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Will Bowerman

A member registered May 26, 2016 · View creator page →

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Thank you for the kind comment!!

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neat! all the ghosts who punched me once and then ran away are little bitches

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Neat!! There are many little things I enjoyed about this but I think my favorite moments were the things that took place after obtaining the final identity. Having to learn one's way around a new identity while still facing past struggles, only to be faced with a new struggle as you learn what you're capable of - very clever, and the final boss is suitably tense while doing a good job of breaking the player out of the combat loop that was working for the previous fight. I was also particularly taken by the symbolism of the discarded hoodie, it's so simple but I loved it nonetheless. 

As someone who is cisgendered but sometimes struggles with a detachment from my "self", this work feels relatable while also giving just a little window into the experience of how that detachment interacts with gender dysphoria for some folks. The pace was nice and brisk and in spite of that I could tell that there was a clear effort to prevent the message of the work from feeling too much like a platitude. As one extra separate note, I really enjoyed the casting of shadow in the cave fight - it was a moment of striking spectacle given the game's limitations, I liked it! Anyway! That's most of my bigger thoughts, thank you for making this.

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When I first played Cataphract OI some months ago, I recall looking through the rest of the things you made and seeing this game, which particularly piqued my interest as someone who strongly enjoys tests of navigational skill. I wasn't in the mood at the time, so I held off, but after reading your thoughts on Minelvaton Saga - particularly the blog post you wrote - I realized I had decidedly been bitten by the Navigation Game bug. However, I also recognized that I probably would not terribly enjoy Minelvaton Saga itself given the amount of busywork it seemed to contain as an older RPG, so I thought back to this game, and decided to get it a try!

And I've gotta say, this is such a treat as it comes to navigation games. The way the limited view will sometimes give you just a peek of a town or pathway, the way paths and water have unique benefits to walking along them, the sense of excitement as you loop back around to a place you've been and gain just a little more understanding of the world (or the mild but amusing frustration of realizing I'm back at the start again???). For its limitations (both of scope and engine), I think this is about as good as anyone could make a game from this perspective about navigation - the game's extremely simple tileset is all you needed to create marshlands, a bay, islands, roads through mountains, plains, and so on. Even things like the color limitations of the map feels well-considered - shoutouts to the one map hint that I thought featured road when it actually featured desert, leading to a huge "oh my god" moment followed by me instantly finding the one georb I was missing. When it came to how I personally played the game, I elected to draw the map chunks, but never screenshot them - the latter felt like cheating, but the former required me to take some time and also opened me up to possibly making mistakes - and it felt realistic for the setting. Other hints I kept in memory, there weren't too many anyhow. All in all, the game took me 60 minutes to complete the first time, but that 30 minute time limit had me so curious that I immediately jumped back in and cleared the game in less than 6 minutes, having felt like I thoroughly mastered the landscape, and the reward for this was so perfect in its aptness and raw simplicity that I could not help but smile. Between this, and Cataphract, and various things you share on Twitter, it's clear that you have a big appreciation for exploration, which I appreciate because it can be tough to find games which dive into the concept so wholly.

My only critiques would be as follows: there are a couple cases where the language was a bit too loose to clearly interpret what I was reading to the map. As it regards the boots, this specifically mixed in a way that I felt was a *bit* awkward with the fact that you have to tap the action button over bits of nondistinct ground in order to actually pick them up. Fortunately, the *concept* of tapping the action button over bits of nondistinct ground is set up just fine by how the georbs work, but unclear language and this mechanic in concert meant that I ended up tapping Z over many different little bits of ground for several minutes in a way that felt a bit antithetical to the rest of the experience. That said, I admittedly... can't really think of a simple alternative? Putting something clearly visible on the map screen would basically remove the whole point of putting together the given clues... hmm. At any rate, even these little concerns things shook themselves out and were never really show-stopping (and I found the boots anyway so lol w/e go fast). Anything else would just be me wishing for more - more little upgrades to expand how we can traverse and perceive the world so as to increase depth, more detail in the visuals and soundscape to create a greater sense of place, and bigger towns, again for more of a sense of place but also because hah, uhh, it turns out that 60 straight minutes of hard-nosed, genuinely challenging navigational exercise is actually a bit mentally taxing?? But all of these things would necessarily, drastically increase the game's scope, so again, for what it is, this is just about flawless, and has left me decidedly inspired for whenever I get the chance to create an exploration-heavy game of my own. Excellent work, and thank you for making it!

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Hi! I mostly really like the game but there's a bug that appears to happen in 2-4 where the player can't fire their alt weapons if they do The Bit that happens in this stage? I thought this was just the point at first but then I had another run where I *did* have access to my weapons, so I was unsure what to make of that at first. Either way, not having access to the other weapons makes the boss of that stage a lot harder and also a *lot* less enjoyable. Good game otherwise!

I'm glad to share my thoughts!! Especially since I've been doing a lot of research towards eventually making my own RPG which eschews standard progression, it's very interesting for me to see what a game can do thematically with the idea and the new challenges it presents. But, also, I love hearing other developers' thoughts on their games, you just can't get that kind of perspective anywhere else.

I *did* figure out how Death Sensitivity worked! It took me until pretty late through my second attempt, but I did get it. I think it could *maybe* be a bit clearer but I enjoy the way that it, like many other details about each character, is stowed amongst the menus in such a way that it incites curiosity. I agree the pathway for discovery could be clearer, but that's really tricky to nail.

I do also feel your point about the thematic texture of battle not having any reward other than survival - I think it's a good idea, I think encouraging avoidance of fights makes sense and suits the game's tone. My thoughts regarding it more center around, "I would either like avoiding combat to feel a bit more purposeful, or combat itself to feel more meaningful from a metagame perspective," and, yeah, I think that the former feels like a better fit overall? Being able to see enemies who just left the screen would definitely have been neat in that way, I think - although, maybe environmental details, footprints and the like, could have also been a nice way to signal enemy pathways to unfamiliar players, too? Since skulls on the ground also serve a similar purpose, in a different context. 

I think "you can do everything right and still lose" is definitely an interesting conceit to explore, especially in a medium very focused on control, but one of the tricky parts about it is that it can potentially lead to players playing in overly defensive and ultimately less enjoyable ways out of attempting to prevent those sorts of cases The *other* tricky part is that, even in games with procedurally generated content, failure *basically* always takes the form of redoing content in some form, so it can feel like one's time is being robbed due to no fault of their own (again, borders non-issue for Cataphract due to *very* short length between saves, but does kind of feel like a strange hiccup to me?). I feel like procedural story generators (a la Dwarf Fortress) are *probably* the most likely to surmount this issue because randomly-generated disaster ends up still being interesting anyway, but I imagine there must be other examples too. I think your thought on exploring combat as both a tactically engaging but harsh and extrinsically unrewarding experience is interesting. I almost wonder if permanent negative impacts from combat could in some ways help to sell this - but then players would probably try to avoid those consequences by metagaming like frequent save/loading even more...

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Very cool experimental RPG!! I've been on the lookout for a while for RPG "reading material" that cuts out level progression and this provided some very interesting food for thought. I particularly appreciated the consistency in results for allowing me to strategize more precisely (e.g. I knew an attack from Zaar would always one-shot a Skoul, but Bade and Warji would need to each deal one hit), and also how it made the permanent buff/ability items I found into a serious *decision*. The Fray feels like a particularly unique take on frontline/backline battle mechanics and I like the way it encourages you to consider risks, especially to the Supplicant. The time mechanic added a neat element of pressure to the proceedings, while the game was still brief enough that I was comfortable starting over to go for a smoother run-through when I got to the final area the first time and had less than an hour remaining.

From a designer perspective, I *do* kinda feel like there could have been some extra clarity for how to locate and plan for running into encounters, and some more options might have been nice besides, since encounters are generally Just a Punishment. That said, while encounters cost you time and health without any sort of return, the time pressure would prevent a player from excessively grinding anything useful off the enemy encounters, anyway, so like... maybe some little reward would be nice?? But again, I liked the lack of levels, I'm just stuck on this for some reason. That said, I do like that bit of depth in learning how you can avoid encounters and how awareness of the space factors into preparing ahead for an encounter that you can't avoid. 

I otherwise think the random chance in enemy behaviors can, rarely, make things a bit of a wash when it comes to planning - excepting possibly Concourse(?) it didn't really feel like keeping characters in the fray impacted enemy behavior - it seemed to be generally just a Bad Thing to be in the fray, with the only reason *not* to pull out being turn economy. I generally didn't mind this at all, but there were a rare few times where Guruntum would just get *instantly* pulled into the fray and killed and I didn't really have any way to prevent it - even when I randomly chose to defend one of those times, she still got killed from max health because of how high the damage to her was. A bit of that randomness provides texture, of course, and frequent saves combined with short game make it not too big of a deal, but it still feels a bit odd for a game which is so tightly designed in other ways. 

Anyway!! I don't want to come off overly critical because overall I think this is a *really* neat mini-RPG and I'm glad I played it. Other things I like include the way the time mechanic is woven into the final monologue and final battle, the way the characters move around the field and each have a little bit of their role and personality infused into each of the scenes, and the really tight pacing. Excellent work, I look forward to seeing more and will definitely share this one with some RPG-head friends of mine.

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Hi! I've been enjoying the game's atmosphere, but I've been stuck in Subsurface for a couple hours now. I've found a variety of secrets such as a short phrase which I then used to obtain longer phrases to bring back to the one creature with the light, and I managed to make a new scene occur after this which led to a buncha worms and orbs sprouting out all over the place, but it's not clear if this has had any other effect? I also have no idea what to do with the memory items. I've found the dark room with the five little glowy, floaty guys and the other secret with the doorway covered by what seems to be worms? I've scanned the "perimeter" of the main chunk of land and I've found 3 entrances (including the one underneath the large figure that I'm assuming is Tiamat). I feel like there's a wall somewhere I've not thought to walk through? It's a bit difficult to tell what I'm missing.

Edit: Oh! I see. I found the annihilation ending! 

Cute little fishing game! I think the main thing I would have liked to see more of is some extra depth on the virtual pet side of things. Still, good work!

Thank you :>

Thanks for trying the game out!

Thank you for playing!! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Good job getting your game out there! The art style's super cute. Knowing how time-consuming content can be to make, the main critique I would offer is just that I think the gardening minigame would be more fun if the timer for plants asking for fertilizer/water and the timer for plants wilting were both much longer - as-is, even just managing 3 plants was a bit overwhelming for me!

Anyway! Congrats on putting something cute together and submitting, that's a huge hurdle all by itself.

ohhhh, I *knew* I was forgetting something. I meant to make it so that springs couldn't spawn near the zone but forgot in the rush of the last few days. That said, even after taking some time this evening to mess with it, I realized that actually adjusting those numbers is a far trickier balancing act than I would have thought...

It's tough, because the fact that you *can* overshoot is part of what gives the game its depth, but if I had the energy to tinker more, I would probably have multiplied The Zone's size by 1.5 (after having already doubled it in the first place).

Still! I'm glad you enjoyed it, thanks for giving it a try!

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Very silly, I enjoyed it. The raw novelty of someone submitting an FMV game to a game jam of all places is amusing by itself, but it's also nice to see a game that has a beginning and end. There's some jank in the minigames but they don't wear out their welcome. Biggest critique I have would be that, while the subtitle font is amusing, its low readability kind of goes against good practice for subtitles, and I don't think the charm quite makes up for that, especially since there isn't an option to swap to a more standard font. Regardless, great work to everyone involved!

Love the art! I definitely wished I could zoom in on the ducklings but I also know that making a camera system for that could have potentially been a lot of extra work. Adorable either way!

Thank you for the kind words and thank you for playing!

I'm glad you enjoyed it! I enjoy making game systems with a decent amount of synergy, the setup can take some effort but the payoff is worthwhile. Thank you for playing!

Ahh okay, I see! Thanks for the update.

I imagine this might be a device-by-device issue or just a weird Windows thing that's not easily solvable, but the extension appears to have no effect at all - even the demo .exe doesn't seem to do anything to the cursor.

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Hi again! Played the updated demo, the changes are really nice! Improved clarity on specific things helps a lot and the little icon during cutscenes is a clever solution! The ladder change is also really helpful for gettin around fast. Good stuff, excited to see where things go from here!

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I enjoyed the demo a lot!! Puzzles felt generally satisfying, the writing is charming, the dynamic between the main characters is very sweet, the art looks good, the game feels good to play, and the music is great. I do have a pile of feedback which I'm including just in case you'd find it helpful. These are almost all nitpicks and it wouldn't surprise me if some of the things I'm about to list are things you already considered and wanted to include in the demo, so please, ignore some or all of this at your leisure.

One thing I note about the game's puzzles in general is that there's a lot of backtracking by nature. This is fine, backtracking is a part of good environmental puzzling, but it can sometimes lead to a lot of redoing old platforming, especially in that first bit of The Waterways, where, unless your platforming is on-point, you have to do multiple loops to get all the treasure in that body of water just to the left of the entrance. There's a part of me that would like to see the little bubble that auto-swaps characters used more prominently for cases where the player's going to see something and know exactly which gal to swap over to, but I can understand that those little moment-to-moment considerations may be something you'd prefer to keep intact. Obviously this is all preference, and, critically, knowing where to go and who to use in repeat playthroughs cuts down a LOT on my nitpicks here and the pace feels enjoyably brisk for it. 

I love the CGs for major cutscenes! They do a lot for helping those scenes feel unique. I sometimes wanted some sort of indicator for who's talking, whether that's around the textbox or localized to the CGs. Each of the characters have a clear voice and their lines match whatever they're doing, so telling who is who is still manageable, I just think a little extra help would be nice, since it took me a little time to get all the gals' names straight.

A visual+sound indicator for when abilities are recharged would be nice!
Especially since there are times where it's preferable to have the HUD off.

I found myself wanting the range on Rosa's sword to be little longer, especially since it doesn't deal much damage. The spitting green goo enemies in particular are really hard for her to manage which lead to me walking some distance to swap Izzy in, though maybe that's by intent!

The recovery notes that drop from enemies were a bit tough for me to catch as Wendy or Izzy.

I didn't understand the sibling puzzle until the second time around. The first time, I just guessed - it wasn't until I went back to this area when messing around that I noticed the diagrams corresponding to the ice temple entrance. I did eventually pick it up, though!

It wasn't super clear for me that the little vine boss in The Waterways can only take damage when the eye is open in its first phase, but... also I did get it before long, so that maaay be a bit nitpicky. Especially if figuring that out is supposed to be kind of puzzle-esque.

It was unclear to me whether dying eats the treasure you've saved up? It seemed like that's what happened when I died and continued? If it's supposed to do that, I think that might be a little mean when leaving a level undoes certain progress and uncollects treasure, because I played in such a way that I wanted to go back to get food when things got risky. Also, I think sequence breaking might be possible because keys are uncollected but checkpoints stay active? But you might be into that, that'd be valid

Related to that, I quit the game after dying to the dragon boss in order to avoid losing my cash, which I didn't expect to kick me back to the town (I also did not expect the game to close entirely). Basically, I found myself wanting a little more clarity about the punishment for failure.

Just wanted to stick a note at the end of all that to say that I love the music! Just, in general, but I particularly enjoy the boss theme and the Holy Chambers theme. The music in general is well-composed, well-mixed, and creates a vibe which feels unique to your game, and I look forward to hearing more of it! In general, the sound work feels a lot more polished than many other similarly-scoped games, great job here.


If two NPCs are overlapping, ending one's dialogue will start the other's! This fortunately doesn't seem to result in any sort of softlock.

Could the gem display be x/y instead of a countdown? I was mildly alarmed when I noticed my gem count had somehow gone down, only to realize that it's showing the number left, not the number I have. Extreme nitpick, I know, just, the money count is right next to it and that goes up!

Anyway! There's all that. Provided you read everything I had to say there, I want reiterate that the issues I had really were largely nitpicks and that the game is otherwise very polished, to the point that it has this sense of being "solid" that a lot of small games struggle to have. I strongly look forward to the finished game, and I hope that this mass of feedback helps a little!

Very neat work! Just a quick heads up, wobbly text is a visual seizure trigger, so I would recommend providing an option to turn it off (and actually maybe cut down on it anyway, it's a bit weird to read whole blocks of it). The ideas here are clever and get me thinking about even simple 5x5 puzzles in a new way though, so I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes!

I'll submit my little action game!

Well, I did get a different result this time, but it was a crash, which occurred as soon as the server connected with the game:

FATAL FATAL ERROR in Room Creation Code for room rm_blank

ds_map_find_value argument 1 incorrect type (string) expecting a Number (YYGI32)
 at gml_Script_live_room_loader_add_layer (line 93) -                                    var l_rnext=instance_create_layer((l_rx+l_qinst[?"x"]),(l_ry+l_qinst[?"y"]),l_rl,l_base);
stack frame is
gml_Script_live_room_loader_add_layer (line 93)
called from - gml_Script_live_room_loader_run_impl2 (line 15) -               live_room_loader_add_layer(l_lrs[|l_lrk]);
called from - gml_Script_live_room_start (line 11) -        live_room_loader_run_impl2(l_rm2);
called from - gml_Room_rm_blank_Create (line 1) - live_room_start();

I'm really enjoying this extension so far but I'm not quite understanding the live room functionality. I think I've got everything set up correct since the server is informing me when I make changes to the relevant room, but I'm just not understanding how to actually execute the last bit that gets me playing the live updated room. 
So far, I have:

  • Created a blank room
  • create a blank object
  • assigned them both to the live_blank object and live_blank_room variables in the create event of obj_gmlive
  • applied room_set_live() to the room I want to have update

Where do I go from here? I'm struggling to follow the documentation at this point.

Not bad! I enjoy this type of puzzling but I think it can become mentally overwhelming very quickly. Even still, I enjoy how the game encourages you to think several moves ahead, and it was never so hard that I got stuck.

I love the concept! Lack of checkpoints takes away from the fun factor, unfortunately, but the way the game's elements come together feels very unique!

Nano Driller

Get it here:

Nano Driller is a super-short, ultra-polished game that I made with the focus of offering the experience of a complete game (action, puzzles, exploration) to folks who feel like they don't have enough time for video games - or would like to try something fresh, but are afraid of stacking something new on top of their backlog. 

This game was built using the bones of an older jam game of mine. Back when I first released that game, I was a bit bummed by the way that some players felt the game's one-button control scheme hamstrung some of its more positive qualities (even though this was the focus of that particular jam), so I kept thinking about how I could make this unique control style shine its best, and, several iterations and ideas (and multiple years) later, I came up with Nano Driller. The core level of this game was also originally designed at a time when I was thinking a lot about lock-and-key level design in action adventure games, so it's got it's own take on that particular concept, as well. 

Anyhow, if the game looks interesting to you, I hope you give it a try!

Likely not, sorry to say. I'd prefer to move on from this game, since I wasn't super happy with its design.

I’ve heard about this bug from others,  but this is the first time I’ve seen it. Thanks for the footage, and I’m sorry the game became unplayable!

Thank you for the feedback!

Movement probably felt inconsistent due to the fact that it’s slower while you’re over carpet. This was a near-last minute adjustment which was made to give the levels some added depth when traversing, but it may have ultimately been unwise. 

I actually disagree about the chasing - I find stealth games where punishment is instantaneous to be frustrating. Widening the spectrum of failure allows for more tension and less frustration - at least, ideally. In practice, however, pathfinding cost me an immense amount of time to implement and frequently does not function - it’s the game’s weakest aspect and I’d likely have been better off dropping it entirely, but it’s hard to make backwards decisions when you’ve got so little time, hah. 

While levels can be made unclearable in other ways, misaligned cycles shouldn’t ever cause this - after all, if they can be misaligned, they can be realigned. That said, this makes for a more tedious experience, so it’s still a problem.

Re: buggy pathfinding: yep. 

Ultimately, time was a big limiting factor in expanding with new mechanics. I think I should have dropped moving NPCs early on - this would have saved me an immense amount of headache. 

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I do think it would probably work okay on a mobile platform, although I lack the tools to get it there without paying some chunk of money, unfortunately.

Softlocked the game by having a disappearing platform reappear on top of me.

Very nicely done! I think you could have made the world feel just a hair less "linear," and I don't care for the boss, but it's a solid effort. Impressive that you managed to translate a lite Metroidvania formula to this theme!