Although this is only our 2nd DevBlog on here, we have been hard at work on Sold O2ut recently. A lot of things have happened since that first blog post, one of them being that we were accepted as Semi-Finalists in the PlaystationTalents competition. It’s a huge deal for us and we’ll talk a bit more about it at the end. We also have been doing everything from major art additions to gameplay reconstruction. We will do an overview of the changes and what’s new and we’ll talk about our new and unique combat system, VCS.
We have our first level designed and finished. We added all camera changes we wanted, allowing us to experiment as we liked. We use left to right movement, back to front, front to back and changes in depth and angle. These cameras serve to potentiate the scenery, the mood, the storytelling and the gameplay. For example, there’s an abandoned children park in the level. And our intention was to show how all the implications of that: the park is a symbol of the loss of innocence and games under the dome of Hope’s nest. So, in that sense we made the camera in the park accompany the players, allowing close-ups on old children games to convey the emotional strength of the scene. The camera in the platforming sections is placed on top of the scene, making it easier for the players to jump around.
Talking about platforming, we actually did a survey with our followers asking them how they felt about a gameplay demo which contained exclusively platforming levels. With the results we got, we understood the problems and issues about platforming with a 3D perspective and were able to build better sections.
We also worked on enemy placement and bosses/mini-bosses. We introduced Frank, a mini boss at the halfway point of the level. He helps change the pace and is a bigger challenge to the player. He makes stronger attacks than the rest and has a lot more life. We also introduced life bars for bosses.
The Boss of the level, Isador, is riding on his creation, Monstro. They both represent an ever-changing challenge for the player. They have more mechanics than any enemy and have three different phases. The first one is a more traditional combat with new types of attacks. The second phase introduces an energy field that forces the player to keep some distance between them and Monstro and/or to methodically avoid the orbiting oxygen tanks. The final phase introduces a whole new system. The attacking claws cannot be damaged. You have to avoid them and try to not be pushed to the void by the strong winds until the glass protecting Isador is accessible.
As we have a lot more content, we needed to add lot more art, be it scenery models (houses, streets, platforms, buildings…), character models and animations(bosses, correcting player characters…) and a lot more. We actually redid a lot of animations for the characters to make them more fluid.
We also redid character textures and made a lot of new ones for environment, to give them the proper quality we were looking for.
One of the bigger changes/additions to the project is actually VFX. We struggled back then for particle effects and others, so we looked everywhere to improve our work. We finally found a way, through excellent assets (by KRIPTO289, look him up, he’s good), to improve on the quality of our VFX. We now have some finer results on the particle front.
Volley Combat System
A while back now we were wondering something: we like our combat but we are doing a Beat’em up, and for it to work we need a unique and original system. But we also needed a combat system that promoted and incentivized cooperation between players. So we talked and prototyped and talked and prototyped again until we stumbled on that idea. What is more cooperative than social sports, like Volleyball? So what if we treat the enemy as the ball instead of as the opposing team in the match? And that’s where the VCS, or Volley Combat System comes in. The players can pass the enemies between each other, throw them up into the air and smash them to the floor.
But how does it work, exactly? How can you do so much different things without overloading the player with input? Well here’s the thing: now, when the player hits an enemy, all his input becomes part of combat. Once he hits an enemy, the push button, instead of pushing away characters, passes the enemy to the closest player in the direction he is looking. The jump button throws the enemy to the air, and if it’s held the player jumps with the enemy. If the player hits an enemy in the air, he automatically smashes him to the ground.
But how does that affect the abilities. Outside of combat, abilities have actually changed a bit, making them easier and funnier to use. If the player presses the ability button in the middle of a combo, her character will actually perform a “finisher” move. This finisher is a stronger than regular attack that affects the enemy in a number of ways: throwing them, dealing damage repeatedly, launching them to the air… And the finisher changes depending of how much times you’ve hitted the enemy. With that I mean that if the player hits one time and then uses a finisher, it will make a strong effect. But if the player hits three times and then uses a finisher, the effect is a lot bigger. This gives a lot more variety in combat.
Those are the main conceptual changes that the VCS is bringing to the table, but they are certainly not the only ones. We actually almost redid all control, to achieve the biggest fluidity possible. We tweaked jump strength, animation speed, gravity force… to have the most dynamic feel possible. But that’s not all. We also introduced a lot of juice to the combat. The enemy now flashes red when hit, the damage numbers augment with each hit and have animations to make them stand out. Also, all finishers and special abilities have their special particle effects to make them really unique.
All this is just a number of the changes that were implemented until now, and a way to show the amount of work we’re capable of doing and we’ll keep doing in the future.
Apart from that, as we said in the beginning, we’ve recently been accepted as semi-finalists in the PSTalents competition. This is a yearly competition for indie companies that gives an important prize to the winner, deciding what is the best indie game of the year. It’s a Spanish initiative in relation to Sony that promotes the indie industry and looks to give an opportunity to young and passionate studios. Out of more than 100 games submitted, only 20 pass to the semi-finals, and we’re very proud of being a part of this. Although the competition will not be over until December this year, being able to pass to this phase is for us recognition of SandBloom and it’s potential: it is seen as a studio that can and will have success in the future.
This summer has been quite intense for all of us. At the end of August, we actually went to GamesCom 2018, the biggest videogame event in all of Europe. It was a huge moment for us since we had never gone to an international event before. And it was… amazing.
We were able to meet with a lot of people in the industry, allowing us to learn a lot just from the meetings. It kind of was a masterclass in publishing and the game industry for three days straight. By the way, if you’re a publisher and you like what you read, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re always looking to open conversations and have a chat with interesting people.
So that’s all for today, but not all for us. We’re still working and we will be for a long time, be it on Sold O2ut, EMMA or other projects. Even if we’ve been through rough patches and will definitely be again, that doesn’t tarnish our determination. We are fuelled on love for what we do and passion for our craft, and we sincerely hope it shows.