Vectronic is a first-person environmental puzzle mod using Valve's Source Engine. Players must solve puzzles using special power balls that effect boxes that effects their behavior in the world.
After a long year of silence, an update as come forward. Here will explain most of everything that has happened, and future plans for this project. Keep in-mind everything is still not final, and subject to change.
First, you should have noticed that the name has changed to better fit the mod. "Vectronic" was a name that was always apart of the mod, but it became the title of the project after I redid the entire game mechanic system.
This video is a month old, but here it is showing the new game mechanic with the power balls. Last article I went into great detail why I switched from a direct tracer activation, to a slower but more dynamic ball-hit activation. The new powers are:
You should also noticed that the view model has been removed. I found it to be much better to not have the ball shooter be tied to a weapon, but the player themselves. The player has gets the balls by dispensers in each map. After the puzzle is over, all the balls that the player got are removed. This removes the player having to "upgrade" their device at certain points, and pushes even more focus on the balls then the weapon which we continue to do so.
We all loved the cartoonish, retro-futuristic look of the mod. The goal was to keep this style as it was fun, unique, and there was a lot of creative designs for game objects. So why was it scrapped for a simpler, Portal like design?
Last article, I talked about how the design lacked shadows to guide the player to a location, object, or exit. With that in mind, I was also getting into actual modeling so I saw this style to be a good challenge to tackle. Most things going came out really well, minus the chambers being a bit bland. However, when the new game mechanic was added, it ended up not working as balls could bounce uncontrollably around the room. Plus, it was very hard to indicate what places a ball could bounce, and a ball can't. The system is that the ball can bounce anywhere besides some surfaces. Reversing the effect made the game feel more restricting. It's a lovely design but it's not for this project; I'm afraid.
After going back to the old style, the development flow of the mod went smoothly. It was really simple to make maps, gameplay objects and the overall how the mod played out. A prototype was made in this artstyle last summer, and it was suggested internally to try once more with a new art scheme being that I knew what was needed to make a Vectronic map.
After a lot of testing, going back in forth, deciding what would fit the project best, I decided to take break from this project. I wanted to learn more about Source's structure, and how to more things, and other things better. For this, I turned to my side project Infestation for this need. While I was doing that, I was able to learn a lot of new things such as base classes, AI, spawning entites, etc. When I was wrapping that up, every now and then I would make one prop for Vectronic. By Spring, I had enough content, and motivation to continue the project.
Deciding to go back to the previous artstyle as I found it was the best due to the fact that achromatic color scheme makes colorful gameplay props such as buttons, doors, and boxes stand out easily. And being that the balls are represented by color, it was critical to make sure that no ball activation color would be washed by the environment. The shadows cast by the frames serve a dual purpose by not only helping directing the player, but making the maps seem more full then what they really are.
Currently, the map in the video is the only map that was made. I'm still tweeking the design and solving other problems. So of course, if you don't like it or whatnot, suggestions are welcomed. However, keep in mind that everything so far was made due to a purpose.
I'm happy to say that Vectronic is not built off of Half-Life 2, but instead the base source code of the 2013 engine branch, and the base code is kept vanilla. This means a lot of things.
During the winter, I was working on porting stuff from Alien Swarm to 2013. I've managed to get things like Fog HDR, Fog Volume, client spotlights and other ports. Then Valve updated the base code and I was confused what they edited. So I moved the project to the most recent clone and kept it like that.
Vectronic also now uses vpc files to build the solution. With the vanilla code, and the vpc scripts, this makes transferring code for help or building it for Linux/OSX much more easier.
Vectronic's source code is also compatible with the Ailen Swarm branch as much lingo for the branch is different then Source 2013's. I have a working build of it now, but a lot more work needs to go in. For now, it's gonna keep using the 2013 branch for the multiplat and VR support. Maybe someday a port will be made, but It does not really seem worth it.
The first indications of Source 2 came to the surface with the Dota 2 Authoring Tools. Vectronic is intended to be on this Source engine. Maybe when the future of Source 2 is more clear, it's possible that this will be ported/remade in that engine. There is also a possibility that it will also be ported to a different engine not relating to Valve Software. But for now, it's main focus is The Source 2013 branch as it's the engine and branch I know best.
I always loved making maps, elements, I/O systems, and being able to package maps the way I wanted to with the original Portal. Portal's GCF system (at the time), bonus map system, challenge scripts made making custom maps fun and engaging. This is something I want Vectronic to have. The goal is that custom map makers can create maps, items, elements and package them easily. The branch's VPK filesystem makes this possible, and concepts of systems for making custom gameplay mechanics with just a few entities in Hammer is in the works. It's also planned to have mapping guides and how-to's ready on the first release. All of this will be worked out more in the future.
On top of everything, a lot of work has went into this over the years. Choices where made, code written and re-written, and ideas came and left. I want this project to remain simple for what it is. No, it's probably not going to have this rich story with funny characters and jokes. But if Vectronic is shipped with a solid code, found fun, and allowed people to make their own maps, puzzle elements, and such, it will make the first release just a seed starting to sprout with a ton of room to improve and grow. I'd rather start small and grow with feedback and outside ideas then go in with this big project and find out no one likes it.
Keep in-mind I'm also working on other projects and this project was started from the fact of testing, learning and playing around. I hope to continue developing this way and not have it turn into another stressful project. Vectronic is not like any other mod. It's just an experiment.
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