Blade Ballet Devlog: Desert Level, Bitsburgh, Title Cards, and More

We've been doing devlogs for almost four months now - we're up to lucky number 16. We've come a long, long way since our first one, way back in December 2015.

Can't thank everyone enough for coming along for the ride!

To celebrate, we're showing off the beginnings of our new desert level (OA.SYS), the design process we went through to create our fancy new city level (Bitsburgh), title cards, and an entertaining behind-the-scenes look at some of our voiceover work.

New Desert Level Design

Deserts are awesome. The setting provides tons of space for creating an interesting arena layout and background scene to go along with it.

As usual, when creating OA.SYS (our punniest level name yet!) we started with level concept art and an in-Unity model (tested for playability before art work starts in earnest).

Next comes modeling, getting the assets into the game, and polish. Stay tuned for the final results!

An In-Depth Look at Bitsburgh Development

We're also adding an exciting new city level to Blade Ballet. This level has some important lore implications - Bitsburgh represents the height of Blade Ballet action, a place where awesome Blade Ballet matches were organized shortly after humans mysteriously disappeared. As a side note, it's cool how the more levels we make, the more we hone in on the flavor of the game and how that works with the lore we're continually establishing.

Last week, we talked about how we explore new level design ideas. Out of the concepted ideas, this one...

Sketched-out level ideas

... was one we chose to model. After testing it out in Unity...

Level set up in Unity, no art

Level set up in Unity, no art

... we found out it was pretty fun. So we were ready to get started on the art design!

Bitsburgh concept art. A futuristic city brought to beautiful life!

Justin's original concept art has a pretty amazing amount of detail. The concept art looks good enough to play - however, as a simple 2D graphic, it's going to be pretty hard for the bots to fight in. After Justin was happy with his concept art, he moved on to modeling.

First pass Bitsburgh modeling

He took the basis of the model used in the original playtest, and started adding textures.

Bitsburgh model with an evolving background

Next he expanded upon the world and started to add the surrounding buildings.

Animated Bitsburgh

Animated Bitsburgh with cranes

As usual, we've hand-waved past hours and hours of work so that you, our readers, can enjoy sweet-looking gifs!

Bitsburg is a couple polish passes away from being complete. Once it's ready, it will join the rest of the levels in our roster.

That's an Impressive Title You've Got There

UI design has been one of the most complex and interesting aspects of making our game. It's pretty easy to tell at a glance what makes for a cool new robot or a sweet new level, but deciding exactly how information will be communicated graphically is something we keep coming back to and tweaking. Complicating mattes, every game we've researched decides to handle UI elements in a different way, so there's no set standard that we can use to make our decisions. For example, games like Lethal League have a very brief level intro moment (such as a countdown), getting you into the game as quickly as possible. Other games, such as Towerfall, give you a longer moment in which to accustom yourself to the levels.

A sense of ceremony and presentation is really important to Blade Ballet. The bots aren't getting together in a hidden back alleyway to settle their differences through secret combat. They're on an international stage. Their combat is performance. We decided to take elements of modern sports spectation and incorporate them into our game by making the title cards that introduce each arena more attention-grabbing. Imagine that you're watching the TV show that is Blade Ballet, and you're getting pumped that your favorite battelground is up next. That's the spirit we're working on capturing. Our advisor, Lew Sanders, also encouraged us to make the level titles pop, so we knew it was of the utmost importance.

Lauren has done an amazing job creating title cards with an interesting flavor. Check them out!

Pretty great, right? Here they are in-game.

To Err is Human

As we get ever-closer to launch, we're winding down our addition of new features to focus on making a really polished and playable game. That means a ton of testing and QA sessions, and, of course, lots of errors!

NullReferenceExceptions are the worst

Voiceover For Blade Ballet Video

During the process of editing the sound for our recent PAX East announcement video (which is hilarious - check it out if you haven't seen it yet!), Alec recorded a bunch of sample voiceover sound effects. Paul's excellent voice-acting skills didn't end up making it into the video, but they're so good we're sure they'll resurface somewhere. Like on our Soundcloud page...

Thanks again for reading! We love to hear what you have to say - feel free to chat with us below.

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