Breakdown Boulevard released for FragmentJam!


Here is a walkthrough of the "complete" Breakdown Boulevard experience I have in my head:

- Camera pans in to Gerald (the main character) relaxing at the lake behind his home. All of a sudden, his wife starts yelling at him because she can't find her smokes (see the Itch page for opening dialogue).

- Gerald decides to take a relaxing walk to replace his wife's smokes. This is where you take control of the character.

- As Gerald goes to walk down Breakdown Boulevard, he is "confronted" by several characters that are blocking his way to the store.
  -- The first challenger is the man unloading his truck. He argues that he would get out of your way faster if you helped him out, leading to the first dance off. Beat him to proceed.

  -- The second challenger is a group of misfits blocking the alleyway (the female NPC in the game is the challenger -- the only current opponent). Beat their leader to proceed.

  -- The third challenger is encountered at/in front of the store where Gerald is purchasing smokes. He has to beat the challenger to buy smokes and proceed.

- As Gerald heads back home to relax, he has to face the toughest challenger of all: his wife. He should have let her finish before running off to the store! I won't spoil the whole ending just in case I finish the game, but it's meant to be a funny/happy little twist.

Every challenger would come with their own music track. Accepting a challenge would bring both characters to the stage area and usher in a large reactive crowd (placed on balconies and on the ground) that would boo or cheer depending on how well the player is doing.

I really enjoy open world games and generally want to allow the player to freely explore. There is a specific jump in the game that isn't completely obvious and usually won't be hit on the first try. My plan was to hide a collectible/easter egg there that adds a little bit to the story/experience (or lets you bribe your way out of a dance off). There would also be one or two side challengers the player can find and optionally challenge (the mocap NPC in the game is one of them).


Back in May I decided to quit my job as a DevOps engineer and take some time off to pursue some personal projects. I challenged myself to either prototype something weekly and/or finish and release a prototype monthly. Breakdown Boulevard was my first weekly game prototype. I've been in love with video games for most of my life and even created one or two small games in GameMaker back when I was in highschool, but never seriously delved into what I once considered pursuing as a permanent career: game development.

When I was doing some initial investigation for making games, I came across Mixamo (a fantastic free resource for models and animations) which has a lot of dancing animations. I had already downloaded "The Boss" character for importing and animating practice, and the concept an old grumpy man busting dance moves was hilarious to me. I created a basic stage to showcase his moves:

For Breakdown Boulevard I wanted to create a simple rhythm based game where the player has to hit buttons in order to sync dance moves to the music. As a kid I played lots of DDR and very much enjoyed rhythm games such as Patapon on PSP (although somehow missed out on PaRappa the Rapper, go figure). My goal was to make a mixup of ideas, where you had to hit the correct combination of buttons on screen in order to keep the music and your character's dancing in sync.

Since this was my first project, even with my current background, I didn't bother tracking progress or keeping a real TODO list which ended up being a mistake. I was eager to play with multiple parts of the Unreal Engine and instead of focusing on the core gameplay I created an environment. This was the first walkthrough I did of the environment:

After realizing I spent a little more than a day focusing on just the environment and no core gameplay, I decided that I of course had to waste another day finishing it at that point, which took another day:

I put it down until the next weekend when I finally was able to get the basic gameplay I wanted implemented. The character could enter dance mode and was prompted to hit dance moves. You were given an audio cue if you successfully hit or missed a move:

Honestly this was a huge accomplishment for me at the time. Looking back/remembering how I implemented it, even with only a month more experience in UE4, makes me wince slightly, but it worked and that was all that mattered. Obviously I couldn't put it down just yet as it needed some music at the very least. I added in some music and other polished pieces. This was the result:

That's pretty much where development halted. I had accomplished my main goal of creating a playable prototype in a week and I was very proud given how the game looked and my experience level. There were definitely more things I wanted to do with the game, but I moved on to another project and released that instead (Veehickle).

Perhaps I'll pickup and finish Breakdown Boulevard one day, but for now I am focused on learning and pushing forward with new ideas to prototype.

Tristan Cole
Twitter: @elocnat

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