Development Retrospective and Plan

Hello everyone, I have reflected on the development of Powderkeg Pals during the UE4Jam and on the playtesting that I've been participating in. I have had a great time working on and playtesting the game and I would like to continue development and ultimately launch Powderkeg Pals! 

I found the UE4Jam community so welcoming and encouraging and I found that I genuinely had fun playtesting the game with my friends and family. Everyone was having a good time with the game and I can see the potential of Powderkeg Pals becoming a game that my friends/family would hang around the TV playing! Upon reflection, it was these two factors that motivate me to continue development.

After this reflection I wanted to draft a high-level project plan to solidify my objectives and plan to launch the game. The purpose of the devlog is to highlight the key points of the project plan.

1. Project Goal

Powderkeg Pals is very much a personal passion project. Personally, I am motivated by the game development community, my local community of friends/family who I often play games with, and by the creative expression that game development offers me. For me, the goal of the project is to satisfy my need for creative expression, to participate in the game development community and my local gaming community, and to offer players a fun experience they can share with friends/family.

I have no financial objectives with Powderkeg Pals. I am planning on spending minimal money on assets and not planning on engaging contractors or developers to complete the project. I believe that introducing financial objectives will compromise my primary objectives and inhibit the personal satisfaction I gain from Powderkeg Pals.

2. UE4 Jam Retrospective

Powderkeg Pals was prototyped during the UE4 Spring 2018 Jam and through the development process and playtesting the initial prototype I have learned a lot about the game and game development process. My key takeaways are:

  • The UE4Jam online community was awesome! I started using twitter for the purposes of the jam and found the online community to be welcoming and encouraging!
  • The multi-player game mode is actually fun. I had a blast playing with friends and family and I can definitely see the potential for a fun, local multiplayer experience. The single player levels need some work.
  • I really enjoyed working on the game throughout the weekend and enjoyed talking about alternate game modes/features with the playtesters. Having a prototype that people can play is very motivating, even if it has many bugs.

Based on feedback, and from observing playtesters, I have summarized some of the positive and negative elements of the current prototype.

The Good

  • Simple controls were good. I was able to playtest with my partner, friends and parents who don't typically play video games
  • Multiplayer actually fun and has some depth to the gameplay. Using kegs to projectile other kegs added some strategy as seen in the video below
  • Synty Studio's POLYGON assets fit with the light hearted theme of Powderkeg Pals
  • Players with puzzle game experience tended to understand the tutorials and cleared all 3 levels relatively easily

The Bad

  • Some players struggled with the 2nd and 3rd level single player level. The tutorial text was not clear enough to guide them through the level
  • Limited depth in multiplayer. With more experienced playtesters, 1v1 matches devolve into competition of who is more accurate with the projectile keg technique

3. Scope

I am working on Powderkeg Pals by myself and as a side project. I have limited resources and time to allocate to the project. I wanted to scope out what would be included and excluded from the game to ensure that I can complete the project in a reasonable time.

In scope

  • GUI/UI elements developed in a style to match a) Powderkeg Pals theme and b) Synty Stuio's POLYGON assets
  • Level select/character select screen
  • A few (<5) local multiplayer versus game modes/maps
    • Additional mechanics will be explored (e.g. pickups, moving platforms)
  • Gamepad and keyboard support, including steam controller
  • Story mode with several (<10) levels
    • Additional mechanics will be explored (e.g. trap doors, switches, moving platforms)
    • Single player

Out of scope

  • Development of custom animations and meshes. Synty Studio's POLYGON assets pack and UE4 marketplace animation assets
  • Development of custom sounds, music, fonts. Existing assets will be acquired for use in the game. May result is style misalignment
  • AI players in multiplayer
  • Graphics or control settings. Controls are quite simple and are unlikely to require configuration
  • Online multiplayer

4. Plan

Before diving into development I wanted to scope out the process and activities that I'm going to work on as part of the project. I wanted to focus my efforts and also have a plan to act as a map so that I can track my progress.

There are some initial development steps I would like to take before starting more feature development.

  1. Refactor single player mode functionality and develop modules to manage: dialogue popups, sequence trigger volumes, game completion conditions/volumes [June]
  2. Develop game cover image. I would like a single image with the game's title that embodies the chaotic, light-hearted spirit of the game. Will eventually be the title screen and cover [June]

Single player development activities can be executed in parallel with the multi-player development activities. I am going to progress them in parallel because I anticipate sharing blueprints between the two development streams.

  1. Develop story boards for the single player game mode [June]
  2. Split up story into a series of levels, develop description and objectives for each level, spec out level elements [June]
  3. For each level - design level, implement, playtest, refine [September]
  4. Add cinematic sequences and dialogue to story levels [November]

Multi player development plan

  1. Brainstorm multi-player mechanics/modes, prioritize most desirable mechanics [June]
  2. Prototype mechanics (quick and dirty), playtest [August]
  3. Do once: return to step 1. I want to limit the amount of iteration on core mechanics [November]
  4. Refactor prototype mechanics and robustification [October]

Final features

  1. Level select and character select menu UX [November]
  2. Level select and character select menu implementation [December]
  3. Launch on steam platform [February]

5. Conclusion

If you are interested in following the development of Powderkeg Pals I will be posting updates to this devlog and on my Twitter account @FuriousFromage. Follow this page or my twitter account for updates on development!

If you are interested in being involved as a regular playtester or have strong opinions about the direction of the game send me a message on Twitter or on I would love to hear from you!


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