With a rough and basic framework in place for drawing and moving some characters around, we continued adding and testing new animations, combat mechanics, etc. Even with time being limited due to our normal work, we (the artist and myself) still made some progress.
After trying out, discarding and keeping various ideas, we decided to try make something playable for a game dev convention that was not too far off in the future.
However, the night before the convention, we ran into an issue we thought we could ignore until later:
OUT OF MEMORY (crash).
While probably obvious if we had tried working out the memory requirements (which we didn't), the amount of animations we had blew through any available memory. We had 12 animations, rendered at 30 frames per second, in 16 directions. The largest sprite (containing 1 full animation, in all directions) had the massive size of 12800 * 4096 pixels. Yikes!
After some slight and minor panic, we decided to scale all the textures down, and hope for the best. Luckily, scaling down by 50%, and then drawing everything at double scale worked fine. It wasn't as crisp as we'd have wanted it, but "slightly blurry" beats "does not start", so it was an easy decision to make.
After some further work into the night (and during breaks between talks), we get the final things up and running.
At this point, what we have is a really basic 2 player competitive isometric fighter/brawler game. The goal in is to defeat the other guy, after which you can restart and try again. Pure and simple.
We latched onto some people and got them to try our game. They played it. They kept playing it. They reset and tried again, after victory and after defeat. Most of them played for far longer than just courtesy would dictate. Awesome.
As they played it, others walking past stopped to watch, comment and try it as well, swapping with the other players, or just discussing it between themselves.
In total, I'd estimate about roughly 20 - 25% of the convention participants either tried or observed the game (roughly 100 people were signed up for the event). We also got some positive feedback related to us being as open as we were, especially this early in the project.
Now, obviously, the game is still ways off from being totally super amazing. We repeatedly got comments about "seeing the potential". We're far from where we need to be, even for a prototype.
We know that a lot of the issues that were flagged need to be dealt with. While we think we would have noticed most of these issues ourselves easily enough, it was still very cool seeing how other people approached and played the game.
Looking ahead, that's the next thing to do. We're going to be going through all the feedback we collected, and decide which things to fix, which to ignore, and in what direction we'll be heading next.
As a personal look back on the event, my main disappointment is that we didn't manage to do some recording of the people playing. I just didn't have enough time to set up and test a system, which is something I'll definitely want to have sorted before we bring/show the game anywhere else.
It would also have been very beneficial if there had been enough time to test and tweak the game more before it was shown to other people, but I think it went well with the time available.
Other than that, I feel the criticism and comments helped enforce my belief in the game; what they were seeing was the same game we're discussing and making. There doesn't seem to be any dissonance going on. It doesn't seem like we're heading down a totally silly route. Phew.
And that concludes the journal update, I hope you found it interesting. Comments and feedback welcome!