Blade Ballet Devlog: New Bot Concept, Title Screen Animation, Tutorial Update, and More

It's time once more for a Blade Ballet update. We're still hard at work polishing the game and working under the hood to bring you a brilliant battling-robot brawler.

What's This? Another Bot?!

Quick caveat for the following images: everything on this devlog is a work in progress. We sometimes share things that we're experimenting with that may or may not end up in the final game.

It's always been our plan to continue to release new robots after the game launches to keep it fresh and interesting. No promises with what those bots will look like (or what their abilities will be) until official announcement, but here is one of the concepts we're toying with. Working name: FlipHammr.

 Our programmer Neil does double-duty as early concept artist

Our programmer Neil does double-duty as early concept artist

From the original mock-up comes concept art ideas.

First concept art pass

Second concept art pass

After Justin throws out a ton of concept ideas, it's time to pick one and work on an advanced concept.

Here are some FlipHammr painted options...

And fancy FlipHammr models!

More Bots Get the Skin Treatment

The DreamSail Games team is really excited about adding new and fun skins to the game. Although we're happy with the choices we've made for the way each bot looks, we know how important it is for people to express their personalities and playstyles through customizing character appearances.

 My, STEVe, aren't you looking dapper!

My, STEVe, aren't you looking dapper!

With every pass, the skins become more interesting, more elaborate, and more unique. For now, we're playing with colors and textures that aren't huge changes in overall appearance, but with an art team who loves to push the boundaries, expect to see some completely off-the-wall skins coming soon.

Our Title Screen Gets Animated

Look! It's so shiny and wonderful. Our hard-working artists and devs have made a delightful animation for the title screen to get you right to the flavor of the game, even before you start to play.

You could look at it like that. Or you could see it as an infinite robot stress test, running Torque, Catbot, DropJaw and Trigger through an endlessly repeating loop of fruitless combat.

And we wonder why in the Blade Ballet future humans no longer exist...

Tutorial Area Overhaul

Every time we make another pass on a a level or character model, we wonder how so much of our design thinking could have changed in one or two short months. That's great for whatever we're working on at the time. However, it does mean that we have to be hyper conscious of how the improvements fit into our game as a whole, and how areas that haven't been touched in a while can start to look dated by comparison.

This is what happened with our tutorial area. It really hadn't changed much in the months since we first implemented it, despite our levels looking vastly different. Not so long ago, the tutorial looked like this:

 Tutorial area circa 2015

Tutorial area circa 2015

Now, we're working on ideas that look more like this:

 Bonus: it's easier than ever to determine your correct player marker color

Bonus: it's easier than ever to determine your correct player marker color

Here is what the tutorial development looked like along the way:

Jump Animation Storyboarding

Animations are a big part of modern video games. You don't really know what's missing if the effects are not present or poorly implemented - instead, you just get a sense that the game isn't very interesting, or very fun.

For example, improving the bot death effects in Blade Ballet (as we discussed in the devlog about a month ago) made a huge difference in how excited players were to play the game. Before the pumped-up animations, people enjoyed the game. After we improved the animations, players became much more engaged, getting swept up in the moment, sometimes jumping or cheering at that pivotal victory moment.

We're turning our animation attention to character jumps. It's an interesting design problem, given that the characters are 3D and players watch them at a slightly angled top-down view. Here are some directions that might end up implemented over the next few weeks:

 Is it bad to say Riot looks like an adorable egg when it jumps?

Is it bad to say Riot looks like an adorable egg when it jumps?

Pushing Effects To the Limit

You never know if you've taken an effect or an animation as far as it will go unless you until you dial everything up to 11. 

Our game designers have used careful tests to gently push the boundaries of what we've done before and explore the pros and cons of... FOR THE LOVE OF OVERLORD WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU DO SOMETHING SO TERRIFYING? GAH OUR EYES ARE MELTING.

 Aww, you guys made me oil splatter.

Aww, you guys made me oil splatter.

Playtest Hilarity: Breakdancing Bots

One of the great things about making a game is that, when it breaks, the results are often pretty funny (though not so much for the devs who have to sift through lines and lines of code to find the root of the issues). Torque somehow landed on its head while we were demoing at PlayFair NY. This Torque player ended up, entertainingly enough, winning the match.

Blade Ballet: Breakout Breakdancers - coming 2017

Updated Gameplay Video

We've made so many changes this month, we wanted to share the gameplay in a new video (complete with voiceover provided by game designer and videographer extraordinaire Jon and recording wizard Alec).

We Found STEVe

This poor prototype STEVe is sadly languishing in disrepair in an undisclosed facility, doomed to suffer a blade-less existence for all time.