Deepvelopment Monthly #11 {March 2016} – The Sound of Effects

This Deepvelopment Monthly post will cover my work on Deep throughout March 2016.

New ‘Hit Spark’ -Graphical
In games, generally what we’re referring to when we say a ‘hit spark’ is that powerful looking flashy effect that bursts out when something has a heavy impact on something else. Like for example when you hit an enemy with an attack. Deep’s have been pretty lackluster until now and I actually think good hit sparks are a huge part of what makes or breaks game-feel. So here’s the new one in action!
hitsparkrandomsmall

Poison Bubbles -Graphical
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that some of the wildlife in Deep is able to put you into a poisoned state, where you slowly take damage as you continue to move around.
To make this a little more visually distinguished, attacks that have that kind of effect now have a distinct purple bubble trail.
poison.gif
Wait, how can you be getting poisoned if you’re playing as a robot? Maybe you’ll find out over the course of the game.

Window Icon -Graphical
This is just a cute little addition that I felt was somewhat overdue.
taskbar.png
You might just notice that in the corner of the Deep the game window is a little bumper bar! It’s down there on the taskbar too. Deep has a window icon!

Camera Shake -Visual
Here’s a feature I’ve been meaning to work on for quite some time. It’s a little hard to show off in a .gif, but the camera now lightly shakes when certain actions take place like firing a weapon or falling from a great height.

Rotation Animation -Visual, Balancing
Obviously, many of the creatures in Deep can climb up and around walls,roofs etc. You can even join them with a certain Microchip installed. In the past however, entities doing this have simply ‘snapped’ 90 degrees in rotation each time they change orientation. This both looked wonky and at times was an actual balance issue as enemies quickly snapped from a wall to a floor and hit you out of nowhere. NOW I have implemented a system that slows enemies movements as they negotiate this kind of terrain and smoothly rotates them around corners! Check it out:
rotation.gif

Fullscreen -Content

This is one of the two ‘big ones’ this month. It took quite some effort to figure out and set up (and we aren’t quite perfect yet), but Deep the game can now be played in Fullscreen!!
fullscreen
There it is on a much larger scale than it’s used to. I left my regular laptop in the photo for comparison.

Playing the game at this bigger size just feels IMMENSELY better. There’s a lot of small graphical effects in Deep that just have that much more impact when you’re seeing them on the big screen. It’s also a lot easier to be aware of all the enemies and dangers in your surroundings. It’s also very user friendly.
-By default the fullscreen button is F, but you can remap that to whatever takes your fancy.
-You can switch back and forth between fullscreen and windowed at any point while you’re playing the game.
-Deep will detect your monitor’s resolution and automatically pick a size that fits it appropriately.
-Deep will also save whether or not it was last open in Fullscreen or Windowed and automatically open up in the same way next time you play.
I’d say fullscreen is half of the reason Deep is starting to feel like a more finished product, this month. The other?

Sound Effects -Content

Heck yeah, sound effects.

Unfortunately the video recorded with the sound a little out of sync, and there are still a few things here that don’t have sound effects added to them just yet, but it sure makes a massive difference when you’re playing the game. Everything has so much more weight and life to it when it makes a sound. What’s really cool too is that I’ve implemented positional audio, meaning that sound effects in the game play from your left or right speaker/earphones based on where on the screen the action is taking place! They also get quieter and louder depending on how far away from them you are. This does a lot to help immerse you further into the world.

 

Honestly these features are only a small chunk of what I was able to get done this month. I also worked closely with my playtester, @VoidFriction to more carefully polish and tweak a number of gameplay elements, including boss battle related content, balancing and general gameplay mechanics. This is pushing us ever closer to the release of the free gameplay demo I will be releasing, and of course, the full and final release of Deep the game. Look forward to reading more next month!

Deepvelopment Monthly #10 {February 2016} – Big Announcement

This Deepvelopment Monthly post will cover my work on Deep throughout December 2015 through to February 2016.

Welcome back to Deepvelopment Monthly! I hope my top 4 games of 2015 article was interesting enough for you to not miss my normal blog post too much in December. It’s also obviously not January or February anymore. There’s been a lot going on and you’ll have to just forgive that this is the first opportunity I’ve had to sit down and write a full post up on what I’ve been working on over the last couple of months.

Health Orbs -Content

healthorb1

Here’s something I added in to help out somewhat with the game’s balance. Defeating enemies is the main way to earn back health in Deep, and sometimes the only reason for fighting an enemy rather than trying to avoid one. This still has an element of luck to it however, and it’s very possible to go quite a long time with quite a small amount of health left. So every now and then, to counter that, you just might stumble across:

breakorb

A Health Orb! It should be pretty clear from the animation here, but you want to break these apart to heal yourself. As with all of the level design in Deep, where these turn up exactly is randomized and different for every save file, but you can expect to run into them roughly once per level. They won’t reappear until you head to a whole new area though, so you won’t be able to just sit around and hold onto infinite health because of them.

Full Health Effect -Visual

This was just a cute little graphical effect I added in on a whim. Your health bar now glows white if you’re on full health. Here’s a little comparison image.

healthfull

healthnotfull

Boss Work! -Content -Balancing

This seems to show up almost once an update now, right? As per usual I’m still spending quite a lot of time working on the bosses in Deep, so they definitely deserve a mention here in my post, but I can’t go into too much detail without overstepping onto what I consider spoiler territory. I’m back into the routine of receiving actual playtester feedback and working on problems/ideas as they arise so it’s been a very productive period of time.

Roof Spikes -Content

This one kind of speaks for itself, so I’ll just show you a picture:

roofspike

Microchip Animations -Content -Visual

This one is really sick, and I only started working on it a day or two before I’m even writing on this. In the past, when you equipped a Microchip, and it visually added the little attachment to the robot’s body, the attachment itself was more or less a single static image.

drillback.gif

So for example, the Drill attachment here (sticking out from the side of the robot and hanging behind it) is of course bouncing up and down with the robot’s natural animation like it really is attached, which is great, but it’s still just a single picture of the drill and it isn’t animated or dynamic in any way. This goes for all microchip attachments.

Well, actually, it doesn’t, anymore.

drillanim.gif

Look! It’s subtle, but you can see now when you use the drill the arm it’s attached to actually swings around to the front of the robot, and two rail arms pop out vertically for the drill to move up and down on while it’s being used. It’s all a bunch of little things but they make a huge difference in how dynamic the robot’s animations look. This is something being applied to many of the Microchip attachments in the game. Here’s another example in the form of the Jetpack microchip that I’ve shown off a few times before.

jetpack.gif

There are a bunch of cool subtle details to note here, like the jetpack’s flashing light turning from green to red when you run out of battery power for example. Please look forward to discovering these cool details on your own when it comes to the many many other Microchips in the game.

News? Decisions?

So when I first announced that I wouldn’t be releasing a Deepvelopment Monthly blog in December, I did so under the condition that I’d have something bigger to share when I finally came back to start posting these again. Now I’m not doing some kind of large scale announcement or launching a kickstarter or anything like that because it’s still quite a ways off, but I have decided officially that I will be creating a free playable demo of Deep. The main portion for this is actually done already, as I have fully planned and organised the structure of the demo to be, and it is essentially just the first area of the game with a few restrictions in place. The remaining work boils down mostly to

-Audio

-Ironing out some known bugs/polishing some functionality up.

-Learning a little more about what’s involved in distributing the release build of a C++ application for easy download and use on any computer.

Obviously that’s still a fair chunk of progress that needs to be made but I’m trying to power through as much of it as fast as I can, and I’m going to be using these blog posts in the coming months to be as transparent as possible regarding the progress and state of the Demo’s release. I hope you’re all very excited!!! See you again next month.

4 Video Games You Should Check Out

There were a lot of really good games that came out this year. I’m not claiming that these are the best games that came out this year, because I’m just one dude who is relatively busy and I haven’t played everything. There were however a few of note that I was particularly excited because of what they brought to the table, or how they presented it, and I really think if you’re someone who identifies as a gamer, you should check them out. Without further ado…

#4 – SOMA

soma-title

I say to a lot of people that I want my games to tell stories that explore the differences and similarities between artificial intelligence and human sentience, and SOMA is very much a game I would excitedly point to and say,

‘Like that one! Yes!’

SOMA is the latest project from Swedish developers Frictional Games, who were also the creative minds behind the wildly popular horror game ‘Amnesia: The Dark Descent’. I’m very pleased to say that SOMA is every bit as terrifying. The atmosphere is second to none, and there’s a lot that goes into maintaining that.

First and foremost is the sound design. I highly recommend playing through SOMA with headphones, as the developers have clearly spent some time ensuring that the world you explore sounds as authentic as possible. Pipes creak and settle, footsteps echo based on room size, sound travels differently through water… Alongside a convincing cast of well-voice-acted characters, and an attention to environmental detail exceeding that of many higher budgeted games, the immersion is maybe SOMA’s greatest success. There’s something deeply unsettling about water-based horror, and the game does a great job of utilising this for a ‘slow burn’ style of psychological fear rather than opting for cheap shock factor scares. While Amnesia made me jump, SOMA made me feel like I had nowhere to escape to.

This isn’t to say however that the game’s ‘game-y’ bits are slouching, though. Frictional Games have certainly used the five years since Amnesia’s release to hone their design skills. The obstacle design feels constantly fresh, with each new combination of enemy type and room layout offering a new set of challenges for the player to overcome. While early on, you’ll receive subtle guidance on how the monsters work and how to avoid them, the game boldly refuses to continue offering any concrete rules or hints on the game mechanics after about the halfway point, and the resulting difficulty curve is spot on. You’ll have to experiment and explore to uncover the best path forwards, and this, coupled with the game’s powerful subject matter and chilling atmosphere, delivers an absolutely unforgettable experience.

#3 – Splatoon

si_wiiu_splatoon

If you’d asked me a year ago whether or not I liked shooters, I’d say that I didn’t. I’d be lying, but I find it hard to get particularly excited about the annual new installment of Call of Duty or  the latest Battlefield – and even Halo has, under its new ownership, seemingly succumbed to the ‘realistic shooter’ tropes. So the blanket answer of ‘no I don’t like shooters’ is just what comes most naturally. That’s why with their release of Splatoon earlier this year, Nintendo has done something incredible.

Truly nothing else out there is even similar to Splatoon. It has that unique Nintendo quality where it feels like each component of the design circularly benefits each other component, achieving depth without requiring complexity. The first half of Splatoon’s core design is spraying ink. While there are a few different game modes, your goal essentially boils down to splattering as much of the arena with your team’s coloured ink as you can. You can shoot your foes with the ink too, to send them back to their home base, but it’s a tactical preventative measure rather than the core objective, which is a breath of fresh air for the genre.

Outside of it being the objective, coating the terrain in your ink is also what gives life to the other major component of the game, which is movement. You can swim at high speeds through ink, even up walls, both making you harder to see and granting you huge potential for maneuverability, but only through your own team’s colour of ink. Thus comes together the constant battle in Splatoon. Spray more ink to move around the arena faster to spray more ink. Paint over your opponent’s ink to limit their movement to prevent them from spraying more ink. It’s simple and brilliant and more importantly it’s just really fun.

Where Splatoon’s genius really comes through is in its accessibility. It has that same draw as Mario Party or Super Smash Bros., where you don’t need to be good at the game to have fun playing the game. While at the higher ranks of competitive play, teamwork and precision are paramount, if you just want to hop online and play a few rounds, you’re able to contribute to the team regardless of skill level. The most simple game-type, ‘Turf War’, is the only one available in the casual lobby, and the only rule is to have the most ink on the field when time runs out. So if all you know how to do is walk around near the base and mindlessly spray the ground with ink, that’s okay, because you’re still helping your team win. It rewards skilled players, but is simultaneously easy for anyone to pick up and play.
In the end, Splatoon is an incredible moment of originality in a genre that badly needs it, and it just so happens to be incredibly appealing to the eye. If there was one game worth picking up a Wii U for, it’s this one.

#2 – Axiom Verge

axiom

If you’re a Metroid fan like myself, still crying yourself to sleep over the disaster that was ‘Other M’, hovering your finger over the call button with Nintendo’s customer support number dialed, unsure if it’s inappropriate to ask what in the world is going on over there, then I have some incredible news for you. Axiom Verge is the new Metroid game you’ve been waiting for, and it came out earlier this year for only $13.99.

Axiom Verge delivers on every front you’d want it to, and always finds a new way to take you by surprise. Every single environment is gorgeously rendered in a high contrast, 4 colour shading style of pixel art, and the game marries this with an art direction clearly inspired by the works of H.R. Giger to give itself an incredibly distinctive look that is simply breathtaking.

As is standard in these exploration platformers (I hate the term Metroidvania), you’ll find yourself collecting various gadgets and weapons that gradually increase your abilities such that you can explore further and further away from your starting point. Of course, with each new acquisition comes the thoughts of ‘wait, I think I needed this exact tool way back this way somewhere’, and there’s a HUGE amount of hidden stuff to find in the world. While Axiom Verge proudly flaunts just how damn good it is at employing this traditional set of rules, it brings  a number of new elements to the table as well. Of particular note was a tool you obtain early on that allows you to ‘glitch out’ enemies and objects in various ways, causing them to distort and warp, reminiscent of buggy early sprite-based games. It was especially cool to see how this mechanic was repeatedly used in different ways throughout the progression of the game, and there’s even an achievement for glitching every different kind of enemy at least once.

There’s an honestly insane amount of cool and creative science fiction weapons that are all loads of fun to use, and what’s even cooler is that almost all of them are optional. If you’re just rushing through, you’ll probably reach the end of the game without seeing even a quarter of what the game has to offer, and you really need to pay attention and be willing to explore if you want to track everything down. This means that each upgrade is accompanied with a powerful sense of achievement.

Axiom Verge is fast-paced, refreshingly difficult (albeit only on the harder difficulty setting), and an aesthetic treat. It’s the kind of game I knew immediately upon finishing that I was going to replay time and time again.

#1 – Pokemon Picross

pokc3a9mon-picross-header-nintendon-630x354

 

Just kidding it’s Undertale.

undertale_logo

Undertale almost doesn’t deserve a place on this list because you’ve undoubtedly already heard about how good it is. I’m someone who is aiming to have a career based in making games, someone who has been playing video games their entire life, and someone who would proudly point to a list of video games that I know shaped who I am as a person. I try to learn a little about what it means to make a game ‘good’ whenever I play something. I’ll play bad games endlessly trying to pinpoint exactly what I don’t like about them, and conversely have stacks upon stacks of notes, diagrams and flowcharts documenting what concepts and ideas I want to try to work into my own creations.

So please, understand the weight of what I’m trying to convey when I say that the ONE game I urge everyone to play through, the ONE among the list of hundreds, is Undertale. It’s above ‘what kind of game you like’ or even ‘if you’re someone who plays video games’.

To quickly sell you on the game, without spoiling anything, Undertale is:
-Very funny, without ever leaning on the oh-so-popular crutch of reference-based or ‘meme’ humor.
-Scored with one of the most beautiful and original soundtracks I’ve ever heard in any movie or game.
-Very original, and mechanically dissimilar from anything you are likely to have played before.
-A game where, if you want to, you can talk your way out of having to actually kill anything. This is A Pretty Big Deal.

If you’ll allow though, I’d like to say a bit more about Undertale, because it deserves more than a few bullet points.

Undertale is the kind of game that carries more impact the less you know about it going in, and so I try to encourage people to play it without revealing too many specifics. The question I probably hear the most in response is ‘So what is it about?’, and I honestly still haven’t perfected an answer to that yet, because Undertale is about a lot of things.
It’s a game about staying determined, and what that really means.
It’s a game about choices and the consequences of our choices.
It’s a game about doing the right thing because it’s the right thing, and not just because we want a reward.
In some ways, it’s a game about games.
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of reviewers say about a lot of movies or games that they ‘made them cry!’, and Undertale did make me cry. But it wasn’t because of anything that happened in Undertale, it was because of the way that Undertale made me feel, and the way it spoke to me. I don’t like to talk about it, but there are rare days that I wake up or go to bed feeling sad about a lot of different things.

Undertale is a game about it being okay to talk about that kind of stuff.

Because it’s part of who we are, and it’s a game about the people who stand by you in moments of vulnerability.
Oh and there are some cool skeletons in it, so I guess Undertale is also at least a little bit about cool skeletons.

At it’s core, what most impresses me about Undertale is its ability to be a video game alongside a beautifully woven story, never sacrificing one component to benefit the other. I think a lot of games that try to tell important stories forget that they need to be fun to play as well, which leads to what a lot of people in the industry are now referring to as the Walking Simulator problem, where the only real interactivity the player has with the story is walking through it. So I want to stress that while Undertale was making me laugh, cry, and think, it was simultaneously an immense amount of fun to play through from start to finish, which I have now done several times over (it’s also a relatively short game).

So if you haven’t already, boot up your computer, head over to http://www.undertale.com, fork out the $10, and give the game a go. You’d be making a huge mistake not to.

========

Why 4 rather than the nice round 5? Because right behind this list were ‘Downwell’, ‘Yoshi’s Wooly World’ and ‘Nuclear Throne’, none of which I could cleanly place above or below the others, and I would have had to include all of them. Say what you will about 4 but it’s definitely not as weird as 7.

Deepvelopment Monthly #9 {November 2015} –I Found a Way

This Deepvelopment Monthly post will cover my work on Deep throughout November 2015.

Obelisk Again -Content
Last month I explained that I’d been working on these, but that I still had a lot more to code for them to be set up properly. They are now!! Here’s a look:
obelisk2
terminalobel
You’ll see they have a little screen indicator with a LOCKED sign on it now! And.. also that I’m watching the Obelisk from a Terminal screen?

Liquids -Visual
I spent some time this month fixing up the way the game is able to draw liquids like water and magma when they’re inside unusually shaped lakes. It’s a little hard to explain, but it mostly came down to the fact that I added sloped terrain a long time after I added liquids, and I never really anticipated the game having to draw that sort of thing. Because Deep layers the drawing of terrain in a very specific way to create that pseudo-3D effect, it was actually a really tricky process to get it looking as clean as it does!
liquids
Of course, as usual, it was never as simple as that, and I got some pretty weird results in my testing. So here’s an actual hellscape.
welcometohell

Pathfinding -Mechanics
This one’s really cool, and it’s what I spent the most time on this month. You’ll have definitely heard me talking about it if you follow my Twitter account. Basically this is the system that determines how to block exits from one part of the map to the other,which is obviously important in controlling the game’s progression. It took a REALLY long time to get this working, but I have some exciting(?) animations that show several work in progress versions of the system trying to determine all kinds of things, like where to place a wall and whether or not a path had been successfully blocked.

mapmaking
mapmaking2
mapmaking3
mapmaking4
It’s the first time in quite a while I’ve had to work with my map generation system and it was pretty cool to go back to it. I started work technically on it last month but wasn’t able to make much progress.
It was just a tonne of fun in general, by the end of it, it was essentially a very simplistic AI, and it was really cool watching it do its best to learn and overcome obstacles. And also equal parts frustrating when it would get stuck in very stupid situations and couldn’t figure out how to progress further!

Deepvelopment Monthly #8 {October 2015} – Center of Balance

This Deepvelopment Monthly post will cover my work on Deep throughout October 2015.

Not a particularly picture/video heavy update this month since a lot of what I did was mechanical tweaks, but there’s a lot of them!

Microchip Menu Completion -Content, visual
Last month I mentioned that even with all the work I’d done, the Microchip menu still had a little bit to go before it was actually complete. Now however, you can check out the finished product!
finalmicrochip
I also improved the ‘old screen’ style effect, there’s a faint glow on brighter parts of the screen and it blurs and stretches a little towards the edges. These computers definitely aren’t the latest models available, and they might not have been used in a while!

Collectables (Again!) -Visual
After receiving mixed feedback regarding the new look for the Collectables I worked on last month, I’ve yet again put a little time into improving how they look in the game. Hopefully these new graphics help them look more visually solid! You’ll see they also have little shadows on the ground under them, too.
newcoins
This is the colour that the collectables appear as in the Ice Caverns environment, by the way.

Further Bandit Boss Fight Work -Balancing
It’s a little hard to go into details here since I’m keeping the exact mechanics of the boss fight a secret until the game has released, but I’ve been continuing to tweak the Bandit boss fight. I’m almost 100% happy with it now, but I still have a few further changes I want to make. It’s really hard to get the balance of ‘clear, understandable mechanics’ so that it doesn’t outweigh ‘challenging and difficult to complete on your first try’, but I’m getting better at it!

Obelisk -Content
What could this be exactly?
obelisk
I guess you’ll have to play the game to find out! It may not look like much but the mechanics I’ve had to develop to get this thing to work in the game correctly have been a nightmare! It’s been the project I’ve spent most of this month on and I still have a fair bit to do here. It doesn’t have much to do with the Obelisk itself and more to do with the map generation around it!

Archive Hologram -Glitch
The ‘archive hologram’ is that image of your robot that shows you where you last saved the game. I think I accidentally showed this glitch in the last update, but when you used a terminal, the archive hologram would actually warp over to where you accessed the terminal instead of remaining in place at the archive projector (checkpoint) where it belongs!

Gameplay tweaks/balances -Balance
Lots of changes don’t actually start out on a todo list of any sort, but instead come about because I’m simply playing through the game (either to test something or just for fun!) and come across little annoyances or situations that I feel like tweaking. They aren’t individually enough to each be their own bullet point here in the blog post, but they did end up being a pretty sizable chunk of what I worked on this month. Included were:
-Ice is less slippery! You actually discover the frozen caverns very early in your adventure and the platforming challenges caused by the slippery ice were, WAY, too tough for where they were in the game’s difficulty curve.
-Boulders that you shove with your bumper bar do significantly more damage to enemy creatures! I was finding that a lot of the time I’d take damage even after shoving a boulder into a foe because it would shrug off the hit and come for me anyway. When the first part of the game forces you to fight the wildlife this way, it was a little unfair.
-The spikes in the Caves area of the game have been reworked a little. They now appear visually a little taller than they actually are, so you can actually just barely skim across the top of them without suffering a hit. This certainly makes navigating around them a lot less frustrating than I was starting to find it. Again, this especially rang true in early areas of the game.
-Health no longer restores on visiting new areas! It might sound like I’m hell-bent on making the game easier with those three last changes, but this one actually pushes the game’s difficulty in the opposite direction. Actually killing the wildlife in Deep is generally optional because of the wide range of situations you’ll find yourself in, and the wider range of tools that will come into your possession. Naturally of course I have to balance this out by rewarding you for either option. While avoiding enemies is safer, defeating them recovers health. I’ve been having trouble with the game’s balance a little because you’d too regularly take more damage than health gained upon fighting a gang of enemies, but this change has helped a TONNE! Now that passing through to new areas doesn’t restore your health, it constantly feels like you have to be carefully monitoring how much damage you’re taking, and be on the constant lookout for opportunities to regain some of what you’ve lost! A seemingly minor change has done a huge amount to make the risk/reward balance feel a lot more coherent!

Super Smash Flash 2 -Unrelated
As you probably know by now if you follow my work, I’ve left the Super Smash Flash 2 team as of almost a week ago. It’s been in the works for about 6 months now, but I’m leaving on the best terms with all of my fellow McLeodGaming developers. More than anything else, this will mean a lot of extra free time for me to spend working on Deep! You can read my resignation post here, if you haven’t already.

Deepvelopment Monthly #7 {September 2015} – Terminal Velocity

This Deepvelopment Monthly post will cover my work on Deep throughout September 2015.

Light Radius -Visual
This month I put a little time into improving the visual quality of the radius of light that surrounds the robot. The new effect is much more suited to the game’s atmosphere and style. Instead of just being this bland smooth transition from light to dark, it almost looks like the robot has some kind of limited torch functionality that lets it see in its immediate area. Take a look at the old:
lighting2

vs. the new:

lighting1
If you have trouble seeing the difference try opening them in separate tabs and going back and forth!

Icicles -Balancing -Visual
So I’m sure I’ve shown before that in some parts of the game there will be a danger of icicles on the ceiling.
icicle
They hurt to touch, and will occasionally fall from their hanging place too. In the past due to limitations of the engine I’d coded, as soon as they hit the ground and shattered, they’d start to regrow where they fell from. This caused some pretty rough difficulty issues where it would be really hard to navigate specific areas if they had icicles hanging above them, since you’d try to time your movement with the icicle falling but then it would just reappear immediately and hit you anyway! I implemented a solution to that this month:
icicle
You can see the Icicle now remains visually shattered on the ground for a short while before reemerging. This lets you do cool things where you can use your weapons to knock down icicles and then make the most of the shattered period to clear obstacles!

Collectable Aesthetics -visuals
I FINALLY this month stopped using those gross bland Collectable sprites, which I really just put together in 5 minutes to have a placeholder for testing, and instead implemented actual graphics for them! They sparkle and shine and look really solid!
COINS
Of course different areas have differently coloured coins, too.

Terminals -visuals -content
This is this month’s big one! The Terminals (those computers you find) have been pretty much entirely taken out of beta placeholder stuff and polished up to what you’ll find in the real game! When you use one, first you’ll see it swing around and open up before the menu appears to make it a little more clear what’s happening:
screenstart
Then you get to sit through a really cool animated sequence that will show off the area map you will have just downloaded, as well as the microchip that will be automatically installed. Each new Terminal will provide you with a new microchip, by the way. Next, the screen has a quick cute, retro style loading sequence to bring up your menu options. It’s not specifically based on anything but the jarring, snappy way the images load in is very reminiscent of early-era user interfaces for electronics:
screenload
The graphics for the screen itself by the way are HUGELY improved, and I’m super proud of how they look in and out of motion.
newscreen
Looking on the right side you can see the screen has actual depth that stretches a little into the background to make it look really 3D, a bunch of scattered details around the frame, the classic Deep animated screen-graininess, and even screen glare! This is all set up to overlay whatever is appearing on the screen and it looks really convincing and genuine, fitting right into the aesthetic and atmosphere of Deep. The Microchip equipping/unequipping screen has been totally reworked for the finished game as well: (though I actually still have a little more work to do on this one)
chips
Look at all that! It is of course animated as you’d want to expect at this point.
chips1 chips2
This is the kind of quality I’m aiming to have all the menus animated at for the full game. I hope you like what you see! It’s certainly very different from what I showed off wayyyy back in the very first blog update where I talked about how the Microchips worked!

Chip HUD positioning -Visual
As you know, equipped Microchips appear on the HUD/screen to show you that you have them equipped, what they’re doing, and make your game window feel a little more unique to match your robot. This month I spent some time testing corner cases where HUD graphics would overlap with each other in undesirable ways and implementing ways to prevent it. For example, the Ultra Friction icons will appear at different x positions on the screen based on whether or not you have the ammo bar set to stretched out, minimised, or if you don’t have an ammo-consuming weapon equipped at all:
newhud1
newhud2
newhud3

That’s all for this month, I’ll see you guys next time! Maybe I’ll have finished up those extra parts of the Microchip menu I was talking about!

Deepvelopment Monthly #6 {August 2015} – Gotta Collect ‘Em All!

This Deepvelopment Monthly post will cover my work on Deep throughout August 2015.

…Well, sort of. So, the majority (the entirety really) of this month was spent on fairly late-game content. Stuff you don’t want to be spoiled on at all, ESPECIALLY one of the bosses. It’s not finished yet, but it certainly feels cool to be playtesting a part of the game that takes place quite a ways towards the end. Unfortunately it means that I had some trouble figuring out exactly what to fill this month’s post up with. Since I don’t have a tonne that I can share I thought I’d do a more old-style blog post where I go in-depth about some specific topics. I hope you enjoy!

Collectibles are something that I made a blog post about quite some time ago, but the game has changed a lot since then, so lets recap.
collectables
Unless you’ve never played a video game before it should be fairly clear that you want to pick these up. What are they exactly? It doesn’t really matter. There are 50 of them in each world though. Some you’ll find just like these, lined up in paths or even sometimes hinting at the location of secrets. Not all of them will be so easy to come by though. Sometimes you’ll have to fight for them…

miniboss
What in the world is that!? This is a mini-boss. Bosses in Deep are fought in specifically designed arenas, so they don’t get to take full advantage of the randomly generated nature of Deep’s world. Mini-bosses on the other hand? Absolutely! You’ll have to really go exploring if you want to track these guys down. As you can see, this mini-boss is a gigantic version of the Snell enemy type I revealed a few updates ago. Most mini-bosses (but not all!) will be larger or otherwise more dangerous variants of enemies you’d ordinarily find in that world. They’ll also sometimes be coloured differently or have special attacks the normal version of the enemy can’t do. What’s really cool is that they very much play a part in the ‘every save file of Deep is different’ factor, since even the exact mechanics of each mini-boss is in part randomly chosen. I’ve only recently started to put together all the different mechanics of possible mini-boss behavior, but it’s become one of the most exciting parts of the game!
miniboss2
This guy for example fled after I found it, and moved ridiculously fast. I had to chase him across half the map before I could finally claim victory!

Unlike normal enemies, mini-bosses won’t ever appear again after you defeat them, but when killed they can drop all kinds of stuff! You’ll always be rewarded with 5 Collectibles, but you’ll often also score some other goodies. Again, this varies between save files, so everyone’s experience will be a little different.
See, collecting stuff in Deep doesn’t just start and stop with Collectibles. There’s all kinds of stuff you’lll be on the lookout for.
lots
As I’m sure you can imagine, they’ll generally speaking improve on the functionality of your robot in some way. There are other kinds of things to find in the wide world of Deep too, though, but I don’t want to spoil too much. These kinds of things can be hidden in a lot of different ways, and what’s cool is that as you get Microchips over the course of the game, your ability to actually reach these items will expand.

iron
Sometimes it’ll just require having tools powerful enough for the occasion, like to break through the iron blocks pictured above. But other times…
blocked in
How exactly am I meant to get to that? You’ll have to wait and see for situations like these of course.

I also want to bring special attention to the pause screen for a moment. I won’t show the whole thing here, but it should at least be noted that it will contain a list of worlds you’ve visited so far…
pause
…as well as catalog what you have and haven’t found in those worlds yet! This is very helpful if you’re in a completionist kind of mood.

That’s all for today! It certainly was a little unlike my previous monthly blogposts but hopefully you’re happy to subvert the norm in favor of not having late-game content spoiled! See you again in a month!

Deepvelopment Monthly #5 {July 2015} – To Die For

This Deepvelopment Monthly post will cover my work on Deep throughout July 2015. Lots to cover this month, I was extra productive!

Weapon Fire Effects -Visual
After honestly too long, weapons now have a powerful looking smoke shockwave effect on firing, the size and shape of which matches the weapon you’re firing. The recoil that comes with firing more powerful weapons is actually a pretty significant part of combat in Deep. This new smoke effect paired with the recoil really gives firing each weapon a uniquely powerful feel to it. Here are just a few examples:
gun1 gun3 gun4 gun2

Progress Report? -Content
After doing some tweaking to the way enemies spawn (especially in the early areas of the game) and which enemies are allowed to spawn in the first couple of levels, I’m happy to say that Deep is essentially completely playable from the start of the game right through to the second major boss! This is a pretty solid chunk of gameplay. It’s definitely not as polished as I want it to be for the final release but the fact that I can open the game, start a save file, and play for that amount of time without any bugs or incomplete feeling areas feels like a pretty huge achievement! More importantly I’m really having a blast playing it. The combat aspects of the game are coming together in ways I’m just super proud of and the random generation nature of the game means I’m constantly encountering new situations where I have to use the robot’s unique abilities in creative ways to progress.

Microchips -Content -Visual
THIS is what’s up. This is a feature I’ve been excited to work on since I started Deep and it’s SO exciting that it’s finally coming to life. Obviously the most important mechanic in Deep is the Microchip Installation System. It’s what makes your robot your own. If you haven’t been following the blog for long, here’s a quick refresher:
1. You play as a robot (it’s quite cute but it can’t do much):
robot
2. You collect Microchips (there’s over 100!):
microchip
3. Microchips let your robot do cool things (and change the way it looks):
different

As of this month though, Microchips you have equipped will actually integrate onto your screen as part of your Heads Up Display. This provides useful information about how and what the chip is doing, and frankly just looks really cool! Let me show you what I mean. In the following screenshot I’ve equipped a Microchip called the Regeneration Cycler. It’s the little white and red med-kit looking attachment behind the robot’s head.
regen1
As you might expect it slowly but gradually restores your health. The attachment itself on the robot even emits little heart-shaped particles while it works! Meanwhile, you can see that the Microchip has plugged itself into your health bar and is filling it up as time goes by:
regencycle
The Regen Cycler has to restart the cycle if your robot gets hurt, and it will only fill up one full heart’s worth of health before stopping. So having things like this bar on screen where you can see this all play out makes it easier to understand the more intricate mechanics of the various Microchips in the game.
Ultra Friction’s game-screen integration is another one I think is especially cool:
ultfrict
Since every player will be provided with a different set of Microchips to use throughout the game (and even two players who earn all the same Microchips probably won’t end up using the same ones), your game screen will become more and more unique as you progress through the game and reflect what kind of robot you’ve developed!

Death Animation! -Visual
Previously when you died in Deep, the game just sort of blacked out and sent you back to your last checkpoint. Now…
death
…Now the robot tragically and dramatically falls off to one side and lays there for a while before the fade out animation plays. It’s a little depressing honestly! Don’t let the robot die!

Map Generation Issues -Glitches -Programming
This isn’t one huge thing but a lot of smaller things that really add up. Basically I spent some time cleaning up weird corner-case issues where things like sloped terrain and spikes would interact in weird ways if the game wanted to generate a map that used both of them. Or hazards being generated in ways that were essentially impossible to bypass. It was a few days of work on this aspect of the game and not much else but it really paid off. I’m pretty much ready to call the random terrain generation aspect of the game essentially complete at this point, which is really exciting since it’s a huge chunk of the game I just don’t have to worry about anymore. Progress!

Cracking Animation -Visual
When I first introduced Deep a lot of people were asking me about comparisons to Minecraft, Terraria, and other sandbox-y games, probably because of the blocky tile-based terrain. In Deep though you don’t really do much brick breaking or relocating. There is one type of block you can destroy once you acquire the Drill Microchip though, and now the blocks will actually slowly crack and then shatter as you attack them, rather than just falling apart all at once.
crumble

Brighter! Higher Contrast! -Visual
You might also have noticed that the game is a fair bit brighter in these demonstration screenshots than it has been previously! This decision came after I tested the game on a few different monitors and found that some (especially those with higher resolution) made the game look excessively grainy and dark because of the unique static aesthetic the game employs. I hope you like it!

I hope you enjoyed today’s update (even if it was a few hours late!). I actually got even more done this last month, but to talk about it would be to delve into spoiler territory… That jungle themed boss I mentioned last update is finalized now for starters! And while I was working on all those Microchip-related features I couldn’t help but add a few new ones in of course. See you next month!

Deepvelopment Monthly #4 {June 2015} – Control Yourself

This Deepvelopment Monthly post will cover my work on Deep throughout June 2015.
I’m really sick right now, so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m a little less thorough than I have been in past months. Sorry!

Thin Platforms -Glitch
First of all, in April’s post, there’s a video where you can see that some of the health that came out of the defeated enemy actually falls through the thin platforms. Whoops it definitely wasn’t meant to do that!! Anyhow I fixed that one this month.

New Customization! -Content
This is a big one! A little while ago the arrow keys on my keyboard broke so I couldn’t test Deep properly. My quick fix was to change the game’s controls to let you use the numpad for movement, and that obviously worked fine, but the real solution to these kinds of problems has been implemented this month:
customcontrols
Yep, that’s a menu for Custom Keybindings!! You can now set the controls of Deep to whatever you feel like. The menu design here isn’t quite finished yet, but it works! The little letter key icons on the HUD will change appropriately too, and even the robot’s in-game dialogue to explain the controls will update itself to use the keyboard key you’ve selected.

Boss #2! -Content
So I promised to never spoil game content in Deepvelopment Monthly, so I can’t talk too much about this, but it deserved a mention since it took up quite a bit of time this month! The second boss is well on the way to being what I consider ‘complete’, and I have a tonne of fun playing against it. The aesthetics and polish aren’t quite at the level of Bandit yet so we’re not all the way there, but it’s fully functional. I will say that this boss is very jungle-themed, but maybe not in the way you expect!

…And back to Boss #1 -Visual
In the last update I mentioned that Bandit would be a very dynamic fight, involving the changing of the arena mid-match! I don’t want to go into too much detail about how this comes into play, but I finished polishing the visual effect for how that looks, and I’m really happy with how it turned out, so here’s a .gif!
shatter

Lag Reduction -Programming
One of the best things about coding a game’s engine from the ground up in a language like C++ is that you’re entirely aware of everything your program is doing. There aren’t any mysterious processes running in the background or function calls you use without really understanding them. This means that when your game starts experiencing slowdown, it’s much less of an ordeal to track down what’s causing it and find a faster way of performing whatever task is at fault. In Deep, when I want to perform some kind of action on any entity, the game has to figure out where in the big list of entities it is. Since my entity list is generated dynamically as the game runs, it’s in no particular order, and I can’t just always assume that the Player entity for example is the first item on the list, or that the Boss is the second or anything like that. I use a system called Tagging, wherein every entity has a unique ID Tag number that I can keep track of separately. To find an entity on the list, I just have to write code that performs a scan through the list until it gets to an entity that has the ID Tag I’m looking for! But if I’m having to do this multiple times every single frame, it can be pretty slow. So this month I spent a bit of time streamlining the process. In this new system, there’s a special check value that recognises if the list has been reordered in some way since the last scan. If it hasn’t, the scan just jumps straight to where it last found the Tag for that particular entity! It’s only a minor time saver for each individual scan through the list, but it certainly adds up when there are a lot of enemies, projectiles and other fun stuff going on on the screen.

Deepvelopment Monthly #3 {May 2015} – Bossy

This Deepvelopment Monthly post will cover my work on Deep throughout May 2015.

Bumper Bar -Content -Balancing
This wasn’t actually on my todo list for the month, but while I was playing through the game to test out [future content I can’t talk about yet!], I realised that the Bumper Bar was actually entirely useless against actual enemies! Its main purpose is to push boulders around so that you can use those as weapons, and it’s not really meant to be a super useful offensive tool on its own, but during my testing I was finding myself instinctively trying to use myself as a last resort to protect myself against close range attackers when I was low on ammo. But I designed it too small compared to the robot! I even tried making it stick out a little further at full charge but I just ended up getting hit by enemies more often than I could hit them. So I redesigned it entirely and I think it looks really cool now! Here’s a before/after comparison because those are fun.
oldbumpernewbumper
(I also like doing these so that you can see how the visual style and animation has evolved!)
It’s much less choppy, the bar comes out faster, it’s larger and it has a cool dust effect!

Attached Projectiles -Programming
Some of what I worked on also had to do with projectiles! (again, sorry!) This time it was all about creating projectiles that could be easily attached or separated from other entities. It’s a little hard to explain in words, so I’ll demonstrate by showing off a new enemy type!

Snell -Content
snell
Check out this guy! He’s actually not an enemy you normally find in the early game Caves. The reason the attachable projectiles were required to have him function is because of how he attacks.
snell2
You’ll see it’s the actual spikes and shell that you have to worry about, not the head. But they don’t stay attached to him!
snellspines
As I demonstrate here, this isn’t really a problem you can tackle from close up, which is why you won’t be encountering them until a little later on in the game. Even if you use your bumper bar to shove a boulder at them, the spikes will often destroy the boulder before it can hit the Snell itself!

Bandit! -Content
This is going to be a long one!
If you follow me on Twitter (why wouldn’t you?) then you’re aware that 90% of the work I’ve done this month has been on Boss Battles! You’ve probably seen this guy before:
banditI’ve shown little bits and pieces of him before (the second ever post on this blog featured a very early depiction of him!) but you could consider this his official introduction. His name is Bandit, and despite his size, he’s technically an insect. He’s an evolutionary mistake though, and the only one of his kind, which is part of why he’s so gigantic. Here’s a little size comparison:
size(The robot is 1.7m tall, so this is a big bug)
Boss battles were one of the first things I implemented when I was coding Deep, so this fight has kind of existed for a while, but in a beta state. After this month’s work I’m happy to say that I’ve finished the work on the fight entirely! There are 3 increasingly difficult phases, which will test your puzzle-solving skills and reflexes. I’m REALLY excited about the boss battles in Deep, maybe more than any other part of the game. I’m trying to make them as dynamic, creative and unique as possible. I don’t want to spoil too much of course, but I will say that Bandit is the first boss in Deep. The exact location you find a Boss in will of course differ from save file to save file, but you’ll always encounter him in an Ice themed area early on in the game, and I can guarantee that you won’t have anything to battle him with other than the Bumper Bar you start out with! Even at full charge, that won’t be enough to affect Bandit, so you’ll need to get kind of creative… Things will get pretty crazy as you deal more damage to him, and through his sheer size and power he’ll be able to damage the arena you fight him in beyond recognition. That will, of course, play a key part in the fight’s progression. I’m getting carried away! But please please be excited for Deep’s bosses!!
bandit

Bandit Glitches -Glitches -Programming
The downside of trying to do unique and complicated cool things for each boss fight is that it means they’re really complicated to get working properly. Hence spending almost all month on just finishing up Bandit’s fight (and the second boss! He’s a secret though…). Boss battles generally do a lot of things in the game that the game engine doesn’t already support so you have to do a lot of hard-coding, which isn’t a term that refers to the difficulty level of the programming! When you hard-code something it kind of means you are programming it to work without the help of what the game engine already does. So for example, if I added a new enemy type that could walk up walls, I don’t have to hard code that, since the engine already supports it. I just have to flick a switch that says ‘yes this enemy type can walk up walls’. But if I wanted to make that enemy mess up your vision, there’s nothing in the game that does that, and my engine doesn’t really have any way of easily adding that feature, so I would have to write very specific coding statements that change the screen’s rendering under the circumstances of that enemy attacking you. As a general rule, you should avoid hard-coding things where possible, since it adds to the complexity of editing or changing your code later down the road if you need to, as well as the total size of your compiled code. Unfortunately with bosses though there’s not always a way around it, since the whole point is that they do things that are unique from anything else in the gameplay. What I’m getting at is that glitches are frequent when you’re working on bosses, and that for a while Bandit would do nothing but this:
incorrect
…and that I couldn’t fix it for several days. It was tough.

Limiter! -Unrelated
Again, you’ll already know about this if you follow me on Twitter! But it’s pretty exciting news so I thought I’d include it here. I’ve actually started work on an entirely new side project. It’s a puzzle game I’ve decided to call ‘Limiter!’ (including the !), I’ve had a fair few people playtest it now and received pretty overwhelmingly positive feedback so far. It’s by far and away a #2 priority to Deep, which will be completed before Limiter!, but I have to say it’s nice to have a smaller scale project to work on from time to time when I’m feeling really burnt out on Deep. I’m not at the stage yet where I’m ready to publicly talk about the mechanics of the game, but here’s a cool .gif to demonstrate the aesthetic style I’m using!
limiternewgif
aaand the logo!
logoflat
This is definitely something you can look forward to checking out when Deep is finally all said and done.

That’s all for this month and I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post!