Menus are hard
Our previous blog some 7 days ago was all about how we are moving into the Alpha build of Undead Blackout. The basic blocks were there but now literally everything else needed adding in. Well, the good news is that this process is almost done! Huzzah! Drinks all round.
The best thing about this phase of development is that you stop working on fun things like shooting and running and dying and instead work on… menus. Save Game systems. Game statistics. Other things that are really useful but oh so very dull to actually work on.
However, all these things are so incredibly important. If you cannot navigate the menu with a pad then Xbox are not going to be happy. If the scores don’t save properly then that is just rubbish. The difference this time is that I am working on these things now and not leaving them all until last. All the nice visual stuff and animations are coming later. The bones of the game need to be firmly in place first.
So our main menu works with a pad. There are sections for high scores per level and overall stats. All those stats and scores are updating and saving correctly. What else have I been working on over the past week?
Rock Out With Your Block Out
Originally I was planning on getting one level blocked out, then working on all the other things before moving onto any other level work. However, I totally didn’t do that at all. I got into the flow with blocking out the levels and so I managed to block out all ten. My desire was to properly design each level but given I am working in this funky new “circular design” way, I resisted.
Previously I have spent ages on the level design way too early in the whole process. I spent hours trying to get a ceiling tile material to look right when zombie AI was still not working properly. This is dumb and you should not do it.
But all ten levels are mapped out and have the relevant triggers in the relevant places. Essentially the game then is very, very nearly “done”. You could play from level one to level ten, record high scores, kills loads of zombies, and finish the game. Although nothing would happen when you finish the game as I have not designed that yet.
That has actually been an incredibly ponderous task to complete, moving around the various triggers and making sure the BluePrints are all linked up correctly so that TriggerVolume7 correctly sets BlackoutBlocker4 to move and not accidentally BlackoutBlocker5. But game development is definitely not all fun, exciting explodey things. It is a lot of tedious stuff that in the end is 100% worth it.
Looking toward a Beta future
I have to finish getting the menu working 100%. Currently, the Pause Menu doesn’t work at all with a gamepad. Once that is done there will be a thorough playtest on both PC and Xbox One.
In theory, everything should work fine. The mechanics behind each level are the same, just in different places. It is all working on the main level where I am testing so the others should also be fine. But a proper test will find out the truth of that.
If I can complete each level without too much hassle then Undead Blackout will be ready to move into Beta. This is the time when I can spend hours on ceiling tile materials. Obviously not the most useful visual feature in a top-down game but whatever.
The list of tasks I have for this portion is filled with little visual flourishes and ideas. Of course, it also has things like “Actually build the level so it isn’t a crapload of white blocks”. An important task I am sure you can agree. However, I do see the appeal of games that go for a very clean, sterile environment as part of their visual style. Maybe I can do that next time.