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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsSmintheus [Beta]
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neutonm
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« on: April 17, 2016, 09:56:04 am »

Smintheus is a 2D puzzle game mixed with different elements from other genres such as sandbox and . Solve puzzles by building gadgets and buildings or fight your way out with simple tools. Your quest will be intervened by the quirky characters and other kinds of dangers.



Story Overview

You'll be playing as Gerald the Mouse, an young and ambitious creature who is, in fact, a prominent engineer. Gerald had his casual life in peace and quiet until one day – his neighbor, Lanky the Cat, got really mad at Gerald for unknown reason and decided to get rid of the mouse once and for all. Why the cat is mad? No one knows for sure and, frankly, Gerald is not very keen on asking the cat about it personally... so, he ran away from the trouble. Unfortunately, that's not enough for a cat. Instead, Lanky went out to chase and catch that pesky mouse.

Gameplay Overview

The whole game is divided into biomes, each one has own set of levels. The main goal of level is fairly simple - reach the end of the level. Throughout it you will be gathering resources and tools that will aid you in your quest. As levels are filled with riddles every riddle requires different approach. The foremost type of puzzles is the classical one - gather items and place them in right places, push the boxes and pull the levers where needed.

On top of classical comes "brand" type: you can build various buildings and gadgets that may act both as puzzle and offensive/defensive solution. In one of the levels you may want to build few walls so that water will flow into the desired location or build a launchpad in order to throw box over the obstacle. Tools mainly serve as a requirement for a building but they can be used in other situations, e.g: with wrench you can hit offenders, destroy some structures or even rotate plumbing pipes. Sometimes these offenders could be solution to the problematic puzzle you're facing now - use your enemies as they say.

While doing riddles you will encounter hostile creatures that will try to intervene. Each creature is loaded with its own AI and abilities. One of them is Lanky the Cat, the main antagonist that will appear frequently throughout the game. Like any cat he has 9 lives and can beat the crap out of anyone within a second. No doubt he is strongest of all kind and so unique that few gadgets available for building are dedicated to fight against him. Alas, cat is not immortal - a clever set of traps could wipe him out and sometimes it is the goal of the level. The rest creatures won't destroy you that easily as you have hit points and they ain't that tough to be counted as lethal threat. But they may cause a lot of pain in the... well, you know where.


Each biome focuses on specific gameplay area. The starting biome will be definitely the easiest one and relaxing one which will introduce the most features without causing hard times. One of the locations, the Mines, will focus on monster dodging and will be completely "catless". The sewers will start to show some challenge and focus on puzzles that are connected with water...

On your way you will also encounter friendly characters that will represent some portion of the storyline. In most cases you will receive help from them... in exchange for help for them. And... there are lot of quirky and humorous moments in those levels. Alongside of interesting moments, you may find some cultural references, easter eggs and other stuff that some may consider worth finding.

Also, completing biome will grant you permanent upgrades. Sort of small parody on RPG level up feature.


Using built gadget to jump over the wall


Shooting with pistol on TNT crate

Greenlight

The game was on greelight, but recently (27.05.2016) it got greenlit!!!!
Stay tuned!


Items

Main collective resources are wood and metal. In order to build something you need these things packed in your inventory.

There are 4 major items player can possess: pipe wrench, saw, pistol and magical sword.

Pipe Wrench - building requirement and your main offensive weapon. Hit some roaches hard with it and turn the pipes at the same time.
Saw - another building requirement. With it you can disassemble boxes and structures, both your own and alien one.  
Pistol - Your projectile weapon. Use it to shoot enemies or use it to trigger buttons, bombs and stuff.
Magical Sword - the strangest of all as it can't be used as weapon. It serves as an ultimate key to magical riddles.


Then comes something essential: keys. There are two types of keys - the common ones and the "cat key". It takes one common key to open one door but it takes all the cat keys available in entire level to open magical door. Sometimes opening the wrong door could be game over moment.

The rest are obviously minor things. Cheese for hit point recovery, shield for additional protection, boot for speed boost... some levels may provide additional quest items such a coins that could be used at shops to buy stuff.

Difficulty

The difficulty could be drawn on graph as zig-zag that goes up, up and away. If some of players will consider this as a piece of cake then they should try the Hardcore mode. You will be given a dozen of lives from start of game - if you loose them all, you loose the whole game. Levels will be hardened with a time limit - fooling around for long might be a minus one life. And, of course, Cat will be more intuitive and will react to certain situation much more quickly than in normal mode.

The normal difficulty has no penalties. There are no time limits and no life limit. If cat sees you, you have little time to hide before cat realizes what's what. Simple as that. You fail the round - you start over the same level. With this difficulty you could have relaxed and casual experience with the game.

Controls & Options

The game is designed to be fairly simple and complex at the same time. The default controls are easy: you guide Mouse with mouse only. Of course, if that bothers you... no problem, switch to the keyboard or joystick. The original screen size is 960x640 but it can adapt to any screen. Leaving the black sides can be fixed with stretch option if that's not too much. There's a smart auto cast system if player desires to use tools million times a second and doesn't have time to pick the action from the inventory screen. Music is bothering but you don't want silence? Turn off the music and turn on ambient sounds. Is that catapult shooting too often? Put the delay between the sounds... So, the game is somewhat customizable.

Map Editor
The game comes with map editor included. Thanks to LUA integration mappers could make interesting riddles, own unique objects and even enemies. Mods can be done as well.


Technical info

Smintheus is written in C++ using libraries such as Allegro 5 and Luajit/Luabridge. Kudos goes to the magnificent Allegro library - it saved a lot of time and nerves during the programming days. Additionally, I've used cppformat and DBTweener. All this is assembled into custom flexible engine. The game is not resource hungry and could run on slower computers. Theoretically it should be easy to port it on Linux and Mac. Thanks to the easy mechanics the game could be ported into Android and ios aswell, but these platforms will be covered after game release.

Links


What's next?

Although game is playable it's still unfinished. All it needs is main menu (which is absent) and some levels to be done. Plus there are odds and ends that also require some attention. Well, there's still work to do. Right now, i will focus on levels as they are essential part of the whole game.

Moar screenshotz









« Last Edit: March 13, 2017, 10:10:26 pm by neutonm » Logged

Pancaek Tho
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« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2016, 09:07:25 pm »

I really like the art in this game, and I think it's kind of cool how you're a mouse in a (probably?) under ground world.  However the thing I like most is probably the map editor idea.  I've always been a fan of customizable games, and this one looks really good for it.  Best of luck to you!
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neutonm
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« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2016, 10:37:27 pm »

I really like the art in this game, and I think it's kind of cool how you're a mouse in a (probably?) under ground world.  However the thing I like most is probably the map editor idea.  I've always been a fan of customizable games, and this one looks really good for it.  Best of luck to you!

Hey, thanks for the feedback Cipheres  Grin

The editor might seem strange for a first glance but it's easy to use. The best thing about it i think is Lua and the privileges it owns - with it you can do some things that basically doesn't exist in default game. For example a shop that's on screenshot is totally scripted.
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Pancaek Tho
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« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2016, 11:18:42 am »

Hey, thanks for the feedback Cipheres  Grin

The editor might seem strange for a first glance but it's easy to use. The best thing about it i think is Lua and the privileges it owns - with it you can do some things that basically doesn't exist in default game. For example a shop that's on screenshot is totally scripted.

Sounds great!  I could see this being kind of like the mario maker of rouge likes.  I'll be looking forward to it!
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neutonm
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« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2016, 05:59:48 am »

Alright, i had to erase some levels as they occurred to be old and boring. Decided to fill starting levels with something juicy with some minor storyline.

Here are recent results (Tiger Nagual and his sacred totems  Wink):





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neutonm
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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2016, 03:24:21 am »

Here's the main theme used in steam trailer, now polished.
It's something magical mixed with demoscenic and chiptune flavors. Check it out!

https://soundcloud.com/neutonmouse/neuton-mouse-smintheus-theme
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neutonm
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« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2016, 06:24:42 am »

Some people claimed game to be enough slow, well, it's optional now. Players can change both game and sound speed together or separately.

General animations are sped up to +20%. I didn't want to set fixed speed because it might bring unwanted difficulty boost to some players in future.



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neutonm
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« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2016, 12:25:06 am »

Holy macaroni, the game just got greenlit!!! Yippee!!! Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer!

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neutonm
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2017, 09:25:03 am »

Damn it, forgot about the devlog.
Drowned in the deep realms of twitter.

Just in case some readers don't know - Beta Version is out!!!
Go and test it riiight here: https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=59856.0
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neutonm
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« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2017, 10:05:25 pm »

Okay, got few reports from beta test, although expected much more and from here... but at least something to work on Roll Eyes

Now, generally i will focus on details and fixing stuff. There's been a lot of things done during past weeks. Mostly programming stuff but there were visual upgrades as well.

For example: the main character received few animations tweaks plus additional animations. It's much more interesting to watch how the mouse slips over the oil spot trying not to fall rather still image just moving. Same goes with falling animation which mostly works when character trigger launchpad.

Plus, there is this "breathing" idle animation for every character now. Makes them more alive.







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« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2017, 03:04:36 am »

Recent Novelties

Overall, the game experiences "work on details and get the game polished" stage. Before i mention novelties that were included in past weeks i'd like to mention the recent one.

I had the common "main menu" done long time ago, which a player can access by pressing ESC button (or alternatively via inventory screen). Technically, menu was doing a good job but... the thing is it wasn't visually appealing at all, so, it required some rework.

Take a look at old main menu screenshot:


Floating Text

There must be millions of ways to make it better, a few times better by adding few layers of beautifully crafted assets, with all that wooshes, zips and animated ligthing effects. However, I wanted it to be minimal and simple and, of most importance, nice. Frankly speaking, such desire is based on the lack of visual arts experience, time, little bit programming experience and funding. So, as usual, I'm on my own - I can fully enjoy this, oh yeah!

Okay! We have a white text buttons. It's static and only visual change it does is turning into lime color whenever its active or hovered by a mouse. Buttons are placed on bottom-right part while the other visual indicators of objective and items are on top-left part. I think, by game design, it completely sucks at least from the point of view that a player must shift his eyes into relatively long distances. Besides, objective indicators were put there because the inventory screen had no place, so it felt like an alien in this main menu world. The mid part was blank. Originally, i wanted it be so because you can observe a part of level behind the opaque black canvas.

The text was the first candidate for changes. I recall some of old games had this floating text effect where each character was rising and falling in a smooth manner. One of my favorite indie games comes in mind - Pekka Kana 2. I like that effect and i guess you probably know where this is going.

Handcrafted game engine and allegro 5 library didn't have built-in feature for that so I had to code it. Algorithm is pretty simple. I had an array of floats. Each element had its value interpolated via sine function based on time. Every next element had additional seconds added so that characters won't follow same positions. Then, the drawing text function just iterated and rendered every character of the string onto desired location. That's it. I guess two took to find a sweet spot for velocity, timing and all that jazz to make it look almost perfect. I've made tweaks for left, center and right text drawings. Here's what i got, you can see the imaginary sine that is pushing characters up and down:


Logo

After floating text, main menu buttons were onto the middle part of the screen and had a wee fuss with rewriting main menu buttons render code. Results were pleasing. For the next step, l decided to include Smintheus title on top of buttons section. Now it looked better but something was not right. Aha, again this static text problem! Make it float as well, only this time without isolated character float, wave the whole logo.

Much better but again, something was missing and it didn't took much time in thinking to include a bloom/glow effect. I had to gauss blur logo in Photoshop and render it on top of existing logo with additive render. After first run, the glow effect received fade in/out feature to imitate effect of shining.

I've returned to text buttons and did some tweaks. Now, all buttons are floating slowly but the active ones hover rapidly. At this point my mood started to rise into higher floors.


Post-Effects

What would it be now? The general look needed some tweaks as well.

I've reduced black background opacity by 50% and switched to photoshop. Playing with stuff there brought be into idea of rendering 3 layers of various gradients on top of main menu. Two gradients gave this enigmatic feeling to it and the last gradient gave some sort of 3d feeling, making spectator see the middle part of distinguishably.

Finally!

Now, under this magic the text had little bit different look than before. I had feeling that it needs to be somehow emphasized.
Stroking it with black color could do a trick but how? As with floating text, engine and multimedia library offered no solution for that. A derpy way to do it is to draw bolder text behind the white so i spend some time searching the nets for alternative solution and there wasn't there. There was some hitns to do it but it would require heavy coding. Plus, i found topic in allegro forums about that and one guy suggested the same derpy way.

Geez, derpy way took eternity to make it look good at some point. I think made to it but it's not that 100% perfect. Still, i like it!

What else? Nothing more, it looks fantastic! Here's animation of final result!


The main menu is done now. I'm very happy of the results.
Remember old menu screenshot? Here's a new one, whatcha think?

« Last Edit: March 15, 2017, 03:10:49 am by neutonm » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2017, 12:30:44 pm »

As mentioned before, it's "work-on-details" development phase. Visual enhancements, balancing gameplay, tweaking this and that, etc.

Details: Items

Although the items look OK i wanted to emphasize items a bit. Right now we're having something like this:


Thought that adding radiating light behind it and making it slowly rotate could make it look more vivid and interesting. Apart from that, there are now particle effects that generate within the small radius in central part of the item, creating effect of "shining".


Also, there was performance optimization. All game objects are stored into single dynamic container. Since items are objects that player interacts it and nobody else it would be wise to separate all items from that single container into another for looping. This move achieved 20% performance boost. Now on larger maps with tonz of objects everything runs smoothly.


Details: Dialogs

Dialogs were buggy, not like breaker buggy but still, dirty. It could use more visual improvement. Before i touched them, dialogs didn't had "ending" animation. They used to disappear instantly. Then, there was this horrible word break thing in auto-typing feature. When dialogue was in the middle of the auto-typing process, sometimes last word in a line could disappear and teleport into a new line. Big deal? Yes, it's a big deal and it was driving me crazy. The auto-typing algorithm was simple - there were two strings, one which was rendered as dialog text and other kept a buffer role. The characters were transfered one by one from buffer to dialog string. If the text was drawn the usual way, without auto-type feature, everything was fine.

After few hours of madness victory was finally achieved. The final algorithm was still simple, but with a bells and whistles: each line has a clipping region. The width of that region expands before it reaches the final line width. Operation repeats line after line. Here we have much better text auto-typing animation plus no more line hard break!

The final GIF with fade outs, hard break and smooth auto type:


Details: Messages

There is other type of "dialog" - messages. Player can read those if he/she moves Gerald the Mouse to the sign. The back button had no animation and the only way to close it was to press that back button. Now, that button has its own hover sound and is turning green on mouse hover. Additionally, ESC or Tab (inventory key) can cancel message screen as well. Oh yeah, it fades out on cancel. Smooth and beautiful!


Details: Tiles

The water on Violet realm was not pleasing me. I had to rework on it. Here is old and new version. I think it's much more better than it used to be before... Don't you think?

Old:

New:

Details: Optimization

Some levels were lagging. That fact scared a shit out of me. On my superhero machine can't be lags! It must be that damn coder's fault who typed the with his feet. Oh wait, that's me! Gotta do a hard facepalm and start doing something about it. I've noticed i was lazy enough to omit constant references as arguments on 90% of functions so i passed objects. That was very sick of me. I ignored it before because of laziness and the thought it wasn't big deal with modern computer power. When I have rewritten all functions in a const-nazi style I've noticed huge performance boost that i never dreamed off. It appears it was big deal and i was mistaken.

Later, I've learned about a thing called "Cache coherence". I had nested loops where first loop started counts from last element of 3d array - last array element acts as "room" in level structure, but mentally rooms had first priority in my head. I've put it last and water filling feature got its performance increased by 10 times. Magic, bitch!

There were other optimization tricks going on - mostly i tried to rewrite existing code so that it used less calls and used less data to do the same thing. Overall, it's a 40% performance boost. Oh yeah!

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« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2017, 10:30:43 am »

Auto-Interaction Feature

Today, i recalled a thing that few testers requested in game - they wanted a specific feature where player clicks on interactive object and expects character to walk to that object and interact with it with single mouse click rather than going nearby with two and doing another click for interaction. One of testers was specifically angry at this feature absence. Oh boy...

Who would know? Personally, no problems with it. There wasn't even a thought in my head about that additional click could be, em, hard to perform. But i'm not here to judge or rant about. Problem it is - it needs fixing. Or, in this actual case, implementation of new feature.

This took some time due to messed up movement algorithm that takes into account million things. There was doubts after implementation like if player makes this single click on target from large distance - how would player know which side will character pick?

I think knowing which side is essential due to gameplay mechanics. Player might run onto undesired spot and we definitely don't want that. So, i made a visual indicator that represents side spot and direction. This way player is informed about his decision.

PS: Not all objects could be interacted with. Now interactive objects are highlighted in green\lime color as seen on the gif below.

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« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2017, 05:54:21 am »

More Colors

Haven’t posted for quite a while - the work was there but without posting about. Trigger plates have different searing color now - this will help player to “guess” the purpose of the plate. Additionally, mouse cursor changes its color depending on the tile type on its position thus preventing pixel hunt and saving “learning” time for new players. Little thing but helpful!

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« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2017, 03:56:35 am »

Keyboard Action Delay Fix

The last flaw of the keyboard controls has been eliminated.

Previously, If player presses action button during movement then player will get nothing in result. To invoke specific action player must stop before using any desired actions:

This mechanic lead to frustration and required necessary interference. However there was a problem due to grid based movement methods. Object in Smintheus can’t simply stop anywhere and do whatever it pleases - it must remain still on grid cell. Only then it is favorable for further manipulations.  

The only compromising solution was to make “action invoked” state at button press and process action once the movement is ended. Invoked state suppresses all possible input signals until action is processed (leaving possible problems out of the question) which is win from mechanical side of the game. Player gets what he want’s and that’s definitely a win from player’s side Smiley

Problem was quite difficult to be dealt with since action algorithms were written in spaghetti coding style. This fix made easy for players to avoid or counter direct confrontations with hostile creatures. Especially on tight and narrow areas.

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« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2017, 03:16:21 pm »



This will haunt my dreams.

For real though, those dangling legs are the best animated appendage I have ever seen. 10/10.

Gratz on getting greenlit I need to learn to read dates. The game looks really novel and interesting, I look forward to seeing more.

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« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2017, 12:01:43 am »



This will haunt my dreams.

For real though, those dangling legs are the best animated appendage I have ever seen. 10/10.

Gratz on getting greenlit I need to learn to read dates. The game looks really novel and interesting, I look forward to seeing more.

Thank you, RofB!

Well then.. stay tuned for there is more stuff to come.
Game will be finished soon - i'm sure about it because for first time ToDo list haven't grown in two months. Smiley
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« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2017, 11:45:29 am »

Last Straw for Optimization

I've gone further with game optimization. Although everything was already fast from previous tweaks. I've noticed very specific situation where optimization was required once again - on larger levels. Larger levels have approximately 300 game objects and collision check takes about 90,000 iterations per step. Brrr...

I had a thought to optimize that part long but always kept it aside. Testing game on old laptop revealed the necessity of optimization. When it comes to collision tweaks there are few algorithms to pick. I've picked Spatial Partition. Before that i wanted to use quadtrees but it is overkill for such small indie game.

Since game has no camera and levels are divided into little "Rooms" one game container turned into 9 - one per "room". I have to do some mambo-jambo with moving semantics (c++11) and had few issues that were spawning irritating access errors. Fortunately, it turned out flawless! That's it, no more optimizations, unless required (although i doubt it).


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« Reply #18 on: April 21, 2017, 04:30:48 am »

Kill the HUD: Part One

First design decision concerning HUD was about its absence. Game has no built-in camera, it wasn't intended to have one. With these decisions a problem rises - how could player tell character's condition and its possessions? There's is Inventory Screen where player can observe all the info but early beta test players informed that it was irritating to press inventory button to see current Hit Points. HUD should solve this problem but in this case it brings another problem - when moving onto top tiles the player will go "behind" the HUD elements. This makes it look rather clumsy.


In the following screenshot there is entrance on the Northern part of the room. There Hit points, available tools, active tool (yellowish icon), time, available resources and shield buff. White tool icons will be drawn on top of character once he gets there. Additionally, current HUD looks "meh". One can live with this but let's make it more interesting...

So, as originally intended, I wanted to display attribute information on the character. Although it's impossible to display all the info but some major elements could fit in. Available but inactive tools will be drawn behind the characters, so he is like "wearing" the tools. Active tool will be drawn on character's right hand.

I started with most frequent bonus or "buff" - shield buff, the one that gives extra HP against hostile contacts. It is, of course, a helmet. I had to do a lot of repeating drawing, which turned out boring at some point, but when drawing process was finished result was really really satisfying. The boring and exhausting part comes from the fact that major animations requires 4 sub-animations, one per side. Character has 14 major animations or 35 sub-animations. One sub-animation has 8 frames on average. So drawing one attribute layer took few days of work. Some parts were simple (just copying frames with slight adjustments) and some were extremely frustrating.

The shield buff was actually the easiest of all layers. Each tool needed two versions of animations - for active (in hand) and inactive (behind, in inventory). That's double work for tools.  So, tools turned to be much stronger pain in the ass at the end. If game would be in 3D or I had simper ideas about it this could be a piece of cake. But hey, it's me - desired ideas must be materialized at all cost.

Oh yeah, i had to do dirty hacking while programming and there was moment where i almost punched monitor because things didn't worked as supposed to. Fun thing, constant frustration resulted painful procrastination. I had to perform kicks in my own ass in great numbers during this stage. This task took almost month to do it. Yep, it's done  

But... but... not completely, there's one thing left and i'm working on it. It's less frustrating and actually fun thing to do it but i'll tell it once it's done.  

Beer!

« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 08:56:31 am by neutonm » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: May 04, 2017, 10:52:02 am »

Kill the HUD: Part Two

Next step step was to make hit point representation on character. After fooling around with tool layers previous weeks this seemed to be easy and enjoying task to be accomplished. So, obviously, an illusion of "piece of cake" concerning next step  made its debut. It was good at first time but constant repetition during process turned things boring and frustrating. The last piece of this eminent picture took another extended portion of time mixed with remnants of occasional procrastination. Grr...

Anyway, as i'm writing now, the task is done and I feel utmost relief. It is rather fun to watch a beaten character pondering around rooms and corridors now. Here is an idle animation of healthy and 1hp character.


The important thing is that the need of HUD is finally eliminated. There are few thoughts about remaining game time and resource representation - i can't fit these things on character anymore, so i leave for inventory screen. Maybe add resources indicator to Fast Build menu as well.

I forgot to mention. Since the tool layers i switched to Aseprite. I'm very happy about it. It's easier to draw pixel art. It's much more easier to animate drawn stuff if comparing with, say, photoshop.


This "hud killer" part was done two days ago. I got huge motivation boost from that achievement and I managed to materialize ToDo list entries in great numbers for short time. It's exciting to know that remaining development part will be interesting infused with creativity and some sort of artistic freedom. There are not so much things that needs to be done before development ends and that makes me smile even more broader.  Corny Laugh

Oh and yes... one of recent ToDo entries involved campfire adjustment. Adding sound and particles as a feedback to burn event. Plus, character turns red as burning meter rises.


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