It is done!
July 15, 2021
Hey, what's up? My name is Henrik Chukhran aka "Neuton Mouse" and this is my blog. I'm planning to post here about game development, music production, sound design, gaming in general and other related stuff. Most of these posts will deal with my own projects but sometimes there will be exceptions. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on one of the social network pages placed below here.
July 15, 2021
Quite a long gap since the last devlog entry, isn’t it? Well, this time I got the big news: after 6 long years, development of Smintheus is finally finished. I’d be honest with you - I never thought this day would come, felt like this project would spin around me till my last breath. But here it is! Alright... Let’s dwell on it, shall we?
Please mind this article won’t cover all the new features nor dive deeply into specifics, just highlight the most vivid moments.
If the game’s finished, why it’s not released?
Well, it’s not the time.... yet! There are still some things need to be done. Game’s experiencing “packaging” stage. Gotta test for bugs first. As you might know, Smintheus will be released on Steam, therefore I have to integrate steam library and its features like achievements and stuff. Besides, Steam page is quite outdated. Trailer is old and shitty, could definitely use better footage with the camera on. I expect this stage to be completed within 3 to 5 days from now.
And then there’s a marketing stage, a dreadful one (and boring af). Gotta contact the press, find some youtubers, promote on social media and do whatever it gets to get that game see the world. Necessary stage indeed.
There’s an optional stage that craves for attention - soundtrack stage. I want each level to have its own unique tune. There is already the soundtrack for the first world which you can listen on soundcloud. The rest of the worlds await their own soundtrack. So, what’s the approach? I have about unfinished 24 tunes gathering dust on shelf, each one lasts two minutes on average. Some suck, some rock. Additional effort and time must be invested in the following stage. Can’t promise anything, but eventually those tracks will be finished and included into the game either on release day or one of its future updates.
So, there’s plenty of work till the release, but it’s incomparable with the actual development stage. Shouldn’t be a problem, I assure. Once the packaging stage is completed I will announce release date. I already have a number in mind, however, let’s just keep hidden for everyone’s best interest.
Behold! Game’s latest world, the Magical Forest. It’s a swampy forest with plenty of ruins of the past. Common folk avoids this place at all costs as it reeks of dubious magic and unwanted elements that roam here. Wizards, cultists and hermits find Magical Forest to be rather comfy. No one bothers no one and minds their own business. But, god forbid, someone dares to interfere their lives... well, they’re on their own then.
I drew the map quite recently. It was the final step in my ToDo list before the game would be eligible for privilege to be called finished. It took nearly 18 hours to put the last pixel on the map. There were some challenges, mainly tied with calculating the sizes, positions and perspectives of some elements. The castle, the bridge, the ship as well as the temple (with the creature on its roof) were the most time consuming pieces. A lot of guide lines were drawn to assist the process, something I didn’t really bothered to do in the past.
Lots of sprites were used from forest tileset. Sprites were resized, cleaned (a bit) and copy-pasted all over the map. Trees, bushes and hills were the most common elements chosen for duplication. Walls come second, but they always required artistic alteration. The rest of the stuff are drawn manually, including grass.
Each area vaguely represents in-level areas and apart from basic scenery, every piece of the map has something special. Starting from top-right corner, we have ruins with the stairs going deep underground, then as we pan left, we see three frogs doing their magic. Next, the castle, my masterpiece. Very difficult not to notice. That very piece gathered the most attention of all tweets I ever posted on Twitter. Then we go down and see two knights sitting by the campfire. There is something sentimental about this image, i really like it. As we move right, a temple of Grammyr appears on the screen. Just like all the gods in this game, no one knows their true looks, but everyone has their own idea of how the gods look like. This one represent one of such imaginations. A dragon-like thing. Our sightseeing ends with the ship. Quite a look, isn’t it?
I’ve used EDG32/EDG64 palette to draw this map. It’s not fully EDG due to hue shifting, but every piece drawn there started with EDG palette. I highly recommend this palette to beginners.
The biggest challenge and huge time hog was level design. I never ever in my life thought that level design could be so... difficult. Especially when you compare it with other game development disciplines. It’s not even a 3D game and give me a hard time.
As player progresses further into the game, difficulty rises. It must rise to keep player’s interest lit. This is puzzle game after all, the levels are everything in the genre.
Making up difficult puzzles is challenging on its own. They have to be smart, difficult and simple. No “moon logic” should be present here. They also must vary and take a lot of gameplay elements into consideration. Most of all, they shouldn’t be repeated and let me tell you, there a buttload of puzzles already present in this game. That very fact heavily adds to difficulty.
I don’t think I managed to materialize my goals as precise as desired, but the last couple of puzzles are truly marvelous. They are insidiously simple and yet super difficult.
Apart from puzzles, there’s a story element. Each level has some kind of character and dialogues tied along. The whole process of level development consumes around 8 to 12 hours at best. Making up puzzles when you’re out of ideas often extends development time. Procrastination hits hardly and “i-have-no-idea-what-to-do” moment beheads your motivation, which also extends development time. More brain power would definitely ease the development, but what you gonna do...
Anyway, the struggle is far behind and now as I look at the results, I’m very satisfied how the things turned at the end. But that’s it - Smintheus will be the only puzzle game in my gamedev portfolio.
Magical Forest is the home to mysterious priests who worship Grammyr, migthy god of dissonance and contrast. Within these woods, the priests are mostly local frogs. They are spell casters with plenty of tricks up their sleeves. Frog is considered to be the final type of hostile whom player will encounter during the journey. While being all powerful and mighty, frogs are not as common as one would expect.
Frogs can be quite devastating when confronted. They are the masters of sacred fire and will use their pyrokinetic powers to repel their opponents. They might as well throw a fireball at the unfortunate one, or cast a fire rain spell upon the lucky ones who managed to escape their sight.
They can sustain damage one time and if left alone, will cast a healing spell upon themselves. Frogs are vulnerable at melee range and will teleport away when imminent danger is close.
Finally, frogs are capable of summoning two minions to aid them in combat. Minions are temporary and will last a minute or until the master is beaten.
Combination of all these features are what makes the frog priest a dangerous opponent. The best way to fight frogs is either ambush and attack as quickly as possible or play smart with the gadgets. Sometimes, it’s best to avoid frogs, especially when they come in numbers.
Frogs were present from very beginning in the game development, though not used at all. I had to rewrite AI from scratch since the old one was clunky and stupid.
Player can hold up to 12 gadget blueprints in gadget slots. The slots are usually filled with default gadgets having their own fixed position in inventory. It was enough for at least half of the game, but not in late game.
Granted, there are unique gadgets that player encounters during first half of the game, but usually they are injected into specific gadget slot via script call.
Magical forest abandons such practice and offers a complete freedom to managing gadgets. Special blueprints of blue color are required to be collected before any manipulations can be executed. To make some changes, player needs to find a crafting table. Interacting with the table brings up workshop screen. In the screen, click on desired blueprint, select unlocked gadget slot and hit the “Swap” button. Want your old gadget back? Click desired gadget slot, select first default blueprint and click “Revert” button, which is in the same position as “Swap” button.
Here’s a tricky part... You can assign one blueprint to every gadget slot, but you can’t do the same with the old gadgets (with fixed positions). Old gadgets are unique. So, you gotta choose which old gadgets to dump and which to use. This makes picking up old parchment blueprints more valuable than before as they unlock that precious gadget slot. Such mechanics open possibilities for interesting puzzles, often require planning ahead before diving into whatever there is.
It might sound a little bit confusing, but once you hit workshop screen and do few clicks, everything will become clear right away.
Smintheus offers an useful powerup - boots of speed! Powerup doubles player’s speed for next 32 steps. Yep, nothing fancy here. So, what’s the deal?
During beta version, testers avoided it like a plague because it was difficult to manoeuvre with the boots on. Honestly, I found that quite depressing. The thought of cutting boots of speed out of the game constantly lurked behind. However, I didn’t wanted to give up that easily. Little bit of brainstorming and voila - solution was born!
Game slows down during the movement.
That’s it! I really need to underline the fact here that it only slows when the step is performed. Once player stops movement or executes any action, game immediately restores original game speed.
Such change really brings the intended usefulness on a spotlight. It’s easy to control character and leaves less space for error. Additionally, I’ve added user option for players to adjust their desired speed change when boots are worn. Technically, the boots of speed can slow the game if player drags the speed values down to zero. No idea who wants that, but I won’t enforce any limits here. Everybody wins.
Why haven’t I thought about it years ago?
Lots of bug fixes, tweaks and changes were done during last year. The most prominent are the graphical changes. Mostly little things. I had to redraw a lot of old sprites, especially those which lacked perspective. Not only it’s satisfying to look at, the overall game image became consistent.
Yeah, not everything is ideal - some stuff could use some work. No worries though, I’ll add the changes in my future game updates.
Stay tuned for the upcoming release!
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Quite a long gap since the last devlog entry, isn’t it? Well, this time I got the big news: after 6 long years,...View post