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Author Topic: Suspicious Minds  (Read 24516 times)
sodap
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« on: May 06, 2015, 12:15:14 AM »


Suspicious Minds is a single-screen 2D shooter in which the player can't move, only aim and shoot, and he needs to identify and kill the enemies while restraining from murdering any innocents. It's a psychological thriller about suspicion and tension.


History
In June 2014, Mario GarcĂ­a approached me after seeing some of my game art in an online gaming website. That led to several collaborations and we eventually joined forces for Familiar Game Jam 3, a spanish game jam that took place in Seville but was open to online entries which allowed us to participate. After making the 48h HTML5 prototype for the jam, I was very happy with the game's premise and despite having the idea of developing it further, the project was put aside for a while until I started developing a PC version with Gamemaker. Eventually I convinced Mario to get involved in the development to release it under the Zacapumba brand, which is my games studio of recent creation.

Features
-Outstanding levels of tension.
-Challenging difficulty curve.
-Crisp low-resolution pixel art graphics with great personality.
-Atmospheric music with adaptive system and immersive sound effects with powerful gunshots to make the player really feel the power of their pistol.
-Quick flow with no tutorials. Start the game, play and replay.

Current status (November 11th, 2015)
We have been making some progress the last couple of months. We have ported the old gamemaker prototype to Unity and have been building on that. Our plan is releasing a public pre-alpha demo by the end of 2015, probably our last demo before release.

Release plans
We are aiming for a release around March 2016. The game will be available on itch.io and we'll do our best to get into Steam. We'll use the pre-alpha demo to show to publishers and see if we can get any funding, mainly so we are able to travel to events and showing the game, which is also *the dream* for us.

Download the prototype! (Windows only)

Last update: Aug 16th, 2015

« Last Edit: November 17, 2015, 03:20:44 PM by sodap » Logged

sodap
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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2015, 12:14:36 PM »

Today I changed a few things:

1) added heuristics for determining which enemy the player wants to shoot in case of enemy overlaps (shooter>phone>search>idle>walking). Also, pause button is priority #1, but maybe shooters shold have higher priority... I don't know. I might need to avoid shooters stopping right behind the pause button, or just put the interface outside of the game view...

2) some balancing: game tries to avoid situations where it's impossible to win (2+ shooters drawing their gun at the same time). This is not too strict and it *might* still happen. Also, hitboxes have more breadth now, the game is not intended to be about good aiming but about tension/suspicion/focus

3) using gamemaker's 3d audio system now
4) added a character list in the options menu so you can see the characters you have unlocked. The cake is a lie though, as you can't really play as a different character and the prizes are just really shitty placeholders.

« Last Edit: July 07, 2015, 12:33:40 PM by sodap » Logged

sodap
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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2015, 12:50:25 PM »

Not a lot of work in the last days, but I'm starting to implement some new behaviors for the enemies, just to add some variety. Does anyone have any suggestions for new behaviors? something you would like to see in the game?

I'm probably going to remove the rewards system and replace that with achievements or something.

Oh, and also, thanks to the guy from Alpha Beta Gamer for making a post about my game Smiley
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inkwellmachine
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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2015, 08:57:06 PM »

I gave what is presumably the demo a play, and it's a nice premise. The art (even though it's temporary) is also quite nice. A couple of things I thought I'd mention, though:

1.) You said you've implemented a system so that multiple enemies don't draw weapons on you at the same time. Didn't really pan out that way for me, though. Perhaps declare a variable that determines how long the enemies should wait if another enemy is poised to fire, then divide that value by the player's score or something so that the gap becomes shorter and shorter as the game progresses (without making the game unfair).

2.) The game is a little strange aesthetically. You're just standing in this crowd of people with a gun out and no one seems to mind. I'd definitely recommend adding a second dimension to the game, where you're also trying to hide your weapon from by-standers. Maybe right click to reveal your weapon, left click to shoot?

3.) This ties into the previous suggestion: the quick-draw mechanic doesn't really gel well with the high-tension atmosphere you're trying to build. It makes this game feel more skill-centered than paranoia-inducing. So, perhaps make the people approaching the player a little less conspicuous. Remove that big explanation point and give them several different possible, exaggerated actions that the player has to learn to recognize. Maybe make different types of enemies--some that, if you let them get to close to your character, shank you with a knife for instance.

4.) To raise the stakes a little, you should probably give the player some more serious penalties for shooting the wrong people/getting caught with their gun out. Perhaps involve police, or people that will call the police. And when the police are on the board, enemies that would normally try to attack you won't do so. Something like that.

Hope you were able to take something useful out of that mess of suggestions and criticisms. I wouldn't be commenting if I didn't think it was a cool idea with a lot of potential. Keep at it, man. I know the lack of attention can be kind of discouraging, but that's just part of the process.

As your game gets better, so will your follower base.
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sodap
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« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2015, 01:15:18 AM »

Thank you for your commentary, its really insightful. I think you are pretty much right in everything you said, I don't about the specific solutions but the problems you mention are indeed there and require attention.

Right now the code is that of a fast prototype, it's getting out of hand at this point. That makes it really difficult to solve the thing you metion in point 1, which I have noticed and tried to at least tune down a little bit to make it more playable in this state of the prototype. I'll have to implement a serious game controller that takes care of the game balancing and progression. Your solution is actually pretty close to what I have in game currently.

The drawing/sheathing the pistol mechanic is one I tried in past iterations and I didn't know if I liked it. The control was to click on the player character to draw or sheath your gun, but I used that for reloading and it didn't really gel with the other stuff. There's a explanation for the context of the game though, the character is pretty much out of his mind. I have to re-evaluate this, now you mentioned it.

About point 3: you are right, actually. In the current version I'm getting rid of the warning speech bubbles. Man, you are following the same train of thought as I have, the knife guys is something I had thought about too, I guess great minds think alike, its funny how you observe the same problems and come to the very same solutions. I don't know if that's the ideal solution, though. Same with point 4, Im experimenting with a police type of character currently.

The feedback is highly appreciated, I will take it to heart and see what I can do. I'm at that point of rethinking lots of things about the mechanics of the game, to make it more based in suspicion than action, and giving some variety. I don't want a tremendous amount of depth, the game needs to be very simple, but I really need some variety in there. Thanks a lot, I really appreciate this.
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inkwellmachine
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« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2015, 04:16:15 PM »

Thank you for being so receptive and reasonable with your response to my criticism. I know it's difficult for someone to come along and suggest that your baby needs fixing--especially some stranger with a man-baby face for an avatar. But good form. I wish more people behaved like this.
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sodap
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« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2015, 01:22:47 AM »

well, my goal is to make my game as good as possible. I won't take feedback to literally, but I must at least keep it in mind and fix the underlying causes of any problems. Only two things are important: the vision of the game and what the players think about the game. I believe that if I respect those 2 things and make everything revolve around them, the game will be good and it will be liked.

Currently I'm re writing a lot of the code to make it easier to change/add enemy behaviors and balance the game. It had gotten out of hand already, because I'm a very bad programmer.
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sodap
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« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2015, 09:07:59 AM »

After putting the development of suspicious minds on hold for a few weeks, I'm back with some updates on the status of the project!

First of all, I've been busy doing the graphics for an upcoming match3 game called Laser Germs Alien Smash which has been released recently for Android, but only in Spain (soft launch).

Second, and more relevant to Suspicious Minds, the original programmer is back on the project, and we are now using Unity instead of Game Maker. Also, I'm going to change the visuals of the game, I'm still deciding if it's better to go the pixel route or have hand painted characters animated with spine.

So here's a preview of the pixelart style I'd be going for:
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sodap
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« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2015, 12:25:48 PM »

So finally we are working on suspicious minds, which is probably just a working title (or just the name for the prototype / jam version) and I decided let's make some concept art or promo art or just a bit of eye candy for anyone interested. It has almost nothing to do with the final low-res pixel art look of the game but it was fun and it captures the mood.




By the way we have a name and a twitter account now for the studio, so please follow!!
http://twitter.com/zacapumba
and also a website
http://www.zacapumba.com
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Bluebutton
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« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2015, 01:02:17 PM »

I really like the concept, how are you finding Gamemaker vs Unity?
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sodap
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« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2015, 10:04:05 AM »

To be honest we are doing the preproduction so we haven't done too much with Unity yet... The programmer wanted to do it with Unity to learn and become more profficient with it for future projects which is a good call, probably. This will be a small game, so Gamemaker was more suitable, but it's also a good way to get more experience with the engine.

Today some advances were made, I got to write a semi-decent GDD to help us port the prototype and start production. Tomorrow I'm making yet more production documents, task list and things like that. Boring but much needed stuff!
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sodap
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« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2015, 09:09:55 AM »

I've been doing some animation work



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sodap
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« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2015, 07:30:37 AM »

the missing sides from the walk cycle for my NPC's

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jctwood
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« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2015, 08:23:08 AM »

Loving the new pixel art pass!
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sodap
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« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2015, 09:09:36 AM »

thanks! I keep doing the animations, the first stage is replacing everything we had in the prototype, then I'll be doing new things. This time, the NPC looking inside his jacket in a suspicious way.

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jctwood
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« Reply #15 on: July 16, 2015, 11:11:30 AM »

That is a nice little visual cue! Keep it up!
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sodap
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« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2015, 07:55:21 AM »

We are really slow right now. The programmer has a lot of contract work these days, and me too, and that's slowing us down almost to a halt. I don't even know if I'm going to have to code myself again or find a new collaborator to join me as the development half of the studio. Then again I really like working with Mario (the programmer on Suspicious Minds) but he's swamped with work right now. It's hard to pay the bills by making games and work on another game on the side


I've been thinking about the game mechanics and right now maybe the main problem is not having strong reasons not to shot down innocents. So I'm toying with the idea of dividing the game on small 99 second stages at the end of which you get to a score screen that summarizes how well you did and how many innocents you killed, then reward you with ammo depending on your performance. And you have to use that ammo to get to the next stage.

That leads to another fundamental change to the gameplay, which is having even less time to shoot the enemies so the player is forced to uncover the enemies before they draw their gun. That means I'll have to add little hints on their behaviour so the player can try and tell them apart.
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sodap
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« Reply #17 on: August 14, 2015, 08:29:42 AM »

Another art update with a new mockup of the game

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sodap
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« Reply #18 on: August 16, 2015, 05:37:18 AM »

While I decide what to do with the code, I've been reskinning the prototype with the new graphics. I've encountered a problem with GameMaker though, I don't know how to avoid antialias on my pixel font. Also I have to investigate how to make good 'glitch' FX for some texts in the game.



Later, or maybe tomorrow, I'll upload the new version of the prototype.
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sodap
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« Reply #19 on: August 17, 2015, 11:09:29 AM »

I'm now testing a slightly different gameplay which works much better.

Enemies are now much faster to shoot, so the player has to kill them ASAP, before they draw their gun if possible. They can be differentiated by a subtle head gesture that only the bad guys do. The score system has changed, and the player has to last for 59 seconds until the current level ends. Then the games shows a results screen with the amount of enemies killed and also the amount of innocents murdered. Depending on this result, player is rewarded with more or less bullets, which are necessary to shot enemies and surviving.

The gameplay is much better in my opinion, it has improved a lot. Soon I will upload a test version.

I have also fixed the blurry texts, they were marked as "high quality" in game maker font settings, which caused the undesired anti aliasing.
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