Fun fact #1: The green character was designed to be the average most relatable character. He’s essentially our “everyman.” The green color was our default color since it was the first and only player color in the game’s early prototype against the still ever-so-manly pink/magenta space pirates. And going one step further, all of our default sprites utilize that green color which we change depending on the team you pick.
Fun fact #2: The blue character is gender neutral. The character’s sex is intentionally left vague, as well as the character’s voice overs utilizing a blend of both male and female voice takes blended and filtered on top of each other. The character’s oxygen mask also serves to hide his/her identity. Beyond that, if you pay special attention to Blue’s in-game player avatar, when the character dies an x-ray image of its skull quickly pops up showing quite a number of augmentations implying a lot of technological modification, maybe even ascending the character beyond a mere human.
Fun fact #3: The game’s initial prototype was built in Construct 2 then once its concept was proven, redone in Unity. Construct 2 is a speedy little game development application and while it excels at HTML5 development it couldn’t quite utilize the power we were looking for. Unity was our engine of choice to get the type of gameplay we wanted to create. Combined with solid performance across the board and plenty of porting options, we made our decision to use Unity. Still, Construct 2 remains a very solid and useful prototyping tool for our team since it helps quickly test design ideas to make sure they work in principle.
Fun Fact #4: You may or may not have noticed… players oddly have 11 bullets by default when they spawn in. We figured we needed to turn it all up to 11. In all seriousness, 10 bullets was initially the number of choice, but the UI just didn’t look pretty in its current form with only 10 bullets. So we added one last bullet to make sure it all lined up properly. A single bullet is certainly a powerful tool in Stardust Vanguards, but after testing it didn’t make too much of a difference in battles so we left it in.
Fun Fact #5: Everyone knows you can deflect bullets with your sword. So what? Well, what happens during those moments is that the sword strike doubles the projectile’s speed! That means the bullet is going crazy fast when you deflect it back. About the only way to avoid a reflected bullet is to utilize your dash. The deflections were added in as a way to lower the dominating power of the player’s guns. With deflections being a powerful counter-attack to bullets, it really helps balance out the ranged power of projectiles. You’re taking a risk firing bullets so use your guns wisely and strategically. And if you manage to deflect an already deflected bullet, the speed of the projectile that returns back may very well be something you can’t dodge: an instakill. In the event that you’re able to even do that you flat-out deserve the kill since managing such a deflection is beyond challenging. For what it’s worth, during our own development tests we only managed to do that once or twice over hours and hours and hours of internal playtesting while intentionally attempting it. So it’s an extremely rare occurrence and it’s probably even more rare that you could even hit someone with a deflected-deflected bullet.
Fun Fact #6: All teams were supposed to be named after stones. The green faction is the “Emerald Coalition.” Our blue faction is the “Azure Singularity.” And our yellow faction is the “Amber Federation.” Well, except for the red faction who goes by the moniker the “Scarlet Kingdom.” The obvious choice for red would have been a ruby stone, but it just didn’t have the same ring to it that the term scarlet did so we went ahead with that instead. This also factored heavily into the team’s player selection insignias. The “Scarlet Kingdom” is aiming to be a more traditional, honor-driven faction so it’s insignia utilizes a sword and lion crest. The green team aims to be more of a modern military power. The blue team is a society that has fully embraced technological enhancement. The yellow faction was designed to be a group of rag-tag rebels with hearts of gold. Hopefully the insignias kind-of demonstrate that, and it may likely go unnoticed, though there was a lot of careful planning to make sure the colors, names, and insignias matched their personalities in that regard.
Fun Fact #7: The game’s title early on was “Zero-G Aces.” The name was changed just days before we publicly announced the game.
Fun Fact #8: The game uses 634 sprites total. From least to greatest the sprite distribution breaks down like this: 02% are enemies, 08% are player character animations, 09% are background art, 35% are UI elements, and a whopping 46% of our sprites are devoted to FX art like sparks and explosions. So that means just under half of all of the game’s assets on the art side of Stardust Vanguards were effects animations. When you think about the course of a battle though with everything happening it makes sense, though admittedly seeing the numbers can be a bit jarring. The game’s visual style really depends on those loud, bright sparks and explosions. In fact, I think you could largely define the style in Stardust Vanguards by that giant brightly colored glare that occurs when a player dies. Going a bit further, there are a lot of extra details in those explosions including sparks, debris, small plumes of smoke, large plumes of smoke, and plenty of bombastic speed lines to draw your attention to really important big explosions (like for capital ships and transport ships). Even simple bullet hits have potentially 7 different spark animations that can play, which we choose 2 to 3 randomly and rotate them randomly on each hit to make them look more diverse and further define the game’s bright style. It also helps make kills and hits feel oh-so satisfying when you finally nail a baddie with the perfect shot. And our shielding effect for newly spawned players has a lot of special animations going on, too. Almost ten animation can play when a bullet hits a shield and while its a subtle addition, it helps add to the dynamics of the visual presentation, in addition to the boot up and fracturing animations the shield does. Suffice to say, it’s all integral to the game’s visual style and without the in your face, over the top effects, the game wouldn’t have the same style.
Fun Fact #9: The game converts analog input into digital to ensure a retro feel when using a thumbstick. Furthermore, this make the d-pad and thumbstick options equally viable as a means to play the game so no-one has an advantage over another player just because they learned (or prefer) the game with a specific control method. While we know it’s a bit unusual to downgrade things like digital controls, we had to make a few compromises to achieve the tight, precise controls the game required. From the onset of development we were committed to making the game play solidly.
Fun Fact #10: Last but certainly not least, there are approximately 28,000 lines of code lovingly coded into Stardust Vanguards.