Sons of Ra Devlog 8

A Step Back

For the past couple of weeks especially, we here at Pharaoh Hound Games have been hard at work pushing forward a lot of new features and polish, from our shiny new radial UI to the flashier, more impactful game opening. This week though, we thought it was important to take some time to reexamine some aspects of the game that had been somewhat forgotten on the wayside as we ventured forth.

First and foremost, did you guys know that Sons of Ra had sound? Well it in fact does, and until just a few days ago, that sound had been the same since last summer. Most of it was actually implemented back in May. For those who have had a chance to play our game at any expos, events, or playtests, even you probably didn’t know this. After being neglected in favor of other features for months, we finally took our first steps towards making our game sound as interesting as it looks, courtesy of Joe. The game has new music now, as well as a greater variety of effects for unit combat, tower attacks, and other events such as building towers and units entering and damaging the keeps. We aren’t done on this front, as we are still going to be revisiting blessings and other more minor events to make sure everything is unique and stands out.

Next on the list was another UI improvement. Though we had upgraded to a radial menu, the icons representing the different units and towers remained unchanged, and the transparency on them created an unappealing effect when used with the radial menu. So, we gave all the icons the same treatment as the unit icons used in the queue, which can be seen here:

newIcons

Though still just a first pass, this change gives us a more unified style for our iconography in-game and helps to make things stand out more distinctly for the players.

The last significant item we wanted to mention this week was a small effect added to units. When a unit is defeated, it grants Favor to the players to be spent on blessings. That said, we felt that this was not communicated well enough in-game, so Mark put together a nice looking effect that is meant to help get across the idea that something additional happens when a unit is killed in battle:

favorGained1

While small, the team felt that this added nicely to our gameplay.

In Closing

There was not a whole lot of flashy progress to be shown to you guys this week, but that certainly doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made. We’ve been having some important conversations behind the scenes about what’s coming, and are continuing to work on things that we think you will find really cool. You might even see some of that in the next few days, so stay tuned. See you all next week.

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Sons of Ra Devlog 7

UI: The Sequel-ing

Was last week’s gigantic shift in UI not enough for you guys? No? Well it wasn’t enough for us either! This week at Pharaoh Hound, we did a first pass redesign of the secondary UI elements in Sons of Ra, being things like the keeps’ health bars, resource counters, and a personal favorite of Jeff’s, we also added a unit spawn queue visual showing upcoming units for each lane. Here she is in action:

queue visual.gif

While it might be boring that I only spawned Catapults in this example, their longer build time shows the function of the display better. Should you queue up multiple types of units, their respective images will show up in the order that you queue them, with a maximum of 6 (one actively building, and another 5 “waiting) being shown at a time. Should there be more than 6 units in the queue, when a unit is built, the un-shown unit will appear at the end of the line. Your information will not be lost!

In this gif you can also see our new health bar and redone visuals for gold and favor cost and available to the players. Like I said, this is a first pass, and we will be coming back to give these new elements a nice shine, in addition to the radial menu we showed you last week.

Starting Strong

While Jeff and Joe were hard at work on the UI, Michael was having some fun giving matches an exciting introduction. Now, rather than the game starting immediately after patron deity selection, the players will be greeted by this awesome new visual:

match intro

We felt that this gives matches a greater sense of gravity as well as a smoother start so that players are not thrust into the fray with no time to prepare. Like the new interface elements, we will be coming back around to this and making it even more awesome as time goes on.

In Closing

The name of the game for the immediate future is juice – camera shake, shiny new particle effects, and the like that will help make every action and event in the game feel even more interesting and impactful. Also, don’t tell anyone, but for the first time in about 6 months we are going to see some new scenery here in Sons of Ra. Stay posted, we’ll be back next week!

Sons of Ra Devlog 6

Full Circle

There have been a number of times in the development of Sons of Ra where we have realized that design decisions we had made previously should be reviewed and possibly changed. That said, none have been as significant as what we have done the past couple of weeks.

The original control scheme for Sons of Ra was, like the rest of the game, developed with console play in mind. It was intended so that players could quickly engage with the game without having to worry about a myriad of keyboard mappings for different units or abilities. So, we arrived at the 4-button menu:

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The top layer of the menu had options for Units, Towers, and Blessings (and later Keep Expansions, though that is not pictured here). Pressing the corresponding face button would take the player into a submenu containing options of different units they could create, towers they could build, or blessings they could use. After selecting a unit they would also be prompted to select a lane to build in, as shown, and at any time the player could choose to go back up a layer in the menu. In this early version, this was done by pressing RS, though that was later changed to be done through the triggers.

Though the menu was functional and relatively quick to use once understood, we found through playtesting that the process of understanding it was less than easy, to say the least. Additionally, being located in the corner of the screen brought the players’ attention away from where the action was happening. We knew something had to change, but weren’t sure what or how.

A few suggestions were made, such as moving the existing menu to be located above the keep, but we eventually decided on an idea that we kept coming back to – the radial menu. Though unliked by some, a radial menu seemed to solve all of our problems at once. It would allow us to keep much more information on one level of the menu rather than having multiple submenus, and it would allow a large number of options with only a few buttons to use. Though its appearance is still in the works, it is a clean enough state that we felt it was reasonable to show, especially because of how excited we are about it.

radial

The menu is divided into 3 sectors, each containing all the players’ options for spawning units, building towers, and using blessings. To use it, the player simply holds the left stick to activate the menu, points it in the direction of what they want to use, and presses A to choose the selected option. In cases that do involve secondary menus or choices, returning to the main level is as simple as pressing B. Building towers and using blessings is simple as well:

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Even though they still employ submenus to a degree, spawning units and building keep upgrades is still easy to understand and do. After selecting a unit, the menu immediately brings the player to lane select and they can simply point the stick in the direction they want to send the units and press A to create them. Keep upgrades are the only item still wholely within a secondary menu, which we did because of the infrequency with which they are used. That said, they are accessibly just by pressing Y, and pressing B while there will bring the player right back to where they were before.

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All-in-all, we feel that we were able to cut an enormous amount of complexity from our game and increase ease of understanding for new players, and preliminary hands-on testing has said the same. We’re incredibly excited for the prospect of more people getting their hands on the new system and seeing how it feels, and we’re going to keep improving the feel and especially the visuals of it as we go.

In Closing

This was just one of the big changes that we promised last week, and we certainly don’t plan to start chasing our tails now that we’ve shown this to you. We still have more that we’re working on and improving, and we’re excited about what’s in the future. We hope you are too, and that we’ll see you back here next time. Have a great weekend guys!

Sons of Ra Devlog 5

A Bit More Magic

Happy Friday everyone! This week at Pharaoh Hound Games, we spent some time looking back at some smaller aspects of Sons of Ra to see how we could make them feel more interesting and, well, “magical”. After all, this is a game where the players invoke the powers of gods to assist them in battle. So, why not lend a bit more of that supernatural feel to the game?

For starters, our new Archers shoot powerful arrows that overpenetrate and deal damage to multiple units. What kind of arrows fired by a normal bow do that? Magical arrows, of course!

magicarcherarrow

We added some effects to make the arrows themselves feel mystical and etherial, giving them a glow and a fade out, as well as some particles to make it feel as though the arrow is dissipating away into the air as it runs out of energy. We think that this enhances the feel of the unit, and makes games feel a bit more spectacular.

Leaving a Footprint

On the technical side of things, we for a while have been working to adapt our tower system to accommodate towers with even widths or heights. Specifically, we wanted to adjust the Obelisk to have a 2×2 footprint to give us a bit more flexibility in its power. With it taking up the same area as an Archer Tower, the average damage output of the two towers had to be very similar for balance, but this made the game less interesting.

Due to the grid-based system we use, making this adjustment was a little difficult, because the system would automatically center towers around the location they were to be placed at. With some work, we were able to get our system to adapt its functionality depending on a classification we would assign towers of different footprints. Just this week, we adjusted the art of the Obelisk to better visually show this change.

newobelisk

As you can see, not only did this change better communicate the space taken up by the tower, but it also gave us the leeway to make some more visual features to show its charge-up process. Even more than that, we also created a “spark” effect that will play when the tower is at full charge, occasionally emitting sparks so long as the tower holds full charge and is ready to fire. This can be seen at the end of the above gif. This was just another instance of the small bits of magic we have been trying to add.

Growing Up

One other small feature we added was to give unit spawns a bit of a better feel. Up until now, units simply appeared at the keep entrances on spawn. While functional, this doesn’t look particularly polished. So, we gave the guys a short scale animation to make it seem like they don’t just come from nowhere.

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In Closing

While we are continuing with our efforts to make sure every element of the game feels good and polished, there are a number of huge changes, additions, and improvements coming down the line that we’ve been working doggedly on, some of them we hope to even have in come next week. Hope you guys will come around to check them out!

Sons of Ra Devlog 3

Writing On the Wall

Welcome back! This week’s devlog is going to be a short one, as much of our time recently has been focused on behind-the-scenes fixes and improvements, things that you guys probably don’t really want to hear about. Instead, we wanted to show the first iteration of the improved patron deity select menu.

Patron Select

As we mentioned in our first devlog, we changed the method of selecting your blessing loadouts so that you do so by choosing a patron deity who grants you a specific set of powers. This is the menu in which you make that selection. Below the depiction of the deities are images denoting the blessings they give the player. More detail on those can be found by pressing X. We really liked the idea of leaning into ancient Egyptian wall art as an inspiration for the look of this menu, and we will be tweaking the look and feel as time goes on to better capture that feeling.

 In Closing

Admittedly we would have liked to have more to show this week, but since we were all wrapped up in finals there was not a whole lot of time to get things done. That said, we will continue to keep you all updated as we continue to make changes and improvements. We’d love to also hear feedback if you guys have any suggestions or comments on what we’re doing. Just hop on over to the Contact page and give us a shout! See you all next week.

Sons of Ra Devlog 2

The Armies March

Last week we told you that there were more big, exciting things coming this week. Well, we’re here to deliver!

For most of the development of Sons of Ra, units have functioned on a system of three “normal” unit types – the Spearman, Archer, and Shieldbearer, who were all fairly similar, and one special unit – the Catapult, which existed only as a means to counter towers. The first three took advantage of a built-in rock-paper-scissors system to lend strategy to fights. While Shieldbearers were a bit bulkier than their fellows, and Archers attacked from range, all three types felt somewhat similar to use, and the only real decision that faced players was to send units that held a natural advantage against those sent by their opponent. This too frequently led to unexciting stalemates. So, we decided we needed to spice things up a little bit, and we went back to the drawing board on how to do that. Our decision was to lean into the idea of special function and apply it to more than just the Catapult.

Standing Apart from the Pack

While we liked the idea of having rank-and-file units, it was definitely wrong for them to make up three of our four different core unit types. So, we chose to take the Shieldbearer and the Archer and make them stand out – in more ways than one.Units

When we came to the decision that we were going to greatly differentiate the Shieldbearer and Archer in terms of functionality, we knew that they would also have to look different to the player. To achieve that, we changed up how the units were scaled. Now, the more significant Archer and Shieldbearer take up much more space on the map than their spear-wielding counterpart, and so stand out more to the player. This also goes to represent that Spearmen are being geared towards being designed to be sent en masse, while the Shieldbearer and Archer are specialty units to be deployed strategically to complement one’s plan of attack. To match their changes in size, Spearmen also had their gold cost slightly decreased, while Archers and Shieldbearers are now much more expensive to purchase.

A Shield for Another

When we were thinking about how to set the Shieldbearer apart, we went back to what the essence of his original design was – a tanky unit meant to take hits and provide his weaker allies a chance to get to the enemy keep. Naturally, we took this idea and ran with it to the extreme. We increased the Shieldbearer’s health to almost ludicrous levels, and gave him the ability to draw aggro from other units who can see him. If one of his allies is engaged in a fight with the other team’s units and he approaches, his friend’s attackers will turn their ire onto the Shieldbearer instead, giving his ally a fighting chance to make it through.

shieldbearer

The Sharpshooter

Similarly with how we chose to magnify the core idea of the Shieldbearer, we did the same with the Archer. From the idea of a ranged attacker meant to bring down his enemies from a distance, we arrived at a fearsome soldier capable of inflicting massive damage on groups of foes in slow, measured bursts. The archer now fires powerful arrows capable of overpenetrating targets, dealing damage to up to 3 enemies each. The Archer’s attacks deal very heavy damage, though this damage is greatly reduced for each target hit beyond the first, and his fire rate is lowered to compensate for the raw power of each attack he makes. The Archer is a true glass cannon however, as he is quickly felled if any enemies manage to make it in range of attacking him, or he draws too close to an opponent’s tower.

archer

In Closing

As promised, we had some interesting stuff to talk about this week. If you didn’t catch it in the gifs, there are some other changes coming to the game that we haven’t mentioned yet, as they are still in the works, but stay tuned because we will be formally introducing those soon when they are fully baked and out of the oven. Until then, if you’re in the area, we will be at IGDA Philadelphia’s Play Philly night this coming Tuesday, so come by and say hi! We’re excited to meet more people and show what we’ve been working on!

Sons of Ra Devlog 1

Back Into the World

Welcome! This is the first official devlog from Pharaoh Hound Games for our game, Sons of Ra. We’ve been somewhat silent on this front since our time as a class project came to a close, as only a few of us, myself (Jeff), Mark, Michael, and Joe (Brown) were able to stay on board, and we’ve been BUSY working hard to make this game the best it can be. Now that we’ve become more established, we decided that we wanted to be more consistent about updating you guys with our progress and keeping you on the inside track so you can see all the awesome stuff the team is working on. So, let’s dive in!

Rebirth

For anyone who has seen or been involved since our early days, you would know that our game used to be known as The Two Powerful Ones. After much toil, feedback analysis, and external testing, we decided to re-christen our game Sons of Ra. Along with this came a number of rebranding elements, even for PHG as a whole, to give us a more established look. Said elements are already present for you to see on our site and social media!

 

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Patron Deities

Sons of Ra has, from the beginning, included a mechanic referred to as “blessings”, powers of the gods that the players can invoke to turn the tide of battle. We have taken this mechanic and run with the thematic elements of it to create the “patron deity” system. Now, before a match, each player will pick from a selection of gods to pledge to in return for access to a unique set of powers based upon that deity’s domain. For instance, Montu, aspect of Ra and god of war, has a set of blessings that focus on offense and using the power of the sun to bolster your attacks. Each patron offers an “ultimate” blessing that is expensive and game-changingly powerful and a “signature” blessing, which are both unique to them, as well as two basic blessings that can be seen present in the ability sets of multiple deities.

 

Base Expansions

During our first few months of development, we saw in matches that if players did not choose to use currency-based towers like the Temple and Mine, they were effectively handicapped and frequently were at a disadvantage. We felt that this was negatively affecting gameplay, so we chose to embrace a new system. Rather than choosing which towers to bring into battle, players will have access to all towers from the start. However, the Temple and the Mine have had their effect increased, and will be available as base expansions instead of as towers. Base expansions provide strong passive bonuses to the player in exchange for a large investment of gold and favor. There are two expansion slots which can be used by the player they desire, either for two different expansions or two of the same. There are plans to add two more types of expansion, which we think will lend themselves to some really cool playstyles.

 

In Closing

These are the biggest changes and updates that we are ready to talk about at this time. There are plenty of things that we did not have time to note, like UX and FX improvements, but we will be including these things in future updates when there is less major information to discuss. If all goes according to plan, next week’s devlog will also have some really exciting stuff to talk about, so we hope to see you back then!