Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Battle High 2 Future...Plans?

It's humorous -- maybe not the best word, a trend you'll notice a lot in this post -- that my previous post was about future Battle High 2 plans as this post is also about them and how I'm probably going to cut a majority of those previously mentioned.  It's also why I promise nothing!
Last weekend I essentially had a nervous breakdown; actually, calling it that is an insult to anyone who has had an actual nervous breakdown.  What I had was mostly just a strong, stress-induced, table-flipping realization that I, after working on the game on-and-off for over 4 years, just wasn't enjoying working on Battle High 2 anymore.

Okay, it was more like monitor-punching -- which I didn't do! -- but similar in idea
I was trying to update a feature, to create a training dummy, because all the great fighting games have advanced training dummies -- which, in reality, are probably more for the programmers, designers, and testers than players -- but it was taking me forever and wasn't working and creating a lot of frustration.  It was one of those features, like a games' tutorials, that if you start thinking about it early, it's a lot easier to implement, but I didn't at first and it was becoming nightmarish.  When I started writing Battle High's code, I was just excited to be getting these systems working, not trying to think about the long-term integration of new features.

I was, and let's face it, still am, a little like this dog.
I felt like I was on this tight schedule, trying to get these changes in for the Xbox One version, and the worst part is that I felt like nobody cared and was losing the little motivation I had left.  The original Battle High team pretty much disbanded, so I've been working mostly by myself.  There wasn't a KickStarter or a heavy demand from a large fanbase yelling at me to finish.  And the potential I saw in the game was quickly diminishing.  I still see potential in the franchise, characters, and game's systems but using the base I had just felt more problematic to try and fit new features in than to just start over.
But at the same time I tried starting over with Battle High, two times actually, and each time failed.  I think this failure came due to another realization that Battle High isn't mine.  I hate this word because it feels so selfish, but Battle High is actually much older, about 7 years apparently, 3 of which I wasn't involved, and I just feel guilty, like I stole it.  I think stole isn't the correct word; if I stole it, I'd probably be in a litigation nightmare, but that's not the case -- and hopefully becomes it.  I guess the fact that Battle High isn't truly my IP, I feel dirty making certain narrative and design decisions without input from the original team, a team that's moved on to other things.  Also, when asked things about Battle High like "what was your reasoning for this," I have a hard time answering them, especially if they concern a character's narrative.  I guess I was just excited about making the game for XBLIG and the same with the sequel when the team was still really involved, but after it disbanded, the only motivation left really is just that it exists.  The systems, art, etc., are done; they just need "polish" which is so dangerous because you can polish and roll a turd in glitter forever but you still have a turd.

This is actually a chocolate covered banana...but it looks a bit like a turn with sprinkles...

I don't think Battle High is a turd, but when it comes to the Xbox One, I feel like I can already hear people moan about the pixel art and how they don't feel its worthy to be on such a powerful, next-gen console or how the netcode (or lack thereof) is substandard.
Feeling saturated with a lot of negativity and doubt, I was contemplating on just killing the project, forgetting it and moving onto something completely new, but then I thought:

It's a silly quote -- from my secret muse, Amy Poehler -- and I don't mean it in a disrespectful way to players or anything.  And obviously, I do care otherwise I wouldn't write this.  I think I'm mostly saying this to myself.  Not everyone is going to like my game no matter what I do.  I need to face this fact.  So I say this to them, but also to my inner negativity and fear about those individuals.  I can't let that stop me from something I want to finish, something that would be a shame to abandon now.
Though, this being said, I'm probably going to cut a lot of stuff that I previously mentioned; this might upset some people who I do care about liking it.  For example, I would LOVE to get new characters in the game, but I thought of it this way:
  • I have 13 characters already that need some balancing love, focus on them first
  • Who knows how long getting voiceover, new music, new sound, artwork, etc., would take, and I would hate to delay release because of these unknown variables
  • Modern gaming and DLC make integrating new characters later much easier
  • Finally, if the game is an utter flop, I can just say "Screw it, no new characters!" saving both money and time.
So these are my current goals.
  • Improve artificial input.  The idea behind this is that by doing this I can in turn create more intelligent AI.  This is the feature that was stressing me out but mostly because I was trying to rush it.  I'll need to gut some of my code, but it'll probably take about two to three weeks to do properly and knowing that will make me stress about it less when I face inevitable setbacks
  • Balancing.  I started some of this by making attacks frame-based and not strange multiplier based but more work needs to be done.
  • Improve UI -- EVERYWHERE.  I don't think the current UI is bad but I hate how it doesn't tie into the school theme at all.  I have an idea of how to do this, but it does go into that dangerous polish realm so I need to be careful.  In fact, I want to polish the art to make it more "worthy" of Xbox One, but polish is such a dangerous area to get lost in.
  • ONLINE.  I don't want to do online; it's not a secret.  I'm sick of buzzwords like netcode and GGPO (which I think when most people say, they just mean rollback netcode, not the specific framework which apparently doesn't integrate into Unity), but I ultimately know I need it.  I know doing online at this point is going to be painful and not good, but it will be a learning experience.  I need to try and get it working so that my FUTURE games can have it and have it done properly (or at least better).  The only thing I'm struggling with is should I use UNet, Unity's new networking solution, available only to beta users currently, or Photon.  The risk I have doing Photon is that it may not work properly on Xbox One, but I'm not even sure this is entirely true.
That's really about it.  That doesn't sound like much, but I'm at a point where I want to finish the game, get it on Xbox One, and evaluate its popularity from there.  Like I said, if people like it and there's a following -- doesn't even need to be a giant one -- sure, I'll look into adding new characters, rewards, modes, etc., but for now, it's not necessary to the core.
Worry about the CORE features of the game -- something I hear a lot.

I want to do one more OUYA / PC build -- with the improved AI and balancing -- then maybe one more with very early online and then it's onto the Xbox One work and getting the game published there if I want to try and make my 2015 deadline -- a deadline I realize is really only in place because I want to move onto something new in 2016.

Finally, to those who have been following the game and enjoy it, I really appreciate you even though this may sound like I don't.  I even mention if there were more fans I'd have more motivation, and it's a little true, but who knows?  Maybe more fans would make the pressure and doubt even worse.  I think my some of my doubts and issues come from not wanting to disappoint fans of the game, and sometimes my ideas of starting over are more to serve them with a new idea that I'm ultimately more confident in.  Anyway, hopefully I can give a new update that isn't just about my feelings soon, a fun, visual updates with images and gifs and videos!