KREEP, designing an update.

Hello everyone.

As I mentioned last time, I decided to do a small update for Operation KREEP and to change the “scenery” a little, last week I took a little more than two days off from the development of Unified Theory and made it happen. Thankfully my estimations were correct and the updated builds are ready to be delivered to various stores (and yes it is indeed a tiny update only). Preparing all the marketing materials for this update (trailer, announcement texts etc…) is going to take a few days so I’m guesstimating, the release will happen somewhere around this weekend or early next week. Until than, I’m going to continue working on the Alpha build of Unified Theory too parallel since I’ve made significant progress on the visual presentation of it in the last couple of days (a post with fancy pictures coming in a few days 😉 ), but the focus currently is definitely the “marketing experiment” of the KREEP 1.2 update.

This time I’m going to dive into the technical details of the update, its design and the reasons why I decided to create it even though imposing serious time and scope constraints on myself.

Level design

The 1.0 version of Operation KREEP featured 13 levels and the 1.1 update increased it to 17 arenas. With this update I’m bumping that number up to 20, so adding in 3 extra. Even though this sounds like a relatively small number, from the beginning I went for quality over quantity with the design of the maps. My goal was to make both mechanically and visually distinctive levels delivering the possibility of varying tactics and play-styles on a per-level basis. Adhering to this goal made each consecutive level harder and harder to design and thanks to it I made various mistakes too, but I think I succeeded and with this update I’m also delivering refinements and fixes to the old levels.
Montage of all the maps in Operation KREEP 1.2
Just look at the first few levels how blunt and simple they were, but the overall picture is vivid, lively and seems to be full of surprises and varied tactics 🙂 .

A little about the level fixes:

The most common mistake I discovered is choke-points and too enclosed larger rooms “favoring” the KREEP. If the players get close to defeating the KREEP but it ends up within a larger room with low number of entry points, it becomes close to impossible to purge it. There is a “solution” where the players let the KREEP spread out of the room/choke-point and can destroy it more easily when it is spread thin, but obviously this was a mistake from my side either by not making this obvious to the players or by allowing a situation like this to happen…
Here is an example of where the map named “Vessel” was modified to be more fair (sometimes less obtrusive modifications were enough tough):
Showcase of the map-fix of the
6 previous maps were modified with various fixes while making the 1.2 update.

Fine-tuning

A couple of small modification got into the update related to accessibility and difficulty. These are changes which are not immediately obvious or visible for the end user but they do make the game better, more balanced and a much less hassle to play (e.g.: UI streamlining). A short list of what this covers:

  • Two new options on the “game-over” screen. Previously you could restart the match on the same level, with the same player setup and the same mutators (rule settings), or you could go back to the main menu to start a new match with a different setup. Now the new options allow to keep the player setup (because in a couch co-op you usually play with the same number of people after you first configured) and change the mutators or the level too for the upcoming match.
  • I modified the KREEP power levels just a tiny little, to make the last couple of seconds of a match even more easier/harder based on the outcome, so if the players are close to victory it is now easier to score, and if the KREEP is close to eat the whole map it becomes even faster.
  • I tried to make the “sudden death” mechanic play a bigger role in the game because I discovered, that some plays end up in a quasi stalemate situation, where players can not kill the KREEP effectively enough to destroy it (due to a lack of good tactic or PvP). Previously the KREEP got a speed/power boost when it reached 60% occupation of the level, but these stalemate situations kept the KREEP size just under it for long minutes easily, so I introduced a 2.5 minute timer to boost the speed/power regardless of the KREEP size, so a “stuck” situation will result in KREEP victory (yep I’m evil) instead of a long, grueling and probably boring match. I’m not really afraid of the negative implications of this modification since most matches tend to be between 0.5 to 1.0 minute and I feel 2.0 minutes is already a pretty lengthy play in this game (it is pretty intense and action packed). Of course the “No Sudden Death” mutator setting will disable this timer too!

Marketing

I talked multiple times about this update being a “marketing experiment”. This means I’m going try to promote the game (or this update + the game) with close to as much time investment as with the Steam release. Besides the usual key mailing, I will try some new stuff too, focusing on the dark humor within it (funny poster, new logo/splash screen and Steam trading cards!). If it does not yield good returns it will not be a devastating blow on me, since both the update and the pr + marketing effort totals not much more than a week worth of work, so it is no biggie, but I really wanted to give a little more love + chance for the game to succeed, hence the phrase.

P.S.
While I was testing the new levels, my fiancée found one of the test cases fun to look at so I decided to record it as a bonus for this entry, because it is indeed fun to watch the KREEP sped up overtaking the levels 😀 . Enjoy:

Br. and take care!

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