You can play Kite Alpha 0.1.3!

Shoot an email to labcatgames@gmail.com  and mention that you want to be on the mailing list. That’s all there is to it. You will have access to download the latest build (~70megs) through Google Drive. You can also just grab the installer here. Installs in a jiff and I assure you it’s completely free of anything save bullet storm bliss.

First of all, if you’re even considering signing up let me just extend a personal thanks. Kite wouldn’t be here without all the time playtesters have already sunk into it and from a game design perspective there’s nothing more powerful than receiving first impression feedback. That’s why it’s so important to me that you know how much I appreciate it!

So how does a free copy of Kite on release day sound?  If you sign up for the Kite mailing list you’re guaranteed access to alpha/beta testing all the way through development and the first 20 people to sign up will receive a free copy of Kite at launch!

What are you getting yourself into?? You’ll be entering a world, maybe not so different from our own, but one where things didn’t quite pan out the same…  Here’s the pitch:

The computer revolution went a different route: it took the high road, the one way above our heads. Up through the seventies artificial intelligence moved forward at the speed of smell. Finally in the eighties a new wave of research developed the first learning AI.

Within a given fixed environment this artificial intelligence was able to follow rules like any other but unlike previous AI, once win conditions and goals were programmed into the system, it had the capability to add new rules of it’s own invention.  These sprung out of the concept that a scenario could not only be won, but won ‘better’ or, with a higher score.

That technology took off like a space missile and when it came back down it formed the shape of a giant ‘win’ button that mankind decided to press. Through miniaturization, computing power and storage quadruped yearly – that processing power led to advanced bio-engineering technology that literally saved the planet from humanity.

Mother nature cheered as it’s rivers were drained of toxins, it’s forests replenished and it’s most ornery denizens industriousness nipped in the bud. Humanity looked on pensively as the complexity of artificial intelligence grew. We got left at the starting blocks, completely clueless as to the inner workings of the new life giving technology. None the less, on a whole we embraced our new artificial aides.

Mankind being the biggest threat to itself, the AI was meticulously programmed with core logic outlawing any computer assisted weapons research. Over time these algorithms became so advanced and secure that not a single bit had ever been put towards the weaponization of anything.

This didn’t by any means end weapons research, it just meant that the machine wouldn’t be inventing any new weapons of it’s own – that was still up to us- you actually.

Be the headmaster at arms of the world’s most advanced weapons research facility. Fend off swarms of enemies who want your data – whether off your hard drive or straight out of your dome – they will steal everything and use it against you if you get caught half-steppin’!

Play Kite Alpha 0.1.3 today!

Naturally feedback is much needed, but I thought I’d provide a short list of questions I’m very interested in:

What’s your favorite weapon or combination of weapons?

Would you change anything about the controls?

What was the most frustrating part of your experience?

What was the most fun part of playing the game?

Was there anything confusing about the user interface? What would you like to add / change?

Did you find any bugs? What happened or was happening? It may provide a screen with information, copy and paste it to me if you can.

Email labcatgames@gmail.com  write in the comments here or on Facebook!  Remember it’s alpha! There is no story at this time and only the first 3 levels are intended for you to play.  Enjoy!

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User Interface Updates

old busted

New Hotness

Goodbye old and busted hello new hotness. The user interface has undergone loads of iteration and the results are fabulous. Kite is a shooter currently burdened with more than your average number of resources to keep track of. There are in fact five resources that need to be readily identified and measured in a lightning fast and seamless fashion.

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Is that too much for people? So far yes, it has been. As an example I’ve had one in ten play testers utilize bullet time which uses the blue “Jam” bar. It’s a core mechanic to be used whenever one is required to dodge quickly or aim as accurately as possible. Feedback falls into three categories: a) too hard to keep track of the extra resource, b) not useful enough or c) too hard to hit the shift key while also hitting space for turbo, moving with WASD, etc.

I’ve set out to solve (a) and put some effort into (b) but ultimately one of the  main goals with Kite is to have a player feel like their finger dexterity levels up along with their character and overcome (c) on their own. Kite has been designed to test and hone skills common in other popular games (two glaring examples are World of Warcraft and League of Legends). Things like keybinds, weapon switching, cooldown management and character builds are present in the vast majority of modern games . A huge part of Kite’s mechanics are driven by the philosophy that the player should be pushed to become more and more adept at these same skills that tie all of their favorite games together.

Testers saying that (b) hitting shift at the same time as space is too hard actually makes me happy. It confirms my theory that most gamers haven’t really tapped into their key pressing abilities and that gives me the big target I had hoped for.  If Kite is accessible without uber micro, but guides the player to success by slowly layering on complexity and forcing the player to master each layer to progress until they do have the skills, players will have been breaking down barriers and overcoming personal bests right up to the finish line. That is as close to cut and dried fun as it gets and finding the fun is what good game design is all about. The cherry on top is that theoretically they will be better at learning and playing a wide variety of other games too.

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With that in mind, a designer’s most powerful tool for assisting and guiding players within a complex experience is the user interface. Persistent throughout all content, the UI can make or break a game. At it’s core, a user interface should provide information and tools that assist the player’s ability to learn and get better at whatever skills the game is focused on, while game design should strive to make everything else easy or automatic.

A good example of this would be having enemy respawn timers visible to the player instead of making them try and keep track mentally. Several games have sparked debates over this, but in the end I feel that literally offloading processing power from your brain to the computer in order to focus your ticker on the core game skills is excellent game design. Yes memorizing periods of time is a core skill in many games, but it has to leave room for gameplay.

Kite’s user interface features a minimalist aesthetic, after all the bigger the UI, the smaller the gameplay view becomes, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of shit going on. Leaving us at my answer to a) “It’s too hard to keep track of all the resources”:There will be a unique visual presentation for each resource.

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As an example the player’s shield strength is now represented by the little lights surrounding the main info panel. Although it’s not an earth shattering invention it really gets the shield concept across because it surrounds your vitals and without any bars or numbers you can easily tell how much is left. Another bonus is that when the shield is full and all the lights are on it really feels ‘complete’. From a design perspective, going this direction really opened new options to explore for the health, jam(bullet time), energy and ammo bars.

Removing the shield bar also confirmed that fewer bars are in fact better. Players were now having a much easier time keeping track of each resource and were in fact using bullet time more! It’s not a perfect solution but it is a start in the right direction. Next on the chopping block is the jam bar which will be represented by a clock like pie chart indicating your jam level. This bar conversion will continue until there is maybe just one or two actual bars left. Hopefully I can pull it off without them all clashing :]

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Another reason players are jamming more is because it’s visually more appealing and  you now have a ton to burn through. What makes it more appealing you say?! SPARKLES SON! That’s right, a pretty trail of sparkles is left in your wake as you cruise around in bullet time. They even get darker as you consume jam, adding another visual to play off of. That’s the kind of two-in-one payoff a designer strives for with everything.

Next time I’ll get to the improvements I’ve made to your ability cooldown visualizations (the little dials you can see bellow the resource bars) and weapon control scheme.