Dyadic

Reaching New Heights – Dyadic

Genre: Local Co-Op Puzzle Platformer
Platform: PC, Mac
Players: Multiplayer (2 Players)
Status: Released

Team: Handsome Dragon Games (Formerly Team Dyadic)
Role: Creative Director
Duration: 6 weeks (Prototype), 11 Months (Full Version)

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Team Members:
Jack Kuskoff – Creative Director
Corey Underdown – Programming
Callan Syratt – Programming, UI
Jared Ford – Programming
Angelica Zurawski – Lead Artist
Samuel McLean – Lead Musician
Nicole Biddle – Graphic Design
Karl Mizzi -Graphic Design

In Dyadic, two players find themselves trapped in ancient ruins after discovering a rare and priceless artifact. Both of you want to be the one to escape ruins with the artifact, but you don’t necessarily have enough equipment to do it on your own. Will both of you work together to try and solve the perilous puzzles that stand in your path? Or will you forsake each other to try and keep the treasure for yourselves? There’s only one way to find out…

Dyadic is now available on the Steam store! Check it out!

You can also check out my various chronicles of the development process here!

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The Great Big Blog Of Things I Should Get Marks For – Vol 2

Over the past several weeks (thirteen to be exact) yet again, I have been involved in the development of several games as part of my studies. And, yet again, I’m taking this opportunity to create a small gallery of particular pieces of work that I’ve created. Unlike Volume 1, this volume will focus more so on design and management, than on audio, art, and programming. Right then, let’s get to it.

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Dyadic – The Pre-Post Postmortem

So, it’s finally done. Dyadic has been finished and presented at exhibition. Well, kind of finished. The exhibition version was completed although as some of you may be glad to know, it looks like we’ll be continuing to work on the game until it’s properly done. So, since I’m doing a postmortem of the first half of the project, and the game isn’t technically done yet, this shall be The Pre-Post Postmortem.

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Dyadic – Why It Is

Over the several months, if you’re not already aware, I’ve been involved in the development of a game called Dyadic. It’s a 2D co-op puzzle game, designed by Jack Kuskoff (that’s me) and built by a team of incredible people, and if you haven’t already, you should give it a try. Now, no doubt having played the game you are (or will be) wondering why it is the way it is. What is its purpose? What does it mean? The point of this particular chunk of text is to answer those very questions, and then some.

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IT IS DONE.

Dyadic is finally finished. This version of it, anyway. After six weeks of development out exhibition build at last has been made. We’ll likely find a few more things to tweak before the exhibition itself, but I’m more than happy to display what we have now. Anything else is just icing on the cake, as they say. All in All, I think the Dyadic went really goddamn well. Though, we’ll still have to see the response it gets at the exhibition before I can make any final judgements. So until then, you’ll simply have to wait. Until next time, dear reader…

Playtesting Puzzles

Recently, my team and I held a playtseting session for our upcoming game Dyadic. This session, as most others do, featured several people coming through, playing our game, and answering some questions based on their experience. But questionnaires can only yield so much data (particularly when as poorly written as ours), so our playtesters were recorded as well. From this, we were able to gain a considerable amount of insight into where our game needed to be improved, and such improvements are already underway.

First and foremost, jumping. Dear god, it was terrible. The amount of difficulty and frustration players had trying to navigate throughout the level was far more than I could have imagined. One reason this was missed, was because having put together the levels myself, not only was I primarily focused on the puzzles, but I was also already familiar with how the jumping worked. As such, I was able to find all the ‘sweet-spots’ for jumping from platform to platform.

As for the issue with the jumping itself, the height of the jump, and the fact that all platforms were treated as completely solid, meant that getting through the level required you to jump from very specific spots to make each jump. The jumping itself also felt strained and claustrophobic in the small spaces of the level. To fix this, the jump height has already been increased, and the height of the ceilings too. The arc of the jump has been improved, and the platforms are being updated so that the player can jump through the bottom of them, so they don’t keep hitting their head on everything now.

Secondly, communicating the functions of all the various puzzle pieces was another point of issue. Most players manage to understand how everything functioned and get through the entire game. However, for some devices it took players longer than was ideal. To resolve this, more feedback will need to be added, and the feedback will have to be made clearer. Also, updating the art to be more indicative of what the device does will also help.

As for the questionnaire, well, a number of the questions were too broad, or had too much extraneous information that would blur the answer given. To resolve this, multiple choice questions have been converted to a Likert scale, and broad questions are much more specific. Further more, the survey cover more topics that were missed on the last one. Hopefully we should get far better feedback in the future.

For now, we’re back to preparing for the next playtest in a few days. It’s then that we’ll see if how we’ve handled any of the feedback was effective. I have the utmost confidence that our results will undoubted improve. So until next time, dear reader…

Dyadic – Jaded Jumping

Today saw the very first playtest of Dyadic, conducted between myself and my ever co-operative roommate Patrick. After going from start to end, the difference between testing individual pieces yourself and trying to go through the entire thing with someone else in one go, is quite astounding. From this playtest, several interesting issues have already arisen (not to mention plenty of bugs also).

One major point of note was the level design, one of my areas of focus. The biggest issue with this was that the character’s jump height had been reduce significantly, and the second room had not been altered to account for that, which made it essentially impossible to traverse. We did make it to the end after several ‘hot fixes’ (me pausing the game and hurriedly adding platforms all over the place) but it was hardly a smooth procedure.

Since the test, I have reworked the level so that all of the platforms can be reach with a normal jump, however, here another problem arises. There is another jump that is not ‘normal’, but is even smaller. I cannot design the level around this however as that would mean that the number of platforms would become obscene, and there would be little room for anything between them all. Yet this jump is a very common one as the player jumps like this when carrying the Jade Statue, one of the main objectives of the game. So, either the level or the statue has to be changed somehow, and the level can be changed to suit the statue so…the statue needs to be redesigned.

How exactly it needs to be redesigned is a whole other issue in itself. It needs to have some kind of gradual effect that doesn’t change the player’s jump height. Who’s holding it throughout the game also needs to have an effect on the overall outcome of it all. There are several ways to approach this, however that’s another topic for another post. So, until next time, dear reader…

Say Luke, That Reminds Me Of A Puzzle!

Over the past week or so, I’ve been putting a lot of time into designing the various puzzles for my current project Dyadic. The core objectives behind this design mean I have to design puzzles that are interesting, appropriately challenging, make use of the core theme/mechanic of sharing, and teach the players how everything works as they play. And let me tell you, designing these puzzles is the greatest puzzle of them all.

First and foremost, it’s important to introduce the players to how the whole game works, preferably without bombarding them with a wall of text big enough to rival Ulysses. To do this, the players have to be introduced to each mechanic one at a time. Then, given a small, simple situation in which to play around with it and figure out how it works. From here, as we begin to introduce new elements, we can make use of the ones we have introduced in slightly more complex ways. This way the player is then learning a new skill and developing an already existing one simultaneously.

Dyadic Level 1 Design

The initial design of the first room.

For example, here is a rough layout of the room in which the players learn all the core mechanics of the game. Whilst you likely have no idea what all these messy lines and absurd symbols could mean, they do showcase the ideas I’m trying to convey. First, the player is introduced to buttons, a simple two buttons, two doors situation. Then later on, they’re using other items to hold down those buttons instead of themselves. And, well, there are plenty of other examples here, but I’m not going to go through them all because you probably get the idea by now.

The other main challenge of puzzle design, was finding new and interesting ways to use the exact same mechanics, in a way that wasn’t needlessly complex. Because we are currently designing something more of a ‘show reel’ for our mechanics, rather than the full game, we don’t have the time to devote one whole section of the game to each mechanic. All of them are introduced quickly in the first room and then we spend the rest showing off what they can do. This means I need to do my best to avoid reusing  the same puzzle (or small section thereof) throughout the game. The part that makes it most difficult though, is it needs to be new, but also interesting, challenging, and most importantly, solvable.

Regardless, in the end all the rooms and puzzles have come together in a way that is reasonably challenging and completely solvable (as declared by my roommate who kindly participated in the physical playtests). No doubt they will need to be improved and reiterated upon, but until we get more testing done, they’re good the way they are. And in just a few weeks, you’ll get to try them out yourselves. Don’t worry, they’ll be less confusing than the whiteboard versions.  I promise.

Dyadic – Triadic Inspirations

As of today, production has officially begun on my latest project ‘Dyadic‘. Dyadic is 2D co-op puzzle platformer, which is a bit of a mouthful. So, for those unfamiliar with the jargon, let’s just say it’s a game about two people working together to jump around some ruins, solving puzzles and generally being bros. In 2D. For this project I have the pleasure of working with my largest team yet, consisting of the brilliant programmers Corey Underdown, Callan Syratt, and Jared Ford, the wonderful artist Angelica Zurawski, and the ever skilled musician Sam McLean.

Anyway, as you might have guess from the title ‘Triadic Inspirations’ I’m going to take a moment to talk about the things that inspired this particular concept. All three of them. See, we were given three groups of things, painting, songs, and words. From these groups, we had to pick an item from each and draw on those for our design. Now, the overarching theme of the game was to be ‘Trust’, that much was predefined. So each of these inspirations had some rather interesting effects.

First and foremost of my inspirations was the word. Of those presented to us, I chose ‘Sharing’ and based the core of my game around this idea. So, the player has something that they need to give away, but also get back, and potentially give away again, in order to succeed. If they keep it the whole time, they’ll fail. Now, this object is important, whichever character they’re giving it to they have to trust enough to look after it, and to give it back. This was an interesting foundation, but it needed expanding.

The second most significant inspiration came from the list of music, or more specifically, Lux Aeterna. This song gave me the impression of a large, open, desolate space. Something cold, dark, and seemingly endless. A place where you are the only sign of life and everything else is perfectly still. Like a great cave, or perhaps the empty ruins of some long forgotten civilisation. And it is from this that I derived my setting, ancient ruins. And what is the player trying to do in these ruins? Escape no doubt. But where there are ruins, there are traps and devices. Hidden mechanisms behind every wall. What if to escape, the player had to use these mechanisms, like a puzzle? And so, it was decided, the game would be a puzzle game. But 3D puzzles are harder, so let’s make the game 2D.

The final inspiration was Leonora Carrington, and Remedios Varo’s Still Life RevivingWith this painting, I did not draw from what things were in the image, but rather the state they were in. Seemingly rotating around the central point. All together, in unison, in harmony. And it is from this that I drew the idea of co-op. Two players, working together in sync, to achieve a harmonious result. I will admit, this is the most abstract of my inspirations, but a critical one nonetheless.

So, you put all of this together, and the game you end up with is Dyadic –  game about two people working together to jump around some ruins, solving puzzles and generally being bros. In 2D. It’s going to be freaking awesome.