Unleash Arena

Unleash Arena

It’s 2015. You look around and think: everyone you know, boys, girls, ladies and gentlemen, most of them, if not all, grew up with and have stories with\about games. Some used to play Atari in the old good days (that’s probably your father or uncle), some born in the Minecraft era (that’s probably your little brother or sister), but all of them share the same taste of liking an experience that brings them to a relaxing state, where they can just have fun with a keyboard or joystick and forget the rest.

Games are so magical that people can’t simply just experience them, ideas come and go on their minds all the time: “wow, what if in this game you could…!?”, ” I dreamed about a game where you were a … And had to …!”. That happens to everyone, you can’t avoid it, and that’s maybe what makes everyone love games.

That’s how the story begins

Curiously, that’s how our story begins, Guilherme and I grew up with games like Warcraft, Age of Empires and many RPGs. You may guess that we always dreamed of making these games, and adding astounding stuff to them, and if you do, you’re totally right! Our previous experiences on game development and VFX made us want to not only dream but actually pursue this goal.

Guilherme and I worked together doing freelancing work to a studio back in 2010 and that’s where we met each other, after some time we thought that our skill set could complement each other, so we made Beard’s Engine as our first project together. That went really well, and Ceres Adventure is planned to be made to run on top of it soon, but in the mean time we got another project.

Here Arena comes to scene! During some brainstorms on genres of games that we wanted the most to make, fast-paced RTS was a homogeneous choice, making the graphics as best as we could and the gameplay very appealing was also some of the core goals!

After ideas were set, we almost instantly began developing a prototype for it. It was quite a big prototype, here’s a compiled list of what we learned, general ideas we had in the process and some stuff that you’ll see for Arena. Keep in mind this list is referring to our prototype version of Arena and does not describe completely what Arena should be. Stick to the blog for the sequel post which we’ll talk about everything you should expect for Arena! Now for the list:

Procedural Maps

We had a GREAT time playing with this concept. At first we imagined that each battle should have happened in a procedural map, that was a ambitious idea, but seemed feasible at first.

A common height map in black and white.

One of the generated height maps

 

And here’s the corresponding generated map

And here’s the corresponding generated map

 

Of course that was very fun to play with and furthermore, our idea was to have a world with as much procedural properties as possible, but we had to experiment to see that not being able to control the whole terrain could be a huge problem later on for a lot of reasons.

One of them was that gameplay would get very hard to be balanced and controlled. Have you ever noticed how games like DotA and LoL have the map almost symmetrical? Why is the river just crossing the map in the center? And why do they have the same amount of jungle spawn spots in both sides of the map? Yup, it’s for balance. PCG terrains could ruin that, imagine a river spawn closer to one team’s base, limiting their terrain? Or if the terrain got more mountainy closer to top team’s base? What if an ice biome got generated by the top of the map and just one team could get benefit from that? This doesn’t seem optimal. We had to find alternatives.

Our alternative was to control what generation could do. It was still noise generated terrain, but controlled by channels and operands. On the programming side, this was a wonderful thing to develop, a script language was used where you could describe a chain of noise\texture channels and operands.

Still this hadn’t fixed the problem completely. The terrain would either a) still be too random, or b) It would have only some diversity that wouldn’t bring much gameplay difference. But it was another factor that made us screw procedural maps for static maps: We wanted great graphics, and baking lighting and shadow would help us immensely on that side, and you can’t (you actually can, but it’s not much feasible) compute this realistically on the fly. Unfortunately, procedural maps were already bogging us in two factors, so they got cut off, but it was a good experience! We expect to maybe use what we learned about it in other projects. Because of procedural maps we also learned a lot about strategy games maps, which now will help us on a lot on deciding stuff for our map.

Perspective

Lots of choices here, with lots of implications, our first idea was to seek an over-the-shoulder camera or a default action-game camera style, but that didn’t cut it.

Something like Resident Evil’s look. ((R) Capcom)

Something like Resident Evil’s look. ((R) Capcom)

 

The reason why that wouldn’t work is because a) the mouse would be locked, so no interaction with GUI or whatsoever without breaking game input, which depending on the game pace, can really drive some players mad; And b) targeting skills with this perspective…. well… sucks. We had some ideas on skill casting and having a good perspective will be the key for doing it right. So most cameras we wouldn’t work. The classic RTS perspective was chosen, we saw that there’s a good reason for most RTSs to use this perspective, it’s not just historical reasons.

Art style

We always wanted Arena to have next gen graphics, and we really pursued that. Here are two different looks we got:

 

What our first attempt looked like, realistic view.

First Attempt

 

What our second attempt looked like. Cartoony and low poly-y

Second attempt

 

The second look was the most recent, we were seeking something similar to geom low poly

Low poly scene by Tim Reynolds

 

We found out that it didn’t fit what we wanted for the game, so we went back to realistic art (the first look). Although now, we’re on Unreal Engine so lots of improvement we’ll be done, since we have one of the best graphics engines at our disposal 😀

First year of Arena was very busy, we prototyped a lot, worked a lot on our workflow and refined much more our ideas. And all that was a great experience. This was the first post on Arena sequence of making of posts, hope you all liked it!

If you want to know how Arena will look, stay tuned for the sequel post!

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