At the end of last week we started on a new game, which we're happy to now officially announce: Project ROPE (Working title).
Project ROPE is our second mobile game. It is designed from the ground up to be a simple, accessible and challenging touch-driven game. The game sees you navigating a character through an environment and using 'Ninja rope' swinging mechanics to stay alive - where any one collision with the environment is game over. The idea is that we'll randomly generate the level so that the experience is always unique.
End of week #1
Over the course of the week, we've been rapidly prototyping the game. At the end of Monday (the first full day of development) the game looked like this:
At this point we were playing with the idea that the player would tap and hold on a piece of the environment to throw out a grapple line, although this had us a little concerned that the player would block their own line-of-sight with their arm when trying to tap into the world. The game's pseudo physics and rope swinging are still extremely rough at this point. You can also see some early art tests where we were testing partially destructible environments.
Over the next couple of days, we tried several other input methods (including swiping to throw a grapple line in the direction of the swipe as well as tapping anywhere to fire a grapple at a fixed angle) but none of them were as fun as the original method). We also found that the concerns we had about the player blocking their own line-of-sight weren't actually a problem when playing the game, so we returned to it. We spent a lot of time refining the grappling mechanics (how fast the player initially swings; their top speed; the strength of gravity; how long the rope takes to 'take hold' etc), but we we kept getting stuck on one particular problem:
When the player tapped on a particular location on the screen, it was extremely difficult to anticipate whether they wanted to swing under the object or over it. We tried simplifying this down to 'always under', but there'd always be a case or two where the player was travelling upwards extremely quickly and the best course of action was to go over. Originally we figured we'd have to solve this with a secondary input, but then we came up with another idea. By Thursday, the game looked a bit more like this:
At this point, we've refined a lot of the swinging mechanics, making them a lot more predictable. We've also added a 'snapping' system to the targeting system so that it became a lot easier for the player to hit the exact thing they were trying to, especially at high speed. But the biggest change here is that we now mark the edges with either an under (green) or over (blue) hint. In reality this pretty much just translates to 'you always swing underneath the bottom of an object' and 'you always swing over the top of an object', so we're not even sure we need the colour-coding. In the above test we have some objects that can't be grappled at all, so we'll need some game language to highlight this, but we're pretty happy with the progress we've made so far.
We'd also come to the decision that the world would be made up off a grid consisting of 500 x 500-sized tiles (the thick-bulky pillars at the start of the above clip are two tiles wide).
Today, we took that prototype level and added some of the art tests that we've been doing:
This uses the same 500x500 grid as the previous test, but here we've replaced a lot of the cubes with more interesting, bespoke shapes. The same swing under / swing over rules still apply and, as you can see, work pretty well. You can also see some of the results of us testing the procedural, parallax background and floor here.
Over the course of the next week, we need to implement a better camera system (we're going to experiment with zooming the camera out when the player is moving faster, having the camera stop when it reaches the floor and having the camera 'lead' the player). We also need to solve the game's biggest technical problem: How to build interesting, random levels procedurally. We'll probably also start working towards some proper art work and, of course, continue to refine the grappling mechanic.
PLAYING THE GAME
In continuing our efforts about being as open as possible with our development process, we've decided that the best way to do so would be to give you access to the game as early as possible. We considered the idea of simply releasing the game onto the store in it's current state, with notes in the description stating that this was not a finished game but, we all know what people are like: Once they game's available to the public, someone's bound to write a comment like "This game sucks - it's not even finished", tarnishing the final product. So we decided on a compromise:
As of right now, you can visit the following link from your Android device (sorry, this isn't available to iOS users) and join our persistent open BETA: Download Project ROPE.
For more information about this, please visit our Project ROPE page. We aim to keep updating the live build as often as we can manage, probably releasing new versions every 2-7 days.