Blade Ballet Devlog: Infected Effects, Mode Selects, 3D Objects, and More

This week's devlog is all about effects experimentation for new modes we're working on, UI to make mode selection simple and intuitive (now that we have multiple options), floating battle arenas in Earth's upper atmosphere, and bringing our bots into the real world with 3D printing. 

Infectious

The original Blade Ballet game mode - Robomination - encourages players to clash against one another in an all-out brawl. As we explore new modes, we're interested to see if we can inspire different types of gameplay by making a few subtle tweaks to the mechanics we already have in place.

As usual, we're showing our work with the caveat that none of this is final, so don't hunt our undead bodies down armed with your baseball bats, chainsaws, and/or ninja throwing stars if these things don't make it into the game.

Last week we discussed Time Bomb, a hot potato style mode in which players try to pass on the bomb before it explodes. This week, we're exploring effects for a potential Zombie Mode where players try their best to avoid infection.

What does a zombie robot look like? Good question! Lauren's concept art does a great job of zombifying everyone's beloved Catbot.

After concepting, it's time to play around with what the effects will look like in Unity. Subtle evil glowing aura? Creepy shivering? Full-on jiggle freak out? Anything goes when you're trying to get just the right look.

These effects are based on the characters' materials and textures, so they need to be tested on each of our bots to make sure they'll look good. Skins are also a consideration - how will selecting different skins affect these effects?

The zombie robot army awakes

As with any special effects, it's important to maximize visual interest without sacrificing too much artist and developer time. We had many discussions similar to this while developing the effects:

"There's a threshold that I could expose, but the problem is how do we know what to set it to? We can't really do per-skin things - it needs to be the best global solution. We [could] add a texture to the default shader that gets used by the zombie shader, like a detail map. But then that needs to be made for each material. Which is a pain, and also kind of defeats the purpose."

Work continues on finding the best solution.

As an aside, any experienced game designer knows it's hard to work on effects without dipping down into a terrifying uncanny valley every once in a while...

Release... me...

Your Mode Selection is Waiting

With new modes comes the need to choose between options. It's easy to slap together a solution for something seemingly so simple. However, it's important to remember that interacting with mode selection UI is one of the very first experiences most players will have with the game, and thus has the potential to make or break the game experience.

Because of this, we're putting a lot of thought into mode select. What images should we use? How much text should we display? How should players move between the different options? All things that need to be considered.

Have we included enough adorable face cubes?

Have we included enough adorable face cubes?

New Floating Level in the Sky

Players tend to really enjoy the combination of environmental hazards and threats from other players in Blade Ballet. Levels with complex environmental hazards take more time and resources to plan out and implement, though, so we took a step back and asked ourselves the question "How can we make simple levels that still feel fresh and fun to play?"

One of our first answers comes in the form of Void Base, our most recent addition to our level collection. We teased this level back at the beginning of March - now it's time to show you how the original idea played out.

3D model for the level

After James modeled the level, it was time to concept and develop the background. (Isn't it great when you can collapse more than a week's worth of work into one sentence?)

From the beginning, our team of scifi-loving fans were excited with the level direction. With every step from concepting onto the final production of the level in Unity, our excitement grew until the final reveal blew us all away.

We, too, cannot help but want to go to space.

So quiet. So peaceful. Such a great place to watch a gear-crunching, oil-spilling, no-holds-barred robot brawl unfold.

Torque in 3D

It's almost impossible to make compelling 3D characters in a game without wanting to see what they look like in real life.

Thanks Shapeways for turning our digital dreams into physical reality!

AI Core Before and After

It's been a while since we've shown a before-and-after. Here's a look back at an early version of our AI Core level.

AI Core circa December 2015

Fun, colorful, some interesting effects. Pretty good-looking all around. Players had no issues enjoying the game as it looked back in December.

Here's where we're at today:

AI Core circa March 2016

Much brighter, a cool splatter effect, fun and engaging background, and those lovely greebles. What a difference three months makes!

Note that this didn't happen in one pass. Our artists have revisited the level multiple times with fresh eyes, each time better able to see new ways to make improvements. It's hard not to secretly hope that the things we make will come out perfect the first time, so it's great to be able to look back and see how effective a patient, iterative design process can be.

Debugging At Its Finest

Ah, the joys of game development. Bringing cool robots to life with awesome abilities and unique personalities. Watching new players cheer each other on as they grasp the mechanics you've worked so hard to perfect. Tearing your hair out over bugs that appear seemingly out of nowhere, and disappear just as mysteriously...

"Hey did anyone edit this texture? I was trying to figure out why my shader stopped working and I realize because this noise texture suddenly doesn't have a red channel..."

One of these things is not like the others

"I just reimported it and it went back to normal."

We hear you, Neil. We hear you. #gamedevproblems

Color Therapy, AKA Game Art Stress Relief

Making a game takes time and focus. Every now and then, you just need to let off some steam. Our artists do it by making silly pictures of the bots for internal use only, which are then flaunted publicly on the Internet because you can never have too many goofy robot jazz hands. 

Thanks for reading! We're happy to answer any questions you might have. Or, if you prefer, just drop a friendly hello. We've also started posting a short-and-sweet version of our devlog on the Unity Forums. Stop by to check it out and read up on a ton of other great Unity games while you're there!

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