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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsLonely Star - action / corn / RPG
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Author Topic: Lonely Star - action / corn / RPG  (Read 8671 times)
Peace Soft
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« on: March 16, 2016, 02:09:58 PM »



Lonely Star is a 2D action-RPG for Windows and Macintosh. Players join a band of misfits and spiritual seekers in Arizona on a quest to prepare for the end of the world in the fateful year 2012 AD.

Trailer




This game is actually pretty far along already, but I've been bad about showing it to people, so now that there's a demo I want to get some eyes on it and some feedback. Topher Pirkl from Yellow Chord Audio, who's working on new sound effects for the game, recommended this forum, and already I've been impressed by the scope and variety of games being developed here.

The core of this game is action-RPG combat similar to Zelda or Dark Souls, but maybe a little faster and more free-form-- you can freely combine movement and attacks, melee and ranged combat, stealth and confrontation. Weapons clash and deflect each other and footwork is important. Different weapons and magic can give you radically different abilities in combat, but they're all based on a consistent and hopefully pretty easy-to-grasp set of core rules. Here's a lil instructional trailer for the combat, it's only WASD + two buttons but there's a lot you can do:





There are survival and farming elements too, but it's not a "survival game"-- those things are how you restore your HP, build magic and weapons, etc. kind of similar to Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater. The "crafting" system is really a shop interface where you buy weapons/items with HP and magic with corn. So the economy of energy runs through other game objects (plants, animals, etc) through the UI and into the player's abilities and gear in a highly transparent way that also ties into the themes of the story.

Download the demo for Windows at
http://www.lonelystargame.com or
http://www.indiedb.com/games/lonely-star/
(Mac version coming soon)

I'm calling this a demo but it's a pretty good chunk of the game: 1 of a projected 6-8 main quests, plus 8 of 24 weapons, and about half the overworld and a quarter of the side quests. Hope you enjoy it and I'd love to hear what you think.

As for this dev log, I'll be updating it every week or every time there's a major new development in the game's systems. Stay tuned for a post about the cover system later tonight (it's scope creep night)
« Last Edit: April 03, 2016, 01:21:18 PM by Peace Soft » Logged
Peace Soft
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« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2016, 10:37:03 PM »

Cover



I'd never thought of a 2D, top-view game needing a cover system, but as I've expanded on the game's stealth and vision mechanics, a cover-system-shaped hole in the gameplay started to take shape.

The player can crouch to hide in foliage, move silently, and deliver sweep attacks. There's a defined class of objects that are not too high to shoot over, but still act as obstacles. That's really all it took:



This looks wrong, doesn't it? It looks like the monsters' arrows are somehow weaving through the barrels to hit you.

These should provide cover to a crouching player character. The 2D forced perspective that Lonely Star uses makes it difficult sometimes to keep the way objects collide feeling smooth, consistent, and visually understandable. But here, it helped a lot; my first idea was some complicated thing involving the Pythagorean theorem and sprite heights and cosines. But it turns out that it feels and looks right if, when an enemy's projectile passes over a low obstacle, it should be unable to hit a crouching player for the next (x) frames-- (x) being the number of frames it's traveled already.



There's a random factor involved in how far an enemy's shot "overshoots" you, and incorporating that into the cover script led to a cool effect where the shots will sometimes pass over the cover and the player and sometimes hit the cover instead.



The GIF is a little choppy here-- when the player is standing, they fire an arrow back over the barrels at the enemy.

But not every low obstacle should stop every projectile. Should a chain-link fence stop an arrow? A bullet? So I spent a long hour assigning properties to every low obstacle, deciding what each one should protect the player from. One cool thing about this is that it can superimpose cover properties on obstacles that are made of tiles, not objects (don't worry about the distinction-- if I'm doing my job right, you'll never notice)



So how exploitable is this? How much does it change the game?

Not a huge amount, not yet, which I'm happy for. The enemy AI is already smart enough to outflank a player who stays hunkered down, so there's a risk involved in popping in and out of cover to get them to waste ammo, and that risk multiplies with the number of shooters. Arrows are a limited resource for the player, and the sling can't be used from a crouching position. And the strongest argument in favor of this is that the player can already use obstacles as cover simply by moving around; this gives them a way to do the same thing with more precision, while adding 0 complexity to the controls.

More testing is in order, for sure, but right now it looks like a situational option that I can grant the player that's useful without upsetting the game balance.
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Peace Soft
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« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2016, 06:37:21 PM »

Shook Ones
 
If you follow indie games you've either watched Jan Willem's Nijman's talk about screen shake or you're about to. A lot of easily-overlooked craft goes into representing physical sensations in audiovisual media; easily-overlooked because, if it works, a casual observer will consider themselves to have felt the sensation instead of seen it.



The gif frame rate is eating a lot of it in this particular example, but you can see an earthquake effect each time the mouth in the ground vomits fireballs. You can see the same thing a lot more clearly in the trailer.

As I started to implement this, though, I realized that "screen shake" isn't just one thing. Look at what's happening here:



There's a sensation, all right, but it's the wrong one, and a weird disconnect is the result. Shoulder-checking a man in armor shouldn't feel like the earth is quaking under your feet. It took a lot of experimentation and re-working the way my previously rather haphazard camera code interacts with the way Game Maker handles and enforces screen boundaries, but I'm closing in on something that feels right on.



Like I'm doing with the camera, I'm refining some other systems so they're more consistent and broadly applicable. Instead of the straight-line hitscan they used to be, bullets are now projectiles just like any other, rendered in that cool Goldeneye tracer style that you know from video games, and can interact with cover without needing any special exceptions:

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mosseljongen
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« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2016, 04:27:36 AM »

This game really sets itself apart! The music, somewhat odd visuals make this game stand out, really looking forward to more
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Peace Soft
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« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2016, 02:05:49 PM »

Hey thanks! New build of the demo coming Friday, with the changes I've described in this devlog implemented.
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Peace Soft
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« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2016, 01:20:41 PM »

New build of the demo up featuring all these weapons



Devlogging about difficulty in a minute here too
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« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2016, 06:46:24 AM »

Very interesting.  Reminds me a bit of Ralph Bakshi's Wizards.
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b∀ kkusa
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« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2016, 07:40:30 AM »

i want to believe that the main character is Jagi from Hokuto no Ken
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Peace Soft
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« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2016, 02:45:10 PM »

That devlog about difficulty never got finished because I ended up realizing I needed to adjust the difficulty quite a bit.

There is a lot of emergent complexity in the Lonely Star combat (emergent, like, a bunch of different factors come together to produce situations I didn't specifically design), but players were getting their asses kicked trying to deal with it all in a new and unfamiliar game. That complexity is also one of the game's main strengths though, and if it's parceled out too slowly players are likely to get bored.

There's also a fair amount of randomness and openness in the game, like random encounters in some areas, and a nonlinear progression from one overworld area to another. So designing a difficulty curve with the tightness of something like Dark Souls wasn't possible.

So what I ended up doing is taking a page from the God Hand / MGS5 handbook and having the difficulty respond to player performance. It increases a little bit with each monster you defeat and jumps down a notch each time you die in combat. Difficulty means two things here:

1) The kind of random encounters you face. Lowest is a single enemy with very limited abilities, higher gets into stronger enemies, groups of weak enemies, groups of stronger enemies, and finally things like special hidden bosses and tough encounters that will quickly become unmanageable if you don't act fast.

2) The enemies' aggression and level of self-defense. Enemies are pretty passive at low difficulty; a little higher, and they attack but don't defend; higher still and they start doing things like parrying, dodging, or even exploiting their shields or armor for advantageous hit-trades.

I like this better than difficulty settings because it keeps pushing novice players to get better, but hopefully doesn't bar their way too much. But I don't know, maybe advanced players will find it condescending? Maybe it adjusts too fast? Too slowly? After 1000 hours of testing the damn thing I'm not a good judge of this.

So won't you play the updated demo and tell me?

Also: the wizard can now tell time
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wizardfu
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« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2016, 08:12:24 PM »

Hey just gotta say this game looks awesome. The trailer and the music in the trailer are siiiiiicck!!
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« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2016, 12:54:58 PM »


I think the rate at which the difficulty seems to increase (due to combat success) is appropriate.  It didn't seem to linger in "trivially easy" territory for more than a couple extremely brief fights, but it also didn't come off as overeager to start throwing very difficult encounters at me just because I'd won a couple medium-ish ones.  I think this is pretty well tuned.

How much the difficulty should decrease when the player dies is definitely going to be the tougher part of the balancing act.  I appreciate that it doesn't seem to drop immediately to the easiest tier as a result of a single death, because that means I get to have another go while at roughly the same difficulty instead of the game assuming I need things to be instantaneously easier because I made a single stupid mistake or decision that ended up being fatal.

On the other hand, occasions where I obstinately made a string of stupid decisions sometimes landed me in situations where, at my skill level, I'd have no chance in any but the easiest of encounters, which translated to me getting demolished repeatedly until I'd finally failed enough for the decreasing difficulty to make room for my poor planning and laziness.  These occasions were entirely my own fault for failing to use all the tools given to me, and personally I'd discourage trying too hard to account for this type of situation, lest you end up making the game braindead easy.

I'm about halfway through my second playthrough of the demo and this time around I haven't gotten myself into one of those types of situations once, so I'd chalk it up as part of the learning curve.  People playing the game intelligently probably won't get themselves into that type of situation ever.
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Peace Soft
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« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2016, 01:42:04 PM »



Hey, thank you for making this effort! I'm really impressed by the depth of your attention to it.

One thing I might try is making the difficulty drop faster if you don't survive a single fight between deaths, because yeah you could get stuck with <20 HP and no consumables or shields if you're doing badly. I like the idea of the player getting a little bit behind the 8 ball after multiple deaths; I found that exhilarating in Demon's Souls. On the other hand, it probably made a lot of people quit Demon's Souls.

Couple questions if you have a minute:

Did the game adequately communicate to you that running from fights was always an option? One of the tutorial crystals says that, but i wanna make sure players can grasp that just by experimenting.

Did you make it to the ending, with the scene on the roof of the Home building / results screen / credits? A lot of people have assumed so far that the demo just doesn't resolve at the end, so i added a couple visual and dialogue cues that there's something to do once you get back to Home.

Hey just gotta say this game looks awesome. The trailer and the music in the trailer are siiiiiicck!!

Very interesting.  Reminds me a bit of Ralph Bakshi's Wizards.

And thanks guys! I like the style of Wizards and his Lord of the Rings a lot. The Peace robot's design probably influenced the player character's look now that I think about it.
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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2016, 02:17:59 PM »

One thing I might try is making the difficulty drop faster if you don't survive a single fight between deaths, because yeah you could get stuck with <20 HP and no consumables or shields if you're doing badly. I like the idea of the player getting a little bit behind the 8 ball after multiple deaths; I found that exhilarating in Demon's Souls. On the other hand, it probably made a lot of people quit Demon's Souls.

You're on the right track with that solution, I'd say.

I thought it was fairly well communicated that any and all "dirty" or "cowardly" tactics are part of the player's arsenal, including sneaking, hiding, and fleeing.  One of the knowledge crystals had an opinion regarding "fair fights" that was particularly potent and got the message across.  If memory serves, I was running from certain encounters before I had left the first or second area that featured actual enemies, at least on my first playthrough.

And yes, I did make it to the actual (demo) ending, credit roll, and stats screen.
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Peace Soft
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« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2016, 12:18:25 PM »


You're on the right track with that solution, I'd say.

I thought it was fairly well communicated that any and all "dirty" or "cowardly" tactics are part of the player's arsenal, including sneaking, hiding, and fleeing.  One of the knowledge crystals had an opinion regarding "fair fights" that was particularly potent and got the message across.  If memory serves, I was running from certain encounters before I had left the first or second area that featured actual enemies, at least on my first playthrough.

And yes, I did make it to the actual (demo) ending, credit roll, and stats screen.

Cool, thank you! I think that particular crystal might be overselling how dangerous the fights are, because they're definitely winnable, it's just that that's the hardest / most rewarding approach. But I'm glad the message got across.
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Peace Soft
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« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2016, 01:21:22 PM »

BTW here's the full versions of the songs from the trailer:

"Illusion of Peace" -



"Greed" -

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Peace Soft
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« Reply #15 on: June 09, 2016, 02:33:44 PM »

Little mini-update as I adjust the melee controls. The difference in button press length between a parry and an attack is now uniform across all melee weapons; it's kind of a compromise still, because pressing LMB too hard can give you a slower attack, but I figure that's better than it giving you an instantly-dropped parry, which happened too much in the old setup. If you have an opinion on the difference, let me know!

http://www.mediafire.com/download/0hmx28o8ve284ux/Lonely_Star_Level_2_Demo_1.071.exe

I added a little "Level" meter to chart your position on the adaptive difficulty scale. I also took some of the enemy behaviors (footwork in melee) out of the difficulty scale and tied them to enemy type instead, which turns out to have been a really good idea, because now you can recognize and respond to particularly badass enemies out of a group instead of everyone being roughly the same. Dash attacks are better and the Witch type enemies have a couple new tricks I think you'll like.

And finally, I'm learning that I need to post very succinctly here, because some interaction between the forums weird scripting and this crappy microsoft browser eats the first couple drafts of every single update I try to write.

In conclusion,

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Jasmine
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« Reply #16 on: June 09, 2016, 06:26:55 PM »

Dude, I get straight up Tri-gun vibes from Illusion of Peace". This is a very interesting soundtrack! I'm really looking forward to more.
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Peace Soft
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« Reply #17 on: June 12, 2016, 07:07:20 PM »

Thanks! I've seen a couple episodes of Trigun and I liked that it seemed to have influences besides just other animes that were popular before it came out. I was reading an interview the other day with Yoshio Kimura, the creator of Chulip, and he said:

"I love the real world. The actual, real world...  I realized there exists a strange feeling of surprise in both the real and the unreal."

That's cool to me. I've tried to put a lot of "real world" in Lonely Star. If you've downloaded the demo, look for a way to fight the monster that's haunting the convenience store clerk; i don't want to spoil it completely, but when you finish talking to it, it does something that changes something that opens up a space for you to do something you couldn't before. That little storyline is a pretty good summary of what I want to do here-- use the real and the unreal to illuminate each other.
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Artifice Machine
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« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2016, 11:02:22 AM »

So far everything about this is amazing.

Outstanding visuals, cool character designs, good music, interesting combat...

Well done!
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« Reply #19 on: June 16, 2016, 08:19:19 PM »

I think the unique art style is definitely the strong suit at play. The setting reminds me of acid westerns a bit (like Jodorowsky films) in the same way that LISA: The Painful RPG does. Can't wait to see more Smiley
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