Aztez – A Game of Conquest and Brutality

The Aztez Dev Plays

**Updated August 15th, 2013**

I had this idea a little over a year ago to record myself playing the game while I ramble into my microphone headset about newly implemented features, art, design decisions, future plans, and so on and so forth. When one hit Kotaku and they started getting 10k views, I figured they were worth continuing to make. I produced a new one tonight, and while it was rendering/uploading, I went and watched the previous ones. It almost made me shed a tear being face to face with how much the game has changed and grown up. But it also made me wince, sneer, and gasp painfully at previous iterations of the game. But in a good way. :)

Anyway, here are all the dev plays in one convenient place. And I'll update this post as I continue to make them. The most recent one is here...

...and the rest are all right down here for your convenience. Enjoy!

  • Evilagram

    This is probably really cruel of me to say, especially for something that looks like it’s so late in development, but I’m a huge fan after reading your beat ’em up deconstructions and I think you should really redo a lot of these animations and really consider the inertia of the character as a whole entity instead of these jerky motions you have going on.

    I think they lack impact in a lot of cases and in general look extremely static and lack weight to them. Very few of the attacks and actions actually have the character move his entire body as a discrete unit, which is what generally leads to this jerky feeling, very similar to the new jojo’s bizarre adventure all star battle game, or mortal kombat games. It doesn’t feel like the character is really putting their whole weight into their attack. The walk cycle feels very generic. If you were to imagine tracing a line, or rather putting down a series of dots on each frame for the location that a given actor’s central body mass occupies on each frame, then more often than not I think you would see completely straight lines in most cases without a concentration of dots at any point in the visualization. Like your counter animation, there’s no windup for it, it’s just the attack hits, then there is a blast forward. It would be infinitely stronger as an animation if nothing about the active frames were changed and some of that time were spent moving the character’s entire body back

    The game I would advise looking to would be Super Smash Brothers Melee, which has an extremely strong sense of motion in the jumps, the wavedashes, the running, the attacks themselves. And it’s similar in style to the game you are making. Every Melee combo video is a ballet of motion through space, with acceleration, curves, squashing and stretching, anticipation, followthrough and overlapping action, all the principles of animation. right now your game is looking a lot closer to the current build of Air Dash Online, another indie game, aimed at being similar to melee.
    Melee’s combos are accentuated by subtle slides across the ground, attacks that involve fullbody motion, gravity on the part of both participants in the combo, where airdash online’s is much more linear in the current build of the game, and all of the constituent animations are much jerkier and involve much less motion of the fullbody. Your game appears to have something very similar going on with it, and hell, you deserve better than that.

    If you don’t have a copy of richard william’s principles of animation, then I advise you acquire one. Additionally you’ve probably read this article already but I’m linking it anyway.

    I wish you the best of luck with your future production, I will be following this blog in the future.

    • It’s absolutely NOT cruel to say. I appreciate your feedback a lot!

      I’m fully conscious that the animations in Aztez aren’t great. As it stands, they all have the necessary components for functional game animations; anticipation, follow through, and enough snap to feel good once they’ve got effects draped over them. Unfortunately, at least for now, I can’t afford to make them better.

      That probably sounds like a cop out, but I’m responsible for 95% of the game’s art production and 100% of it’s combat design/production. We currently have about 430 animations in the game, and with a couple weapon sets left to go I’ve still got a couple hundred more to produce. At least. With the time I spend iterating on individual attacks until they feel great (which they do, in both my opinion and the opinion of the majority of people who play the game), iterating on the animations in the same way would have devastating effects on my bandwidth and for now, it’s not reasonable. So I’m currently okay with the necessary components.

      Please note I’m absolutely not dismissing your critique; I agree with a lot of what you’re saying! There’s not a ton of weight, and most of these animations don’t have good curves; many of them don’t have curves at all! There have been countless scenarios where I decided to obliterate the curves because tuning was taking too long and I needed to get functional fast. And sometimes, I prioritize the feel of a mechanic over the principles of the mechanic’s animation. For example, the counter has no warm up because when it did (initially) it was too risky. When I eliminated the warm up to eliminate the risk, keeping the anticipation in the animation looked very jarring. So that got killed too. The result is a mechanic that feels good and serves a purpose, but has bizarre animation properties. So it’s a complicated situation a lot of the time.

      In any case, If we end up having the time and the money at the end of the project to spend a month going through all of the animations and raising the quality bar I would absolutely love to do that. But, you know, shipping. So we’ll see!

      Again, thanks so much for your feedback! I really enjoyed reading this (along with the other comments you’ve been making), and I’m going to send you a build in a minute here. I’d love your thoughts.

  • I’ve been loving going through your blog, there’s so much great stuff here. The game looks really fun, and I’ll definitely be watching for it now.

    That said, I completely agree with Evilagram, and think you can’t afford NOT to polish some of the animation, particularly the run animation of the player. It’s bad enough to actually dissuade me from playing since its what the player is going to see the most of. The lack of the other animation principles in the rest of the combat animations really detract from what looks like an incredibly well polished, refined, and fluid system.

    I understand the necessities of production, but it would be a real shame if you’re unable to work some animation polish into your production scheduling considering such a combat and animation focused game. Quality > Quantity.

    • Quality > Quantity.

      Are you kidding me? Am I a child?

      I could just retype everything I already typed to Chris (Evilagram) a year ago, except now we have three times the mechanics and over twice the animations. And after a super hard year of touring this game (2 PAXs, 2 EVOs, 1 E3, 1 Gamescon, and a bunch of local garbage), you two are the ONLY TWO PEOPLE to ever say “Hey I’ve got an issue with these animations”. Now that’s not me saying that the critique isn’t true, it’s just me saying that yes indeed I absolutely can afford to. In the time it would normally take me to run a pass on all of my animations (1000+ of them) I could be creating more fun content for the game. And like I already said, if we have time and money at the end of the project and it makes sense to do that, I absolutely will.

      Sorry to get unfriendly on you, dude. But you came out of nowhere and juniored me and that makes me not want to have reasonable discussions. Haha!

      • What I mean about Quality > Quantity, is that someone can make tons of mediocre content (and many do), but just because there is a ton of it isn’t going to mean I’m more likely to consume it or recommend it. Overall, the content of Aztez looks awesome, but I think we’ve agreed the animation doesn’t look on the same bar as the rest of the game. You’re absolutely right that only a small fraction of consumers are going to be able to perceive this on a conscience level, but it will factor into how the final game is valued, if subtlety. Have you yet played an epic, highly acclaimed and highly selling combat intensive brawler that didn’t have highly polished animation?

        I didn’t mean to junior you, I’m just hoping you’ll put more weight on polishing existing content over creating new content, because I really wanna see the animations looking as awesome as the rest of the game. Plus, you’ll always be able to create more content in DLC or sequels.

        • Have you yet played an epic, highly acclaimed and highly selling combat intensive brawler that didn’t have highly polished animation?

          I certainly haven’t. Have you ever played an epic, highly acclaimed and highly selling combat intensive brawler in which one person did all of the combat design (players AND enemies), animation, effects, and environments?

          I will do what I can.