Internal Playtesting Starts Dev Update #24
A lethal virus has infected Treasure Island,San Francisco. It is up to Captain Winter, a U.S. Army soldier working with the Center for Epidemic Research and Control (CERC), to stop the mysterious and deadly Pangu Virus from spreading to the mainland. The Cepheus Protocol is an independently developed top-down RTS inspired by XCOM, Company of Heroes, and Parasite Eve.
In Cepheus Protocol, you will make decisions that will force civilians to either rally behind you or attack you outright. How you decide to combat the virus is entirely up to you. You can fire bombs and leave no trace of human life behind or you can try and save everyone at the cost of your squad’s safety. The game features a full day and night cycle and will adapt over time to make the Infected more dangerous as the days progress. The Infected will mutate and adapt to the player, creating a challenge at every turn.
You will control fully customizable teams that you will send into the infection zones to do CEDA Missions, help civilians, or just seek out Patient 0 . You will lose men if your arent careful and be forced to train and recruit from your player base. Each solider will be unique to a point with randomly generated traits and skills allowing you to tailor them with specific tactics.
You will have to use all the tools in your arsenal and research the plague to discover its origins. You will use your knowledge to cure it to stop the virus before it causes everything to spiral out of control. You will hunt Patient 0, a unique carrier with special abilities that gets stronger as the days progress. You will be confronting and fighting her over a span of main missions and side objectives riddled across the island.
Internal Playtesting Begins
I think it goes without saying that Indie Game Development is hard grueling work, it’s certainly not for everyone. Every aspect has to be planned out and hand crafted to ensure for consistency, But in the end when it all comes together is when It all really starts to shine, the level of collaboration the accomplishment and having something you made its priceless.
Over the past 2 months we’ve worked internally after burning through a few deadlines to get our build in a fully playable state. For the most part we succeeded and in doing so set the path towards weekly “sprints” where the development team started to engage in large scale development/meetings 2 days out of the week. We’ve accomplished significant strides in the core gameplay loop, but in the process we also discovered area’s where we were falling short logistically and Game design wise. It’s an important aspect of game design, self-reflection and ensuring what you’re making is actually fun and your approaching it in the most effective manner.
With every coming week, our builds have gotten far better and with the greater levels of collaboration across the team it only stands to improve as we work closer and closer to our internal dates. We’ve seen a huge interest in applicants wanting to join the team from level designers to Voice actors. So this Friday, I’m taking the time to put in a huge blog update on where we are currently and where we need to go before we’ll even consider a closed QA testing session.
I’m sorry did you think that was a good idea? Think again.
Hospital Game Opening/ Diegetic Interface Design and core gameplay evolving over time!
The opening mission, we spent a lot of time behind closed meeting discussing this zone and the level designers that were involved in short, it just didn’t have the level of detail we wanted from the zone and level pacing after playing through it several times. Short story we torched the section to the ground after learning more about how our systems were coming together and how to effectively communicate that in the first mission. So Chris our writer and Game Designer put together a briefing packet for the next version. For the time being this mission is on hiatus as its redesigned and retooled following the reevaluation of the game’s opening mission.
Shortly after being put on hiatus, roughly 2 weeks after the level designers finished the major sections of the levels allowing us to switch over Davis to combat this zone.
Elevation and its role in RTS Games
Initially based on the amount of AI we wanted in levels early in the first playtests we realized how expensive it might turn out and well not fruitful at all to keep any of our varying heights for the larger mountains/hill regions. In early playtests it was extremely buggy, unfun and the sight based line of sight system would have required a major revamp to support making sure AI can actually know when you pitch their heads up and down slightly for different elevations. In future zones we’ll experiment with this more, but it was a bit out of our scope and based on doing research on RTS games and comparing and contrasting between our level design, the level of steepness and general elevation changes were a recipe for disaster. Not to mention adding dynamic systems like this would have affected the max amount of infected we could spawn and bring that targeted 40-60 down to a much lower number for lower end systems.
So we cut our losses, we flattened out the zone, talked about it over several long meetings and situated a new plan for how gameplay would operate in those starting zones. From here we did a basic blockouts then passed it over to the concept artist division for a few paint overs and finally settled on a layout we felt fit the gameplay and look we wanted.
What Worked…? At least for the most part…
Core Combat is fun
We noticed that running around the island, the moment you step off the base it turns into another sort of game all together in essence a tactical shooter with its emphasis on clearing out city blocks, trying to rescue civilians trapped in their homes or roofs. To be honest watching these systems come to life from a game design doc we wrote 7 months ago was inspiring. In these early builds we are only focusing on side missions, ensuring they are fun and helping us flesh out the core gameplay here and there plus just balance adjustments. But we’re certainly not going to let this be enough, over the next week sprint we’ll double down on the quality of these missions, get VO done for them and ensure they are fun and a good splash of randomness to keep the player entertained and funded between the primary missions.
From playing the build we realized also the build we had cobbled together just wasn’t cutting it. It lead to a lot of confusion from non-programmers playing the builds and we put together a plan to rehash and cleanup the UI so it properly conveyed all the gameplay mechanics and features of the game. Right now we’re prototyping with a HUD like this, it should be finalized over the next few days and then we’ll have a paint over session by our concept artists for the final version.
Live Rendered Main Menu Sequences
After one of our Cutscenes guys had to drop out over the last month due to time availability I took over the Cutscenes with the help of the animators and worked to get concepts and proof of concepts situated. Over the course of several days, I wrangled together the animators and got this basic blockouts situated from an animation standpoint. As the weeks go on level layout, lighting and final texturing will be adjusted and prioritized.
Character Customization and Civilian Spawners
In all we got a robust system modeled, animated and skinned plus with my coding implementation for an easily added to clothes/armor pool for adding new variants.
We setup dynamic systems that populate the city based on the day and varies them across the zone filing in civilians and infected alike. As the days progress in game we work to slowly tick up the infection rates and enabling our civilian barricade system that allows neutral AI to hold up and fortify city blocks and neighboring zones. Through this system randomly spawns holdouts of civilians each play through providing unique challenges. In the early play-tests you would come across civilians either fleeing from infected or welcoming you with dialogue. If your reputation was low they would run away from your units fearing for their lives.
Currently we are seeking talented individuals in the following roles. It should be noted the project is post launch compensation and we are incredibly willing to work with any individuals schedule that might be interested. Feel free to send me an example at with your reel.portfolio and/or website.
- 3DMax Animators
- Prop Modeling
- Level Designers
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Discord Server
We started a Discord! Join it and support the game we’re still turning on the lights so it will be more filled in over the next few days!