Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, Mar 21 2017, 04:22 PM in Development
Level comparison: Bologna vs L'Aquila
Hey guys. Apologizing here again for the lack of updates. The recent Game Developers Conference trip has generated a lot of interesting developments regarding our upcoming projects and there's also been some cool new stuff happening with Rock of Ages 2 that we'll be sharing later. Small team here and so much to do as usual...
On this occasion I'll be sharing our new take on the Renaissance level that features impressive jumps.
Bologna on the left (Rock of Ages 2), L'Aquila on the right (Rock of Ages).
Unlike Scotland vs. Wallachia, where we essentially revamped the same layout, for this particular map we wanted to bring back an extensive slope that ends in a huge leap, which was characteristic from the L'Aquila level from the first title. The concept behind the level was cool, but we weren't so happy with the layout, so we decided that instead of modifying it we'd completely redesign the circuit.
Featuring a section where you can gain a considerable amount of speed that culminates in a big ramp was the main idea behind this level. In the original game, the L'Aquila level didn't technically feature a ramp since the area that holds the giant bull accidentally served to propel the boulder in to the sky.
Above: Rock of Ages2. Below: Rock of Ages.
The first noticeable change is the amount of ramps featured in the new level. If the concept is fun, why limit it to a single time for every descent? In Bologna players will have to traverse through a series of giant slides, each featuring a large jump at the end of the path.
Something else we decided to change is the defensive unit tiling. The center area which features a stream of water does not allow you to build there, so players can always gather speed during the slopes. Defenses will be required to be placed on the borders of the circuit. However, descending through the stream will slightly affect your speed, allowing players that risk the path on the sides to gain an advantage.
Our first tests with this new level were designed so that players could cover a long distance by simply rolling off a ramp after having reached maximum speed. However, one of the things that has changed in the new game is that boulders cover less distance when jumping, (less than in the original Rock of Ages). The configuration difference seems small in a regular jump, but on a giant ramp like this it was clear that the boulders were not covering as much distance as we wanted. Thus, we decided to include a form of propulsion to enhance the jump at the end of each slope.
To the skies!
We really missed the giant cannons from the DaVinci and Cherub bosses from the first game, so this seemed like an ideal scenario to bring these back. At the end of each slope the player must aim at the barrel of the cannon to get blasted through the air and reach the next platform. Total speed is still taken in to account, so if the player blasts through the cannon at a speed that is not sufficient he still won't cover the distance.
Note: It's not accidental that the DaVinci giant statue from the first game is featured again in this level (did you miss it from the previous screenshot?)
So what happens if you miss the cannon or don't gain enough momentum when reaching the cannon? The level is designed like a giant aqueduct with lower levels, so players that don't cover the distance during the leap of faith (or "blast of faith"?), will fall to the bottom level where there's a trampoline at the end.
Pretty sure there were aqueducts that looked just like this in ancient Rome...
The trampoline was designed so that the jump is not mandatory, but taking this path will make you lose valuable time.
And that's it for this latest blog post! Hope everyone is looking forward to playing this level which has been very fun to design and test. Stay tuned for more developments coming up next.
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Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, Jan 27 2017, 04:07 PM in Development
Level comparison: Scotland vs Wallachia
Hi guys. Sorry for the delay for this latest update. Starting a new year generally has us busy with a bunch of things and while many of you may be enjoying a nice cool winter, here in Santiago it feels like a furnace outside, which doesn't help too much. But don't worry; we're still hard at work making sure the game lives up to its potential!
Following our regular development blog posts this time we'll be looking at how we've redesigned one of the most characteristic levels from the first game and re-imagined it for the sequel.
Scotland on the left (Rock of Ages 2), Wallachia on the right (Rock of Ages). Same level, re-imagined.
When we started developing the sequel we decided we wanted to bring back some of the more competitive and fun levels featured in the first game. Most of the levels in the new game are still brand new, but there were a couple of older designs that we thought were worth rescuing, and this is one of those cases.
In the following segments we'll explain what changes we did to improve the existing design and how that should translate in to a better gameplay experience.
Note: In the original game you have to fight Dracula at this point. Even though the level layout looks quite similar, we've decided that this level is now located in Scotland. Why? Just because. 40% less historically accurate, right? Any ideas who you'll get to face here?
In all of the levels in the original Rock of Ages, the track mirroring is split at the boulder launching area, having both adversaries looking in opposite directions. We thought it wasn't very fun to start by having you give your back to your enemy, so we've tried to set up starting points that are facing each other.
Above: Rock of Ages. Below: Rock of Ages 2. Here you have line of sight of your opponent.
We've avoided placing boulders directly next to each other in the new game. In most cases you should always be able to view your opponent in a 180 degree view radius. In some maps paths will even briefly intersect.
The narrow section
Another area we decided to redesign is the center of the level that featured a narrow segment with steps. Many people disliked the steps because they killed any momentum you may have gained at that point (and blocking the boulder should be consequence of unit placement, not level design). So to address this problem we decided to replace this area with a bridge.
Above: Rock of Ages. Below: Rock of Ages 2.
Instead of making steps in this area we made it narrower, which presents its own challenge. But a fast boulder that is able to avoid enemy units should be able to move through this part at a good speed. We also decided to limit the areas where you can place units to the checkered sections, because defending the complete bridge was too easy without these limitations.
We wanted to keep the shortcut in the middle section that rewards players that take the "leap of faith" and are able to cover both jumps.
Above: Rock of Ages. Below: Rock of Ages 2.
The smaller platforms are still easy to defend to dissuade players that want to take the risk. The jump is also a little harder for regular boulders, but much easier for light boulders like the giant balloons. Setting up your roster with two different boulders might be a good idea in this level, to cover both paths (take the shortcut or the bridge).
Near the castle
The final segment that leads to the castle was also repurposed to support more interesting gameplay. This section was fun in the original, but very hard to defend effectively.
Above: Rock of Ages. Below: Rock of Ages 2.
The old layout which features several round-like rocks really prevents you from setting up a good defense, because these rocks are easy to jump over/past, invalidating most of the usable terrain.
All levels with good design need to feature areas where defenses can be more effective. We decided to include a stone arch that serves as a choke point, since the entry and exit can be blocked quite easily (you can't build directly below though). Additionally, it's expected that many players will want to set up defenses in the final segment of the level, just before the castle, so we wanted to provide a good landmark to assist with such defenses.
And that's everything for this blog post! Hope everyone likes the changes for our "version 2.0" of the Wallachia level. Stay tuned that we'll be posting some news on Patricio Meneses' music in our next blog post, which should be just around the corner.
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Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, Dec 13 2016, 02:50 PM in Development
Unit review: The Battleship
Hey guys. Welcome to a new defensive unit overview. This time we'll be looking at the updated Battleship.
Same or not?
The battleship serves a similar purpose to that of the original Rock of Ages. The unit fires in to the air and the projectile briefly lands near you in a mortar-like vertical angle, trying to anticipate your location. However, the cannonball shot features some new dynamics that make it more useful as an obstacle and the visual redesign is meant to reflect this.
Shells or land mines?
The vertical shot is meant to land directly on the boulder for highest damage, but if the shot misses, it can still deal damage in the form of a temporary land mine.
Bombarded with 'cannon shells'
The cannonballs that hit the surface burry half way in to the ground. While they are there they act as mines. Boulders that roll on top of exposed shells will cause these to explode. Additionally, buried shots start to gain pressure and explode after a few seconds.
Land mine mechanic: Cannonballs that burry in to the ground explode briefly after.
Just like in the first game, when the battleship prepares to fire it will be accompanied by a visual and audio cue. The destination impact point is signaled by an animated reticule so players can attempt to dodge the falling projectile. Falling shots will also leave a trial of smoke so other players can visualize the projectile's trajectory from far away distances.
Missed me by a hair!
One of the things we wanted to convey with the new design is a more clear representation of the vertical attack. The old unit felt like it "spawned" projectiles out of thin air, and even though this is actually how the game executes the attack, it seemed important to create the illusion that there is an actual mortar-like arced shot.
The massive four cannons that are located on the ship in a radial like pattern show that the unit is aiming towards the sky. The cannon facing the targeted boulder wills always be the cannon that fires. The fire animation is quite dramatic, so even if you're not playing with audio you'll be able to prepare for the imminent reticule to show up.
It's curious that while we were preparing this blog post we quickly realized something was missing from the battleship when comparing it to the older design: COLORS!
Battleship from RoA on the left. Battleship from RoA2 on the right.
It's incredible what some nice colors can do to compliment a design. Even if the older unit has less polygons and simpler lighting/shading it looks much more interesting. So the next step will be to complement the existing design with color coding which will not only improve the overall aesthetics but also allow the unit to display your team's color selection.
Look forward to screenshots of a more colorful battleship once we include color coding to the materials.
And that's it for today! We hope everyone enjoys this content update that was a bit overdue. Until the next time!
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Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, Dec 13 2016, 02:07 PM in Development
Navigating the battlefield
Rock of Ages is a race to destroy the enemy castle gates (and then squishing the opponent's puny leader with your boulder), so it is important to design levels that are clear to navigate.
One innovation we brought to the level designs is that your territory and the enemy territory sometimes intersect. This gives you the opportunity to collide with the enemy boulders on your way down, but it also means we have to give some additional cues so players always know when they are going towards the enemy castle or their own!
The first and most important hint, is of course, the team colors! We do not have a fixed red vs blue palette anymore, so the tracks and many details including units, people, flags, boulders and castles, will all change to use your selected army color and banner. We are starting with 10 colors to choose from.
If two players are using the same settings?
We need to do something when two players have the same preferred colors, so if two red armies meet, whoever enters the battle last will have their main and detail colors swapped (in the above example that player would have a yellow banner with red lions).
A great hint we had in Rock of Ages that helped players find the right direction, specially when they fell off the track or got disoriented, was the wind:
The wind is not only decorative, but it always blows towards the enemy castle. Even without telling the player in a tutorial, we found it was one of those subtle things that people got intuitively.
This way please.
Not all hints need to be subtle though... a finger pointing in the right direction just works
I have an answer for that!
It's because you don't want to win because your enemy didn't know where to go. You want to win because they couldn't get through your cunning defensive strategies!
Now that we are play-testing very often, we have had the chance to fine tune the level design; block or enable shortcuts, set which tiles players can build on, calibrate boulders and units, etc. We'll continue do this, always remembering that the priority is to make a fair and fun game.
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Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, Nov 4 2016, 03:54 PM in Development
The Balloon Boulders!
By now you may know that in Rock of Ages II different boulders have different attributes, and you can choose unique ones to play in your matches.
Today we will talk about the Balloon Boulders...
The main advantage that Balloon Boulders have is pretty clear: They are light which allows them to jump higher. Balloon boulders can jump obstacles that regular boulders would need to go through, losing health & speed.
I know what you're thinking: That's OP! One of the big complaints about Rock of Ages 1 was it was too easy to jump over obstacles! But don't worry, there are three things to consider here:
As you can see, the balloon boulder isn't very fast, nor resistant. It's weight class also means it deals less damage to the gate (and all enemies). In a game where speed and strength are incredibly important, having two weak stats is not so good. The balloon boulder is actually a good secondary boulder because:
- In general regular boulders jump less high than in the first game. (So jumping has been nerfed a bit).
- Many units are taller than in ROA 1 (like the elephant that now has a tower), which makes jumping over stuff even harder.
- The Balloon Boulder has very clear weaknesses...
In our current matches people who are depending too much on the balloon boulders are losing most of the time. They are too weak, which makes them very vulnerable to projectile weapons like the Ballista.
- It can get past super well defended areas and clear the path for your friend.
- It can reach shortcuts that can be much harder to achieve for regular boulders.
Here are the two Balloon class boulders of the game. What's that on the left? An inflated cow?!?
The Balloon Boulders are definitely a very fun addition to the game. They add an interesting layer of strategy and decision making when preparing for a war match, and are unique and feel different to the other boulders of Rock of Ages II. But the thing I've enjoyed the most about them is seeing them pop in the middle of the air after I get overwhelmed by a nasty projectile defense. Seeing an inflated cow burst like a balloon has made me laugh out loud several times already, and I hope it will also make you laugh as well.
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Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, Oct 12 2016, 02:16 PM in Development
The unit roster
Assembling your army
In Rock of Ages 2 we wanted to introduce a wider variety of units for players to choose from. But by introducing so many units we quickly realized that managing such a big roster in a match would be very troublesome. Because we also wanted to introduce new areas where players are required to plan out their strategy, we decided it would be a really good idea to limit the amount of units you can bring to a battle by making players commit to a specific battle plan.
Before each War match takes place you will have to select which units and which boulders you want to bring to the course. Below is the unit selection grid in its default configuration:
Campaign starts off with limited options. Looks a little empty, right?
Progressing through the campaign will allow players to unlock and populate the unit selection grid with more boulders and new units. In addition, players will also be able to unlock additional slots so they can bring more units in to a match. The upper grid represents the slots available for your battle plan and the bottom grid shows the complete list of units to pick from.
A completely unlocked list will look like this:
We don't want to give away all the units from the game, so we've blurred out some of the icons. Can you guess what they might be???
You might have noted from the last screenshot that there's something else that is new in the sequel; you can bring more than one boulder to the fight!
We don't want to impose how players want to plan out their battles, so we decided to give complete freedom when selecting the roster. This means you can take as much boulders as your battle plan allows you to. Note that boulders will take up two spaces from the top grid, so choosing too many can severely limit the amount of defensive units you can use. It's all about balancing and making the proper choices for each course.
Choose the boulder you will release for the next run. Note that each boulder has its own building time. Tougher rocks will generally take longer to build.
After all players have selected their roster the match can begin. Because the game allows you to choose more than one boulder, if you do so, you will have to first choose which of these you want to start building while you plan out your defenses. Wrapping-upWith a limited selection of units we anticipate a much higher level of experimentation from players that can try out different combinations on different levels. The roster that might prove to be effective on one map may not be as effective on another level, so players will have to choose wisely and develop their own strategies.
We also believe that the more limited amount of active units in a match will allow people to be more focused on setting up defenses that are better planned out giving the game more diversity (you'll never know what you have to face off the next time).
Finally, this formula also incentives more variety of strategic approaches to be used during a match. Some players can use rosters that are clearly more offensive, with more weight on boulder selections, and other players can rely on more defensive strategies with a wider assortment of defenses to protect the course. And since the game now allows players to team up, the expected variety in a match can be exponential, with teams going all-aggressive, all-defensive or mixes.
Building phase in progress. Note that in our current build 'banks' and 'thunder cloud' are always added to your roster, but this is still TBD.
We hope everyone likes the new ideas we're developing for the sequel. We can't wait to see what kind of strategies people will develop once the game is out.
Until the next blog post!!
Posted by Dmitriy Gorbachev, Sep 14 2016, 04:07 PM in Development
Navigating levels: The boulder AI design
So here's a crazy simulation showing off the result of dozens of AI boulder players trying to navigate a level simultaneously.
Cool, isn't it? So if you wish to know how we're getting these results... read on!
One area which ROA1 could have been better was the boulder's AI. As we went into ROA2, we had to find a system that was both efficient and also easy to use for level designers. After trying different approaches we ended up implementing a path system in which a human player navigates a level to record speed and jump values of how to finish an empty level (no obstacles). The resulting information can be seen represented in the following spline:
As you can see this level (which happens to show a nice preview of the Renaissance art period) has a few jumps and turns and can get quite narrow for a boulder attempting to navigate at top speed. This path shows the most obvious and "safe" path to complete the level, where no risky/difficult jumps have been taken during the recording process.
In the spline you can see how the green vectors are representative of the direction and velocity (given by the vector's length). However we want our AI to sometimes attempt shortcuts, and for this we record play sessions with riskier routes that require better timed jumps and control, as can be seen in the following two examples.
When the game is running, the AI boulder doesn't simply move through the paths we have predefined - these are there as markers which give a hint to the computer of when to jump and what speed to move. With more prerecorded sessions (done by a human player), the AI has more information to help it know how to navigate the level properly. When knocked away, or even when falling off the level, the AI can re-adjust and use this navigation map to properly move through the level, and that result is the animation at the beginning of this post, which I share here again.
The way the boulder evades obstacles is a different system that works in conjunction with this ...but that is a topic we can talk more about in a future blog post. Hope you enjoyed this quick insight into the development of ROA2. Remember this post when you play the game later on and the AI beats you
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