» Posted on Nov 22, 2012

On to the next letter

Dark Matter is now officially in full development. Coders groan and occasionally make wailing noises in a misguided attempt to initiate human interaction, artists do things with pixels and lines on their screens, and the level designer curses like a sailor on shore leave during a chastity festival. That last one doesn’t really mean anything. He just has a potty mouth.

Alpha was signed off nicely, and it was successful enough that everyone’s giving it beta-level feedback, somehow expecting a fully playable experience from this stage of development.

For the next game, we’ll code in a couple of crashes to desktop, and randomly apply purple textures to the environment, also, possibly add a giant ‘NOT ALL SUPPOSED TO WORK’ stencil overlay on the screen.

There was no mad rush to reach this first deadline. Crunch time should only happen when a catastrophe hits all servers at once. It is not a natural part of software development, and should never become an accepted regular occurrence. There was no mad rush, but everyone was focused on the task at hand, and it’s easy to lose perspective at that stage. To remedy that, we’re taking a couple of weeks of time from Beta development to reassess some gameplay paradigms and components.

This is a very exciting stage in development. Many hurdles are behind us. Most of the game’s systems are in place, though some are still made up of string and blue smoke and require human sacrifices on moonless nights in order to function. Dark Matter is taking shape on our screens, and we’re able to directly affect the way it works without having to constantly say “now, imagine that’s an actual enemy and not a white box”.

To start with, as you know by now, we completely redesigned the player. The bald, tough Navy guy just wasn’t doing it for us, and so we turned him into a sassy, strong Navy woman. With hair.

Fret not, you’ll get to see the old player model when you meet infested humans about halfway into the game. Just remember you could have ended up playing the creepy dude with tentacles coming out of his nose, instead of that awesome gal.

We’ve added several refinements to the way weapons are handled, and our lead coder is currently reassessing the AI system we used in the Alpha, and making a graphical behaviour tree editor for it.

It should speed up his next task considerably. His next task, by the way, is to focus on alien-player interaction to make sure that each combat encounter is satisfying, and dangerously difficult.

As the female Ensign takes shape and definition, and her animations lose all their first draft spasticity, the much-requested gameplay video is taking shape as well. It’ll take place in one of the early game levels, and focus on showing what makes Dark Matter different from other Metroidvania games. Without setting anything in stone, we should have something to show in the next 10 days.

Also, enjoy the first in-game screenies of the new player model. With glowy things.

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