Friday, April 25, 2014

Week 19 Day 4 - Post Beta 1 Report, Preparations for Scholar's Day, and How Screwed We Are.

We are getting really bad about not consistently posting to this blog...

Anyways, we did make progress since the last blog post.  All issues from the problem list have been solved, except for the following:

  • Disconnecting from an unresponsive server takes too long
  • Gravity toggle stops the player's momentum from their own movement (but not momentum from pushes and abilities)
  • HUD will occasionally stutter in it's display.
    • We know where the error is happening for this, but not how to fix it.  It's a weird issue with Unity's OnGUI system.
The player resolution select is not optimal, however it gives them the option of all their possible resolutions and full-screen.  The problem comes with how they are displayed, it's just bunch of buttons with the possible resolutions.  This is annoying, however Unity lacks any sort of drop-down menu, and other options involved a lot of customization for a feature that the user would only alter once or maybe twice.

When fixing the grounding issue, we had tried several methods of seeing if the player was on the ground.  The first method was simply using the collider to determine if we were colliding with objects below a certain point on the collider.  This was effective until we altered the shape of platforms to include a subtle slope.  The collider doesn't nicely slide down this slope while moving, and will quickly alter between the touching and not-touching states when moving down.  We tried to fix this by introducing a delay after the collider left the object, and if it didn't come back into collision within that time, it would actually be considered off the ground.  However doing that caused another issue, the player's jump counter is reset while the player is on the ground, and about 10% of jumps would not register as properly off the ground, essentially giving them another free jump.  Extending this to catch this odd case would have gotten even more complicated, so we went back to the drawing board for detecting groundedness.  We created a class, called Groundable, whose job it was to determine if the object was on the ground.  This class simply fires a raycast a very short distance below it's parent object, checking to see if it hit anything (other than the object itself).  This method solved all of the problems described above, and is actually portable enough that we could apply it to other things, such as crates if we needed to check their groundedness.

Beta 1

The Beta 1 test went very well!  Our group of users were thorough in testing all the pieces of functionality for any bugs and such issues.  We received positive opinions about the game, but nothing really constructive in that regard, probably due to the younger age of the test group this time.  However, we did glean some interesting pieces of information from watching them play:
  • Inexperienced users would control the character with the arrow keys, making all the ability controls unreachable
    • We are going to disable the arrow keys, as it only creates bad habits, and there is no way to map all the functionality of the game to keys around the arrow keys on the keyboard
  • Ability keys at QERF was not intuitive
    • We are going to also map the abilities to 1234 as alternatives to the QERF
  • The blink ability made the player virtually unkillable if used correctly
    • It was way too easy to just blink up into the air, back to safety
  • Players could blink out of the map, killing themselves on accident
  • Aiming the cone ability was difficult for inexperienced users
  • Users complained about not being able to see the edge of map, where they will die.
    • This could be solved by adding a colored plane to the edge of the map, however we don't know if this will actually be visible and distinguishable due to it effecting all directions.  It may be simpler to just leave things the way they are

Scholar's Day

We prepared a poster for BVU's Scholar's Day.  We will be 'presenting' the poster while other students, faculty members and such look at the work students have been doing for the year.  It's some very cool stuff, and a great opportunity for us to tell the world what is going on with this crazy project.  Here's a copy of our poster, for those interested:

We're doomed.

So we reviewed the original schedule for Dias, that was created way back last semester:

According to this schedule, we should be much further in our project.  Namely, we should have all abilities implemented, breaking and moving platforms, a platform generation system, and a respawning system.  We can safely say our goals got a bit lofty toward the end of this schedule, and we did a poor job of predicting how long it would take to solve certain issues (not to mention we added animation, which isn't even on this schedule...) and how full our schedules would be.

The first decision we made regarding this schedule, and the end-of-semester deadline that is swiftly approaching is to cancel the Beta 2 Test.  We won't be able to implement any sweeping changes to the game and be able to test them by the time that the end of the year arrives, so we simply plan to move ahead with any changes and not have another large test.

We realize that there in insufficient time to complete even a fraction of these items before the semester is over, so we are going to focus on 1 or 2 items and try to complete them by the time the semester ends.  The items that are the most appealing are:
  • Add missing abilities
  • Complete work on character weight
These items are integral to the original design of the game, with players being divided into 'classes' with the ability to pick and choose abilities from other classes.  We probably won't be able to complete all planned abilities (as that would nearly double the current amount), but hopefully we can complete several of the interesting ones.

This has been a very constructive semester, and looking at this schedule really nails home how important it is to take into account problems that are going to occur during development when picking deadlines.  We should have added sufficient padding around certain items in the original schedule, and been less eager to squeeze even more features in.  The ability implementations is still surprising with how long each of them took.  We easily could have spent an entire week on certain abilities, let alone 2 weeks for all 12.  This is a really important concept that will definitely be taken away from this project as a whole.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Week 16 Day 1 - What we did, and what we didn't - Beta 1

We just realized that it's been about 3 weeks since our last update (below the goal of at least 1 post per week).  Break was a bit less productive than we had hoped, partly due to other obligations, and partly due to the difficulty of models/animations with the player characters.  We were unable to finish any more abilities.

We've made quite a bit of headway recently, and also uncovered more issues we didn't realize we had.  The problems that are solved are crossed out below.

Issues we knew about:
  • Disconnecting from an unresponsive server takes too long
  • HUD will occasionally crash while respawning
  • Tab-score menu does not get drawn with consistency every frame
  • Gravity Toggle stops the player's momentum from their own movement (but not momentum from pushes and other abilities)
  • Slam ability (called Gravity Increase during alpha 2) does not properly throw surrounding players into the air
  • Blink ability requires that a player be standing completely still to activate
  • Detecting when a player is grounded is still inaccurate.
  • Players will on rare occasions be granted an extra jump when they leave the ground (because the game thinks they are still on the ground)
  • Players will appear to not be on the ground when going down small inclines 
  • Players can select resolutions from the Unity Game Menu that do not work with our interface
  • This options should really be moved to the settings menu 
  • There is no tooltip for what all of the abilities on the Game Lobby actually do.  Players are currently selecting abilities at random based on their names
  • Players can't edit their options from the game lobby

  • Issues we found out about:
    • When a client gets a kill it doesn't always get counted
    • Ground Slam will sometimes pop the caster into the air
    • Area push should really be a sphere, rather than circle around the player
    • HUD will have similar not-getting-drawn issues as the Tab-score
    We were able to get a model and some basic animations in for players over break, however this took longer than expected, slowing progress on other aspects of the game.  We have a different walking animation for forward, backward, and strafing left and right.  There is also a single animation frame that is active while players are in the air.  There are almost no options for free animations, and we had to get some raw motion-capture data off the unity store for free, and make our own animations from the motion capture data.  You can see the blend of movement animations below:

    Along the right side of the screeen, you can see the breakdown of where Unity will blend our animations.  Our individual animations can be partially blended together by unity automatically, we simply have to feed in values for the x/y of the 2D blend.  I set the red dot for the current mix of values at the top in the matrix, displaying the forward animation in the lower right.  In the center of the screen, you can see the entire blend tree with all of the attached animations, and sliders for the variables the blend is based on.

    Player Weight
    We also added weight to the players.  This currently is only effecting the movement speed of the players.  We will need to do some serious tweaking to the values to get weight to properly effect abilities in the expected manner.

    Effect Handler
    We are starting to realize that there are a large number of abilities and other things that are starting to effect certain stats on each player, like their movement speed, and their weight.  We are thinking of implementing an Effect Handler for each character, that would handle how long these effects last and ensuring they are properly organized and removed.

    Preparations for Beta 1
    In the final week before the Beta 1 test, we hope to add another ability or two, see if the weight can effect more than just the movement speed of players, and try to eliminate more items from the bug list from the top of this post.

    Sunday, March 9, 2014

    Week 12 Day 7 - Known Issues, and Preparations for Beta 1

    The test this last weekend was very unhelpful.  Mostly in the sense that we didn't get any good information from the test, due to other issues with the game.  There were problems with maintaining a proper connection to the server, and the server handling users coming in and out.

    We are aware of a number of bugs with the system currently, and they are as follows:
    • Disconnecting from an unresponsive server takes too long
    • HUD will occasionally crash while respawning
    • Tab-score menu does not get drawn with consistency every frame
    • Gravity Toggle stops the player's momentum from their own movement (but not momentum from pushes and other abilities)
    • Slam ability (called Gravity Increase during alpha 2) does not properly throw surrounding players into the air
    • Blink ability requires that a player be standing completely still to activate
    • Detecting when a player is grounded is still inaccurate.
      • Players will on rare occasions be granted an extra jump when they leave the ground (because the game thinks they are still on the ground)
      • Players will appear to not be on the ground when going down small inclines
    • Players can select resolutions from the Unity Game Menu that do not work with our interface
      • This options should really be moved to the settings menu
    • There is no tooltip for what all of the abilities on the Game Lobby actually do.  Players are currently selecting abilities at random based on their names
    • Players can't edit their options from the game lobby
    We've decided to alter the project schedule for the next test.  With spring break still going on during the time we intended for Beta 1, we are now pushing it back to the weekend of April 4-6.  We also are pushing back the scheduled goal for this week, due to the state of the game, and the issues listed above.

    The schedule for the next several weeks is:

    • Week 13 - Check as many items out of the above list as possible
    • Week 14 - Implement more abilities, add player mass to the game
    • Week 15 (spring break) - finish implementing abilities, add platform movement, possibly add models and clean up more from the checklist above.
    • Week 16 - Polish for Beta 1, finish any work on models
    Work on the project has certainly slowed in the previous weeks, in a frustrating fashion.  We hope to pick it up in the coming weeks, as we have some cleanup to do.

    Saturday, March 1, 2014

    Week 11 Day 6 - Alpha 2 Test

    Today we had our Alpha 2 test.  Things didn't go as we had planned.  Dias was basically unplayable.  The following were all issues that we discovered at the test.

    • Players' HUDs would sometimes not load properly
    • Sometimes players wouldn't respawn
    • Boxes from the "Box Drop ability" were buffered when created, but not buffered when destroyed, resulting in dozens of boxes across some clients staying around.
    As a result of these game-breaking bugs we had to end the testing period without getting the kind of feedback we wanted.  We may perform a small in-house test later, when we get these bugs fixed.

    It is obvious that we have a lot of work yet to be done.  We will post again after we have talked about our goals we want to meet before our next test.

    Monday, February 17, 2014

    Week 9 Day 7 - GitHub Troubles & Abilities

    This week we hit some problems with GitHub.  Zach commited his first change, and we were nearly unable to merge the commit.  It appears that Git doesn't do things nearly as simply when it hits conflicts in files.  We spent half of Saturday trying to get his changes into the system.  They are in there, but we are unsure exactly how we did it.  Our continued usage of GitHub is currently in question.  If we are going to have this much trouble with solving file conflicts, we may go back to SVN, as it worked quite simply there.

    In less exciting news, the storing of teams was altered, to more easily accommodate grabbing the Team color or name.  Some odds and ends bugs were fixed with the display of the Score menu.  The side view camera is now implemented and working.  There is a known issue of the camera falling through objects when pointed straight up in the air (falling through platforms, we need to test if it still does this for other objects).  We'd also like the add the ability to swap the camera to the other side of the player dynamically in the game, now that it is no longer centered (This really shouldn't take more than an hour or two to accomplish).

    We are down to 2 weeks before Alpha 2, and are getting a little bit behind on schedule.  We hoped to have 2 columns of abilities implemented by this coming test, however have not focused our efforts directly on those columns.  We will need to step it up this next week if we hope to have 2 columns completed in time.

    The current ability chart is as follows:

    Light Role Support (Builder) Role Heavy Role
    Attack-based Ability Cone Push* (coned area) Box Drop* (from sky) Area Push* (area around player)
    Defensive-based Ability Blink* (Straight up) Create Wall* Steal Weight
    Movement-based Ability Roll (possibly ignore other abilities while rolling) Grapple (like a grappling hook) Ram (run forward and push other players out of the way)
    Ultimate (and probably imbalanced) Ability *** Destroy Platform Ground Slam
    Passive Ability 1/2 Dash Cooldown Aura that lowers cooldowns for nearby players Weight Gain

    *These abilities are implemented currently
    *** This ability is still in consideration.  We are trying out one of the following possibilities:
    • Gravity Toggle - allows the player to not be effected by gravity while activated (Right now they can toggle this on and off, that will probably change)
    • Rocket (fires a projectile rocket that applies a large force on the player it hits, or maybe an explosive force around the location it hits)

    Saturday, February 8, 2014

    Week 8 Day 7 - Individual Scoring and Pre-Alpha 2

    We spent the other day coming up with a system for individual scoring and awarding points to people who get "kills".  Every time a player gets hit by an ability, the caster of that ability is added to a list, along with a time stamp.  When a player dies, the last player to hit him is awarded a kill point.  Every other player in that list is awarded an assist point.  Players in the list with a time-stamp within the last five seconds are only awarded points.  We are also keeping track of the amount of times players die, so that any player can review his/her performance after every game.

    We have implemented a few abilities but most still haven't been worked on.  We are still discussing if we are going to change some of the abilities from the previous table we posted.

    We still need to work on changing the camera from a top perspective to a side perspective, along with a follow camera while someone is waiting to respawn.

    Thursday, January 30, 2014

    Week 7 Day 4 - Odds, Ends and Abilities

    Today we nailed down a complete list of abilities.  Obviously this will change as we try new abilities out, but we want to get as many of these implemented as possibly by Alpha 2, or at least 2 columns of abilities.

    Light Role Support (Builder) Role Heavy Role
    Attack-based Ability Push (coned area) Box Drop (from sky) Push/Slam (area around player)
    Defensive-based Ability Blink (Straight up) Create Wall Steal Weight
    Movement-based Ability Roll (possibly ignore other abilities while rolling) Grapple (like a grappling hook) Ram (run forward and push other players out of the way)
    Ultimate (and probably imbalanced) Ability Rocket (large force on player it hits) Destroy Platform Ground Slam
    Passive Ability 1/2 Dash Cooldown Aura that lowers cooldowns for nearby players Weight Gain

    From the previous list of TODOs, we have completed the following:
    • Pinging system that disconnects clients when they lose connection with the server
    • The last player that 'dies' at the end of a game is properly destroyed when the game is over
    • The mouse is now 'locked' to the window while controlling the character
      • Solves the issue on Linux with the mouse escaping the edge of the window
      • Solves the issue on Mac with opening the top OS menu when aiming upwards
    • Characters now are instantly 'teleported' to the location they respawn to, rather than being pushed to that location
    Minus the items that are directly linked to abilities, here are our remaining goals for Alpha 2:
    • Hit detection
    • Character-based scoring, rather than just Team-based
    • Moving the camera to aim from the sides of the characters, rather than from the top.
    As a final note, work was started on the Box Drop ability under the Support Role, however we are considering doing the Light and Heavy abilities as the 2 columns.  The reasoning for this is that those 2 roles are more easily understood to inexperienced testers.  It would also give a better idea for what to expect from the choosing of abilities for all other users.

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

    Week 6 Day 2 - Character Movement, Cone Push and Alpha 2 Prep

    On Saturday, we had our first test, Alpha 1.  We had 10 players participating (Big thanks to all of you!), and got a lot of great information out of it.  Also the post-play questionnaires brought up some good points.  A few we already were aware of, in particular:
    • Players couldn't be pushed if they moved
    • Over the head viewpoint tends to cause pushes to be down into the platforms, and not be as useful
    • Jump counter could be reset by any kind of contact with objects, not just your feet hitting the ground
    We also had a server disconnect during the second game, and all clients thought they were still in the game.  Right now we are relying on Unity to call the correct functions when this disconnect happens.  Obviously that isn't enough, so we are considering inserting our own pinging method.  The idea would involve each client pinging the server for a connection, and if they didn't receive a response within a second or two, to automatically disconnect themselves.
    We already completed a couple of things on our list of tasks for Alpha 2:
    • Characters can now be pushed while moving
      • We are moving the rigidbodies of players in a new way, which has a new issue in that their velocities are not effected by it, however pushes work as expected now.
      • This new method also feels much smoother than changing the velocity
    • The chatbox in the lobby and game was broken during the test, and has been repaired
      • We forgot to update how we are sending players now, since that update in the last week before the test
    • Duplicate names now have a number appended to them, which increments until it finds an open possible name
    We've started the list for Alpha 2 goals, which will undoubtedly be modified in the coming days:
    • Design abilities
    • Implement abilites (Why is this one item?!)
    • Game Lobby Character Creation
    • HUD
    • Handle Server Disconnect
    • Respawning at game end
    • Follow camera while respawning
      • This is optional really, we are debating whether we even want this, as an overhead camera is fine
    • Hit detection
    • Proper scoring for players and not just teams
    • More thorough testing on mouse input
      • One of the testers reported issues when looking down while turning
    • Try aiming camera from the side of the player, rather than from the top
      • pushes will be generally aimed downward with the top camera, making the pushes less effective
    • Characters currently lerp to their respawn location from where they hit the boundary, they should simply be teleported
    The plan is to hit a few of these odds and ends issues from the test for the remainder of the week, while also beginning to draw out what all the abilities are going to be.  We hope to have a ready list of abilities by next week.  The 2 weeks after that will be spend implementing as many abilities as possible.  The remaining 2 weeks will be spend cleaning up the other systems before the Alpha 2 test.

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

    Week 5 Day 3 - Physics my friend, We are the master now!

    So we found out what our problem was with the push ability.  The problem that we perceived we had was that for no reason the force from the push would send the player flying straight up into the air, with only a little horizontal force.  The problem that we actually had was the way we were handling movement.

    In our movement script every frame we were checking if the player was attempting to move, and subtracting our target velocity (0 if the character wasn't trying to move) from our current velocity.  So if we were still and the character was trying to move, we would start moving, and if we stopped trying to move, the character would be slowed down to a velocity of 0.  This means that every time we applied a force to that character, the next frame they would be slowed down to a stop.  However, we were handling jumping (movement in the vertical direction) differently.

    Therefore in actuality, the vertical movement wasn't the problem, and the horizontal movement was.  When we saw that our push ability didn't move the character very far, we vastly increased the force at which we were applying the ability.  This made the forward movement seem a little more correct, but insanely increased the vertical force.

    Our solution was to revamp the way we were doing movement, and not push the player to a stop any longer.  This means we now have to rely on actual physics for the character to come to stop, such as air drag and friction.  After readjusting some values our movement is back to normal, and we finally feel comfortable with our push ability.

    We have the following variables that we can adjust to modify the finer movement mechanics of how the game runs:

    • Gravity
    • Static Friction
    • Dynamic Friction
    • Air Drag/Resistance
    • Bounciness (we have not messed with this yet)
    We still have an issue with how we are respawning players and the game ending.  Currently, each client waits three seconds before trying to respawn their character, and if the game is over, they destroy their game object instead.  However, if the game were to end, and a new game start in that three second time period, the game object wouldn't ever be destroyed.  We would then have multiple game objects on one client, along with multiple cameras and strange things begin to happen.

    Overall we feel pretty good about where we are, in relation to how far away our first alpha test will be.

    Monday, January 13, 2014

    Week 5 Day 1 - NetworkViewIDs, Scorekeeping and Push ability

    Today was spent adding a ScoreKeeper to the game.  Whenever a player is respawned, they tell the player, and the score is updated appropriately.  Right now we are only basing scores on when opposing players hit the edge of the map.  In post-Alpha 1 builds, we intend to base it on the last player to push/effect the player before hitting the edge.

    We didn't fully get to an end game condition, however it seems like that won't take too much time to finish up tomorrow.

    There were more issues with how we were mapping players to their builds.  It turns out that the NetworkPlayer that we were using will only work as we expected on the Server, and the unique numbers for each client are not available on other clients.  We are now allocating a NetworkViewID (Which is guaranteed to be unique) for each player, and they pass this with all their correspondence.

    There is still work that needs to be done on the Push ability.  It seems that no matter how we adjust the force being applied, it will often times transform into a large vertical movement, that we can't seem to follow.  The vertical movement seems random, and we need to more thoroughly investigate this issue.  It doesn't seem to be caused by physics materials on the object, as we are controlling for those.

    We also made an online form for the post-play questionnaire after the two test games.  We also put a button linking directly to it in the main menu of the game, to make getting to the survey easy for our testers.

    The remaining list for Alpha 1 preparations:

    • Push Ability adjustments
    • More thorough network testing
    • End condition for games (Score and timer)
    The link to our Alpha 1 signup is at the following address:

    Friday, January 10, 2014

    Week 4 Day 5 - Teams and Character Builds!

    Thursday and Friday were spent reworking how we are storing a player's data on the clients.  It turns out that we misunderstood how the Unity Networking RPC and Network.Instantiate methods were passing "sender" data, and everything is actually coming from the server on the clients (which makes a lot of sense, now that we think of it...).  We spent quite a long time hunting down this issue, which manifested when we were trying to pass a player's build to the other clients, which also includes what team they are on, and their chosen name.  Once we figured out what the issue was caused by, everything worked as expected.

    We are now passing builds to all clients, and they are apply aspects of the build to each character.  Right now the only change is the team, which will change the character's color.  Post-Alpha 1, this will be where we apply their choices for jump/movement/role abilities, and weight.

    We also have a crosshair! Yay!

    This puts our list of tasks to complete by next Saturday's test at the following:

    • Rework push ability
    • More thorough network testing
    • Score keeping, and win condition
    • Create official post-play questionnaire for Alpha 1

    The link to our Alpha 1 signup is at the following address:

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

    Week 4 Day 3 - Current Status

    We are about a week and a half from Alpha 1 test.  This week has been pretty productive, with completion of the following tasks:

    • Game lobby character customization placeholder
    • System for character names, and rework of chat box
    • Boundaries to the arena, and respawning when you hit these boundaries
    • Reworked character ability management, so now abilities are loaded when the player is created
      • Currently these are all predefined for each player, and is not sent over the network (That will probably be for Alpha 2)
    • Network test
      • Able to create servers and join them as expected
      • This test displayed an issue where some players will completely lose control of their character, and fly off in a random direction.  We aren't sure what causes that issue, but it's definitely something that will need to be fixed before Alpha 1
    This puts us about on track for where we wanted to be at this time.  We still have the following tasks to complete before Alpha 1:
    • Rework push ability, to act more appropriately
    • Teams, score keeping and end of game
    • Game lobby game placeholder information
    • More thorough network testing
    • Add cross hair to the HUD
    • Create official post-play questionnaire for Alpha 1
    We have also created the web form for our Alpha 1 test sign up, it can be found here.  We are hoping for about eight people for each of the two testing times.  That would give us a fairly large sample to draw data from, while still being manageable.

    Shortened link to sign up form:

    Wednesday, January 1, 2014

    Week 3 Day 3 - Ending and Exiting the game

    Today was spent making it possible to end and exit games.  The host player can now end the game for all players, sending them back to the game lobby.  Any client player may leave the game, which sends them back to the main menu.

    There is currently a small error that Unity receives on the server during arbitrary game endings. This happens because the server removes all the objects in the game, but receives one last update from a client about their object.  That last update throws an error because the object no longer exists.  We are properly removing the footprint of RPC calls associated with each object, however this message manages to get through.  It may just have to be an error that exists, as it doesn't actually cause any issues with the game.

    We also have a working Pause Menu and HUD.  The pause menu features settings that can be modified in the game.  The HUD currently just has placeholder information that will be added in later (possibly between the Alpha builds).

    We put together a list of items we have started, but need to put more work into before the Alpha 1 test:

    • Physics/Push Ability
    • Game Lobby information and display
      • Placeholder information for character customization
      • Placeholder information for game customization
    • Spawning, Respawning, and boundaries to the arena
    • more thorough network testing
      • We haven't actually gotten a game to work between two computers yet, however all the backend should exist now for that to work properly
    In addition to these items, we have a number of things we haven't started yet, but wish to complete before the first test:

    • Teams
    • Character ability management
    • Score keeping and a win/loss condition