Asymmetrical Co-op

IntelAgent is a stealth game with asymmetrical cooperative play. There are two player roles (classes) each with almost entirely different mechanics. Because the roles operate in semi-separated game worlds, we have to put care into designing mechanics that actually have noticeable (and satisfying) impact between the players. Obviously, without such mechanics this wouldn’t be a co-op game. It would just be two players playing single player stealth games with voice chat.

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AI: Search Behaviours

In intelAgent, whenever the player is seen, the guards will enter the “alert” phase. As long as the player is within a guards direct line of sight, guards will converge on that players position. Once the player is no longer visible and a guard has reached that last known location, the guards will be told to search the level. It’s important for this search behaviour to be semi-realistic but still beatable for the player. Too dumb and there’s no challenge, but too smart and it just gets frustrating. This is true for all AI behaviour, it needs to provide a challenge for the player and give them a sense of accomplishment when they overcome it. Continue reading

What’s a Jellywaffle

Hi everyone, I’m Shelley, one of the developers here at Jellywaffle. Elliot has been telling me to write a blog post so here we are. Pretty sure he was probably expecting something more technical though. Oh well.

So why exactly are we called Jellywaffle? There’s two parts to that. First, Jelly was something a friend of mine came up with a while ago. It combined our names – Jonathan, Elliot and Shelley – into a nice simple word. We were all at lunch one day, trying to come up with names and were pretty stuck. I told them about Jelly and no one objected. Now I love waffles. In fact, I would pretty much suggest waffles for lunch every week. I guess I had waffles on my mind so I just said waffles as a joke. At some point, someone just said Jellywaffle and that was it. Jellywaffle was born. (I don’t think we really had many other name ideas.)

I will end this post with a photo of some of the waffles I’ve had recently. Enjoy.

 

Sound Propagation

diagram of vision cones

vision cones

Defining the limits of perceptibility is an important part of stealth game design. Different stealth games tend focus on some varieties of perception more than others: light and dark, line of sight, sound levels, speed of movement, etc.

A lot of gameplay in intelAgent involves using distractions to manipulate guards, and the majority of those distractions are sound-based, so it seemed important to have good predictability for the extents of sound perceptibility and high fidelity for the player to manipulate those extents (by opening and closing doors, mainly).

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Stealth Games and Co-op

I like stealth games a lot. I like co-op games a lot, probably more than stealth games. At least, I’ve finished many more of the co-op games I’ve started. Perhaps that is more of a result of the social situation than any of the things usually thought of as actual game mechanics, but the context in which a game is experienced is still certainly part of playing the game. Otherwise MMORPGs would just be really boring RPGs.

Anyway, the point is I’m not sure I’ve ever played a cooperative stealth game.

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We’re starting a game company, and hopefully this works

Hi there folks. I’m Elliot, and I form one third of a video game studio robot. That studio is Jellywaffle, and I form the earlobes. Let me tell you about it.

Jonathan, Shelley and I founded the company earlier this year. We had all been working together in a small studio (medium sized for here in New Zealand), producing a “free-to-play” MMO for kids. It was a very nice studio to work at: I made a lot of friends there, and everyone put a lot of effort into what they were doing. Unfortunately, for me at least the focus of the studio didn’t align very neatly with the areas of the medium I’m most interested in.

In the end, we each decided to move on from that studio, and realised that we were all at least interested in the idea of starting our own studio. It was now or never… well later. But we saw an opportunity now and so we decided to go for it. We want to see what we can do on our own and under our own direction.

So we knew this was definitely something we wanted to try to do, now we just had to figure out how we were going to do it. We spent the next few months planning a production process, time budget, and working through some game ideas and finally fleshing one of those ideas out into a design document. During this time I had been following Double Fine‘s various documentary series‘ on the production of their crowd-funded projects. This turned out to be very useful when it came to understanding the basics of game production. Once we settled on the basic design we wanted to develop into a game, the Massive Chalice team at Double Fine were in full swing in their pre-production prototyping phase. The idea of this is to feel out potential technical challenges and solutions before starting scheduled production, where they would create blockers. Obviously this is very important on a team where the pre-production staff is much smaller than the full team, whereas in our case those are the exact same people, but it still seemed to me like a good thing to do to get an idea of the feasibility of our project’s goals, so I suggested it to the others and that’s what we ended up doing.

Now we’re just finishing the prototyping phase, with a playable version of the basic mechanics in a greybox world. As far as I can tell it certainly resembles a game; it’s not exactly fun to play for more than a minute or two, but it is playable, and it’s enough evidence (for me) that it is technically possible for us to make a game with these mechanics.

Our next step is to start building a vertical-slice of the game, working in similarly playable chunks, akin to agile “sprints”. I’m not an expert on agile methodologies, and I hope to stay that way (I’ve never been a religious person), but for me the intention is that by working this way we will be able to regularly play-test and guide design and development with that.

The game is in development under the name intelAgent, by the way. It’s a game about a police team of super intelligent hacker dogs and their human partners, trying to find their place in this crazy world. Hopefully this works.