What’s up, gamers? :v I hope you’re all staying safe. It’s been a while since my last post, huh? But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy! 👀 In fact, I have been busier than ever, and today I am very happy to share the result of many months of hard work – a demo which you can download and play on your Windows PC right now! 👀
I’m sure everyone has lots of questions about the game and what I’ve been doing, so I thought it would be fun to have a Q&A-style post this time. If you’d rather download the game first, feel free to scroll down to the end of the post for the link. Just don’t forget to enjoy the screenshots on the way down. :v
Q: So what is Crow Down Showdown about?
Crow Down Showdown is an arcade flight game made with Unreal Engine 4, inspired by the speedway levels from Spyro the Dragon, one of my favorite games (which you really should play if you haven’t yet)! You play as Chipper the Crow, and as you fly around exploring beautiful locations, you will come across many obstacles. Your objective is to destroy all of them as quickly as possible without dying!
Q: How many levels are there in the demo?
This demo only has one level: Mystic Island Speedway. It’s not a long demo, but the level is quite large and challenging. I expect the average player will take a few tries to beat it for the first time with a not-so-good time, and then many more tries until they get a 3-star time (1:30 or less). And for the most hardcore gamers, you can try to beat my best time of 1:18.44, which I’ve included in every save file by default so you can always feel taunted by it. :v I’m sure some speedrunner will make me eat my words and get a much better time with a route I hadn’t even considered, though. :v If that speedrunner is you, don’t forget to post a video of your gameplay in the comments. 👀
Q: You said this game was inspired by the speedway levels from Spyro. Did you decide to change anything in the formula?
Yes! I did make a few changes:
🔴 Instead of having a single target time, there are 3 different ones tied to a rank system. While in Spyro someone might beat a speedway for the first time and be done with it, I wanted to give players a better reason to keep playing a level and get better at it.
🔴 Speed and acceleration are handled a bit more realistically. The closer you are to flying straight down, the higher your target speed and acceleration will be, and you can keep that extra speed for a while even after switching directions. This adds a nice bit of extra depth to the gameplay while still being intuitive for everyone to understand.
🔴 Holding Shift or L1/LB keeps your pitch (that is, the angle you are facing vertically) parallel to the world’s horizontal plane. This helps you fly close to the water or ground without crashing. Spyro has a similar assist that slowly resets your pitch when you aren’t inputting a direction, which works well, but also makes it harder to fly in a straight diagonal line. I think having a dedicated button to trigger that assist was a nice improvement.
Q: What was the most challenging part of making this demo?
Level design was one of the first things that I started, and even a week ago I was still making adjustments to it, so probably that. From the beginning, I kept a list of things I wanted the level to have, but arranging them together in a way that was fun to explore, with multiple viable routes for a wide range of skill levels took a lot of trial-and-error. I also created a useful level design tool for moving objects along a spline, which I used for the boats and airplanes in this level. I can use it to change their initial position, speed, direction, distance between each other, and preview where they would be after a certain amount of time, which helps figure out which routes are the best, or how to favor them by altering the timing. There are so many things I learned about speedway level design, so I would really like to give that topic its own in-depth post.
Q: How many people worked on this game?
I am the only person who worked directly on it, but there are many asset packs that I used for music, sound effects, 3D models, skeletons, animations, landscape materials, etcetera, made by a bunch of different people/companies. You can check out the full list by clicking the Credits button in the title screen!
Q: Was there anything you wanted to put in the demo that you had to cut?
I managed to include almost everything I had planned. I think the biggest omission was the Eagle from the Meerkat short film, which I intended to use as a playable character. It uses next-gen quality feather rendering, and Epic Games shared the whole project in their store (and since it’s already licensed for use with Unreal Engine projects, it wouldn’t have been ill-eagle to use it or anything). However, it caused a really big frame-rate drop playing in my current setup (GTX 1060 + i7-7700HQ). I could’ve included it anyway as an option for players with more powerful computers, but I decided to prioritize other things. I wonder what the game’s name would’ve been… Definitely not “Eagle Down Showdown”. 🤔
I also wanted to include gyro-assisted controls when playing with a controller that supports that (e.g. DualShock 4, DualSense, or Switch Pro Controller). However, those features only seem to be available for developers with a PlayStation or Switch devkit, neither of which I own. D: So at least until I find a way to process their raw input or get a devkit, keyboard + mouse will be the most precise way to play the game.
Q: If Crow Down Showdown became a full commercial game, what do you think would have to be different about it?
Features such as online leaderboards and being able to race against your friends’ ghosts are always expected when you buy a game of this type, so I would definitely need to add them. But the most important thing would be having a LOT of levels.
Speaking of levels, while I was able to use assets from different sources and put them together in a way that looked and sounded nice for the level in this demo, for a commercial game it would be ideal to have a team with at least one specialist of each discipline to keep a consistent art/sound direction across the whole project.
Q: Are you still working on that other action/adventure project with the anime girl from your other Unreal posts?
Of course! Technically, this is still that same project. I actually started working on these flight mechanics for that character, as a power-up that would give her wings and let her fly. However, as I was struggling to find good wing models and flight animations for humans, I remembered that I had access to an asset pack with a bunch of animated animals, including a bird! So I quickly made an animation blueprint for that, used the same Flight component I had already created (it’s compatible with any subclass of Character!), and saw that everything was working quite well! Controlling a bird instead of a human meant interacting with the world from a smaller scale, which is something that I have really enjoyed in games since Toy Story 2, and being able to fit through tight spaces is something that comes in really handy in a flight level!
At that point, I realized that it would be much faster to finish a level focusing on these flight mechanics, than one with my combat/platforming mechanics. Even though I had already made a lot of progress in my parkour and weapon systems, I was also struggling to find good animations for them, and hadn’t even started creating enemies yet, let alone AI. Now, with the extra knowledge that I’ve acquired working on Crow Down Showdown, I am feeling a lot more confident about facing those challenges. And thanks to some Epic timing, Unreal now has this awesome feature called Control Rig for rigging and animating skeletal meshes, which I’m really looking forward to learning and making use of.
Thank you very much for reading this post, and I hope you enjoy the demo! If you do enjoy it and feel like supporting my work, you could really make my day by sharing this post or the download link below with your friends or posting videos/screenshots of your gameplay with the hashtag #CrowDownShowdown. If you’re feeling generous, you can choose to send a donation when downloading the game from Itch.io, or donate directly to my Ko-fi page, which I created recently. And if you end up not liking the game, I don’t know, share it with your enemies or something. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Either way, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comment section. Feel free to ask any questions that weren’t in this Q&A, too!