No worries! Thanks for sharing!
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I had a go without the instructions first and was quite confused. With the instructions I didn't have a problem understanding, you're quite a good technical writer.
As for strategy, I maxed archers in all 4 towers then spammed all money into healing them. That seemed to go alright for me in the time I played? I cycled between towers in a generally clockwise direction.
I haven't played it multiple times yet, but I can safely posit that yes, it would be easy once you get the strategy down, as the game is more about thinking of a strategy than executing a strategy (which is fine if that's what you're making, it just means you need to make a bunch of levels)
On the fun thing, I really like that the game is about multitasking (it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but there are people who enjoy it) and the formation system is cool (although I didn't really have to use it to defend my towers effectively).
I think it's worth playing around with making some crazy changes to what you've got and seeing how it affects how the game feels! I think it's a bit premature to worry too much about difficulty and such at this point; you're early enough in development that you can still try some wild game-play experiments! Sometimes this is referred to as 'finding the fun', and it gets heaps harder to do later in development when it's harder to change your project.
You could try some experiments using what you've got as a base to see if you can solve some of your instructional / strategy issues. Stuff like the following:
- What if there were two or three towers instead, but the game took place on a single screen, and was more zoomed out?
- Currently a lot of your action happens off-camera, and I watch it on the minimap. Having it all on one screen could help communicate the concept of your game at a glance to players, as well as making sure that they don't miss anything.
- If you did try putting the game on one screen, you'd probably have to slow player movement considerably to preserve the tactical considerations of where you put your characters.
- What if the towers were more capable, but even more directly dependent on your support?
- Maybe try making towers heaps better at defending themselves, but they run out of arrows unless the patrol retrieves them from slain foes, or towers do fine against weaker enemies, but large siege bosses appear that out-range the tower, or battering rams that are immune to arrows. Something that really obviously demands the players attention.
- What if gold is something the patrol has to retrieve / mine / fight for / steal, and carry with them rather than gold being generated in towers?
- What if the level itself had more natural obstacles?
- What if the endgame wasn't to spend a few minutes in each tower, but instead required you to destroy the heavily guarded monster spawner or something? You need to defend your towers long enough for your patrol to increase in power enough to attack a spawner, or something similar?
Some of these are easier to try than others depending on how comfortable you are with programming. Try the easy ones first, if you feel like it!
These are all pretty random ideas, and a game that used all of them would probably be a little confused, but what I'm trying to get at is that there's a lot of different directions you could take what you've got, and the best way to find out which way you want to take it is to try a lot of different stuff and see what you find the most compelling!
Basically, try and riff on what you've got and see how different you can make different versions of the prototype.
In a way, by making this jam game, you've narrowed down the entirety of all existing game design patterns and elements to a handful that you find really interesting (a number of which aren't traditionally found together).
Think of what you've got here as your ingredients! How many recipes can you make? How different can you make them taste? Which ones are your favorites?
Don't be afraid to try stuff that doesn't work, or anything like that. You can fix it all later.
I guess I'm proposing the game design equivalent of sketching. You've got a set of elements that are really easy and fun to remix, and I think you should play with them more before you settle in and try to balance stuff!
I like the feeling of being lost in a videogame, but...
I hate the feeling of being lost in a videogame.
It depends on the game.
So, for context I will turn off every navigational aid in an open world game if it'll let me, and some of my fondest gaming memories involve being lost in games like Morrowind.
It's a very similar question to 'should the character of my game move fast?'.
The answer depends entirely on the context of the entire game around it.
That's kind of a cop out answer, so to elaborate a little further, let's change the question:
What does the player get out of being lost in your game?
- Is it an interesting experience?
- If it isn't, should it be?
- If it shouldn't, why can the player get lost?
Basically, is getting lost in your game interesting, and do you want it to be?
Currently, I don't think your game benefits from having players feel lost, because being lost in your game isn't interesting. Getting lost and finding my way again doesn't really lead to me making any compelling decisions as a player, it just extends playtime.
(Sidenote: I didn't get lost in your game particularly due to that signal prompt.)
Now, you could make getting lost interesting if you wanted to!
Maybe getting lost leads to stumbling into greater challenges, or greater rewards.
Maybe it drains resources, and players have to improvise to survive.
Maybe the actual process of navigation is an interesting challenge (orienteering with maps, landmarks, vague directions, etc.)
There's heaps of thing that you could do, but do you actually WANT to them?
Because it's totally valid to just not have the player get lost at all. (In fact, it usually allows you to designer tighter, more exciting levels)
If you're making a top down action game (which I think this game is), getting lost is probably just a distraction from what your game is focused on, which is chainsawing hordes of the undead.
Horror, as a genre, relies on dis-empowerment (horror), or the threat of imminent dis-empowerment (survival horror: the threat of running out of the resources you need to survive).
Your game doesn't dis-empower the player (I am a chainsaw wielding flannel god of death), which is fantastic for an action game, but also means it's not enough of a horror game for any of the genres traditions to be relevant to you.
This is a very long answer to a very short question, so to sum up:
1: If you go the action route, don't let the player get lost
2: If you go the horror route, only let the player get lost if you can make being lost interesting
If you really want to hybridize action and horror, I'd look to survival horror for examples. The genre manages to balance both elements with varying degrees of success.
I think I've mentioned this elsewhere, but your game is one I'm planning to come back to.
I'll probably need a little more time than I have right now to give you a really good answer on this.
I was planning to sit down and play it again at some point over the next few days, so I'll hit you up here (or somewhere, think I'm following you) when I get the chance to reeeeally sink my teeth in.
I think more than anything a game like yours is one of those where you really FEEL out what's good/not good (although a better designer than I might have a more objective answer).
I'll get back to you!
It's all good!
The two terms get used interchangeably a lot, even by designers, so it's really easy to get them mixed up.
Part of the issue with game design not having a proper taxonomy of terms, I suppose!
Keen to see your future levels, I think level design is one of the most enjoyable parts of making games once you get into the flow of it!
Hmm, I think you could maybe lean harder into the one screen thing?
Having to keep an eye on the dragon is good, but I think it would be great if there were more mechanics which required you to see what was going on in different parts of the screen, as that's your main mechanical twist.
I'm sort of torn on the torch, because it effectively undoes your twist! A small light radius is effectively the same thing as a small screen, right?
I think if some of the other mechanics were based around characters and unexpected interactions, you could get a chuckle out of seeing a wizard who's been working in his workshop the whole time becoming a roaming enemy when he gets annoyed at you flooding his workshop during solving another puzzle, that kind of thing.
Have you heard of a game design technique called the false ceiling? It's when a game looks like it's going to end at a certain point, but then surprises you by continuing past that point.
It's usually a nice little addition to a game, but in your case I think it may be mandatory to get the most out of the concept.
Having the castle transformed, or the context changed, by player actions which create new challenges would be excellent.
Effectively, I think you want to basically design dozens of levels, but then contrive a way that they can all be the castle, modified by some event (usually caused by the player).
Does that make any sense?
Hey! I remember you game!
The controls are fine, I think maybe the player character should accelerate to a slightly higher top speed.
I would love to have a little dash, or a dodge roll (see enter the gungeon for a top down example).
The level designs were quite good, I'd juice them up with more incidental breakable stuff in them that keeps the axe bouncing: think computer consoles, pipes that blast out steam which hurts enemies (and you!) when broken, etc. etc.
We had the rather odd challenge of having to make saying 'no' juicy: We used sound and a subtle headshake.
Would be interested to hear your thoughts? Is it juicy ENOUGH?
Link to Negative Nancy here! --> https://itch.io/jam/gmtk-2019/rate/462193?after=40#post-887310
Hey, just chucked your game a rate! It's a really cute aesthetic, had a good time with it.
Those cupcakes made me hungry though.
We had a similar moment when we accidentally doubled the dialogue text in Negative Nancy, and it created a drop shadow effect that looked so much better. (for context -->https://itch.io/jam/gmtk-2019/rate/462193?after=40#post-887310)
It's the best when stuff just works out (feel like it's a rarity in game dev, haha)
- What makes a good level? What makes it fun?
We'll come back to that one! Let's start with your difficulty curve question.
- And what is the perfect difficulty curve for such a game ? is it OK to challenge the player instantly or not, etc. ?
As a rule, the perfect difficulty curve generally looks (roughly) like this:
The game progressively gets harder, with slight dips in the difficulty to allow the player to relax after particularly tricky challenges.
As to how HARD a game should be generally, I think it really depends on who the game is for and what you want it to be.
Personally, I think a game should be as hard as it needs to be to show off it's mechanics; some mechanics pushed to their limit get really tricky.
- In my case, how can I improve the level design of my game?
First up, one of your jobs as a level designer is to be a teacher! There are three things you should keep in mind at all times when designing a level.
- What does the player know already?
- What do I want them to know by the end of level?
- How is the level going to teach them what I want them to know by the end of it?
This, and how you test the player's knowledge, is generally what a difficulty curve actually is.
However, it's important to separate the concepts of difficulty and punishment in your mind, as they're not the same.
Difficulty is how hard something is to do.
Punishment is how severe the consequences of failing to do it is.
Take this early level of yours:
You teach, and test, the double jump mechanic in this level.
While death isn't a huge punishment in your game due to the quick respawns, it's still probably not necessary as a consequence for failing.
If the consequence of failing my double jump simply meant I had to try again with better timing rather than an infinite fall to my death, it would teach exactly the same lesson, but be less frustrating (others have mentioned but I think there's something up with your doublejump code, it doesn't always trigger when I press 'w').
Same difficulty, lower punishment for failing.
So back to:
- What makes a good level ? What makes it fun ?
A good level tests only what you've been taught and teaches what you will later test, but that's not all.
A good level might offer epiphanies, 'aha, I get it!' moments that the player feels great for figuring out.
It might also allow the player to be expressive, using the mechanics of the game in a way that just *feels* good (see pop-corn enemies in a shoot-em-up game).
Level design is an art as much as it is a science, but it's great fun too!
If you can, try and test your levels on people you can watch play them. You don't need to ask their opinion, you'll quickly see where they get frustrated, and you'll be able to interpret what they were thinking by watching what they try to do.
In summary, teach the player, make them an expert at your game, then let them express that expertise in ways that feel good to do!
Really cool concept!
As others have said, platforming could be a little tighter but it's a great idea.
I would love to be able to cycle between the lights with my mousewheel so I don't have to aim for them and click while platforming!
Yeah for sure. The cool thing about a game like yours is that it's really easy to commission art to spec, so you can make it look reeeeeally good on a shoestring budget once you're happy with it!
Hey, great trailer!
I'm pretty tired and about 5 minutes off bed (Australian time here), so if you don't mind I'll pop back tomorrow so I can give you answers that actually make sense, and aren't just the sleep-deprived ravings of a madman.
Can you be a little more specific on feedback for how you use the theme in game? Is there a specific mechanic that you worry is off theme? Is there an area where you wanted to use the theme and couldn't? The more specific you are, the more helpful the feedback you get is likely to be!
- Early level progression was great! Best epiphany moment was definitely the one where you have to jump across a bunch of switch-blocks, I thought it was going to be impossible until I realized I could stall the top clones momentum on the bit hanging off the roof. Really cool.
However, I got stuck here:
Couldn't get past the first challenge with the vertical line of cubes.
It felt like a big difficulty ramp, but maybe the answer is simple and I just haven't had enough sleep, haha.
2. Until I got stuck, I felt like there were enough. Not sure how much further the game goes beyond this level, so maybe someone who got further than me can answer?
3. That's a tricky one. I actually can't think of anything entirely cohesive off the top of my head, might have to sleep on it. The hive mind aspect suggests a lot of themes, but it's hard to think of one where killing / removing all of the remainders makes sense from a thematic perspective. Unless you could replace death with a gentler theming, while still keeping similar obstacles?
Really, really great game.
Played it for waaaay longer than I intended to!
My best was wave 7.
I love this kind of stuff, great job on the UI too! It's hard to get it as polished as you have in 48 hours, props to you!
The core mechanic is a super interesting twist, this is an EXCELLENT solitaire-style TCG.
I want more pls.
That kind of physics engine manipulation makes my teeth itch.
The result was great though! I had a wonderful time winning your game.
I think it would be totally worth tightening up the physics and expanding this out into a little game, it was really fun, even playing it solo!
There's a great GDC talk by Bennett Foddy on YouTube talking about gamefeel guidelines for physics, might be worth tracking down?
The constant death during the tutorial while I was trying to figure it out slowed the learning process considerably, and I was often dying without actually learning anything. Every death should really be a lesson in a game like this.
Your idea of having the teleporters already set is a good one, I would build on that.
A level or two where you just have to platform existing teleporters to give you a chance to get used to the platforming physics is good.
I think the next step after that would be to design a number of levels where you have to MODIFY an existing set of teleporters to make the cycle more favorable for you (for inspiration, have a look at timing-based platforming challenges in existing games, then modify them so they become impossible and the player has to fix them by affecting the teleporters).
I think your idea is a little hamstrung by the theme here, as the idea of changing the cycles of level elements in a platformer manually is a really cool twist on the genre, but being restricted to a single block (especially having it dissapear as soon as you move) really limits what you can do.
If you do stick with the one block idea, I'd double or even triple how long the ticks last for blocks; currently the platforming challenge is very high, right from the word go.
Another way to reduce complexity might be to not have all of the teleporter functionality active from the start.
You already do this a bit with the maximum-time limitations on certain teleporters, but it could be good to only have some of the more complex functionality come in later too (you could colour code the teleporters or have them in some way visually different when they have extra functionality. Bonus points if the visual difference is a tactile thing I click to activate or modify that function).
Sorry for the wall of text!
To summarize, the strongest part of the game in my opinion (for whatever that's worth) is modifying the cycles in platforming challenges manually to make them possible, or favorable. There's a huge design space to play with there, just be gentler on the players and maybe drop the one block limitation post-jam if you find you're not getting great levels out of the restriction!
Ah, that's an interesting point re: the consequences of not saying no. I'll have to go back over the script and double check what it is I'm implying in each case to make sure an implicit silence is consistent enough to be more explicit about it! Thanks for the detailed analysis, that was really helpful feedback!
Which stream did you see it on out of curiosity?
I felt that each of the other entities in your game did a good job of feeling abrasive/unhelpful, but the part that really got ME personally was toward the end.
When those slightly more blue shouty people vortex you in and debuff your speed, I found myself thinking 'shit man, just leave me alone, I just want to reach the top of the goddamn screen'. And tell you what, I've had a lot of days where I've felt like that.
It's a good mechanical representation of trying to get through a day with a depression, you did well.
If you were looking to improve it further, one area might be making the character at the end who does you kindness a bit punchier mechanically. Removing the speed debuff from the shouters is excellent, but it would be nice if they also followed you as you moved to help you feel like you two were interacting.
Of course, that's only really relevant if you interpret it like I did, which was meeting someone who you could share your day with.
If you're going the random act of kindness from a stranger who ISN'T going to be in your life from there forward, perhaps there should be a part at the end that is impassable until the stranger is kind to you.
Perhaps an effect like pushing through wind, or something similar. I think you tried to do it with the crowd earlier, which was really effective, but one more beat which REQUIRES the strangers help would I think make the message hit harder!
It might also be worth defaulting the position the dash aims for as where the player holds down the mouse? There were a lot of times when I went to dash somewhere and then had to readjust my cursor away from the point where I wanted to dash... felt a little counter-intuitive. You've done a good job of juicing what you have though!
I think you could probably benefit a lot from watching people play over their shoulders, if you can get some people sitting in front of the game. See what they try to do first.
Hey! This probably had the best learning curve of all the platform games I've played so far in the jam, you did a great job with first level!
I would have liked to see some of the enemies spread out though-out the levels more, as opposed to every enemy encounter being an arena encounter. Variety being the spice of life and all that!