Monthly Update #1: Our old friend MAGFest

Andrew Tsai
Sep 29, 2019 · 5 min read

Hey there everyone! It’s been a long, long month since our last update, and I’m finally feeling alive enough to write about all the work we did over the last 30-odd days.

Deadlines Kinda Suck

So, last year we submitted UNBEATABLE to MAGFest, and it went pretty OK. Their deadline to submit was around early-mid October, which gave us a heck of a lot of breathing room — especially since we had pretty much all of the systems completed by around early July. Not to mention, I was already incredibly comfortable working in GameMaker, which made design and development rapid and easy to iterate upon. It was a breeezee. (Relatively speaking.)

This year… not so much.

By early August, our project files were essentially completely empty. We had no assets, no systems… nothing. We had a new engine to work with that we had basically never used before this point, a new aesthetic to nail, new gameplay to implement, new music to compose, new dialogue to write — the whole nine yards. And then, as luck (or lack thereof) would have it, MAGFest decided this year their indie submissions process would close two weeks earlier than last year. Also fun.

All that said, though —

This is what the game looked like in August.

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And this is what the game looks like now:

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It’s a BEAT ’em up huhuhu

Our fate is in the hands of those magic MAGFest submission people so what I think doesn’t matter. Like, at all. But. Still.

I think we did pretty well.

Animation

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Itsa-me, idle animation

It’s Beat! She moves! Say hi!

I had to revamp pretty much every single animation from the original demo in a very short amount of time. I had only around 7 days to do all of her combat animations, which really isn’t very long at all, especially considering some of that time was also dedicated to implementing said animations in engine.

And yet, despite all this, all her attack animations somehow have over twice the number of frames they did before.

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Her previous animations simply snapped to the pose and had one frame of follow-through — which felt nice, but looked a bit jank
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now they buttery goodness

Couple this with some in-engine squash and stretch to accentuate motion…

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suuuuutorechu
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some of these smears were wild to draw

… and the animations look and feel very, very naisu in-game.

I might delve a little deeper into UNBEATABLE’s animation later…

Backgrounds

The move to a pseudo-3D pipeline means a move towards 3D environments. Of course, I wanted them to maintain that 2D feel — a hyper-stylized aesthetic beyond the realms of physical possibility. But there was so much more you could get from fully 3D environments, like real depth of field, super easy parallax, and dynamic shadows. It was important to get the best of both worlds with these. So, I started by making concept art:

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a train station, wowee

The important thing I wanted to nail was the bold colors in the environment — the yellows and the greens and the blues. Additionally, I drew the concept for maximum aesthetic appeal, as I figured it’d be better to try to figure out how to emulate the 2D fudging rather than make the concept easier to recreate in engine at the cost of stylishness.

The next step was modeling. The entire environment was done entirely inside the Unity ProBuilder toolkit, because it was so much more convenient than messing around with texturing and import settings… and also because I was too lazy to open up Blender. Sorry, RJ.

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another train station, wowee

To add to the aesthetic, lots of things were faked, such as outlines and highlights:

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These highlights are just modeled on, baybee

and the sun was positioned really low in the sky to get those striking shadows across the platform. Yay for not following physical laws!

Add some color balancing, and voila! A background!

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pretty close, if I do say so myself

Since every material in the environment is just the same vertex shader, too, this thing takes up basically no CPU power for batching. Whoop.

I’ll also be delving deeper into UNBEATABLE’s environments later. Can’t lay everything out in this update post.

And also…

Lots and lots of other major things have been going on behind the scenes, of course. Beyond the evident completion of the rhythm gameplay, which was an adventure in itself, most of the other systems are fully complete too. The dialogue system is done, with some all new (and better performing) text effects, and a much more efficient syntax for dialogue writing, courtesy of YarnSpinner. The exploration gameplay is done, as well, with completely rewritten platforming code, because I could.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! The main story has been almost completely fleshed out, the script is making good progress (RJ is writing his butt-off trying to make my dumb story concept readable), and we’ve got some brand new tracks from Peak Divide, with vocals from Rachel, which are super duper rad and have been on loop on my computer for the past… two weeks. Whoops.

But all of those are posts for another day. All I want to say right now is… we’re hyped as hell to show you guys this thing… regardless of whether or not MAGFest lets us inside those grand Gaylord gates.

Now to get back to work.

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