Polish, polish, polish.
That’s what this final month is boiling down to. While we could technically release the demo right now, we want to make sure everything feels, sounds, and looks just right. In game development terms, this is often referred to as “adding juice”.
One example of this in our game would be the man’s walking fucntion. Within just our first week of development back in the summer of 2019, we had this basic game mechanic fully functional. You could press one button to go left, press another to go right, and the man’s sprite (the in-game artwork) would flip to match the direction he was moving in. Let go of the buttons and he’d revert to an idle standing sprite. It worked, and it felt like a major accomplishment.
Then came the juice, the most basic of which was sound. Obviously, each footstep needed a sound effect. But we soon discovered that simply repeating the exact same footstep sound over and over didn’t work. The result was mechanical, unnatural, and jarring. So we added several more footstep sounds, each one slightly different from the others.
Wouldn’t it be cool, we then thought, if there were little animated poofs of dust that trailed behind the man as he ran? A few weeks after this idea was first pitched, we implemented it. But something else felt off to us: when the man ran in the forest, an area clearly carpeted with dead leaves, the sound of his footsteps was the same as the other areas, including indoor spaces and outdoor grassy areas. Different footstep sounds for different areas would add to the immersion and feel a lot better.
This one turned out to be a little trickier to implement, because it required not only designing the sounds for many more types of areas (wood floors, dead leaves, wet ground), but also coding a system within the game that would “know” when to play the right footstep sounds. What Jason came up with was a kind of “checkpoint” system, where running through one “checkpoint” from one type of ground surface (grassy to indoor, for example, or forest to grassy), would signal to the audio manager to switch to a different kind of footstep sound.
The result is very satisfying, and so natural that it’s nearly imperceptible. Like so many things in video games, you only notice the details when they aren’t there.
And so, the bulk of this last month has been spent trudging through similar checklists full of tiny details, sometimes requiring us to re-do audio samples or tweak existing game systems so that everything just clicks.
We are fully aware that many of you are chomping at the bit to get your hands on this demo, and we can’t wait to release it and hear your thoughts, but games don’t happen automatically, and each tiny detail is a labor of love!