Dev Blog #3 Track Building
Hello there! I’m Christine from the Design team at MilkShed Games. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been responsible for planning and building our track that we want to display for our game, RV Punch. Back when we were students, we made a prototype version of what we’re working on now. Back then I was able to create 3 different tracks plus a tutorial for the game. So it feels nice to go back to track planning!
For showing off our kickstarter, we wanted to be sure to make a track that displayed a variety of what we are capable of creating. An old concept was a canyon theme and somehow along the way the idea of adding a mall was suggested. It was a concept that we’ve talked about a lot before even starting production, so it was completely unanimous that we focus on this for showcase level!
So how do you go about designing a “Canyon Mall'' racing track? Well, I can say that it definitely includes listening to the Coconut Mall theme on repeat. I got to work with my fellow designer, Joe, on planning every key point of the track that we wanted to display. We decided to have the player start out looking over the canyon before quite literally jumping in. There’s caves and river elements before coming up to enter the mall. Once in the mall, they will be able to either go from the ground to 2nd floor with the ability to take paths through some of the shops. We wanted areas where the players could drive through and punch the merchandise displays being sold there because frankly, why not? We also wanted to include a shortcut in the mall where the player could take an elevator, which eventually turned into a backdoor hallway. To access the shortcut, the player’s will need to punch the door a number of times before the door eventually breaks. The player can then exit the mall back into a final turn in the canyon before reaching the lap line to continue the track all over again.
So with the key points of the track planned, I got set on building the track out in the engine. This starts the build and test process of editing the track and asking the rest of the team to take a look and see how it feels. I had to ask them to test it nearly every day since it was always changing. However, the feedback I got was pretty key in updating the track to its full potential, so I’m thankful my team allows me to annoy them so much with updates. <3
Some of the feedback I received for the canyon area was finding more and more ways to use shortcuts. One of our biggest mechanics is our wall punch, where you punch the ground (pretty much a jump) and punch a wall to launch your RV across the track. It’s just as fun as it sounds. Through much iteration we were able to add some cool areas where if you land the punches just right, you can perform the shortcut. I was able to get a lot of great feedback from shortcut master and enthusiast, Matt, one of our Programmers. Even when I thought I had the shortcut down, he’s been quick to tell me how it’s too easy or hard and offers solutions to fix them, which has been a huge help for planning these shortcuts.
Currently in the canyon, there’s 3 areas to perform one of these shortcuts. The first one is the easiest and the most risk free. Around the beginning of the track there is a turn where the inner wall is lowered as a platform to cut across so you don’t have to make the full turn. There’s no risk of falling off track, so it’s a nice warm up for players who aren’t so sure about taking risks. The next one is right before the mall. Instead of taking the normal track, players can attempt to wall jump across a gap and land safely to the other side. There’s just two platforms floating in the middle before they’ll be back on the main track and to reach these platforms they’ll have to perform wall punches to successfully make it across. This time, there is a risk of falling and being sent back, so players will have to be careful. Thankfully, the size of the platforms are forgiving for landing on, but it’s a risk all the same. The final shortcut comes right at the end of the track outside the mall. This is the most difficult but it’s a high reward if you hit it jussssst right. It’s the final turn of the track, there is a single wall in the middle of the gap for this turn. It’s all or nothing, but if you might make it, you’ll be able to skip the entire turn. This is a huge advantage for catching up or getting away during a race.
When I reached the date when I was to officially pass our track over to going to our Art God™ to finalize, I got some pretty good feedback from our Programmer, Nick. While most of the team was helpful with providing feedback on the canyon parts of the track, Nick focused on the mall and mentioned exactly what I didn’t want to hear, but definitely needed to. “The Mall is kind of disappointing… It’s just a few small turns and it’s over so quick.” Now, you need to understand, Nick was probably the one who was the most hyped for the mall portion track. It killed me to hear but I knew it was a truth I was avoiding and who am I to disappoint a programmer? I would never do that as a designer.
So, I started mapping out a plan to make a quick change before passing the design over to art. What the mall needed was an area where it felt little more open and most of all, the mall needed a defining feature to make something memorable. The mall also needed an area that was more of a lead up when you’re driving towards the entrance to make it look a little more showcasey. I adjusted the turn before the mall to make it more of a straightaway. I then took all of the geometry of the mall itself and rotated it to fit the straightaway and to make more space for our new area. I wanted this to be the focal point of the mall, so I expanded the area into a wide space with high ceilings. I threw a fountain in the middle because you know, what’s a mall without a nice fountain? I wanted to add some more platforming that would turn into some hanging art to drive and bounce off of. Upon adding the platforms, which were just rectangles, it still looked mediocre. I then had an idea of adding in a tube of the players to drive through. It’s kind of positioned like a cannon that you can reach from the 2nd floor and let me say, it’s very fun to drive through! Most importantly, the team liked the new area as well and made the track that much more enjoyable. And with this completed, the track was sent over to Dylan to start constructing with real art.
Well, I think that’s enough for now. I hope it was a little interesting to read on some of our design process of building one of our tracks. Thanks for reading up!
Next week one of our Programmers will be tuning in to talk about programming stuff. Fun!