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Return Dear Leader

Posted by
Monday, December 17th, 2012 8:16 pm

The humans will rue the day they lured our Dear Leader into their nefarious trap.



This Area 51 doesn’t look much like a movie studio to me.

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The humans seem to agree.

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They were no match for my superior intellect and firepower, and I quickly overwhelmed them and entered their facility. (Editors note: They are actually quite challenging. Our villain just has a talent for bravado and exaggeration.)

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Funny, though, they seemed less surprised to see me than I had anticipated.

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How would you do preparing the Earth for an alien invasion?

Find out: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-25/?action=preview&uid=19313

(Note: It’s quite challenging. Not for the faint of heart.)

People of Earth, I come in peace. NOT!

Posted by
Monday, December 17th, 2012 7:06 am

Our capsule alien’s space capsule has landed on Earth.

In a pasture.

Full of chickens.

And one really big chicken.

Because what’s a villain game without a giant chicken, right?

Take a look for yourself.

Giant chicken

It’s night time of course, so the image is a little dark (we’re tweaking that as well).

And here’s what a giant chicken looks like when it’s been zapped with a disintegration ray.

Chicken goo


Oh, and our villain has a basic tutorial to follow as well. (Those glowing red bits are our villain’s space craft.)

Tutorial start


In addition to the chickens, the farmers are in. If they see you they will run to the payphone and call the Police. But at this early level, they are little more challenge than the giant chicken.

So, the run down looks like this: basic systems are in. The levels are designed, and being built. The script for overhead text is being written right now, and the music and sound effects are being created.

At the end of the tutorial level, our villain discovers that his Dear Leader was here on Earth 21 years ago–scouting locations to shoot his next big feature film.

Among the photographs of Dear Leader giving the humans the intergalactic sign for “surrender or you will all die” (his right arm extended as if he wanted to clasp his hand with the human’s), there is also this clue as to the missing alien leader’s whereabouts.



A Quick Update

Posted by
Sunday, December 16th, 2012 11:20 pm

With just over 19 hours left until the Jam ends, we’ve been frantically getting all our heroes in a row, so that our villain gave vaporize them in one fell swoop.

Here’s the effect for the disintegration ray:


And here is what you look like after you have been hit by the disintegration ray (our in-game term for this is “puddle of goo”):


And here’s the level design mock-up for the final level—Dear Leader’s palace.

Palace level mock up

Posted by
Sunday, December 16th, 2012 8:15 am

It’s been long day but a lot has been accomplished.

Our villain is becoming more villainous by the minute. He now has a disintegration ray!

It might be, well, just a tiny bit overpowered. Okay, so he can basically take out an elephant from 100 yards. We’ll be tweaking those values back a bit in the very near future.

Our villain can now also Blend—camouflage himself to avoid detection. Currently this ability is an instant effect that triggers with the space bar. It lasts as long as you hold the space bar down, but has a duration, and will run out if you use it too long. The ability recharges over time, so you can use it repeatedly in a short period, but if it doesn’t recharge all the way, the duration will be shorter on successive uses.

Our NPCs have been coming along quite nicely as well. Line of sight (really cone of sight in our case) has been refined, and NPCs now have multiple states of detection—unaware, suspicious, and full-blown aware of you.



Above you can see the improved Cone of Detection, as well as the Blending ability UI. That white marker in the upper left hand corner is a way point for the NPC patrol behavior.



In this next screen you can see two separate NPC patrols converging on our villain. The NPC on the left has become suspicious, and there is an awareness meter on his (at the moment oversized) UI. When it fills all the way, he will see you.



In this final one,  you can see that same NPC has gone from suspicious to aware of our villain. He’s turned and is now running to access the alarm panel. Meanwhile, the other 2 NPCs have become suspicious and will be aware of him soon.

Good thing our capsule-shaped villain has got that disintegration ray.

Line of sight, enemy detection, doors, and a new camera distance

Posted by
Sunday, December 16th, 2012 4:07 am

Our villain, well, he’s still just an aspirin tablet.

But our NPCs now have line of sight, as well as a cone indicator for their area of detection.

We also have doors.

They open, and close — and they also can be triggered based on the completion of quest goals. Which means I can give the player their advanced alien weaponry one or two items at a time, and spread out the learning curve over the first two levels, instead of having to teach the player everything all at once.

I hate that. Who wants to have to remember so much stuff up front? Even if it is in the name of fun (and isn’t really all that much to remember).

Still, it’s much better to just start playing, and learn how to overcome obstacles as you encounter them.

Also, we played around with the camera angle and distance to the player. We liked the speed of movement, so we tried to leave it alone. It’s quick, which adds to the tension and surprise, and really helps to bring out an emotional response (fear, really) when you encounter a bad guy and have to react so quickly.

You can see in this screen shot both the new camera distance (which reveals more of the map at one time), and the NPC detection cone. We’ve also added walkways to the basic levels, and the path finding works like a champ. It goes up and down stairs super smooth, and doesn’t have any of the typical problems that you encounter with path finding and raised platforms.

Pathing and patrols


And we have finished the rough conceptual level lay outs for the tutorial level and Area 51.

Farm level design screen


This is the tutorial area–a cornfield in Kansas.

You will only have two weapons, and one ability at this point. The other two tech items you will  acquire in the beginning of the next level.

Camera, camera, camera

Posted by
Saturday, December 15th, 2012 8:01 pm

When we last left our villain, he was little more than an aspirin capsule, moving around quite rapidly through a level of NPCs with no weapons and little more than the ability to explore.

He was fun to move around, which, considering he’s just a white oval who appears to have three dimensions, is a pretty good start. But now he needs something to do.

At this stage, it’s going to be key for us to define how we intend to use the camera.

Though there are elements of violence and disintegration-ray mayhem planned for the game, the core mechanic here is really stealth. So, knowing where the enemy NPCs are, which direction they are moving, and being able to spot locations where line of sight can be blocked are going to be very important.

At the moment, we have top down camera, that’s fairly close in. Out capsule villain, again, just at this phase, moves quite quickly. So, given the limited amount of visibility and the speed of movement, it’s quite easy to accidentally move too close to an enemy NPC without having any chance to really respond to the environment.

Part of me actually likes this vibe. If the key to success is in movement management, and snap decisions, it could be very fun. To my mind it would give the game a more tongue-in-cheek feel, since obviously if you are running around Area 51 and damn near step on a guard’s toes but manage to escape by ducking behind a barrel, we’re not going for serious.

If we go this direction, then we wouldn’t need to really muck with the camera angle, or distance, nor would we need to adjust the speed of movement (though all of these are super easy to adjust). However, we might need to think about some sort of a mini-map, since involved level-designed puzzles will be impossible for a player to fully comprehend at that speed and camera distance. And though I don’t know that we want to get too deep into complex level design for this, since that could seriously eat up our time up, I do think we want players to have some sense of the bigger picture. So it’s something for us to think about.

Other options, of course, would be for us to pull the camera back, move it to a more ¾ view (similar to what you saw in our UI art style mock up), and /or adjust the character movement speed. A mini-map might be a good thing for us if we take these other directions as well, but it’s hard to tell without some testing. (There’s no sense in adding a feature unless you really need it.)

We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, here’s a revised shot of our loading screen.



First Web Player Version

Posted by
Saturday, December 15th, 2012 6:16 pm

At the moment, our villain is little more than a capsule.

Not so much a space capsule. More like an aspirin—not exactly what a villain of such magnitude aspires to.

However, the master villains (that would be Adam and myself), are much pleased with the progress of our plan.

Though he already has designs on destroying the entire world and wiping out all of humanity, our capsule villain has just taken his first baby steps. Players will navigate the map by clicking open ground with the left mouse button.

Click to move

Adam has mocked up a test level for us to roam around in, and we’re getting a lot of good data in terms of how to proceed in terms of camera movement, camera angle, speed of character movement and NPCs, NPC detection radius, and line of sight. All of these factors are going to have to be balanced out, but even just running around a mostly empty room is amusing.

And isn’t that what developing games is all about? Making some fun?

We’ve also started to do some tests in terms of art for the final environments.

Here’s a mock up, just for a sense of mood.



At the moment, we are planning three levels: the tutorial takes place in a corn field in Kentucky. The first really full-speed play level (in terms of the player’s point of view) will be Area 51. And the final level will be in a well-guarded palace.

Path finding in

Posted by
Saturday, December 15th, 2012 2:39 am

When last we left our villain, He had just entered Area 51 and had discovered two new tech items to help him in his quest to destroy the puny humans.

In order for us to make the line of sight and detection aspects of the game fun, we need to build some AI rules for encounters as well as a good set of path finding rules.

Here’s the mock-up for the general UI.



You can see the UI art style is light, and fun, clearly not overly serious.

The camera we’re working with at the moment is a 3rd person POV, facing into a 3D world. Walls will block line of sight, and the player will have to use the level to successfully outmaneuver enemy NPCs.

And here’s a shot of the path finding going in, inside the Unity editor.



The story outline as well as design progression outline are almost finished in first draft. We’re shooting for a first playable by mid morning our time (I’m in Shanghai, and Adam is in Sydney).

More on the play-ability, tuning, and content development in tomorrow’s posts.

Sight mechanics now in . . . onto patrols

Posted by
Saturday, December 15th, 2012 1:08 am

As our story continues, you, the alien, here to do the advance scouting work for the coming alien invasion of Earth and the long-awaited extermination of the human race, find your way to . . .  Area 51.

Your discovery at the end of the tutorial level told you that your Dear Leader was taken prisoner by human soldiers and taken to a top secret testing facility.

Here is where the true fun begins.

At this point you have several powers at your disposal.

Camouflage — Which we are calling Blending.

A disintegration ray.

And a mind-control beam.

Your first task will be to gain entry to the heavily guarded and fortified Area 51.

In the previous level, you practiced using your disintegration ray on chickens, and your mind control and powers of camouflage on simple farmers. Here, however, you must tangle with trained soldiers.

In the first third of this level, you will discover an armory–a stash of alien weaponry. It’s old and out of date by your standards, but still powerful and high tech compared to anything the puny humans have. You retrieve two new items–a Hologram Generator and a weapon know on your home planet simply as the “Chicken Hawk.”

Line of sight and detection are going to be key components in the game play. As an alien, your strange form will be easily identifiable by the soon-to-be-extinct humans. So for now, you must do your best to avoid raising the alarm. (Don’t worry, you will have your day, and the humans will pay for what they have done to your Dear Leader . . . Muwahahahaha. Ahem, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.)

Here’s a sample of our code at the moment.


Up next, patrols and way points.




Concept Phase Complete

Posted by
Friday, December 14th, 2012 11:27 pm

Well, it took us several hours to bang through the first batch of brainstormed ideas we had. There was some really great stuff. Some of it I hope we go back to and make in the future.

For this weekend, we settled on a combination of two ideas, and we’re super stoked.

So, here’s the pitch:

It’s called Return Dear Leader.

You are an alien.

The humans are a disgusting, arrogant lot that must be exterminated at all costs.

You have made the long and treacherous journey to Earth, only to discover that the photos you have are now woefully out of date.

You find yourself in a cornfield in rural Kentucky.

This is where our story begins.

You will meet a farmer . . . and his animals . . . and use them as test subjects as you master your alien powers and technology.

Then you will begin your search in earnest for your long lost Dear Leader, who you discover had been taken prisoner by the humans many decades ago–when he himself came to visit Earth and make contact.

Here’s a shot of the start screen.


Stay tuned for more of the story…


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