Final Project Rundown
This is gonna be a big post since it's basically just a full rundown of the project as it is now. To begin, planning out everyone's roles was the big part, since we had two artists and no major sound designers. Eventually we settled into a 2D style after seeing some reference material and deciding to have Ryan work as the artist. This meant Andrew would do the early sound collection, I would be acting as producer and designer, and Caleb would be the programmer. Overall, things started pretty smoothly. The first week of planning out what to do for the project was a bit slow, since we were having trouble wrapping our heads around what kind of gameplay would convey affection, but after a lot of discussion and a few loosely connected suggestions, I eventually came up with the idea of a tree climbing game in the same style as a walking simulator, with the focus on slowly observing things as you pass them. I pitched it to the group and they were open for it, so we began work.
We got Ryan to do concepts for the characters by week 2 and we liked them, so we had him steadily working on the animations that we'd need. Caleb got to work making the climbing functionality work so that the basis of the gameplay could work, and Andrew looked for some music to use in the game. I had some trouble describing what I meant with regards to the climbing animations and gameplay controls, so I spent a fair amount of time making simple reference material throughout the project to clarify things I was having trouble putting into words. It was generally effective, though I sometimes had trouble putting what I imagined into practice myself and how I wanted it to look, so around week 3 I fell a bit behind on that. I also made a simple background for the game, which I asked a friend, Vaibhav, to help revise. He took it upon himself to massively improve it from its first iteration, so we decided to just use that background and credit him for his work. The current running concept for the game was to have an opening show of scenes building up to the main game to provide context, then the gameplay to climb to the top of the tree before the two characters relax and eat apples together, with the current build being the basic climbing mechanic implemented with two static characters.
On week 3 Ryan was working on the climbing animations, Caleb was working on putting the character walking animations into Unity, I was working on a level design and more animation reference docs, and Andrew had finished his sound hunting, and was working on a level design to compare and contrast with mine. Testing had some people note that with just the climbing, it felt empty and bland to go through the motions and didn't convey affection much, and so they suggested that something be done to give more of a reward for progression. We then decided to put the opening scenes as memories to establish the relationship as the player goes rather than info-dumping it in the beginning. When Andrew and I had compared our level designs, we had discovered we didn't really know what kind of tree we were aiming to emulate, so we scrapped the current designs to come up with better ones with a slightly more grounded look to them. Andrew came up with the idea to have the background covered with a layer of leaves that opened up as you go to reveal the memory scenes, and began drawing those up. I took over level design and Andrew began working on what were now the memory scenes, while Ryan finished up the individual characters climbing animations, and Caleb continued implementing animation into the game and making sure the individual climbing and the paired climbing worked as intended.
Come week 4, and we're a bit behind. Ryan finished the animations, but they needed more frames because I underestimated how many would be necessary to make the animations look proper. This slowed things down a bit, but he and Caleb organized things to find where the holes were and make the animations flow more. Andrew continued work on the memory scenes, and he checked in with me periodically regarding what I thought of the scenes as he went. I finalized the level design and sent it to Caleb to implement into Unity, but on first testing it was a bit oversized. Caleb continued working on the animations and implementing text to go along with the memory scenes while I resized the tree and added the leaf covering over the background. We then remembered we needed a main menu and ending screen, and Andrew and I began working on those at the end of the week.
The paired climbing animation was the final piece of animation needed by week 5, but unfortunately due to falling behind earlier for lack of reference material, we didn't have time to properly implement it into the project cleanly, so we cut it. The end screen was made from an edit of the background to show it more clearly with the two characters standing together, as the point of climbing the tree was for that view anyway. The main screen I finished up a bit before Andrew and we decided to use that one in the end. From there it was just about organizing the final implementation of everything into the game, and while timing was tight, we ultimately got the majority of what we wanted into the game, if not in the absolute cleanest implementation.
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