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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsA roguelike, top down space shooter - uses 3D for gameplay
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Author Topic: A roguelike, top down space shooter - uses 3D for gameplay  (Read 2721 times)
Karin E. Skoog
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« on: July 05, 2017, 11:30:34 PM »

Thanks for checking out our DevLog for COTS (working title)! We’re in the very early stages of prototyping this game. (So far, we’ve been in production for less than a month.)

We’re looking forward to hearing your feedback over the course of development so we can make this game even better!

About COTS:
It is a difficult, rogue-like, top down space shooter, encouraging a more tactical style where players have to prepare for each mission and optimize different strategies in order to prevail.

The game will include:

  • Modification system - Choose the best weapon/shield combos (for each level). Smaller (faster) ships have less slots to modify/exchange, whereas larger (slower) ships have more.
  • Store - Repair your ship, upgrade and buy weapon modifications.



The Story:
We aren’t sure yet how much we’ll include in the game and how much we’ll share with the player. We may only allude to story in the environment rather than having dialogue. At this point, we have a few ideas for story, but we need to flesh it out more.

Level Ideas:
Many levels have different environmental elements to interact with. Here are a few of our ideas so far:

  • Crystals: Shoot at crystals, splitting projectiles.
  • Ice: Cause an avalanche to destroy ground units.
  • Storm: Avoid storm (electrical) clouds. Push enemies into them. Charge your shields with them. Your missiles malfunction.
  • Fog: Reduced visibility. Bullets provide some “vision” to locate enemies.


The Demo:
We created a short demo level for you to try. (Keyboard or controller is fine, but we recommend using a controller.)

It’s short (about 1+ minute playthrough) and is intended to give you an idea of what the game will be like, but as we’ll explain further down, there is still a lot we have left to explore.


We built this demo level to figure out:

  • What to think about when constructing levels
  • System limitations and how to solve them
  • Player controller (how it feels to steer the ship, especially in a 3D environment)
  • Environmental obstacles (both for cover and limiting the player)



What we learned:

  • Keep camera movements simple. It was fun to experiment with changing camera speeds, but from a player perspective, it is better to keep the camera as predictable as possible. We intend to keep the camera slow, so the player has time to react and make decisions.
  • It took an excessive amount of tweaking to make the camera feel okay with enemy and player movements in the first area (coming down into the canyon). We realized it’s better to simply turn these more elaborate areas into a cutscene.
  • We shouldn’t have enemies fly up and out of an area. It’s better to have enemies speed further ahead into the level, rather than fly up and out since the player can’t follow the enemies up, only ahead.


What we still need to explore:

  • We have a feature where the camera pans to follow the player left or right. We haven’t seen what all we can do with it yet since the demo level is so narrow. We intend to experiment with wider levels.
  • Branching paths/player choice. There should be some interesting options for the player, but we could be creating a lot of unnecessary work the player will never see if we don’t build branching paths in a smart way.
  • Getting the right balance of difficulty...The demo level is easier than we imagine the final game and doesn’t entirely reflect the feeling we’re after. It will take some time to get the difficulty right. When too many enemies were placed into an area, it felt chaotic and more like a shoot ‘em up game. We’re aiming to give players a high level of challenge while keeping the pace (camera speed) relatively slow.

What’s next:

  • Creating more enemy types. We’re open to suggestions!
  • Only after we have more enemies will we create new weapons and experiment more with level design.

Project challenges:

  • Using a combination of 2D and 3D collision. Most similar games use purely 2D collision, even if there is a 3D environment below. We encountered a few challenges related to combining the two, plus tilting the camera so it isn’t entirely top down. Manne solved many of the major issues related to this (such as making projectiles appear to go straight, rather than curve at the camera’s edges), and other issues we learned how to work around by creating the demo level.
  • Lack of team artist! (We’re a 2 person designer/programmer duo.) We’ll tackle this particular challenge when we have more of the gameplay and levels in place.


>> Download <<


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« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2017, 08:40:39 AM »

Hey!

I just checked out your demo and you did not lie when you said it was hard WTF I replayed it 4 times and almost made it to the end. It still felt engaging though which is a good thing.

The intro was cool when the ships entered from behind and from above. It gave the game a nice sense of depth and an understanding as to why you chose 3D instead of 2D. I did not experience that feeling later in the demo game though. (probably the most memorable thing from the demo).

The game play was easy to understand and the controls felt good. I never felt it was the controls fault when I died. (but damn, a lot of red bullets  Cheesy)

I am not sure how to give feedback on the yellow smiley faces since I dont know how you will change those. Are they supposed to be the crew from the ship you shoot down? I had no idea that they would attack me, until it was too late.

The level felt a bit linear, but I read that you are working on that.

It would be nice if the map would go to the right and left as well. Then you would "see further", since the screen is normally in landscape-mode, if you know what I mean? It could also change up the gameplay a bit from always moving forward.

Enemy wise I think its a good start. But I did think that the normal ships and bunkers were firing a bit too fast. It was hard to pass through the different bullets, even though I tried to wait until the last possible moment. All the smileys did not make it better. WTF

I would also like to be able to shoot in different directions. Not only forward. I know that similar games often only let you shoot forward and add missiles and such as complements, but to me its annoying and makes the game less dynamic/feels like I loose my flow.

Thanks for uploading a demo, it was fun to try it and it was definitely a solid demo that explains what you are going for  Grin

I just wanted to add that I think it would be better to upload a .zip file instead of a .rar file since you need third party software to open those files (as far as I know).

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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2017, 10:44:59 AM »

Tried the demo and it's pretty cool. I gotta say I really like the unique perspective, it's something that doesn't quite come across in the screenshots but when you see it in motion in game it's a really cool effect. Good luck with the progress! If you ever need music at some point look me up, cheers!
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Karin E. Skoog
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« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2017, 05:44:58 PM »

Tried the demo and it's pretty cool. I gotta say I really like the unique perspective, it's something that doesn't quite come across in the screenshots but when you see it in motion in game it's a really cool effect. Good luck with the progress! If you ever need music at some point look me up, cheers!
Thanks for trying it out! Glad to hear from multiple people that the perspective adds an interesting element to the game.

We're still a ways off for needing music, but thanks for letting us know!


I just checked out your demo and you did not lie when you said it was hard WTF I replayed it 4 times and almost made it to the end. It still felt engaging though which is a good thing.
Hej Nordanvinden! Thanks for playing our prototype! Glad that with all the deaths, you still found it engaging to play. Without watching people play, it's impossible to know whether people try it once, decide immediately that it's too hard and throw the controller down in a rage Smiley so I'm glad that you found it interesting enough to play 4 times. I'm sure we'll be balancing the difficulty through to the very end. It's tricky to get right.

The intro was cool when the ships entered from behind and from above. It gave the game a nice sense of depth and an understanding as to why you chose 3D instead of 2D. I did not experience that feeling later in the demo game though. (probably the most memorable thing from the demo).
That part was a lot of fun to design, but I vastly underestimated the amount of time it would take to make that camera swoop feel right, especially with throwing enemies and gameplay in there! I really like the more cinematic approach, but as I mentioned in my previous post, it took a lot of tweaking to make the beginning part feel okay, and it still didn't end up exactly as I'd like.

It was a good exercise in seeing how long areas like that would take to make. We do want to include areas where the enemies swoop down, but we'll have to keep the camera theatrics to a minimum, or it will take too long to finish making the game. Smiley

The game play was easy to understand and the controls felt good. I never felt it was the controls fault when I died. (but damn, a lot of red bullets  Cheesy)

I would also like to be able to shoot in different directions. Not only forward. I know that similar games often only let you shoot forward and add missiles and such as complements, but to me its annoying and makes the game less dynamic/feels like I loose my flow.
Good to hear you like the controls. Your feedback on shooting in different directions actually prompted Manne to experiment with that today! (You should be able to try out the new control scheme in the next build.)

We were originally thinking of using the fixed position for projectiles, but it could definitely add a lot for players to have more control over the trajectory of projectiles, as you mentioned.

I am not sure how to give feedback on the yellow smiley faces since I dont know how you will change those. Are they supposed to be the crew from the ship you shoot down? I had no idea that they would attack me, until it was too late.
Oh man! We'll make sure to change the smiley faces to coins. We didn't realize players might perceive them to be enemies! Wow, that must have made the level feel significantly harder than it is! Hats off to you!

The level felt a bit linear, but I read that you are working on that.

It would be nice if the map would go to the right and left as well. Then you would "see further", since the screen is normally in landscape-mode, if you know what I mean? It could also change up the gameplay a bit from always moving forward.
It's something we'll have to experiment with. A lot of shooter games are more linear, and we don't want to make too much work for ourselves, but we should be able to do something interesting things with branching paths.

We do have a feature in there already to support the player moving right and left, but it isn't something we explored in this build. That's another aspect we need to explore in a future demo.

Enemy wise I think its a good start. But I did think that the normal ships and bunkers were firing a bit too fast. It was hard to pass through the different bullets, even though I tried to wait until the last possible moment. All the smileys did not make it better. WTF
Yeah, we probably should slow down the bullet firing speed. I agree it can become hard to see what's coming. Again, sorry about the smiley face coins!

Thanks for uploading a demo, it was fun to try it and it was definitely a solid demo that explains what you are going for  Grin

I just wanted to add that I think it would be better to upload a .zip file instead of a .rar file since you need third party software to open those files (as far as I know).
Awesome! We absolutely appreciate your detailed feedback, and we hope you play our future builds as well! Thanks for the tip on using a .zip file for next time. We'll be sure to do that.

Hope you're enjoying Stugan! Awesome to see you're posting new DevLogs about Sisu every day. It's looking great!
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« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2017, 11:43:44 PM »

Time for our next update!


What's New:

  • Player controls - Players can now aim and steer independently of one another. We only changed this for the main weapon - we don't intend for other weapons to have this feature. It gives the game a more dynamic feeling and changes the gameplay.
  • Weapon: Missiles - The player and some enemies now have missiles. We'll continue adjusting & tweaking them. (Check them out in the gifs below!)
  • Pickups - We no longer have creepy smiley faces as placeholder coins! (This will hopefully help players realize pickups aren't evil.) Instead of coins, we decided on using "space junk" as pickups - essentially parts of the ships that break off, which the player can later use to upgrade their ship (see below gif). The pickups need to be scaled way down, and at some point, we'll randomize between space junk of differing shapes.
  • Camera Adjustments - Manne worked on the camera left & right offset, so the player has more control over where to go levels, making levels feel bigger overall. You should be able to check this out in our next prototype build.
  • Learning Blender - We're slowly leveling up our art skills! This week, I learned how to model and unwrap UVs in Blender. In the GIFs, you can see the rocks & space junk pickups I modeled. I also textured the space junk, but it was a quick pass, just to learn an artist workflow.


Blog Post:

  • On a side note, I got the greenlight to release a blog post about the AI design work I did on Avalanche Studios' theHunter: Call of the Wild.
  • It's up on my personal blog if you want to check it out.


GIFs:



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« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2017, 05:45:01 AM »

We have a new build ready for you to try out!


Playthrough Videos:
- Current build
- Previous build

Blog Post:
We also posted a new blog post on our website, where we explained more of our design process behind the new build, plus additional challenges in designing for a difficult roguelike game.


For this build milestone, we focused on showing:
  • The differences between air & ground units.
  • What else is interesting about the combination of 3D & 2D (using the environment for gameplay).

We experimented with:
  • Making the level wider. You can now experiment with the feature where the camera pans out (L/R) to follow the player (see below gif).
  • Using the environment as an obstacle. We kept it simple for now, requiring the player to shoot small rocks (or maneuver around them) to destroy some ground units.


The player also has 2 new weapons: a missile and a bomb.

Note: We are still building throwaway levels that we don’t intend to use the final game. We’re simply using them to continue gaining an understanding of the systems we’re building, try out new concepts and features and learn how to better construct level for the final game.


As always, we appreciate any & all feedback!


User Feedback Questions (if you have time!)
- Did it you find the level too difficult?
- Did it ever feel unfair?
- Did you use any weapons aside from your basic projectiles? Why/why not?
- Did you notice any differences between air and ground units?

Design Thought Questions:
- Do you see any areas we can push 3D vs. 2D interactions that we aren’t currently exploring?
- We have a strange gravity feature (video), but we debating what to do with it. Any ideas?

>> Download latest build (v0.2) <<

Our current build has controller support only. Check out our video playthrough above if you don't have a computer-ready controller.



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« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2017, 09:24:22 AM »

Hey pretty good so far! Making it wider was a great choice. And I know it's early but the diversity in mobs is cool so far, for example how some ships shoot faster projectiles, keeps you on your toes. I guess the gravity thing should be used in tricky areas to pull in your ship when you may be trying to maneuver around it.

All and all pretty good progress. Pretty quiet though, haha it will be nice when there is some sound. I know I mentioned I do music, but I also do sound assets as well, I'm here if you need anything. Oh and about adding more 2D/3D mechanics- you can always have a few enemies that can only be killed with bombs and are immune to your basic blaster, this could make the player have to focus on it's Z levels if they want to clear the area. Hope that makes sense!
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« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2017, 04:31:28 PM »

@joey4track - Thanks for the feedback! We'll keep adding in more enemies and abilities for players to play around with.

True - the gravity field pulling in your ship could be an interesting application. We'll continue thinking of possibilities for it!

We held off on sounds for the time being, partially because we wanted to focus on other aspects of the game and partially because we wanted to make sure the fun was in there (in the absence of flashy sounds). It's possible we'll add in a few sounds for the next milestone to see how it changes the feel of the game. (The game felt better when we added in particles and other effects when the players hit enemies and obstacles. Funny how a little player feedback can change the game so much!)

Our thought for basic projectiles is that, although it is less powerful than other weapons, it can be used on all enemies in the game. We do have a few ideas for weapons that are more effective on certain enemies, encouraging players to use a range of weapons in their attack strategy.

Anyway, thanks again for sending us your thoughts! It's great to hear what people think about the game so far.
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« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2017, 04:26:43 PM »

I like this. Difficulty is good. The player spaceship dispensing spent cartridges is a nice effect.
The buttons for the missiles/bombs are a little tricky to use while using the right thumbstick to shoot the cannon. I realise not all joypads have shoulder buttons, so i recommend keep your existing controls and add shoulder button redundant controls.
The gravity thing might be a special weapon like a smart bomb. Possibly it could be used to draw away enemy fire.
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« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2017, 06:19:16 PM »

@filbs111

Thanks for trying out the prototype and giving us your feedback. It's very appreciated.

As for the controls we wanted the game be more tactical, the time it will take you to press the "Bomb" or "Missile" we hope will discourage spamming. Maybe the player will think that in some situations the better choice is just to keep shooting with the main gun. This will need to be balanced more later on.

We had the same thought as you about the gravity thing and it will most likely be used as a player ability later on, so the player can use makeshift bombs on/or shield at the same time. We also hope to add more projectile forces in levels later to make levels feel more dynamic.

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« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2017, 07:40:41 PM »

I like this. Difficulty is good.

Just curious, regarding the difficulty level - Did you make it to the end of the level? How many times did you end up playing it?

Thanks again for the feedback! For the next build, we should probably allow players more space to get used to the controls initially. It does take a little time to get used to.
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« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2017, 08:45:54 PM »

Not trying to be an imbecile, but I really hope the art assets that you have integrated into the game, are placeholders. Stay motivated and committed.
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« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2017, 09:36:41 PM »

I really hope the art assets that you have integrated into the game, are placeholders.

Absolutely. This is still a very early prototype (roughly 2 months into development), so all art assets are placeholders. We're focusing on core features & gameplay currently, so it will be a while before we add anything resembling art to the game.
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« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2017, 03:14:35 AM »

This is coming along nicely! It reminds me of Steambird Alliance (

), maybe you can check it for inspiration.

Keep up the good work, the progress is notable.
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« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2017, 04:56:00 PM »

Thanks jg.camarasa! We're always looking for other games to draw inspiration from. A lot of games we found are very different in terms of gameplay since most are bullet hell, so it's interesting to see one that appears (from the video) to have a little more focus on tactics. It looks like Steambirds Alliance has a dash ability as well, which is something we plan to try out in our game.

Thanks again for reaching out!
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« Reply #15 on: August 10, 2017, 06:36:59 PM »

Just curious, regarding the difficulty level - Did you make it to the end of the level? How many times did you end up playing it?
Got to the end 3rd or 4th attempt. The difficulty is good for the length of the demo. If the game is longer, better to start easier.
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« Reply #16 on: August 11, 2017, 04:08:56 AM »

@filbs111 Good to know, thanks!
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« Reply #17 on: August 15, 2017, 11:58:09 AM »

I just tried the latest demo (0.2) and here are my thoughts:

- Hard to use missiles and shooting at the same time since you use right thumb for both. I read the comments above about this being a concious decicion, but I would argue that it is more annoying than fun/tactical. I dont want the controls to be the thing that stops me from doing what I want to do. Thats not fun but rather annoying, in my opinion. I would rather see something like an overheating function for the regular cannon so you cannot shoot all the time. It would also add to the tactics. Shorter bursts that have more though put behind them.

- The demo starts out really hard. I think I played 10 times maybe and did not get very far at all. If this is what you are going for then its fine, but I never felt like I even had time to get into the game. How to move and make smart tactical decicions.

- The enemies that predict where you will end up are really hard when having so many other things happening at the same time. Its not that I dislike that specific behavior, but it just ends up being too hard too quick (again). And their bullets move so fast!

- I am not sure about having the blue ground cannons following the player while shooting. Sometimes (often) their ray of bullets ends up coming at you in a horizontal line, which makes it impossible to avoid. This is not fun in my opinion. Unless you want the player to think about how they move while the cannons are firing and how that will affect the shape of the "bullet rain" that appeares, I think it would be better if they did not move from the moment they start firing. More predictable and that way the brain can cope with everything else that is happening on the screen.

- I really like that it is now possible to shoot in any direction.

- The movement of the camera feels really nice and the difference from 0.1 is huge. I really like this direction  Hand Thumbs Up Left Grin Hand Thumbs Up Right

- The big rocks are nice. Its great that you can take cover behind them. This adds to the tactics very nicely.

Overall I really liked it! I just found it way way too hard too quick. I feel like I never really got the chance to get into it and actually enjoy the new stuff.
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« Reply #18 on: August 16, 2017, 04:19:12 AM »

Hi Anders! Thanks for trying out the latest build and leaving such detailed feedback (again!).

Are you back in Stockholm now after Stugan? Stugan would be cool to do someday. It must have been a great experience! By the way, any news on a new Sisu build?

- Hard to use missiles and shooting at the same time since you use right thumb for both. I read the comments above about this being a concious decicion, but I would argue that it is more annoying than fun/tactical. I dont want the controls to be the thing that stops me from doing what I want to do. Thats not fun but rather annoying, in my opinion. I would rather see something like an overheating function for the regular cannon so you cannot shoot all the time. It would also add to the tactics. Shorter bursts that have more though put behind them.
Our hope is that this will feel better and make more sense as development progresses. We threw you in the middle of the action in this build, and without player abilities (shield, etc.), it is harder to survive than it will be in the long run. (We plan to get at least 1 or 2 player abilities into the next build to see how they feel.)

This is something we need to work on though - showing players more of the game's tactical side so the weapon system makes more sense. We have an idea for how to make the weapons make more sense overall, but it will be quite some time before we can implement it.

- The demo starts out really hard. I think I played 10 times maybe and did not get very far at all. If this is what you are going for then its fine, but I never felt like I even had time to get into the game. How to move and make smart tactical decicions.

Overall I really liked it! I just found it way way too hard too quick. I feel like I never really got the chance to get into it and actually enjoy the new stuff.
I should have created a slower start to this level so players have time to get used to the controls! I died a lot the first times I played it and eventually became much better, but I had the advantage of learning small areas of the level as I built them. (I don't know if you read the blog post I wrote on this - I was conflicted about the difficulty level for this build, so it's interesting to hear you found it so difficult and filbs111 found it to be a good level of challenge.)

In the interest of making this build more like a vertical slice, I clearly made the learning curve too steep. I'll work on ramping up the difficulty level a little slower in the next build.  Grin

- I am not sure about having the blue ground cannons following the player while shooting. Sometimes (often) their ray of bullets ends up coming at you in a horizontal line, which makes it impossible to avoid. This is not fun in my opinion. Unless you want the player to think about how they move while the cannons are firing and how that will affect the shape of the "bullet rain" that appeares, I think it would be better if they did not move from the moment they start firing. More predictable and that way the brain can cope with everything else that is happening on the screen.
You're absolutely right. Plans are in the works to limit ground enemy projectiles! We'll continue adjusting some of the other enemies as well.

- The movement of the camera feels really nice and the difference from 0.1 is huge. I really like this direction  Hand Thumbs Up Left Grin Hand Thumbs Up Right
Thanks! Lesson learned - it feels much better (and is easier to design) in the absence of fancy camera movements and changes in speed. Props to any game that can effectively pull off camera movements + player input. That is no easy task to fine tune!
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« Reply #19 on: August 20, 2017, 10:25:52 PM »

Are you back in Stockholm now after Stugan? Stugan would be cool to do someday. It must have been a great experience! By the way, any news on a new Sisu build?

I just got back to Stockholm and I cannot recommend Stugan enough. It was such a great experience! Let me know if you want to know anything specific about it and Ill answer best I can Smiley

Sisu is coming along well but its been tricky to create a suitable build for itch. I will try getting one up as soon as I can though. Thanks for keeping me motivated Smiley

In the interest of making this build more like a vertical slice, I clearly made the learning curve too steep. I'll work on ramping up the difficulty level a little slower in the next build.  Grin

Ah I see. Its tricky though because I guess a vertical slice should reflect how the game plays as if you were at a later level and not have a soft introduction. I guess its all about setting the players expectations before downloading the demo.

I´m going to give it another go later today so that Im ready for the next build Shrug
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