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September 19, 2020, 02:53:06 PM

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Ishi
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« Reply #1220 on: August 21, 2020, 04:15:12 PM »

Indie Dev Hour - more glowing sprites

Indie Dev Hour is turning into a good weekly routine for me. I again spent it working on making parts of sprites glow; please see the twitter thread for pics!

Poison Pipeway - Post-Feedback Improvements

This continues the series of posts looking in-depth at the development of the Poison Pipeway level.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Self-Playthrough Improvements

As a quick reminder of the level for anyone who's interested, here's the same playthrough video that I previously posted.





I've received feedback and gameplay logs (which are replays of button inputs) from a couple of people who are playtesting the game for me. After spending some time watching through the gameplay I wrote a list of small changes to make to the level. The changes are mostly geared towards making the level a little fairer and easier so it's more suitable for an early-mid-game level. (This level is near the end of world 2 of 5 planned worlds.) There's still plenty of chance to die here, but it smooths off a couple of rough edges.

First powerup


Old

This section is found a short way into the level and provides the first powerup. After watching the same players go through this setup multiple times it came across kind of boring - the only way to get the powerup is to go underneath, jump up the right side and hit the block. Smashing the blocks to unblock the waterfall has no purpose.


New

The new version is tweaked very slightly - the waterfall is now blocked on the top level instead. This provides a new, fast method of getting the powerup - to go through the middle layer of blocks and jump the gap, which hits the blocks above and unblocks the waterfall. It's not really dangerous, but it feels like it is, and it's nice to have a way to get through this area quickly.

Early platforms


Old

This set of platforms near the start of the level was proving a little bit fiddly.


New

The big rotating ring of platforms has had its platforms made a little wider which gives more space for avoiding the poison waterfall (and also blocks the water for longer, so it's easier in multiple ways). The small ring of platforms immediately after now has 3 platforms instead of 2 to provide more surface to land on, as it can be tricky to jump from moving platform to moving platform. The final ring of platforms remains the same as before with only 2 platforms.

Waterfall-blocking platforms


Old

A few places throughout the level feature this setup where small platforms block a waterfall to turn the waterfall on/off.


New

I realised that a simple tweak could make these setups flow a little better - I reversed the direction of movement of the platforms. This creates a more natural left-to-right timing of the two parts of the waterfall, so as Leilani jumps through the gap she's less likely to be caught by the waterfall beginning to come back down.


New

Here's another example where the left-to-right flow just feels nicer than before.

Awkward jump


Old

This jump was overly tricky - too long to comfortably do a running jump, but doing a rolling jump gives Leilani a lot of speed and she usually goes into the waterfall. This section is near the end of the first half of the level where I want to provide mild challenge but would generally prefer for the player to safely reach the checkpoint.


New

The simple fix is to extend the starting platform a little to shorten the gap.

Post-checkpoint Powerup


Old

After the mid-level checkpoint, this set of blocks provides another powerup. The powerup is in the block on the end. I was aware when originally designing this area that this puts the powerup at risk of falling out of reach, but this was what I wanted. The powerup feels more rewarding to get if there's a chance of missing it, and it gives the player a small thing to master if they replay this section after dying - remembering where the powerup is and how best to grab it.

However, as shown in the gif above, if you roll into the blocks from the left, the powerup emerges from the block to the right and goes out of reach almost immediately. The player is being smart by using the roll ability to quickly hit all the blocks, so it's harsh that the powerup becomes harder to catch by doing so.


New

The solution is easy, just move the powerup to the third block, rather than the end block. Because the block has no empty space to the right, the powerup will emerge upwards, giving more time to grab it before it floats over into the poison. I also added the wall on the left so a quick series of wall-jumps provides a very quick way to grab the powerup and continue to the rest of the level.


New

As shown here, the powerup's new location doesn't move it out of danger of being lost.

Crushing Hazard


Old

In this section we see the player bravely searching for secrets and getting crushed against the ceiling instead. It's not an unreasonable thing to do; the way the platform continues to be visible behind the ceiling could suggest the route to a secret. I didn't really want to change the visuals of it though as it's consistent with other parts of the level, where platforms that go through the ceiling remain visible behind the wire mesh.

I experimented with actually adding a secret area here! It didn't feel right to me in the flow of the level - this level is more of a challenge/gauntlet style where I don't want the player to be overly distracted by side areas. The level's background also wasn't designed for a camera that moves vertically to show secret areas, so I gave up on this avenue.


New

The solution I eventually chose was to just throw some spikes on the ceiling to discourage players from going near it. Simple but hopefully effective. Evil

Ending


Old

The ending of the level is another area where I'd like to add a tiny bit of challenge but ideally don't want to player to actually die.


New

I reduced the difficulty very slightly by making the first waterfall only one tile wide. This also centres the waterfall within that ring of platforms which feels better; I don't think I'd realised that it was offset to the right before.

This change also makes the bottom route completely safe for players who don't aim for hitting the top of the tower, since the waterfalls never reach ground level. This could be interpreted as boring, but I'm counting on a player who's just scraped through the second half of the level finding it relieving instead!

This level remains open to further tweaks in the future, but I'm happy that these changes smooth out a few of the more awkward corners of the level.
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #1221 on: August 22, 2020, 02:07:25 AM »

The left-to-right movement of the platforms feels much more natural, especially since you're also moving left-to-right as a player (it might be fun to have an unlockable "mirror mode" where all the levels have to be played right-to-left Tongue)

Did you also ask how your players felt about the level? Having the right difficulty level is a tricky thing to navigate, and maybe losing once in a while was part of the fun after all
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #1222 on: August 22, 2020, 03:55:36 AM »

Great seeing this playthrough, looks and sounds gorgeous and seems to play really well. Feels like a Nintendo game in pretty much every aspect! Cheesy

(BTW, in case you haven't noticed, the platform is in front of the spikes but behind the wire mesh, I would expect it to be behind the spikes too?)
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Ishi
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« Reply #1223 on: August 22, 2020, 07:12:04 AM »

Did you also ask how your players felt about the level? Having the right difficulty level is a tricky thing to navigate, and maybe losing once in a while was part of the fun after all

One person did say they felt the level was too tough. It is important not to totally flip flop and sanitise the entire level, it's definitely a difficult thing to get right! The changes I've made only smooth things out where I felt they were unfair - there's lots of challenge still left in the level, so hopefully I am finding that balance.

I think the occasional difficulty spike gives a game some character so I don't want everything to be perfect. Imagine Sonic 2 without that rising water section of Chemical Plant zone!

(BTW, in case you haven't noticed, the platform is in front of the spikes but behind the wire mesh, I would expect it to be behind the spikes too?)

I had noticed, but now someone's mentioned it I feel the need to fix it! The layering of things is a little awkward in places. Spikes are always drawn behind the scenery tiles, and the platform is also made of scenery tiles, so that's why the spikes go behind it. I could do a special case for the spikes here and put them on a different layer. I'll add it to the list and see if it happens Smiley
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« Reply #1224 on: August 22, 2020, 07:38:20 AM »

Just came here to see new nitty-gritty-cutie animated gif-s. Kiss Love your perseverance, one of the longest devlog-s around here, with ever-consistent progress. Can't wait for Steam release, have it wishlisted.
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« Reply #1225 on: August 27, 2020, 06:07:37 AM »

For the first power up, why would the player even want to unblock the waterfall? It looks pretty easy to get the power up while leaving the waterfall blocked. Did any of your play testers just not hit those two middle blocks?
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Ishi
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« Reply #1226 on: August 29, 2020, 12:04:18 PM »

For the first power up, why would the player even want to unblock the waterfall? It looks pretty easy to get the power up while leaving the waterfall blocked. Did any of your play testers just not hit those two middle blocks?

They don't have to unblock the waterfall at all. The first time through, curious players can experiment with it if they want, they will probably expect the waterfall to be unblocked when the block is destroyed and can have the satisfaction of being correct. Alternatively players not paying attention to the waterfall can break the blocks and get poison in the face Evil It's early enough in the level that there's very little to lose if it happens to kill someone. On repeat plays at least now there's the fast path to the powerup through the middle which encourages the waterfall to be unblocked.

But at the end of the day it's just a bit of filler before the main challenges of the level.
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Ishi
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« Reply #1227 on: August 29, 2020, 12:25:33 PM »

This week I did a variety of additions and polish, continuing to address playtest feedback.

IndieDevHour - New challenge level

I was able to add a whole new challenge level during Indie Dev Hour. It's intended to be the first challenge level in the game - it requires very little skills other than holding the roll button and jumping at the right time, with shells to indicate the correct path. The hope is that this is a friendly introduction to challenge mode, and an easy challenge to earn the gold medal on in no more than a few attempts.



It was satisfying to get a whole challenge level made in one hour. It may need future tweaks but I think it's fairly solid.

Speedrun Challenge Ending

Speedrun-type challenges such as this new one end when the player reaches a checkpoint flag. Previously (see the gif above) the timer didn't end for a while after reaching the checkpoint, which would feel unfair if you lost the gold medal because of this. The timer now stops ticking as soon as the checkpoint is touched.



Challenge Level Difficulty Icons

Each challenge level has one of four icons that vaguely represents its difficulty. For example, the blue, yellow, and orange icons here:


Old

I added some visual detail to these to make them more colour-blind friendly, and it also helps to generally indicate the range of difficulty levels. (There's also a red/3-bar difficulty icon that's not shown here.)


New

Chip Display When Replaying Levels

Each main level has three computer chips to find. When you replay a level, the chips you previously collected are shown in the world as grey rather than green. This was reflected in the HUD in the top right of the screen, where the slots for the chips were grey if you had previously found them.


Old

As well as not being colour-blind friendly, this is just generally unclear. The visual difference is slim so it's not surprisingly that it was hard to understand.

I've changed it so that the HUD now simply shows the chip slots fully filled if you've previously collected it, so it's more obvious which ones have already been found before. The chip in the game world is still grey, and now has also had the white glow around it removed to make it more obvious that it's already been collected before.


New

Animation for Losing Chips

Previously when dying, there was some UI animation showing the shells that were lost, but the lost chips simply disappeared.


Old

The chips now have an animation too so it's clearer what has happened.


New

World Map Checkpoint Chips Display

When you exit a level part way through, your checkpoint is saved and you can return there. Previously there was no way of seeing which chips you had collected at that checkpoint. I've now added this little bubble above the checkpoint icon at the bottom of the screen to show the chip status.


New

Combined Arrow Keys Icon

Following on from the previous work I did to make input icons smarter, if movement on keyboard is bound to the four arrow keys then the icon will now be condensed into a single icon:


Old


New

I find this little icon quite satisfying to look at for some reason Smiley

World Map View Mode

Finally, the world map now has a view mode! I loved this option in games when I was a kid, especially if you could browse around the world map at the start of a game and anticipate all the different locations that are coming up. There's not much to see on the Leilani world map yet - it's just a placeholder layout with little scenery that's easy to modify as I continue to add levels. Some day I'll get around to making it all look nice again.

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« Reply #1228 on: August 29, 2020, 01:05:58 PM »

> I added some visual detail to these to make them more colour-blind friendly

 Kiss Kiss Kiss Kiss Kiss
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Ishi
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« Reply #1229 on: August 29, 2020, 01:30:06 PM »

> I added some visual detail to these to make them more colour-blind friendly

 Kiss Kiss Kiss Kiss Kiss

Grin It's an ongoing task to recognise previous non-colour-blind-friendly design choices I made and fix them!
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« Reply #1230 on: August 29, 2020, 01:45:53 PM »

Waw, what an impressive amount of sedign improvement to make the experience better!
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Ishi
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« Reply #1231 on: September 13, 2020, 10:41:39 AM »

Just a quick update today so the devlog isn't too quiet! I've had a busy couple of weeks so didn't get around to writing a post last week.

I don't have too much to show - I've been hard at work with continued polish on the game, a variety of tweaks and bug fixes (and more bug fixes for the new bugs introduced by the other bug fixes Smiley ). I've finished my new build of the game which I'll be giving to some friends for playtesting who are new to the game.

My plan now is to make a big push at adding content - I want to make a decent effort to avoid feature creep and just bulk out the game a bit! This will include new boss fights and a good number of new levels.

For now here are some gifs that I posted on twitter - I once again used Indie Dev Hour to focus on making a new challenge level, which I spent some time finishing off later in the week.

Wall Jump Challenge Level

The idea was to make a survival level involving constant wall-jumping. Here's the basic setup of the level. I tried having the walls on either side move at different speeds so the player can use them to move up and down the level.



And here I tried adding some basic obstacles to dodge. It was really hard even with a simple, repeating pattern of mines!



Thanks to someone's suggestion I settled on focusing it on collecting shells rather than pure survival. I also made the walls move at the same speeds as it makes the whole thing a bit more predictable and easier. The level now has a hand-placed pattern of shells to collect and mines to dodge.

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JobLeonard
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« Reply #1232 on: September 13, 2020, 12:14:34 PM »

Those look like some hard-core challenges. Also good practice for in-game I think, I wonder if speedrunners would use them to get better at their timings?
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vdapps
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« Reply #1233 on: September 14, 2020, 12:48:02 PM »

Hopefully, I'll not break my Xbox controller when I'll play it. WTF
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Ishi
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« Reply #1234 on: September 14, 2020, 03:46:58 PM »

Also good practice for in-game I think

That's my hope Smiley The challenge levels are a nice place to push the player to master these moves a bit more, with quick restarts and minimal penalties for failure. Later on when the player encounters harder situations in normal levels or secret areas they may be better prepared!

It's also nice for me to be able to create set ups like the one here, that make for an interesting challenge but would be really hard to fit into the flow of a real level. And hopefully this provides variety for the player too.
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« Reply #1235 on: September 15, 2020, 01:33:00 AM »

Great showcase of what seems to be very tight controls too!
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« Reply #1236 on: September 15, 2020, 10:31:32 PM »

Holy crap. Your game is oozing juicyness. Very nice work, controls look tight.
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