Hey guys, I’m Ross. I have a strange job that involves wearing a lot of hats, and recently just involves a lot of hats. I’ve been with the gang since Unrest, usually handling scripting and level design. I also edit together most of Pyrodactyl’s trailers with the same technology I use to play Terrible Terrible Video Games (Glass Houses – Ed.). I’m here today with some insight into the latest update for Good Robot, and hopefully our thought process as game designers to boot.
With QA teams that number in the ones of dozens (baker’s, if you’re exceptionally lucky), esteemed indie developers like ourselves soon become incredibly adept at one crucial step of the modern video game creation process: making mistakes. But perhaps more notably – making mistakes and fixing them quickly. It’s in this spirit that I present you with a commented list of the major changes this time around.
When we first thought of putting hats in Good Robot, it made sense to tie in a few achievements to them. After all, people like hats and achievements – combining them was a surefire way to video game stardom.
For reference, you lose your hat if you get hit by an enemy. Yep.
As it turns out, a couple of those achievements are slightly difficult to obtain. And by slightly I mean so difficult that nobody outside of the dev team has done it yet. The achievements I’m talking about are:
We don’t want these achievements stay un-achieved forever. To encourage you to go out there and get these bad boys, we’re putting a bounty on them. Be warned, this challenge is not for the faint of heart. Continue reading →
I’m not nervous about sales. Maybe it will flop. Maybe people will dig it. I hope for the best, but I’m not worried.
No, what has me worried are glitches. We’ve done as much testing as a small outfit like ours can hope to do. The press have been playing the game for a couple of weeks now. While everything is basically okay so far, I’m still terrified that some previously unseen glitch will pop up when the game reaches the masses. Maybe the framerate will be low for people using left-handed mice, or maybe the display colors will be inverted for people using DVORAK keyboards, or whatever. There was no shortage of mystery problems during development, and I can’t shake the feeling that a few of them have been hiding, waiting until launch day to manifest.
If I designed a bad videogame and it gets bad reviews, then that’s how it goes. But if I designed a good game that gets trashed in reviews because of some obscure but game-breaking glitch, it will haunt me forever.
I’m sure we’ll have more posts in this series. Maybe I’ll do a postmortem. Maybe we’ll talk about sales. I don’t know. We’ll see what’s interesting.
Thanks to Pyrodactyl for teaming up to finish the dang thing. Thanks to Arvind, Mikk, Rutskarn, and Ross for the hard work, long meetings, and good ideas. Thanks to everyone who’s followed the project since day one. Thanks for the encouragement. Thanks for taking a chance and buying the game. Thanks for doing all the social-media sharing stuff to help the game reach more people.
Steam launch day sales are of the utmost importance to us in terms of getting the game noticed. Buy Good Robot today!
Here it is, as promised: the original Good Robot script I sent Shamus in October of 2013. It was never revised, so expect a bit of roughness, but since it was never meant to be paired directly with scripting or in-game events it should be reasonably coherent.
You ought to know that this draft “spoils” a plot point from the current version of GoodRobot…except the current game doesn’t have much of a plot, more like a tone and texture? Nevertheless, if you like to experience things completely blind, it’s possible reading this will negatively impact your playthrough of new-hotness Good Robot. The rest of you might find your experience improved; should you enjoy the critical approach, you might find it interesting to compare this script’s structured plot-reveal-conclusion nature with the current Shandified version. Take your best guess as to which kind of player you are and make your choice: click “read more,” or skip it and inevitably get lost in a MrBtongue archive binge.
It has been one year since Good Robot went up on Greenlight, and we are due to launch in a little less than a week. The game has evolved an immense amount in the intermediate time.
Top: Early alpha. Bottom: Current build. Click for full view.
Visual changes are easy to show using videos and screenshots. Game design changes, not so much – this is a process of formulating systems, talking to your team, tweaking your design based on feedback, convincing your team why a certain system is the right fit, and then overruling their complaints with an iron fist.
I thought the best way to show just how much Good Robot’s design has evolved is to talk about some of the bigger changes in its design, from when Pyrodactyl started working on it to now. First, I’ll describe the old system, then the problems with it, and then what we did to fix it. Here goes!
So now we’re to the part of the project where we have to stop adding Fun New Things and fix the dumb crap and insane bugs we accidentally created earlier. This is my least favorite part of the project. Or any project. The equivalent for an author is once they’re done writing a book and they have to go back and proofread. Bo-ring!
Here are some of the baffling conundrums we’ve unraveled over the last few weeks.
Bug #1: Mysterious Level Exit
You’re flying around the level, minding your own business murdering robots, when suddenly the Good Robot acts like it just went through a level-exit doorway. The robot flies to the edge of the room, the screen fades out, and you’re suddenly on the next level, despite the fact that you weren’t anywhere near a doorway. You couldn’t even SEE a doorway.
I hope you’ve all been enjoying Shamus’ series on the art of programming, which I understand is writing special words that make games happen. Sometimes you don’t write the words good enough and the game isn’t good; John Romero did this one time and he’s been working as a garbage man in Tulsa ever since. I’m the lead writer, so programming isn’t really my department, but having accidentally opened the source code while Arvind was explaining TortoiseHg again I can see why Shamus has been having so many problems–to be frank, the grammar was terrible and almost three quarters of the words were misspelled. I did an editing pass which I assume fixed most of the problems; Shamus has assured me this will be the topic of posts #43-129.
But I think we’ve all got the basic idea: coding is “hard” and “interesting” and “requires technical skill” and “can be objectively assessed.” But is it really the most fundamental part of a videogame? Shamus and Arvind say “yes,” repeatedly, at progressively louder volumes–but I’m not convinced. If you take away the code I’m sure a videogame will still run, but can you say the same about its story? What would Killzone, Rocket League, and Neko Atsume be without their rich internationally beloved canons? And if it wasn’t for Final Fantasy villains, how would you know which of your old forum accounts to be slightly embarrassed by?
My point is that my job writing Good Robot (or more precisely, writing a couple hundred headlines that display when interacting with vendors, plus some names to go with level bosses) is exactly as critical as the stuff Arvind and Shamus do all week. I’m guessing. They keep forgetting to tell me when their meetings are.
So in the vein of the rest of this series, here’s a few days in the life of the Lead Writer (!).