Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Retro City Rampage just got even better (than it already was)


Even after an extensive development cycle spanning over a time period of ten years, there’s still no rest for Retro City Rampage creator and sole developer, Brian Provinciano. Even after the game’s release, he’s been listening to fans’ feedback and has implemented a number of improvements and adjustments to make the experience even better than it already is. If you haven't already, you can find our 4.5/5 Star review for Retro City Rampage through this jump

The updates are now available on all platforms that have seen a release and will be available day one when Retro City Rampage releases on XBLA, WiiWare and EU PS3/Vita, which there’s no set date for just yet, but are all finished and in the final processes for being released – in short, they’re coming soon.

Instead of cutting from Brian’s Press Release to let you in on what’s been changed and updated, his lengthy presser truly shows his passion for his creation and I recommend giving it a read: 

The Changes: What and Why?
Strategic Missions
A core pillar of RCR throughout development was to go beyond just driving and shooting missions. One of my approaches to this was to design missions which required the player to stop and strategize. If they went in guns a-blazin', they'd be killed and need to try again. Unfortunately, I didn't deliver this messaging clearly enough and some people went in expecting a standard GTA-style experience throughout. I also didn't emphasize the importance of stomping on enemies, nor jumping to dodge and avoid rockets, gunfire and vehicles running you down. Jumping, stomping and throwing are as important as any other weapon in the game, but players who went in with just fists and guns and came out feeling frustrated. 
To address the strategic missions, I have added additional tutorials, re-balanced some of the gameplay and tips screens are now displayed after repeated failures. The strategic gameplay required on certain missions is not something that I'm going to change, but those who need more guidance should now have a much easier time with them. They can think of it as pulling out an old Nintendo Power! Playerscan also watch replays on the Leaderboards of the top players for additional tips. Players who have mastered the game will likely notice little difference, but those who have gotten stuck will find the ride much smoother.
Checkpoints
While the average mission in RCR contained 2-3 checkpoints (which is more than most open-world games), those that did not stood out and gave some the perception that they were sparse. This was intentional, to increase the challenge and the consequence of actions. However, in cases where the player would fail and be required to replay one or two minutes of gameplay became frustration to some, and was amplified for those who went in with only a run-n-gun frame of mind as they’d hit a brick wall each time. More checkpoints have been added to ensure a more enjoyable experience for these players.
Mission Changes
Car Tailing. Yes. I call this out for being a boring task then make the players do it. However, in RCR the player needed to not just follow the car, but also find coffee kiosks without losing them for a frantic juggling act. This was an unpopular mission to some, but the car tailing was a red herring. It’s unpopular because failing towards the end meant replaying another two minutes of gameplay. To remedy this I added a checkpoint in the middle, tweaked some mission variables and most importantly added the Coffee Jitter Power which flips the game to run at 2X speed for 30 seconds, cutting the length of the mission in half yet again. Sadly, this power was actually on the todo list throughout the project but cut due to time constraints before submission.
Platforming. Yup. The mandatory Sweat Bomber levels were a frustration to many. These have now been completely overhauled. I’ve gone so far as to even add a rhythm game style tutorial bar showing which buttons to press and when after repeated failures on the first level. However, the real cause of the frustration was an oversight of mine involving jump distance. In order to make it over wide gaps, the player needed to run and jump. However, many players tried to jump from a standing position and saw the levels as impossible. This has also been addressed, and accelerating is no longer required before making long jumps. Oh, and these levels are also completely skippable now after three failures at the cost of unlockables. By completing all three levels, you’ll unlock an additional Arcade Challenge and a Free Roaming Mode playable character.
Side Quests. Fun fact! Several of the optional side missions were the very first missions developed for the game, before the final story was written. They didn’t quite fit once the game became more ambitious with more in depth missions. However, rather than cut them I decided to leave them in as optional ones. While I hoped that everyone would enjoy the overall package and see these as extras, the sad state is that some critics tug on any loose string that they find and these more mundane missions were held up high to the spotlight, some even using them to "sum up" the game. To address this, I've reworked them and added more depth to bring them closer to the level of the rest. Be warned though, they're now much harder and require more skill to beat, as is the case for many of the optional missions. The purpose of most optional missions is to give the advanced players more challenge (which funny enough was cause for criticism by some, but that’s why they’re optional!).
Remember: It’s Two Games in One
Knowing well that many players just want to blow things up non-stop without any story whatsoever, I built half of RCR to cater directly to this audience. Next to the Story Mode there are also nearly 50 Arcade Challenges and a Free Roaming Mode. Players who just want to jump into the game and go crazy are covered. There's something for everyone in this game so enjoy what speaks to you.
Conclusion
Throughout development I had a lot of people playtest the game and opened my ears like a sponge for all of the feedback that I could get. I’d rush to address it and a better game was the result. I credited this as being a key reason for the game's awards and hot reception leading up to its launch. However, in the final couple of months before submission, the task list was overflowing. Being a one man show, I had to juggle everything from the programming, design and bug fixing to the business, production, trailer, store assets, marketing, emails, PR and most of all, certification and platform requirements. I didn’t want to let everything else on my plate prevent the game from being as complete as I wanted it to be and the story flow felt like it still had holes. Not to worry, because I knew just the missions to fill in the gaps and got everything done in the nick of time. However, having created the game and having years of practice, I underestimated my own skill playing it. Late in the project I was able to speed run it so easily that I became worried that it felt way too easy, so I made these new missions significantly more difficult. That wouldn’t have been an issue had there been time to run playtests on these missions, but there wasn’t any. I was so over worked, sleeping so little, and physically ill from the years of seven day work weeks that in the end I sometimes had to reverse-call in sick asking my testers to work from home as I couldn’t make it into the office. 
The strong lesson to be learned here is that playtesting is critical for everything that goes into the game, especially at the end. You, and your testers are all masters of the game in the end and it’s difficult to judge difficulty without fresh eyes. Sounds like common sense, yes? But it’s really tough to balance things and sort out tasks when the mountain is so high it’s out of sight. That being said, the final boss is hard; deal with it. It’s the final boss! ;)
What makes this even more interesting is that throughout most of RCR’s development, people would always ask me what my favourite missions were. I honestly couldn’t answer that question because I liked them all. However, in the end I could answer that question very easily. My favourite missions were all of those last ones that I squeezed in. They were challenging and therefore fun. The engine, tools, art and audio were all done, so I could just take ideas straight out of my head and make them a reality. There were no bottlenecks in the way and the creativity could flow. So with that being said, one of my favourite missions was one of the least popular among players. You as the player were given dynamite and told to blow up 20 vehicles. To me, this was the pinnacle of my vision. Why? Because it sounded so simple, but you really, really had to think hard to strategize a plan or you'd be slaughtered. I nailed it. 
Too bad many players weren’t on the same page. For every reason that I enjoyed the mission, those who were playing it under a run-n-gun mindset faced nothing but frustration. The perfect strategy has you stopping incoming traffic then timing how long you spend between dropping the dynamite and jumping out of the way, as well as figuring out which direction you need to jump to relative to where you placed the dynamite. Focusing on smaller vehicles that can be blown up with a single stick reduces the number of times you need to dodge explosions, and jumping is also critical in avoiding police trying to run you down. The mission actually popped into my head after having so much fun playing the dynamite Arcade Challenge and realizing the depth of strategy required. The problem with making a game with everything including a kitchen sink is that some players either don’t expect or don’t like certain directions that you can go in. I guess it’s just like those old NES games that switched between platforming levels and racing. I hated those racing levels at the time and just wanted more platforming.
As mentioned up top, the game’s received a month of additional tweaks and polish. More than I could list (without boring you!). If you’re playing on Steam, the good news is that you’ve already (automatically) got the latest version. For PS3 and PS Vita, click “YES” when prompted to update. For other PC versions, go back to your download page, log in and download the latest version.

[November 15th, 2012] [PS3 v1.02 | PS Vita v1.02 | PC v1.07]
 Highlights
  •  Added Tips Screens
- displayed if the player fails missions repeatedly
  •  Shop location icons
- shop icons added to the full size pause menu map
  •  Added COFFEE JITTER SPEED Power
- drink coffee to play the game at 2X speed for 30 seconds (makes Biffman tailing mission
quicker)

Vehicles
  •  Faster Cars
- cars now have much faster top speeds making it quicker to get around town
  •  Persistent Cars
- Most recent car no longer disappears when starting a mission or restarting from some
checkpoints
  •  Convenience Cars
- Fast cars conveniently spawn on missions where you must travel longer distances, some
with nitro 

Overhauled Missions
  •  Sweat Bomber platforming levels completely overhauled
- jumping/moving no longer requires acceleration, allowing players to jump distances 
from a standing position
- wider platforms, taller triggers
- increased visibility of soul boosters
- clearer perspective
- rhythm game-style tutorial bar now displays buttons to press on first level after 
repeated failures
- can be skipped after three deaths (but the player won't earn the playable character or 
challenge

  •  Side missions - added depth
- increased the challenge on the Trailer Park and Milky's missions (they now require more
strategy to beat)
  •  Tap 'dat AS5 stage overhauled
- faster to beat but more skill required (must also dodge projectiles)

Tutorials & Balancing 
  •  Stomp and Dodge Tutorials Added
- emphasizing the importance of stomping and jumping in the game (which are required
to beat certain missions)
- trains the player how to avoid police cars trying to run them down
  •  Many story missions significantly improved
- more checkpoints, health pick ups and faster parked vehicles to speed up travel
- Including but not limited to: 
Holy Secret Identification, Guilty Conscience, Drunk Trialing, Streets of Urban Bouncing,
Pawn That Noob's TV, Loose Change Laundry Caper, Super Stomp Shenanigans, Sweat
Time, Tap 'dat AS5
  •  Castle boss now easier
- shields dropped which render you immune from wreaking ball attacks
- more walls/floor added reducing chance of falling into gears
  •  Prison stomp now easier
- split into two parts with a checkpoint in the middle

Other
  •  French Translation Updated
  •  Police Siren Adjusted 
  •  Misc Bug Fixes & Other Tweaks 


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