Rock of Ages is a race to destroy the enemy castle gates (and then squishing the opponent's puny leader with your boulder), so it is important to design levels that are clear to navigate.
One innovation we brought to the level designs is that your territory and the enemy territory sometimes intersect. This gives you the opportunity to collide with the enemy boulders on your way down, but it also means we have to give some additional cues so players always know when they are going towards the enemy castle or their own!
The first and most important hint, is of course, the team colors! We do not have a fixed red vs blue palette anymore, so the tracks and many details including units, people, flags, boulders and castles, will all change to use your selected army color and banner. We are starting with 10 colors to choose from.
If two players are using the same settings?
We need to do something when two players have the same preferred colors, so if two red armies meet, whoever enters the battle last will have their main and detail colors swapped (in the above example that player would have a yellow banner with red lions).
More cues A great hint we had in Rock of Ages that helped players find the right direction, specially when they fell off the track or got disoriented, was the wind:
The wind is not only decorative, but it always blows towards the enemy castle. Even without telling the player in a tutorial, we found it was one of those subtle things that people got intuitively.
This way please.
Not all hints need to be subtle though... a finger pointing in the right direction just works
I have an answer for that!
It's because you don't want to win because your enemy didn't know where to go. You want to win because they couldn't get through your cunning defensive strategies!
Now that we are play-testing very often, we have had the chance to fine tune the level design; block or enable shortcuts, set which tiles players can build on, calibrate boulders and units, etc. We'll continue do this, always remembering that the priority is to make a fair and fun game.
By now you may know that in Rock of Ages II different boulders have different attributes, and you can choose unique ones to play in your matches.
Today we will talk about the Balloon Boulders...
The main advantage that Balloon Boulders have is pretty clear: They are light which allows them to jump higher. Balloon boulders can jump obstacles that regular boulders would need to go through, losing health & speed.
I know what you're thinking: That's OP! One of the big complaints about Rock of Ages 1 was it was too easy to jump over obstacles! But don't worry, there are three things to consider here:
In general regular boulders jump less high than in the first game. (So jumping has been nerfed a bit).
Many units are taller than in ROA 1 (like the elephant that now has a tower), which makes jumping over stuff even harder.
The Balloon Boulder has very clear weaknesses...
As you can see, the balloon boulder isn't very fast, nor resistant. It's weight class also means it deals less damage to the gate (and all enemies). In a game where speed and strength are incredibly important, having two weak stats is not so good. The balloon boulder is actually a good secondary boulder because:
It can get past super well defended areas and clear the path for your friend.
It can reach shortcuts that can be much harder to achieve for regular boulders.
In our current matches people who are depending too much on the balloon boulders are losing most of the time. They are too weak, which makes them very vulnerable to projectile weapons like the Ballista.
Here are the two Balloon class boulders of the game. What's that on the left? An inflated cow?!?
The Balloon Boulders are definitely a very fun addition to the game. They add an interesting layer of strategy and decision making when preparing for a war match, and are unique and feel different to the other boulders of Rock of Ages II. But the thing I've enjoyed the most about them is seeing them pop in the middle of the air after I get overwhelmed by a nasty projectile defense. Seeing an inflated cow burst like a balloon has made me laugh out loud several times already, and I hope it will also make you laugh as well.
In Rock of Ages 2 we wanted to introduce a wider variety of units for players to choose from. But by introducing so many units we quickly realized that managing such a big roster in a match would be very troublesome. Because we also wanted to introduce new areas where players are required to plan out their strategy, we decided it would be a really good idea to limit the amount of units you can bring to a battle by making players commit to a specific battle plan.
Before each War match takes place you will have to select which units and which boulders you want to bring to the course. Below is the unit selection grid in its default configuration:
Campaign starts off with limited options. Looks a little empty, right?
Progressing through the campaign will allow players to unlock and populate the unit selection grid with more boulders and new units. In addition, players will also be able to unlock additional slots so they can bring more units in to a match. The upper grid represents the slots available for your battle plan and the bottom grid shows the complete list of units to pick from.
A completely unlocked list will look like this:
We don't want to give away all the units from the game, so we've blurred out some of the icons. Can you guess what they might be???
You might have noted from the last screenshot that there's something else that is new in the sequel; you can bring more than one boulder to the fight!
We don't want to impose how players want to plan out their battles, so we decided to give complete freedom when selecting the roster. This means you can take as much boulders as your battle plan allows you to. Note that boulders will take up two spaces from the top grid, so choosing too many can severely limit the amount of defensive units you can use. It's all about balancing and making the proper choices for each course.
Choose the boulder you will release for the next run. Note that each boulder has its own building time. Tougher rocks will generally take longer to build.
After all players have selected their roster the match can begin. Because the game allows you to choose more than one boulder, if you do so, you will have to first choose which of these you want to start building while you plan out your defenses.
With a limited selection of units we anticipate a much higher level of experimentation from players that can try out different combinations on different levels. The roster that might prove to be effective on one map may not be as effective on another level, so players will have to choose wisely and develop their own strategies.
We also believe that the more limited amount of active units in a match will allow people to be more focused on setting up defenses that are better planned out giving the game more diversity (you'll never know what you have to face off the next time).
Finally, this formula also incentives more variety of strategic approaches to be used during a match. Some players can use rosters that are clearly more offensive, with more weight on boulder selections, and other players can rely on more defensive strategies with a wider assortment of defenses to protect the course. And since the game now allows players to team up, the expected variety in a match can be exponential, with teams going all-aggressive, all-defensive or mixes.
Building phase in progress. Note that in our current build 'banks' and 'thunder cloud' are always added to your roster, but this is still TBD.
We hope everyone likes the new ideas we're developing for the sequel. We can't wait to see what kind of strategies people will develop once the game is out.
Today we are sharing the design process for Medusa's Boulder.
Where's that face?
In Rock of Ages 2 we have a greater variety of boulders, so we figured we could associate one new boulder to every character you find in Story mode. Every time you defeat a new army leader you win their boulder which you can later use in your next matches.
A scene from 'Clash of the Titans'...
The Medusa boulder is made of unfortunate greek heroes who were sent to kill Medusa; they all of course looked at her and turned into stone. It's funny to imagine how Medusa would arrange for soldiers to petrify in specific poses, each one like a puzzle piece she can use to build a giant boulder.
...And to solve the soldier puzzle ourselves, we used M.C. Escher's repeating patterns as a reference.
Left image: M. C. Escher
By designing a couple of interlocking tiles, you can repeat the pattern as much as you like.
To make these types of repeating patterns, it is helpful to start with just the structure and then complicate the edges. It has to be said that it is easier to make these type of patterns today because you can have your software modify all the rotated copies of a tile simultaneously as you are working on just one. Doing this without a computer would have been way more challenging!
Finally, we used a simpler tile structure because the previous one was not designed to wrap around a sphere... oops!
Here's how the final result looks like:
Enjoyed this new boulder? The game will feature a wider variety of new boulder designs, some which will have unique special properties (more on this in a future post). We'll keep on covering new boulders and more units in upcoming updates.
So here's a crazy simulation showing off the result of dozens of AI boulder players trying to navigate a level simultaneously.
Cool, isn't it? So if you wish to know how we're getting these results... read on!
One area which ROA1 could have been better was the boulder's AI. As we went into ROA2, we had to find a system that was both efficient and also easy to use for level designers. After trying different approaches we ended up implementing a path system in which a human player navigates a level to record speed and jump values of how to finish an empty level (no obstacles). The resulting information can be seen represented in the following spline:
As you can see this level (which happens to show a nice preview of the Renaissance art period) has a few jumps and turns and can get quite narrow for a boulder attempting to navigate at top speed. This path shows the most obvious and "safe" path to complete the level, where no risky/difficult jumps have been taken during the recording process.
In the spline you can see how the green vectors are representative of the direction and velocity (given by the vector's length).
However we want our AI to sometimes attempt shortcuts, and for this we record play sessions with riskier routes that require better timed jumps and control, as can be seen in the following two examples.
When the game is running, the AI boulder doesn't simply move through the paths we have predefined - these are there as markers which give a hint to the computer of when to jump and what speed to move. With more prerecorded sessions (done by a human player), the AI has more information to help it know how to navigate the level properly. When knocked away, or even when falling off the level, the AI can re-adjust and use this navigation map to properly move through the level, and that result is the animation at the beginning of this post, which I share here again.
The way the boulder evades obstacles is a different system that works in conjunction with this ...but that is a topic we can talk more about in a future blog post. Hope you enjoyed this quick insight into the development of ROA2. Remember this post when you play the game later on and the AI beats you
Hello community! In this second developer post where we look at the changes made to defensive units we'll be evaluating the cow to see how it has transitioned to the new game.
The new design
In the first Rock of Ages, the cow was the 'tier 1' walker unit, grouped with the elephants and the mammoth. In Rock of Ages 2 we got rid of tiers so that every unit has its unique behaviors. So now the cow is no longer linked to any other entity/group.
Actually, the cow has a completely new purpose in Rock of Ages 2. When thinking about the upgraded cow we came up with a new concept: "sticky cows"!
Check out the following video to get an idea of how this mechanic works:
I can't shake them!!
Cows are now grazing indifferent to enemy boulders. If a boulder happens to come in contact with a cow, the cow sticks to the boulder like glue difficulting the boulder's movement. The more cows the boulder runs over the more 'lumps' the boulder has to struggle with.
Hoping PETA doesn't see this...
Cows are an excellent way to obstruct boulders, but they are best combined with other units that will push the rock into the herd.
Placement: Because cows work best in clusters we decided to deploy them in a 3x3 array in groups of 5. This way players are not forced to individually place every cow when trying to cover larger areas. <
Cows are evenly distributed in a 3x3 area.
Note: The sticky mechanic is not persistent. Cows lumps can only resist a limited amount of contacts on the surface before they fall off. Still, getting tagged by a cow will considerably slow down a boulder making it a much easier target for other units.
--- Hope everyone likes our new approach to cows in this new game. Stay tuned for future posts where we'll be looking at other defensive units and their specifics.
Until the next time!
Do you think cows were an effective unit in Rock of Ages 1? Let us know! Don't forget to visit our latest poll where we're hoping to hear your thoughts on unit effectiveness in the first game (Cows are currently ranking in first place as least effective! Ouch!).
I always wanted to make a puppet of a Rock of Ages character, and behold! Here I am sharing the character sheet I used so you can print and make your own too.
Click for the hi-res image (4634x5958, 5.3 MB)
Enjoy dancing Henry below...
1) I printed him on 30 X 40 photo paper, which I found rigid enough to work pretty well. The character sheet is in very good resolution, so you could make a much larger puppet if you wanted to.
2) Then came the most time-consuming step; cutting all the pieces. I included two versions of the head (one with movable eyes and jaw, and one full head) because I knew it might be difficult to cut those tiny eye sockets precisely, so I wanted a backup head in case I messed up.
3) I wasn't sure if I wanted an articulated paper puppet or if I wanted a poseable fridge magnet character, so I ended up making a combination of the two. For the arms and head I glued flat fridge magnets behind the back pieces, and glued little strips of metal to the front pieces. His head falls off occasionally if I am not careful, but since Henry was pretty fond of beheading I think it is appropriate.
4) For the rest of the joints I could have used brads (you know, those tacks/fasteners with two flexible legs?) which would have made an easier to pose and more resistant puppet...
5) ...But I wanted the joints to be invisible, so I made the holes with a needle and connected the pieces with string that is taped to the back of the front pieces and goes through the hole of the back pieces.
Next day I have an urge to do a crafts project I might make a little stop-motion movie... or sculpting stone to make an actual Rock of Ages!... or maybe I should go back to working on the game :)
One of the most unique levels of Rock of Ages were the starting levels that were set in the Greek art period. In ROA2 a few levels will also be set in ancient Greece, but for the sequel we wanted to achieve a more authentic look and feel to the Greek art seen in vases and ornaments of the time.
WIP Greek Level - Rock of Ages 2
The main problem with Greek art is that it is very flat and “2D”, consisting mostly of good use of silhouettes and designs to create an image that is usually monochromatic in color.
In the original Rock of Ages there was a very distinct separation from the foreground and background in our levels, where the “skybox” was using a very illustrated art style, but the main environment was made of more realistic rock textures. The main challenge for us here has been to match the background and main environment using a non-photorealistic rendering style that simulates Greek art.
Greek Level - Rock of Ages 1
A game that excels at doing Greek art is Apotheon (which is awesome and you should check out). But in our case we had to do something similar in 3D. For this we came up with a pretty “old school” technique that used to be implemented in games to try to simulate a cartoon shader.
We basically create geometry with two layers, where the second layer has all the polygons of the base mesh overlapping but inverted (facing inwards) to simulate the stroke effect for the geometry. With a shader we control how much we “push” the reversed polygons based on the distance to the camera so that we can keep the stroke intensity consistent for all the image. The base material is unlit, so basically we have an extremely performance friendly implementation that has the following benefits:
Lightmapping is almost irrelevant (can reduce memory because lightmaps aren't really necessary)
Very basic textures / materials are needed (the effect is given by geometry rather than textures – no normal-mapping, specular textures, etc).
Despite having to double the geometry for the stroke effect, the models themselves are pretty low-poly since you only care about the silhouette of the object.
Here are a few more examples of how the art style is turning out using this technique:
Click to enlarge
So, I hope you guys enjoyed this brief insight about the game development process of Rock of Ages 2. We will have more blog posts like this over time as well as articles about gameplay, mechanics, new features and more. Stay tuned!
Hey Rock of Ages fans! Continuing our development posts, on this occasion we'll be looking at the catapult and inspect what tweaks and changes have been applied to the basic shooter unit.
In the original Rock of Ages, the catapult was perhaps one of the most important defensive units because of its great effectiveness when used in larger clusters and its low cost. We're making sure that these benefits are part of the new design, but we still wanted to do some tinkering.
One of the catapult's limitations was its inability to target boulders outside of its view cone, so we added the possibility for these to rotate left or right so they can still seek for boulders that get past them.
Now those wheels have a purpose!
For best effectiveness players should still try to place catapults facing the boulder path because the rotating action can take a few seconds. Whenever the catapult no longer senses a nearby boulder it will return to its original orientation.
Old vs new
Here's a comparison between the old and the new design. The areas covered with colored cloth will display the player's team color selection.
Original RoA catapult on the left. Bigger and Boulder catapult on the right.
Hope everyone enjoyed this update. We'll continue inspecting many other units in future posts to come, so stay tuned for more updates!
Here are a few more screenshots of the new catapult. Click to enlarge.