November 2019 Dev Diary - Back to Development!
Posted 09 / 12 / 19
Hello everyone, and welcome to another Developer diary for Beyond a Steel Sky !
First off, Beyond a Steel Sky will now be coming to you all in 2020, instead of 2019 as we had initially intended. Owing to a need to extend the development period, we've had to delay the release -but only by a few months. For more information you can read our article here about it.
So, what’s been happening this month?
Well, in short, a lot!
Voice recording for our characters is now underway. Those of you who played the demo at EGX last month will have heard a lot of voices have already been added, but now we’re recording the entire ensemble and getting them added into the project. For now we’re doing this section by section as we progress through the game. What this means is Union City is about to start buzzing with voices - both human and droid alike!
Looks like 2CU is happy to hear she's going to have a voice!
What this also means is that Dialogue is nearing completion and being reviewed. In Beneath a Steel Sky, the humour and dialogue stood out and really exemplified the dystopian and cyberpunk style of the game. We’re ensuring all the puns you're used to make their way into the game, and you'll be able to enjoy the same level and style of humour.
The music for Beyond a Steel Sky is also in production. A gorgeous orchestral score (if we say so ourselves!) that really brings out the atmosphere of the game, and enhancing the mystery of the narrative. We’ve always used Orchestral soundtracks for Broken Sword, and from that we know how to truly enhance a scene and add depth to a scene. We hope you’ll agree when you get to hear it!
And as always, animations are being tidied, motion-captured (or “mocapped”), and added to the game. We’ve still got a ways to go, but it’s a joy to see the game progress every day.
A great example is some of the progress this month is one of the animations you can spot in the Gameplay Trailer - getting refined, smoothed out, and less jerky:
Before and after. Spot the difference?
All of this hopefully indicates we’re all super busy bees in the Studio right now!
Rapid Iteration - Gameplay before Art.
Something we’ve somewhat ceased doing now (because we’re not really designing anything any more, but implementing) is “Rapid Iteration” - the idea of designing and implementing things quickly to gauge the success of an idea in the early stages of development.
One of the hardest things to gauge when designing a game, any game, is whether or not it’s fun. Many a project has completed its development, only to be unleashed upon the testers to a resounding “meh.”
Whilst a talented design team and years of experience can help mitigate the risk of a puzzle that falls flat or a cutscene that’s just too confusing, nothing beats seeing it for yourselves. These days, with the right tools, this is actually a lot easier than it ever was before.
For Beyond a Steel Sky, we’re using Unreal 4 as our game engine, and the game itself is made up of various modular components, carefully built to be versatile and robust in their function, that we can fit together like building blocks.
This means if we want to see how a scene plays out, a designer can grab the individual parts, snap them all together, and with a minimum of code and a sprinkle of dialogue, have a fully functional (albeit often a little rough around the edges,) puzzle to test out, and evaluate.
So, as an example from the earliest days of development, for this idea there's a citizen on a ledge who needs saving. We grab a person, an object and a trigger to tell us where he is, give him a simple behaviour tree and bam!: We have an element for a puzzle ready to go.
How’s this for a dramatic moment? A Citizen on a ledge going to fall!
Well, it’s great as long as you look past the fact that there's an open window there where they could easily be rescued through. We need some more creative solutions, so let’s redesign the scene a bit:
Ever wondered what a droid looks like on their tip-toes?
With a little tweak, the citizen is now in actual peril and how to rescue them can now be designed.
We call this technique “Rapid Iteration,” and rapid it truly is - we can bounce an idea around the team and get feedback immediately, ensuring that before a section moves to the concept art stage, the gameplay is confirmed as being on target.
For every puzzle you see in a finished game, you can bet that there are an equal number we tested out and found wanting - after all, if it’s not fun, it won’t make the cut, but some useful bits may be added to other designs. This puzzle idea was valuable to gauge the scene, but you won’t find it in Beyond a Steel Sky any more.
Once we’ve done the Rapid Iteration phase, we then move on to a full blockout for the section replacing the basic objects with custom code and artist produced placeholders and then (eventually) the final thing!
With this short, but hopefully juicy, bit of development insight we’re now working towards (and somewhat through) the Christmas holiday. In the New Year we’re hoping to start giving you some more accurate release information, and of course some more insights into how we’re making Beyond a Steel Sky - but gear up as they’ll be a bit more technical going forward. We’ll do our best to keep them easy to read, but increasingly informative for all of you hoping to see into the engine room of the development train.
So be sure to keep an eye on our social channels, on our Steam Page, and on our website. And, as always: