Aeon Nightmares is a pretty good title. More fitting though might be Land of Locked Doors.
Also, this took me 2 1/2 hours to clear, not 1. I did stop to write 3 pages of notes (after editing, it’s now 4.5), but that did not add 1 ½ hours to my play time. I would say 2 hours next time.
Non-Suspicious .exe in a zip file. I forgot GameMaker exports like this. I was a little apprehensive to run it until I found another place you made this same post where somebody played it without complaint. On that note, looks like you finally found the right subreddit.
Playing at resolution x3, the text doesn’t look very good. I there a way to improve this in GameMaker? I don’t remember it having a lot of settings for things like this, so maybe you’re just stuck with this. It’s not too distracting.
The red screen flash when you shoot the eye is really intense. Maybe tone it down a bit.
I don’t know why enemies display damage values when hit. It’s nice to know the rocket launcher deals about 40% more damage than the shotgun, but most enemies die in 1 or 2 hits, so it’s just unnecessary and is the only thing in the game that seems to not actually be there “in world”. It’s an aesthetic 4th wall break.
“You feel power emanating from the corpse” Is the art of the thing on the table a placeholder? It looks very MS Paint compared to everything else. Also, the walk to and from that building is 36 seconds. That’s entirely too long for me to be holding left with absolutely nothing happening. I appreciate that you are trying to build atmosphere. 2 Screens is all that takes. 1 screen of almost nothing, 1 screen with the gas station on the left. This is excessive and just wastes my time.
Anyway, the graphics generally look nice if a bit repetitive, and the lighting really adds something to it.
This is definitely the strongest point of the game, and far better than Cave Story (haven’t player LISA or Yume Nikki)
“Our place on the Last Plane is on top of The Pillar” You do a good job of this vague world building. It’s the thing that kept me playing. Giving out little puzzle pieces of information that may one day make a full picture/some semblance of sense. You really are good at making the little pieces feel like they are all important. It’s a little contrived that Gun won’t tell you anything. I knew your writing was on point when I got to Ms. Exposition at the top of the tower, and I already kind of knew half of what she said, but I had also picked up a lot of details she didn’t tell me, so it wasn’t like in many games where you spend the whole game trying to piece things together only to have someone put all the pieces together right in front of you anyway.
“You’re going to need a pass. Good luck with that.” This line actually made me laugh.
I do have some complaints and suggestions though.
I appreciate how the save points have a little exposition with each, like in Under Tale but more informative… Okay, you stopped doing that… And it comes back near the end of the demo. I only used most save points once, so this is a valid place for text. It would be nice if all of them had some. Just don’t add more than 3 lines since save points are functional.
Speaking of which, please add a skip dialogue button (Z) for when I accidentally read a 6 line sign again.
And while we are on implementation, the Yes/No menus should be selectable with C and X. It’s unintuitive to open the menu with C and Select with X, especially when dialogue is progressed with C. Also, these menus don’t look very good. Is this placeholder art?
A couple specific problem lines:
“My head. Where am I?” I think I have played a few games that start with those exact words. I realize headaches end up being an important thing later, but this is really cliché and not a strong start.
“Punished for my arrogance, I was locked here forever.” This is exposition. No one talks like this.
“You shot in the air?” I’m not sure why he is confused by this. He is clearly standing right there. This line is just unnecessary since it’s clear we didn’t shoot him. I assume he closed his eyes, so it could make sense, but the line made me stop to think about the contrivance of him narrating to cover for the screen going black so we can’t see what happened, which is never good.
Boletus “Impossible. How did you…” You have such clever wiring when it’s a monologue (welcome signs, notes, the city entrance clerk, drink menus) then when you get to dialogue where the other character (not Gun or Protag) is the main one talking, it’s either exposition or clichés like this. Please decide on a personality for these characters so they don’t exist just to be prompts for Gun’s next line.
“Damn” You like using that word. It’s more of a personal preference kind of word, but I think 4 characters use it. Cut it down to 1, otherwise it’s distracting, and it shows that all of those characters were written by the same writer. I’ve seen this mistake before and it’s always distracting.
“Drunk Girl added to your inventory.” Another line I thought was pretty good. I did not expect you to keep using Gun’s inventory in the story. Most writers would just forget about that kind of mechanic.
Good use of sound in the opening. Reminds me a lot of DeltaRune with the ominous, oppressive drone. It loses something when the ominous glowing triangle thing producing an ominous noise turns out to just be a save point – literally the safest thing in a game. Also, it was an interesting touch to make the sound speed up once you hit the checkpoint.
I really liked the music. It really matches the tone of the game. Not much more to say about it, but it really was pretty good. I’m going to have their sound cloud pages open for a while.
This game is slow. 20+ seconds of walking down a featureless hallway happens way too often in this game. I realize the slow walking speed is to make us take advantage of the shotgun/rocket jumping, but I found that mechanic inconsistent and not much fun to use. I see you managed to get some decent speed in the gif above, but how many tries did that take? I never amassed that kind of speed for any distance, and the somewhat small field of view incentivized me not to try because I might fly past something. I made a habit of pointing the shotgun down when I jumped and firing it the same time I jumped. About a third of the time it gave me extra height. Most of the time I did a regular jump, and about 5% of the time I went flying about 2.5 jumps high. I never got the physics in any of my Game Maker games as good as you have, but I think you pushed it a little too far. It’s not like you built a precision platformer with loose controls; it’s playable. It’s just really slow and the only way to speed up movement is a system I couldn’t get to work consistently with 2 hours of trying.
Also, remember, not everyone’s a speedrunner. Some people will just walk. Design the game for these people. Don’t make them suffer, make the people who master your movement system feel like pros who are exploiting your game’s systems. Make them feel like they are cheating for mastering your game, instead of making me feel like the game’s way too spaced out because I didn’t.
Also, the locked doors. You have quite a few of them, at the end of long hallways, where the only thing to do when you reach them is turn around, and then you have to walk all that way later when you have unlocked it. Related to this, the old “pick a path, find a locked door, backtrack to the other path” is not a design style anyone should still be using (this was mostly an issue in the wing training area). If you want the player to explore, make sure their reward is more than gaining the knowledge that they have to come back later.
You seem to have put a lot more effort into the writing and art parts of this game than the game parts of the game.
Your game has a general lack of ‘things.’ There’s nothing to do, nothing to find (except the ammo upgrade), nothing worth fighting, just, no real reason to explore. The only rewards are getting more dialogue/signs. I like the flavor text, but there generally isn’t much of it in the dungeons,,, where exploration is actually somewhat impeded by enemies instead of just wandering around a town.
Before the next section, I want to make it clear, I think your game is lacking a strong core mechanic. That mechanic does not have to be combat.
None of the enemies in this game pose much of a threat. Enemies with non-interactive AI work when they are blocking something. For example, an eye was bouncing up and down above a small platform I needed to land on. I shot it to get it out of my way. It wasn’t a challenge, but I needed it gone. But most enemies I don’t need gone. I can jump past them uninterrupted. In fact, it’s usually easier to do that, and since you never get anything other than the rare health drop from killing enemies, there is rarely a reason to engage with them at all. I have a triple jump. Even without shotgun propulsion, I can fly past most enemies.
Your boss AI could use some work. I would recommend playing some 2D Castlevania games, or just look up Castlevania Fighter on YouTube. It’s a boss rush of the entire series. Lots of good ideas there.
If anyone’s stuck on the Boletus fight, the best technique I found it to jump over the slow moving projectiles, then when he fires the mortars, just stand there and shoot him. It’s not great when half a boss fight is spent standing in one spot just wailing on the boss.
The painter fight was decent. She actually killed me. The second time though, I just camped in a corner firing rockets at her and won easily. She never touches the walls and is standing on the ground for 90% of the fight.
The first two bosses would be regular enemies in a Castlevania game. They have only ?2? attacks and are easily dodged, but can hit you if you aren’t paying attention.
Your regular enemies, mechanically, would work well in a Mario game. Not in a game where you have a triple jump and a shotgun that fires halfway across the screen. Your enemies don’t counter the player in any way. They are more like moving, damaging obstacles than intelligent opponents. I know programming AI in Game Maker can’t be fun, but this is detrimentally bad. I hate to say it, but you might want to copy some of the general AI behaviors from some Castlevania enemies. Symphony of the Night has pretty much every enemy type from a 2d game, so it’s basically a library of AI options.
Odd note, but most of your enemies are the same size. This won’t fix their unresponsive AI, but larger enemies would at least add some real mechanical variety.
My point with all of this is, you don’t really have a core mechanic.
You have moving with shotgun blasts. I already gave my opinion on that.
You have platforming which is generally pretty easy; made even easier if I could get the shotgun movement working consistently.
You have shooting stuff which is unrewarding and optional aside from the boss fights.
You have 1 puzzle in the game, which is another option for a core mechanic. Sadly, the direction “puzzle” with the answer right next to the door was pointless and confusing. You did a good job of not introducing and immediately forgetting about mechanics for the rest of the game. If you’re going to have these puzzles (please don’t) have several of them, or it’s going to feel like you build something and just threw it in the game.
So that’s the main 3 Core Mechanics games generally have:
Combat – Need more interesting enemies.
Puzzles – You didn’t go with puzzles. That’s fine.
Exploration – Need things worth finding.
Alt tab-ing out of the game caused a lockup in the intro. (the screen was black except for the player’s light and I couldn’t do anything)
In the tutorial, it says “Press c to interact with object.” This is presented to the player right before they reach a candle with a framed picture of the letter C above it. Pressing C on the candle does nothing. When you explicitly tell the player to do something, reward them for doing the thing.
Walking out of the reception area, you drop down in the next room instead of spawning at ground level. Walking back, I start off screen and can’t leave the room until I walk back on screen, then off again. This happens again in the room in wing training with the eye and several other locations in the game. In the eye room, you actually seem to spawn out of the level in the void and have to walk about 1.5 tiles to get in bounds again.
In the wing training area a sign has a typo. athrophy -> atrophy.
It’s hard to tell, but I think text only scrolls faster if you release, then press and hold C on each text box.
Does Boletus wake up when you press C or does the game actually freeze you for 3 seconds before he speaks? I thought the game had bugged out.
The insta-kill laser walls kind-of blend in with the red background tiles. Not that I walked straight into one, just an observation.
Why is the laser gate switch a switch from Doom? Why is the rocket wall disappearing sound an effect from Doom? Are these placeholders?
If you get hit and fall in the green pool, the i-frames will let you jump out again. Not sure if that was intended.
If demons get demoted when they die, why did Boletus turn into rocket ammo? Is this a thing Gun can do? It’s just a little weird the demon hierarchy goes from angry vending machine to ammo.
Overall, I would say you built an interesting world for players to explore in a rather uninteresting way.
Note: It’s 1am and I started playing at 9. If any of this doesn’t make sense, that’s probably on me. Feel free to ask. Hope this is useful.