Apocalypse University

Last edited: 31 January 2016, 6:04PM


Apocalypse University was a turn-based fighting game where players picked characters and fought each other using moves ranging from 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 points of damage. The higher the damage, the fewer times you could use the move. The trick to the game came when after you executed your move, you and your opponent would play a round of rock-paper-scissors to determine the outcome of your damage.

I contributed to the repos, but it seems like after trying to find them again, the two or three different repos we had are all gone now. I couldn't recover my art either since I did that on a previous computer. A shame really. We had a Drive folder to help manage things, but that was also deleted. The most I could muster were some scattered Drive files I myself created for the project and never removed.


After Block Escape ended in the fall quarter, I didn't have any plans for the future about new projects to work on. I was going to wait until winter quarter started up again and then plan on joining on a new VGDC project that needed an artist. But during break, I was approached by Sean, who I met back on Block Escape, to see if I was interested in working on a new thing with him.

At the time, Apocalypse University was named Project Mirus. Mirus is a Latin word meaning wonderful, marvelous, amazing. The game concept was an original idea from Sean and an old group of high school and past friends that used to play it together. Originally, it was a simple paper and pen game. Both players would draw their own character representing themselves and have indicators for their damage moves.

Each turn, a player would pick a move and attempt to attack the enemy with it. The two players would then play rock-paper-scissors. If the attacking player won, the attack went through. If he didn't win, the attack missed. And if they tied... I forgot what happens. Anyways, the first person to reach 0 health lost. Though seemingly pretty basic, the rock-paper-scissors actually made the experience pretty random and fun, and it took a bit of strategy as well to analyze opponents and guess what they would do next.

Sean and his friends were now looking to adapt their game to a video game. Most of them were based in UCI, though the original leader and another member were, if I recall, from Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara respectively. I didn't really have much to do over break, so I wanted to get started working as soon as possible. I Skyped the leader once to officially affirm that I was joining and to hear more about the project. And I also started talking a lot with Josh, the main designer of the team.

Since I worked pretty steadily and was pretty familiar with characters, we decided to try and work around that. Instead of customizing your own character, we made a preset of characters to choose from that were representative of each of the developers. Mine was based on an edgy looking shade with some shady powers.

The others wrote up pretty indepth explanations for their characters as well. Josh had a fighter guy with big fists named Rolo. Tyler had a zombie cop dude named Anduin. There was also something like a reverse teddy bear and girl combo, a gargoyle, and a rock monster.

The quarter we worked on the project was probably one of my worst quarters at UCI. I was taking 4 classes at a time, which, wasn't too necessarily bad, but I was taking hands down the worst class I ever took during that time as well, ICS 6D: Discrete Math. That was just bonkers amounts of work, bonker tests, and honestly not very well taught. Rest in peace anyone who's taken that course.

But despite that I'd still say I did some sizable work. We eventually decided that we'd do an individual sprite frame for each move. Not an animation, as that seemed like too much work for 6*5 potential moves, but I could at least do a single frame for each. Also halfway through, I ended up working on backgrounds, which, unfortunately, I can no longer find. I wasn't really used to drawing environments at the time, but I still made some nice backdrops that I think the team was pretty happy with.

UI was actually left to Sean since I think I seemed a bit annoyed with having to do a lot of everything, and he already made some decent buttons as placeholders. Less burden for me so I was pretty glad for that. Sean was our producer and odd-job-doer of the group. He did his best to coordinate us forwards, schedule for us, and did anything from UI to 3D modeling.

We also had another 2D artist, Patty, that joined in the middle of the quarter that helped contribute a bit of work. She was worried that her drawing style wouldn't match mine. I didn't think it would've been a problem since having unique looking characters seemed fine to me. Mainly, Patty's problems were just speed and consistency and not so much quality. It just took some time for her to finish her work. She worked on the gargoyle, and by the project's end finished maybe 2 or 3 frames for art.

By the end of the project, I believe we had finished a considerable chunk of all the different character frames that we needed. So art was taken care of for the most part. Josh handled music for the game, and he was really on top of his work, making I think separate themes for each character.

Midway through the project, we picked up, kind of at random I suppose, Emma, a writer for the game. To be honest, I don't really know how we ended up with a writer since we were making a fighting game that didn't need a story. We were kind of confused, but we were a bunch of good, fun people so we just ran with it. We started to incorporate a story element into the game and see how we could fit everything together.

So our story, after looking at our characters, became Apocalypse University. It kind of fits all our mishmash of random, unique personalities, and it's somewhat of a representation of us as well, currently in university. I don't really remember the details, but the name kind of says everything I think. A bunch of people fighting in an university after an apocalypse, or something like that.

What really dragged down the project to a complete halt, however, was the programming. The two old friends I mentioned who were going to help us program outside of UCI left the project a few weeks into the quarter. This left Tyler basically by himself trying to scramble everything together, with Josh and Sean I think trying to help him on the side.

Tyler wanted to work in C++ because that was something he never used before and wanted experience in. But that led to all kinds of trouble when he couldn't get sufficient help or support from the team, unfamiliar with the language and library. Midway through the quarter, VGDC "helped" us a bit by hooking us up with a programmer, Jordan, with some C++ experience. But Jordan... I don't know, let's just say he's a bit of an odd case.

He's one of those guys who kind of rubs you the wrong way. Not that he's actively trying anger or negatively affect you, but it just kind of ends up like that. I personally wouldn't bash on him too much because at least in my eyes, he was just innocently trying to do his best work. But Jordan, this guy, he's one of those people that tries really, really hard, to fit in and contribute to a project as much as he can, but things just don't work out.

He's a little bit of an awkward, shy character so conversing and collaborating with him can be difficult. I haven't programmed with his personally, but any changes I've heard he makes are pretty bizarre and difficult to explain. Kind of a sad story really. I used to think that as long if you put in the effort and time you can achieve whatever you want, but maybe that kind of thinking a little too naive.

Jordan I think may have put us further behind, but that's not saying much since we weren't making much leeway with C++ anyways. So basically I think a couple weeks before the quarter ended, the programmers decided, screw it, this isn't working out, let's just scrap this and go to Unity, something that Tyler, Josh, and Sean all had some experience in.

We had some fancy plans of like over world stuff and even some 3D stuff somehow that Sean made and wanted to put in, but by the end of everything, I think we ran into such a mess that we ended up having something unplayable or barely playable. Honestly, I was kind of embarrassed at the end result, seeing our entire quarter of work boiled down to something that I wasn't really proud of. A lot of problems, with people (that I may have forgotten about, I think Chris maybe, heheh) leaving, people getting swamped with work they're not familiar with, and poor scope management, led to a bad end.

After looking through the Facebook group I actually found a trailer we played for the last build. Sean's pretty good with editing so he's to thank for the video. The build no longer exists due to a Dropbox deletion, but here's our first quarter of work.

Also, now that I realize it, for some reason alpacas were a inside joke within the group. I'm not really sure how it happened, but we started jokingly calling the game Alpaca University. Again, I don't really know why. This also reminds me of this really good alpaca video. Thanks baker and Kano.

I actually had a pretty bad falling out with the group for some time. One of the optimistic hopes I had at the end of the quarter was that this quarter wasn't too bad because at least we had a good chunk of assets finished already. In Spring we could look to refine the programming and polish everything better. So I was looking forward to working with the team next quarter.

I think it wasn't communicated well, but the rest of the team decided to stop working on Apocalypse and jump ship to Emma's story project. Emma wrote and published a book in the past called The Xavier Mosaic, which that impressed all of us. Sean talked about how it would be pretty cool to adapt the book into a game, and they started planning to make that happen.

I thought they weren't going to start until much later, but maybe plans changed or something. Sean called a last meeting to break things off a little cleanly for everyone, and I walked across school to pretty unhappy with how we were going to cancel things. And then, when I got to the door, I realized that no one was going to show up to the last meeting we were going to have. I checked my messages and apparently Sean said just a bit earlier he couldn't make it, and no one else bothered coming. That tipped me over the edge, and I snapped and said some pretty bad things on Facebook.

So things weren't well between us. But luckily and really good on them, the team didn't want to resolve things so sourly between everyone and mostly me, so we replanned another meeting. If it wasn't for this meeting, I probably would still be pretty salty towards them today. But we were able to make up at least superficially.

Honestly, I think I was still mad at the situation. It felt something like a "Oh, man things sucked this quarter and you made a lot of things for us, but... Hey! We're going to jump ship and work on my new personal adaption for my personal project! We're so sorry about your work man, big sorry." Needless to say, I didn't work with them on Xavier.

But let's just be clear, that's in the past now. I think by now all of us who were on the team can just laugh at the stupid situations that happened and go our way. They took the time out to try and repair their relationship with me, and I thank and appreciate that. None of them were trying to spite me or anything along those lines, and they did acknowledge my work I did. I've worked many of them many times again on different projects, and they're all good, fun people.

As for The Xavier Mosaic, that's not really my story to tell, but I can say they did get some retribution I suppose, not that I wanted to wish them any. I don't think I can think of a worse train wreck project that I've come across other than Xavier. It was just too many people working on too many things with not enough experience trying to do the impossible. And that's pretty much it.