Sift Heads : Street Wars - Prologue Post-Mortem
Click on the banner above to play the game ! This post-mortem will be refined this week, including development pictures and exclusive information about the upcoming MMO.
Sift Heads Street Wars is an ongoing project developped by FailSafe Games in association with Pyrozen Studio (creators of the Sift Heads series).
The project is split in two parts : A series of single player standalone games and a massive multiplayer online (MMO) game. These two parts are developped simultaniously.
Sift Heads Street Wars - Prologue is the first of those single Player games to be released and serves as a demonstration of the upcoming MMO.
We opted to continue using 3D for the assets since the Isometric projection requires a lot of different angles. To ease the production process, we created an custom script for our 3D software which automatically renders all the assets, in all the needed angles and with all the necessary frames.The way we process assets also changed dramatically during production, so we had to re-render all the assets multiple times.
Gameplay, Story & CutScenes
Pyrozen was in charge of developing the story arc along with cutscenes. Early in the production process, they provided us a script and dialog which we used as template to modify our engine.
We started by creating the Events System which can be used to create the gameplay as well as in-game cutscenes and interactions. It can access and manipulate almost everything in the game (camera, player, mobs, spawn points, object properties, …).
A few examples of what we can do with the Events System :
- NPC Dialogs (Can be for entertainment or can be vital for a mission)
- Mission triggers (Start mission, kill all enemies, objective complete, give reward)
- Play an external movieclip (such as Pyrozen’s cutscenes)
- Change the player’s properties (HP, Ammo, skin, …)
- Complex In-Game cutscenes (Characters can walk and talk, get in a car, and so on)
The Events System got more and more complex as we adjusted it to follow the original script and when a stable version was completed, the Pyrozen team was able to modify and tweak the gameplay to suit their vision.
Optimization & Compression
Since the engine was heavily modified, we needed to make a lot of optimization to the code and the way we handle objects and collisions on screen. This was a long process but a very important one.
We were able to achieve 30 to 40 fps on older machines and 60 fps on most recent setups. It’s not yet perfect, as the framerate can sometimes drop in areas with a lot of enemies and decor, but it’s one of the point we’re going to continue researching as we release further versions.
Compression was also an issue, at least for the Single Player version. The filesize of the game needed to be below 10mb, as most Flash Game Portals do not accept games over that size. We ended up deleting a lot of environment assets and re-use as many assets as we can.We managed to get a final filesize of 9.8mb without removing too much assets or sacrificing the overall look and feel and the game.
Since we were developping two different products using the same engine, we spent more time developping the “big picture” project (which is the MMO) and not a lot on the specifics that applied only to the Single Player, which meant that in the last run to release the project, we had more on our plate than initially expected.
Unexpected bugs and technical problems mixed with the large scale of the project made it hard for two persons to manage their time and coordinate their efforts but with the comprehension of the Pyrozen team and after busting two deadlines, we were able to deliver a first product.
What's Next ?
As previously stated, we are already back on the Sift Heads Street Wars MMO project, which is due to release in March 2012. We’ll post news of the developement on our website.