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Sabotaz Inc. Post Mortem Part II: Graphics and Music

In this article I try to give you an inside look on how the development process of our game Sabotaz Inc. went! In the second part I tackle Art and Music.

[As posted in The Way of the Indie Game Developer]

Here I am again late as always. I swear that 24 hours seemed a realistic goal back then. Some nutty AI problems, a proxy server and the National Game Jam kept me from writing this, but now I am back and I have all the time in the world... sort of.

If you want the game for reference you can download it here!

So let's talk Graphics and Sound!

When talking art things are really straight forward. One guy would make the characters and animate them, one other would make scenes, backgrounds and all inanimate objects and the last guy would make the UI and menus. Everything sounds lovely in theory and it pretty much worked.

Animation

In the first day John was dedicated into creating a perfect model for the presenter. He went into so much detail that our lead designer started making fun of him. It took him most of the first day to create the character and animate him. The animator had to be away for the second day so when it came to character design we only had two days worth of manpower.

 

It did not affect the overall process since the time management skills of John are uncanny. He always seems to finish before anyone else. When he returned the third day he created and animated the security guards and he was done before midnight. Seven hours before the jam ended. He spent the rest of his time creating broken versions of the background objects for us to use as an alternate source of humour and after that was done, he even had time to make an animated splash screen of our logo. The guy was ages ahead.

Was it a good idea? Well yes. We had EVERYTHING in time. I was using a proxy animation until he gave me the real one but I did not have any problem timing it. Even if any problem would arise I still had a lot of time to fix it.

What went wrong? I am not sure you can call what happened going wrong but, since we faced problems with the code near the end of the jam we did not have time to add the extra features he created to the game before the end of the competition. That did lead to some bad mood from everyone. It gave us a feeling of incompleteness. The feeling was false but morale could be higher. Maybe it would be better not to have those extra sprites since we did not have the time to fit them in the game.

Backgrounds

When we first started making the game we though that a 2D approach was obvious, it took us a few hours to realise we really needed an isometric 2D view. We did not want to involve 3D space at all so obviously Kostas had to create an isometric background. Problem was he did not know how... We tried the view in pure 2D and did not work, so it was time he started researching. 3-4 hours later we had three perfectly isometric backgrounds.

Was it a good idea? Deciding on the isometric 2D view was risky to say the least. None of us ever created something similar before. Despite that, it was the best way to go due to the nature of the game (a pure 2D shooter only works with a top view camera).

What went wrong? To make myself clear I only say that the isometric 2D was the best choice because it worked. Kostas and Panos managed to get the graphics going and not panic but it was a risk to get the team into uncharted territory. If this part went wrong, we would not have a game by the end of the jam. It was a necessary risk to take since there was no other way to implement the game successfully. Jams are most definitely the place you should explore new ideas and concepts but if you just want to win I think it's better to stay on what you already know how to do.

Objects

There are not much to say about objects. It did not take us long to realise that the only thing we needed was seats full of people and a few objects to adorn the scene. A table with a flower vase, a desk with a Pineapple laptop on it, a sofa, curtains and a a Pony projector was all we needed. We placed those in the scene and made them change colour according to the background. The projector was supposed to be on front of the projection, but we never seemed to get it right so we left it on the table next to the flowers. Panos made a small animation for the projection to give the presentation a little bit more life. He also created the seats and the audience. Finally we added a whiteboard on the far right of the scene. Why? But for the logos of course!

We soon came to realize that our main source of humour was the company parodies. We started simple, with Pineapple and Megahard. When Kostas made those we just could not let him stop. BuisneyUmsis and even more obscure references like TerrierFrostwhale and Specific Hydraulics followed. He spent the rest of the jam creating logos. He was also the one responsible for creating the blowpipes which were better than we could have expected.

 

Was it a good idea? We did not need more objects than those that were created and I am more than satisfied by the quality and quantity of the logos.

What went wrong? Even though for the specific project things went alright, Kostas doesn't really like to make backgrounds. He enjoyed much more creating logos and objects than he did creating scenes. Next time we should give him other responsibilities.    

GUI

Panos has a unique minimalistic approach when creating UI so it was really easy to leave it to him. I don't recall anything going wrong or being discussed too much. He proposed the "newspaper" view for the mission selection and simple buttons for the various controls. We all agreed and went back to business.

Was it a good idea? In terms of graphical aesthetics it was.

What went wrong? Two things. I had some complains from various artists that something felt off about the in-game UI. I agree but I still can't place the problem exactly. I think it has something to do with the colours that have been selected for the timer and the number of spit-balls. The second problem is the reset button. Its role is not obvious to most people. It is supposed to reset the game giving you 0 fame and $0. Maybe turning the text from "reset" to "reset saved data" would do the trick.

Logo

Sometime in the evening of the first day, when I realized we could upload the game without really having a distribution ready I urged Panos to created a game banner. It took him no more than 15 minutes to make it. I really don't have anything else to say about this. It was a good logo with a beautiful font for the name and a sum of what the game was about. I could not ask for something more.

Now onwards to music...

I was prepared to make the music for the game myself. Fortunately Aggelos could come and help us. I really don't think we would have made it if I wrote music instead of coding. Aggelos did not even bother us, he came, he set everything up and when we were ready to record the SFX and the voices we just did.

Special Effects

We tried to keep the SFX simple, some footsteps for the guards (Ilias made those trying to time the animation to his pattern), the sound of the spit-ball leaving the blowpipe (we made this one using a straw), laughter, applause and booing. Nothing complex. We put everything where it was supposed to go and everything worked as planned.

Voices

Ilias recorded the voice of the narrator. "Ha! What a loser!", "So sneaky!" and "Good job!" were all his work. He had the perfect voice to make this sound as funny and annoying as it was needed. He also recorded one of the presentations. He just made up words on the go. Without thinking. I recorded the other two presentation with a little help from Google translate. We took a speech by an American politician and translated it into Swahili. I don't know how to speak Swahili so I just pronounced everything randomly with random intonations. I gave emphasis on random words, got passionate for some passages or lowered my voice for some others. Tada! We had two more speeches on a totally random language. I would really love to know if anyone out there speaking Swahili understood anything I said.

Music

Aggelos did all of the composing. He brought his bass and his guitar and jammed until he found what we needed. It took us around 6 hours to completely finish the music. Everything went perfectly on this front, and we are really grateful to Aggelos for his assistance. The beat we used on the splash screen was composed by one of my former band members, Evripidis Bounelis, and was found by mistake in our game jam Dropbox folder. The guys heard it, liked it and decided to use it as our splash screen music. We asked for permission and there it is!

Was it a good idea? It was the best idea! We needed outside help for music and we are really happy we found it.

What went wrong? Because we did not have much time to fine tune the music inside the game the sounds were way louder than the should have been in the first version of the game.

That's it for this part. In the final chapter of this post mortem I will talk specifically about programming. Believe me,being the lead programmer I have a big lot to cover on the subject!

Hope you enjoyed this part and that it helped you in some way! Don't forget that Sabotaz Inc. is still in development and all of your feedback about what could make it better will be appreciated!

Leave your opinion as a comment bellow, or on the game's game jolt page!

Thanks for reading and until next time stay focused!

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