Here we go again, after an entire week’s delay! And what a week it has been. I promised you something big, and here it finally is. An entire new feature, for the first time in months!
It’s a main menu!
Much like the radar from a few weeks back, this one has been a long time coming. We built a shoddy placeholder menu almost a year ago, but it’s been slowly falling apart as I rebuilt the core systems of the game. Nowadays it looks like a complete disaster. The main menu is the first and last impression a player gets from a game, and is as such extremely important for the experience as a whole. It seemed fitting to begin my polishing efforts by rebuilding it.
Over the last few weeks it has grown increasingly clear to me that we will never move past the level we have now. Unless god almighty himself descends from the heavens and blesses us with awesome productivity powers/a budget/immortality we’ve reached the flat end of our exponential content creation curve. The production has to respond in turn, and so I’ve decided to work only with the tools and assets I already have readily available. We want to make the best possible Sushido we can, and to do that we have to be honest about our limitations as a team. As romantic as it sounds, trying to do the impossible is not an option when you’re already under such heavy pressure. Art comes from understanding your tools and letting them take you to a place that makes sense, not hopelessly chasing impossible ideals.
I say this because I just spent two weeks trying to animate a flying origami crane. We had originally intended for each level to have a small introductory cutscene, and for the first one we’d planned a Navi-esque scenic flying sequence. The player starts in a broccoli bag in the fridge, gets up and glides out over the table on a paper crane as the lights dramatically flicker on. Sounds simple. Only problem is I can’t animate to save my life. I’m decent with menus and other abstract systems, but a real physical object? Impossible. And as if that wasn’t already difficult enough it also has to look good from a first person perspective and show of the level well. After hours of failure I realized that the finished work would never fulfill all our requirements. It’d be an ugly, ambitious misstep in an otherwise rather well rounded game. And at my current pace I’d probably never even finish it. I had to take a different approach.
The one part of our original vision that worked really well were the flickering lights. They look awesome no matter how terribly I animate them. Our art relies almost completely on good lighting and atmosphere, so slowly revealing the stage through flickering lamps makes for a great introduction, showing off the parts of the game we’re most proud of. But I had to scrap the big, sweeping camera animations. Instead, I went for as simple a solution as possible with a single static camera simulating a player on the stage. By placing the menu inside the level we cement the idea of a small, tightly bound and polished experience in the player’s mind. Where a normal, abstract main menu hints at something larger and unexplored through level selection screens or game modes, this one is clear and honest with its intentions. There’s a level. You can play it. It was made by some people. Here are their names. It’s a direction that very accurately reflects our new goals while also looking really good. Hilariously, the old menu used a broad, sweeping overhead shot of the same level, washed in warm colors. Accidental symbolism, perhaps?
Whatever the case, we now have a functioning main menu, and that’s awesome. We’re one big step closer to playable demo. The next goal is transitioning into play and quickly teaching the player the basic mechanics. That’s my task list for next time. Until then you can find me on Twitter as @Ludolovig, and you can find more info about Sushido on our website. Have a nice leap day, and I’ll be back with more in two weeks!