Like most games, Gunball didn’t start out a completely polished and great looking experience. Before committing to the game concept, we developed a prototype version of the game to validate if the concept was fun and it was a game that fit our team.
Prototypes are lean and fast to produce. You don’t want to spend tons of time on a game concept that may turn out to be not as fun as you thought. This meant that the bulk of the prototype’s art and programming work was done by one person (Me) over two weeks.
Lots happened during those two weeks. The game’s throwing and shooting mechanics were created and iterated on until they were fun. Prototype art was created to get the idea across. Lastly, a simple game loop was made to represent a vertical slice of what the core game would be.
By the end, we had created a prototype that had proved that the concept was fun, and it was something that we could really make into an amazing game.
After production of the full game was greenlit for development, we began assessing the changes we would need to implement in order to take our prototype and turn it into a game that was worthy of putting up on Steam.
There are far too many things to go over each one in detail. Planning the development of a full game is pretty complex, but two areas that changed drastically are the game’s art, and the way you acquired balls to launch.
The game’s art changed pretty significantly. I’m a programmer, and I can make passable 3D models for the sake of prototyping, but they definitely aren’t something good enough for a consumer facing game. It’s kind of like when a kid draws a stick figure dog and hands it to you; it more or less looks like a dog, but it’s not going up in any museum. That’s why we brought on our awesome 3D artist, Jessica to make the game shine.
Every single model, UI element , and effect in the game has been replaced at this point. The best example of this is the stadium, which is the first full environment you experience in the game.
In the prototype we used a stadium model that I like to call “The Bathtub”. It’s a, well, bathtub shaped model that kind of vaguely looks like a stadium if you squint and rub vaseline in your eyes.
One of the first things Jessica worked on when she joined the team was to replace the bathtub with an actual bonafide stadium. She worked with our team’s art lead, Justin to look at real world stadiums to get some measurements and reference materials to work from. They also made some great crowds, joke in-world ads, and cool blimp that flies around. The end result looks pretty fantastic, and makes you really feel like you’re playing a real sport.
Aside from the art changes, another major change from the prototype to the current game was the introduction of ball chutes. Originally you would pick up balls from a bowling alley style ball return. Balls would roll down a rail in a row to your left that you could grab from. Every time you took a ball, a new one would roll down the rail to replace it.
This approach was cool, and had a real world parallel, but it had flaws. Primarily ball returns are HUGE, meaning that they take up a lot of room and limit the playable area you get to have. The other big flaw was that they really didn’t encourage players to look around, they would mostly look forward in the direction that the balls rolled in. It cuts down on the immersive effect of VR when you are subconsciously encouraged to look in only one direction. It’s kind of like instead of being in a world, you still feel as if you’re just staring at a screen like with regular video games.
To fix this, we replaced the ball return with chutes that surround the player and provide them with a ball to throw, regardless of the direction they are facing. This encourages much more active movement, and really goes a long way toward getting players immersed in the game.
These are only a couple examples of how the game has changed since our original prototype. We may cover more changes from the prototype in a future blog post. It’s fun to look back and see how far we’ve come in a short amount of time!
Be sure to check back next Wednesday to find out more about the game and its development, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.