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InkToPixels

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A member registered Sep 26, 2020 · View creator page →

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The demo has been updated to solve some bugs. A sincere thank you to those who reported the bugs ^^

Thank you, glad you like it ^^

For the final release for sure! As well as Mac. But we have never tried to compile for Linux, so I hope you can excuse the delay, we’re quite a small team.

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Hey everyone, excited to announce that after a lot of work, we just published the demo for SUS on Iitch.io.

LINK TO THE PAGE

System Under Surveillance (SUS) is a stealth game with adventure and puzzle elements, which was designed to be reminiscent of some of the classics of the 80s and 90s, but with modern graphical effects as well. The gameplay takes place in an old-school isometric world, while the story unfolds as an interactive comic book with all illustrations hand-drawn in pixel art.

In the world of SUS, you have no power over your enemies. You’re completely vulnerable! Without any combat capability, your only chance of surviving is through stealth.

Scan your surroundings and work out how to use them to your advantage. Make the most of each character’s unique abilities to trick your enemies, sneak past them and stay undercover.

You also control two characters, and have to switch between them (and any time) and use their unique abilities in order to survive. You play as a young boy named Adam, and his robot helper TURBO (despite the name, the robot is actual quite goofy and clunky).

Try the demo out!Would love to hear everyone’s feedback!

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Click on the video below for a better quality:

We worked on improving the UX by adding a camera panning to various actions.

In the game, we have these wall switches that can power or deactivate multiple doors. They can be attached to different things and are an important part of the game.

However, even though they are connected with wires on the floor that players can see, our play testers had problems understanding how they work and what door/item was affected by activating a switch.

After adding the icons on the display of the switch, and the camera panning, all these problems virtually disappeared. Moral of the story, it’s important to play test and listen to the players.

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Hello everyone.

We have already posted here before, but for those who don’t remember us, we are a small team of a few people who, without knowing anything about video games, started this ambitious project, and now we finally have a steam page. I would like to share here a few thoughts about what we learnt, what we should have done better, and how far in the process we are now.

You can read more about the game on our itch.io page or on Steam.

PREMISE

System Under Surveillance (S.U.S. or SUS for short, either work for us) is a singleplayer stealth game with no combat system and no health bar. In SUS, you control two characters: a young ordinary boy named Adam, and his old companion robot, TURBO. After a mysterious car chase involving his adoptive mother, Adam finds himself stranded in a desolate dystopian city, on the run from an army of robots who are trying to capture him.

GAMEPLAY

Because Adam is just an ordinary boy, and TURBO is an old robot assistant, you stand no chance against the enemies physically. Instead, you need to use the unique abilities of each characters to trick the enemies, hide from them and evade difficult situation, solving clever puzzles, etc. You can switch between the two characters at any time, unless they have been captured.

With TURBO, you can:

  • hover above holes and reach new areas;
  • transform into a metallic ball, and travel through tight spaces and pipes to to trick enemies
  • create a powerful electric current by spinning in place, temporarily disabling nearby terminals

With Adam, you can:

  • take control of enemies, open doors, disable security systems;
  • use ordinary items to distract enemies;
  • gain power ups and use gadgets to solve minigames and puzzles ;

NO COMBAT OR HEALTH SYSTEM

System Under Surveillance replaces the ordinary health system with a threat level. This system will immerse you in the story, making you feel just like an ordinary boy who can succeed only outsmarting the enemies. Stay undetected to keep the threat level low, or get detected to make enemies follow you, and trick them to reach restricted areas. The threat level will decrease if you hide and escape. If one of the characters gets caught, you’ll be able to use the other one to free them.

STORYTELLING

In SUS we want to present the story through a carefully curated pixel art comic book. Exploring the game will allow you to find secrets, and uncover the missing pages of the comic book, revealing who caused the accident and why deadly robots are after you.

WHAT WE LEARNT DURING THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

Here, I would like to share with you a few things we learnt, often the hard way, during the development process.

  • keep the game small. Chances are you are overestimating already your capabilities, especially if you’re working on your first project. It is always easier to scale up, than to scale it down. We had no idea what we were doing at the beginning. We had the game idea in mind, but did not know how to develop it. So when we started the project, the game we wanted to create was much bigger and ambitious than now. Throughout development, we had to scale the project down several times, which was not easy and set us back months. The most important thing we learnt is our own limitations as a team. You need to find your own limitations too, and accept them.

  • time. There is never going to be enough enough time, that’s why you have to keep the project small. It’s not enough to work on programming, there is also level design, game design, animations, storytelling, and a billion other things. But the most important thing is marketing, you need to spend time showing your game around. And we are not marketing experts, and chances are neither are you.

  • money. We started the project as a hobby, and we did not take it seriously until we started receiving positive feedback. Once that happened, we made some tough decisions. It was difficult to balance the university, part time jobs, game development, and free time as well. Again, had we kept the project small, this would have been easier.

  • you will face technical limitations, either due to the game engine you’ll use, or because your skills are not good enough yet. Put your pride aside, don’t waste weeks or months trying to find a solution for that specific problem. Instead, work around it. Find an alternative that will take you days instead. Maybe it won’t be as cool and good as you want it, but at least you’ll be able to finish the game. We spent three months trying to build our own pathfinding algorithm. It was a mistake.

I hope these tips will be useful to someone here, because I see a lot of new and inexperience developers having great ideas, yes, but also way too ambitions for a beginner. And, if you’d like to follow us here on itch.io or add the game to your wishlist on Steam, that would mean a lot to us!

Feel free to ask any question!

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Hello everyone. We are looking for some design related feedback.

We recently added visual rays to the cameras in our game, System Under Surveillance, to better communicate when the player can be detected and when they stay hidden.

We are not sure, however, whether they are too different from the overall style. Do you think they fit with the other elements in the game, or do you think they stand out too much compared to the pixel art style?

Better quality video on imgur

I have a question. Our devlog thread has been auto closed because there were no “updates in a while” and we did not know about this time limit. Can it be re-opened or do we have to instead make a completely new thread?

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NOVEMBER UPDATE 2:

We have finally finished re-designing Turbo’s animations by using Blender and Aseprite combined.

In the past we all our animations were hand made. First, sketching outlines on paper and then drawing in Aseprite. However, 2D animation in an isometric perspective is difficult, especially for us. Just think of the shadows and reflections, for example.

So now, we first make a very crude 3D model in Blender and animate that, and then use that as a reference in Aseprite. This give much better results and fidelity. Too much, in fact. That is why we remove some frames here and there, making the animation look more organic.If the frame rate was perfectly smooth, it would not fit with our intended art style.

Hopefully this can be of inspiration of other game devs out there. I know the advice sound obvious, but it was not obvious to us :p

Here is the result. What do you think? We are not sure about the bouncing animation or the camera shake effect? Any suggestions?

Imgur link to the gif

https://imgur.com/gallery/fIMpJpb

Is it possible to embed Imgur links on itch.io?

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NOVEMBER UPDATE:

We have been doing a lot of play testing lately, with mixed but overall positive results. We have already implemented many of the suggestions we received, with improvements in particular to:

  • handling of the two characters, in particular the movement. Being an isometric game that does not have a point-and-click movement system, the play testers had a bit of difficulty adjusting to the perspective, but we were happy to find out that this adjustment took only a few minutes.

  • UI and overall user experience improvements. Many UI elements and game mechanics that were obvious to us turned out to be really confusing to the play testers. It is very normal during user testing to find out these differences in expectations between creators and users, so we were not too surprised.

  • level design. Turns out that the learning curve was a bit too steep, so we had to slightly tune the difficulty down and help the players more throughout the level.

  • gameplay. The biggest challenge we have right now is to significantly change our main game mechanic, the Threat Level. The TL in our game replaces a traditional health bar. As the TL increases, the environment changes (door close, enemies chase you). The higher the TL, the close you are to the game over. Turns out it is a super confusing mechanic and we have to redesign it.

We will continue with some more play tests in the upcoming weeks, and then we will publish a small demo here on itch.io as well to hear what everyone thinks of the game 😊. Or, if you want to be part of the early play testing sessions of System Under Surveillance, then you can use this form on our site.

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So, one thing we found today is that GLES 2 in Godot 3.2 supports CanvasItemMaterials, which allows adding blend modes to sprites. I think that this function was not available in previous Godot version, but I am not sure. Either way, we just found out about it.

Until now, we thought that only GLES 3 supports blend modes, together with more advance glow effects. In general, using GLES 3 made the game look much better than GLES 2, with brighter colors and more realistic lighting. Unfortunately, it also completely ruined the performance on lower end mobile devices, which we are targeting as well.

Therefore, we had to fake glowing lights in the game using sprites, but the final result was not too great. Especially since we use the Modulate function to change the color of the lights in game.

Here is an example of how they used to look:

And how much of a difference using blend modes makes:

The foreground colors interact and blend with the background colors, creating, in my opinion, a much better effect.

Same result for this newly made asset.

Before:

After:

Overall I am pretty satisfied considering the negligible performance impact.

Well I think YOU are pretty sus!

Thank you though, we plan to update the page often and hopefully get some a lot of feedback in the process, positive and negative alike

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System Under Surveillance banner


Hello everyone,

I would like to share our progress and experience so far with our first project, System Under Surveillance. We will keep updating this post as we make further progress on the game in the upcoming months.

Our names are Alex and Magnus, and started this project about a year and a half ago besides our studies, without knowing anything about game development or game design. We still think that we don't know much about these two topics compared to industry experts, so we always appreciate and welcome feedback.

Even though we started the project with our limitations and mind, it was soon clear that our initial game idea was simply too difficult for us. We had to scale the project down several times throughout development, and we might need to do so again in the future. We opted for a pixel art look because of our love for classic videogames but decided to combine it with an isometric perspective to differentiate ourselves from the many indie games out there.


GAME PREMISE_

The player will follow the story of Adam, a young boy who suddenly finds himself alone in a city with skyrocketing crime rates and authoritarian government (it is, without saying, a cyberpunk game). Adam needs to avoid danger on his quest to find out where his parents are, and why he is being hunted down by the authorities.

During his lonely journey, Adam teams up with Turbo, a scrappy decommissioned robot whose goal is to help humans and collect shiny things.



GAMEPLAY_

We wanted to make a game where the player can switch between two characters at any time, and use their different abilities to overcome obstacles. Turbo and Adam have different purposes during the game, and the player has to figure out how to combine their abilities to progress.

Gameplay example of SUS, with Turbo as a playable character

Another characteristic of our game is the health bar, which we replaced with a Threat Level system. The game has three threat levels (low, medium, high).

When Adam is detected by the enemy, the Threat Level increases by one (e.g. from low to medium), and he enters the "chase" state. During this state, enemies become more aggressive and the level changes slightly (e.g. some doors close). Adam can exit the chase state by sucesfully hiding, but the Threat Level does not decrease. If Adam is detected multiple times, and the Threat Level exceeds the maximum value, then it is game over.

Gameplay example of SUS, with Adam as a playable character

Being detected while playing as Turbo does not affect the Threat Level (so it does not affect your "health bar"), but Turbo can still be chased and captured. The player cannot finish a level without both characters, so turbo needs to be saved before progressing.
This characteristic gives a twist to the gameplay in our opinion. Adam needs to play more carefully and stealthy to not increase the Threat Level, while Turbo can play more aggressively and even bait away enemies from Adam.



CURRENT STATE OF DEVELOPMENT_

We still have a long way to go before finishing the game. Right now we are concerned with finding out whether the game is fun or not. That is why we are preparing to play test a level soon, in the upcoming weeks. 

In the final version of the game, we would like to add more focus on the story, and include some comic book style cutscenes.

We are also having difficulties with shaders, but once we figure that out the game should look considerably better.

The game is being developed in the Godot Engine, so we aim to publish it both on PC and mobile.



ARE YOU INTERESTED?  YOU CAN HELP US!_

Before publishing a public demo here on Itch.io, we need to play test it and make sure that:

- there are no major bugs

- the gamplay is untuitive enough

- the user experiene of the game matches our goals for the current stage of development.


If you want to help us play test our cyberpunk stealth game, we prepared a form on our website where you can sign and help us co-create System Under Surveillance . We want to select play testers from different countries, to ensure that the experience is consistent across cultures.


If you have any comments or feedback on the project, please share it with us, either here or privately. We definitely need and appreciate any help we receive!

Thank you for reading :)!


OUR WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA_:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/systemundersurveillance

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/inktopixels/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/to_pixels

Website:

https://www.inktopixels.com/

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCc9kZIuYNKQObUA-j3Hqiyw

Logo and title screen of System Under Surveillance