It has been a long 5 months since we’ve posted anything new and this was something that we decided to do on purpose. After our first Kickstarter attempt didn’t go as planned, we had a hard look at the game, ourselves and assessed every part of the game and came to a consensus, surprisingly easily, on what needed to improve; what needed to go and how to push the game closer to your hands. So each section below highlights major areas of emphasis and improvement based on what we felt needed to improve the most or things that were scheduled to be done anyway.
One of the big takeaways from the Kickstarter and releasing a public demo was that combat didn’t “feel” right. It didn’t have enough weight and you couldn’t really feel the impact of your hits, being hit, etc. So we overhauled three areas, and made new feedback systems to greatly enhance this area of the game.
Camera Animation – We took a look at many games that have proven success with melee combat systems and one of the big takeaways was subtle camera work and camera animations to help swings and hits feel more impactful. We designed a system that allows for unique camera anims per attack so they can either follow weapon arcs or have specific behavior to make each attack feel right.
Animation Feedback – Something we noticed was that whether you successfully hit or missed an opponent the swing animations was the same and never had the impression of slicing through an opponent. So we designed another system that will seamlessly switch the swing animations to a slicing/rip-out animation that fits that attack in the middle of it if you hit an opponent, or continue swinging through if you miss.
Effects – This one was fairly obvious, but our blood effects were simply not clear enough or strong enough to let you know that your hit was doing the right motion, nor were the trails polished enough to give you a good view of your sword arcs. With some help from a mentor, we designed new hit effects that show the hit impact from what direction you hit, with spray to reinforce as well.
With these three layers of feedback, combat feels drastically better and still has room to improve. The other sections complement our efforts towards feedback to keep moving us closer to the ideal level. We have full confidence in the mechanics but needed the feedback to follow suit.
Art Style Shift
The scenery in our game has always been fairly well-received and pegged as “beautiful” but we felt it sat in an odd territory of not super stylized, but not super realistic either. As the sole environment artist on the game, I spoke to various mentors and friends who work on very stylized games for advice.
They pretty much unanimously suggested we shift to a more stylized look, offered some techniques and training to help me grow as an artist and just keep pushing things. Many rounds of feedback later we believe we finally hit the ideal look we’ve been searching for since the beginning of the project. We applied this look to our characters as well and are very happy with the results.
How things shifted:
More cross-contour black lines on textures.
Simplified color detail on diffuse textures so it reads more like a painting.
Custom sky textures with a water-color, soft kind of look but with bright colors.
Exaggerated, saturated fog with symbolic color choices to indicate the type of area the player is in.
More dramatic lighting to aid the last two points, and to push lighting quality because our old lighting was fairly generic on the Yari Foothills scene.
While all of this was going on, the remaining two characters of our game the Naginata Samurai (polearm specialist) and Ninja were completed. This plays specifically into the last section (Animation Quality) of the update, but we really wanted to push these characters to set a new standard for the game and do something different for each.
We hope you all like how they turned out. We were completely against the black-jumpsuit Ninja so we went for a different take that has him looking more like a peasant/farmer trying to blend into the normal fabric of a scene.
We saved this for last because this was the most criticized aspect of our game during both the Greenlight campaign earlier this year, and our Kickstarter. When we took a deeper look at our animation rigs on our older characters we realized how limited they were in terms of body motion and flexibility to create exaggerated poses. After some experimentation we ended up moving our character pipeline from 3ds Max into Maya and have a much more complicated rig for our Naginata and Ninja characters.
This will allow us to make animations at the quality level necessary of a game using UE4. We’re super excited to combine much higher quality animations with the feedback systems above to make gameplay just night-and-day better than its been in the history of the game so far.
Thank you for checking us out, we welcome you with open arms to the Hanako family!