Margin of Error
- Mark Barry
3D Modelling and Animation.
- Michael Campbell
Full Stack Integration, Scrum Master
- Kevin Duffy
Sound Design, Outside Liason
- Shane Gavin
Programmer with special interest in Spectator AI
- Ronan Murphy
Programming with focus on tools and process
- Brian Smullen
We wanted to outline some tools and processes that we could use as a team. The general idea is that by knowing the fastest and easiest way of doing something together, we can spend more time working and less time collaborating. We tried a bunch of different options and settled on the following to help us work efficiently as a team:
Version control and manage our shared project source code. Allows us to branch new features for easy simultaneous development, as well as review ongoing merges to keep the code quality high.
Keep track of important documentation. Used for anything important we want to store centrally while not losing track of it. Meeting notes, formal plans of action, time off charts etc.
While we love meeting in person, Hangouts Voice Chat is for the times when we need a proper meeting out of hours. Allows us to avoid slow back and forth of text chat when we need it most.
A private chat room system set up for the team. Allows us to contain all project related 21 chatter in one place. Can create different channels for different topics. Let's everyone catch up on what they really care about when they have been out of the loop, without having to read through every single message.
Central storage used for collaboration. Allows us to work in the same space when drafting documents together. Also the default place to stick anything we want to share with the team. Research images, workload spreadsheets, documentation drafts all get placed here as a dumping ground.
Used to manage our weekly workload, as well as our stories and tasks. Can gauge how much workload we are handling for future sprints to make educated adjustments, as well as use it as a simple issue tracking system by making use of the backlog and item descriptions.
All the Way Down is a fast-paced downhill mountain-biking experience on a world stage. With unique and challenging tracks to experience in over 50 countries across Europe, Africa, the middle East and Asia, players will embark on a competitive world tour from the forests of Ireland to the Australian outback, all the way down.
When new players first encounter the game, they will be begin their world tour in an Irish forest. With steep and narrow tracks, loose gravel, mud, man-made obstacles and the energetic locals cheering them on, players will get an immediate sense of the challenges and experiences to come.
Players will complete time trials to progress through countries, and to compete with other players through online leader boards. As the tour progresses, the tracks become more challenging, the terrains more exotic, and the competition more intense.
The downhill tracks represented in All the Way Down will not be replications of existing tracks. Instead, the terrains, environments, and traditions unique to each country on the tour will be examined and distilled to create fantasy tracks for the ultimate downhill experience in each location. Where a visited country has existing downhill tracks, these should be examined for features which can be incorporated into the game.
Represented as levels, the game will feature 1 archetypal track per country visited on the world tour. Multiple tracks for larger, or topologically diverse, countries are not planned, but are not explicitly precluded.
To foster the experience of world travel, careful attention should be paid to the terrain and local fauna of each country to create appropriate representations in the game world. While the game's art style is not photo-realistic, the finalised dressing of each location should be a recognisable representation of that location's real-world setting. Further examples of this point are offered in the Starting Stage Descriptor (below).
Additionally, when a country is known for a given climate, this should be considered when designing that country's track. Particular attention should be paid to this point where the identified climate could contribute to the challenge and uniqueness of a designed track— E.g. the Swedish track might feature thick snow, making for a very unique biking experience. When modelling spectators for any given location, the following considerations should be made:
- Spectators native to a track's country should always be represented as the majority, but spectators travelling from other locations may also be represented.
- While caricatures of national stereotypes need not be avoided (every sporting event attracts the strange and wonderful), balanced representations of a country's population should form the majority of the spectator crowd.
- External resources should be consulted to approximate the behaviours of 5 spectators in each modelled country. Crowd behaviours around the world should not be assumed universal.
Starting Stage Descriptor
To expand on the generic world descriptor, the following example is offered as a template when modelling a country's track.All the Way Down's first stage will take place in a forest setting in the Republic of Ireland.
The track in this location will be constructed on a steep descent at the edge of a thick forest of Scot's Pine trees—easily recognised in this landscape by their top-heavy distribution of foliage and slender, mostly-bare trunks. The spacing between these trees in typical forestation is ideal for the construction of a downhill track.
The superstructure of the track will be cut from the environment, augmented with man made features such as stone embankments crossing the track, stepped level changes, 7 water challenges, bridge crossings, and loose gravel runs.
A large group of spectators will be located at the track finish line, with smaller groups distributed alongside key points on the track.
Ireland is home to approx. 700, 000 hectares of forest, featuring a wide variety of fauna, and accounting for nearly 10% of the country's land surface.
At its extremes, the landscape in Ireland ranges from a low of approx. -3 meters to a high of approx. 1,040 meters above sea-level, with most points on, or near, sea-level. While this might suggest that prolonged, or extreme, drops in altitude are unrealistic for the location, points of steep descent can be found in various locations around the country.
Bike as a Vehicle
The basis of the game revolves around the player riding on a mountain bike. Control of the bike would be flexible to the design of the tracks, as it would have to deal with varying degrees of high or low speed sections. The handling of the bike would vary based on your environment in different tracks, and would hopefully provide the player with the challenge of mastering control of the bike in different situations.
Tracks would be heavily influenced by their environments which include natural scenery acting as obstacles to the player as the race through the course. Trees, rocks, man-made bridges and stairways; all would be objects for the player to navigate or simply crash into. This can also manifest in more subtle ways as the players bike would react differently to riding through things like mud, gravel, puddles etc., and test the player's control.
Open Plan Tracks
Tracks could have subtly different routes for the player to take. It could differ in obstacles such as rocky areas vs navigating fallen trees, which the player would choose between based on their skills and strengths at dealing with different challenges.
This mainly concerns the ability of obstacles in the game to change over time. In a single player scenario this could come about by different elements such as trees falling over or rocks dislodging from the side of steep hills. The player would have to deal with unexpected challenges which would hopefully help with the monotony of a player running the same track multiple times.
We would like to have a reasonably interactive form of time trials while riding through a track. The times could show a live approximation of how far off or ahead of the pace you are to a target time. The track would hopefully be able to be split into sectors which would allow the player to analyse their runs to see where they could improve the most.
The comparison of players scores and times is the focus of where we want the competitive element to come from. Lobby based systems where we compare sets of players, such as a friends list or nationality of the player, and can see participants who are online at the same time. They would ideally update live times that players are completing and show things like best time for the current session and personal best for all time. This could be aggregated to show the best time all the players currently online and drive competition between players who are actually present.
Ultimately as the competitive nature of the game comes down to control and skill of navigating tracks, we would like to add in a lower priority goal for players where they can express themselves. We would like the player to be able to customize their battle armor when conquering a hill in the form of customizable attire and bikes. Colors, tassels, mud guards, lights, bells, tyres, capes; all unlockable by the player through progression in the game.
When you play the game, you’ll get a real sense of the action taking place on screen from the diegetic and non-diegetic sounds that you hear as you play. The crunch of the gravel, the whizzing past of trees, the cheers of the crowd, the grunts of the player and the stresses of the bike are just a few examples of what you’ll be able to hear while enjoying the game.
Dynamic Crowd System
Crowds will be in interesting parts of the track to behave as realistically as possible. No two characters should look the same, with simple animations and sounds to convey their excitement, shock and happiness. The crowds should also vary depending on the track, to give an authentic feeling to the location. So as an example, the Irish crowds should be large, loud and green, with the occasional hilarious character to give the player a real sense of where they are. The reactions of the crowd should be dynamic, with their sounds and animations changing depending on what happened in front of them.
Each track will in itself convey their location. So for example, the Irish track will give a sense of Ireland. Fauna indigenous to the country, typical Irish weather, the crowd, the music and sound, and general features of the track will all convey clearly the location they are drawing inspiration from. Certain sections of the track might be named after Irish tracks, places, or things as well.
Time of Day
A simple day night cycle or different versions of the track could be easily implemented to provide the player with good variation of the same track, giving them a new perspective of the landscape. The night version of the track would give a completely different mood, with flood lights and headlights to give the player a chance to see.
Simple varying weather will also help add a factor of re-playability to the tracks, with simple changes like overcast to sunny, or more involved changes, like rain or even stormy weather that could affect the track in a variety of ways.
Dynamic Menu Design
While selecting a track, having the menu change its appearance and sound to give the player a sense of the location would be a very simple yet authentic feature to implement. So using the Irish track example, when selecting that track, the menus gain a Celtic theme, with Irish music fading in, along with other subtle changes to help convey the 16 culture and feel of the track itself.
Visual Style - Concepts
Visual Style - Research
All the Way Down is more than a simple downhill mountain-biking game. It's an extreme experience, and a world tour, all in one.
While it is certainly convenient to think of tourism only in terms of travel, the term is also widely defined as the practice of encouraging touring activity (Merriam-Webster, online), and has been commonly employed in the area of technology to describe end-users who try experiences beyond those they are familiar with (digital tourism).
People travel for history, people travel for scenery; for sand. However, people also travel for experiences, for competition, and to meet new people. Similarly, gamers game for the experience, for competition...and to meet new people. In some parts of the world, gamers even travel for all of those experiences. Games are a form of tourism in-and-of themselves, and can easily act as promotion for the real-world equivalent of the experiences they offer.
Downhill mountain biking is an extreme sport enjoyed all over the world, an extreme sport with a low barrier to entry; with dedicated and ad hoc facilities never too far away. All the Way Down's primary goal is to promote the activity, and in turn promote the facilities and communities that cater to it.
The game will further this goal by taking players on a world tour, to allow them to sample a variety of cultures and terrains and visit landscapes they might never be able to reach in real life.
While the game will not employ photo-realistic, or map-accurate locations, it will give players the experience of moving out of their own environment, and hopefully show that no matter where you go in the world, you're likely to find others who share your interests and welcome you into their country.
The main form of game play will come from the player controlling the bike as they navigate a track. We have mostly looked a using a standard controller for the basis of our designs so far. We like the idea of using triggers as a form of brakes to simulate similar controls of a typical bike.
The left analogue would be used both for turning and for controlling the players centre of gravity over the bike by leaning back and forward.
The right analogue would be used to control the camera, which will be important in being able to interact with crowds throughout a track.
We want to use a stamina system to control the player powering the bike, detailed below.
An element of being able to duck on the bike could also be incorporated but would need some more prototyping to see it's relevance with a track's design.
The general shape and design of the tracks, along with the features and obstacles found within them, will be the key source of challenge in the game.
General Track and Environment
The shape of the track itself is going to be a very important aspect of the gameplay. Designing the track to challenge the player will be difficult, but if done well, will create a very enjoyable gameplay experience. Downhill mountain biking is the aim of the game, so 18 naturally the tracks will be steep, bumpy, twisting and generally intense. Hairpin corners, jumps, dips, bumps, twists and crests are just some of the level design features that will go into the track itself to make the game intense, challenging, but ultimately rewarding.
Another aspect of the design will be objects within the track. There will be various different kinds of obstacles to get in the player's way or change up the track, forcing the player to change how they are playing in reaction to them. A few examples: Weak bridges that require the player to either slow down or speed up to clear them; logs or steps made out of logs, planks, rocks etc, that require the player to vary the lean and speed of the player to get over; puddles that could be much deeper than they appear. Regardless of their depth, the player will have to react to it by slowing down usually; Trees in the centre of the path that require the player to avoid, or possibly branches that have to be avoided; Gravel that changes how the player moves, requiring them to steer more carefully or change their lean or speed. These are just some preliminary ideas for obstacles and how they will affect the player.
The idea would be to avoid a very straightforward system for the player moving the bike forward. Both simply holding a button down or repeatedly tapping a button as fast as you can seem unappealing. We would like to use some sort of recharging energy bar where the player must press a button at the ideal time to maximise the power they are giving to the bike. They would have a store of energy that would regenerate over time, and would allow the player to focus on a timing element to maximising their speed instead of spamming a button. This will be important to allowing the player to multitask and interact with other elements of the game rather than be dominated by a poor control system.