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Postmortem: High Voltage Software's Conduit 2
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Postmortem: High Voltage Software's Conduit 2

June 30, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next
 

3. We Were Able to Focus on Multiplayer Early

The Conduit didn't acquire the budget for multiplayer until an entire year of development had gone by. Obviously, trying to retrofit major elements such as online multiplayer into a nearly feature-complete game caused its share of problems. For instance, our designers and artists had created final versions of multiplayer maps before the multiplayer system was even up and running, making them difficult to playtest and balance. This led to far too much rework needing to be done.

With Conduit 2, multiplayer was a primary focus from the very beginning. We had dedicated personnel that focused on map creation, weapon and game balance, as well as the creation of exciting new multiplayer features like our suit upgrade system and store.

Our designers were able to quickly create gray box levels and try them out in multiplayer within hours, a process which took days to do on The Conduit. This allowed them to tweak and balance each one before they were handed off to an environment artist to make beautiful.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace time spent playtesting a game level. That point alone led to so many improvements including level balance, game mode balance, weapon improvements and balance, and a high level of polish that were simply didn't have time to do on the first game.

As I mentioned earlier, because of our focus on multiplayer from the beginning, we were able to design and develop loadout and suit upgrade systems, allowing players to customize their online personas with a vast array of choices. These options are purchased in our store by spending in-game currency that we call "credits". This new economy-based upgrade system allows players to play how they want and look how they want.

In fact, some of our suit upgrades are what we call "game changers", meaning that they fundamentally modify the player's abilities. For example, players can choose to be a field medic by selecting the right combination of upgrades. Perhaps you prefer to be an invisible sniper? Well, you can do that too. We are very proud of this system, but we were able to do these things only because we had incredibly talented developers working on the multiplayer gameplay for as long as we did.

Another big feature for us this time around is competitive splitscreen. We wanted to do it in The Conduit but we were limited by the technology and by time. For Conduit 2, we were able to include a fully-featured splitscreen mode that allows up to four players to compete in head-to-head gameplay. Every core feature from our online multiplayer is available in offline splitscreen. We did not want there to be any difference in the experience whether players chose to play online or not.

An additional major addition to our multiplayer comes in the form of our four-player splitscreen cooperative mode that we call Invasion. This mode developed out of a single idea that we had while working on our splitscreen competitive gameplay.

The idea was to throw every player on the same team and spawn enemies into the level. Shortly after playing it, this simple proof of concept garnered some very positive reactions from our management team and we were given the directive to make it happen. What resulted was a seriously addictive game mode that is easily one of my favorite ways to play the game.

Last but certainly not least is that we redesigned our data messaging systems so that we could proactively deal with hackers, cheaters, and griefers. Shortly after The Conduit was released, we started hearing about the problems that some gamers were having and we were dismayed. When we looked into ways to help fix the issues, it became apparent that we were in trouble. A combination of the way that we had created the networking solution for The Conduit and the networking system that Nintendo's servers use created a few roadblocks that we didn't expect.

What we ended up with was having to log and block players through some ingenious, but tedious, network snooping. This was not efficient, and we don't recommend anyone doing this, but it was the only thing available to us because of the structure of the systems in place. Luckily, we knew the problems and were able to modify every networking system so as to not simply fix the problems but also allow us to patch and make changes to the code so that we could deal with any unforeseen problems in a more reactionary way.

Overall, we are very proud of the amount of gameplay and refinement that we are able to provide in Conduit 2 by simply having the opportunity to dedicate enough people and time to our multiplayer.

4. This Time, We Had a Well-Developed IP

When developing The Conduit, we had a rough idea of who our characters were and what their world was like, but much of our story and background evolved over the course of the project. This was difficult, since it meant multiple story rewrites, character changes, and lost work. For Conduit 2, we had established many parts of the IP and only had to work to refine the parts that we weren't happy with, or fans weren't excited about.

While certainly not perfect, we were fortunate to have garnered a loyal fanbase from the release of The Conduit. These gamers were fascinated with the world, the lore, and the characters that we had created and wanted to know more. This encouraged us to spread our wings and take the world farther that ever. We redefined our hero, Michael Ford, into a true badass. Gone were the days of him being surprised by the world. Now he is aggressive, vengeful, and deadly. In Conduit 2, Michael Ford is the hero we all knew he would eventually be when playing The Conduit.


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Comments


Dan Caste
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Good work guys!

These kind of projects can empower or kill any team. Thanks to your effort and talent, you got the first option.

Be proud!

Robert Bevill
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I haven't played either game, but I think the question on everyone's minds is: what was up with that ending?

Leon T
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Good read. Now when is the grinder coming out?

james sadler
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Interesting postmortem. I liked reading the bit about bringing in the writer. That is something that gets lost in these and in games in general some times, though it seems like you had your own problems getting what you really wanted out of him. That can happen. Writers have a vision and it is difficult to change that vision once it gets going. Just like most movies, there needs to be a good amount of humor, even in the most serious of movies, to keep the audience in their seats. Everything is a balance of humor, tension, action, and drama. A lot of games and movies tend to shift their balance heavily to one point and forget th others, which is sad.


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