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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsDragon's Wake - 2D Adventure Platformer (Greenlit on Steam!)
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Kytin
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« Reply #20 on: October 06, 2014, 04:06:12 PM »

Thanks for the encouragement.

I didn't take any photos of the both myself (which was a serious oversight... I'll have to fix that next time), but the AIE have some people who did a short overview video of the games hosted by the AIE at PAX Prime. You can see the video here. The Dragon's Wake section starts about the 3:30 mark.

Your game references reminded me of something. When I was at PAX Prime people would see the points in the game where the dragon takes a nap a when he wakes up he would have a slightly larger sprite, and they would say 'Oh, he evolved!'. And my reaction would be 'He's not evolving. He's just growing up.'
I blame Pokemon.  Tongue
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Kytin
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« Reply #21 on: October 13, 2014, 06:38:00 PM »

So I've hit a bit of disappointment over the last week. I was hoping to add normal mapped shading to my sprites with a neat tool called Sprite Lamp. I was holding off on posting here until I had something cool from it to show.
Unfortunately, it's proven to be more difficult than I had hoped. I'm currently waiting to see if the developer for sprite Lamp can put together a single-pass lighting shader (which he apparently intended to do anyway), because Unity can't do sprite batching for anything that uses multi-pass shaders. I'm heavily relying on Unity's dynamic batching system to keep the draw calls under control, which basically means that multi-pass shaders simply aren't an option for the terrain tiles.

The short of this is that I don't know if I will be able to add in the cool lighting that I wanted to do, and it will be at least a week until I find out. I've already spent a week to get this far and don't have anything to show for it (yet). So for now I'm working on things which will improve the game and don't rely on any particular way of doing lighting.

This is what I did yesterday:


In game terms it's just a gate that uses fire as the key, but I'm finding that it's a neccessary thing to have to make sure players don't accidentally miss picking up the ability to breathe fire.
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Kytin
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« Reply #22 on: October 27, 2014, 03:47:34 PM »

So it's been awhile since I last posted. I'm about to head to PAX Aus tomorrow, so this might be might last chance for awhile too. I'll try to get some better photos from PAX this time.

You may be wondering what I have been doing this last few weeks. Last time I posted I mentioned some difficulties with the new shaders I had been hoping to use.
Well, they're still not cooperating as well as I would like, but I have found that while I probably won't be able to have the best lighting on the terrain tiles, I can still use use the SpriteLamp shaders on the characters. I currently only have them applied to the player character, but other creatures will have it applied... after PAX. Sad

I have combined this with a certain amount of 'fake' lighting (basically circular additive glow textures for lights and subtracive ones for shadows). The result has been surprisingly nice I think. For contrast, I'm showing the same scene as in my last post, but with the new lighting.



I'll see if I can get a few posts up during PAX, but no promises.
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Kytin
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« Reply #23 on: February 03, 2015, 05:30:31 PM »

Ok, well it's been awhile since I last updated. Sorry about that. I could make a bunch of excuses, but they would be just that - excuses. Instead, let me show off some of what I have done in the last 3 months.

What I have mainly been focussing on lately is getting the game alpha complete. This means creating all the systems and features, including cinematic events. I'm not willing to show many of those because of spoilers. In addition, creating the final parts of the framework has required some rework of previous areas, and I have not yet made them look pretty again, so the game now looks uglier than it did before.

That said, there is also a lot of previous work that I haven't shown off that still looks good. Enemies for example.



Ok, this guy isn't really an enemy per-se. He's more like... prey.
Gekos are harmless to the player. I do intend to make them eat insects, but haven't done that part yet. The main things they do are just crawl around on the wall, and die if the player attacks them.
Prey animals are important in Dragon's Wake because they represent a risk free way for the player to regain health. Think of them as healing pickups.




This guy might look a little intimidating, but he's actually another prey animal. He take a bit more damage to kill though, and has a special bonus. In Dragon's Wake the player has three stats; Health, Stamina, and Fire. These stats can be improved as you progress through the game by eating particular creatures. Our yellow friend pictured above will increase the player's stamina when he is eaten (Stamina is the stat that determines how long the player can fly for).





And finally, an actual enemy. These snakes are the least dangerous threat that you will encounter in the game. They don't move intelligently, they are stuck on the ground and can't jump so you can just fly over them, and even if they get close enough to attack you can still dodge or kill them first.



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Kytin
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« Reply #24 on: February 04, 2015, 11:57:58 PM »

Alright, lets continue working through all the enemy types in the game so far.






What platformer would be complete without some evil bats?
These guys are one of the first creature types I made. Looking at them now, I realise how far I have come. In other words, I'm not really happy with how they look and move right now. I do intend to revamp them, but that a little bit low on the priority list right now.
These bats will fly in a specific are, paying no attention to the the player. Their movement is intentionally erratic to make them a bit harder to deal with. They are easy enough to avoid, and only slightly harder to kill. At the start of the game they are a hazard, but as the player becomes more skilled they should be able to use them to regain health by eating them.






Is that... a burning deer? Why yes it is! Some of the creatures of Dragon's Wake are familiar animals, but others are strange things dredged from the depth of my imagination.
I mentioned in my last post that certain creatures in the game will increase particular stats when eaten by the player. The Fire Deer here is, unsurprisingly, the one that will increase the player's ability to breathe fire.
The Fire Deer moves quickly and can be hard to dodge. Not only that, but they are immune to the player's breath attack. They are pretty fragile though, so they don't quite qualify as a boss fight.





And our final entry for today is... a really big mouse.
These guys are another prey animal. They are even easier to hunt than gekos. Not much else to say about them, although I should actually make them try to avoid the player... guess I'll put that on the list.
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Kytin
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« Reply #25 on: February 13, 2015, 05:15:27 PM »

Alright, time to add some more enemy types to the list.




Today I bring to you this wall crawling... thing. I call it a Spiderilla, even though it doesn't actually have much in common with spiders or gorillas.
This guy is relatively tough, and will pull stones out of the wall and throw them at the player. If you do manage to kill and eat him however, you will be rewarded with an increase to your maximum Health.




And here we have the final and most iconic prey animal of the game - the rabbit. These guys will already attempt to keep their distance from the player, so they make good hunting practice for a new player. They are generally the first creature in the game that the player kills and eats, and have spurred some memorable comments.

Player: "Oh hey, rabbits! Can you eat them?"
*Nom*
Player: "Oh my God, you can eat them! Why would you do that?!"
Me: "Why would I do that? You're the one playing the game!"





And finally we have the rabbit's larger, more dangerous cousin, the Jackalope! Jackalopes are still herbivores, so they won't attack you and will in fact attempt to avoid you, but those horns mean that pouncing on them from above is a bad idea.
Jackalopes are large, meaty creatures, which in game terms means that they take longer to eat and give more health. The best way to hunt them is to use your breath attack if you have it.
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« Reply #26 on: February 13, 2015, 09:15:53 PM »

The art looks strange to me, all the characters have black outlines but none of the backgrounds do which doesn't mesh very well. Overall the tiles look pretty bland.
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Kytin
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« Reply #27 on: February 14, 2015, 04:48:01 PM »

Thanks for the feedback!
I'm using the black outlines to help signify to the players which things are important/interactible, as well as to make them stand out. I think it helps players look at a scene and instantly be able to identify which things they need to pay the most attention to.

The terrain is pretty bland though. I did briefly mention earlier in the devlog that I intend to improve the appearance of the levels, but I have not yet done much work there.
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Kytin
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« Reply #28 on: February 16, 2015, 09:07:42 PM »

So, Let's talk about some more of those enemies.



So here we have another kind of bat. This one however has a much more aggressive AI. Regular bats will simply fly around in their assigned area, but these guys will actually swoop down to attack you. They don't do a lot of damage but their unpredictable movement makes them hard to both dodge and hit.




I call this guy the Spiter. (Spitter + Spider = Spiter. Also, has the word 'Spite' in it.) It's a pretty straightforward creature. It just walk back and forth, and if the player gets too close, he spits a corrosive glob of green goo. His range and aim aren't very good at the moment, but I may go back and refine them when it comes time to properly balance the combat.



This Jellyfish/balloon creature I call a Loonsting. I'm sure you can figure out why. This thing just passively  floats around the area, but it's large enough  that manoeuvring around it can be awkward. To kill it you have to hit the bulbous 'head' which can be tricky if you have to come at one from below. The tendrils, naturally, will injure you if you touch them.
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« Reply #29 on: February 20, 2015, 04:01:10 PM »

So today we have something special. These are the enemy types I am most excited about. Today, we get a look at the most cunning enemies in Dragon's Wake. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the Goblins!





This guy is the most basic goblin character. His behaviour is a bit more complex than the beasts that the play has been fighting up until now. He will run towards the player until a medium distance away, occasionally throwing spears along the way. Once he gets close enough he stops trying to get any closer, and just throws spears. If the player gets too close he will simply stab you with the spear over an over until you back off (or he dies :D).

You only occasionally find these guys by themselves. More often they will be grouped with other spearmen, or mixed in with some other goblin characters.





These guys are the 'rogues' of goblin society. They are fast and agile and have a preference for throwing knives. They can spam out quite a lot of projectiles, so the player will have to stay mobile when dealing with them. Unlike the spear wielding goblins these guys have no melee attack and they are relatively fragile, so if you can get in close they die quickly. They are well aware of this however and will attempt to maintain a minimum distance from the player.





And finally we have the warriors of the goblin clan. They are kind of slow, and while they can throw axes at the player, they don't so very often. Their melee attack however has a fair bit of punch to it, and they have enough health that they can actually stand their ground for awhile when fighting close, even against a dragon. I prefer to wear them down from range and then get in close to finish.


Goblins in general are a lot more aggressive than any of the previous enemies. Unlike most of the wildlife, these guys will actively seek the player out and hunt him down. However each goblin can be eaten to recover two points of health, so the best way to deal with their aggressive attacks is by being even more aggressive back at them. If you kill a group of them quickly, even if you take some hits along the way you will generally break even or even gain health.

Narratively, the goblins show up near the midpoint of the story. They will cause a distinct difficulty spike as the stakes in the story start to mount higher, the intent being to increase tension in the player. Before the goblins, levels are designed to allow the player to explore at their own pace. Once they arrive however, the player is forced to narrow their focus to deal with the immediate threat. The start of the game focuses on letting the player experience the joy of exploration and discovery. At the midpoint it shifts to focus on a different sort of joy - the thrill of destruction and the triumph of overcoming difficult challenges. 
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Kytin
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« Reply #30 on: March 04, 2015, 03:28:42 PM »

Dragon's Wake has been Greenlit!

Thank you to everyone that voted for Dragon's Wake! As most of you are probably aware, this is a very big deal for any indie developer.
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Kytin
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« Reply #31 on: March 29, 2015, 07:50:41 PM »

Hey guys.

So today I decided that it might be worth explaining some of my thoughts about story design in games.
I really care about storytelling in games. In fact I sometimes say that I play games for their stories, which has gotten me a few puzzled looks at times. After all, there are movies and novels and other mediums that are purely about telling stories. They can focus on telling a great story without having to have gameplay too. If it is great stories that I am after, surely I should be looking there?

The thing is, I believe that as a storytelling medium, games have more potential than anything that has gone before. I have already experienced some of that potential, so I know it is real. Cave Story is a game that had a huge effect on me, and has been a massive inspiration to my own work on Dragon's Wake. Shadow of the Colossus is another that showed the potential games have as a storytelling medium. The stories that these games told simply wouldn't have worked the same way in some other medium.

Part of it is immersion. You (or at least, I) get more immersed in a game than in a movie. With a movie, even when you get completely immersed and forget that it is a movie, you are still watching other characters. When you become completely immersed in a game you are one of the characters, and so your reactions are naturally stronger.

However, games also have access to inducing a wider array of emotions in their audience than passive mediums. When was the last time a movie made you feel regret? (Other than the times you felt regret for having started watching in the first place?  Tongue) How about pride? Or even feeling smug? (I often play Priest on Hearthstone. I often feel smug. Tongue)

And yet so little of that potential tends to be realized in the majority of games.
I'm not talking about the ones that aren't trying to tell a story. Angry Birds and Tetris are fine the way they are. I'm talking about the ones that try and fail, or at least don't succeed as well as they could have.



Ludonarrative Dissonance is a term that has been spreading through the developer community. It refers to the situation when the story told by the cutscenes and dialogue is contradicted by the story being told by the gameplay. An example would be a situation where the player is progressing through the levels easily, blasting apart monsters left and right without taking a scratch, and yet when they reach a certain door they cannot go through it because "There are too many monsters that way."

But other people have explained Ludonarrative Dissonance better and in more detail. Most developers have heard of it and know it is something we should avoid. I want to touch on something less explored: the interaction between player immersion, player choice and storytelling.


Let's start by looking at one of the most important elements a game can have: the Player Character. The Player Character tends to exist on a sliding scale between two camps. On one hand they can be a well defined character within the world of the game with their own history, preferences, and voice. On the other they can be a blank slate that (in theory) the player projects themselves onto. Let's call these two states Defined and Undefined.

So we have a player character that can be Defined, Undefined, or more likely somewhere in between. Then we have the plot: the series of events that occur during the game. The plot can, and usually does, consist of a single possible series of events. Alternately, it can give the player more agency and allow them to change at least some of the events. Let's call this Linear vs Freeform.

So how do these different aspects of the story interact? What happens when we have a Linear plot and a Defined player character? It tends to work pretty well actually. Any time the player might want to take a course of action that would disrupt the linear plot, the player character can tell the player (sometimes literally) "I'm not going to do that."
There is of course a downside to this. Because the player cannot control the plot or even the choices of the player character they become basically a spectator to the story rather than a participant in it. It is the easiest combination to do well, but also the least powerful.


What about a Freeform plot with a Defined player character?
In a story, choices are what really define a character. The more Defined the player character is, the fewer places the player can insert their own preferences and choose what they want. The player is given control over some choices and not others, but the game is designed in such a way that the choices they do have can actually make a difference.
Telltale's The Walking Dead series would be an example of this style done well. The player character is well Defined with their own history, voice and personality, but the player is given control over choices where the character could easily go either way.
The main downside comes from the Freeform plot. A game with a large number of choices can quickly branch out into more possibilities than the designers can handle. It also becomes difficult to build a consistent theme when the protagonist can make choices in any direction. Telltale cheats by having the different 'paths' recombine together as the story progresses, but this means that no matter what the player chooses things will turn out the same. Playing the game again reveals the illusion, thereby undermining the idea that your choices matter.
But the first time you play is amazing. Smiley


What happens when you have an Undefined character in a Linear plot? Done well you get something like the Half-Life series. Having a Linear plot makes it easier to set up and enact dramatic events and twists since you don't have to account for multiple possibilities, and having an Undefined player character allows the player to feel like they themselves are a part of that story. Unfortunately, there can be side effects.
In order to make a Linear plot work with a (largely) Undefined player character, the player must never be in a situation where they have a choice that is outside what little definition their character has. For example, Gordon Freeman is never actually given the opportunity to choose to work with the Combine. The level design prevents him from trying to run away and find somewhere quite to live the rest of his life in peace. He doesn't even choose to deepen his relationship with Alex Vance - it is just assumed to happen as she monologues at you.
This mostly works as long as the choices made by the player character are the same as or close to what the player would choose if there was a choice. It does however mean that the player character cannot make any remarkable choices. In order to appeal to a wide audience the protagonist cannot be particularly outstanding their decisions. Despite being central to everything the character of the protagonist is - must be - utterly bland.


Finally, what about a Undefined player character in a Freeform plot? At first glance it seems like a good match. The player is able to express themselves freely through their choices and have those choices mean something. The examples that come to my mind are open world RPGs, particularly the Fallout games.
Of course, those of us that have played such games realize that there are problems inherent in even this style. Freedom of choice again makes it hard to build a consistent theme to the story, and limiting the complexity of the branching paths without cheating or restricting player freedom too much is again difficult.
The designer may also struggle not to make the player character seem bland. Yes, the player can express themselves through their actions, but a character tends not to be very interesting unless we see the motivations for those actions as well. The player may understand their own motivations just fine, but none of the other characters in the game will - especially when the motivation only makes sense outside of the game (e.g. 'I wanted to see the bad ending').
There is an additional challenge that limits our ability to tell a compelling story in this format as well. Often characters in a story will have what is called a character arc. This is where a character in a story will change due to the events in the story. When the character of the protagonist is solely defined by the character of the player however, you would need to bring about a change in the personality of the player in order to have a character arc. That said, if a game did succeed at this, it would be amazing.


 
Hmm. I seem to have forgotten where I was going with this. I guess I'm just trying to point out some of the problems I see with storytelling in games today so that hopefully people can better fix or work around them.

For myself, I have enjoyed games in all of the above styles, although I tend towards games that are Linear (or mostly so) with mostly Undefined player characters. Dragon's Wake is being done in that format, although it may be a bit more Freeform than some.
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Kytin
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« Reply #32 on: April 28, 2015, 04:28:12 PM »

It's well past time I posted about the last group of enemies in Dragon's Wake, so here we go. Towards the end of the game the player will begin encountering the Undead.




The Skeleton Archer doesn't seem particularly threatening. It will walk around and shoot arrows at the player in a fairly predictable manner. The problem is that unlike living enemies, the Undead are inedible. This means that is much harder for the player to recover any heath lost. Fighting the Undead is a battle of attrition. Where the Goblins are best fought with raw aggression, the Undead need to dealt with cautiously.







These unhappy souls exist in a state halfway between a ghost and an animated skeleton. They don't have any ranged attacks, but the can float around and attack you even when in the air. In addition they have one final trick. Once you have dealt enough damage to their ancient bones to cause their spirits to lose their grip, they will still have enough energy to launch one final attack against you.





In life these guys were mighty warriors, and they retain much of that strength. They move and attack slowly, but hit the ground hard enough to cause debri to shake loose from the ceiling and can cause sections of masonry to collapse, which can cause new pathways to be opened or closed to the player. While their main attack is fairly easy to avoid, if you DO get hit it can break you. Additionally, these guys are very durable.
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Kytin
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« Reply #33 on: May 24, 2015, 04:36:31 PM »

Last Saturday I demoed Dragon's Wake at Gamma.Con here in Canberra. Gamma.Con is pretty small even compared to PAX Aus, but that's a relative term since there were about 2000 people attending apparently.

I recently adjusted some of the tutorial stuff and it was interesting to see how people handled it. As always, some people just instinctively understood how to fly while others struggled practically the whole way through. The strugglers seem to have their problems more concentrated around one particular aspect though, so if I can improve how the game guides you to understand that aspect I might be able to make things much easier for them.

The game has a lot of appeal for younger kids it seems. Moreso than I was expecting. Some of them would play it, beat the demo (which was rather long) then come back with their friends to show it to them. That was encouraging to see.

I did traumatize one kid. He was the youngest player to try the game and when he reached the part where (SPOILER!) the Knight kills the player character's mother and then attempts to do the same to the player (/SPOILER!), the poor guy started crying.

...I'm not sure if I should be proud or ashamed of that.
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