Influence on Steam

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 22 2018 by

We are proud to announce the release of influence, now available on steam!


Fresh look

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Mar 31 2010 by

One thing the focus on consistency has given us is increased graphical fidelity.  Have a look!

State of the Game

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Mar 30 2010 by

With our newfound independence and Chelsea’s departure to the west coast (Good Luck Chelsea!), we have taken a close look at what Influence needs to make it complete.  Our list falls into three columns.

First, we are trying to make all of the pieces fit together better, to make a more cohesive game.  A good example of this is yesterday’s change to the background.  We added some subtle rings in the background months ago, to disrupt the sameness of the flat color and add a little interesting motion.  Yesterday, we connected that to the game, so that when you are playing, the rings are left behind the ids, like ripples in a pond, and while they always took on the color of the ids in proportion to their population, now the ids drop rings of their own color, so the colored ripples follow the colored flocks.

Our second objective is to focus on the opening of the game.  We need to tighten up the first play experience.  Right now the tutorial is stiff, broken up, and generally not very good.  It is miles better than our disastrous first attempt, but it still needs a lot of improvement.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be trying to change it into less of a tutorial and more of an introduction to the game, which you can learn how to play by playing through, as we tell you about colors, voices, and influence.

The third column is internet multipayer.  We found a technology partner at GDC, and we’ll be integrating their tech with our game (and reworking some of the game to better fit the tech) over the coming months.

Each of these directions is important and necessary to the success of the game, and we won’t be satisfied until they’re all up to snuff.

A Picture Says …What?

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Mar 19 2010 by

In my freshman graphic design classes, we were not allowed to use color. You have to learn to stand before you can learn to walk, right? We were given a simple set of  rules to live by: contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity (lovingly abbreviated to CRAP.) Our first assignment was to convey concepts like heavy, light, harmony, etc., using only the first letter of the idea. No fancy fonts, just Myriad Pro Bold. No stretching, scaling or otherwise warping of the letter – it was all about placement (we were, thankfully, allowed to use each letter multiple times.) With the simplistic, monochromatic styling of Influence, I’ve found myself revisiting those early lessons. I decided to approach the task of illustrating the idea behind each allegiance with similar restrictions.  Using only the insignia and the black-and-white world that Influence embodies, I set out to turn 1000 words into a picture. (I did take some liberties with scale and opacity, but I think I’ve earned it!)

Faserdi and Sospili are both allegiances about power. As such, their illustrations look very similar. The big difference, however, is that Faserdi is about answering to a higher power, whereas Sospili is about power that comes from within. Just by changing the perceived angle this difference is conveyed.

Trailers and Screenshots

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Mar 09 2010 by

Added the “Media” page to link you to all our awesome trailers. We have two teasers at this point (you can see the old one before our style changed) and just recently released an almost-up-to-date gameplay trailer that shows the “Explore Alone” and “Daydream” modes. No multiplayer yet – that’s still our secret :X!

For now, check out our screenshots! We’ve come a long, long way.

Error Reporting

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 26 2010 by

Since we started sending influence out for some limited playtesting, and started getting crash reports, I felt that the level of detail of the crash reports would improve if I removed the human element.  So I set up influence to e-mail me a stack trace whenever it crashes.  This will be disabled or made optional in the release version.

An Epic Argument

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 08 2010 by

What’s in a name? You’d be surprised.

Every Friday morning our team sits down to discuss the week’s successes, failures, and general off topic nonsense. While normally a relaxed discussion and check in, last Friday it turned into a hot-tempered argument over something so little but important we couldn’t let it go.

In Influence there are three modes of play: one is the original mode, where you customize the settings and then spring into a plane devoid of obstacles or alternative objectives or advanced id types. The only goal is to gain consensus. It is a small, self-contained, 1-5 minute experience. The second mode is structured around a series of pre-designed planes and tiers that the player can move through at their own pace, unlocking new id types to use as they overtake planes. The third mode is very similar to the first, except that you can network with other players instead of just having AI adversaries.

Single Player – Campaign – Multiplayer

We had to think of names for these three modes. We started with the bland, default “Single Player, Campaign, Multiplayer”. There was confusion over the difference between Single Player and Campaign, and we couldn’t change Single Player to Skirmish because that was too indicative of military undertones. Even Campaign had the same issue. On top of that, it didn’t relate to Influence’s world at all. Influence purposely removed itself from a multitude of “arcade” terminology – levels, worlds, points, experience etc because it didn’t want to associate with that style of gaming. Influence was something different. Conflict took a back seat to the meditative world, the flow and zen of the ids in the bleak.

Solo – Melody – Harmony

What about something with music? We tried “Melody” for campaign and “Harmony” for multiplayer, but then what about the single player game? Solo and Tutti could have worked, and so could a multitude of other ‘pairs’ that break down linguistically to “one” and “many” in regards to some theme. But it was always pairs – never a trio. We considered adding on something like “Practice” or “Training” to represent the singleplayer mode, but that trivialized what we thought was the core experience. The single words just weren’t going to work.

Dream Free – Explore Alone – Play Together

I changed the names to “Dream Free, Explore Alone, and Play Together”. The team rightfully argued that these were too vague or abstract, so we looked at how they appear on the title screen. Dream mode is not unlocked until a player completes the tutorial planes, so the first thing on the menu screen is just “Explore Alone” and “Play Together”. This does its job, I argued, of immediately distinguishing between a game you play by yourself, or one you play with others. The first choice you make is always just singleplayer or multiplayer. It accomplished that, and it did so quite clearly. You weren’t going to mistake one for the other. Explore also indicated a sense of discovery that we thought linked well to a campaign-like mode, while Play indicated the lighter, briefer mechanics of the multiplayer mode.

Daydream – Explore Alone – Play Together

From there, the issue was the singleplayer mode, the ‘tidepool’ as I’d been calling for some time where players simply customize a plane and run with it. “Dream Free” didn’t work – too abstract. But “Dream” didn’t seem to fit either; it was both cliche and inundated with psychological implications. Melissa suggested “Daydream” – it was similar, it indicated a brevity, a lightness, and a playfulness that we wanted, but unlike Dream it indicated a higher sense of awareness. It took us well over an hour of frustrated discussion, so when we hit daydream everyone crumpled with relief. That was it.

Our lesson: names are important. They are the framework and lens through which the player views a game. Even subtle changes can make a huge difference on how players perceive your game and the emotions it creates in them. Don’t always accept the default. Actively consider how changes will affect a player. Balance utility and novelty. Think.

Campaign mode

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 02 2009 by

Today I began work on the single player campaign mode.  We designed quite a few new pieces to go into the single player levels, and I figured that the best way to set it up is to add them simultaneously to the level editor and the game.  That way, the other members of the team can play around with (and test) the new bits as soon as they are available.  I started with spawn points, so that levels can be designed without requiring a cloud of neutrals and a ring of adversaries.

Next on the list:  Escort waypoints, control flags, and then obstacles.

Happy Trails, Part Deux

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 12 2009 by

Today we eliminated the shrinking trails problem by moving all of the trail particles and related calculations to the GPU.  Long trails are back again.

Id Design

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 06 2009 by

We’ve run into a problem with the boid design. Currently, there are 8 unique boids. Their shapes are arbitrary, however, which will make it difficult to design more powerful boids for the campaign mode. How do you show the same boid but with higher stats? It’s not really the same boid anymore. So we are moving to a more modular approach in the boid design.

There are three main attributes in a boid: agility, resistance and speed. Each of these attributes will have a physical presence on the boid that builds up as stats increase. This way, players will be able to tell how strong a boid is just by looking at it. This also means we don’t have to design 200+ boids in order to represent every combination possible in the game (and the player doesn’t have to memorize them!)

Happy Trails

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Oct 13 2009 by

So we were getting some performance issues from the boid trails.  It turns out that updating, drawing, and tossing one trail particle per boid per frame into the garbage collector is inefficient at 150+ boids.  Who knew?

Anyway, we adjusted the system to reduce the number of trail particles as the processor began to choke.  This leads to the trails lengthening and shortening, gradually, during gameplay.  As having a bunch of one kind of trail is cheaper than many different types of trail, this means that as you win, and more of the boids become your type, the trails get longer.  It’s totally an intentional reward system.