Slow Down, Bull

Slow Down, Bull is a small action game about a stressed out, overachiever bull who loves collecting beautiful things. Help the bull keep his cool to get the biggest, most beautiful collection he can by steering him and managing his stress.

Slow Down, Bull is an Insomniac experiment to make a great game with a small team. You can read a bit more about the origins of the experiment in this post. We are building Slow Down, Bull in Unity for the PC with a team of 4-5 people, and want to share the development of the game with you! Here’s how you can participate:

  • Stop by our Insomniac Twitch Channel every Friday at 2pm PST to see our live development stream. We’ll stream the team working on art, programming, design and sound for the game and will answer audience questions about game development. This is a great opportunity if you are an aspiring game dev to learn more or if you’re just curious to see what development on a small game actually looks like.
  • Keep up with developer logs on this blog and our forums to ask questions and give feedback about the game.
  • Follow @SlowDownBull on Twitter to keep informed about new updates to the project.

Greetings, all!

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As we wrap up bug fixing on Slow Down, Bull, we think it’s time to look over the past summer and think about how this experiment has gone.

In tomorrow’s devstream, we’re going to be talking about how our live streaming has been going, and we want feedback from YOU, dear viewers. If you’ve been following along the team’s adventures, please come to the devstream tomorrow (2pm PDT) so you can tell us about what you’ve liked about the project and what you’d like to see in the future. From there – more plots and plans!

~Lisa

Hey everyone!

If you missed last week’s live stream with special guest Ted Price, you can check it out here. We talk about bug fixing, company culture, leadership, and other such matters. As a reminder, there will be no stream this Friday, BUT if you tune in on Saturday, Oct 25, you can watch Insomniacs stream games to raise money for Extra Life. We should be playing all sorts of fun things (and I will reach that Nuclear Throne this weekend, if it’s the last thing I do!)

Also if you missed the stream, I’m happy to announce that we finally cleared the name you guys suggested for our possum friend. Meet Spike! He is super happy to have a name now!

spike

On the production end of things, there’s a lot going on, but I’m afraid it’s not too glamorous to report on. Basically, bugs bugs bugs.

bugs
Our dedicated QA tester, Mindy, has been rocking it as far as finding bugs for me to fix, which is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because finding all those bugs is an important part of making the finished game a solid player experience. A curse because I HAVE TO FIX ALL THE BUGS! x_x

Here’s Esteban stuck in a corner, about to escape the level and run off into the sky:

Stuck Loop

~Lisa

Ahoy ahoy, humans! If you missed last Friday’s stream and have any interested in systems design, I’d highly recommend checking it out. Systems designer Liz England (@lizardengland) goes over her method for balancing and tuning the score requirements in Slow Down, Bull. There’s a lot of complexity for a seemingly simple game, and if you don’t let the spreadsheets scare you away, I think there’s a lot to learn.

pumpkin

Bug fixing continues to be the name of the game, but it’s always important to remember that even late in the project you still need to be playtesting your game with fresh new faces. I just had a new player playtest and spotted some important things that need to be adjusted that all of us playing at Insomniac probably have internalized by now. The playtesting cycle is neverending!

To give you an idea of the sorts of bug fixes and adjustments I’m making at the moment, here’s a list of fixes that just went in this week:

  • Made starting zoom further out and pushed out camera lead slightly
  • Slightly increased the amount of boost you get from bouncing off a wall
  • Directional arrows on warp holes
  • Cooldown visual on warp holes (drop opacity)
  • Moved level name text up slightly on map page
  • Removed the positional lerping of the bull after deposit but kept the rotational lerping
  • Removed level overview cam from very first level to reduce excess information thrown at the player
  • When you get caught by a bullcatcher, all other bullcatchers have their collision turned off for the cooldown to prevent stacking
  • Fixed several bad spawn grid bugs

Meanwhile, a new QA member has joined the team to help root out those tricky bugs that I could never find on my own. This is a wonderful help, but it does mean more work for me!

Current status:

stressedFace

 

~ Lisa

Hey all! Just a super quick update to remind you about this Friday’s stream, wherein Liz will be giving a systems design overview. Spreadsheets galore!

As for the project itself, I’m in maddening bug-fixing mode, trying to get all the annoying little bugs sorted out. It isn’t particularly glamorous, but it is certainly time-consuming! I feel kind of like Annette does here:

matadorKOUSE

And don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about the name of our possum friend, we’re just still waiting to hear back on the all-clear. This weekend is also IndieCade, one of my favorite independent games festivals, and I’ll be reporting back on my adventures there next week! Stay wonderful!

~ Lisa

Ahoy ahoy, humans! Thanks for stopping by! In last week’s stream, we started doing a color pass process on all of our game elements to help them stand apart in the order of what is most important for the player to notice to least important.

You can check out the before and after versions of the grassland area below

ColorPassOld

ColorPassNew

As I mentioned in the stream, this is one of those polishy things that you can do with your game towards the end when all the art assets are mostly finished.

October’s going to be a wild month for streaming, as a lot of stuff is going on that might disrupt our schedule. Here’s the plan for the next couple of weeks:

That said, the schedule this month is full of adventures, so let me give you a preview

  • Oct 3 (that’s this Friday) – the community team is out and about the whole day, so there will be NO STREAM this Friday. A thousand tears!
  • Oct 10 – Liz, who I introduced in last week’s devlog, has graciously offered to do a systems design tutorial during this week’s stream. If you are curious about game balancing, you should come check it out. Though, fair warning, there will be spreadsheets involved.
  • Oct 11-12 – this weekend is Indiecade, and though we won’t be streaming, Lisa’s going to record her adventures at her favorite independent games festival, and promises to share it with you in subsequent weeks.

Meanwhile, the team is plugging along fixing bugs and polishing up! We’re trying not to stress out if everything’s not perfect, but, you know.

Greetings all! If you missed last week’s stream and have been a fan of Alex’s music so far, you should definitely check it out as it’s another in-depth music composition stream. We’re still waiting on that possum name, so you’ll have to be patient a little longer! During the stream, Alex mentioned he’d write up a little more in-depth about how to do clean looping in a song, so here it is:

Okay! When I normally render out looping music, I use Logic Pro’s realtime bounce and select “Bounce 2nd Cycle Pass”. This usually works really well for me but sometimes, it does not. In that case, this is how I usually make perfectly looping music. When you bounce the audio for the song, make sure it loops three times in a row. Take the audio file and make sure whatever program you’re in is working in the same tempo. Then chop the audio files so you have the three loops separate. Make crossfades between loop 1 and 2, and loop 2 and 3.

music1

These can be two or four beats long, and should usually be an equal gain crossfade. Make sure the crossfades cross the edits in between loops equally, and that both crossfades start and end at identical points in the song.

music2

Then select loop 2 (the one one in the middle) and bounce it out! You should have a loop that has no clicks or pops.

music3

Tomorrow’s stream is going to be about art and color, as we’ll be showing a process for color correcting all the game elements in such a way that the most important entities on screen read first. It’s a late-project sort of process that should be interesting to the artistically curious among you.

In general, things have been flying along as art and music and sound start wrapping up. I am neck-deep in bug fixing and making sure all incoming assets get hooked up properly, and it’s been a very busy time. We’re now putting in things like cleaned up tutorial speaker icons:

tutorialScreen

Or cleaning up the “break” animations on the various trees in all the areas.

cherrytreewholecherrytreebroken

And adding extra decorative elements to the areas that aren’t interactable but provide some background visuals to spice things up.

cherrybackground

Since things are very busy on the bug-fixing end, I’m getting some much-appreciated extra help from fellow Insomniac designer, Liz England, who will be assisting with balancing the game. Perhaps in the future we’ll do a stream all about designer balance spreadsheets! :D

-Lisa

Hey everyone!

I want to catch up on a couple things we went over in last week’s dev stream. We spent the stream gathering name suggestions on the possum and going over story scene setup. Here were the team’s favorite Possum names, and we’ll hopefully have one picked and cleared in the next couple of weeks!

  1. Spike
  2. Shiloh
  3. Shakes
  4. Otis
  5. Eggland

This Friday’s stream is going to be another music one with Alex, by the way, so if you’re musically inclined then prepare yourselves!

So on the stream we were talking about how the story scenes had a camera that panned over each panel. We made some revisions this week based on some feedback, and now the panning is much snappier, with each panel dropping in on the player’s action. It lets the player control the pace of how they look through the story, and the drop-ins felt more fitting with the paper post-it style.

In other news, here’s some of Denae’s animation work on Esteban

To finish off, our last Pixelated Rorshach Test had a bunch of fun interpretations!

StreamLevel

@Deity_Falkor   A warrior lifting a dead snake with its sword.

@GDNerd   sausage grinder

@JayHooft  some sort of robot helping his friend robot from a table that’s fell on them

@AverageFranklin  A man kneeling down, holding a weird blunt weapon behind him.

@Mr_Moobs  a man lifting weights

@AntStiller  Part of the dungeon map from B2 Keep on the Borderlands

@DanielLake3  A mole wearing a yarmulke

@lcareccia  Long-eared dog sitting at a desk with lots of Ikea furniture in the background.

@zuca_piiau  A Charmander getting out of a mirror and a guy getting of a bed pulling is tong

@ScoJoHarr  a computer desk.

@IlagaEduardo  A man on his bed trying to force a monster back into his TV

‏@superbus  A battle – to the death – between a construction worker and an 80s-era school projector

@gunpeiyokoifan  Guy lifting weights, or construction guy with shovel.

@Teddypimm  A top down view of some circuitry.

@crowsmack  This is exactly what I see! Can’t un-see:) pic.twitter.com/Nbe0OhuTK2

@CalamityJive A floorplan with an inaccessible room toward the northwest.

@kralitabow   birdo with a sleeping cap on, sitting in bed.

@MKuhlberg   mother and child eating

@Phastin  I got Admiral Akbar slurping spaghetti and winking at the camera.

@Seamus_Donohue  A tree that uprooted and fell over.

@MYNAMEISNOTJJ   a mailbox driving a steamroller

Fun fact: That Rorshach test is the level mask from the level I built on stream a couple of months ago. Wow, has it really been that long?? Time flies! Follow @SlowDownBull on Twitter for more!

Greetings all!

For those of you who need to catch up on our developer streams, here are the archives of the most recent two:

  • Design Stream where I tune the bullcatcher failure state and playtest with various Insomniacs.
  • Art Stream where Denae animates the matador.

We also took name suggestions for the cat last week. Here are the team’s favorites which are currently being checked out:

  1. Mango
  2. Lily
  3. Kazzi
  4. Fifi
  5. Terri
  6. Priya

Right now things are very busy on the project as new art, animations, music and sound is coming in from Dave, Denae, and Alex. I’m scrambling to get all the new assets in, hooked up and tested while at the same time fixing bugs and balancing the game.

Matador

Bug-fixing can sometimes be frustrating, especially when it comes to UI. Putting in UI is an often underestimated workload, and since it relies on you having the whole flow of your game fleshed out it often becomes an end-of-project task. Last week we were fighting with a bug where elements on the end of level screen and map screen would spontaneously change depths. UI elements (like buttons, menu panels, etc) have a depth value that tells it whether to draw in front of or behind other elements, and even though everything looked correct in the editor, when you returned to the map screen after completing a level, this would sometimes happen:

When I tried to mess with the depths at runtime, it would just swap out which piece was broken. Debugging UI can be really difficult, but in fixing a lot of depth arrangements, updating NGUI, then fixing all the things that broke from updating NGUI, I think we finally nailed this bug!

I doubt we’ve seen the last of UI bugs, though… See you on Friday in the stream where we’ll need YOU to help us suggest names for the Possum, as well as more design or maybe some music with Alex!

-Lisa

Ahoy ahoy, humans! I hope you are all well. If you missed last week’s stream, Alex did an in-depth look at his composition process. If you have any interest in game music, or music in general, check it out! This Friday we’ll be looking at some testing and tuning processes, so the more design-inclined of you should stop by then.

We also had a fun time with all of you last stream collecting suggestions for names for the bullcatcher. You had some fantastic ideas, and after sorting and discussing and debating (and checking with legal, of course), the team decided on Annette! Because, afterall, that’s what she uses to catch you. Don’t get caught by Annette!

annette

In other news, our other artist, Denae, is now on the project! She’s going to be doing a lot of animation and production art as we start wrapping up all the places where there is still temp designer art. Because there’s so much to do and only Denae to do them, we started with as low framerate animations as still look good in the game. This way if there is time left when everything is done, we could do more in-betweens, but if not these animations still work. The paper cutout style makes low framerate cycles fit in with the overall aesthetic, so we’ll be in a good place.

SDBVaseCarrier

SDBCat

Hey everyone, several of you have requested another audio-focused dev stream and we are happy to comply! This Friday, Alex will be working on some music on-stream, so come check it out and bring along your game audio questions. We’ll go live Friday at 2pm PDT on the Insomniac Twitch Channel.

Also bring along your name-ideas. We had so much fun discussing names for Esteban that we want to do it again, this time for our primary antagonist, the wily Bullcatcher.

bull-catcher

She is bound and determined to catch Esteban and kick him off her lawn, and nothing stands in her way! Except maybe water. She doesn’t like water. Like we did with Esteban, we’ll gather up suggestions in stream and the team will pick a name next week.

Other Developments

As we get further and further into development, we’ve been revisiting some earlier art concepts now that we’ve had a chance to play with them in game. The transparent water walls of the beach area weren’t working out so great – making them look good while overlapping was problematic – so we redid the beach walls as sand dunes and macaroni shells. To get water back into the beach, we wanted to be able to see the ocean around the perimeter

This effect is done with two things:
1. A script to translate the offset of a tiling water texture so it moves around
2. An alpha mask shader to block out the area of the level where we DON’T water to show. The level mask images come in handy once more!

Speaking of level masks…

Pixelated Rorshach Test

What did Twitter see in this level mask?

SpeedBitTraining

@leelo124: Pea shooter from Plants vs Zobmies Garden Warfare :)
@TechyZeldaNerd: An awkward thirteen year old girl who just had a guy run away when she tried to kiss him.
@SugaoKC: I see Qbert
@audiosprite: a minimap and I wanna go left
@syntheslice: Looks like a bad idea for a Super Soaker that just might accidentally spray water back in the user’s face.
@AndyGainey: A frightened and very worried elephant. With an inexplicable spot on its forehead.
@darthbator: Doom 1, Hangar, overhead view.

Follow @SlowDownBull to see more!