Playtest Session #3

Hey everyone! Sam here to tell you guys and gals about the latest additions to the game as well as discuss our findings from the latest playtest. The biggest additions to the game is the rough first pass at implemented art. As you can tell from the above picture, we have made great strides in developing the “ethereal” landscape that we initially pitched. Obviously, this is not the final art for the game, as elements, such as the terrain and grass texture, are still being worked on. However, our implemented art should give you a great idea of what type of mood we are trying to invoke and the overall aesthetic of the completed game. We also had our 3rd major playtest this week and many playtesters felt that the strongest aspect of our game was the visual style. We also received a great deal of feedback concerning game objective and controls. While the vast majority of intended gameplay features are currently integrated in the latest build, they are all in a rough state, especially the level design of the game. Many noted that the art style was particularly strong, but would oftentimes obstruct the player’s view of their objective and other puzzles, which is something that needs to greatly taken into account. Thankfully, we are still relatively early in development (we are not yet in the middle of production), so these changes in environment placement can be iterated on quickly. Another big issue that emerged with playtesters was the controls and movement of the player. Our game uses typically movement for platformers on PC (WASD to move), but we deliberately made the character have weight behind their actions (as foxes cannot turn on a dime) and need to turn before moving in a direction. This was not something that playtesters enjoyed and either wanted the weight behind movement to feel realistic or gone completely. Thus, in our team’s next big design meeting, we will discuss whether or not we want to continue to pursue a weighted movement style or forgo realism for play-ability. In terms of moving forward, we will be primarily tackling art asset creation (mostly concerning our fox character) and level design, as our programmers our out at GDC.

Laying out the level

Hey! Sam here to talk to you about how we are designing the level for our vertical slice. As you can see above, we are dividing the demo into two major parts: the observatory and then the other half of the map is devoted to the main 5 puzzles of the game. The observatory serves as the tutorial of the game, where the player learns the main mechanics of the game in a more constrained and safe space. It also serves as a means to teach the player about their objective in the game (to find and collect the pieces of the Corvus constellation). We chose an observatory to act as a tutorial because it feels natural in terms of the fiction of our game and also allows us to create an excellent framing device for showing off the player’s progress (as the observatory will be broken down and allow the player a perfect view of the sky). After ascending to the top of the observatory and learning about their objective (which will be done using environmental storytelling, as stone slabs of the broken down observatory will serve to show the player their objective), the level then opens up to a much more open environment which features the main 5 puzzles of the level. We are designing the puzzles to be able to completed in any order, so they are all balanced to all be relatively equal in difficulty and are all twists on the main mechanic introduced in the tutorial. While we could have made the game more linear and have a series of more difficult  puzzles, we feel that going for that would feel not invoke the feeling of somber tranquility we are shooting for and feel constrained. A game like the Witness is a great example of this though process, as exploring helps the player be more immersed and they do not feel rushed or constrained to complete the game. Completing each puzzle rewards the player with a star of Corvus and returns the player to the middle of the map (to eliminate player frustration from backtracking). After collecting all 5 stars, the constellation comes to life (lines are connected from the stars and an outline of Corvus appears) and the vertical slice then fades to black. While this is obviously a basic layout that needs to be textured and filled in with environmental objects, it gives you a good idea of how we are designing the general flow of the game.

Playtest #1

Last Tuesday was our first big playtest to test the validity of our mechanics and to get players’ opinions on the art style we are trying to implement. As you can probably tell from the screenshot I took, the game is very bare bones in terms of art, but this initial test was mostly used to test mechanics. In that regard, we believe the playtest was successful in this endeavor,  as the vast majority of playtesters enjoyed the mechanic and puzzles on display, even with the numerous bugs and other issues with the game. It was also encouraging to see many playtesters understand that there was a direct correlation between their speed and jump height and the amount of stars they had. Even without the aid of visual indicators (such as the opacity and color to look drained, which we plan to add in the future), this connection was still clear.  In terms of moving forward, now that we have a solid base, we plan on implementing art and more cohesive level design. As it currently stands, the majority of puzzles involved floating blocks in air, which feels disconnected to the twilight forest aesthetic we are shooting for. Thus, we hope to iterate on the puzzles (and level design) we have now to make the levels feel more organic and make sense with our current art style. For our current sprint this week, we hope to include a placeholder character model with basic animations, as well as environmental objects (such as trees and rocks) and terrain to test whether or not they complement the intended mood of the game.

Bringing concepts to life…

Hello again! Tiffany here.

This week, we went through making a lot of changes to our designs and concepts for the ship game we are making. An idea everyone liked was some type of catamaran, and we came up with a collaborative sketch of what we all think might make a good model for our ship in Maya.

Our players have the opportunity to move around the ship and go to different stations of the ship, so we had to create an interesting space for them to move around on. While we haven’t completely solidified the shapes of certain things or the designs or things like weapons, we are working together to make it all come together.

Here is a quick preview of where our ship model is as of today, with more iterations coming in during the week.

I am really excited for this model, and it will be a lot of fun to throw some textures and sculpted elements on to it to truly bring it to life (at least, as much as an inanimate object can be brought to life).

Enjoy and you’ll hear from me again soon!

Getting to work on art

Hey everyone, welcome to Team Phoenix! We are working on a battleship type game set in a bio-luminescent world, so our art direction for this game is going to be very interesting and a lot of fun.

To start, we have been gathering references of cool settings with vivid colors – mostly oranges, blues, greens, and some purples. We are going for a kind of tropical world, as well. All of these neat colors are going to be reflected in our ships, environment assets, shores, and characters! So far, my team has been putting all of these references together, as well as having conversations of what we might like to see. We will have some cool concepts coming soon, so keep an eye out for what we have been up to. This is something we are super excited about!

Here is a sneak preview of a WIP for one of our ship designs. We are working with a lot of different ship types, and we will be adding more to these designs after everyone kind of talks through what we have and what our gameplay goals are. An interesting concept we want to play with is having the environment becoming a visual aspect of the ship, almost like it is kind of taking over the vessel. Enjoy!


concept 1 ship.png


After multiple brainstorming sessions, a global game jam detour, and a pitch presentation, we have begun working intensively on our game, which is known as “Gaze”. Gaze is based on one of the top pitches we had when we started brainstorming and was originally called “Ethereal Cruise”. Inspired heavily by Greek mythology and constellations, Gaze is a 3rd person puzzle platformer where players control Vulpecula, a fox constellation. After the hunter Orion has destroyed the other animal constellations and wounded Vulpecula, you control the fox constellation and help rebuild other animal constellations and yourself. Players do so by controlling each star of your constellation and shooting it at environmental objects, which moves them in predetermined locations. From a gameplay and aesthetic perspective, we are inspired by games like Journey, Okami, Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Gravity Rush, and several other titles. Stay tuned for more updates, including the results of our first playtest!