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Feature creep cleanup

I had one of the those days when you feel like the project you're working on will never finish and decided to take a critical look at my task list for Lockdown Protocol. I saw feature creep everywhere! There were a lot of wild ideas, accumulated over the years, that I once though would be cool and never stopped to think if they would actually improve the game, let alone how long it would take to implement them.

It was time for a major cleanup. I removed nearly half of the items on the list and prioritized what remained. I decided to post-pone a few features instead of dropping them completely, so that they won't stop me from finishing the game. I might implement them later on if more people actually start playing the game. Now the situation looks a lot better. I'm actually only a couple alpha releases away from feature-readiness.

Talking about removing features, I'm planning to remove the lighting quality setting, which in practice selects between per-vertex and per-pixel lighting. The performance difference between the two options is practically non-existent. It only gives one useless option for the player and double shader code maintenance work for me.

I have been making some progress too. Here's what I've been up to:

  • Split-screen local multiplayer. I'm really excited about this one! It's so much more fun playing with your friends physically in the same room. Remote player's can still join to the same match over the Internet or (W)LAN, so you can have more than two players in the match.

  • Multiplayer matches are now score-based. In practice this means that you get score for kills and match completes based on that score instead of kill counts. Normally this does not change gameplay at all, because the player with most kills still win. However, this allows creating multiplayer levels with other means of gaining score. I have added one new multiplayer level with vials to collect. There could also be levels with aliens to kill for score.

  • Sentry drones and one new weapon called pain grenade. Sentry drones are stationary drones floating in the air and guarding their perimeter. Pain grenade is.. uhm.. a tool for driving campers out of their holes :)

Here are some screenshots from the current development version:

I'm quite lazy in writing these posts here, so if you want more frequent updates, I suggest you follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

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Posted on 2014-10-19

Lockdown Protocol 0.19.0 alpha released

This release focuses on improving game play and making the game generally more fun. Most of the changes are based on feedback I got for the last alpha version and suggestions from test play sessions with friends.

The biggest change is the added shield device. Gun fights in open corridors with no cover available were a big source of frustration. The shield device aims to fix that by allowing creation of temporary cover. You will need to collect power cells to use it, so it's not always available.

Shield device in action

Enemy guards have been made easier to kill and there's a bit more of them now. This leads to game play with more action and less player deaths. At the moment the game play is slightly easier than I intended. It will get a little harder when I create one more enemy type and place them to existing levels.

There's also a new alternative multiplayer skin that can be unlocked by helping spread the word in social media. Select "Support / Share in social media" in the in-game menu to launch the browser, share a link to game page on social media services of your choice and the new skin will become available in player settings.

Here's full list of changes since 0.18.0 alpha release:

  • Added a shield device for creating temporary cover.
  • Added a blocked aim animation to prevent sticking weapons through doors and obstacles.
  • Made player character automatically switch aim pose to allow shooting over obstacles.
  • Added script that adds a launcher to applications menu in Linux.
  • Added install.vbs script that adds a shortcut to start menu in Windows.
  • Added an icon for the game.
  • Fixed a crash when trying to load an incompatible level twice.
  • Allow jumping while crouched (jumps a bit lower) for quick shooting over obstacles
  • Added a short reaction time delay to human AI to delay shooting when a target is seen.
  • Added short "laser sight" to all weapons.
  • Key cards are now picked up automatically.
  • Added floating labels to notify of picked up keycards.
  • Allowed interaction and picking up items while reloading.
  • Player no longer loses weapons on death in single player game.
  • Auto-reload by shoot button when clip is empty (separate reload button still works as before).
  • Guards no longer react to door opening sounds so you can sneak behind them.
  • Made all guards easier to kill.
  • Removed guard AI retreating when badly hurt.
  • Replaced "power cell" items with "sample vials" of two different size.
  • Replaced storage platform sounds with better ones.
  • Called platforms/elevators no longer stop in every position when empty.
  • Made all elevators/platforms move a little faster.
  • Made muzzle flashes fade in and out smoothly.
  • Fixed human shadows not getting properly hidden on death.
  • Fixed reload sound timing not matching the animation.
  • Improved weapon reload sounds.
  • Fixed missing elevator/platform interaction sounds while they are moving.
  • Enlarged elevator/platform direction indicator arrows to make them easier to see.
  • Lowered spider kill score and limited their number to prevent gaining score indefinitely.
  • Increased score for vials (previously power cells) to make them more important.
  • Increased shotgun spread to make it less effective at long distances.
  • Store screenshots in "user data directory" because game directory might not be writable.
  • Allow using guard skins in multiplayer matches for customizing the player character.
  • Added additional multiplayer skin as a reward for social media share.
  • Fixed destroyed objects left temporarily visible in level editor preview.
  • Fixed level title label not showing on clients.
  • Fixed indestructible sentry guns.
  • Removed force fields (replaced by the shield device).
  • Made keyboard+mouse control the default.
  • Fixed specular shading artifacts (white dots at model edges) when using anti-alias.
  • Fixed crouching player slowly sliding down slopes.
  • Decreased pulse rifle fire rate a bit to make it less effective on short distances.
  • Added a couch as a new decorative object.
  • Made camera shake effect sharper.
  • Removed recoil from Zapper weapon.

Download links have been updated on the game page. The update will soon be available on Desura too.

For the next release I'm planning to work on the high score related improvements that I initially planned for this release.

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Posted on 2014-08-25

Progress report

It has been silent here for a while now. Don't worry, although the development has been even slower than usually, Lockdown Protocol is still very much alive. I was on summer vacation from my day job and the weather has just been too good to sit indoors coding.

Planned content for the next alpha release is almost done. The plan was to make the game generally more fun to play and to alleviate the frustration caused by suicidal open corridor gun fights. Here are the most important changes already done:

  • Enemy guards have been made a lot easier to kill. They are weaker and no longer react to door opening sounds so you can sneak behind them.

  • A shield device has been added for creating a temporary cover. You can then crouch behind the shield and shoot over it. The aiming has also been improved so that shooting over obstacles is easier. The shield device requires power cells to work, so it is not always available. Force field generators have been removed completely.

  • Collected weapons are no longer lost on death, so you don't need to make the boring journey through already cleared empty corridors just to get a weapon every time you respawn.

  • Platforms and elevators move a bit faster and no longer stop on every position unless there's someone inside. Movement direction indicators have also been enlarged so that they are easier to see.

Now that the guards are considerably easier to kill, I will have to go through all existing levels and add more of them. The overall difficulty will still likely be a bit lower than before. I believe that this is a good change, since I want the average player to kill more and die less.

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Posted on 2014-08-10

Change of plan

Now that I have finally received a bit more feedback on gameplay in Lockdown Protocol, I have learned that fighting the guards is not fun. It's actually a frustrating chore. The worst part is that there's nothing but guards in the first levels, so majority of the few people who have actually played the game have probably gotten frustrated and given up. I should have realized this a long time ago, but I guess its better late than never.

Because of this, I have changed the plan for next alpha release. Instead of working on high score related features, I will focus on making the gameplay more enjoyable.

Fortunately I have several ideas for bigger and smaller changes to try and see how they affect the gameplay. I will likely make the guards easier to kill and less effective in killing the player. To compensate for this I could add more of them. This would lead to a more run-and-gun type of gameplay than I originally intended, but based on initial testing, it's a lot more fun and suits the game's high score focused nature better.

I have also started to experiment with a deployable shield device (in the screenshot above) that could eventually replace the force fields. If it proves to work well enough, it would allow creating temporary cover to hide behind and should make open corridor gunfights less suicidal.

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Posted on 2014-06-28

Lockdown Protocol 0.18.0 alpha released

This release brings some major graphical improvements. The most visible change is the new much more detailed human character model. Human enemies have also been updated to use this new model and they have been re-textured too. Several dynamic objects (like barrels and eggs) now cast shadows, which makes them fit in much better.

A completely new enemy type has been added. They are called "spiders" due to their similar looks, although they are nothing from this world.

I have finally recorded some up-to-date video footage too (the first one contains gameplay clips from 24th single player level, the latter shows the in-game level editor in action):

Here's full list of changes since 0.17.0 alpha release:

  • Human character model were replaced with much better one (created by an actual artist).
  • All human characters where re-textured.
  • Added new enemy type called "spider" and a nest that spawns them.
  • Added separate stand-crouch animation to make crouching look more natural.
  • Added blob shadows to some dynamic objects like dragon eggs and barrels.
  • Added bilinear filtering to sound map image sampling.
  • Added prediction error filtering to smooth out jumps when client side prediction is wrong.
  • Fixed anti-aliasing not working with glow filter enabled.
  • Made player aim range a bit wider.
  • Increased maximum client side prediction from 10 to 15 ticks (375ms).
  • Implemented object orientation interpolation for visualization.
  • Fixed a bug causing stronger glow effect horizontally than vertically.
  • Always trace hits in shooter's local XY plane even when weapon is offset from it.
  • Fixed flickering human shadows during jumping and crouching.
  • Fixed bug causing invisible shadows getting updated.
  • Prevented some objects from receiving shadows (for example lights and explosion fragments).
  • Fixed newly created objects randomly sliding into position from outside of screen.
  • Allow a bit longer fall without damage.
  • Made editor pick closest element first when clicking on multiple overlapping elements.
  • Added position triggered announcement voices.
  • Added PS4 controller support (with DS4Tool driver in Windows).
  • Always hide controller instructions when menu is open.

Download links have been updated on the game page. The update will soon be available on Desura too (uploaded and waiting for approval).

Next I will focus on improving the high score related features. There will be changes to how the score is calculated in the first place, because there are currently some "loopholes". I will also be experimenting with online leaderboards to see if such feature would be somehow feasible without requiring player registration.

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Posted on 2014-06-08

Previous posts

2014-05-31 New Lockdown Protocol alpha version coming soon
2014-04-19 Progress report
2014-03-07 Lockdown Protocol 0.17.0 alpha released
2014-03-06 Multiplayer game jerkiness issue solved
2014-02-26 Progress report
2014-01-30 Progress report
2014-01-14 Lockdown Protocol 0.16.0 alpha release
2014-01-11 Next Lockdown Protocol alpha release coming soon
2013-12-29 Lockdown Protocol's Year 2013
2013-12-16 Progress report
2013-12-01 Vote Lockdown Protocol for Indie of the Year on IndieDB
2013-11-24 New Lockdown Protocol alpha video
2013-11-05 Lockdown Protocol 0.15.0 alpha release
2013-10-03 Progress report
2013-09-19 Multiplayer matchmaking fixes
2013-09-01 Lockdown Protocol 0.14.0 alpha release
2013-08-07 Progress report
2013-07-09 Lockdown Protocol 0.13.0 alpha release
2013-07-02 Next release is shaping up
2013-06-09 Progress report
2013-05-22 Changing the physics engine part 2
2013-05-13 Changing the physics engine
2013-05-06 Lockdown Protocol 0.12.0 alpha release
2013-04-28 Website update
2013-04-23 No more hiding enemies
2013-04-14 Lockdown Protocol 0.11.0 alpha release
2013-04-07 Progress report
2013-02-25 Progress report
2013-02-08 The Platform Shooter 0.10.0 alpha release
2013-01-23 Level editor rework
2012-12-31 How to improve The Platform Shooter?
2012-12-25 The Platform Shooter 0.9.0 alpha release
2012-12-04 The Platform Shooter progress report
2012-10-29 Level sharing progress report
2012-10-24 The Platform Shooter 0.8.0 alpha release
2012-09-23 New video from The Platform Shooter 0.7.0 alpha
2012-09-16 The Platform Shooter 0.7.0 alpha release and 40% alpha discount
2012-09-04 The Platform Shooter 0.6.1 alpha release
2012-09-03 The Platform Shooter 0.6.0 alpha release
2012-07-10 The Platform Shooter 0.5.0 alpha release
2012-06-26 Plans for the future
2012-05-18 A little progress
2012-04-08 The Platform Shooter 0.4.0 alpha release
2012-03-18 Crouching and explosion improvements
2012-02-11 The Platform Shooter 0.3.0 alpha release
2012-01-26 Progress report
2012-01-07 Sentry guns and callable elevators
2011-12-14 The Platform Shooter 0.2.1 alpha release
2011-12-09 Bug fix release coming
2011-12-01 The Platform Shooter 0.2.0 alpha release
2011-11-21 Progress report
2011-11-06 Client side prediction rework
2011-10-22 Decal improvements
2011-10-20 Bend from the knees
2011-09-20 I can hear music!
2011-08-29 One bug fixed, one more revealed
2011-08-01 About mouse aiming
2011-06-20 The platform shooter public alpha release
2011-05-25 One more single player level
2011-05-22 First release is nearing
2011-05-10 A new game play video
2011-04-30 Level editor improvements
2011-04-20 Situation report
2011-03-23 Fighting network latency
2011-03-14 Level editor improvements and a HUD
2011-02-22 Single player level scoring
2011-02-13 Progress report and in-game video footage
2011-01-26 Network code changes
2010-12-30 Explosions
2010-12-22 The Platform Shooter
2010-08-16 Final Duel 2 is now free