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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.

unitscaleup

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 4

Sweet Victory

Happy 2019 everyone! Over the holiday break, many of us took some time to relax and recharge; however, we still made progress. Some changes are behind-the-scenes code tweaks or prototypes not yet ready to be shown, but we do have a few things to show.

winVid1.gif

First, we have a new victory screen at the end of a game. The camera zooms in to see the loser’s keep crumble into a cloud of dust and a banner appears to declare victory. The colors and crown on the banner change to match the winning player. It is a purely visual change, but helps make the match feel properly concluded.

(Top: Old Textures; Bottom: New Textures)

We also did a second pass at the textures on the base expansions. While not bad, many were more detailed than the flatter stylized textures of other models. These new textures have the level of detail reduced but still avoid looking flat and empty. The mine is the best example of the change. There is so much detail in the rocks on the ground that stylized mine and rocks look out of place. The second mine is much more consistent in comparison.

In Closing

There will be much more to talk about in the next devlog. As I said, some features are not quite ready to be shown and others have just started production. We are hoping to continue making visual improvements to the game, making it look and feel better. Perhaps not in the next update, but soon, we will overhaul the sound to give attacks and actions the impact they deserve. If you have any feedback, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on this post or use our contact page to reach out. See you all next week.

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!

Kyle Streeper Term 2 – PPJ 9 Postmortem

Completed Tasks

  • Playtest Sessions (2.5 hours)
  • QA (3 hours)
  • Survey Analysis and results (1.5 hours)

Positives

  • A lot of the feedback we received from completely new playtesters this week was very inspiring
  • A lot of annoying bugs from the past have been fixed

Negatives

  • Balance changes, while mostly good, had some issues that were noticeable even in our playtest data and really need to be sorted before final release

Upcoming

  • Lots of testing to make sure the game is ready to go for the showcase
  • Balance tweaking on blessings, gold production, and towers/unit balance
  • Bug fixing anything that might be found

 

Postmortem

This term was interesting. I thought it was going to be so different from last term but in actuality, it really wasn’t. During the first few weeks it was evident that I wasn’t really needed on the programming side of things as tasks were being completed rather quickly but no one was there to QA them so I kept at that, noting bugs when I found them. Part of this is on me though for not stepping up and asking for programming work to be assigned to me. Also I think we all made a promise to get things in earlier which none of us really followed so it lead to some builds going through untested which is just bad practice since I was almost always testing a week behind current release. So tldr; 3 things that didn’t go so well are 1. I didn’t get to program like I wanted to, 2. Constantly submitting things last minute, which leads to 3. QA testing was done on prior builds which is just really bad and allowed for so many bugs to get through since they wouldn’t be in my version.

On a more positive note, I got to work with even more Excel by making the Gantt chart which was a fun and cool experience. Aside from just that, I continued to do our Survey Analysis Reports which I always find intriguing. And finally it was really nice having people that I know genuinely enjoy playing the game and wanting to play against me in it.

All in all, I would definitely do it again, even if I am just the Excel guy.

Postmortem, Mark Hurley, PPJ 09

Task Completed:

Balance (2 hours)

Main menu polish (6 hours)

Dizzy anim fix (1 hours)

Playtests (2 hours)

Total hours: 11

stunGif.gif

What Went Well?

Some okay work week. I started off strong by iterating on last week’s balance, testing, and implementing it before our playtests began. After that, I helped with our usual Friday playtesting session. My work slowed down until I did some needed main menu animation polish, touching up animations and improving the animator flow. Lastly, I fixed a bug with the stun animation caused by an issue with their animator set up. Overall, good work.

 

What Could Have Gone Better

There are some additional polishing features I wanted to get to this week that unfortunately were left incomplete. I could have finished them with some additional time; but the final weeks of a term are never full of free time. However, the biggest issue for this week were issues with the animator on the main menu. Many people wanted the unit to seamlessly transition from one animation to the next; but the animation breaks if it blends between the scroll and any other. Because of that, I tried to create an animator set up that would transition back to idle after the scroll animation before moving to the correct option. This ended up not working at all, leading to more issues than it fixed. I changed it to blend seamlessly on all animations, except out of the scroll anim. It isn’t great, but it’s better than nothing.

 

Upcoming:

Balance

More juice

 

Personal Postmortem

So, here’s the end of workshop term 2. Its interesting how things developed over the past 10 weeks. My role in the team was rather consistent with my description: generalist artist and design lead. I was able to make a number of strong art assets and visual improvements for the game; however, design lead doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as it did in term 1. Instead of being the main design person, I was more the lead of a couple team members that are all interested in design. Design decisions were made less among a few people and more as a collaborative effort among many people.

Three things that went well:

  • Animations were one of the elements many on the team really wanted for this term and they went rather well. The animations I worked on are relatively strong in terms of general presentation. While perhaps needing some exaggeration for the far-off perspective, they are all visible and convey well their general purpose. Not to mention, the interactive menu adding some animation polish to the overall experience.
  • Keeping things consistent was another good part of my performance. It seems like a risk when entering the second term of workshop, where the team size doubles and there are a lot more cooks in the kitchen. But in early design meetings and talking to other artist, it was easy to establish and reinforce the direction of our game and where it should go. It was also good that I continued my philosophy from last term of not over-scoping the project length we had.
  • Deadlines were always met. Not just for me, but the entire team was good about completing the tasks needed when they were asked (with exception to the fix exploding on the programming side).

Three things that could have gone better:

  • I need to be a bit less defensive with design ideas. While I think its good to argue for and against different points of view. In hindsight, some of my defenses were rather unnecessary and the better option was the newly suggested one. This isn’t to say, I couldn’t take constructive criticism or new ideas; but I often quickly jumped to the defense of existing concepts more than new.
  • I, personally, fell into doing too many late nights before class. Finishing work at such a late hour can hurt the final product. It also made the job for coders to test and prepare the build much harder. I often needed to keep coders awake so my features could be in the build or my features simply wouldn’t be there. I was not the only one to fall to this failing, but it proved problematic throughout the term.
  • Playtests proved to be very challenging. While early on, we were capable of completing playtests with one session or two. The larger requirements like 30 or 40 became incredibly difficult to meet. In future, we need more avenues for finding playtesters than harassing people in the labs.

 

Not too bad for a workshop 2 performance.

 

Moving forward into senior project, there are many elements that should be considered. I should be more open and accepting of design idea. Writing a GDD can make it feel like “your baby,” but it isn’t. Game design is inherently collaborative. Formally structure what art assets are needed and plan around your team. The change in aesthetic for workshop 1 meant less art assets were needed for workshop 2. Create more stable opportunities for playtests, so you aren’t scrambling just before a deadline.