Note: This blog post was originally posted to the Arctic Empire Dev Diary blog back in October of 2013. The post was written by Arctic Empire’s lead developer, Steve Kanter.

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The same way graduating from high school or college is called “commencement”, which can be defined as “a beginning or start”, I don’t see this as the end of a journey.  I simply see it as the beginning to the world playing this fantastic game we’ve all spent so long on.

Office Attacks began over 2 years ago. I’ve spent the vast majority of my professional career here at Arctic Empire working on Office Attacks.  In fact Friday marks my 3  year anniversary of my first contract here.

Office Attacks began as an idea a long time ago.  While we’ve just submitted v1 due for soft launch in Canada mid-November, this is truly only the beginning.  We have insane amounts of new features and improvements waiting in the queue.  But this is a post-mortem, so I’m sure you’re looking for some juicy details on the development, as well as before and afters.

 

As you can see, we had very humble beginnings.  That screenshot was simply showing off this level which was built using our way-old borrowed from Galaxy Express level builder.  Nothing fancy, but a good start.  By the way, that screenshot was taken on May 18th, 2011.

If we skip ahead a few weeks, we now have towers and enemies on stage.  Aren’t they pretty?!

 

Would you believe that the entire time we were using this 2D view of Office Attacks we had that stupid placeholder “Steve”?  In fact, our current protagonist Steve didn’t even exist back then; I know, right?! For those who may still be interested, here are a few more images of Office Attacks at this stage.

Now let’s skip ahead a few months.

 

As you can see, the game is progressing quite nicely – though it’s still quite far from what we have now. What’s that you say – does the aspect ratio appear a bit different than what you’re used to?  In fact, Office Attacks started out as an iPhone game!  But it became so big and beautiful, we realized it could only realistically be an iPad game – at least at that time.  Who knows what the future holds!

Isometric!  This change was decided upon sometime in October of 2011 – almost exactly 2 years ago.  We realized that Office Attacks had huge potential, but our current downfall was the graphical quality of the game.  So that’s when we really kicked it up a notch and started playing around with isometric.

Yeah, so that didn’t work.  Back to the drawing board!

 

Whoa, that’s much better.  Already seeing better stuff.  Though, why is Kiki behind Steve’s desk?  I’m fairly certain at this point Steve STILL has yet to exist.  Seriously – looking back, I don’t know why we didn’t see this gaping hole in our story.  Still, I digress.

Now that we’ve moved to being isometric, things start to take off.   We have a level builder entering the picture, as well as the beginnings to a complete rewrite!  That’s right – you saw the old non-isometric version above, but quite frankly, a rewrite was absolutely in order.  So we started fresh – we designed our system robustly to handle development and got to it.

 

Ah, Steve has now entered the picture.  We still have some tiny enemies, but we’re getting there!  Obviously we’re still a fair ways off from where we are now, but the game is really starting to show its true colors.

It’s worth taking a quick break from screenshots to discuss what is going on at this point in development:  we quickly realized that by bringing on these high quality fully animated enemies and towers, we were going to have memory/performance issues with using spritesheets.  Displayed in this graphic you can see the level 5 water cooler’s body in its old spritesheet format – that’s just one tower piece – each tower can have up to 5 different pieces, and you can bring multiple different towers in.  Yeah – problems indeed.  Tim started work on a vector drawing system – taking our original art from their swfs and drawing that content in game.  Not a full flash runtime, but just enough to take the graphical data out of the swf and draw it.  In his previous posts he has talked about it a bunch, so you can read it there.

Once his work began, we quickly had Tyler jump on board and help move some of it over to OpenGL, so we could integrate it into the game.  They worked on this system full-time for  a few months.  We’ve jumped back on the system a lot between then and now, finally coming to our final system – using shapesheets!  At this point, the *entire* level 5 water cooler [all of its pieces] fit in this shapesheet – we use some crazy magic to turn those “sprites” into full pieces at runtime.  Seriously, it’s magic – Tim did an amazing job with the vector system, and with the assistance of Tyler and Clement, full credit goes to him.

So now that those guys are working in parallel with our spritesheet system, I’m busy working on other features.  I could literally go on for another 1,000 words about the game and our progress, but I think I’ll summarize the rest of our development with some before and afters.