Switch Update, Game Improvements and Project Management

Hello gamers and friends and gamerfriends! We’re back with another monthly update on Ultimate Chicken Horse and the Clever Endeavour studio.

So first, more Switch updates (because what would a newsletter be without Switch updates)! Last we talked about Switch progress, we thought we were really close to sending the game to certification again. Unfortunately, we ran into a few problems. We found that there were some edge cases where the game would load too many textures (images) and the Switch would run out of memory.

2018-07-19 Maze.png

To fix this we had to optimize how we organize many of our textures, which ended up requiring an automated tool to be written to make sure we didn't break anything. This tool really sped up the process, but it was still a very intensive process to figure out the best way to organize the textures in the game.

Once that problem was fixed, we ran into a new optimization issue with some levels on the Switch, where they would run extremely slowly depending on how many blocks were added to the level. The first system we optimized was the graphics renderer; we changed how our simple lighting system worked, which dramatically increased the efficiency of the rendering in many cases. Unfortunately this wasn't enough to make all user generated levels playable on the Switch.

After a discussion with Dan Menard from Double Stallion games, we realized that the slow down might actually be related to the sounds in the game. For some reason, turning the music and sound effects all the way down sped up the game... After some investigation, and many little settings tweaks, we were able to dramatically improve the efficiency of the sound engine on Switch, and large, complex levels are running much better than before.

2016-06-20 Soundtrack.gif

Another wrench that got thrown into our gears was that one day the game's cross platform capability (PC + Switch!) stopped working. We hadn't made any changes, so it was a very elusive problem that ended up being fixed by forcing all of the game's code to recompile from scratch. This is one of the most "robots are taking over without telling us" bugs we have ever run into.

After all of those changes, we did a whole bunch of testing and have now sent of the game to Nintendo for another round of certification. Fingers crossed that it passes.

We’ve also been doing a lot of little things to improve the user experience, and Rich spent a while making sure all of the text in all of the languages in every part of the game were properly aligned and didn’t cut off or wrap weirdly:

2018-07-19 Text Wrapping.JPG

We’re pretty excited to share all of the new content with you, as well as hopefully finishing up tackling this bug list that has been growing (and shrinking, on occasion) since 2016. Hopefully that announcement and release date is coming soon.

While the programmers have been busy touching up some final optimization stuff and bug fixes, a couple of us have had time to look into our project management software and see how we can improve our work flow. The way we’ve been doing things  is good but we feel that we’ve reached the limit of what it can do. Choosing a software to manage work for an entire company, even if the company is only six people, is challenging. Many programs are good with certain types of work flow (with progress boards for example), while others are good with other types of flow (bug tracking, work time estimation, etc.). We think we’ve chosen one and as we finish up Ultimate Chicken Horse work for now, we’ll try to move over to it. More to come on that front once we’ve actually made the move, don’t want to jinx anything!

 
 This is a Pokemon named Jinx, for those that don't know

This is a Pokemon named Jinx, for those that don't know

 

On the community side, we’ve got another new AskClevEndeav video where Alex and Ben talk about the pyramids in Egypt, cats vs dogs, and some video game stuff too:

And as usual, we’ve got some links that the team would like to share with you:

Rich would like to share the fantastic music from Donkey Kong Country on SNES:

Ben shares the transcript of a June 8th presentation by Dr. Hal Puthoff: "The DoD’s UAP Program: The Back Story, the Forward Story" (it's about UFOs!)

Gen points us to some super cool Nintendo Labo contest winners:

Kyler introduces us to a nice graph that represents the heart of the game engine that we use, Unity.

And Fabio tells us a story about his experience with River Raid:

When I was young I used to play River Raid a lot. It was one of my favourite games. I sucked playing it, but it was a great pleasure anyways. I used to dream about unreachable parts of the map and constantly imagined how it was at the end of the game. (I had different endings in my head every week). Now, years and years later someone created a bot that plays the perfect River Raid game (and even the poor bot died a few times). So now I know that the game ends with your plane exploding when you reach 999,999 points. This might be the greatest disappointment ever. Nevertheless the the end of River Raid is a reminder for all of us that our dreams and imaginations - intrinsic on our journeys in life - are usually more interesting and rewarding than the finish lines. Here is the mesmerizing, more than one hour long video with the entire River Raid game play. Enjoy!