We’re alive!

November 11th, 2013, Cobalt, Friends, Indie Life, Interviews, Musings, News, Previews

In fact, we’ve never been dead.


Since the last post we’ve been busy with distilling the game, starting our collaboration with Fatshark to bring Cobalt to Xbox and we’ve been to Minecon.

Being a small team with the main focus to have fun, the development of Cobalt has always been a bit haphazard where we’ve added stuff as we go with less focus on the bigger picture and more attention spent on what felt right at the moment. This has led to, in our opinion, a great platformer but it has also resulted in a lot of features that remain hidden to the average player. When a new player starts up Cobalt, he or she isn’t really introduced to what the game is about. There’s nothing to hold their hand and present them with the experience that is Cobalt, especially not as a single player. I’m not talking about a next-gen like dumbing down of game play, but a coherent presentation of the actual game.


What we have now is a whole bunch of puzzle pieces hovering in the air waiting to be placed in the correct spot. Since starting our collaboration with Fatshark we’ve been busy trimming and arranging all pieces in order to put them down in a presentable larger picture and an enjoyable gaming experience from start to finish.


Hit the jump to read more!


The first step in this process has been to polish the game modes that we have. Below is a short expose of what we’ve been working on.


TEAM STRIKE

Team Strike Buy Menu

Team Strike Buy Menu

Even though you can choose to play Deathmatch in teams we felt that Cobalt was missing a proper team VS mode.

We had Capture The Plug and even though it was fun at times it felt too chaotic and wasn’t really focusing on what Cobalt does best – combat. Being avid Counter-Strike players me and thewreck started toying with the idea of adding a round based mode where at the end of each round you get to upgrade your character somehow.


Enter Team Strike and the philosophy of locking down characters into classes instead of focusing on equipment drops spread throughout the maps. In Team Strike, each team is presented with a character selection screen at the start of each round. After each player has chosen a character suited to their playing style the round starts. Each player gain funds from kills, combos and team wins during the round which in turn allows the player to afford higher level characters. The team that reaches the goal amount of rounds wins.

We tried this game mode with 8 Mojangstas in the office and it was an instant success! We realized that simplifying things might be exactly what Cobalt needs.

We started looking into bringing some of the things we’ve learned from Team Strike into the other game modes.


SURVIVAL

Survival game mode

Survival game mode

The original Survival mode was added as a stand-in mode for single player while Adventure mode was still in development. Since the very first play-through it has had some serious game design issues.

First of all – choices – there were too many of them! As a first time player you were introduced to a lot of new concepts – shops, upgrades, recycling, re-spawning and so forth.

When we observed others playing it for the first time we noticed it could be a bit overwhelming at times.

Secondly, the objective wasn’t clear enough. Sure, the game mode was called Survival so you could sort of guess that that was what it was all about, but there was never any feeling of progress while playing. You were constantly barraged by a never ending stream of foes and all you could do was try to survive for as long as possible. At the end you got a score, but you never felt like you had actually achieved anything. It was very much an unclimbable mountain.

We decided to try a tower defense-esque wave approach to Survival instead. In the current Survival mode the player is presented with a finite number of enemy waves of increasing difficulty, some containing bosses. If you fail to complete a wave you can choose to continue where you fell but with a sort of penalty to your overall score. Between each wave we added a buy screen similar to the one in Team Strike where each player chooses their character class and level depending on their taste and economy.

The classes can be custom fitted to match the theme of the map.

Again, while testing this game mode with Mojangstas and at Minecon it has reassured us that we’re on the right track.


CHALLENGES

In version 122, the Challenge maps were presented as map packs were the common goal was to complete the maps as fast as possible. When playing through the maps we felt like some of the maps were focused more on combat related strategies rather than speed which led us to redesign the whole philosophy behind challenges.

Instead of presenting them as map packs, we’ve put the maps into categories. Currently there’s a Combat and a Speed category.

The Speed category is pretty straight forward and focuses on just dashing through the map as fast as possible while the Combat category tries to challenge the player to engage obstacles, puzzles and enemies in the map. Like Team Strike and Survival, before each run the player gets the option to choose a class of character which in turn affects the end score. How exactly the scoring system works or how the different classes are unlocked is something we’re still working on solving.


DEATHMATCH

The common denominator for the new design in Team Strike, Survival and Challenges is the equipment handling. Instead of presenting the player with a buffet of equipment and choices to be made while playing, these modes now present complete equipment choices in one phase, while in the gameplay phase lets players focus their attention on using that equipment tactically. Since each player chooses their own equipment outside of the gameplay phase, a larger variety of items can be in play at any one time, while at the same time reducing the amount of items any one player has to worry about. You as a player only have to focus on one ranged weapon at any given time which gives you more time to focus on your specific weaponry and your specific strategies.

Deathmatch is not the same as the other modes though, and splitting up class choices between phases might not be the correct path here. We still would like to get some of the same positive effects. To achieve the higher variety while lessening complexity, our idea is to instead of having a fixed set of weapons spawn in any given map, the map designer places equipment spawn-zones throughout the map and selects a default equipment theme. These spawn points then spawn crates of equipment for the player to pick up. When you pick up a crate containing a ranged weapon, you discard the ranged weapon you’re currently using. This makes sure that you never have to worry about too many different weapons, which again puts the strategic choice to the moment of pickup. “Do I want to use rockets, or my current gun?”, and the tactical problems to later, “how should I best shoot my rockets?”.

Indicators will appear with a timer showing where and when the next crate will appear, giving players ample time to relocate and fight over control. This changes which locations on a map are of interest at any one point, resulting in a more dynamic and shifting game.

To add increased variety to the mode, at the start of the map, the game randomly selects the starting equipment which is shared by all players (Defender Hulls with jet shoes, or Stealth Hulls with shield belts?), making each match unique.

Our hope is that this will introduce a sort of controlled chaos to the game mode that will enhance the experience.


SINGLE PLAYER

What we’ve been talking about so far is a part of the game that is best experience with a friend or two to play with. This has always been the core strength of Cobalt. However, not everyone has a second controller to hand over to a friend, especially not on a PC or Mac.

Our biggest challenge with Cobalt has always been to create a cohesive, progressive and non-repetitive Single Player mode. It’s been a challenge because each approach taken so far has entailed A LOT of content creation.

Our current approach is to include all the work put into multiplayer game modes, Challenges, Survival and the Adventure mode in one continues experience. Our plan right now is to have them presented in a Super Mario Bros. 3 style world map in which the player can progress and discover the game and the story.


XBOX

As mentioned in the beginning, we’ve started working with the excellent guys over at Fatshark to bring Cobalt to Xbox. This is of course a challenge in itself and will involve a lot of work on both our and Fatsharks part, but the work put into the port will also benefit the PC and Mac version of the game.

If anyone of you saw the Cobalt panel at Minecon we mentioned something extra that has to do with our collaboration with Fatshark – Fatshark is going to give online multiplayer a go for Xbox. IF it would become reality it’s definitely something we would want for the PC and Mac versions as well. There are a lot of hurdles to overcome to make it a reality but the collaboration with Fatshark has definitely breathed new life into the idea.


Last but not least I would like to thank everyone who visited us at Minecon! Both me and thewreck had a great time playing with all of you and the experience infused us with a lot of ideas of how to improve the game even more.

Also I’d like to recommend you all to read this excellent interview Trif did with thewreck: Part 1, Part 2.


Next post we’ll be talking 123!


Love,

Kinten


36 Responses to “We’re alive!”

  1. richard preece :

    I think instead of having some predefined classes to choose from, there could be up to four equipment ’saves’ comparable to counter strike.
    You could allow people to choose their own equipment from scratch or just use one of their favorite sets that they’ve saved from another run. There could also be some pre-made saves that you can overwrite in favor of you own choices, again being quite comparable to counter-strike.

    (PS: I am not ordering you to do this, just merely suggesting it as a possible route to take in the design)

  2. APirateHat :

    Nice to finally see some updates from you guys, looking forward to try out the new stuff!

  3. RedMser :

    Thanks for letting us know about the status of everything! :D

    Is the online multiplayer in the same state that it was last time you talked about it, by the way?

  4. Gelicia :

    RedMser: second to last paragraph

  5. Corrupt Ai :

    The classes idea disappoints me a little. I understand why it’s being added, and you make a great case for it, but I loved the frantic gameplay of remembering which weapons spawn where and trying to get there first. I like everyone starting even, with exactly the same equipment. This is why the Halo games up to 4 appealed to me, and is one of the many reasons I did not like Halo 4.

    Always great to read an update though, maybe I’ll like the class system in this game. I’ll have to wait and see.

  6. FabiotheTurtle :

    Richard: I think that’s the general idea, anyway.

    Thanks for finally getting us an official heads up, guys! It’s lovely to hear that progress is being made (not that I doubted that), especially with such a different feature and concepts.

    I appreciate an increased diversity in Hulls, there! Sounds very good, as I love character customisation. And I also noticed that Metalfaces can now carry a bot shield – this makes me very happy indeed.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is I really love this game, and I can’t wait for the future, and thank you for everything you guys have done. We’ve all said before, with you guys even admitting, that there is a problem with communication between the devs and the players. I still think that’s an issue, but in times like these you cherish what you can get, which just leads to an even bigger hype, and isn’t that what matters at the end of the day?

    Looking forward to it all!

  7. Rekkyn :

    Ok, here are my first impressions.
    Team Strike looks like a really fun gamemode that brings a proper team death match experience to Cobalt. The classes and upgrades also seem like a good addition to this type of gamemode, but it seems like the winning team would get more and more advantages as they can afford better equipment.
    Survival also looks greatly improved. Like you said, having waves of enemies and an actual goal gives a sense of achievement instead of always ending by dying. I don’t know exactly how the upgrades work, but in my opinion the survival upgrades should be different from the team strike upgrades. When I play survival I choose one weapon type at the beginning (such as matter or slugger weapons) and then continue to upgrade and get better version of the weapons. I agree that there were too many options before but I like having a few choices to make depending on my playstyle and the types of enemies. I think a tech tree style upgrade system would work really well, as it lets the player make important decisions while keeping the options limited.
    The new combat challenge is also something that was missing before and I’m glad that it was added. It would also be cool to have a stealth challenge mode, where the score would be dependent on how fast you complete a level without being seen, maybe with stealth kills as bonus points. I also think that the class system doesn’t fit the challenge mode because it doesn’t seem as fair if people can choose different starting equipment. I think that the challenge mode should focus on dealing with what you’re given in the most effective way.
    Deathmatch is the mode that I think would benefit the least from the class system. One of my favourite parts of Cobalt is quickly switching weapons depending on the situation. If I’m reading correctly it seems like you can only have one gun at a time, which limits the player a lot. I usually play using at least two guns (eg. slugger pipe + slugger breacher or rocket launcher + matter gun) so that I have options when attacking. I’m not sure what I think about the crates, I’ll have to play it first to see. The random starting equipment is a REALLY good idea and will increase the replay value a lot.
    These are just my opinions, and I’m sure they’ll change once I actually get to play the game. This update looks like the best one so far and I can’t wait to get playing!
    Thanks for reading!

  8. Infinite Dawn :

    I agree with Rekkyn on the topic of only having one gun, I personally favor having a slugger assault and matter assault, since the slugger assault has a massive clip size but low power, and the matter assault has a high damage rate, but low clip and high prices. Maybe the option for having a “light” and “heavy” gun selection would be better suited, even if its just a class. I’m not a big fan of the Halo or CoD franchises, but I will say their use of pair of weapons, such as a assault rifle (light power, greater speed and clip) and pistol (heavy power, small range and ammo), do offer a more varied style of game play that only one weapon would lose. Similarly with ranged weapons, only allowing a single selection would probably detract from the decision process of conserving consumables, such as stick grenades versus sphere, each having its uses, but losing value in some situations. Besides, consumables might be better picked up throughout the map rather than available only at load out.
    Thanks for taking the time to read my suggestions, this game is great, and no matter what direction it goes, it can only get better from here!

  9. Sketch :

    This all looks totally awsome and epic, but I kind or like the old survival mode. Maybe I don’t understand, but it looks like you guys are going to change it completely! That could be bad! Everything else looks great, though. Keep up the good work!

  10. admin :

    Hi Corrupt Ai: What you are talking about is still the case, in death match everyone will start with the same, and run towards weapon pickups, Just that how they are chosen for the map will be different!

  11. admin :

    Sketch: We are, however all old modes will remain for map makers and available through a custom maps tab in the menu. We think the changes are good though, but we are open to suggestions here. Someone said less classes and more tech-tree like customization in survival. I can see the merit in that, i’m just unsure of what to make of it now.

  12. admin :

    Rekkyn: Team-strike losing team gets increased volt bonus for each consecutive loss, and you also have the option of saving up by buying a cheaper class so you will need to utilize some strategy too!

  13. Janeator :

    Kinten/thewreck/admin:

    What you guys are doing with everything is great, however i kinda don’t like where you wat deathmatch to go:

    I think it’s cool to have item crates & crate respawn indicators, but PLEASE let us choose all the equipment and which items spawn where. I.E. I want a fast-phased map: then I DON’T want defender hulls. Neither do i want slugger weapons!

    Just an example.
    Sometimes it’s a bit of a chaos but that’s because of the map, not because of the gamemode IMO.

    Resume: I want to have all the control over the map. If there’s a mess, it’s/it’ll be my fault.

  14. David :

    Sounds really great!
    Could you maybe tell us when this update is supposed to be released? Still this year or next spring?
    Sadly I was unable to go to minecon and didn’t attend the Cobalt panel. Can I watch a recording of it anywhere?
    For singleplayer I think it would be a great idea to have fixed equipment packs and maybe 3 slots for custom ones that you can buy with volts.
    Eventhough the old survival mode didn’t have any specific goal I still enjoyed getting a new highscore. So I’m afraid of the new finite wave based mode to become too easy over time. So maybe you could call the new mode Tower Defense and leave the traditional survival like it is now.
    I also would very much appreciate a test mode to test weapons and practise moves.
    Also a modding API would be great but I guess this is not possible that early in development, is it?
    Anyways thanks for this fantastic game and I’m really looking forward to the next update.

  15. admin :

    I really like the idea of a tech tree structure for survival. After all, it’s a game mode that makes you want to spend more time strategizing over equipment.

    Janeator: The random generation of equipment will of course be optional! I totally agree with you that sometimes you just want to have a certain setup and get going.

    David: I think Mojang is going to upload the panel to their page as soon as it is edited and done.
    As for the old modes – they will be available in a “custom” folder. I love the idea of a sort of testing ground and I’ve been playing around with it myself. Maybe something worth adding.

    The game is still very much mold-able, so the changes made aren’t permanent. We’re of course Cobalt fans ourselves so we don’t want to lose the good stuff that we already have.

    /Kinten

  16. Rekkyn :

    Nice!
    Everything sounds absolutely fantastic. Cobalt is one of my all-time favourite games already and it just keeps getting better and better!

  17. MarioRash :

    In Team Strike:
    I think not the winner but the looser of a round shoud get weapon improvements!
    If a team wins, and they gets improvements, then they are very probabbly going to win again.
    The point is to gain a win having less improvements as the oponent, so the team who wins the first round should be the one that has to do this challenge of trying to win again but having less improvements of weapons. Don´t you think so?

    In survival:
    I really love the feeling of being “home” when I am in my base and I lock the door. I can buy new weapons as I like: going out, killing something, getting home again and earning points to buy it. Cooperative gives this feeling much more strengh and I think it´s the most important part of the survival: feeling home, and feeling fear while beeing outside.
    I did not understand very well the changes you are going to make, but I am worried about loosing this feelings while playing. Changing the upgrade area from “home” to a simple “upgrade screen” after waves is, in my opinion, not the best idea.

    PD: My english is not as good as I want becouse am 16 and am from Spain :S
    I buyed the game months ago, and am looking forward to getting an upgrade! Aprox. release date!?

  18. Liberation :

    I think that for the open of the game you should be able to check a box or something for a remember me instead of logging in every single time

  19. admin :

    Thanks for the encouragement Rekkyn!

  20. Michalios13 :

    Great news ! I have been looking forward to an update for ever :) and the fact that we might get multiplayer is getting my so hyped about this game ! i wish we could catch up with your progress more often but, oh well… :) keep up the good job !

  21. OsthatoAlfakyn :

    I also agree with Rekkyn here.
    These changes don’t appeal to me very much. Especially since they will replace the original modes. Maybe it’s just because I never like change, but still, the older modes suit my liking much more. How classes seem like a good idea in a game where you die in 1 (OK, maybe 2) second befuddles me. I like everyone to start equal.
    A more wave-like mode for survival seems nice, but that should be more to map design rather than how it’s coded. It would also be a shame to see that one very deep, story-like map dissappear (yes I’ve forgotten what it’s called, it’s been a while).

    It’s nice to finally see an update though, means you’re doing shit stuff at least.

  22. OtherOtter :

    awesome. got the game recently and i am having a good time playing.

    Hope these things will be as awesome as the rest.

  23. miniluigi008 :

    I’m so happy that you guys are still working on the game! :D

    I got a little nervous when I wasn’t hearing about any updates (because I paid for it even though it’s in alpha/beta, haha.) I appreciate all the work you’ve been doing, and I just want to say:

    1. New features are awesome.
    2. New features that make Cobalt run unstable/crash are not awesome.
    3. Cobalt that runs forever while not crashing is awesome.
    4. See #3 as necessary.

    I look forward to seeing what you do in the future! (Also looking forward to the game not crashing as much on my Mac in it’s alpha/beta state.)

  24. Tammy :

    COUNTER-STRIKE WOOO
    POSSIBLE PROFESSIONAL COMPETITIVE PLAY WOOOOO
    EXCITE WOOOOOOOOOO

  25. MarioRash :

    My previous comment is awaiting moderation :(
    Please answer my comment! :S

  26. Bly :

    Is there going to be different styles of armor at any point? Maybe not with tactical bonuses, but I would love to see some different styles to help distinguish players in team games- with the current setup, it’s rather hard to find where you are on the screen when all your teammates look the same!

  27. Lunamaniac :

    I think it’s a little early to be thinking about moving onto other systems. Not totally happy that so much time has been invested on this xbox port and not on what you told us you were doing. The new game modes seem kind of gimmicky and unnecessary. I really like this game, but after so long without any word I’m a little disheartened.

  28. FabioTheTurtle :

    You make a good point Luna, though I prefer to see it as working alongside their current goals as well as the Xbone version. Besides that, porting is more or less refactoring the code to fit a different console if I’m not mistaken, and isn’t Fatshark doing most of that work?

    I think the new gamemodes are rather interesting. It adds a bit more control to the players and allows for a few more map options, too. Just the other day I was thining – with the weapon drop, rather than set weapons, players are able to find an upgrade or such anywhere on the map; players can no longer camp the missile launcher or whatever. Besides that, all the current gamemodes will still be accessible.
    Also keep in mind that it’s still Alpha, things may still change beyond this.

    Frankly, a large amount of work has been done with Cobalt, on either direction. Reading up on blog posts, twitter etc. will reveal so much more to do and play around with in the next update. Sure, sooner rather than later would be great, but you can’t rush art.

  29. Michalios13 :

    Could you at least have it ready until xmas ? Me and some friends of mine are so eager to play this update !!

  30. J-man :

    I actually like survival, a lot how it is, I like the customization and you say there’s no goal, but I beg to differ, usually my goal whenever I play survival is to get a bigger score (voltage) than my gold score, or to get a score that’s silver or bronze, I’m ok if you add a volt requirement, but please don’t change the customization, that’s one thing I love about cobalt

  31. omgkai3lol :

    Hey are you dead yet or not ?! it’s been like 2 months since we last heard of you, do something !

  32. Ehwll :

    are you guys dead again…

  33. MrMaleficus :

    Any news about the update ? :(

  34. admin :

    Porting is taking a lot of time from our update efforts. I’ll post a real update about progress instead!

  35. Oxeye Game Studio » Blog Archive » Intel Report: The Empire Strikes Back :

    [...] another weapon of the same type. Players cannot pick up a weapon they’re already holding, but contrary to a previous statement, they can hold up to three different [...]

  36. Jon Doe :

    Hey, I was just wondering about something- I really liked the old survival, DM, etc. game types as well as the new stuff. While I think you’re doing great with the new loadouts and all of that, I also enjoyed the older versions as well. I was thinking maybe we could have different settings for each game- for example, if you toggle loadouts on, it will be like the new version, but if you toggle it off, it would be like the older ones. I think maybe having the old survival things where you buy it instead of the loadouts and an endless toggle as options. Not sure- basically I’m saying that some more customization before you start the game would be good, but I have no idea how hard this would be to implement. Just some suggestions :D
    Thanks for reading
    Jon Doe (AKA Anonymous)

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