Monday, July 13, 2015

Reflections on Chalo Chalo at Radius Vienna

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We had a fantastic time at Radius. I'll talk about some of the things specifically relevant to Chalo Chalo.

The responses to the game that we were aware of were very positive. There was lots of frowning and yelling and by the final day we had a group of regular players who kept returning to join in with new matches.

This was the biggest presentation of the game since we'd made a bunch of significant changes. Some of our players remembered previous versions and commented on the changes. The most significant among those:

  • Landscape generation is now based on a voronoi graph rather than overlapping squares.
  • Powers take the form of single-use pickups that can be collected during a race (and carried to the next). In older versions there was a power selection screen between races.
  • We added the possibility to 'nudge' nearby opponents when no power is armed, an action which also works as an instantaneous brake, which can be especially useful on ice.
Looking through the folder of of automatic screenshots, we can see that more than 622 races were played. This kind of intense use helped us spot bugs we'd missed before. 
  • Under certain conditions a player will always start a new race with Tar bomb armed.
  • The Shinobi teleport power allows a player to teleport to the outside of the barrier around the edge of the map, locking them out for the rest of the race.
  • Sometimes mysterious duplicate players will show up.
  • A 'Drunken autopilot' bug was described to me in which a player couldn't steer any more, and instead their dot veered around as if under computer control. If this is really a bug (and not a result of watching the wrong dot) it's by far the most mysterious, because there's no AI in the game at this stage.
There were some moments that I expect to remember for a long time. At one point a match with many players, including Richard and myself, was underway. A young boy with blond hair and a green T-shirt sitting to my left was also playing. He was quiet throughout the game until half way through the match. He implored in a German accent "I'm yellow and I need help". The help wasn't forthcoming but he cleanly beat all of us adult players in the next race thanks to his deft deployment of the Blindfold power.

And there was the time when most of the racers in a very busy map careered down a grass path without spotting the lava dead-end until it was too late. The lone player slogging through the tar further down the screen won by default.

As usual, several people asked whether Chalo Chalo's resemblance to human reproductive biology was deliberate. The name 'Sperm Race' was suggested. We have no current plans to pursue such a rebranding.

We had some useful discussions between the two of us, and with others, about the direction of the game. Most of it validating the biggest decisions we've been making. There's still lots to do but now it's either polishing or implementing things we're very confident will improve the game, rather than things that feel risky like the recent big changes did. I have the idea that an early access release candidate isn't a million miles away any more.

Here are the bigger things we still have planned:
  • Landscape generation: Switch to a system based on stacked noise generators to enable compound terrain patches and biomes that have a more visible, and distinct internal logic to them.
  • Rare things: Implement some of the ideas we've had for things that happen very rarely in the game.
  • Tournament mode: An in-game way of facilitating local tournaments.
The MuseumsQuartier is the perfect place for the festival. It felt very comfortable to step out of the Ovalhalle after the day's exhibition was over and straight onto the square to drink a can of beer with Vienna's friendly locals and visitors.

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