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A look into what has happened with In Vivo this week. As the game nears release, the last bits of content are put into the game, bugs are fixed, and level design consumes my life.

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The game is now at the point where the only difference between the final commercial release and the demo that will accompany it is the content. I’ve spent the early parts of this week working on finishing up the last of the sound effects and various bug fixes, and the later parts on level design. Since I’m working on polishing up the final demo for release, there will be no beta update this week. I wanted to put the demo out today, but I wasn’t able to complete everything in time. Without further ado, here’s the nitty-gritty details on what’s happened in In Vivo this week.

Hitting those hundred percents

My checklist of things to do for this game is getting very small. This week, sound finally got its 100% completion check mark. Every sound effect that is planned to go into the game, is in the game, and is properly triggering. There may be changes, for instance I was considering adding in different alien noises for different types of alarms, and those sounds are in the game currently, but one class of those sounds is only used in cutscenes. I still consider these to be 100% complete, since the game can ship without the changes, and they aren’t adding anything new to the game. The introductory cutscenes are all finished, with the sounds loaded into them, and the only changes to be made there are dependent on the map being finished to ensure the aliens continue to path correctly. All said, there’s not a whole lot left to add besides the level content.

The psionics lab, part of the new content that has to be added still. Ignore the blood trail, I just forgot to wire up the door.

The psionics lab, part of the new content that has to be added still. Ignore the blood trail, I just forgot to wire up the door.

The background music for the game was finished a while ago, but in writing out the planned end-game cutscenes I thought about potentially recording an additional song to play during that as well. In my head it will be every bit as good and catchy as the portal song, but I know that won’t be the case in reality. I may give it a go if I have extra time, but it’s considered non-essential, and hitting that March 12th release date is more important. As the project slowly heads toward its close, I’m also trying to take stock of what went right and what didn’t, and I’m really not fond of how I left the level design until the very end. More details on that decision and why I now hate it will be available in the post mortem that will follow the release.

A bug in every garage

The sound was a big win for me, since this is the first time I’ve ever made a game that had a complete score and set of sound effects. It’s not that I’ve not made well-polished games in the past, but I rarely listen to a game’s audio, so it’s never been a priority for me. After finishing the sound effects, I decided to tackle my last few remaining bugs and usability updates. It’s amazing how I managed to get the game this far without having an interface that was equipped with usability standards that were established over 20 years. Finally, the game makes continue the default option when you have a saved game, and you can exit to the main menu from within the game’s pause menu. Those were both easy fixes, and I have no idea why I waited so long to do them.

This shouldn't have to be a screenshot, I'm a little embarrassed it took this long.

This shouldn’t have to be a screenshot, I’m a little embarrassed it took this long.

The game isn’t quite free of all known defects, an issue I hope to correct before launch. The aliens still let the player run past in certain circumstances, and their ability to search for the player causes some severe latency if their range isn’t kept small. The left and right arrow keys don’t work when navigating the menus, and the contextual key replacement doesn’t put in the icons for the controller buttons if you have one plugged in. These are all small issues that I wouldn’t delay the release for, but the list has grown quite small and I’m pretty happy with the overall level of quality at this point.

Finding a place for everything

At this point, the only thing standing between now and the final release of the game is the map. There are a few cutscenes for the ending that still have to be actually scripted out, but I can’t do that just yet because I don’t know the exact layout of the area where that ending scene will take place. Designing the level for this game is actually much more difficult than I originally thought it would be. When I made the original 48-hour game jam entry that inspired this game, the level was crammed in at the last minute and it didn’t take me very long to throw together. I thought that making a map 4x that area would simply take 4x as long. If I hadn’t added so many features, that may have been true, but it’s nowhere near the case now.

The telekinesis lab, the other of the two laboratories in the neurology department. This time I made it there without setting off the alarm. Progress!

The telekinesis lab, the other of the two laboratories in the neurology department. This time I made it there without setting off the alarm. Progress!

I want the game to be flexible. If a player can think up a way to use the tools in the game to achieve something, I don’t want to block that with arbitrary restrictions. There are keys to every door that blocks an upgrade, but those are all tied to the power grid somehow, or have a grate that you can use to bypass the door. If you go out of order and get the teleportation upgrade early, you can skip a majority of the puzzles by just teleporting through the laser grids. I’m designing the level to have a primary intended path, but I want to make sure I don’t limit the game to just that path. With all of these factors, and the addition of things like the power grid, proper lighting and the alien presence, there’s a lot that goes into each room. I spent a good few hours trying to flesh out the neurology lab, and while I’m pretty pleased with how it has turned out, it took me much longer than I anticipated.

I’ve decided to take the initial map that was in the game jam version of the game and clean it up for the game’s demo. This will mean that the demo will have a completely different and unrelated map from the real game. Part of me likes this idea, as it means that even if you play the demo, the game will be a fresh experience for you. Part of me worries that people will feel slighted if they don’t get the demo map in the real game, or that the demo level will be of higher quality and dissuade people from buying the full version. I’m trying to put all of that aside and worry about actually finishing both levels and getting the game to a good state, but it’s hard to do. At this point I’m pretty pleased with all of the level work I’ve done so far, so hopefully a full focus on that in the coming week will put those fears to rest.

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