(Okay, so I'm just kidding about the "Free pizza" part, but stick with me.)
Greetings Ping fans and welcome to Week 4 of Ping Development!
I know I seem to say this every time, but this has been a really cool week. With Ping's core gameplay nailed down, this week was focused on the gameplay enhancements and graphical updates that were suggested by our lovely play testers.
Now, no one ever accused Ping of trying to have the best graphics on the market, but one might say that the original look was… simple. It was definitely a deliberate choice, but many play testers commented that maybe Ping could use just a touch more graphical polish. So this past week Joe has been working on a few new updates to the graphics and look of Ping, including…
Game Field redesign:
Changes were made to make Ping a little more reminiscent of a real ping-pong table. The playing area is now one solid color and the "gutters" behind each player's line are darker to give a feeling of depth. In addition, the ball has now been made white, which makes it stand out more amidst chaotic missile battles.
To add to the feeling of just a hint of depth, the paddles, ball, and missiles all now have a slight drop shadow. It shouldn't be obvious the casual observer, but for those looking it adds just a touch of flavor. Like a dash of oregano.
One thing that came up a lot in play testing was that the way to charge a super shot was not obvious. (It charges if you stop shooting for 2 seconds.) To add to the "implicit instructions" in the game, there's now a little charge bar behind each paddle showing how charged your supershot is. When the bar is full, the paddle starts flashing, just like before.
Moving between menus and screens in Ping before used to play a canned preset animation. To add a little pizzazz, now there are 8 new Ping-themed transitions that play randomly as you move between levels and menus. It's another small touch but one which really makes the whole game feel more cohesive.
This addition is a personal favorite of mine and the first of what will hopefully be many unlockable "themes" to change the look of the game. This is meant to be as exact a replica as possible of the original Atari game Pong. It looks really cool motion and just feels so exciting and different.
Many of the more "hardcore" gamers that played Ping expressed a desire for a bit more to mastery - A few more tools in the arsenal, if you will. In response, Joe has started experimenting with giving Ping some new moves. Fret not, fans of Ping's simplicity, because there's still only three buttons (Up, down, shoot) - Now there's just more ways to use them!
Boosting (Or "wooping" as we've been calling it around Ping HQ)
Double-tapping up or down now gives you a short boost of speed to either dodge through missiles or getting to a hard-to-reach ball. You'll also continue to keep moving even if you get hit and spin out so this allows you to do fun, dramatic dives through enemy missiles. (Fun fact: It got its nickname of "wooping" from the "woooOOOp" sound that this makes.)
Hold to Fire:
Okay, so this one isn't so much a "move" as it is "trying to preserve thumbs." One of the biggest requests we got from play testers was asking if they could just hold down the fire button to fire missiles - Their thumbs were getting tired. So now to reduce carpal tunnel syndrome and save those poor thumbs there is the option to hold down the button to just continuously fire missiles. Don't worry though, button-mashers, you can still keep mashing away on the button if you want to! (Between you and me, it seems like you can still get a better rate-of-fire by mashing…)
A lot of these new moves have to do with ways to "sculpt" and control supershots, using them in new fun ways. They include...
The Mega Bullet:
Holding down your fire button after letting off a supershot now condenses all of the missiles into a dense, powerful "Mega Bullet." It can be really tricky to aim and pull off, due to it not being much larger than the ball, but if you can pull it off it can be absolutely devastating.
Super Shot Spread:
Using your arrow keys after you fire, you can control the "spread" of your supershot like using spin in bowling to arc your ball. This allows you to span a wider area, sacrificing your supershot's density (and therefore power) in exchange for a bigger reach.
Super Shot Nudge:
By "wooping" during a supershot, you can "nudge" the supershot up or down, like banging on the side of a pinball machine. (For those not familiar with "pinball machines," this move could also be compared to using "Tilt" in a pinball video game.)
Pretty exciting, right? Well I'm not done yet so just hold your horses!
Other fun stuff:
Our outside contractors have been doing awesome work too. Composer Ryan O'Connell has submitted the latest version of the Ping music is really, really cool. We've been hearing it a lot around Ping HQ, and we haven't gotten sick of it yet!
In addition, team artist Wyatt Banks is hard at work on the illustration/box art for Ping's splash page. He kindly gave us a sketch to show you how it's coming along so far. (Answer: It is looking awesome. I can't wait to see it finished and in color.)
So as the Ping Team moves into week 5 (sheesh, has it already been that long?), Joe has a lot on his plate to just keep adding, polishing and balancing all of these new features. As always, the input of outside players is super important to us and we actually had a few questions we wanted to ask you all. (Or "Y'all," as Joe says. He is from Texas, after all.)
- What do you think of the sound of the new moves? Are there any others that you want added?
- Any thoughts on the new graphical changes? Things you like? Things you hate?
- What are your ideas for other unlockable themes? Joe wants to try and evoke other classic eras of gaming and we'd love your thoughts on what you think the "must have" themes would be.
Thanks again so much for reading; we're so excited to have you with us for this and can't wait to start sharing these new enhancements.
In the meantime, stay cool and I will see you next week!
Ping Team Liaison