Thank you! It was fun to expand the "Stick Man" universe.
Call Of The Void
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The first two levels were good... the puzzles worked well and introduced the mechanics... the visuals were clear and easy to parse...
But the third level (the platforming one) was kind of a pain. Pushing blocks with your face is kind of a pain, and first-person platforming is kind of a pain (if there aren't parkour mechanics). I'm surprised my solution of pushing the two blocks on top of each other worked, it felt like if anything went wrong I'd have to restart the level again. Is that level necessary?
I'm curious about where the final level is heading, with the enemies who target you. I'd like to see it all come together. I'd like to use an enemy corpse to activate a button... but then... I suspect the gun isn't ever going to work.
Haha! There's so much potential here. I wanted the boulders to be better at killing the gummies, I guess setup so that they roll towards the gummies rather than across their path. The level being a bit tighter might have allowed for this.
I'd also like a bit more hit-stun on the gummies. It felt like they could jiggle more in reaction to being shot (though the fact that they did jiggle was pretty satisfying)
Well... I'm not sure I'm a winner. I flew past the spinning text at the top and didn't get to read it, then fell to my doom. That's why I kept trying, and I didn't pull it off a second time (though I got to 850 again)
This feels like a really solid concept! Splatoon meets Need For Speed.
It's already been said, but a smaller map would probably make it better. In a multiplayer game you don't want players going off and doing their thing alone. Multiplayer is best when interacting with other players. And in a smaller map the players will naturally spend more time bumping into each other and going over each others' tracks. The size of the current map feels like you could each have your own single player adventure separately (which isn't great).
I haven't played it properly in 2 player yet. But I feel like there's an obvious mechanic when it comes to bumping cars:
The opponent's car should not explode, instead it should spin away, out of control, leaving behind a trail in your color.
Another thing, that has been mentioned. There should be a way to get nitro back... perhaps skidding slowly replenishes nitro? (I guess it's that, or over-time, or pickups). Hmmm... Are those blue capsulte pickups?
I don't play many driving games, but I enjoyed the extra-arcady feel while I had Nitro. Felt like I had more control than in a normal driving game (and the Nitro made it much easier to keep a skid going, which felt fun).
Getting stuck upside down after ramping was less fun :P
This was lovely! I was smiling the whole time playing it (after the first few lines of dialogue when I thought things might go badly).
It's weirdly entertaining to watch the characters do narrative-gymnastics in order to guarantee you the good ending. It's a good hook for a game (I think).
Super glad that you're not demoralized. Your game is still technically very impressive, and maybe could have been great if you had had three weeks on it, but it's clear (like you say) that you didn't get time to do anything else other than "get everything in".
I don't think adding a third person to the team will help.
Expanding the team means more communication, more time spent getting everyone onto the same page and excited. The team will grow by 50% but the work you'll be able to do might increase by 25%... and you'll probably try be even more ambitious now that you have a third teammate (assuming nothing else changes).
I feel pretty confident it will play out that way, that you'll just be more ambitious with three people, because Twin Hydra seem to have a little bit of time blindness, and a lot of enthusiasm for new features.
I too have a lot of enthusiasm for adding more things into a game. At Free Lives I'm probably the person who is most inclined to over scope and just keep adding more. I don't think it's a harmful impulse when harnessed for good, but it can lead to disappointment and sorrow when used for evil (in my experience).
Maybe if you split up, each working on their own game, you'd find you are both less ambitious and so work more within your means, and maybe you'll have better outcomes...
But that seems sort of sad. And honestly I think you're just going to run into this problem at a later stage anyway.
Here's my advice... get your salt pinching fingers ready... I do a couple things these days that help me avoid overscoping:
A) I attach times to tasks. If the task says "implement a new major mechanic", for example movement, it's a day of work in a jam. This includes testing and iteration of course. If the thing needs to interact and actually feel good - it takes a day, if it can be janky then if can be a bit quicker.
Critically: the time a task takes isn't the raw implementation time, the time a single task takes includes all the iterations and time spent talking about how to fix it or improve it. Don't even try predict it, just mark it down as a day.
This means I can do two or maybe three mechanics in a jam, and I have to make the game enjoyable with just those. And I'm pretty damn fast at jamming.
For instance the robot movement is a day, the camera system is a day, puzzles in the robot space is a day, the moving from in world to computer screen is maybe half a day, the Clippy system is half a day, the carrying around a robot in FPS view is a day. The megazord fusion is a day. Some sort of doomsday ending is a day.
i.e. I know before I've started that I couldn't have made the game you were trying to make in a jam. So, hopefully, I wouldn't have tried.
B) I don't move on from a task until it is tested and it is good (and it is tested again).
If moving a robot around is bad or untested, I won't start with movement/camera puzzles, if the puzzles at the robot level are bad or untested, I won't build the FPS part where you drop the robot in the hole, if the FPS part is bad or untested I won't build the fake Windows interface... and so on.
Generally in a jam I'm then designing games that have multiple exit points. Like if I'm running out of time it will still be good if it is just X, but if things go well we can do X and Y.
i.e. My plan is always start small and expand in layers like an onion.
This obviously has some drawbacks... mostly that it makes it hard to write a narrative, literally not knowing what the game will do at the end of the jam, so I will start off with a vague idea of stories the game could tell are, and only fill in those details when the game has the elements to tell those stories. It's a compromise of course, but I think it's generally better than trying to tell the whole story despite the game not supporting that story.
Beyond narrative difficulties, in general this iterative approach means you cannot plan the entire game at the start. At best you can have a theory of what the game could be, but there will be a ton of "if this is fun" or "if we implement this really well". I'll have a plan B in case the ambitious elements need to be cut, and most often I am forced to fall back to a plan B, or plan C or D... but that's generally because plan A couldn't have been implemented well in the time.
The HUGE upside about working iteratively instead of sticking to a plan is that making games just isn't predictable. Sometimes one seemingly small feature turns out to be a massive challenge requiring a lot of iteration, sometimes the feature turns out to straight-up suck, and then the shape of the whole game needs to change because you actually only have half the time you'd expected to do the rest. Since this ALWAYS happens, in my mind it's better not to plan in detail in the first place because it makes it emotionally more challenging to pivot later.
Those are my thoughts.
A) Allocate realistic time for tasks when you are planning.
B) Don't plan, work incrementally and iteratively.
This is really impressive technically. And I can see the shape of the puzzle, though I gave up at the yellow truck.
If I can be honest, I feel like this is a pattern with Twin Hydra game jam games. Twin Hydra games have a lot of content in them, but the content is frustrating to wade through.
I'd love to see Twin Hydra do a small game well instead of a big game badly. My concern is that the skills needed to make an experience enjoyable aren't been practiced in these games... each game has a different janky movement scheme... lots of unique but once off simple puzzles that players briefly encounter with no room for mastering. In layman's terms: "This isn't fun."
I applaud the innovation and the creativity and the technical competence... but I worry about this pattern I'm seeing. I only worry about it because it seems to me Twin Hydra are incredibly talented, but are going about development ass-backwards. Nothing feels iterated or playtested, it all just feels ticked-off.
I'd be happy to explain further. I'm not sure if I'm being clear here. My critique isn't aimed at the game itself, but rather what I perceive/expect to be the process behind the game, and other recent Twin Hydra games.
Wooah, I missed this totally during the jam. Love the aesthetic so much!
I wonder if it would be possible to make this more like a game, with some choices or puzzles... like a game like KIDS, but more musical.
Haha! Having the "W" to move forward (rather than a click) was the closest we came to having an argument during the jam. I think we could probably include an option for people who want to play single-handed, but there was something about pressing forward that felt a little more visceral.
We're not big fans of puzzle games, so I think our natural instinct is towards more headroom, more viable strategies.
That said, the thing that bothers me most about more headroom designs, and is mentioned in that pretty excellent article, is that players will repeat themselves given the chance, and this is boring. You mentioned headroom in the context of farming strategies in Shroom and Gloom, which is something specifically mentioned in the article, though the solution the author found probably won't save players from their min-maxing instincts in Shroom and Gloom.
Sorry if this is turning into a bit of a long response, I'm just interested in thinking about aethetics-of-dynamics in deckbuilders.
Despite some divergences, Shroom and Gloom is a "Slay The Spire-like" (which is a genre these days, one that I'd prefer to call a "Dream Quest-like" but that game never got popular). And in terms of the headroom dynamic, these games have a lot going for them. As in, they avert some of the problems of too much headroom simply by not giving many options (in Slay The Spire-likes the first choices are all "Choose One Of Three"). (in this way Slay The Spire-likes are quite different to traditional Roguelikes).
Alex Smith (the author of that headroom article) would argue that limited card choices steers players due to the low headroom in subsequent choices, that the player has to commit to a path once they've chosen it. He'd be right... but there's still something curious about simply not giving players most of the choices in the game. i.e. it's possible to make a game with relatively high headroom, but low repetition just by having a lot of content that doesn't appear every run. Like simply not offering any cards that allow farming is an actual solution, even if these cards exist in the game and do appear sometimes.
And the thing about CCG's in general, is that the random-draw-from-a-deck is naturally great at getting players to improvise (which is the opposite of the feeling Alex Smith identifies as being caused by too much headroom, i.e. Players deciding on a strategy early on and then just sticking to it). I feel like there's got to be a way to disrupt a farming strategy through introducing more randomness, like if the first half of a run involves a lot of farming, but then some event takes place half way that provides an even better approach, that would reduce the overall repetition, and as I see it the repetition itself is the problem.
All of this is to say, that I feel like Shroom of Gloom is in a good place with its headroom... but there's consequences of our highish-headroom approach that you've pointed out that I'd like to avoid - like repetitive farming, and low improvisation decks (that have few cards, and so more repetition when playing).
And I desperately don't want to reduce the headroom to solve this by direct nerfing of options (which is the low headroom approach), while I also desperately want to limit the boring strategies.
What's left then are largely content-based solutions. As in, solutions that involve more content that introduce new incentives for players or otherwise force players to improvise around a new element. And I suspect in a high-headroom design paradign content is usually the tool that solves problems.
You've already mentioned some approaches with limiting farming, like new enemies that gain in power. My feeling is, whatever these limits are they need to be baked into the rules of the base game, rather than specific encounters. For instance: all basic enemies can flee (after a turn or two) when they're feeling doomed, but then come back in a later fight. The same amount of killing enemies for "If Fatal" improvements might happen, but it would be less possible to ignore enemies and keep buffing your cards (which isn't a fun strategy).
The sound design is really excellent. That death sound, and the heaving effort sounds of the jumping blocks, it conveys a lot about this world without the need for graphics.
In the gifs it appears like it is possible to move around, though with a mouse control-scheme I'm not sure that is possible.
It also appears like it is occasionally slow motion, which wasn't what I experienced in the game. I feel like I might have been playing a gimped version of this?
I did start getting reasonably good at curving the bullets... not good enough to hit something more than 1 time out of 10, and the punishment for missing was often the bullet flying back and insta-killing me. The feeling of mastering the mechanic was there, but I got a strong sense of it being developer-hard (or somehow a gimped experience).
I couldn't figure out what to do on the third level with the turret. It's very unclear to me what I should be attempting. The two jumping blocks on the second level gave a lot of feedback, and the more I played that level the better I got at it (I restarted the game a few times, and got to the point where I could reliably beat the second level without dying).
Still, like others have said, the dream of an FPS with curving bullet-trick-shots is very appealing, and there's moments where this feels like it is realizing that dream.
Sorry if this is largely useless feedback in the case that I was doing something ass-backward all along.
Wow! Thanks for the all feedback. We haven't had a lot of outside feedback so far, so this is very valuable.
We'll have to do something about all the potential farming. It's nice to hear you're getting powerful cards, but we don't want players sitting grinding turn after turn on low level mobs.
I think all the points you raise are very salient. Buffing the campfire seems sensible. Maybe making thinning the deck a bit more expensive/complicated. I'm a fan of creating monster combos in card games, but the combos in Shroom and Gloom don't involve much investment or specialization. Though I think some of that will come naturally with more content (or at least, with more content we'll be able to design more complicated card relationships).
You sound like an expert on card games (moreso than us). I'm going to be borrowing some of your lingo and ways of reasoning about card games!
I kind of loved that the upgrades could make it difficult to get other upgrades (like getting explosions meant that I might clear my own upgrade slots by accident). It might have been a little too chaotic in this regard, and that would have bothered me in a serious game, but it was still a novel interaction that was surprising and fun.
I guess I loved that there was a commitment to using the arrows as the main means of interaction.
The kind of joke that I would personally find awesome would be arrow-based interactions that become absurd with more arrows or exploding arrows... like a William-Tell-Shoot-An-Apple-Off-My-Child random shop... where you get something if you can hit the apple and not kill the child.
The upgrades themselves felt like they resulted in some very satisfying strategies! Really impressive to have acheieved this in a jam!
If you spent longer on this, I think the area that has the most room for improvement is the enemy design and the level design. But for a jam it works super well!
Being ganked by that log-monster was pretty hectic. I wasted my dashes early on, so I was feeling very vulnerable.
Really cool dark and creepy atmosphere! The enviromental story-telling tells an unsettlingly brutal story.
I felt like I was getting good at discovering more of the planet as I learnt the system. Like others have said, it'd be nice to be able to salvage or to have some permanent upgrades. I once lost 7 pylons due to accidentally running out of power.
If you wanted to really expand the idea, you could have different modes of transport. The game might start with you on foot, then the next expedition you can afford a rover, then when your rover runs out of fuel you could walk a little bit (but not far). Kind of like how vehicles improve your ability to explore in Subnautica. I just like the idea of having a little grace after your rover dies to maybe get back, or find some fuel for your rover, that kind of thing. Or even just dying on foot feels more dramatic than your rover stopping suddenly (I guess it's implied in the current game that these are unmanned vehicles).
An upgrade to salvage things would be a nice upgrade.
The grass looks sick!
I couldn't figure out what to do with the key, but it seems to me to be a promising idea (to discover objects hidden and then presumably to use them to find more objects)
Well I wouldn't say that the narrative is "not engaging at all with the player". I think it sets up an interesting premise, and it's well executed, so listening to the dialogue provides entertainment in itself. And I think an interesting premise like this can be turned into more engagement given a bit more time to work on the project (like if this wasn't a quick jam game I feel like you would have gotten there).
I thought some of the pacing solutions were quite brilliant actually. All those airlocks were clearly there to allow voice lines to complete, but they also had this dehumanizing effect, like I was being constantly sprayed with disinfectant because the AI thought I was dirty. This really builds on moments like the "play room" where the AI brings the player into something like a children's play room, it feels demeaning, it feels like the AI considers the player to be a dirty child.
And that kind of world building (with disinfectant airlocks and the children's play room etc) is part of the narrative obviously. And it's kind of great that the dialogue (as far as I can remember) never refers to the airlocks and never calls the player stupid, it just leaves it up to the player's imagination to figure out why they are being treated this way. That's the good kind of gap in narrative left for the player to fill.
Have you watched Idiocracy? My single favourite moment, possibly in any film ever, is the IQ test scene that humans in the future are assigned. It's such perfect world building, it doesn't need any explanation or dialogue.
It took me quite a few tries to get it so that the falling debri was correctly timed with the money. Maybe I was missing something, but perhaps a easy-to-complete level first would have helped me understand the system before hitting the big-leagues.
That said, playing physics backwards was awesome, with an emphasis on "awe".
This game really worked for me. The physics was very solid, and in the early part of the game, while learning the controls, I felt like I was getting better and better at swinging. I had a real sense of mastery while playing which was very pleasant (and an experience that is generally quite rare in physics-driven games as it's difficult to design complex simulations that are reliable).
I found the leap of faith level too difficult to complete, I couldn't tell how far apart the branches were because of the camera angle, so I'm not sure how close I came to beating it (I got to the third last branch).
The arms are the only thing I'd really suggest to be improved. I'm not sure where the forces are being applied, but the arms seem to rotate around a bit weirdly, as if the force were being applied at the elbow. I found myself missing a lot of grabs because the elbow was bent in a weird direction at the moment that I needed the arm to be outstretched.
I was also very impressed with how stable the vine climbing was and how intuitive it felt. (Like I felt like an actual Monke)
This was awesome! Nosegrinds and transporting children were easily my favourite parts. It didn't seem like I could grind a child, but I kept trying.
I found getting the goals a little cryptic and tricky, but I'm not too sure how to improve upon what's here. I've never tried making a goat simulator or Tony Hawk game myself. My instinct would be too try compress the level a bit so that the triggers for the goals are closer together or even overlapping so that completing the tasks happens faster (and more often by accident). And I'd also try make the wipeouts cost less momentum or happen in fewer circumstances, I felt like I was spending a lot of time upside down waiting for my horse to fix itself after colliding with an object that I had no hope of avoiding (as I was travelling so fast).
Also, with some more sound effects (clip clop) I think the humour would be even funnier. The audio while not wearing a hat was kind of eerie, like a half-attended school cafetaria during a pandemic, and it wouldn't take much to make the audio really immerse the player in the Tony Horse fantasy. I think the realistic ambience starts in this direction, juxtapposing the flip-horse against a Tony Hawk audio-pallette, but obviously there's a lot missing audio-wise (unless I've missed something and there was an error on my side).
Nice job! That's really impressive work.
Is the granny driven by physics while she's walking? It seems very consistent, like an animation, but there's nice secondary animation on the fluid sack on her zimmer frame, which makes it feel like it's physics. Obviously when she's been knocked over I can tell she's a ragdoll, but I can't tell while she's walking.
It's good either way, I'm just curious about whether you got a ragdoll that consistent.
Hey! I love the character designs and the good vibes in this game.
I really like where this gameplay is going, but it feels a bit frustrating trying to fart in the right direction. Maybe if there was some bias towards farting yourself upwards, like there was a slight force towards facing upwards. It's also possible to get kind of stuck facing upside down on the platform.
I think I could really enjoy it if I felt a bit more in control of where the character went. It's good to have to learn to work around the physics, but as it is it feels to me like the physics is a bit too much in control and I'm not in control enough.
I think another way this game could go is to make the placement of the money even easier to get and leave the physics this chaotic, kind of like a game like Peggle.
I don't think you intended it. But there is a kind of poetry in how difficult it is to get the money in this game. The game has a South African theme and whether you get money or not is mostly out of your control, the money is trapped within these rotating lottery-like structures that you might be able to get into but you might also just get stuck on the outside, which feels like a metaphor for the experience of many South Africans.
I have a dark sense of humour, so this kind of thing occurs to me. There was a game I played recently called Luck To Be A Landlord https://store.steampowered.com/app/1404850/Luck_be_a_Landlord/ that emphasized this feeling of randomness and chance trying to get money while the forces against you keep escalating.
This was really fun once I got the hang of it. The vines and the bending branches work great.
I know the controls got a couple people confused, I was playing on Desktop and confused me at first (I had ignored the information in the title screen). Clicking on the monkey wasn't that intuitive, might have worked better with right click... though if this was intended for mobile I'd suggest making making the monkey release when releasing the drag (and adjust the physics so that it's more about gaining momentum and using the branch springiness rather than quickly dragging and tapping the monkey).
That is to say, with a little bit of adjusting, I feel like this could be the basis for a good game. Feels like a successful prototype to me. And it's already pretty polished!
Sad that the monkeys couldn't hang off other monkeys!
I personally think it might have been even funnier if it were Tarzan-like people swinging through the jungle and trying to get bananas. i.e. people behaving like monkeys is funnier than monkeys behaving like monkeys.
Wow, like others have said, a fully narrated jam game is an impressive feat in itself. Also there's a ton of environments and interactions and detailed sound work. The scope here is very impressive.
The platforming was a bit tricky in places, to the point of being frustrating. Seemed like there was a bit of slide induced by the capsule collider of the player.
I liked breaking things though!
I got a black screen at the end and it just seemed to hang there. That was after a speech by the AI at what seemed like the top of the building. I feel like I missed something or something went wrong.
The narrative was good too. The first conversation felt a bit front-loaded (it's irritating waiting for backstory before being engaged in the game, whereas hearing backstory after already being engaged is more satisfying... i.e. Answering questions noone is asking feels tiresome, but answering questions to mysteries that have already been noticed by players feels rewarding).
(I'm not going to find it, but I watched a GDC talk once that made the point that the gaps in information are more engaging than what you get told. If the player becomes aware that they don't know something they're going to try complete their information, whereas if you just tell them everything then they have nothing driving them forward. You have to tell them a little bit so that they become aware of what they don't know, but it's the parts that you keep from them until the end that are the most engaging)
The pleas by the AI at the end came a little bit out of nowhere... I know I had been feeling frustrated running in circles because of the tests the AI was doing on me, but until that moment the narrative hadn't acknowledged it. It also maybe didn't need to be as grand sounding... and... this might have been your idea already... but a little agression test to see if the player is trustworthy is a good idea as a final test before they are released... though I guess just killing the AI might be satisfying in itself and making that a choice might rob those who choose not to destroy the AI of the pleasure of destroying the AI (making the good ending a boring ending). Though maybe there's a narrative solution I'm not thinking of.
For example, there's something weird about AI's testing to see if unfrozen people are imposters. That's already leaving a gap that could be filled. What are these imposters? If something about imposters were mentioned again it'd leave players wondering about this. They'd know that imformation is important because it is mentioned twice or more times, and so players would be motivated to fill their gap of information. Then, for example of a way to fill it, it is suggested that one impostor got through the tests two years ago, so they made the tests harder, now 100% of all unfrozen clients turn out to be impostors and the AI's consider this a success, and that suggests that the AI's are refusing to let anyone unfrozen live and are making up impossible rules to ensure this... but that isn't actually said, it is something the players put together. And it sets up an adversarial relationship with the AI and then defeating the AI and disabling it become a resolution to this conflict.
I got stuck for a minute there... I didn't know I had to drag the vents open. Up until that point everything involved pressing "E" to open... and my weapon being "fists" wasn't enough of a clue (clicking on the vents didn't do anything)
If a little hand indicator appeared over the vent when I clicked, or when I moused over it, then that might have been enough of a clue to figure it out immediately. I think that would have been more helpful than the narration being more descriptive, just a little bit of visual feedback to steer players towards the correct interaction.
The vents did feel nice to open after I figured it out.