Creating Music For The Game

I consider several things when writing music specifically for a video game. Who is going to play the game? What is the content of the game? And most importantly, what does the client want?

Usually the first source of inspiration comes from the people making the game. In this scenario, I ask Alex and Jason what they want to hear. They are good at feeding me ideas that help me understand the feeling they would like to capture. Since the game has various levels – each with a unique theme – we want to make sure to complement each level with the appropriate music.

It is also important to consider the audience of the game and its content.  For example, Super Mario Brothers would not be the same without the iconic kid-friendly melodies that accompany you through the game.  In Super Truckin’ – much like Super Mario Brothers – we hope we can appeal to our inner child in a way that will transcend generational gaps. Because of this, the music will need to have catchy melodies, upbeat rhythms and extend the character of each level.

Giving music structure is important. I don’t sweat the details until I know I have a strong foundation. I typically have at least half of the song composed in some sort of crude fashion before I attempt to perfect anything. In the coming weeks, I will share pieces of music from each level. These examples will show the initial structure of the music. But don’t worry! These are only the crude rough drafts of what will eventually evolve into the stuff that sticks in your head.

I liken my music making process to that of an untalented sculptor. I throw a bunch of stuff together…start to mold and shape it…get rid of anything that isn’t attractive…smooth out the edges…and hopefully end up with something that I wouldn’t mind putting in my garden.

So, I have to write 3 songs for the levels that are currently in Super Truckin’. The team has brainstormed and we have a grasp of what we think will work.  Ill check in next week with my progress. I should probably get to work writing music instead of this blog…

Oh yeah! If you would like to hear some of my music you can check out the following websites:

Latest Track from Ivory One:

www.ivoryone.com/portfolio/

www.dommin.com

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Super Truckin’

With AI comes many complications. We not only wanted AI for racing, but we wanted it for all of our game types.  I would like to go over what we needed for the game type, what problems happened and how we battled it. If you’d like to see some code let me know! Want be in the beta? contact us!  https://twitter.com/in8bitgames

 -Soccer-

Need: Each AI follows the ball to knock it into the opposing goal.
First thing we needed to add was how to track a single way-point. This is pretty standard and allowing our trucks to follow a way-point was pretty straight forward.
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You want to hit a ball… you make the ball the way-point and your done. Right? Wrong! this will allow the AI to just smash into the ball with no clear direction. The soccer field will be like a 5 year old playing pool and smashing the ball off every wall in hopes to  make it in the pocket.

So we thought about adding direction.  Adding this was a little bit more complicated, we had to basically get the AI to get behind the ball and aim it towards the goal. Math cant do this? or can it! We need to know the goal and ball location, the direction in which to hit the ball towards the goal and some math magic to get the arch to go around the ball. Our first test results with this logic.

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Whew… we started playing with it… and wow… this made it a lot harder to play against. They would steal the ball away from you and try to knock it towards their goal. It is not perfect but it works pretty well.

The problem with this approach is it acts as if the target is stationary for that moment in time. By the time the next update happens the trajectory changes. This makes the AI not as accurate when the ball is moving quickly.

That is all it really took to get AI working for soccer. Can we make it better? Oh yes, there are many ways to improve it. We could look at the trajectory of the ball, and speed of the vehicle and account that in the algorithm to where it needs to hit the ball. Eventually we will add this but for now the AI is already pretty challenging. If you guys want it to be harder then we wont want to disappoint.

-Hay-

Need: Each player tries to go for the hay and knock it out of the arena
We now have single way-point navigation, all we need to really do is turn off ability for aiming it towards a soccer goal. Sweet! Done and done…  until we tried it….
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They became experts in finding the hay, and knocking it out before you ever have a chance to get to it as well.  They were impossible to play against and it wasnt fun.

So we added Object avoidance Which i will explain later. not only are they trying to always hit the hay, but they are actively trying to avoid it as well. This nifty trick made them just easy enough to be playable. They don’t score every time they get the hay just like a real player would.

-Racing-

Need: Each player follows the track.
So adding onto the single way-point system we already have. we needed to add more to be able to allow the AI to follow a track. Awesome, easy enough. Just make the way-point a list of way-points and when it gets close to the current way-point make it go to the next one.
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So now we have an AI set up for our racing level but this is when we saw problems we were not expecting.

The problem we had with this approach was we have several areas that a vehicle can get knocked into (such as the quad jump and hills they can fall off of) and how does the AI react when this happens? Right now they will keep trying to get to the next way-point and get stuck on a wall. So how we battled this was to implement zones. This allowed the AI to validate that this is the zone it should be in, and if not to react by either going to a new way-point or follow the track where it dropped like a normal player would.

Bad behavior:
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Good behavior with Zones:
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AWESOME! it looks like we have a way-point system and a zone system that the AI follows and if knocked out of either system it can figure its way back. We now have pretty amazing race AI.

-Object Avoidance-

I believe this needed its own section because we have now integrated this behavior in each of our AI’s.
  • In every Level (especially racing) the trucks would pile up  leaning into each other as they go to a way-point, ball or hay. This caused the trucks to crash and slow down and didn’t look fluid. I could easily pass them when they are in this state. 
  • Early tests on the Soccer level you would see the vehicles stuck against a wall because they were trying to go through the wall to get to the other side of the ball.
  • Testing the hay level they would pile up more than hitting the hay as well as clipping edges of jumps and causing them to lose control all the time.

The answer to these issues is to make the cars see. we basically gave them eyes so that they can listen to things around them and react. This changed our game. This made the AI react in ways that were more what a player would. It felt they were more human when obstacles popped up.

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we added ray’s in front of the vehicles  that listen to touching objects such as cars, sides of jumps, and walls. Left ray is touched turn to the right, right ray is touched turn to the left.

We could add the barral mine to the things to avoid but this gif wouldn’t have been as awesome.

It has been a lot of trial and error. Testing constantly with and without people. We think we have solid AI for each level and each having completely different behaviors. Are we done with the AI? nope! We do plan to constantly improve and balance each level to make them as fun as possible.

Thank you guys for reading and check back often for more awesome posts! If you guys want more information about anything else we have done please let us know!

Super Truckin’ : Smartphone & Second Screen Gameplay

Today we are announcing the gameplay mechanics of our racing game Super Truckin’.

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Using your smart phone as the controller you can connect to your PC and race, smash, and score!

We are currently focused on a PC/Android release where you use your Android phone as the controller to the Super Truckin’ game running on your PC. Initial tests with Android tablets, iPads and the Ouya has shown that we can leverage all of these as second screens as well – so when we get closer to being done we hope to try and support those too.

Each of the three initial levels we have created allows up to eight different people to control eight separate trucks on the same screen at the same time, over the local Wi-Fi.

ControlLayout

Today the controller is where you select your truck color, find the game that is already started on the PC and then join it. We are hoping to add more to the controller in time with vehicle add-ons truck selection and similar, but at this early stage customization is just color. Once joining a Super Truckin’ game you turn your truck by turning your phone like a steering wheel (leveraging the accelerometer), gas by pressing the right hand side of the phone, and after picking up a power up you can press the left hand side of the screen to use it. Double tapping the gas will enable turbos and releasing the gas for a quick second turns the turbo’s off. Tapping the center of the screen will honk the truck horn and also display your name on screen in case you lost your truck after getting blown up or respawning after going out of bounds.

We are really excited about getting this out there and getting feedback from real gamers so we are taking requests to be one of the first 10 to try this game out. You must have an Android phone, and a PC and you must be willing to help give feedback on a regular basis to help make this the best game we can make it.

If you are interested please fill the form out below or tweet:

“I want to use my phone to start racing today w/ #SuperTruckin by @in8bitgames”.

We will put all the names in a hat (figuratively) and pull the 10 random gamers on Friday Dec. 20th. That means you can be playing just in time for Christmas!

Get your friends to contribute and retweet to increase your chances of being one of the first to experience Super Truckin’!

 

 

Fireballs

Electro Ball

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Super Truckin’ Power Ups

In each of the scheduled four levels in Super Truckin’ ( Junkyard Race, Hay Wraslin’, Soccer, Infinite Racer ) these power ups help give you the edge and defeat your opponents. You collect them by crashing through question mark blocks, similar to Mario Kart. We really tried to create unique power ups that captured the themes of our levels and the over all “off road” play style of Super Truckin’ and were FUN. The image gallery above should give you a good idea of what each of the power ups will be, other details below.

Barrel
The Barrel is an explosive that will get deployed behind the truck and roll around in an oblong fashion, similar to a football. This makes it very difficult to dodge and a highly effective power up when your are in first place and want to keep it that way.

Mega Truck
The Mega Truck power up doubles the size and weight of the truck and lets you muscle other trucks around. If you are fighting for the soccer ball, hay, or just the inside corner in a race, this power up will give you the edge.

Electro Ball
The Electro Ball power up is really unique power up that chains a huge electric ball to the back of your truck. This lets you swing it around electrocuting anything in it’s path delivering utter chaos on the field.

Fireballs
The Fireballs are a great power up when you have your opponent lined up in your sights. Two of these explosive balls of flame shoot ahead and blasts your opponent sending them flying.

Oil Slick
The Oil Slick gets laid down on the track and slicks the tires of any truck that runs over it. The trucks then lose traction and acceleration making the truck slide over the field until the oil wears off. Lay one of these in front of a barrel on a turn, and your opponent has no chance.

The Dozer
The Dozer power up requires skill to utilize but can demolish an opponent. Get right on their bumper and use it to scoop the truck up and toss them behind you. Extremely effective at changing the game and making first place last.

We are having a great time play testing with these and feel like we have hit a great balance between these power ups, although each of us seem to have our favorite. What is your early favorite?

Compiling Super Truckin’ for Ouya

We received a free Ouya (thanks Ouya!) at the GDC Next event last week and I spent today with the goal of trying to compile our Super Truckin’ Soccer level for it. For those of you that don’t know, the Ouya is essentially an Android based game console, so it should be simple to take an Android game and port it over.

We took the first step today and thanks to some friendly Redditor’s over on the /R/Unity3D forum, we got some excellent advice and tutorials that guided us through the process.

Largely we followed this tutorial (http://www.stevetack.com/ouya_unity_tutorial_01.html) which got us just about 90% there, but we did run into two problems not mentioned in the tutorial.

  1. We struggled with getting the ADB driver installed because Windows 8.1 doesn’t allow you to install unsigned drivers unless you are in a special startup mode. HowToGeek.com had me covered though http://www.howtogeek.com/167723/how-to-disable-driver-signature-verification-on-64-bit-windows-8.1-so-that-you-can-install-unsigned-drivers/
  2. When I first launched the game on the Ouya it immediately crashed and we found another forum that recommended compiling the Java, Plugin, and NDK components that are available on the Ouya Panel in Unity3D in addition to the normal compile. A quick recompile of those (in any particular order it seems) and a Rebuild + Run and Super Truckin’ was running on the Ouya!OuyaPanel

Unfortunately at this point the game is running at a lackluster frame rate, so I am going to have to now consider two things. Do we spend the time optimizing for the Ouya (reducing poly’s, textures, particles…) so that it runs well, and then if so, how much of the controller support should we implement? The Ouya controller has some reputation on the internet and after utilizing it it’s not a horrible controller, but it’s definitely not the best.

What do you think, should we take the extra effort and try and make the game work for the Ouya? Please add a comment in addition to your vote in the poll. We would like to know a little bit more about your reasoning behind the Yay or Nay.

ADC + GDC Next

Today we went to GDC Next as our first team convention trip!
Here is some graffiti art on the side of the freeway on the way to the convention.
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After signing in we had to pick up our badges. What was nice was that they gave everyone a shwag bag that is actually durable and saved many of the visitors from those uncomfortable handshakes.
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The Videogame History Museum was on display. This booth is always cool to see. The history of this industry where it all started and how far we have come is mind “bottling”.

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All of us at in8b.it have Windows Phones, so we were pretty excited to play with the new Lumia tablet and some cool new tech at the Qualcom booth. The Dragon Adventures game was on the tablet, but no one really knew how to play it :/
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We struck up a conversation with the guys over at Ouya. We hadn’t thought about putting Super Truckin’ on Ouya but we are going to try it out and see how well it works! Shouldn’t take much to get the game hooked up to a nice 50″ screen!

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We were able to get the attention of one of their team members, and after discussing a bit about what Ouya can do to help developers and support them we finally got to show off the game! After about 15 minutes of playing the game and getting some great feedback they offered to provide an Ouya to help us port it. Thanks Ouya for the free development unit, we will put it through it’s paces!

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We will keep you updated with how it works out!
Some of the other random things we did was check out a new AR glasses from a really friendly group of people, Technical Illusions who had a really cool demo.
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By far the biggest presence at the show was Microsoft who had some great presentations and some cool demos. The Lumia wall was pretty cool, each Lumia 820 (I think) was displaying random app logos.
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These Bears were at the show, and because Jason couldn’t make it we Photoshop’ed him into this one!
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If you have any questions about the show, hit us up in the comments!

In8b.it : Super Truckin’

To start off our blog, we would like to introduce you to our team and its first project: Super Truckin’.

Jason and Alex are the developers, and Konstantine is the music and art man. We all dabble in everything — necessary with an indie team! — but that breakdown represents our primary roles. We got together a couple months ago to start a project inspired by the 1989 arcade game “Super Off Road”. We were all very fond of this game growing up and thought modernizing it would be fun.

We are tentatively calling our game Super Truckin’” and wanted to introduce you to the game and start getting your feedback. Below is the list of features we are planning for the game; we’ll elaborate on them in future posts. If there are items in the list you want to know more about, leave us a comment.

  • “Super Off Road”-style game play
  • Up to 8-player multiplayer
  • Mini game-style levels
  • Themed trucks
  • Customizable truck items
  • “Mario Kart”-style power-ups
  • Cross platform (mobile and PC)
  • Unique controls
We will try to post on this blog at least once a week to let you know about the game’s progress, provide game development tutorials, and update you on other interesting things happening with the team.

We are very excited to show off this game to all of you, so check out the screen shots above and let us know what you think!

– in8b.it team