Alright, well after driving up to Dallas to work with our modeler for a weekend and having some discussions about the levels, I've started to heavily rework the levels. Certainly feedback from here and elsewhere have factored into starting that process as well. I've played through some other levels/games and made a bunch of numerous observations, and so far so good.

Here are some of the things I'm focusing on:

- I'm trying to widen hallways and raise ceilings. I was noticing in Quake how much wider/taller the corridors are than in Wrack... and you move much faster in Wrack! I can imagine how claustrophobic people must feel playing the current levels (in fact, listening to TB's WTF Is of Wrack right now, he just mentioned it), so this should help that a bunch.

- I'm trying to have more interesting architecture. Having wider hallways and taller ceilings certainly allows for much more of this. But having things like full room-tall windows up above you is a nice things.

- I'm trying to have more outdoor areas. Certainly Doom, Quake, and pretty much every other FPS either have full-fledged outdoor areas or at least windows to the outside, which Wrack doesn't have nearly enough of. (E1M3 doesn't even have a skybox set - yuck!) Having some windows/outdoor areas not only looks nice and adds some contrast, but also gives you a sense of existing in a world larger than that of the corridors you're running through.

- I'm trying to have more height variation. Now, I don't want to go crazy with this since I think looking up/down a bunch could annoy a lot of people, but I'm trying to sprinkle it in a bit and like the results so far. More monsters up on ledges or little platforms that you can't necessarily access seems to be a nice little interesting wrinkle.

- I'm trying to have more interesting walls. Having taller hallways has allowed for a lot of this, but I'm trying to have more supports along the top/bottom of the hallway, and have little curves and slants in the areas in between. It really helps a lot, and helps differentiate the game from others in the genre.

Anyway, the results so far are producing things like this:





Seems improved to me!

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Change that health cross if you want to sell this without a possible cease and desist order.

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Technician said:

Change that health cross if you want to sell this without a possible cease and desist order.

So retarded yet true.

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hahahaha. carnevil is getting somewhere now :p those look a whole ton better already. i look forward to seeing where you take it and how it all develops

visually it looks a lot cooler too. i like those shots a lot

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One thing that I strongly suggest are better animations for enemies.

One of the key problems that I have with the game are the enemies stiff look and feel. In fact, I would almost go as far as claiming that they remind of the enemy animations from the original Quake.

More fluid, realistic animations would be fantastic. This is really true when it comes to death animations, since they can make the combat more satisfying.

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Nice. Some of the inaccessible monster perches can also make for cool secrets, giving the player a nice outlook over the scene :)

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Thank guys! I think after having a face-to-face conversation and playing through some other things I started to see what you all were talking about, and boy does it make a world of difference. The next couple months should see some massive improvements to the levels as a whole.

@hardcore_gamer: Definitely! After just playing through Quake, I know exactly what you mean. The gibs now spin so those look quite a bit nicer, but yeah, the enemy death animations definitely need work (as do all of their animations in general). The game is supposed to have a ton of personality, and this is one of the areas it's supposed to come through, and it's not. We want it to feel good to run around blasting things, so the blood/spark effects, death, and gibs all have to be great, and we'll continue to work it until it's all up to par.

And it's not just the enemy animations that need work - it's the weapons too. The underlying reason for my visit to our modeler in Dallas is so we could work face-to-face and I could show him and explain in rich detail (emails aren't a rich form of communication) what I was looking for. Once that's done, hopefully we can give the monsters the same treatment.

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The revamped levels look great, I'm glad you finally "got it" and understood what everyone was trying to say about the old level design. Really looking forward to running through Wrack again now.

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Those improvements sound and look great. I can safely say that my interest in Wrack has been rekindled. :)

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Carnevil said:

The underlying reason for my visit to our modeler in Dallas is so we could work face-to-face and I could show him and explain in rich detail (emails aren't a rich form of communication) what I was looking for.

Tried phonecalls instead of email?

Webcam online conference rooms that additionally stream your screen contents work great too.

I only use email when I'm positive I'll need to have proof of contacting the other person in the future.

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Carn: this looks way better. I wasn't very excited about Wrack before but these new shots intrigue me. Looking forward to future stuff!

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Belial said:

Tried phonecalls instead of email?

Webcam online conference rooms that additionally stream your screen contents work great too.

Meh, those are rarely as good as face-to-face is. Having experience in using all of these methods of communication professionally, I can say that there's no beating face-to-face communication. Especially when the goal is to brainstorm, trying to bring ideas across or designing whatever it is that you're working on.

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Yeah, that's it exactly. A couple of other animators had tried their hand at it, but the results just weren't up to par. I felt like they had the talent, but it's just too difficult to brainstorm and communicate exactly what was needed (there were typically language barriers, too - ugh). By driving up there, we were able to do things like storyboard the animations on a big whiteboard, act things out, sketch things on paper, look at videos and then mimic the actions physically... all very seamlessly (and got to bond some too, which was nice). Skype is really good, but you just can't do all that stuff nearly as easily, and this is stuff that we've really got to get nailed down.

It is financially prohibitive to go up there too often, so I'm sure there will be plenty more Skype in the future.

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re; the graphics, it might be worth considering trying to unify the enemy threat, to give them a single identity. Doom had a really, really diverse selection of enemies, seemingly unconnected by palette, body shape etc. To stop the game from looking like a bunch of unconnected lizards and robots harvested from disparate sources, have you considered plastering UAC - style logos everywhere? You look at quake and quake 2 they do the same thing, they hint at an overarching threat with their repetition of logos on crates, walls... also banners in the case of quake 2.

It would also help to break up the monotony of indoor levels somewhat.

id's use of this sort of subliminals is probably a hangover from wolf3D, when there were swasticas everywhere. I know you have nuke symbols on the doors and hazard signs on the walls, but a bit more thought into the graphic design of a product would take you a long way.

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That's a great point. I know that used to be something we were focused on. The arcturans have a little symbol for their empire that's on their armor and used to be on a lot of the early textures when we were still figuring things out. I imagine that will be used a bunch more in episode 2 and 3 when you're on their ships/homeworld, but in the mean time I'm sure there are some things we can do. I have an idea for something to be used in the last episode 1 level (sort of a UAC type thing), but there's no reason it can't be used throughout episode 1.

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Taller ceilings could mean dual area rooms. Why have just the fighting on the floor when you can later have it high up there?

I'd still like to see floor over floor like Quake and 3D games. Even with higher heights it would still feel Doom enginey.

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geo said:

Taller ceilings could mean dual area rooms. Why have just the fighting on the floor when you can later have it high up there?

I'd still like to see floor over floor like Quake and 3D games. Even with higher heights it would still feel Doom enginey.



I'm trying to wrap more areas around/on top of each other. Now, after completing both areas, instead of walking linearly to the finale area, you take an elevator to the second floor where you cross over a bridge that takes you to the finale area - which is now above the start room. MUCH better IMO! :D

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Did a video blog about the next update - specifically, why it won't be out for quite awhile because we're polishing the hell out of everything (and revamping ALL THE LEVELS). Let me know what you think!

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Carnevil said:

Did a video blog about the next update - specifically, why it won't be out for quite awhile because we're polishing the hell out of everything (and revamping ALL THE LEVELS). Let me know what you think!

Sounds like a solid plan and the proper way of continuing with the development. It's always a better thing to make a big impact, and frankly the only people affected by a longer update cycle are the relatively few people who have already bought the game. So in the grand scheme of things there's very little harm done with that decision.

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yeah i agree with Plan B. enjoyed the vlog and am liking the sound of the revamp etc

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The next vlog covers Steam Greenlight problems, and has footage from the newly revamped second level!



I also ninja edited the image in the above post since the contrast was really off. Looks much better now.

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On your E1M4 shot, the only complaint I have is that the level looks a bit samey when compared with E1M2 now. The coloration is very similar. I was never a fan of how garrish the M4-M5 textures were before, but they did offer a good amount of contrast compared to the M2-M3 set. Now it looks like some of that has been lost. The map architecture itself is great now, though.

Greenlight just fails on so many levels. Even Valve has admitted they're not happy with it, but all they've done to improve it are tiny things when they probably just need to completely overhaul how it works. The biggest problem is that I bet the majority of Steam users don't even bother with it anymore - I know I've almost completely forgotten about it, and really only vote for a game when I see it mentioned elsewhere. So you're not getting votes and Steam isn't exposing your game to its users. Problem is, any way of solving that would just make Greenlight intrustive and ad-like to users who just don't care about it. It's really unfixable in its current state - relying on the general public of Steam users for this is the wrong thing to do, IMO. The old approval process was even worse, though, so I think they need to go with some sort of hybrid setup.

One thing I really dislike about Greenlight is the fact that unfinished games can be greenlit before finished games. One game I really want to see on Steam is already available on the DS and iOS, it's in the top 100 (or was, anyway), and it hasn't been greenlit yet. Why? Why are unfinished games (and I realize Wrack falls into this category now) allowed to take "slots" away from finalized games? I mean now at least they're letting people pay for alphas/betas, but before it was just "oh here's a game, maybe you'll get to buy it on Steam in a few months/years, provided the devs actually finish it."

I disagree with your bit about devaluing games. You have to factor in the cost of materials (Tetris came on a cartridge), packaging, retail space, etc. None of that applies to Steam, and it's complete BS that some publishers try to charge $60 (worse if you live in western Europe or Australia) for their games on Steam. It's outrageous markup considering they charge the same amount for console/PC retail versions, where they make considerably less on each sale. If you can make more money selling your game for $2 than $20, isn't that a good thing? It's not devaluing at all, it's just putting your game within the grasp of more players, players who would never buy it at $20 in the first place.

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Dragonsbrethren said:

I disagree with your bit about devaluing games. You have to factor in the cost of materials (Tetris came on a cartridge), packaging, retail space, etc. None of that applies to Steam, and it's complete BS that some publishers try to charge $60 (worse if you live in western Europe or Australia) for their games on Steam. It's outrageous markup considering they charge the same amount for console/PC retail versions, where they make considerably less on each sale. If you can make more money selling your game for $2 than $20, isn't that a good thing? It's not devaluing at all, it's just putting your game within the grasp of more players, players who would never buy it at $20 in the first place.

Sure there are a lot of issues with the pricing of digitally distributed games, but trying to charge $60 for a new triple-A release is within the reaches of reasonable. Do you have any idea how much money those games cost to make? The point of the industry is still to make profit, and they can't do that if their products are constantly being undervalued. The other costs of selling retail aren't that big of deal nowadays anyways: Packaging is cheap with bulk cases and barely any manuals and logistics costs per copy of a game aren't much at all. The only part that's actually worth something is the retailer's cut. Besides, you're acting like Steam doesn't take its cuts and as if bandwidth is free. Which it isn't. Also, the constant sales cause this behaviour of not buying a promising looking game unless it's on sale. I know that I'm guilty of this just for the sake of saving a few bucks despite it being bad for the guys trying to make a living with their games.

However, there is something wrong when in Finland Simcity costs 60€ on Origin and 45€ on retail. But that probably tells us more about EA than anything else. :P

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