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October 21, 2019, 08:19:41 AM

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JobLeonard
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« Reply #920 on: February 26, 2019, 06:40:37 AM »

Challenge mode

Development keeps ticking along, and I have a new feature to show!

Challenge levels: these are short, standalone levels, with an objective, and a medal ranking system depending how well you did. These are inspired by a similar challenge mode in New Super Mario Bros U which I enjoyed.

The levels are dressed up as a computer simulation that you can access via computer terminals the enemy has built on the island. Each challenge has a predetermined powerup to use (e.g. one level might start with the bubble powerup), and these powerups don't carry over into the rest of the game. So there are no consequences to trying and failing a challenge - no progress in the "real world" side of the game is lost.

The purpose of adding challenge mode is:
  • More gameplay variety: It might be nice to take a break from the game's normal levels to try these quick, optional challenges.
  • Higher (optional) difficulty: Since these levels are optional, and are quick to retry with no consequences for failure, I can make the later ones pretty much as hard as I like. So it should help to broaden the range of difficulty in the game.
  • Give meaning to the chip collectables: Each level in the game has three computer chips to find, but I previously didn't have any use for these. Now they are used to unlock additional levels in the challenge simulation.
  • More content, for cheap: These levels will pad the game out a bit more, but don't take much effort for me to make. Since they all have the virtual simulation idea, I can get away without having unique backgrounds or making them look fancy. It feels appropriate for them to be visually quite simple.

Enough talking, it's gif time!

Opening the challenge menu and beginning a level:



(There are just two levels in the list right now, but this will be added to later.)

Selecting a level shows a description of the goal and a little preview image.

Finishing a level:



Whether failing or succeeding at the challenge, this same UI is shown, to give the player another opportunity to look over the goal and the medal targets. It's super quick to retry - the player can skip the medal animations here if they don't care about seeing them and just want to play again.

I've added new UI at the top of the screen during gameplay, including a level timer for timer-based challenges, and a medal progress display in the middle, which shows the medal you're currently on track to achieve.

Another level:



(Note the yellow tiles in this level are placeholder art.)

At the end, because all bronze medals and all silver medals have been achieved, two more computer chips are earned. So like with normal levels, each computer terminal also has three chips to achieve. I thought it was best to give the player more computer chips for finishing a set of challenges, rather than adding a new 'currency' to indicate how many challenge terminals have been beaten.
that's a great idea! they should be a fun change of pace... although, completing the last simulation needs to get you something besides more chips, or you'll have nothing to use them on!!
I really like the idea of the challenges, looks fun Smiley

EDIT: Pagination.

So basically taking a page from Super Mario World's design where finishing the "main" game is doable, finishing all the star road or equivalent levels is much, much harder. Sounds like a good idea!
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Ishi
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« Reply #921 on: March 01, 2019, 12:14:20 PM »

that's a great idea! they should be a fun change of pace... although, completing the last simulation needs to get you something besides more chips, or you'll have nothing to use them on!!

Yeah I will need to think of what happens for that final set of challenges. I do want to avoid awarding chips for it if they would be useless.

So basically taking a page from Super Mario World's design where finishing the "main" game is doable, finishing all the star road or equivalent levels is much, much harder. Sounds like a good idea!

Yep that's the idea, the challenges would form part of that optional more difficulty gameplay, as well as the general challenge of collecting the chips, plus any secret exits / secret levels.
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #922 on: March 01, 2019, 01:14:11 PM »

Speaking of secrets: I really hate it when games that have this type of challenge mode hide story elements behind challenge levels. Any story secrets should be found by exploration, IMO, not a completionist mindset.

I would suggest to make those secrets rewarding, but in the type of extra outfits to show off you mastered a level, or bonus artwork, stuff like that.
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« Reply #923 on: March 02, 2019, 01:28:20 AM »

Speaking of secrets: I really hate it when games that have this type of challenge mode hide story elements behind challenge levels. Any story secrets should be found by exploration, IMO, not a completionist mindset.

I would suggest to make those secrets rewarding, but in the type of extra outfits to show off you mastered a level, or bonus artwork, stuff like that.

That's a good thing to bear in mind. Out of interest do you have examples of games that did lock things behind challenge-type levels in this way?
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« Reply #924 on: March 02, 2019, 01:34:05 AM »

This week was spent polishing some final aspects of the Challenge mode UI / game flow.

High scores



Levels that you have earned a gold medal on now show a high score, and improving the high score plays a little animation. There's no benefit to improving the score, but it's nice to have a record of it I think.

World map anims

The computer terminal on the world map now has animations when it is unlocked:



Additionally, once enough chips have been found to unlock the next challenge level, the terminal's screen glows:



Couse list

Finally I added challenge terminals to the Course List display. I don't remember whether I actually showed off this screen yet - it's a simple overview of which levels you've beaten and which chips you've found in each one.

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JobLeonard
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« Reply #925 on: March 02, 2019, 08:34:47 AM »

That's a good thing to bear in mind. Out of interest do you have examples of games that did lock things behind challenge-type levels in this way?
Basically almost any "true ending is only visible if you 100% this game" already qualifies.

Other than that.. nothing concrete immediately comes to mind. Maybe Owlboy, but that is a bit unusual in that the hidden extra can only be unlocked after completing the game, but the story element itself is meta enough to kind of justify it.
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Ishi
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« Reply #926 on: March 09, 2019, 09:54:01 AM »

Hi all,

a while ago I mentioned that I'd try to document the creation process for a single level in detail. I'm beginning this now, and will continue to post about the level over time as I make progress or changes to it.

Poison Pipeway - Part 1

General concept

The general idea for this level was "huge pipe or pipe network, processing/transporting poisoned water".

I recently worked on the waterfalls mechanic so I wanted to include that in the level too.

Bare-bones level

I set up a basic skeleton of a level, which I'm able to load into ingame using a debug menu.

Background

The first thing I worked on was a first pass at the level's background. I wanted to do pseudo-3D effect to represent the inside of a curved pipe.



The background here is two layers:
  • The purple-blue gradient which covers the whole screen. There are no horizontal details in it i.e. it can scroll sideways without looking any different.
  • Vertical dark lines spaced evenly. These are distorted, bent outwards at the top and bottom, as they get further from the centre of the screen. This gives the perspective effect of a curved pipe.

There's no actual scaling effect going on here - the gradient background layer is not distorted at all, and the vertical lines are only distorted by shifting individual rows of pixels sideways. So the effect feels kind of lo-fi which fits the feel of the rest of the game's art style. If I had added a fully textured actually 3D pipe interior then it would look out of place.

First experiments

I started adding some little tests for the kind of features I might put in the level. Moving platforms are a good fit as they can dip in and out of the poison water at the bottom,  and can also move through waterfalls to break their flow.



A new feature here is adding visuals for the paths that the platforms move along. I felt like seeing the path was important to helping the player quickly interpret how the platforms will move.

More experiments

Here I simply added more layout experiments onto the end of the level.

(Apologies for the low framerate, trying to keep the gif to a reasonable size)





For this large wheel of five moving platforms, I felt like the right-hand side would not get much use, so would be a good opportunity for an optional secret. So tried adding a chip that's collectable with some wall-jumping.

The visible paths have also been neatened up a bit here, the outlines are more consistent in size and the shape of the paths is less janky looking.

Visual polish

It was screenshot saturday time on twitter, which I'm trying to take part in more consistently. It acted as a strong incentive to polish the level's visuals up a little bit. I'm not against showing work-in-progress stuff, but on twitter it seems that something that looks more polished will catch way more people's attention.



I added yellow to moving platforms to help them stand out more. The handrail indicates that they're platforms for walking on. Note that the small platforms at the top of the screen towards the end of the gif don't have handrails as they're not intended to be walked on.

There are various other tweaks - parallax background layers for the surface of the poison liquid, colour tweaks to the visible paths and background. Additionally the poison waterfall now uses a purple particle effect when the flow is broken, rather than a blue particle effect.

In terms of actual layout changes, the only difference here is that I made the spinning circle of shells larger, and reversed the direction of it. I was having trouble consistently collecting all of the shells while recording the gif, which is a good sign that the layout of them was a little too awkward.

That's the current state of the level - more to come in the future!
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« Reply #927 on: March 09, 2019, 08:21:16 PM »

It's looking great, dude.

Your solution for the BG pipe is wonderfully low-fi, good call on that one.

I'm loving the sludge waterfalls too, the segmented nature of them just feels good. Maybe some Chemical Zone-style bendy pipes would be cool for the area...
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« Reply #928 on: March 10, 2019, 10:47:00 AM »

Level design looks so cool. Can I ask one question? How much time its usually takes when you create one platforming level? Do you plan it in paper and polish it later? I design everything in my mind. If the design feels too hard or  too easy I will just adjust it. I would like too see your perspective.
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« Reply #929 on: March 12, 2019, 10:27:45 AM »

Maybe some Chemical Zone-style bendy pipes would be cool for the area...

I do want to add more pipes! But they can only bend at right angles, I opted out of supporting slopes early in the project  Smiley

Level design looks so cool. Can I ask one question? How much time its usually takes when you create one platforming level? Do you plan it in paper and polish it later? I design everything in my mind. If the design feels too hard or  too easy I will just adjust it. I would like too see your perspective.

I don't tend to design on paper, I work best by just designing straight in the editor. I have a vague idea of how the level will be but I get more work done if I don't overanalyse it and just place things in the editor, and worry about adjusting it later. Sounds kind of similar to your approach really.

As for how long it takes, the cop-out answer is that a level design is never truly complete! Really level design is something I chip away at and adjust over a long period so I don't measure how long any individual level takes.
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beetleking22
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« Reply #930 on: March 13, 2019, 12:47:55 AM »

Maybe some Chemical Zone-style bendy pipes would be cool for the area...

I do want to add more pipes! But they can only bend at right angles, I opted out of supporting slopes early in the project  Smiley

Level design looks so cool. Can I ask one question? How much time its usually takes when you create one platforming level? Do you plan it in paper and polish it later? I design everything in my mind. If the design feels too hard or  too easy I will just adjust it. I would like too see your perspective.

I don't tend to design on paper, I work best by just designing straight in the editor. I have a vague idea of how the level will be but I get more work done if I don't overanalyse it and just place things in the editor, and worry about adjusting it later. Sounds kind of similar to your approach really.

As for how long it takes, the cop-out answer is that a level design is never truly complete! Really level design is something I chip away at and adjust over a long period so I don't measure how long any individual level takes.

Thank you for answer. When I get my vision done way too fast with my rooms.. I always feel dissatisfaction feeling.. Like I have this stupid mentality that good  level should take more longer to make... not less.. even If I feel like the room is done by 100%.

But for real. Leilani Island is next gen mario platform for me. I really hate that Nintendo has been milking the new super mario bros franchise for over decade now..I have waited new and fresh take of mario type platforming for many years.  This game looks so fresh with shit tons of creativity and The physic engine is absolutely brilliant. Everything looks just so perfect and polished. Its just inspiring that you pulled all of this by yourself.  Big kudos.
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« Reply #931 on: March 13, 2019, 03:31:16 AM »

This entire devlog is so inspiring, I love reading about your thought and design process as you carefully detail each step. I'm eagerly looking forward to the game, but I believe the devlog itself might be of longer term use for me as a designer. Thanks for being so thorough!
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« Reply #932 on: March 16, 2019, 10:45:34 AM »

Thank you for answer. When I get my vision done way too fast with my rooms.. I always feel dissatisfaction feeling.. Like I have this stupid mentality that good  level should take more longer to make... not less.. even If I feel like the room is done by 100%.

If you're building rooms fast maybe that just means your tools are really good! Coffee In this situation maybe it's best to step away from that room for a day or two and you might see more improvements to make next time you look at it.

Thanks to you and Pehesse for the nice words Smiley

Poison Pipeway - Part 2

I did more work on this level. Starting at the beginning with the intro area!

Intro



I love designing this kind of single-screen intro area, it's very satisfying to pack lots of little bits into a small space. The main thing here is so set up the level theme - showing the pipe outlet that's poisoning the river (that will also be visible on the world map).

The lime is intended for players to kick/roll into the water and watch it disintegrate. A little hint that the poison waterfalls are deadly and shouldn't be touched.

A visual tweak I made here is to set all the plants on the screen to be dead. Normally, levels are filled with lively green plants, except in the vicinity of the end-of-level machine which is surrounded by dead plants. Here it seemed appropriate to show the poison effects by killing off the plants.

I also began work on a metal re-skin for the tube system which can be seen here. Leilani and other objects can roll through these tubes which normally have a Leilani-friendly wooden theme. I always intended on making a metal version to use in levels where wooden tubes aren't appropriate. The tubes consist of a lot of sprites - for now I've only changed the ones I needed in order to make a pretty ScreenshotSaturday post on twitter! So throughout the rest of the level I'm still using the fully-featured wooden variety for now.



I also like hiding little secrets in this kind of area even if it's just a single buried shell... maybe there are more secrets to find? (I wouldn't want to spoil everything even in a detailed devlog).

More level section experiments

I'm currently enjoying the lack of pressure of just experimenting with small sections of level without worrying about how they fit together - so I continued doing that.

Crossover platforms

I tried out overlaying the paths of 3 sets of moving platforms. First an easy version:



Each circular path has two platforms, the middle one rotating in the opposite direction.

I quite like that the player doesn't need to use the middle set of platforms - they're just useful for blocking the waterfall.

Next, a medium version:



The difference here is having four waterfalls to dodge instead of just one. I think this layout is deceptively hectic - it looks very intense, and makes you feel good for managing to scrape through it! However, the way the platforms are laid out seems to always present a sensible opportunity for jumping to the next platform. This is because whenever one of the lower platforms is underneath a waterfall, there's always another platform above it, blocking the water.

I think this layout could work very well towards the end of the level as a way to raise the feeling of tension, without actually raising difficulty too high and causing frustrating deaths.

Finally a hard version of this layout:



The main change here that makes this *way* harder, despite there being only three waterfalls to dodge, is increasing the number of platforms on each circle from two to three. It gives the player way more to keep track of, and also removes the property of platforms always having another platform above them blocking the waterfall flow.

This is probably too hard to put in the normal course of the level - possibly could work in an optional area, or as part of a challenge level.

For some reason I felt the need to increase the difficulty a little further by putting a chip in an awkward spot. It is pretty satisfying to pick it up and get through the whole section without taking damage.

Slow bit



For this section I was just placing stuff in the editor and seeing what happened. It's kinda nice that there isn't too much chance of death since there are a lot of platforms.

It could have potential to be fun if I add some rainbow drops to collect.

Through tube

This section involves going through a tube to avoid a waterfall.



It's a bit awkward - rolling into the tube from the platform doesn't really work. I did a second pass where I combined it with another set of platforms beforehand, and put the tube entrance on a solid platform.



This feels a bit better. I think the first set of platforms needs to have the platforms more tightly spaced along the path - this would allow Leilani to jump up the platforms near the end and gain more height, possibly jumping to the tube's platform without needing to go onto the more dangerous set of platforms down below. (Currently the platforms at the bottom are really hard to avoid so you end up collecting the chip there pretty much by default).

End-of-level Machine

Finally, a first pass at the end-of-level area. The end of each level presents an opportunity for the player to destroy the machine by hitting the top, which gives a bigger fanfare (and eventually I intend on it giving some kind of actual reward).

(Note this area is pretty lacking in theming, please consider the visuals to be placeholder).



The top route for this area feels a little too fiddly and dangerous. I don't feel like the player is getting to show off their mastery of these moving platforms, which is the feeling they should have at the end of the level.

Also, the bottom route is plain boring - just roll forwards and hit the bottom of the tower.

So I'll be redesigning this area to better meet these goals, but I wanted to show the current state of it in the devlog for the sake of showing the level design process.

Thanks for reading!
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« Reply #933 on: March 18, 2019, 02:35:09 AM »

Quote
The lime is intended for players to kick/roll into the water and watch it disintegrate. A little hint that the poison waterfalls are deadly and shouldn't be touched.
I would expect it to slowly sink with a smoke particle going up. It somehow doesn't feel that the disintegrating cause is the water at the moment.
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #934 on: March 18, 2019, 06:56:02 AM »

I think EJlol has a good point - from the GIF I think I would take away that fruit can't take the water, but not necessarily that it hurts Leilani. If it would dissolve like suggested it would make the water feel a lot more toxic
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« Reply #935 on: March 20, 2019, 01:16:09 PM »

Thanks for the feedback - I did a first pass on a longer effect just using the particle system.



I'll see how this works out and maybe tweak it later down the line once I'm making more use of poison throughout different levels.
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #936 on: March 21, 2019, 05:07:36 AM »

Now that looks like I don't want to come near! Hand Thumbs Up Left
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« Reply #937 on: March 21, 2019, 08:51:20 AM »

Thanks for the feedback - I did a first pass on a longer effect just using the particle system.



I'll see how this works out and maybe tweak it later down the line once I'm making more use of poison throughout different levels.

Looks amazing, but, imo, the fruit should slowly shrink in size (like it's dissolving), as currently it still looks like it's just sinking.  Droop
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« Reply #938 on: March 21, 2019, 10:31:45 PM »

Wow good suggestion. I agree with Hoj. Slowly shrinking, and violently vibrating  Hand Shake Left Angry Hand Shake Right
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« Reply #939 on: March 22, 2019, 01:51:10 AM »

I know this is a cliche, but have you thought about having a kinda skull-smoke thing to indicate its poisonous demise? Kinda' like the weird explosions in the original X-COM or the explosions in Gods?
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