Nightcycle Studios 9/29/2020 Weekly Update

Hey there everyone!

When we last left our heroes:

  • We had a functional IK engine
  • We also had overly optimistic expectations for what we’d accomplish in the next 7 days.

So what was supposed to get done this week and why didn’t it? My main stated goal was to get movement to feel a lot smoother. My other goal was to begin messing around with the configuration menu. Also like a fool, last week I said in the post

I’ll be focusing on less complicated tasks for a bit.


What I failed to realize is that I can find ways to overcomplicate anything (or maybe I oversimplify everything when planning - you choose). Specifically this week has been made longer by the idea of “Game Feel”.

Game Feel
Game feel is the aspect of game design theory that focuses on the psychologically phenomenon where a player integrates so fully into their game that they view it as an extension of their own body. The world feels tangible. One common example used in expressing the idea is with players enjoying a racing game. During the game they may tilt one way or another while turning, as though they’re in an actual car with momentum shifting.

So I wanted to make the LP3 (LP3 = our next-gen custom avatars) to have a good feel interaction wise. I want players to feel like it is an extension of their identity. After all, the word “avatar” literally meant for millennia the idea of manifesting ones presence in a separate vessel.

So, how does one make a great feeling avatar? I’m not completely sure, so I began to try to find some information on the subject. So here’s problem, the concept is so vague, or possibly so unexplored, that I can’t find it anywhere on the internet.

Whenever you try to search anything related to avatar design you get Avatar: The Last Airbender results. If you look up character design you get actual character visual design. If you look up “great feeling videogame controls” you get Xbox vs PS4 rant videos. Almost every variation of those concepts lead to a similarly unhelpful result. Occasionally I would stumble upon a video related to the subject matter, but they were usually quite vague, often being lists of great feeling videogames without diving much into why they feel great.

So, I had no choice - the internet would not be able to solve this problem directly. I’d have to turn to books.

Hitting the Books
Introducing Game Feel: A Game Designer’s Guide to Virtual Sensation by Steve Swink. A professor at IU recommended it to me when they heard about my struggle finding helpful resources on the subject. The book was published in 2008 by a professor at NYU. It’s 377 pages long and I’m guessing might be used as a college textbook for some. According to reviews it can be a bit meandering at times, however all seem to agree it has useful information in it. So that’s what I’ve been doing this week.

Unfortunately, I am terrible when it comes to reading. I have multiple dyslexic family members, and while I don’t think I’d ever call myself dyslexic, reading can be a real headache for me. This was my last resort, but at least I have that option. So my reading journey began.

I do think it is worth it though, because if I can get good at creating games that feel great now, that means every game I make for y’all can feel great. Unfortunately this is a task that is frankly slow, and doesn’t have too many major ways to display progress. I promise though that I’m not doing nothing, each day I sit down and load up the book on my old recently undusted kindle and start reading. I intend to do this until I finish the book.

Smaller Tasks I’ve also completed
However reading is pain. And I only have so much stamina. So each day I take a few breaks from reading. I’ll get 1-2 hours of regular work in a day usually.

During this time I’ve:

  • Started a patreon with some exciting tier rewards (check my twitter for more info), something which has gone much better than I’d expected. It was truly humbling to see my friends, family, and community all step up to help support my dream of being a game developer.

  • I began working on saving for retirement. My current plan for anyone interested is to save mostly through index funds (a set of stocks built to mirror the market as a whole) as they’re quite stable and have major support from the trading community, with the most notable being Warren Buffet. My current plan is to be financially able to retire by my 50s, however that does not necessarily mean I’ll stop working - I’ll just take a more hobbyist approach after that most likely, free of money worries. Maybe write a few books - after all they’re helping me, the least I could do is pay it forward.

  • Wrote up a patreon exclusive 2000 word essay on my plans for procedural story generators in SHL4. Lot of exciting things in the future for the game!

  • Messed around a bit with automating my weekly schedule, this did not work. It took too long to not work, so I am extra annoyed about this.

  • Klw4mgPW5l-min Imported two new suit assets (for a total of 6!) into the character generator, I also refined it to be able to work on a moving character + added a transitioning effect! I’m really happy with the current level of variety in character looks, and I’m excited to see what users make once the game opens up the character editor in version 0.2.0!

So, that’s what I did last week. What should I do this week?

This Week
While I’m not done with the book, I want to start putting some of its ideas into practice. This means I’m hoping to get some progress on dynamic avatar sounds. Things such as only playing footsteps when impacting the ground, changing the impact sounds based on material / shoe type, etc. Should help a bit with game feel based on what I’ve read.

I’m also hoping to get some more work done on the movement of the avatar, maybe even adding some more fun movement stuff like jumping / strafing, with the main goal of making the avatar feel fun to move around in. This is to make the character feel more responsive. The goal is to reduce the disconnect as much as possible between what you the player intend to do, and what is actually done.

As theses goals are a bit less defined, it’s more likely I’ll be able to accomplish them to some extent, so that’ll be a nice change of pace for these weekly updates. Less self deprecating humor about how little got done.

Current Estimated 0.1.0 Earliest Testing Date
As of writing this the earliest release is expected to be around October 20th. This isn’t super surprising as most of the work I did this week didn’t easily translate to the current task list.

I apologize if these delays have left some of y’all disheartened, I just really want to make the best SHL game I can, and sometimes that means redoing work to make it better.