A few months ago I explained how I was introducing a day / night cycle into Hitchhiker. At the time this was purely to test out an asset for a future project that I had in mind. 

However, it came together so well that I wanted to properly integrate it into the game and release it as an update. I toyed with the idea of just adding this feature in but there were some other tweaks that have been on the to do list for some time that could be included. As a result I decided to take the plunge and commit to a full title update. 

Off the bat I can say that this update will not be include any expansion to the map size – If anything I am now trying to optimise the map I currently have. Instead this update focuses on refining what is already in the game with the aim to making it a better overall experience for the player. 

There were 2 main areas that I wanted to focus on…

User Interface

Hitchhiker has undergone a graphical revamp since the very first version. The game does look very different to what it was almost 4 years ago now. The UI though, has remained the same with each update. I figured it was time to move away from the default unity look and feel and switch to something that was more in keeping with the city environment.  

After a long search through the unity asset store I found the “Grunge UI” pack. At first glance it looked like it would fit the theme of the game. I updated the main menu first and was really happy with the result. All of the buttons and dialogs in the game have been changed in some way. I think the final result looks fantastic and the UI no longer feels out of place in the game. 

As part of this title update the HUD has been removed. The navigation options can now be accessed via the main game menu. This lays the foundations for a better game-play experience when using a controller. Before the use of the menu and HUD were disjointed and as a result I couldn’t use the same controller input for both. Having everything together now makes it much more intuitive for the player.

Characters

The characters should be the star of the show. Their the people who you need to get around the city, which is the whole point of the game! Up until now the graphical quality of those characters varied hugely. Many of the characters had low poly counts and basic textures. While this was good for mobile it didn’t really make the grade when running on a PC. 

These lower detailed models have now been replaced with more detailed examples, all with a similar style. You might ask, “why do you need detailed characters?, you only ever look down on them from above!”. That’s about to change, but more about that later.

Personalities

The personalities that each character had was designed to add to the strategic element of the game. The idea that each character could be suited to a particular car resulted in the player selecting which car to get in very carefully. At least that was the plan. If you got it right, and got in a car with a complementary personality, the driver would take you further. Get it wrong and you would be kicked out quickly.

In reality though the difference between the 2 could be too extreme. This was especially annoying if you waited a long time for a car to come along, only to get kicked out within 10 seconds or so. Coupled with the fact that in some areas of the map the car density is low, selecting from multiple cars was not really an option. I had feedback from players complaining that the higher levels were too difficult to complete as a result. I wanted to address this but didn’t just want to make the game easier. 

Power ups

The solution was to remove the charter personalities all together. Now this is not to say that they are still now charming human beings. They just no longer influence how long a car will take them around the city. This fixed the problem of getting kicked out almost as quickly as you got in. The issue now was that each character was effectively the same, it didn’t matter which one you played as. 

Now each character has their own power up which is enabled when you select to play a mission with them. These range from extra xp or coins all the way to unlimited power ups or patience levels. As you level up you will unlock new characters and therefore a wider range of tactical options.

As mention, you select the character before the missions starts. Instead of a dull menu to select them, the characters are viewed up close within the city environment. This is why the higher detailed models were an important addition to this update. 

Timeline

All of the above changes are well underway and I hope to close in on a release window within a month

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