The eventual goal is to have the game playable in the browser! While my priority is the Windows version, a browser version is something I can and very likely will make. Though it'll take some more time because I need to fix some browser specific bugs.
Auroriax (Tom H.)
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The eventual goal is to have the game playable in the browser! While my priority is the Windows version, a browser version is something I can and very likely will make. Though it'll take some more time because I need to fix some browser specific bugs.
The final boss of the game is quite a handful of work. I was already expecting that (see my last devlog post for details) but it was still surprising how long it's taking me! The only thing I've really achieved so far is to get initial versions of all attacks implemented into the game. But they're all pretty cool, so take a look!
Throwing arm attack
The basic idea behind the boss is that it's a big robot with deadly arms. The arms are the main way the robot attacks the player, and I can control both of them individually. So I made an attack where the arms are launched in the direction of the player. I had some trouble to get the homing of the arms work in a way that works and feels fair. The way I did it was to add a warning sign where the arm shakes and turns into the direction of the player, so the players know in advance that they need to dodge an arm.
This is currently also the attack that leaves the final boss most vulnerable. The boss can be damaged by jumping on it from the top or hitting its left or right side, just like every other platform in the game. (This does not yet work in all difficulty settings, but I'll fix that later.) That way, I barely have to program any logic regarding damaging the boss-- I just need to make sure it recovers to an inactivate state a few seconds afterwards.
The boss swings its arms around itself while moving in the direction of the player. Very simple and effective. Since the boss moves quite fast, this is the perfect attack to wall jump upwards to dodge the attack and then fall down to hit the boss on its head. Very hard to dodge if you're close to it, so once you see the arms start moving slowly, prepare to run away.
Once the boss is hit, it will recoil by doing a variation of this attack while standing still. The arms will also rotate into a slightly different direction. This forces the player to retreat, after which the boss will fully recover and can be damaged again.
The bot flips up in the air (diagonally, targeting the player if possible), hangs there, shakes, and falls down. It will keep his arms above his head, so if players happen to be below the bot when it falls down, they'll be crushed instantly.
So what's next?
I'm actually quite happy about these attacks. Currently, I need to make these attacks feel fair and leave good weak spots on the final boss. Then, I'll implement health for the boss, and maybe a final state. This is what I was thinking of in regards to the final phase (a very quick prototype, please don't mind the inaccuracies):
But I still have to see it that actually makes it into the game...
I made a logo for the Star Fix, making a rather literal representation of the companies' name, and animated it like a shady neon sign.
Also, Unidrax (who helps building levels and the spaceships from time to time) found a sprite for a toast NPC I made a while back as a joke, and turned it into a playable character!
Hah, the old man gets his fifteen minutes of fame. Now we only need the gibberish 'hints' he is famous for.
Ricocheting arrows off your sword is a quite fun interaction, although a bit overpowered. Slashing in the direction of the mouse cursor could feel better, since the camera doesn't keep the guy in the middle of the screen like a twin stick shooter. I liked it, the art and animations were also pretty nice.
Nice job! It's a nice and simple game, and the help screen is informative. The A, B and Shift control sceme forces my hand into a very unnatural position, so please look into providing an alternative. Also, a bit of spicing up in the enemy types wouldn't hurt to keep things interesting.
The A & B control scheme forces my left hand into a very unnatural position, it's not really comfy.
That said, I liked the obvious inspirations (Rougelight and FEZ) and just wandering around (although I was often lost and not really sure how to find what I was looking for), like others have said, some atmospheric music would really top it off.
The most prominent thing I've been doing since last time is making the final boss! But first, let's talk about the final ship in the game.
So basically the Star Fix (by far the best/worst pun we've come up with yet) is an evil, greedy corporation, and they're also competing with the Mobility. I'm sure there's a good reason you would want to travel here during your training, right?
I can at least tell you that you're going there to defeat a boss!
Here are a few reasons why I've never created a boss before!
- It takes a bunch of time to create and polish such a boss. Time you could've spent on actually making the rest of the game, which more players are likely to experience, more fun.
- If you're making a game where your character has no access to any offensive moves (read: most of my past games), actually battling a boss becomes kinda hard. You need to create new mechanics in order to make that work. Introducing new mechanics at a final boss is a no go for several reasons.
- You need to make a bunch of moves for that boss that feel fair, don't glitch the game out and can also be changed up so the boss becomes harder to damage the closer it is to defeat.
Here's why I am making one for Mobility:
- I just want to try it out at least once. I've got good base ingredients to make a boss with this set of mechanics.
- Most of my previous games kinda ended with an anticlimax (e.g. without warning, the game is suddenly over). Since this game has a little amount of story, I do want to wrap it up nicely by building up to the climax nicely.
So let's make a final boss! It looks like the main character, but it's a lot bigger, black and also a robot.
So the boss is basically a moving platform. It has some arms that snap to its body. The arms are deadly, and you need to avoid them to reach the robot and touch to deactivate it, like most other platforms from the game. Then, it'll reactivate itself a couple of times until it's defeated.
You can touch its body (I think I'll replace the big arms with circle saws later) to deal damage to it. Which means that, most of the time, you will be jumping on its head for damage.
There were a lot of funny accidents while programming the boss.
Getting the robot to move right was kinda difficult. It kinda looks like it's dancing...
That's it for now, but you will definitely see more shenanigans from our little big robot friend.
Just a heads up that I'll also be keeping the devlog on it's dedicated itch.io page! If that's more comfy to follow for you, go for it. I'll also be keeping this thread up to date to make sure that, when development on this game is finished, this thread becomes the most complete development documentation for any game I've developed thus far. Thanks for staying with me thus far, and let's complete this game-- the finish line is slowly but surely coming in sight!
I do love running for short times in some time chasing games, but I
often stumble with the problem that players aren't really motivated
enough via the game to do this. Leaderboards aren't really enough
motivation for me, personally.
So I've been making a little timer. If you complete the game, each
spaceship will get a timer that shows the completion times of all levels
on that ship added up. It takes the time of the highest difficulty
you've beaten it on, and adds a few minutes penalty if you beat if you
beat it on a lower difficulty to give incentive to complete the level on
the highest one.
If your time is under a certain par score, you are awarded a medal.
And maybe you can also unlock some super secret stuff with medals? That
would be really cool, now wouldn't it?
Here's the fastest time I could get on the Arrowhead:
Since this game uses both very light and dark background colors, and
interface elements in this game are often either partially or entirely
transparent, it can be quite difficult to put text on the screen that
looks nice with both light and dark backgrounds. This made some text
quite hard to read in some circumstances. I already tried things like
text shadows and changing the text color depending on the background
color, but those were only ban-aid solutions, really.
Then, I got the idea to try text outlines. This is a good way to
combat the contrast problem, since if you aren't able to see the
outline, you are able to see the text inside it, and vice versa. The
problem is that Game Maker doesn't support text outline out of the box,
so I made a script that draws the text eight times, each time offsetting
it by a single pixel from the origin point on both the x and y axis. It
looks strange if used by itself, but by drawing the normal text on top
of that, we get the intended effect. It also fits really well with the
very little colors that the game uses.
If you put the transparency a bit lower, it also generates a subtile glow effect, which looks really neat on door tags:
I had one particular playtest where the player avoided the checkpoints. Curiously, I asked why. The conclusion was that they compared them to the circle saws, the main hazard in this game, and saw the (round) checkpoints as a similar obstacle.
For those unfamiliar, this is called a false affordance: basically, it means that an object or function is different that what the player thinks it's intended for. This is because the shape doesn't obviously imply the function, or in this case, the users compare something that they saw earlier. This can create quite troubling situations that can significantly impact player feel: in this case, the player missed the checkpoints, making the game significantly more difficult.
So to make a long story short-- checkpoints are diamond-shaped now. I haven't tested it it solves the issue, but I hope it's better than before. I also added a sound effect that plays when it activates, so now almost every important action in the game has an accompanying sound effect.
So this game does have an original soundtrack, actually! Haven't shown too much of that yet, but I might do that in a later log post. But it's good enough to warrant it's own Sound Test in the game. Here's how it looks:
Not sure if I'm overdoing it with the rotating spaceships on the background, but it looks pretty cool.
We're putting together the last spaceship of the game together currently! I bet I'll have some pics for that next time. See ya!
Tweaking grind rail physics
Multiple testers ran into this problem, so I tweaked it so it feels more natural to use. Once you landed on the grind rails, you could no longer steer yourself, but you could gain speed by crouching when going down, or jump of and gain air control. That appeared to be unintuitive for my testers, so now I'm allowing players to control their speed directly by pressing left and right. You still have less control compared to walking, but it's better.
Another thing is that the game allows players to jump for a short while after falling off a platform. I disabled that on grind rails, because it would allow players to do a special jump (long jump, backflip) shortly after falling off. However, it was a noticeable user experience flaw, so I fixed that as well. Now, jumping off the tip of a grind rail is significantly more satisfying.
Also, boosters now also work properly, allowing the player to achieve ridiculous speeds in some levels!
When thinking about making a trailer for Mobility, I was thinking of making the audio a bit more impressive. Thus, I added some extra sound effects! Now there's a little pop when you activate a platform, a sound effect that plays when you complete playing a level, and when a block vanishes in the highest difficulty of the game.
Now I'm not really sure whether the game has too much sound effects playing at the same time, overloading the soundscape. A tool I'm using to prevent sounds from getting too stale, is changing the pitch of the effect each time it plays. That works pretty well, but if I add any more sounds I need to find an extra way to prevent audio from getting annoying.
If you want an example, here's when an error with the sound with the default Windows 'Ding' sound played in various pitches instead of the intended sound effect.
New difficulty selection
I've redesigned the difficulty selection a few times in the development of the game, and now I had to do it again so I could include leaderboards.
If I really want to allow for a competitive experience, the leaderboards need to be presented as up-front as possible. In most highscore chasing games, you need to go into another menu to display the scores which I think makes it pretty hard for players to have a clear view of the scores.
Similarly, I think just displaying the top 10 scores doesn't show enough about what's happening on the leaderboards. I'd rather have a more complete overview, so I'm using the Fibonacci sequence to show ten score points from all across the top 100 to give a better impression of the entire leaderboard. I'm not yet sure whether this is comfy once I start integrating it with the GameJolt API, but I'm keeping it for now.
Previously, you selected your preferred difficulty before the level loaded. Now, you do it when you're already inside the level, to allow you to hover over the leaderboard and look at the replays in the list! It's a pretty neat feature that I might expand later to allow ghost races or something.
That's it for now! One last thing-- I updated the Mobility website to include a form where you can sign up to my release mailing! If you want to get an email when the game comes out, head over to http://mobility.auroriax.com
Here are some new things I've been working on. Might seem a bit little, but I've been busy with other stuff as well-- including Zelda. Enjoy!
This will sadly only work in the Windows version, but it works wonders. You can also remap the controller just like the keypad, or disable it and use joy2key instead.
Game Maker's support for gamepads is really limited. There were a lot of strange issues and limitations that I had to write my own code to recognize when buttons are pressed or released, and to keep the lag down. (Doing a lot of calls to the joystick destroys the frame rate for some reason.)
Not only that, but there's also the issue that the state of a joystick button can change in the middle of the step. So the game could think a button is pressed in the beginning of the step, yet when checking later near the end of the step, the button seems to have been unpressed. My replay recording system did not account for this, which caused it to break.
To top it off, I had to write my own alternative of io_clear to work with controllers as well. I normally use io_clear when opening a menu, it makes sure that the same button press can't both open the menu and select an item on that menu in the same frame. There's no equivalent for io_clear for joysticks, so I implemented it into my own button pressed & released system.
Recently, I started a playtesting group and had some of my friends and peers join in. Recently, I sent out a build of Mobility via there. For playtesting, I ask players to set up OBS to record gameplay footage, record their playthrough, then using WeTransfer to get the video file back to me.
I've been watching a lot of GDC talks lately, and one that jumped out was a talk from Adriaan, who made Hidden Folks, explaining his playtesting procedures (http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1024132/Playtesting-A...). A lot of points hit home for me, in particular watching people play instead of making them, say, fill out large forms, or instead of taking their suggestions literally, took at the reason why they're giving that feedback and solve the core issue.
There are quite a few points of interest these tests brought up. Like, everyone immediately understands that you have to activate all blocks to complete the level, with little explanation. It also clearly shows the less effective things, like players not knowing they can do certain actions they need in the later levels of the game, like long jumping, restarting, or opening the map.
To counter this particular problem, I redesigned the tutorial to explain the extra jumps you can do. It now explains backflipping, long jumping, and double jumping up front. I explain these by drawing arrows showing off the intended movement that the player should mirror to pull it off. Some other rooms on the same ship have also gotten a light redesign.
And this is the stuff I'll be focusing on in the coming weeks or so.
Slowly but surely I'm beginning to see the end of this game's development! The most important bit of work left to do is to create the last world of the game. My past games didn't really work towards an epic climax, so I'm planning to amend that with this game.
I really want to have a nice trailer for Mobility. The current plan is to create a little teaser trailer sometime soon, then make the full trailer once the game's near finished.
I've created one other trailer for my games so far: Hexaria. Looking back to it, it's kinda bad. It doesn't really have clear goal the trailer tries to show, and doesn't explain gameplay well enough to interest people. I'm planning to invest a lot of time on this, and I'm planning to make the teaser once I've included some small fixes.
I'm planning to add a little achievement system in for players who completed the game and would like to invest some extra time into getting better and higher scores. The way I'm conceiving it now is that players can 'overclock' spaceships, where your score on all levels on the ship is combined into a cumulative counter and you need to bring that down to make the spaceship faster. And maybe, if you do well enough, you can unlock an extra difficult bonus challenge!
To end for today, here's a gif from the updated pause screen:
Getting Mobility working in a browser has always been a bit of a stretch goal for me. I use Game Maker Studio, but the code the HTML5 compiler generates is really hard to debug, and error messages are really hard to make sense of. Usually it just then boils down to which objects are in the room, removing those until I find the one that causes it to break, and then removing/commenting scripts on that object until things no longer break.
But in my last attempt, I pushed through instead of giving up. The previously game-breaking bug seemed unsolvable during my previous attempts, but it was really just a few lines of script messing it up. So I finally managed to get it to work.
I also think I've made the first browser game to feature remap-able keys! (When I was looking at itch to see whether games featuring both already existed, I was reminded that my own game Box Kickers X does. I totally forgot about that...)
In other news, I've been updating some UI. Here's the brand new completion overview:
The goal was a completion overview like available in modern Mario games, where you can easily see everything you've done up to this point, and anything you might have missed. It shows all level names, sorted by the spaceship you can find them in, as well as a summarized completion time. I also included a debug feature which allows me to randomly populate the highscores to see if this menu can handle it. There are some things I do not yet like about it, like the calculation of the 'Total' time, which takes the time from the highest difficulty you beat a level on, and then adds those times of all levels together. So I want to introduce some kind of time penalty for that, but I'm not really sure how that's going to work yet.
And I've also given the minimaps a slight facelift.
Every map is aligned neatly now. Spacing could still use a bit of work. I've removed the time from this overview, but since you can open the score overview with just a single button press from here, you can use that instead. The white colors on the lines and text work better on dark backgrounds, but lesser on white backgrounds, so I'm thinking of making the label white or black depending on how dark the background is.
I've also been implementing a feature where players can submit feedback to me while still in the game. I need the feedback, because I want to make this my best freaking game ever. Here it is, really simple, and not really polished, but it's functionality is sufficient. It also sends a few bits of metadata like the date, version number, which difficulties/modes the player has been playing and his cumulative amount of time. I'm planning to make it pop up after completing the first world in the game in the alpha version of the game I'm sending to testers soon.
Finally, I released a blog post recently about making your UI flow as silky smooth as possible, and I'm using Mobility as an example of how I have done it and why. I'll likely go more in depth on this in the future.
Zelda's finally releasing tomorrow, so I'll make a blog post before I'm occupied playing that.
Since last time I made a website for Mobility! It's at http://mobility.auroriax.com.
It is primarily a showcase of GIFs of the game, and is intended to link through to this devlog or my Twitter. It still needs a bit of polishing which I'll do once I make a trailer for the game. (I don't make trailers that often, but seeing the large amount of time I spent in this game so far, it'll probably be worth it!)
The other thing I've been doing is putting together a new spaceship, the Meteore. I teased it in the last post, but here's a nearly finished version of it:
I made a concept for a spaceship that's intended as a hub, which contains the initial training for the game, and via which you can travel to other spaceships. It was originally drawn by Unidrax some time ago but left unused, and we decided to reuse it to replace the bland original design.
And remember the draft of the final spaceship from my last post? I polished that up a little, the intention is now to break through the layers of the space station and get to the boss room in the middle. I hope this is a good beginning for a great finale of the game!
Also, I redesigned the debug room yesterday. There's a door to every room in the game here, levels and overworld rooms. Previously, it had the doors to overworld rooms to the left, and normal levels to the right, but now that access to the levels have been assigned to each overworld room, it was quite messy. Now doors to the levels have been arranged below the ship they can normally be accessed from, and yet unassigned levels are at the bottom of the room.
After I finish the Meteore, I'll continue upgrading the UI of the pause and settings menu in the game! I already showed the settings menu in the last post, but the pause menu needs the most work: here's how it looks like currently:
The idea is to split the info over three screens: this one is mostly done but needs some re-positioning of some elements, one will have a full overview of completion throughout the entire game (sort of like the overview in modern Mario games) and one with information like the ship's background story and game controls. More about that next time, though!
Just released Sokobanana and my new website two days ago, so I found the chance to get a bunch of Mobility work done yesterday. I think I'm going to put posts related to Mobility's game design mostly on these, and just put cool gifs of things I've done on here so I can update it more often.
So yesterday I finished most of the Starii. The only thing I aren't yet sure of is it's selection of playable levels, but I think that all levels still require testing to some degree, so I branched that into it's own separate task. I also fixed a bunch of bugs and graphical errors. Here's a tour:
With that done, I'll focus on making the next ship. Here are a few teasers:
I've also been making a (very rough) concept for the final ship of the game...
I also implemented a global timer, that starts at zero when a new game is being played, and ends when the game is beaten. I might expand its functionality later on, but it's already somewhat sufficient for speedrunning.
Do you remember the settings menu? I also updated that quite a bit, because the amount of settings available didn't fit on the screen anymore. And the descriptive text has good contrast with the background now. I also implemented a feature that allows me to sort the settings manually, independently of how they're ordered in the code. (That doesn't sound like a big deal, but it makes my work of maintaining the settings menu a lot easier.) There are still a few additions I'd like to make, but I like where it's going.
Here's another apology for not updating this thread often enough.
I've been working on another spaceship that will serve as its own contained overworld. You use them to travel between the levels. I didn't want to do a boring level select but spice it up a bit more, and because I can make the levels purely contain gameplay and put everything else (people you can talk to, story events, minigames. The original inspiration for the overworld came from how games like Dustforce and Stealth Inc. 2 handle theirs.
I want to keep the graphics really simple to read, which means most decorational stuff goes into the overworld. That is what I've been occupied with lately. Here are some cogweels:
I forgot to set the rotation point (sprite origin) in the middle of the sprite first. I though it looked funny so here it is. Below is the end result:
I know the cogwheels don't connect perfectly, but I think it looks cool, so I'm going to keep it this way.
And here's a new particle effect for the engine outlet of the ship! Not sure about using stars as particles, but I'm pretty happy with it otherwise.
This topic got to 1000 views while I wasn't looking! Thank you all for reading my posts. We're going slowly but steadily right now, progress is still being made!
So lately I've been allocating levels to the overworld. These two things are designed mostly separately, as in that the overworld and level design do not influence each other in a major way. We produce a bank of levels, a bunch of overworld rooms, and then start to allocate the levels to those overworlds.
This was a bit of a vague process, but since of late I've been able to get a bit more structure into this: by simply sorting all levels we created on difficulty, giving it a number between one and five. Then I look how the general difficulty distribution is, and if it's all right, I bundle levels of similar difficulty levels in groups. If there are not enough levels to fill an entire group, that means levels need to be adjusted or new ones need to be made to fill up the gaps. Such a group can then be distributed across one spaceship in the overworld. The list also keeps track of levels that might be more frustrating than have fair difficulty that need to be polished.
This might seem like level design 101 for some, but who hasn't hit an annoying difficulty spike in some game which took eternities to overcome, if at all? I mean, my game does already do a lot to combat that (by offering difficulty selection and other options), this is just another step to a game that builds up the difficulty nicely, and just good game design overall.
I'll have more screenshots for next time!
Features added since the last post:
- Key remapping! This was already available behind the scenes (this is really one of the things you need to do consistently from the start of the project or it requires a lot of code lines to be replaced), but what I still needed was a little menu to change those bindings in a comfy way. I could reuse the setting menu controller here, and after fixing a few problems, it's finally operational. The only problem is that it doesn't support saving yet, but the saving of progress and settings is usually one of the last things I do on a game project, so it's fine for now.
A problem is that the game does not uses the mouse in any way. I already made a keymapping interface for one of my previous games, Box Kickers X, where you can click the key you want to remap. In other keyboard-only remapping interfaces, I found it very easy to screw up my controls by doing weird things like mapping [Left] to [Right arrow] and vice verca by accident, to give you an example. There are a few failsafes in my version to prevent most of them, including a 'Reset to default' setting.
- Another new particle effect that plays when a block is activated (notice the squares popping out of them). Not really sure about this one yet, it looks cool, but I feel it could be better.
- Me and Unidrax are also working on a new spaceship. It's shaped like a Torii (read: a special kind of gate often placed near holy shrines and other sacred locations in Japan), which we gave the punny name Starri. It's interior is WIP and not very fancy yet, so I hope to give you screenshots of it later.
- Last but not least, here is a totally new title screen! For now, it's just a comfy way to get to the debug room and game settings quickly, but it's already quite fancy and I'll make sure to make it super fancy later on.
That's all for now, folks! For now, I'm planning to fix some bugs, and then get back to design levels and the overworld. Thanks for reading!
Mostly text today, but here's a little GIF showing off my new particle effect!
More about that in a later post, today I'm going to talk about sound effects!
This is usually one of the last things I do in my games. Most of the time I settle on BFXR-generated effects, and sometimes my games don't have any sound effects at all. I did it fairly early this time in my attempt to make the game as 'juicy' as possible.
For anyone unfamiliar with the term, juiciness indicates to how responsive the game is to your actions. In an attempt to increase juiciness, one could add particle effects, screen shakes, flashes, and other effects. My favorite talk on this subject was given by Jan Willem Nijman, 'The Art of Screenshake', where he presents a very visual examples of the steps he takes to increase responsiveness in Vlambeer's games.
Together with the sounds, I added a script that allows me to easily play sounds, and change their pitch. The pitch is how fast a certain sound plays, and makes a sound sound higher or lower if you change the pitch. This is useful in a game, since you can use the same sound multiple times (like the jump sound effect in Mobility), and changing the pitch each time the sound is played, you can avoid the effect from becoming annoying. You can also recycle the sound effect: right now, a 'tongue click' (it's better than it sounds, honest!) effect is played once you pause the game, and the same effect is used with a lower pitch in the game's dialog boxes. I can also control the volume each individual sound plays as,
The doors in Mobility overworld require two [Down] inputs to enter-- the first one is to open that door, and the second is to pass through it. As such, I wanted a relatively dramatic, sci-fi-y door opening effect, and I managed to find one.
Finally, I wanted a cool effect for my room transition. I settled on this 'swoosh' effect. More sound effects could be added later, but this is a pretty good start so far, and at least I broke out of my cycle of shoving the problem of end to development.
Here's a game design summary of Tahira's Tower! This is a bit more rambley and longer than my other 'The design of X' posts because the game has gone a long way from what it used to be. It might also spoil some puzzley bits from the game. Mirrored from my own blog. Some parts have been truncated to fit into itch.io's character limit.
I had a load of free hours in my secondary school, in part to thanks to some of the most terrible timetables a human can imagine, and since I had my homework all done for the day pretty much all the time, I spent those hours playing with eitherPuzzlescript (If I remember correctly, Picross Pushers was birthed in a similar way to this game!) or a prototype in BabylonJS. It was advertised in the MeatlyJam as a possible engine of choice, and while I didn't ended up participating in that particular jam, I guess something about '3D graphics in browsers' must have clicked with me. For the record, all my games up to this point have all been in 2D, so I must've thought it to be a good way to check this wicked new dimension out. Yo.
For me it was really just messing around up to that point. BabylonJS has this amazing playground feature where you can just program something without ever leaving the warm embrace of your browser. And it had cloudsave so I can always pick up where-ever I might've left off. The playground is also used to preview demo's, so whenever I needed something graphics-wise I'd just check it's corresponding demo, often only two clicks away.
The earliest dated log is around March 2015. Then a lot of stuff happened and I kinda forgot about it. The final thing from the playground, dated May... well, you can try it here: http://www.babylonjs-playground.com/#KPJM4#27.
Rise from the grave
It's January 2016 when the project unearths again. That's when I put both Mobilityand Tahira under source control to keep them synced across two computers. I had a new vision of the project. In it's current state, it could only be described as '3D Sokoban'. I had some new ideas that would make the mechanics better, allowing for deeper puzzles. Combine that with some fresh graphics, and boom! I used Brackets to replicate the workflow from the playground: code on the left, Ctrl+S, updated game on the right.
First, in the original Sokoban (let's shorten it to 'ban from now on) blocks obviously can't be stacked. There have been sideview 'ban games (like Boxes & Balloons) where gravity is introduced to the concept of 'ban.
My idea was to be able to move a stack of crates (for clarity, 'crates' are push-able objects) as a whole. In the current version, if you walked into a stack of crates, only the bottom one would slide out, and the rest of the stack would keep floating above your head. In the final version, if you push the bottom of a stack, the stack will move as one. If you pushed from somewhere higher, then the stack is split into two, which I thought would create good puzzle scenarios, but now you can also push a stack into a higher block to split it into two.
Secondly, if you try to push a crate through another crate in 'ban, they won't move as a line of crates. And that's the way I had set up things at the start. It's perfectly fine. But since stacks of blocks had already been upgraded, I figured it would make more sense to have lines of crates move as one when pushed. On it's own not incredibly interesting, but combine it with the new stack rules and a load of possibilities open up.
This last change, as you'll notice in the game, the player character will climb (immobile) blocks that are one level higher than her currently. When you attempt to push a crate, but the crate can't be pushed because it's blocked by something, only then the character will attempt to climb the crate. In the prototype, there was a toggle button to make the player *either* climb or push the crate. I hope you can see that the current solution is a much more clearer and intuitive way of climbing crates.
This reminds me of a puzzle
Oh my, the puzzles! I already touched on a lot of this in another blog post so I'll just summarize that here.
First, I explored which different mechanics and dynamics my puzzles supported. Then I sorted those in the order that I wanted the player to learn them, and I had my list of puzzles to be created. I followed the list quite closely (as well as updating it whenever I found a new dynamic) but while building puzzles sometimes I just found a better idea and made that instead.
Each puzzle has gotten a *ton* of individual attention, I easily expect at least a hour, maybe an hour and a half to build a puzzle and make sure it has a unique solution, is clearly view-able and not too confusing. Not to mention all puzzles that got scrapped. I wanted my game to explore as much of the possibility space as possible, so similar puzzles have no place in my game, and the mayor reason why I choose quality over quantity for this game.
Basically speaking, the puzzle is to get the boxes to the correct slots on the stage, but that is often only one layer of the puzzle. The player needs to get to the exit with all blocks on their slots, and sometimes there are no slots on the level at all which make the entire puzzle revolve around getting to the exit. Sometimes I use the targets to brute force a single solution, but often try not to use them to avoid spoiling the solution too much. This also is a huge deal in most puzzles of this game.
You'll also notice there are some levels without puzzles. I intended to have little breaks for the player, giving him an easy win after a series of destroying puzzles. They are pretty empty, so I put in some poetry to give them a reason to take a break.
Finally, I'd like to talk about the importance of (preferably infinite) undo in puzzle games. It helps the player such a big deal on iterating on their solution, including rewinding fail states to the moment it went wrong. It should be a necessity in all puzzle games. You'll notice that there are no death hazards in Tahira's Tower. In past versions you could fall off the level (crates can still fall off, of course) which would result in getting it reset. Which is not fun, and I prevented it from happening entirely by reverting the move when the player ends on a bottomless pit.
Yet another puzzle game in SPAAAAAAAACE
Wondering where the space theme came from? It was the only kind of skybox I found a generator for. Shame's on me for this one.
And what's in a name? Tahira means 'purity', which refers to the cleanness of puzzle design. And the Tower part is really, really only to make it an alliteration.
You can toggle the camera between three angles, nicknamed 'Isometric', 'Straight-on', and 'Top-down'. Originally I had a camera you could rotate the full 360 degrees for, but that went nowhere. You see, I had 'W' mapped to up, but from the default angle you move to the North-West when pressing that button. But change the camera angle, and the character would move in a different direction entirely, seemingly arbitrary unless you knew what the original angle was and where the camera is now. This is somewhat difficult to explain, so please play the prototype, move the camera somewhere with the mouse, then try to walk around without your brain breaking down.
Musician Luke Steinmann found my Mobility devlog and volunteered to make music for this game (he's currently cooking something up for Mobility as well). That makes this the first Amazingcookie/Auroriax game to feature custom music! The music is very relaxing which should help counter balance how angry you're going to become from the game. The game features no other sound effects, which I think would break the serenity of the game. (I actually had the same problem withHexaria until I implemented crystallophone selection sounds, instead of BFXR sounds, recently.)
It's May as I'm writing this, planning to start general playtests soon. I'm really glad to have this out of the door. Don't get me wrong, but I'd really start with something fresh. I realize that it's a good skill to actually finish games, and to have that idea 'past' me toyed around with finally wrapped into a palpable format. It feels so good to finally wrap something up and seeing people enjoy it, or in the case of this game, seeing people struggling to solve the various difficult puzzles laid out for them!
Thanks for reading. Good luck trying to solve Finale.
Another less active month because I was having quite a hectic month! But now I'm picking up steam again, and since last time:
- I fixed all bugs on the bug tracker. As you might know if you're involved in game dev is that fighting bugs is basically a fight you can never win, but at least I eliminated all known bugs for the time being. (It feels great finally empty that list, by the way!)
- Integrated this cool option menu! I'm sure I expressed this already in this topic, but I'm a huge fan of accessibility in games, and love customization settings in general, and that is primarily why this is necessary. I'll go more in-depth about it once it's more finished, but here's a GIF anyway:
- Soundtrack switching! This is an idea I coined to the musician I'm working together with (the same dude who I worked with on Tahira's Tower for the music). You see this in games like Fire Emblem Awakening and Guacamelee!, where a different variation of the same track plays based on the situation in the gameplay. I thought it would be a cool idea to switch the track between the overworld and the levels, where a chill version of the track plays on the overworld and is replaced with a more pumping track in the level. I got this working in-game today with some initial tracks, and it works and sounds awesome so far, and would love to show you once I have more finalized music.
- I'm planning to expand the overworld with some new spaceships. The current idea is that there are multiple spaceships that the player is tasked to repair, and finishing one by beating the boss or some other event, the ship is fixed and next one unlocks. Also more info about this one soon as it's more fleshed out.
I'm hoping to get posting here back into my habits by teasing all of this stuff here, so see you again soon!
Mobility was temporarily put on the backburner so I could focus all my attention on Tahira's Tower, which released just now! As you might know, actually finishing a game takes up a ton of time and effort, making sure everything will really come together in the final game, which is why I chose to make Mobility lower priority for the past month or so to fully focus my efforts on this other game.
Now that Tahira has finally been released, I'll continue work on Mobility! More info hopefully soon...
Mobility has been catching dust a bit because I am doing work on Tahira's Tower (a puzzle game I'm also working on). I like taking on two projects at the same time! As I explained to theMeaty earlier in the week, if I get tired of working on one project, I swap to the second one. Unidrax however has kept producing levels using the grind rails and made this really cool one:
Since I have a vacation now, I also have the time to pick up some stuff aside of those two. For example, I just released Micro Massive II, which was in a finished state for over a year, but I never found the time to tweak it to the level I wanted it to be. It's not that I didn't wanted to, I just kinda forgot about it in the light of the new games I were working on. Since I have not released any game yet this year, I found it an appropriate time to finally pick it up and put all finishing touches in. If you are interested you can grab it here.
Been tweaking the grinding rail physics a bit. My buddy already played with them a bit and made this level:
We have also been progressing with the overworld of the first ship, the 'Arrowhead'. I've been making hologram screens showing useless but cool-looking graphs. Unidrax commented on that the 'windows' in the ship looked more like the ship has gaping holes in its hull, so they've been replaced with transparent windows. We've also finished all overworld rooms on the ship.
Now, in the levels the camera follows the player perfectly, keeping him in the middle at all times. But on the overworld that makes less sense, in my opinion. This is why the overworld uses a noded camera system: every room in the ship is divided into multiple zones, and once a player is in a zone the camera targets the middle of that zone, and otherwise it targets the player. This camera system has originally been designed for a puzzle platformer (where the camera is kept still when you're in a puzzle room), but a slightly adjusted version of it also works in the Mobility overworld.
Showing of the Scarf Cat, as well as the new grinding rails! This new gimmick is quite Sonic the Hedgehog-inspired, but operates on it's own custom set of rules.
First off, once you land on the rail, it takes your current horizontal speed, increases it a bit and locks that in until you leave the rail. It applies the horizontal speed, then checks if you've just passed a slope, and if true, it also adjusts your vertical position. And if you press [Down] while going down a slope, your speed will increase a ton, but going up a slope will decrease your speed. While you can't do long jumps or backflips from the rail, you can still jump from the rail, which you can use to correct your momentum. The grinding rails are also an excuse for me to overuse particle effects :P
It's fairly difficult to come up with ideas for gimmicks that aren't feeling too 'gimmicky', and while I feel I've done a good job on this, I definitely want to test it some more.
So I've been working on support for multiple characters! All characters need to fit 10x10 (or anything else in which a 8x10 collision mask makes sense), which limits it a little, but is probably a neat addition. Maybe I can also give the characters unique abilities but that's something I'll decide further down the line.
The first extra character to make it in is the Scarf Cat. It's one of the characters from one of my prototypes that never got finished, but I liked the character and recycled it here. I'll probably put in more characters from my previous games, provided they fit inside the 10x10 limitation... There's one little dude from a game I made three years ago that still regularly makes cameos in my games, which is probably the next one I'll add.
I've also implemented a system to send messages and feedback to me from within the game. This will allow me to gather more comments in case I would publish a demo, but will also be useful in an eventual full launch of the game. The feature was set up surprisingly fast with the GameJolt API and its corresponding Game Maker library.
Also working on implementing Sonic-like grind rails. Very tricky to get the momentum for that right, but I'll share a GIF of it as soon as I have the sloped rails working.
Just finished fixing all the desyncs in the replays. It's actually pretty tough to find out what exactly is the reason the replay is not equal to the played game. As explained above, the game records which buttons where pressed on each frame, and 're-enacts' the playthrough. Often a desync is caused by values being overwritten or the key pressed of a single step before. I've been struggling with this for some time now so it's good to have this out of the way.
Spent most of the past and this week working on a Picross/Nonogram client, but it's code turned out to become so incredibly messy and buggy that it's simply no more fun to implement features into it (alongside other factors). So I hope to pick up speed with Mobility again, although I have a hard time deciding what needs to be implemented first. I'm thinking of working towards a playable demo with a part of the game all wrapped up, and use it to test and gather some feedback to shape the rest of the game. I'll see.
I'm starting work on the overworld. It needs to be a good place to practice, not too big or difficult so it's easy to get from A to B, and act as a breather for the difficult levels scattered across the map.
Here's the dialog system. It automatically adjusts it's height depending on how big the text inside it is, which is a huge boon. Furthermore, the text is quite big, the text has shadow while to box itself is slightly transparent, which all goes into making it look cool and minimalistic. I'm planning to scatter a few of these talkative spaceship employees to give the player tips or just start some small talk.
Slow progress last week. My partner was busy with a test week, so I figured I would work on my other project, a Sokoban-inspired puzzle game, which seems to be nearing completion. Talking about that seems out of scope for this 'log, but it's coming along nicely, although each individual puzzle takes a lot of effort to create.
The only new additions in Mobility apart from bugfixes were new levels, of which I'd be glad to share a GIF from.
One of my fave indie game developers Two Tribes announced that they're shutting down after the release of their final game RIVE this September. Kudos to them for being one of the reasons I got into playing indie games in the first place.
For names of the difficulty, for Easy I'll pick 'Relaxed' or 'Chill'. This indicates that it is a more relaxed or less taxing way of playing, while not necessarily indicating it's easier, although that can be derived from the name. Most likely it'll be accompanied by the byline 'For everyone!'. For Hard, I'm thinking of using the name of the game ('Mobility!') as the highest difficulty name. This is a thing done often done for osu! levels where the highest difficulty level name is a small joke that relates to the song or song name. And accompanied by the tagline 'No mercy.', this will draw in the good players while keeping the others away from a punishing experience.
In the meanwhile, my level design partner is making sure my bug fixing list stays filled. Unidrax messes around a bit and before you know it your buglist is one addition richer. It's a gifted ability of him. Today, he found out that if you hold a button and then unfocus the window, the game never registers that button being released and keeps thinking you've pressed it. We use Gyazo to quickly record and share bugs. After that I throw it on the list, and will keep it in the back of my mind when working on the game. It's never a bad idea to have (someone else) thoroughly bug test your game.
Thanks for reading!
Okay, so I managed to reduce the data size by about 40%. If two of the same characters appear after each other, it'll replace it by one character, but capitalize it. Since this data needs to be uploaded as a string anyway, this only reduces the data size as a result. I think optimizing things like this, packaging the same info in less data, is a super nice puzzle to figure out. I did something similar to Mobility's replays in the Box Kickers X's level editor, trying how to save what is an array in-game as a save-able string.
In the meanwhile I'm having another little dilemma. I even stepped in at the Indie Dev Hour for opinions. As listed before, the game has multiple difficulty levels, Easy, Normal, and Hard. Normal is the experience the game is designed around. Easy simplifies it by making it easier to activate the platforms, and makes this even simpler if the player is having trouble. Hard is the opposite, all checkpoints are removed and platforms appear shortly after they are used by the player, and is severely more punishing. Another earlier post in this dev log describes it in greater detail, but this is enough to understand my problem.
The problem is the naming convention. Hard should actually be called something like 'punishing', since it actually steps up the difficulty by quite a bit from Normal. Meanwhile, Easy should have a label like 'Beginner', but it mustn't make the player feel that he is a beginner (or 'noob'), but making him free to use it if it doesn't work the normal way (some people have that tendency against handicaps, accessibility features, or Nintendo's Super Guide). 'Normal' indicates that it's the intended experience, so that name is quite okay, unless I find something better.
It might seen as a little detail, but it's quite fun to find a solution for it and the final product will definitely be better thanks to all these small design thingies. I'll let you know if I figure out some good names.
Yesterday I worked on a way to store a replay as a saveable file. The goal is to use the GameJolt API to upload these replays with the scores to the leaderboards. As such, I am especially watchful for ways to reduce the file size of these replays to make uploading them as smooth as possible.
This is how replays work in Mobility: Once the players hits a button, the timer will start running and the playthrough will be recorded. During the level, an array is updated each step/frame with the buttons that register presses. If the player reaches the finish, the game restarts the level and starts the replay, and will repeat all button presses the player made. The game is re-enacting the playthrough.
The big upside of this replay system: very low file sizes. The game records the state of five buttons, so for the length of the replay, that theoretically means five bits (or rounded up to one bit) for each recorded frame is enough. The downside is that the replay could desync, not be identical to the original play anymore, if the game logic during the replay is handled differently somewhere in the game. Even a single desync could quickly ruin the replay. Today I've been hard at work minimizing the possibility of desyncs.
To submit the replay to the GameJolt API, it needs to be formatted as a string, but the replays are recorded in-game as an array. So we need both a script to turn that replay array into a string, as well as translate it back to an array.
This is what the script that turns the array into a string does:
- It checks for the frame which buttons where pressed, then turn that into a single number/real. (It adds one if Left is pressed, two if Right is pressed, four if up, eight if down, 16 if [R].)
- It turns that number into a single string character that represents that number. (so 1 becomes '1', 10 becomes 'A', for example)
- It adds the new character at the end of the current replay string.
It does these steps for as long as the replay array is. If you want to get an array out of the replay string, you just do these steps in reverse: take a character from the string, find out which value that character represents and set that value, and from that value, figure out which buttons should be pressed on this frame.
Next up, I'm going to look into a way to reduce the file size of that string. Right now, the amount of frames in a replay equals the amount of bytes. I'm sure I can get that smaller somehow.
And a small update to the map screen: