruins. The idea behind this setup is that the player will need to free (at least) one bomb (p) from its prison which is protected by linking turrets (rbt/gbt/bbt) and armored bits (ra/ga/ba) in order to blast through the wall of alternating armored bits along the right side. It’s possible to get a match to open a hole in the armored wall, but the spacing and alternating colors make it extremely difficult. The x’s are empty spaces and d / dn are random colored bits (dn won’t generate any empty spaces.)

 

So that’s Bit Sequences. We’ve had a ton of fun designing and testing all the different ways we can challenge the player via the bitwall, and hope you have just as much fun playing Galacide as we’re having making it!

 

I’ll leave you with some “behind the scenes” action of a few sequences that didn’t make the cut:

 

RGBxSingle

RGBxInGame

T1LShapes

DoubleLoop

 

Making Characters for Galacide

I’ll make a quick self-introduction before I get to the goods:
Hi! I’m Merdet and I’m a 2D artist/designer. I became a Puny Human back in November and have since been working on spaceship designs, GUIs, motion graphics, logos, and painting nebulae. It’s been a fantastic ride.

I’m excited to say that, for the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to do some character design! OH MAN, I love character design! So I’m posting today to show you some recent work and the process behind it.

Galacide will have four major characters, each representing a different player slot. Before I even started, I knew that I wanted each character to have accent colors that reflected the UI. Edrist, our main heroine,  acts as “player one” and has just a bit of blue in her wardrobe to identify her with the blue, first-player ship. You can see the final Edrist in a recent tweet here!  And here are some early concept sketches:

Edris1 Edris2

 

I’ll skip ahead to our third character, Ajax. A seasoned military veteran and former mentor to Edrist, Ajax is a silent heavy-hitter with a propensity for great wisdom. His main features are his cybernetic, prosthetic limbs (which was originally going to be an Edrist trait until Urinal Cake and I decided against it). I took a lot of inspiration from a lot of comic book heroes for Ajax: Drax the Destroyer, Captain America’s Falcon, and Cyborg to name a few.

Because Ajax is significantly more bulky than any of our other characters, I started with silhouettes

ajax1These were helpful for deciding where his prosthetic would go and how they would affect his shape. Mechanical designs are not my forte, so this was a fun challenge.  I moved to designing his face next. At this point I’ll mention that the third-player color is a warm purple (Silverwolf says it’s hot pink but he’s wrong and he knows it).
ajax2

And here’s how it came together:

  1. Silhouette
  2. rough sketch
  3. flat colors
  4. highlights and shadows
  5. final paint-over

ajax_detail

ajax_detailHere’s mah boy! All polished up and ready to match some bits!

 

Our Blog

We have a lot to say, but in the past, we’ve been fairly bad about blog posts. We attempted to post things on our old website, but struggled with a high barrier of entry. This time around, we’re using WordPress for our Blog, so the difficulty of posting is much lower.

 

Like I said, there are meaningful and (sometimes) valuable things that we would like to get out there, and we want to ensure that this is the place that we do it. It makes sense for all of our game’s websites to have news and information specific to that game, such as releases, or sales, or community announcements; but we want this to be the place to talk about development.

 

Not just development, either, but everything regarding what we do. I’ve spent the last 8 months quitting my job, forming a company, hiring 6 employees from all around the country, sponsoring a conference, hosting 7 contractors for a week, building an office and dealing with an almost stressful trademark battle.

 

Just by myself, I feel like I could write something that would be of help to other indie developers when dealing with these problems, and I want this to be a place where others on the team can feel the same. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, we’ll see that come to fruition.

 

In the meantime, welcome to our new website and thanks for reading. That’s all.