3 Week Countdown!

Play testing is now a daily event in the Drifters half of the cohort space. Crowds can be seen gathered in whichever hex is hosting a game at the time and cheers of victory and defeat can be heard throughout the halls. However, the team knows that testing your own game is easy, so they've brought in some fresh testers, unrelated to FIEA and unfamilliar with the game. This way they can get an unbiased look at the gameplay and have a fresh set of eyes look things over. Last Friday they had a group in to cold test the game: they were given a brief presentation on what the game is and how to play and then let loose on two 5-minute and two 10-minute matches. After, they participated in a written and verbal Q&A session, and were provided with free pizza as a thanks for their participation. The team is currently analyzing the video and questionnaire data to make more improvements to the gameplay and balance.

As with last week's promise, the team delivered on optimization of the game in many ways.  Their two major changes were the conversion of all .tga textures to .dds files and also the size reduction and sharing of the environmental texture maps.  Both of these changes produced a cutdown of 50% of the video memory used, a huge improvement!  Many of the exhibit models are also being redone to drop their poly count and add to the reduction.

Graphically, small improvements are being made as most of the assets are complete and are undergoing a bit of polish.  The bathroom area is now completely textured and the team is working on a new display case so they're uniform in appearance.  Small details like the audio tour guide speakers on each exhibit are being added in as well as just small cosmetic touches to add to the realism of the environment.

Two new models were also released this week: the Sovereign and Gideon, the third Drifter.  The Sovereign is completely modeled and textured and awaiting placement on her throne.  Her audio files are getting their final adjustments and her haunting voice will be heard during the match, updating the Drifters on their progress and egging on their competition.  Gideon has been added into the in-game play with his own image on the character select, complete with his unique stats.

A lot of bug fixes took place this week as well, with all the NPCs now correctly pathed and spawning, resulting in no more walking into walls.  There are currently 50 unique paths each with behavior nodes where a NPC will stop and interact with an exhibit before continuing on.  The team hopes to get another 30 paths in so they can potentially increase the number of NPCs in the environment as well once all the final assets are in and play testing can focus on value adjustment.

Since the NPCs will randomly stop to examine the various parts of the museum, the team implemented a keyboard command to let players do the same.  By pressing the Q button the player's current body will stop and lean in and examine whatever they are near, or if they are in the open, they will play another context-sensitive animation such as checking their watch.  Another control option added this week is the free-view camera which can be a useful strategy if your player is stopped at an exhibit.  You can perform your environmental animation and while that is taking place, quickly hold down the F key and use your mouse to take a 360 degree look around you, identifying any suspicious behavior that may be taking place behind your head.

On screen you can now see statistics as to who is in the lead, how you stand compared to their number of kills, and a report in the bottom left updates constantly with the latest "Player 1 killed Player 2" announcement.  These can be brought up at any time during game play with a tap of the shift key.  Another addition to the user interface is the inclusion of loading screens which show the keyboard controls while the match loads.  A player tutorial video is also in progress to explain the finer points of gameplay, including blending in with the crowd and drifting strategies.

Drifter Vision has also gotten a huge update, mainly in how the transition to and from corporeal vision works.  Now instead of a jerky switch to glowing NPCs, the glows on other bodies slowly fades up, as does your own.  Your Drifter form fades in after the waiting period and soon other Drifters are also visible.  When drifting in Drifter Vision, a bright flash of light disorients you for a moment as you switch, leaving you slightly vulnerable for a second as you adjust to your new location.  When switching back to corporeal vision, the glow on the other bodies slowly fades to a shell and disappears completely.

Next up on the plate is further testing, additions of the final art assets, and biggest of all is the final Drifter reveal, Lenore.