Caaargh Game Development Blog #3 – Complexity from Simplicity

In my last post a few weeks back I was pondering whether to add more complex track segments to the game (Caaargh!) as a way to make more interesting tracks. It must have been a good question, as it’s kept me occupied for the best part of a month.

In the end, I found I was able to generate many more, more-interesting tracks by making the component pieces even smaller and simpler than they were before.

Example of old style track pieces
Example of old style track pieces above
new_style_pieces
New style track pieces are much smaller

As part of this process I updated the scripts that generate these tracks to work with arbitrary directions and angles which also freed me up to use vertical space as well as horizontal in the game. This means tracks can now cross over themselves in interesting ways.

Track's can now vary in height
Track’s can now vary in height

There was a bunch of new modelling work to-do, and I can’t overstate how much I’ve been enjoying using Sketch-up to make these. It’s such a human friendly piece of software given what it can do, and it exports nicely enough to .fbx files to work with in Unity.

sketch_up_deadend
Modelling a deadend segment in SketchUp

The new track modelling work has let me fix up the aesthetic and practical (in game physics) issues that were bugging me with the original track pieces, and at the same time make the track a bit narrower which better suits the single-player game-play.

Here's the car relative to the track
Here’s the size of the car relative to the track

Here’s a quick sample of generating a bunch of random tracks of a specific length.

track_generation

There’s still plenty to tweak in here, but the next design decisions about tracks can’t properly be evaluated until some of the other game mechanics are in place, and what’s here goes through some more play-testing.

Also, banked corners looked fun, but didn’t play well. Sorry banked corners.

banked_corners

Caaargh Game Development Blog #2

This week has only seen a little time spent on Caaargh, but I’m trying to keep this blog updated, so here goes.

This week I’ve mostly been thinking about the segments of road that make up the race track in the game. To prototype the game and get the development started, I’ve been working with a collection of models bought from the Unity Asset store.

capturea

These got me off to a quick start, but are actually causing some of my biggest gameplay bugs right now and visually I wasn’t totally happy with them.

Visually, I don’t like the fact that the track edges don’t have any depth to them. They end up looking like sheets of paper stuck on the edge of the road. Also, something about the way these were modeled means the road surface and the edge don’t join perfectly so you see a slither of light through the road, and it shows up annoyingly in the shadows these cast onto the ground below. See below.

capture

The road/track shadows might seem like a minor detail given the other major work this game needs, but in Caaargh these shadows are one of the few visual clues that help the player ‘see’ upcoming corners given the deliberately restricted camera view. They also help the player orient themselves in the world after turning many corners. So I decided I needed to fix or replace these track segments because the shadows are important.

From a gameplay point of view, the edges and angles of these tracks were also causing occasional physics based chaos with the car getting stuck, or flipping in ways that weren’t very satisfying for the player. By building new segments myself, I can tweak these until they work just right. Or at least take the blame if they don’t!

Now though, I have a new game design challenge to think about.

The size of these original segments were pretty uniform. E.g. the lengths and widths of each segment were always 16, 32 or 64 units and if they rotate it would be 90 degrees exactly. These could be combined in interesting ways, but essentially created a certain style of track.

E.g. here’s an example when I click the generate random track button…

track

Now that I’m building new segments myself, these can be any size or shape I might want. This could be a good thing, and more interesting segments might lead to more interesting tracks, but it might also be too much. In this game you rarely see the track ahead, and you learn it by failing over and over again. If most of the tracks existence is in the players mind rather than on the screen, simple segments might be the best after all. I don’t know if 29 degree turns are a good idea or not.

capture3

So I’m going to have to test this. I also have to be careful not to the let this opportunity to add more complexity to the game slow down the development overall.

My gut feeling is that the track can be interesting even if the segments are simple, and that that’s more important overall.

capture2

For now though, I’m enjoying this 3D modelling work. 10 years ago, I used to know my way around 3ds Max, but these days Sketchup is doing the job just fine.

Sign-up for my newsletter here.