No, you’re not Going Crazy

We’ve renumbered the episodes for an upcoming site redesign - we realized that it might make more sense to people if the first episode we released was Episode 1, not 0. Many updates and shared links have been retroactively changed to reflect the new numbering.

Puzzle Ptuesday: Time’s (Almost) Up!

I’m late! I’m late for a very important (up)date!

We have been busy playtesting Episode 4’s game and finding ways to make the gameplay more clear. One of the ways we did this is by hiding the other keys that don’t need to be pressed - we found that the game was already challenging enough without the extra keys floating around to obscure the keys that need to be pressed.

Additionally, more of the art has been integrated, which not only makes the game look awesome, but it also gives the player a lot more feedback about what’s happening.

Chez made the time tunnel between levels look good! We’re also highlighting the goal object more clearly on this screen, and letting players decide when they’re ready to start the level. (The art for the buttons and text is temporary)

We’ve also added some in-game text to help teach the player how to play the game. Here’s a screenshot of one of the early levels:

Not EVERY screen will have this text, but we made sure to teach the player everything he/she needs to know in order to play the game.

Another problem players were having was that they weren’t sure how, why, or even IF they were failing. So, we stepped up the feedback to be absolutely clear. Now, not only will the screen will flash to red, but it will also explain what went wrong so the player can try to avoid that mistake in the future.

The remaining work to be done some level tweaking, bug fixing, and last second polish to make the game as solid as possible before we launch.

Tick tock!

Time Loop Chicken Polka - audio update

Happy post-turkey day, everyone!  As we are nearing the wrap-up period of production on Episode 4, it’s time for another audio update.

It feels rather appropriate for me to do a post after a poultry enhanced holiday, as a similar feathered creature was a main part of this episode… of course, I refer to the time travelling chicken. The winning community submission for the ‘sound of time travel’ was very enjoyable, and we did our best to blend the rest of the audio sound scape to match that feel.  In addition to time travel empowered poultry, we got to play with clunky gears, electrical storm portals, dropped “swiss army marbles”, falls, breaks, and dramatic music. 

One day I came across a ticking stopwatch sound sample. It felt like something that might work for the base of a game music track so I started mixing in some bass, tuba, accordion, and our chicken friend.  We ended up going a different route with game music, more techno and faster paced, though the “Time Loop Chicken Polka” still lives on in the Episode 4 credits sequence. Want a sneak preview? Click the link to check it out!

Puzzle Ptuesday: Pturkey Day

Something smells… fowl.

Just a short update this week (we have a short week here at the studio for Thanksgiving) - the animation for Episode 4 is completely finished! All attention is now on the game, and the current focus is to make it look as nice as possible.

One of the issues we’ve been running into during playtests is that players are initially having a hard time understanding what the goal of the game is. The game is actually pretty simple, but we need to better communicate the rules up front. The other feedback we’ve been getting is that there needs to be more feedback within the game - some people aren’t sure if they’re winning or losing (which is bad!), so a lot of the art treatment and audio treatment is geared towards giving the player a sense of whats happening in the game.

That’s all I have for… oh! I almost forgot. A few of us on the team are still participating in Movember, and we have some new photos for you.

I’m not doing it right. Everything BUT my mustache has grown.

Matt is looking goooood.

Mike T has won at mustache.

Okay, NOW I’m done. We’ll see you after the holiday!

Hello Puzzle Clubhouse community!

If you’ve been eagerly waiting for another glimpse into the art world of Puzzle Clubhouse, then wait no more!

For Episode 4, the game called for various characters.  Each character had two restrictions- they could be no larger than 150 pixels in width, and their hands must lay at relative positions.  Fortunately, this wasn’t as challenging as I had predicted, but it still brought some issues in posing characters.  The video runs through my process of each character, so check it out!

Puzzle Ptuesday: Game Changer

Hello friends!

The team is wrestling with some larger questions about the future of Puzzle Clubhouse, but work on Episode 4 continues!

We’ve finished the game prototype that’s more aligned with the original winning design - you can play it here! 

The goal is to press the two adjacent keys, forming a chain to grab the goal object(s) at the very end. Pressing the wrong keys or not pressing any keys when you need to will trigger a failure, causing the level set to reset. We have four levels increasing in difficulty.

After playing it for a bit, we had some discussions about how to improve it and where to take it from here. Here’s some of what came out of our meeting:

Current Issues:

  • Lack of triangularity - the game currently has no risk vs. reward in it, which is common to a lot of rhythm games. This is sort of an additional thing that would be nice to have, but probably wont make its way in.
  • Right now, this game requires you to look at the keyboard most of the time - Unless you’re a superstar typist, you’ll need to fairly often look at the keyboard for the key combinations.
  • The keys that you press should be close together - right now they seem random and difficult to press. This can be ironed out fairly easily.
  • Time changes are too slow - the right pace for the game will become apparent through playtesting.

Next Steps:

  • Add the ability to make longer chains of characters. (Can reuse characters so there are duplicates of Jasper, Cornelius, etc.) Currently the game only supports 11 total, want more.
  • Press spacebar to “engage” time machine - do we want to use three keys?
  • Levels can be made up of smaller mini-chains; Completing part of the level will poof out the characters, clearing the board for the next group.
  • Have a time machine that flies across - represents accuracy, like most rhythm games
  • Time period should last fewer than 3 seconds — maybe 1.5 seconds. This will be variable based on the difficulty of the levels (earlier levels = longer)

That’s about all we have time for this week - we’ll check back with our progress soon!

Toodles!

Nov 8

The Clock is Animaticking!

Hello!

This is my first blog post here, so I’ll  start things off with a (brief) introduction. My name is Patrick, and I’m a designer for Puzzle Clubhouse. I work closely with Dave and Laura to do the Episode writing, documentation, and game designs for the episodes.

But this blog entry is going to be all about animatics, and how we get from a hastily written script to Chez’ final animation!

Part 1: Planning the Community Submissions

Even though we release an episode a month, we actually start planning for an episode 6 weeks before its release date. By T-4 weeks we need to be writing the script, so any community submissions that determine the “what happens” part of the episode need to be done by then.

Part 2: Writing the Script

By the time 4 weeks from release rolls around, we need to have the script pretty much thought out. Dave and I have 2-3 days to write the first draft. It’s pretty intense, because we’re also still finishing up the previous episode! The lines are numbered to make it easier to identify dialog and lay it into the animatic quickly.

Part 3: Storyboarding:

As soon as we get a workable version of the script, it’s passed off to me to storyboard. Each episode has between 80 - 120 panels, churned out over the course of a day and a half. Storyboards let us rough out the camera angles, cuts, and rough posing for the characters in a quick and disposable way. The script is usually revised and changed even as the storyboards are being made- so it’s important that no one panel take long to draw. (My personal goal is that no storyboard panel should take more than a few minutes to draw).

At this point, Brittany takes the storyboards and begins making the real art assets for the episode, and Chez develops any new characters.

Part 4: Animatics- Revisions, Revisions, Revisions!

While the storyboards are being made, Dani is reading through the script and sifting around for the appropriate sound effects, and Dave gets “scratch” (temporary) recordings of all the lines of dialog in the episode. (Fun fact: Usually before Jasper and Cornelius’ voice actors are even shown the script, the whole animatic is made using Dave’s voice for every part.)

It takes about a day to throw together all the storyboards, sound effects, and dialog into the first animatic! Then it’s shown to everyone, critique is given- and it’s back to the drawing board again- often literally. There are typically between 4 and 6 revisions of an episode animatic made, and all within about a week. During that time somewhere between a tenth to a fifth of all the storyboards are tweaked or redrawn to reflect the new changes (Which is why it’s so important that they be quick to make!).

Part 5: Blocking and Beyond!

Because Puzzle Clubhouse is made so quickly- the animatic is often changed slightly after it goes to blocking. The latest revision to date is given to Chez (our Animator) to block, and another copy to Bonnie (our awesome sound person!) to make everything sound like it wasn’t thrown together in Premiere over the course of four hours.

Then the episode is fully into production, and I shift focus to helping Dave out with the game development! Tweaks to the animatic, blocking, and sound continue to be made throughout the whole process, and the week after we’re already working on the next episode!

And that’s pretty much how we cobble everything together. Feel free to ask any questions!

Nov 6

Puzzle Ptuesday: How Time Flies!

Current Voting:
Anne Tagonist 

Current Submissions:
Chews Your Own Adventure! 

Current Brainstorms:
Laz0r Frogz - The Next Generation
Movemeber Madness!

You know what they say: “Time flies when you’re having fun…” or working so hard you can’t stop to think! This past week really has been a whirlwind! It feels like just yesterday when we were writing our last Ptuesday update, so I’ll try my best to get you guys caught up!

Let’s see, what has happened…

We released Episode 3: May The Horse Be With You! with special guest Anthony Daniels (some of you might remember him as C-3P0 from  Stars Wars®). This is our spo0o0okiest episode to date so make sure to check it out and let us know what you think!

To celebrate the release of this episode, we are hosting a sweepstakes for the chance to win one of ten signed C-3P0 figurines! For more information on the sweepstakes, click here!

We barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief that Episode 3 was complete because we were all already knee-deep in Episode 4 production. We’re trying to keep things short this time around, since we felt that our last episode really pushed the upper limits of what we can accomplish in our short production timeline. Our goal was to keep the animated segment under 3 minutes and keep the art/animation assets to a minimum (giving Chez and Brittany a chance to catch up). For the most part, we’re doing really well! Brittany is pretty much all done with episode art and has now moved on to game art, which keeps us right on schedule! Chez has finished with the blocking in record time and right now the episode clocks in at about 2:10 min! Wowzah! Today he worked on some special effects for the time bubble that Jasper and Cornelius find themselves stuck in. Check it out! (Click to watch the animation)



All in all, the animated part of the episode is really shaping up and we’re hoping to have final animation done around the end of the week!

Some of the bigger complications we are facing this time around is with the game. To refresh your memory, here’s the winning game idea for this episode:

When their respective keys are held down, [J]asper and [C]ornelius hold onto a time-machine object while looped backdrops in time phase in and out. Play twister with your fingers to hold onto strandees like [Z]ed and [P]am, chaining up the monkeys or scientists to bring them back to the present day.

We came up with a game design based on this idea that, in retrospect, was probably too complicated and ended up veering away from the original submission. After some really good conversations that came up on the  forums we decided to rethink the way we were approaching this game. We decided to modify the game so it more closely resembled the original game idea, while still incorporating the community submitted content that we had collected for the game.

This situation brought up the bigger issue of our game development process. Are we cutting it too close? Should we be expanding our time line to create games? Unfortunately, with our current production cycle, we don’t have a lot of time to prototype and test our designs before they need to go into full on development and art/audio integration. We’ll be having a meeting later this week to discuss our current cycle and see how we can make it better and how we can get YOU more involved throughout the whole process!

Stay tuned PCH fans and as always thank you for your feedback and your patience as we work out the kinks and try to make this the best experience we can!

Phew…and now time for dinner… :)

Phew!

Hey everyone!

   Animation for episode 3 is now done! This one was a doozy, and I ended up coming in with the finished animation pretty late in the cycle. That was kind of the plan too, as this was a special episode for us, and we wanted to put in a good bit of TLC to get it just right. We got all three user-submitted rooms introduced. We also got in all the decorations for the house, and all the fish silhouettes for the aquarium! And, of course, there was our special guest star! I think this episode turned out really well, and I can’t wait for you all to see it!

   I took after Brittany and did a screencast of some of my animation process. It starts off with me finishing off Jasper and Cornelius’s facial acting and lipsync for scene 2. Then you get to see me add all the fish, the squid, and some watery type effects to the aquarium. Enjoy!

-Chez

Puzzle Ptuesday: Thyme Travel

Current Submissions:
Anne Tagonist 

Current Votes:
Howl do I sound?
Oh! The Places You’ll Go!


Spicy!

With Episode 3 finally in the can, we are all looking to the future! And the past. And everything in between. Since this episode is fairly Halloween…ey, keep an eye on the site tomorrow for something terrifying.

Patrick has finished most of the storyboarding (and animatic) for Episode 4 - take a look at the beginning of Episode 4!

CORNELIUS: “Ah, here we are!”


CORNELIUS: “By any chance, do you have experience with… time travel?”

JASPER: “Okay, sleepwalking gnomes I’ll believe, but time travel is nothing but science fict-”


JASPER: “… Whoa.”


Jasper and Cornelius looking at themselves in some sort of time loop.



Moving in closer for a better look at the time machine.



ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY TIME CHICKEN.



Speaking of which, Brittany has finished some early passes of both the Time Machine and our favorite trans-temporal poultry.

Now THAT’s a time machine.



Look at those birds!


HE CAN SEE FOREVER.



Meanwhile, Matt and I are working on the Episode 4 game - we have some very early (ugly) screenshots for you to take a look at:

This game is all about jumping through time, trying to solve puzzles.

You can pick up various things/people from one time period…


and take them to another, which is needed for creating new objects in the present (or future).



As you can see, none of the art is implemented, but we have the working prototype ready to go, so we’re busy at work making some interesting puzzles for all y’all.

That’s all for this Ptuesday! Chez will be sharing some sweet animation stuff tomorrow, so watch out for that!

See you next time!