Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Couple of new enemies

Neither of them have names yet. The one on the left is probably going to go in the hub area. The thing on the right, that I'm now calling an "Evil Roomba" is for the volcano base and will wind up and jet steam to move around as well as shooting with it's cannon.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nuke/Flight/Boost Video

Abilities Tester Video

Nothing playable just yet, as flight so overpowered it gives access to areas of the level I don't want anyone near right now. Also I want to polish a few more rough edges and crash causing bugs before I make it playable as well as add a half decent tutorial sign. I'll probably take the player through ALL the abilities as part of the starting tutorial.

It was mentioned yesterday about autofire. You don't have to use it. You tap X to lock on and now as long as you still have a target he will stay locked on until you have got about 2-3 seconds without one before putting the gun away again. Yes, you can just blaze away at everything anyway, but the number of misses you will get due to recoil and loss of damage for not getting perfect critical hits will cost you in the long term.

So work plan for tomorrow. Clean up the ability code a bit, prep the new stage area and try and get the player in it with a couple of new enemies spawning. Perhaps lay some of the ground work for timed hits, although it's getting harder and harder to work with the guns since there designs are still subject to change.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Battle Alpha Version

A new version of the Prototype

The final iteration of the combat controls. I'm pretty settled with the setup I have, although rolling needs some tweaking, as the player needs a little more control over where it ends, or you roll into enemies way too much.

You can roll/backflip/shoot any time. There are a few small animation bugs and damage can occasionally make the character misbehave. The new meter in the top left that increases when you shoot is basically a special attack meter. You hold down to charge it up and unleash a special attack which does crazy awesome stuff. Right now only the basic Nuke move is done (does massive damage to all nearby enemies) with a simple effect.

Tomorrow I'm going to work on adding Flight and Boost/Vampire to the specials and tweak out roll a bit so the player can adjust momentum within reason. Which when finished should cover all the complexities of the combat/movement part of the game. The new level should be preped enough that the next alpha version can be there rather than the temple, which I'm getting a little bored of myself. I don't want to make that leap until the new enemies (Basically ones that attack you to do damage rather than being damage on touch) are ready.

Also, yes, I was back to work yesterday. But I found out a friend had been in a car accident over christmas and it kinda knocked me for six when it came to focusing on development. So I didn't really achieve anything notable to post about.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Office Tidy Day

Usually on Fridays I have 'office tidy day'. This is when I clean up the junk on my desk because a tidy clean workspace makes me more keen to work on stuff. It's not Friday today, but it is almost Christmas and I spent most of the day cleaning anyway. So today was office tidy day.

There is a deep and meaningful reason behind having an certain weekday for cleaning. During my 'heavy' periods I start to pull 10 hours a day working on a game out of enthusiasm for the project. Doing it for a long time burns my brain out a bit, so the idea is by tidying, I've got something to force my mind of work for a bit. Or at the very least spread it out between bursts of tidying/cleaning that give me time to think about what I'm doing.

Due to my Christmas commitments, I won't be back to work until the 27th of December. Tomorrow will be my last game related post until then. Until then enjoy this slightly buggy animation loop of a 'riser'. You can grab them, they drag you up to higher ledges.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Eternal Ascension Floor 1

New demo level went into production today (I still have the map for the Volcano base, but it's going on the back burner for now). Going to do the first area from Eternal Ascension. The 'hub dungeon' for lack of a better word. You'll need to work your way through this dungeon to access other areas and progress through the story. After each story checkpoint the dungeon will change slightly, so what you see here is ONLY the lower levels. It has a couple of unique properties. It's multi-pathed, although some paths will become blocked based on your choices progressing through the game. You don't gain any levels in it, Exp is just converted into currency. It will contain 'ghost' objects from other that can only be unlocked and become usable by completing said levels.

It awaiting some enemy designs and other bits. Should be able to start putting something together right after Christmas (I've got family around during the Christmas period who would glare at me if I spent it working on video games). To get a demo out in the second week of January, assuming I don't get nuked with something out of nowhere ruining my schedule.

I'm working on something to make navigation and combat more interesting right now. Don't really want to talk about it too much until I've proven it out on the prototype. Talking about features too much makes it too easy to get carried away in the hype.

Also is this awesome, or what :-

Friday, December 18, 2009


Today I took the plunge and pretty much removed most of the features I wrote into Gather Up recently. I wrote the Z targeting system, it didn't work. I was in fact getting hit more with a system that was supposed to make it -easier- to dodge which made the whole thing a tantamount failure. I had half sense it wasn't a good idea because it was straying from the 'two button' paradigm, multiplying complexity (I have a rough calculation for it, but I'll talk about that another day).

There is a positive side to it. I've lost about 3-4 days of work, including some other stuff to do with the way ammo is handled. I re-wrote a huge chunk of the code to support the Z locking which transfers well (I had to remove/tweak a few lines of code to get back to the stage I wanted) so overall everything now works better. My issues originally was handing the gun between during dodge moves and I had to write that for the last system to work. So everything that respect is cleaner and better than if I had directly switched from one system to the other.

I've returned all the dodge controls to something even simpler than the demo. No more 'toward' and 'away' nonsense. You shoot the nearest thing pressing or holding X. You can roll any time but tapping down + direction. You can backflip any time by pressing up. Next up I'm going to alter the 'hover mode' to be a bit less crap and be more like a short period of floaty/flight type movement to add a Ariel dimension to fighting. I want to create something like the air suspension moves in Devil May Cry, sans actually having to shoot to stay in the air. If done right it should add something else new to the platforming element as well as combat. I've still got the issue of weapon and target cycling, but I think they will be manageable.

The other paradigm shift (see what I did there) is that I've changed with level I'm going to be doing for the demo build. A few people expressed concern about the lack of exploration and I think I need to address that as part of proof of concept. I'm quite happy with the results for linear areas, which feel a bit dead right now because they are awaiting the epic story content that is going to make them interesting to play. Since the movement mode has changed so much, I think I'll need to re-prove the open world mechanics of Level Up under Gather Up's altered movement mechanics and focus on fighting as well as collecting.

In other news. I worked on a house:
I'm not really sure about using this style right now. It feels a bit too busy and distracting and the windows/doors -really- clash with the brickwork. I do like the colours though.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Timed Shots and Dodges.

I was supposed to update this blog a couple of times a week (perferable every day). I've been slipping and also missed my deadline because of the Kongregate version of Level Up. The API did not want to play nice. Since I've been getting good publicity there and some half decent revenue I decided to work it out so I would get badges (Achievements) on Kong that would drive my traffic up a bit. Which took me the entire weekend. It sucks when a 20 minute job winds up taking several days.

I've done a bit of work on Gather Up. The new dodge mode is working, albeit buggily. As well as the new key layout, which doesn't feel entirely natural but I'm working on it. Will have a playable version up real soon, I want to do a couple of either enemies or trap so the changes I've made make more sense in context. With the current mechanics of the enemies it doesn't really fit.

Anyway, I was going to talk about timing and rhythm and what a subtle and awesome element in design it is. Using a rhythm or timed press is one of the better ways of getting the most out of simple controls. Just look at something like rhythm heaven. It also sneaks it's way into other genres. Particularly fighters where you deploy attacks at a certain tempo to control a juggle and brawlers where enemies block when attacked repeatedly.

A rhythm of taps on a single key is usually a lot more natural to memorize than a combination of buttons. I think it closes the gap between skill and memorisation in a game adding a kind of aural pattern along with the physical movement. It also improves the sense of direct interaction between the player and the game. I'm planning to use a kind of rhythm mechanic in Gather Up! called 'perfect shots' where well timed shots do additional damage.

Every gun has three important stats (and a few other minor factors) that effect aiming. Distance, Recoil and Aiming are core of shooting. Certain guns optimize at certain distances, this is a no-nonsense thing players are used to. Pistols work well at med/close range. Shotguns work well up close and crummily at mid range, and so on. Perfect shots are tied up with the -other- two vital stats, Aiming and Recoil.

Aiming ticks up over time when you are standing still. It scales differently with different guns. The sniper is enhanced by aiming a lot, where as the shotgun isn't. Recoil shoots up a bit every time you shoot a gun and ticks away when you don't. At the moment both of these things are at 0 at the same time there will be a window for a 'perfect' shot. Shooting in this window scores critical damage. This establishes a perfect 'rhythm' of shots for each gun for maximum damage per bullet (but not necessarily best damage output overall). Since gun stats will change over time, it's going to be another factor players will need to consider when altering their gun.

The other timing factor I want to add are Dodge Reloads. A well timed dodge (ie, one that means you an attack sails past you) gains extra EXP during a battle. A well timed dodge when your gun is empty will trigger a full reload and perhaps a damage bonus for that clip too. The idea is that it will create another risk:reward choice for the player. Pay more attention to clip length against position and risk taking damage needlessly, or reap the rewards of audaciously getting up close and rolling around an enemy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Animation Work

I failed to update last night, I was -not- having a good evening with Gather Up code. The new control scheme seems to be working out, I'm held back in testing because it's as buggy as hell since it doesn't really fit with my old state machine that ran the character code. Additionally I had to do a ton of animation work since you can now be locked on and not carrying a gun. On the bright side I have wipped up a kinda nice flip animation for the overhead dodge, (although the hover part of it is still questionable).

I uploaded Level Up to Kongregate today and I've been swamped by another bunch of bug reports I feel like I'm probably going to miss my deadline at this rate. Which is annoying, since there is a new Ludlum Dare competition I would like to enter over the weekend.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Volcano Base Progress

Elevator for the Volcano Base:

This is an elevator that features at the start of and half way through the Volcano Base level. Everything in the base I think should either be powered by steam or lava since that's what it's built for. For a lot of the mechanic parts I've been going for a steampunk-y look. Technology in the land of Gather Up needs to seem like more of a rarity to make the computer stand out for it's importance (mechanical devices on the other hand, appear a bit). There are two versions there, I decided that the moving parts moved in too much of a regular pattern, so I added four more frames so I could make the pistons movement look a little better.

I was mostly implementing my new map importing scripts today and doing some prep work on getting the first section of the level playable enough to release. I've started work on re-writing the player class file so that it follows the new handling style and the code still reads nice. The new layout is going to work something like this.

Z - Lock/Dodge Mode. Almost exactly like Z targeting in Zelda. Release to exit Lock/Dodge mode. (May add toggle option). You will probably be blocked from running off the edges of cliffs like this (but you would still be able to backflip/roll off them).
X - Shoot when in Lock/Dodge mode. Use in normal mode.

Dodge/Lock Mode -
Tap AWAY - Backflip.
Toward + Down - Roll.
Up - Air dodge (suspend in air for a few seconds).
Down - Tap to cycle targets. Hold to holster guns.

Practical reason for this. Basically I want for
a) People to be able to fire their guns when they don't have target, accidentally wasting ammo.
b) For there to be dodging/acrobatic areas that focus on traps rather than enemies.

Outstanding issues.

I'm thinking about having guns effect movement speed when in use. This would be frustrating if the holster button has to be held down. Possibly alter it so weapons just effect dodge cooldown. It's going to be much harder to execute a triple back flip when holding a sniper rifle and opposed to a handgun, for example. Weapons are going to have a weight attribute and it should have some kind of physical impact on the way the player moves.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Volcano Base Demo Deadline

I didn't do much today asside from making a few map importing scripts that crashed my tile map editor, which means I've spent two days slacking (I blame it on Borderlands, SO MUCH FUN!). Which can mean only one thing. A new deadline to get me motivated again!

So. The next Prototype, I'm tentatively calling the Volcano Base Demo is set to be done by the end of the week and is going to contain the following

- Remapped and finalized Dodge system.
- All three modes of dodging (Foward/Back/Up).
- Lower area of the Volcano Base Level.
- A few enemies for that level, with an attack or two.
- Beginning of the Exp gathering 'Karma' System.
- Underlying work on the weapon mods system.

It's a pretty ambitious target, but the more I push for the more I actually get done.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Volcano Base Editing

The lower area of the Volcano base in the process of being worked on. I didn't really do much aside from that today. I've been writing a Flixel Preloader with integrated adverts for the Newgrounds constest.

Friday, December 4, 2009

New Version Up

Gather Up Prototype 0.6

+ Added dodge roll
+ Re-worked control scheme for combat.
+ Added guns. SMG, Scattergun, Assault Rifle, Sniper and Rocket Launcher.
+ Tweaked the aiming/damage calculation.
+ Added splash damage for all new guns. SMG/Assault have a small chance of splash damage when they miss the intended target. Scattergun hits pretty much everything near the target
+ Altered the reloading code.
+ Added a HUD item for guns.
+ Made turning less 'slidy'
+ Added ledge hanging
+ Fixed an issue where getting hit caused you to leave combat stance.
+ Changed damage colour to white.

Backflip - Tap AWAY from the enemy.
Roll - Tap TOWARD an enemy whilst holding the down key.
Switch Target - Tap DOWN
Exit Combat - Hold DOWN for a short time
Hang - Hold DOWN whilst climbing a ledge.

- The Assault Rifle is overpowered right now, without an ammo economy to limit it's use (it's major drawback is Ammo consumption).
- Sniper is overpowered right now, need to reduce it's base aim and increase the 'aim factor' (increase of accuracy over time stood in the same spot)
- Sniper Rifle and Rocket Launcher need adding.
- Dodge rolls are still kind of a pain.
- Still not enough 'kinds' of dodge.
- Possible rolling outside of combat, I dunno.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Late Night Edit!

Guns galore in Gather Up!

Well, three guns. I don't know if that constitues galore yet.

I've got the Handgun, SMG and Scattergun working in Gather Up. Now with an awesome splash damage feature. Basically if you fire the scattergun enemies nearby take 'splash damage' dependin on their distance. With the SMG if you -miss- theres a chance that it will still hit an nearby enemy in a similar way.

The same will apply to the Rocket Launcher and Assualt rifle. It's a bit of a double eged sword though. Firing on enemies causes them to attack you, aggroing a whole bunch of Spikers with the shotgun is NOT pretty.

Also, I settled on a temporary control scheme for doding

Roll - Forward + Down.
Backflip - Tap Backwards.

Definitly needs another two types of dodge, neither of these for att attacks yet.

The Toy and the Tech

I didn't do much in Gather Up today, so instead I'm going to talk a little about *drumroll* developmental process. One I've been using since I started making Flash Games solo over a year ago. If I liked to coin redundant terminology I would call it something like "The 2 T's". The Toy (the fun part of the game) and the Tech (unique features that the Toy depends on).

Right after conceptualisation (Hey! A platform game with levelling would be fun) the first two things I identify are The Two T's. For level up, the tech was the platforming engine. I spent about a week familiarising myself with Flixel and seeing what it could do. How tool chains would have to be set up and stuff like that. During this time I also started working on the toy.

The Toy is the part of your game, that no matter what HAS to be fun. It's especially important in a game where you are taking risks or you have some kind of message to get across. A well designed Toy, that makes the heart of your game fun, will save you against a lot of poor decision making down the road and makes the game easier to market. It's not to be mistaken with the 'main feature' as it isn't always the focus of the game. Just the moment to moment behind the scenes 'fun generator'.

To give a few examples of this. In Assassins Creed the toy was free running. However dull the rest of the game was, care an attention had been placed into the free running to make it fun no matter what. In Spore the toy was the various editors, the game itself was dull and repetitive in so many places, but the fun of being able to edit everything made it survivable.

In Level Up the 'Toy' was exploration. When I let people loose on the simple platformer prototype I had put together they mentioned a few things, that gems where fun to collect and that they enjoyed exploring the level. The 'Toy' in Level Up, thus became exploration. The level would be big and detailed with a wide variety of locations to visit. The breadcrumb trail of gems would give initial motivation to explore and give significant reason to level and reach even more areas of the map.

If a project fails at this hurdle, it gets scrapped. No second chances. You can develop a fun toy in about two days flat in flash so there isn't any point in trying to jam something into working when you could start over. If it passes the fun test at this point, then I turn back to tech and look at what I need to enhance the fun. Exploration is great but what this game needs is some background and character, so the need for Cut scene/Event handling tech is born.

The important thing here is I've now secured the safety of the new tech I'm working on with the fun toy I've developed than ensures the project is going to hit off.

In Gather Up, the first line of tech was handling multiple areas (I already have the engine from Level Up, so I don't need to worry about that). I knew it was a game that was going be bigger and have more environments than Level Up, so it needed area transitions. The Toy is the gun combat. Fluid movement between exploring and fighting. Focus on movement rather than aim. With the auto aim and jump the game stops being so much about how good your aim is and more about how good your reactions are and your strategy in battle which is why I developed the fighting core first. This makes the guns the tech that is need to support this toy and give it some depth.

In my opinion you can make a game about ANYTHING as long as your toy is good. You could make a game about things as dull as being a waitress or an amoeba. You can even get away with injecting some meaning into them without totally alienating players.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mockups Yay!

So today I've been working on the first area of the game, because the rules are fairly complex, I think the tutorial is going to be a lot of work to get 'right'. The first area involves climbing up a base built into the side of a volcano. Lots of big catwalks stretching across between rooms cut out of the rock. Up the centre of the level is a big ominous pipe/machine thing.

On the left you can see the first and second pass on the boss area, I had originally been going for a classic orange/brown/red theme for the level. I've since changed my mind to a blue/red/orange one. I didn't like the look of the brown tiles and it all felt too traditional anyway. There's a lot of animation work to go into it yet.

The background is due for some pretty big changes. I want the player to be able to see the back of the Volcano as they climb out, but also have desert/mountains behind the outer area. The parallax for that stuff will probably be a real pain in the ass.

A bigger area test of the tile sheet. I tend to do these whilst making a tile sheet to make sure I don't need extra tiles before I dump it into Mappy to start drawing the map.

A possible enemy design for the area.

Hopefully I'll be putting a new alpha out in this area at the weekend, dependant on how much I can get done.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gather Up - Dodging System

I've been doing some work on the dodging in Gather Up today. In fact I have the code window up right now, I've just decided to do this blog post as a quick breather.

I've got a couple of small issues with dodging. I'm modelling the combat after Zelda's Z-Locking system. Only I have the issue that I have a LOT less buttons to play with and am reluctant to add more. Too many buttons normally adds needless complexity.

During combat the player needs to be able to do quite a few things. They need to be able to shoot, either on Auto, or one shot. They need to be able to move. They should be able to dodge. They should be able to switch to another target. They should be able to switch weapons. Now consider I'm mapping this to Arrow Keys and X+C. Not an easy task.

Here's how it breaks down right now. Lots of contextual stuff going on.

X - Lock on/Shoot when you have target
C - Menu (pauses so you can switch guns, considering making a quick switch menu by holding C rather than tapping it)
LEFT - Hold to run, Tap to dodge. Dodging toward an enemy is a roll, away is a backflip.
RIGHT - As Above
DOWN - Cycle next target, hold to exit combat stance.
UP - Cycle weapon (perhaps I don't need this with a menu though) OR another dodge

I'm already coming up with issues doing this. Targeting feels clumsy against multiple opponents. I want something more like the simple 'Holding Z locks on to the nearest thing' system.

So perhaps I should add another key.

My OTHER consideration is that I want to add another dodge to make the game more...unique from the Zelda system. I've been thinking some kind of grappling hook type system. So you tap up and the hero fires a piton into the roof and pulls himself a couple of tiles off the ground so you can shoot from a slightly greater height and dodge ground based attacks. It would probably be a bit of work to prototype, and seems like a big risk to take on already complex controls.