Changing particles: 21 improvements we’ve made to Particulars

Particulars has undergone a lot of change lately. If you’ve already bought the alpha, you should receive an email informing you of the new version. If not, you can grab it here. Some of the changes are obvious, others less so. Today, I’m going to  go through everything that we’ve done since the last alpha release and explain why we did it!

(tl;dr – Prettier, better, sounds exist, comics exist, MUCH prettier! Get the new version/join the alpha here)

A quick note before we start on why we haven’t had a release sooner. Essentially, we got a lot of good feedback from you guys about the game, and we wanted to make a decent attempt at fixing all of the issues before sending out a new build. Also, a lot of the changes were fairly big in terms of implementation times, and we wanted to make sure we had time to get them right. Chances are that we won’t have a gap this long between releases for a while.

  1. Your feedback will now get replies
      This is probably one of the most important, but most invisible, changes. We get your feedback in a pretty simple, anonymous format (below), which makes sending a response kinda tough. We’re putting in a system that’ll make it really easy for us to ask you for more details on your feedback, see if you think we’ve fixed the issues you raised, and so on.


  2. Topology
      This is one of the most exciting visual changes. It took almost two full weeks for Tom to rebuild this system, which shows the charge distribution at any point in amazing technicolour! The old version (top) was unpredictable (the ‘neutral’ colour was never what we actually entered), expensive (it didn’t run in-editor on our development computers without severe lag) and would only show the charges of the first 8 particles or so). The new version (bottom) is predictable, cheap and shows all of the particles’ charges. It’s also got a really interesting, crisp style which creates really cool interference patterns. We may get Tom to write a blog post about how he did this for the graphics programmers out there. Let us know if that would interest you.
    Particulars 2013-04-05 15-08-00-23new_topology
  3. Win conditions graphics
      The old win conditions were a kind of digital clock that showed up in the top right-hand corner. They weren’t very clear, nor were they very exciting to look at. They also were in a spot on the screen that you probably weren’t looking at.
      After playing with shiny new icons (you can see one above) for a week or so, it became clear that the problem was that they appeared in the top right-hand corner. And so we decided to try using the entire screen, showing the win conditions as a watermark behind the action. This means that they are big and central enough to always be in your vision, but without overtaking the rest of the game. We then added an opening to each level to explain what each of these means, and voila! Win conditions!
      The actual implementation of these was a little bit tricky – we needed to make it so that compared to each other, the various arcs and circles weren’t transparent, but that they’d be transparent as a whole. And by we, I mean Tom. I’m really not that confident with the graphics programming.
    An early version of the win condition rings
  4. New Levels!
      The new version has two new levels (and we’ve ditched one other). One of the new levels is one of the prettiest formations in the game, and the other is one of the more mechanically interesting (though its Chapter 2 analogue is going to be even more awesome).
  5. Data graphics
      Yep, the data pick-ups now look like flowers. They are very pretty.
  6. Spawn-point graphics
      This is one of the things that didn’t turn out so well. The new graphics look really cool, but they don’t signal how long you have until a particle spawns anywhere near as well as the old ones did. More work to do here!
  7. Level progression
      You’ll notice that a couple of levels have been moved around here or there. Well, quite a lot of them, really. There’s still a couple of bits that stick out as spikes on the difficulty curve (1.18, I’m looking at you), but in general it’s a lot smoother.
  8. Explosion forces
      The explosions are now bigger and stronger. They weren’t really a big force in previous versions, which didn’t really suit the fact that they’re representing a vast amount of energy being expelled. At one point I turned them way, way up … that pretty much lead to chaos. Fun chaos, but it made some levels fairly unplayable, so I reeled them in a bit.
  9. Explosion graphics
      I think this is my favourite graphic in the game. Our in-game artist, Peter, chose a theme that you’ll see throughout the game of elements that overlap in interesting ways when moving at different speeds. The explosion rings all start at the same velocity, and then slow down randomly at different rates. The result is amazing.
  10. Blobs
      The blobs around the particles that show what forces are acting on them have been refitted – they now have anti-aliasing and come in two colours!
  11. Sound effects
      We have them! They sound pretty incredible too. There are some issues with the bass getting a bit lost when played through speakers, so we’re looking into what we can do to improve that.
  12. Level flow
      We built an entirely new system for better controlling the flow between levels. Now we have an incredible amount of control over what happens at the end of every level, and have added text at the end of levels to talk to bring across story and whatnot. The actual structure of the end of the level went through a couple of iterations here, but we ended up with the fairly streamlined version you’ll see in the buid.
  13. Comics
      The first two comic sections are in! It turns out that they’re a little long and slow, and there’s no sound in there. You can skip these by pressing any key if you want to.
  14. The Menu
      Yep, the menu’s gotten a bit of an upgrade. It’s pretty much a first draft of the final menu design, so there’s still a fair way to go. We also have credits!
  15. Everything tweens!
      Ease.EaseInCubic (or EaseOutCubic) is now my best friend. Everything in the game tweens when it appears or disappears, and it looks all cartoony and awesome.
  16. The Information Layer
      This is a work in progress, but we’ve put a bunch of work into getting the foundations in. If you move your mouse during the game, you will get a cursor which you can hover over things to get more info about them. You can also press space to pause the game without opening a menu, which lets you explore the world through this lens. Right now, we’ve only got a very limited number of annotations on this layer, but more are coming.
  17. Writing
      Bigger! Better! More! Still in progress! One of those is a lie. Probably ‘bigger’. The fonts haven’t actually changed at all.
  18. Shield graphics
      Another on the list of ‘needs more work’, the shield graphics are now better looking, but less noticeable. One thing we still need to work on is making the player particle stand out more than it does now, in general.
  19. Maximum angular velocity
      This is a bit of a subtle one. The curved corners of the play area meant that you could surf around corners almost infinitely fast, which was okay, but once you detached you would maintain some angular velocity, which would make you bounce strangely off corners. It was weird. We fixed it.
  20. The colours
      The final system we added (well kinda re-added, but Aidan made it much more bad-ass as he did so), was the ability for us to create smooth changes in the colours of pretty much everything in the game. You’ll notice that the walls and topology colours gradually change over the course of the chapter.
  21. Dust
      Tom D (our comic animator) kept telling us to do this, and we finally did. We added some small particles in the background that move like dust and are lit up by the topology. It looks pretty great.

Another change that we’ve made is that we’ve taken out the challenges for now. We’re not ditching them, but we need to rethink their place in the level-to-level flow.

And that’s the end of a long list of changes. We’d love to hear your feedback – let us know if you have any questions about any of those changes.

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