New major update
April 22, 2018
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.
April 22, 2018
It took a while to get here but here it is - brand new update for Smintheus Beta. Unlike previous ones this one can be considered as a major update. It's not about bug fixes only but more of new things that were added to aid the gameplay. The course was set on making game more approachable. It has been casualized a bit and made the game somewhat easier as well.
Most of changes were done because of the feedback I received during playtests. Few people did video about it and posted on their youtube channels, some left commentary on reddit and there were some private messages via mails, twitters, discord and skype. The reports those people provided were so different from each other that made me confused and wonder what to do next. Of course the big portion of testers were unhappy of certain features and moments. Game was too hard, even though none of them played Hardcore mode. But on other hand the minority expressed different opinion stating game's being too easy, from combat to puzzles.
Instead of making game easier I decided to make it more approachable. Superfluous text will be cut, big chunk of tutorials will be turned into hidden ones, lot of visual feedback will added as well as tweaking certain variables that will make gameplay more comfortable. As for making it harder, well, first 8 levels of beta version are introductory - they are there to teach player game mechanics. The shit will get real later :)
Oh, yes... you need to visit Smintheus's itch.io page and download game or patch there. Here is the link to the game! Or you can grab the copy right from my website. The patch can be download from here!
Game is pretty much complex game, especially when comparing with most casual games. But it's not that complex like for example Dwarf Fortress, but enough to make gameplay experience interesting and not overwhelming at the same time.
Smintheus used written tutorials to explain its mechanics. In most cases it was a simple sign with few senences and picture attached to it. Shouldn't be a big deal but let me tell you, there were more that 25 signs throughout the first 8 levels. Not everyone is eager to read it, even if it's 2-3 sentences per sign. So, I had to transform most of them into so called hidden tutorials. This lead to remakes of specific areas in early levels as well as adding new ones.
Such tutorials don't explain a thing, instead they show or guide player by placing him into situation where he or she figures it out naturally. Like the first tutorial with doors and keys or the one with burning box in level 3 in previous versions. Box burns, spawns the key silently - this tells player that boxes are burnable and they are capable of containing items. I'm actually happy of the result, it's definitely much better now.
Tutorial signs were isolated and are left with one way to enter it. This was done because of annoyance that can cause without being isolated. Like for example in previous update the sign warning about cacti could trigger such annoyance - when player reads it and accidently moves to cactus, gets hurt and instinctively moves back... he will trigger that sign again! Not anymore!
Additionally, those signs with information were hard to spot for some players. As a result of that I animated those signs thus making them dance. Great game design move and it looks funnier this way. Now, you won't miss a dancing sign, will you? :D
Certain puzzles received important changes. The first and biggest change is puzzle reset feature. All puzzles now have a lever or pressure plate nearby - interacting with them will reset the puzzle. Additionally, some puzzles were modified by removing certain possibilities that used to make them unsolvable.Now folks ,you can fail the puzzle as much as you want it :)
Oh, I'd like to say that my plans cover to remove these resets in hardcore mode. Thinking about how to not fuck the puzzle up is the actually part of the puzzle.
Apart from resets I have another things to tell. Big portion of puzzles now have visual feedback in a form of a gemstone. The gemstone will glow either green or red depending on certain situations and puzzle itself. If player does something to solve puzzle - the game will let him know about it.
New addition to game's features. Whenever player moves to another room or teleports somewhere the game will erupt a wave around character thus notifying player about new position. Additionally, rising/lowering blocks do the same, although they emit much smaller wave. Minority of playtesters had a hard time finding Gerald when area changed so this feature made them happy.
Campfires in Smintheus have Area of Effect damage. Staying too close to it for few seconds will burn the character and cause damage. Since it takes time for players to adapt the grid-based mechanics I decided to add Danger Zone for campfires. Whenever player moves to AOE burn radius the campfire will slowly render red circle around it. In addition to that, burning turns Gerald into more vivid colour of red and as the burning progresses he turns into more crimson colour.
Magic Door was also affected by this gamedev run. Unlike common key doors, magical door don't change at all.So i made them look red when player still has to gather all cat keys. They will turn blue once the last key has been collected. Doors received new animation as well as new sound effect.
I did some changes to inventory panel. First of all, colour of those question marks in gadget section are more distinct. Secondly, item section can be navigated even if there are no items. Empty quest item slots are now showing question marks too. The hand icon,which stands for use, will turn grey if item is unavailable.
The way keyboard works in inventory panel is changed too. Instead of key hold it requires one key press in order to navigate to desired slot.
The biggest phenomenon of game development (or any other software development) is that no matter what you do there always be bugs. There were tons of them during this development of this update. Also there were couple of left-overs from past versions. Fortunately they are all fixed.
One of most annoying bugs could happen at level 4 ending, after "Noooo!" dialogue. Why is it annoying? Because the chance is small and when the chance is small it's very hard to capture and debug. I haven't found the reason but I found a solution. What a relief!
I'll do some little spoiling here... but seriously, this game has secret places. It's usually a breakable obstacle or secret spot somewhere that will either teleport you or do magic. With former, the breakable obsacles, there was a bug that loved to pop out when player clicked on it while running. It used to shift player position and leave it be until he moved to another area.
Almost forgot to mention - I've expanded hurt time from 0.8 to 1.6 sec. What's this anyway? When you hit cactus and move instantly on another cactus - you won't get hurt because the hurt time is still going. This approach lowers difficulty a bit but, as mentioned above, makes it approachable.
Lastly, i did heavy optimization over level draw code. Things such as clouds were put into one big texture. Their calculation code were moved from draw event into cycle event. I moved a lot of other code from draw event too. It was bad move at very beginning to put that code into drawing section because calculation speed was based on frame rate. Did some other mambo-jambo and general frame rate increased by almost 10%. This is actually pretty great achievement :D
This will be post scriptum section. Recently I decided to take a trip into countryside with original intention to do some fishing. I had too much game development so it was some sort of vacation. I took headphones and my portable Zoom H1 recorder to capture sounds of nature. The trip ended with no fish but with lots of records. Here is photo with me where I'm pondering about depths of indie game development :D
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