Blade Ballet Devlog: Shields Up!, HUDs, Respawn Platforms, and More

We're thrilled to be back with a new devlog after so much time away. Lots of juicy developments to share today - hope you enjoy!

Making Shields More Visible

Shields have been in Blade Ballet almost since the beginning of development. Soon after our first cube-spinning prototype, we realized that shield-less bots were dying too easily. We also wanted a mechanism to balance out bot abilities.

Directional shields December 2015

Notice the blue semi-circles guarding the bots? Probably not. Throughout development, playtests showed that players weren't "seeing" the shields in the middle of combat, and certainly didn't know they were directional (protecting only a part of a bot, as opposed to providing an additional life). Players would get confused as to why they could hit a bot once and kill it sometimes, and sometimes it would take more than one hit.

 Directional shields April 2016

Directional shields April 2016

We didn't want players to think something as important as character death was random when it wasn't, so we gave the shields more height and weight for better visibility. However, these improvements didn't totally fix the issue.

 Directional shield exploration May 2016

Directional shield exploration May 2016

We concepted some new shield designs that added a dark stroke and base to the shields. Here's what they look like in-game:

So far the changes have been pretty effective at communicating where your shields are - and when they've been destroyed, leaving you vulnerable.

UI Exploration - HUD/Score Overlay

It's easy to recognize how important interesting, well-animated characters, attractive levels/background, and solid, fun mechanics are to making a great game. Less recognizable are the elements of visual polish that make the difference between a decent title and a game that makes a striking first impression.

We've had UI in our game since the beginning - after all, it's not much fun to play a multiplayer game if you can't see who's winning (see the first screenshot above for an early example). Over time, our aesthetic evolved, and we switched to a rectangular format, which also called out the player icons to make it easier for players to associate their characters with the right position in the scoreboard.

We realized that players (including ourselves!) pretty much never looked at the HUD elements, and didn't know what their scores were at any given point. So Marty and Lauren got to work exploring new UI options.

We tested ideas out on a small scale, and compared them against the backdrops of different levels.

We'll keep on tweaking and experimenting to see which UI best achieves our goals - making it easy for players to know where they stand at any given moment, especially how close they are to winning (or losing).

Steam Achievements

Sometimes it's the little bits of polish that are the most rewarding in game design. It's easy to stare with trepidation at the mountains of things that still need to get done - when we get something like Steam achievements into the game - and they work! - we can pat ourselves on the back and say, "hey, we did it!"

 Still need to unlock the achievement for "being an awesome cat robot."

Still need to unlock the achievement for "being an awesome cat robot."

 It's easy to be a Blade Ballet completionist in dev.

It's easy to be a Blade Ballet completionist in dev.

We have lots of great achievements for you to unlock in Steam (as well as trophies on the PS4). Can't wait to see people collecting them all!

Protecting the Respawn

We didn't always have respawns in Blade Ballet. For months, modes such as Robomination and Timebomb (currently back on the drawing board) only featured one life per bot per level.

Not having respawns in the game made a lot of things simpler. We didn't have to worry about where bots were respawning (or when), spawn camping, respawns interacting negatively with level hazards.

As soon as we played Stock Mode with its shiny, new respawns, however, it became clear that this mode would become an addictively fun staple. For a while, we managed the repercussions of adding respawns - for example, keeping the corner tiles fixed in Frame Drop to stop bots respawning in midair - but we knew eventually we'd want a more rigorous solution.

Enter the Respawn Platform!

 Ain't it adorable?

Ain't it adorable?

Different fighting games deal with respawning in different ways. Smash has revival platforms, Rivals of Aether characters arrive back in the game on platforms as well, Brawlhalla mixes it up with winged minor deities that return you to the stage. We wanted to make sure our platforms captured the flavor of the game, so of course we concepted some cute bots.

It was no easy task to get the platforms working in the game, but eventually the combined forces of Justin, Paul and Neil made it happen.

Next up is testing timing, invincibility, and mobility. Stay tuned!

Thanks for following along with our development here on the Blade Ballet blog! We're happy to chat if you have questions or comments - post them below.

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