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June 17, 2011 / marvinhawkins

Rocket Rita Mega Post!

Rocket Rita

Rocket Rita was a two player game where the idea was to give players multiple resources to manage during combat

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to post. This post is kind of long. If you don’t have time to read, here’s the gist of it.

I am still proud of Rocket Rita. It was the first game that I was able to complete. Although it’s not the best, This game still represents the most complete project that I have undertaken to date. Originally created for my programming class, I was able to finish this with the work of two very talented artists. I was responsible for the design and programming of the game. I definitely grew over the course of this game’s development. Before this, I could only create 100 page word docs, but didn’t have the tools to bring my abstract ideas to life.

Rocket Rita Postmortem

Overview:

Rocket Rita was the first game that I have taken from inception to full idea. I wanted to explore the idea of multi layered, indirect competition. Rocket Rita is a 3rd person, 3d shooter. I originally completed this game as a part of my “Programming for the Artist” class. I acted in the role of designer/coder. I also had to manage the assets of two other students.

In Rocket Rita, both players are attempting to be the first to 20 points. Each kill not only adds a point to the player’s total but subtracts a point from his opponents’. The idea was to create a tense environment by making the players balance commitment to defense and offense. The other objective of the game was to create emergent gameplay through simple rules.


Main Game Play Elements

Combat Sequence

The main conflict in the game is settled through shooting. Unlike other death match modes, I wanted the player to focus on indirect competition. Neither player can kill the other with less than 20 points. During this time, players can dwindle their opponents’ health down to 0. If this happens, the other player is temporarily stunned and teleported back to the start.

This penalty is meant to give the attacking player a temporary boost in time (He has more time to rack up points without the obstacle of an opponent.) The teleporting prevents spawn camping, thus giving the defeated player a chance to regain his composure.

End Game

When a player has earned 20 points, he is instructed to “finish” the other player. During this end game, the player with 20 points can win the game by taking his opponent’s health down to 0.

Rita Vs. The Robot

Being flexible allowed us to complete the game within scope, and helped us avoid the fate of most student projects

What Went Right

Unique Game Play

I wanted to create game play that gave each player multiple resources to manage. Each player must concurrently keep track of their health, their points, and their units. Each of these resources affect the outcome of the game. I feel that I was successful in crafting the relationship between the three. This experience was a bit more unique than most other student projects. Although the main action of the game was still shooting, the other elements helped provide more depth. I could have done a better job of communicating this information to the player.

First Game Complete Game Project

As a designer/coder, Rocket Rita was the first game that I actually executed from design document to idea. The rapid nature of the game meant that I did not have time to over think ideas. Rather, I had to continually execute. If an idea was taking too long, or wasn’t quite working, it was cut. This process was great because I previously  spent most of my time agonizing over the tinniest details. I would write giant design documents before even opening the scripting engine. (Ironically, I wrote the less documentation on this game than my previous ones.) This is a mistake that plenty of rookies make, but the Rocket Rita project helped cure me of this. Finishing this game finally helped me realize what the axiom “Start Small” was all about. Just finishing the game was a mini achievement. Many student projects fail, simply because they over estimate the scope.

8 Weeks Means Adaptability

When we first received the assignment, I was admittedly nervous about the turn around time. I had eight weeks to design, (learn to) code, and manage my team to deliver a finished project. With no time to waste, we hit the ground running. I made sure that the design was as light as possible. Before this, I’d spend weeks writing every single detail in a design document before (if ever) sitting down to code. In hindsight, I don’t know why I thought that this was the correct way. I chalk it up to inexperience. The quick development cycle also meant that I had to kill some of my favorite ideas. Originally, the game was to be a super hero themed beat ‘em up. There were concerns about delivering the art and animation on time.  It hurt to kill that idea, but I was able to keep the main game play conceit. Although I would have love to have seen the game go 100% my way, making this compromise probably saved the project from failure.  By the end of the development cycle, I learned to appreciate a short development cycle. I would like to try to create a game with this time frame in the future.

Rocket Rita Feast or Famine

Feast or Famine: The path calculation AI would cause the NPCs to leave the level after a few minutes. This made the game un-winnable after 10 minutes. This is an issue that early playtesting would have caught

What to Improve

Feedback

The game could have done a better job of giving both players feedback. The only real feedback is a piece of audio that says “Finish Him/Her” to the player that reaches 20 points. To improve, I would ensure that there is a feedback loop for scoring and registering hits on the other player. Both could be done by featuring some type of visual feedback. Simply having +1 or -1 pop up when a player scored would have helped.

No Single Player Mode

Although I was successful in creating my first multiplayer experience, the game has no single player mode. The game lends itself well to an arena style shooter. This would have extended the play time of the game, and exposed the game to more players.

Play Testing! Play Testing! Play Testing!

Much like Real Estate is all about Location, Location and Location, Game Design is all about Play testing. We did not give ourselves enough time to play the game. Rocket Rita was completed as an 8 week development assignment. The game was not ready to fully test until week 6. Further, we did not have a chance to test the game play in the context of the level, which was not done until the night before. Although the game worked, we could have tweaked the rules to allow the game to be more fun. For example, I discovered that 20 points was too high of a goal based on my initial design. Had I known this sooner, I could have made the adjustment. From now on, If I design a feature, I try to code it. I want to know as soon as possible if an idea will work or not.

Closing Thoughts:

I am still proud of this game. Although it could use some polish, it represents my first complete game development experience. It taught me how to be adaptable, and merciless with my ideas. This project also gave me the confidence that I will need to tackle bigger projects. If I were to improve this game, I would ensure that the game was built earlier in the development cycle. This would have given me time to test some of my design ideas. It also would have given me time to add the embellishments that would have helped make the game more polished. Overall, this was a great first development experience, and will help shape my approach to future game projects.  Stay tuned for a walk through video, and game download coming soon.

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