Quickie

Exit signs are on the way out!

We’re working on fixing up some odds and ends in preparation for a new gameplay video. Finally you’ll be able to see some uncut gameplay footage and get a real sense of how Signal Ops plays and what to expect in the real thing. We think people will be pleased to see (and hear) some of the improvements we’ve made in the short time since the latest trailer.

We’re happy to say that over 50,000 people have now checked out our Greenlight page, but things have been slowing down a bit lately since the newness of Greenlight has worn off. We would appreciate your help spreading the word to get more votes.

That’s all for now, back to work!

┼╗egnaj!

Thar be the User Interface, Matey!

Today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day. In honour o’ this, we be doin’ a retrospective on the game’s UI as it progressed from the very beginning, as be standin’ now, and a glimpse o’ the future.

 

The Early Days

Way way back in May of 2009 the monitor station had 9 screens. It was crazy. We were crazy. We still are. The HUD consisted of a red cube for an aiming reticle and that was it. It was a simpler time, and one we remember fondly.

 

The Early Days – First Blood Part II

Fast forward a whole year, it is now May 2010. The most obvious change is there are now less monitors. We found that 3 or 4 agents made for the best gameplay. The other big change here is the HUD has been added. The little lines along the top and side of the screen scrolled as you looked around, adding some movement. The agent’s icon is shown in the lower right corner. Another thing you can see here is the dashed green line, representing the range of the radio. Crossing the line will begin to degrade your signal, and going further results in the screen being covered in static.

We also have the Helptron screen on the upper left there. This purpose of this screen is to relay important mission information. The font was fantastically drawn by hand by the programmer, and has won many imaginary awards.

Not shown here is the order-giving interface. Holding down an agent’s button pops his icon into the center of the screen of the agent you are controlling. On the left and right side of the agent icon, smaller icons show what order will be issued when you click the left and right mouse buttons.

 

Now You’re Cooking with Gas!

Here is the interface as it stood in February of 2011. The style is similar to before, but now there is a lot more information displayed. The status of the radio is shown on the Bolt agent’s screen, weapons and ammo are displayed in the bottom left corner. In the upper right corner you see the channel number that the monitor is set to. Using the default keyboard mapping, this also corresponds to the key you press to control or issue orders to the agent. Helptron is looking better with a new font. The glowing border around the currently controlled agent started eating a lot around this time and gained some weight. We put it on a vigorous exercise regimen and sugar pill diet.

The screenshot on the right is a few weeks later. We’ve added waypoint indicators at the top of the screen for important things like the radio and your agents.

 

Ain’t Easy Being Green

March 2012. Here you can see the agent icons in the HUD have been replaced with “sticky notes”. We like this physical representation of information. You can toggle the mouse cursor on and drag-and-drop these sticky notes to swap agents around from one monitor to another. The monitor artwork has been redone and you can also see the circular progress indicator on the left monitor. This displays when you are performing a task like picking a lock, and also goes in reverse direction while you are waiting to call in a reinforcement for a fallen agent.

We’re getting close to what we think will be the final look for the user interface, but there is a problem. Late in 2011 we revealed the game with an announcement trailer and got lots of attention on sites like Rock, Paper, Shotgun, PC Gamer, and Kotaku. We noticed that the HUD was one of the things people had issues with, and to our knowledge no one ever complemented it. Too green, too intrusive, too obnoxiously drunk all the time. Something had to be done!

 

Kickflip to the Rescue!

After progressively adding more and more information and icons into the HUD, it was looking really cluttered. We wanted to go back to simpler times and have a cleaner viewport, but still provide all that delicious information to the player.

We are moving ahead with taking the HUD in a more minimalist direction, and instead building that information into the frame of the monitors. The frames were a bit of a waste of space before, but now they serve as the deliverer of juicy information in a style inspired by those flip-style clocks made in the 60s. This makes the UI less flashy and distracting, while pushing forward that physical representation jive we were grooving to with the introduction of the sticky notes.

We also tweaked the colours to be a less green shade of green, and added support for the player to change the colour incase they really hate green in all its forms.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the new design, just drop us a comment down at the bottom there!

 

The Future, and Beyond

We’re getting close to the finish line now, and it doesn’t look like there will be another major overhaul of the monitors. You never know what could happen, though. We might just go bananas.

Word Up

Today is International Literacy Day. That means you should go learn how to read, then come back and read this update. Yeah, there are some pretty moving pictures and sounds to delight the ears, but come on, read it.

Speaking of reading, it’s been an exciting week for sure reading a lot of people’s reactions to seeing Signal Ops. Since posting Signal Ops up on Steam Greenlight, over 40,000 people have had a look, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Mysterious percentage-wise, we are sitting at 3%, which doesn’t sound like much, but actually nestles us up in the top 50 Greenlight projects.

This past week we’ve been working on the Parade level that is featured in our new trailer. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out now:

Some other new additions you can see in the trailer are:
- the pretty new “hand” cursor that is used to interact with the clipboard and swap monitors around
- the field of view (zoom) smoothly transitions when switching in and out of ironsights
- wheels on vehicles now spin, suspension of disbelief is restored!
- the direction of particle effects like sparks and blood are fixed, they were facing the wrong way before (editor’s note: this was actually fixed after the trailer footage was recorded)

One of the things you won’t notice in the trailer is that the game is much more stable now. We’ve been working hard squishing all the annoying little bugs to get the game ready for the next testing run.

If you listened carefully, you might have also noticed some new audio filters on the agents’ voices.
We wanted a distinctive radio transmission effect that will not only add some character to the game, but also lets you differentiate between an agent you are controlling vs. one you are not, and one that is in range vs. one that is out of range.

The first clip is an agent you are directly controlling and has good signal:

The second clip is an agent you are not controlling and is out of range:

Anyways, we hope you used your ears to read those. Get well soon.

Light green with envy!

Hello, fellow (or Madam).

We require your assistance in transferring 8 million banana peels out of the Zimbabwe Zoo. Just send us all your bank details and original IDs and we’ll have those flies fed in no time.
You may have heard about Steam’s new Greenlight feature. It allows people to vote on which games they would like to see for sale on Steam.
Well, you probably already guessed, but we’d like to have our game for sale on Steam, and we need your help.

If you’re on Steam, then have a click on this link here:

Signal Ops on Steam Greenlight

Give us a big old thumbs up, yo!
Thanks!

A Parade in your Honour!

Yeah, that’s how we spell honor up in Canada-land.

“Gimme more updates, I need em to live!”, and we hear you loud and clear. Over.

This is the part where you say something.

Must be on the wrong frequency.

We’re hard at work on another level, and preparing a new trailer for you to glare into deeply, like a crystal ball that tells you the future. It will be like in the future when you get Signal Ops and are playing it!

Well, we can’t really tease you without giving a taste of what’s to come, so here’s a little bite for you.

Keep your eyes peeled for the trailer and other exciting news, coming in less than a week!

None of Us is as Smart as All of Me

A wise man once said that the path to greatness is with others. You employ this methodology in Signal Ops. Well… except you’re sort of not really there with the them… and they’re kind of the ones risking their lives while you are safely back at headquarters… but other than that, exactly the same!

One of the things we’ve been working on this past week is the squad selection and load-out screen. Originally we had planned to predefine which agents you control in each mission, but then we saw the light! “Why not give some choice in the selection of agents?”, we posited. As you progress through the game, the composition of your squad will become more flexible. Just then, a gnome who lives in the bushes outside the window chimed in, “Why stop there?”. We took the little guy’s advice and added the ability to pick which weapons your agents will start the mission with.

You customize your squad using the clipboard interface. Just click around on there and BAM!, stuff happens. You never realized how awesome you are at clicking stuff until this moment. Really, give yourself a pat on the back. You got a gift.

Agent selection with the clipboard interface.

- Space Bullet Department of Options Exploration and Exploitation

In Sickness and in Stealth

Half of the development team is sick!

What is it? The plague? We can’t know for sure, but the area has been quarantined.

On the technical front we added a big feature to our export process. We need to use texture atlases (that’s when you pack a bunch of textures into one big one) for performance reasons, but that makes it difficult to use for tiling textures such as those used on the ground or walls. The solution was to build an extra step into our exporter that automatically slices up the geometry into nice tile-sized pieces and maps the small part we want out of the big atlas texture onto them. With much bemoaning and lamentation on the part of the programmer, the new feature was implementing and there was much rejoicing on the part of the artist.

Looking back on the past week, suspicion is growing that all the hard work put into this new technical marvel is one of the root causes of the sickness. The other theory is zombism. In any case, if you see us growing extra arms or eating brains, just toss a match on the big pool of gasoline and we’ll snuff it. Well, that or lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

For richer or poorer,

- Space Bullet Illness Absorbing Department

Saturday Morning Kaboom

Demo!

What, a playable Demo? No, not that kind of Demo. We’re talking about another one of the agents you’ll have the privilege of commanding in Signal Ops.

You could say he’s a real blast to play. Demo is an explosives specialist who prefers his bullets with a submachine gun flavour. He salvages materials from weapons and turns them into explosive traps that are triggered by being bumped into or shot. With more materials the bomb can be upgraded with a proximity detonator or even attract nearby enemies to investigate. Demo can also booby trap doors so they will explode when tampered with. Use caution though, explosions tend to make a lot of noise.

Careful now, cause these explosives ain’t not no toy! You’ll shoot your face out!

Check it out, it’s like a screenshot, but it moves:

The Friggatriskaidekaphobia Update

Just over an hour to go. Looks like we’ve made it through another Friday the 13th (knock on tree-flesh). We’ve got the guard dog on lookout for chainsaw-wielding madmen and other imaginary things.

It’s been a bit quiet over here lately. We’ve been working on some under-the-hood technical things such as swapping levels in and out so you can actually progress from one level to the next seamlessly, improving load times, and tracking down bugs.

Another thing we have cooking is the last level of the game. It’s an awesome level where REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED start off REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED an amazing REDACTED REDACTED and then the thrilling conclusion where REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED gigantic REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED and REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED as many REDACTED REDACTED, who knows? Most importantly, REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED.

One thing’s for sure, we’re sure you’ll love it.

He Can Take a Hit

You’re a loose cannon, Genericowski. You’re off the case, turn in your shield and your weapon.

In Signal Ops, the Shield agent is a combat specialist. Skilled with almost all weapons and able to survive more hits, he is the agent most suitable for direct confrontation. Using the blast shield he is able to withstand direct fire and act as mobile cover. Expecting some heavy resistance? Shield is the agent you want on point. Even when using a weapon, the blast shield on his back can provide protection from the rear.

Recently we’ve been hard at work on the bombs that another one of your agents uses, but you’ll have to wait to hear all about that. Shhh!

Well that’s all, go clean out your locker!