Thursday, 20 August 2015

Devblog: Six Hundred And Sixty Six Downloads!

So the current demo has 666 downloads (over on RMN), which I think is pretty neat. It wasn’t a landmark that I was looking out for, I just happened to load the page and there it was, but dumb luck is sometimes pretty cool.
This is also a heads up that I will be taking down the current demo in the near future. The current demo no longer reflects the current state of this project, what with all its graphical placeholders and all the recent gameplay updates I’ve been making, so it won’t be around much longer. I’d estimate that it will be gone sometime over the weekend, so grab it while you can because there’s no telling when (or even if) an updated demo will appear!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Devblog: Just Making Some Maps...

This isn't directly to do with any of my current projects, but a while ago I made a whole bunch of maps for no reason and I imagine I'll eventually use them to make a game set in the Engalia universe. Here are the "overworld" maps that I have thus far (you'll have to excuse errors where maps are pasted together; this isn't all one map!), and all the caves and houses have also been mapped! 

Full version of the image is here: http://i.imgur.com/fieXwtC.jpg

Monday, 17 August 2015

Review: It'll Look Great On Your Resume

Title: It'll Look Great On Your Résumé
Developer: Slash
Homepage: http://rpgmaker.net/games/5782/
Genre: Arcade/Platformer
Program: Unity

With a title like It'll Look Great On Your Résumé, I wasn't really sure what to expect going into this game. If I hadn't already read a bit about it or taken time to look into the promotional screenshots, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have expected a brightly-coloured arcade platformer centred around collecting neon-pink balls whilst avoiding being shot at by laser turrets. I would've probably expected something more in the vein of the infinitely varied "simulator" games that don't seem to stop popping up on Steam! In any case, the basic premise of this game is that you're taking part in a job interview process and as part of that you're asked to complete a set of tasks meant to test your suitability for the job. These tasks are ultimately the platform sequences I just mentioned, which basically means that these storyline sequences are nothing more than a cute, delightful façade implemented to lend reason to the platforming elements on show. They're neat, but they didn't really impress any sense of importance on me and so I didn't really pay them much mind. 

Super serious storyline! Honest!

As I just alluded to, there's a simple premise to the platforming mechanics involved in this game. You jump around and collect neon-pink balls whilst trying to avoid all of the things that are attempting to kill you. There's a variety of different things that can and will kill you if you touch them, ranging from "enemies" that patrol around the map to turrets that fire missiles at you to lava pits that you can fall into. Thankfully, the many types of obstacle that you have to avoid are all pretty well-worn archetypes that are well well-enough differentiated from one another that they're very easy to get used to and understand. Not that finding them easy to understand always means that they're easy to avoid because the number of "enemies" that are on the screen at once can become pretty hard to keep track of, especially later in the game! 

There is a further mechanic that the game uses to keep things interesting and this is way that the game frequently changes the direction that gravity drags both you and any "enemy" influenced by gravity. Each level will start with gravity dragging everything to the bottom of the map (as you'd expect), but every now and again this will switch (with a nice visual representation to warn you) and you'll find that gravity is now dragging you to the other side of the screen. Depending on the timing, this can be a welcome change or a very frustrating change, because it's just as likely to pull you into something that's gonna kill you as it is to make collecting the next ball easier. It definitely led to me swearing a lot at the screen, especially in the later levels where the difficulty is ramped up to maximum, but I think that's sometimes the point of an arcade-style platformer. I don't think that the developer would be doing it right if the game wasn't capable of frustrating you, and it isn't as if the game is unfair about it because gravity changes are very well indicated and also apply to enemies just as much as they apply to you!

There's usually a lot going on, which makes it quite easy to die!

Having just spoke about how the game can sometimes be rage-inducing, I feel I should mention that the difficulty level goes from moderate to difficult fairly quickly, by which I mean there's a fairly sharp learning curve. Despite this, I don't think that the game ever really becomes overly frustrating; it definitely has frustrating moments, as I just mentioned, but you'll never feel horribly overwhelmed or feel like you've been cheated. The second part of that sentence is really important because games like this are definitely supposed to annoy you at times, but they also have to feel fair and this game hits that balance perfectly. If the game was as difficult as it is and also felt unfair then this review would be reading a lot different than it does. As a bit of an aside, I do wonder how much of that "fairness" comes from the fact that you can seemingly take as much time as you want without being punished for it, and that there isn't really much punishment for dying. Both of these factors definitely remove a lot of potential frustration from the game. I probably wouldn't have minded there being a true "game over" condition given the "job interview" premise of the game, but maybe that's just me showing my age? The idea of having a proper "game over" just doesn't seem to be a popular feature of the platform genre any longer (or any genre, to be perfectly honest). I also think this game would be nigh-impossible to complete if there was a true "game over" system, so that's also something worth thinking about!

Anyway, aside over, I'll move onto the graphics because graphics are really important in a fast-paced arcade game like this one. The graphics need to be clean and simple because the player shouldn't be thinking too much about what different graphics mean whilst simultaneously trying to dodge all the things trying to kill them, and the graphics in this game do exactly that. It's obvious what everything means and this makes the mechanics even more intuitive than they already are, a good example of which being the indicator that comes up when the gravity of a level is about to shift. But don't let my emphasis on how clean the graphics are take anything away from how beautiful this game looks when in motion; they graphics aren't just functional, they also look amazing and that's much to the credit of the developer.

Lava pits? Check! Pink ball to chase? Check! Blue ball to dodge? Check!

I should mention some problems I had with this game from a technical standpoint, and having read into it I don't believe that these problems are inherently part of using the Unity engine to develop a game. One problem is that you have no option but to play in full-screen mode because (as far as I can tell) there is absolutely no option to go into windowed mode. This might seem like a minor gripe, but when the game also takes over your second monitor whilst open (blacking it out completely) then that can be fairly annoying. I can't be the only person who has two monitors and likes to have Twitter/Facebook open on their second window just in case someone wants to talk to them! To further compound this problem, I also found that if I came out of the game for any reason (because I had used ALT+TAB to get out of the game or because something had popped up in the background) then I didn't seem to be able to get back into the game; there was an icon on the task-bar but clicking on it did nothing. It didn't even let me close the game, which meant that I had to bring up the control panel just so that I could close the game in order to restart it! Quite frustrating...

Be ready to play before pressing start; much like an actual job interview, this game doesn't deal well with being interrupted!

But technical gripes aside, I think this is a very solid arcade platformer. There aren't really many things that the game does wrong. It has a challenging difficulty curve that keeps you interested throughout; the game manages to have the frustrating moments that all platformers require without ever making you feel like the computer is being a cheating bastard; the graphics convey exactly what needs to be conveyed whilst still managing to be very eye-catching; and to top it off, the game has a charming, occasionally funny job interview scenario pasted over the top of the action just so that each level possesses a smidgen on contextualisation.

There's very little that you can point at in this game and say, "this isn't done correctly". It'll Look Great On Your Résumé is a very solid arcade game, and this is despite some technical issues with how the program itself operates. I definitely recommend that people give this game a look if they haven't already. 8/10.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Devblog: Sore Losers: Riot Grrrl Updates

There's been a lot going on with Sore Losers: Riot Grrrl over the last couple of months, so this is a bit of a cluster-fuck of updates sourced from a bunch of different posts I've made over at RPGMaker.net recently. Hopefully it will all make sense once I'm done!

Battle Animations

One of the big things that I've wanted to redo for the longest of times are the battle animations. The animations that were included in the demo were only ever intended to be place-holders, so they've become understandably limited in scope as development has progressed. This is largely because a lot more weapons have been added to the game since the demo was released; there are currently 25 different weapons in the game and each has 1-3 skills associated with it, so the need for new animations to represent all these skills properly was pretty high on my to-do list!

In any case, I'm happy to announce that I have now finished re-doing all the animations for Sore Losers: Riot Grrrl. I think I'll refrain from adding any more weapons purely because I don't want to have to make any more of these any time soon; I'm not that good of a spriter and so making even simple animations like this takes me way longer than it's probably worth. Anyway, here a few examples for you to look at!


qooSJDD.gif



*I should point out that I'm rebalancing enemy/skill stats and haven't gotten around to the enemy side yet; that's why enemies appear to do no damage and die so quickly. That won't happen normally!

Item Placement and the "Search Minigame"

Another thing I've been changing is the item placement around the levels. This is partly because I reorganised the database and so some old variables need pointing to new variables; partly because I didn't do it in a very structured or balanced way the first time around; partly because I have a lot more weapons now (see above) and so I'm replacing some of the item placements with weapons; and finally because I'm redesigning the "search minigame" and so doing the item placements at the same time makes a lot of sense.

The redesign I just mentioned is something that I recently posted a screenshot to show off, but I'll go into more detail here. I've basically been cleaning up the "search minigame" so that there's no longer a worded tutorial (there's now an on-screen command prompt) and so that the rest of the screen fades-to-black whilst you're playing the minigame. The latter is actually way more effort than it sounds because the minigame's "search bar" is a charset, which means that using the "tint screen" command would black-out the "search bar" as well as the background graphics! The idea behind these changes is to make the minigames flow better (the same logic is going to be applied to all the other minigames - and several of the minigames are going to be changed to new minigames because reasons!) and to make it so that the important parts of the minigames don't clash with the background graphics. For some of the small "search bars" it looks pretty simplistic, but it makes a lot of the more complex "search bars" far easier to tackle!

Here it is in motion. For clarity, there are two search attempts shown here. The first one misses and the second one hits. The .gif then loops back to the first attempt... and before anyone asks, of course I missed the first attempt on purpose!

I think it looks a lot cleaner!

What Next?

Well, one thing I intend to do next is the thing that I just mentioned. I will be updating all the minigames so that they have on-screen command prompts like the one shown above, as opposed to having written tutorials that take up too much of the player's time. I will also be replacing some of the minigames with new minigames, with the "hotwiring" minigame being one that is definitely in the firing line given how few people seem to actually enjoy it.

Another thing that I'm currently doing is drawing out additional sections for level three of the game. Having gone through the level a few times whilst updating the "search minigame" and moving around items (see above), I felt it was missing something. This is especially true when it's compared to the second level.

That tray of paper/folders in the background are also mostly game development notes...

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Devblog: New Version Released (Engalia: The Wager)

I've added a new download for this game. Most of the changes made are aimed at balancing the battles so that they're more difficult than they were in the previous version, but there also some other changes thrown in for good measure. Most of the changes that I was hoping to make are discussed in this blog-post, but I'll give a quick run-down of the changes here.

Balance Changes

As explained in the previous blog post:
  • Most enemies have had their HP raised by at least 50%. This means that it takes more than just a couple of attack-all skills to wipe out enemy parties. This isn't true for some enemies that already had a lot of HP; I don't want enemies to have too much health!
  • Most enemies have also had their attack, intellect and defence increased by approximately 20%. I was originally only going to change the main attack stat that enemies had, but I think this was the better change. 
  • In addition to modifying enemy stats, I've also made it so that most enemy skills now do exactly 40 more base-damage than they did before.
  • Poison and Burn are now retained after battle, and so need to be dealt with if you don't want to take damage whilst moving. They also won't wear off naturally (unlike other status effects), so they need to be dealt with in boss battles as well!
  • Enemies that accompany bosses have higher HP in line with the fact that they're technically boss enemies themselves. This should make some of the boss encounters more interesting, such as the Frost Wyrm and the Skeleton King.
  • It also seems that healing skills were too strong, so they've been nerfed twice over. Firstly, they now cost the same as they originally did, which is twice as much as they do in the current release. They also heal by less than they did before (but more than they originally did) so you're going to have to be more careful with MP use on your chosen healer.
  • Oh, and the last boss is much more of a bastard now: That's for sure!
The aim of these changes is to make it so enemies are dangerous enough that attempting to button-bash through several battles will get you killed, but not so dangerous that any single battle (other than boss battles) is capable of completely wrecking your shit. What I'm aiming to do is make the game a battle to survive in the sense that, because there's are a limited number of items you can get whilst in the dungeon, you'll need to be efficient to get all the way through the game without straight-up running out of ways to heal yourself. My testing seems to indicate that I'm close to that level of danger, although it wouldn't shock me if I've gone slightly too far. What I do know is that the game isn't as hard as it originally was, which I'm trying pretty hard to avoid, and that it's possible to complete the game with a variety of party compositions. As long as you're sensible about having a good balance between support/damage-dealing classes, you should be able to make it through.

Skill Loci and Focus Loci

Probably the biggest addition to the game in this version are "Skill Loci" and "Focus Loci", equippable items that either allow your heroes to use new skills or give them a boost to their stats. You will get one of each whenever you open a chest whilst travelling through Nyodymous Cave, and they've been added to the game so that the player has more customisation options than they did in the previous version (you could only find rings and amulets in the previous version!). A word of warning: The stronger the Loci, the more it's a detriment to the things that it doesn't improve!



Skill and Focus Loci give the player more options for customising their heroes!

Other Stuff

I fixed a bunch of things that didn't really make sense in the last release. For example, as I made obvious in the last blog post, I've fixed the bridges so that they're a lot easier to spot. I've fixed Feylin's "Sacrifice" and "Mass Sacrifice" skills so that they can only be used in battle, as originally intended (this wasn't as trivial as it sounds!). I've also made it so that Elene's Tarot skill is properly animated as previous there was a ~1 second waiting time between the animation finishing and damage being dealt that was incredibly jarring. There's a bunch of other stuff that I've also fixed or tweaked, but most of it is minor optimisation of events or the fixing of small bugs (ie. passability errors) so I won't go into them here.

Conclusions

Some stuff was fixed. Some stuff was added. Some stuff was re-balanced. The game should be better now. I hope people enjoy it more than the last release and I look forward to hearing people's comments!