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TIGSource ForumsCommunityTownhallThe Ascent (v2.0) - a charming platformer made at TO Jam 2009
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Author Topic: The Ascent (v2.0) - a charming platformer made at TO Jam 2009  (Read 7777 times)
Benjamin Rivers
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« on: May 22, 2009, 08:33:14 PM »

Hi all:

My previous game posting was the adventure game SNOW (post here). At this year's TO JAM event, I created a new title, The Ascent.



It's a depressing yet cute platforming game — very short, mind you, because it was originally constructed in three days — with a heavy emphasis on illustration and atmosphere.

The 1.0 release of this was on my site a while ago, but I wanted to wait for the 2.0 version before mentioning it here. The original was deemed too hard by a lot of players (which came as a shock to me); this new release features improved mechanics, a full soundtrack, and voice acting! (Oh, and maybe a secret.)

Please keep in mind that I'm no expert with Game Maker; I'm still learning a lot so there are bound to be some areas that need polish. I'd love to hear your feedback, if any of you are more experienced with Game Maker, I'd be grateful to ask some questions.

You can:
» View my games page
» Download the game directly (7.7MB Zip)

The game supports WinXP/Vista, and is, of course, best played with a gamepad.
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mountainmohawk
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« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2009, 08:42:06 AM »

I just played through the game twice. The graphics are lovely and the music is pretty good too. I'm having some trouble figuring out what the story or the message of the game is. Can you help me out?
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William Broom
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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2009, 12:06:29 AM »

It loads, and then I get a box saying "Unexpected error occurred when running the game."

I hope you can fix this because I really loved Snow. Beg
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Melly
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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2009, 12:40:15 AM »

Played it, also struggling a bit with whatever message is in it.
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Feel free to disregard the above.
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ChevyRay
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« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2009, 01:22:37 AM »

Quote
(which came as a shock to me)
This happens to me all the time, especially with platformers Sad I forget how fast my reflexes are and fast I play, etc. and tend to way overshoot the bar when it comes to excusable difficulty.

Also, this looks very awesome and I am downloading it immediately.
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Xion
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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2009, 01:55:59 AM »

It loads, and then I get a box saying "Unexpected error occurred when running the game."
same, which really makes me sad because the screens look so delicious!
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ChevyRay
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« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2009, 01:59:07 AM »

I PMed the creator to offer helping fix up the game's collisions and movement a bit. If he lets me, I'll also see if I can't figure out what's causing the unexpected error issue.


Game Maker does this sometimes. A couple testers for Cactus' upcoming game are also having this problem, and sometimes it can be really hard to figure out Shrug Game Maker and it's silliness sometimes.
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pgil
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« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2009, 06:37:43 AM »

I get the same error while loading. I'll keep trying, because the screenshots look cool  Coffee
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Iamthejuggler
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« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2009, 10:49:20 AM »

Man that really was short. Great graphics, but the actual platforming felt pretty dodgy to me. The collision detection was the main problem. But for 3 days? Very impressed.
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Benjamin Rivers
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« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2009, 01:56:25 PM »

Thanks very much for everyone's kind words. I have indeed spoken to ChevyRay about getting some help to improve the game mechanics. Thanks to everyone who struggled through and found the game enjoyable nonetheless.

To those of you asking about story clarification; I don't want to sound like a douchebag, but I'd rather hear what people's interpretations are than say my own outright. I made the game a bit vague on purpose for just this effect; I find it's more satisfying if, as a player, you get to invest a bit of yourself into the narrative.

Finally, with luck I hope to have any errors smoothed out as well. I haven't experienced anything myself, so this is all very useful. Can those of you who got errors briefly let me know (either here or via PM) what kind of system you ran the game on? Might help me notice a pattern or situation that's causing problems.

Thanks everyone! (I hope you dug the voice acting too.)
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Anthony Flack
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« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2009, 03:15:47 PM »

Didn't find it too difficult, but I thought it was perhaps a little too obvious that you were being deliberately vague...

Okay, so what do we have here? a girl wakes up in a strange basement and goes up "towards the light" to escape. We see a box marked "guns" and a message "don't go out!" on the way up. But we do go out of course. And then up the tree, which has two further messages, "we're sorry" and "forgive us". Then we get to the top, we see a shooting star, and the player... er, escapes the bounds of their material body?

It's got all the trappings of a stereotypical "art game" - the girl, the pixel art, the tinkly music, the shooting star, the ambiguous ending, the allusions to the game being a metaphor for life's journey. I'm going to assume it's using these elements sincerely and not as a parody, although we are fast approaching the point where these elements become cliche.

I guess the basement represents the baggage of the past, and the security of childhood, and climbing the tree represents the girl finding her own path through the adult world. And I guess the messages on the tree are from her parents (the only other characters mentioned) - either that, or it's an apology from the game designers? Assuming it's the parents, why are they sorry? For bringing her into a world where she must struggle to rise above life's challenges, where the only reward is to achieve your purpose and become reconciled with death, I suppose.

That's the only reading I'm really picking up from it, but it's kind of... bald.
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Benjamin Rivers
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« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2009, 05:15:50 PM »

Interesting!

I assure you, though the game is deliberately vague, a lot of that is of necessity. Only having three days to make a game (while sick, I should add) means you have to choose your battles.

I should say, though, that while you may think a lot of the game's elements are decidedly and almost comically "art game" in nature, I have made no statement as to any metaphor or intent. That, so far, has been entirely the construct of the player.

Even if you don't like the game much, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. This is the rewarding part for me.
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Anthony Flack
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« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2009, 05:58:57 PM »

Quote
I should say, though, that while you may think a lot of the game's elements are decidedly and almost comically "art game" in nature, I have made no statement as to any metaphor or intent. That, so far, has been entirely the construct of the player.

Aw, come on, that's like dropping a load of big hints and then acting all innocent. The game is practically begging to be interpreted metaphorically. And you did it like that on purpose! Don't be coy...

Nice work for three days, by the way, especially all the art.
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Michael Todd
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« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2009, 06:45:07 PM »

I find the style of the background, especially the lower bit with the dark red clouds, very cool. I want to make a game with that now. Smiley

Pity the mad hermits living in the tree, and various characters didn't make it in.

Very cool.

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NathanielEdwards
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« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2009, 08:02:02 AM »

That took me maybe five minutes to complete, which I think ruins any message for me. I'm sure some people had a lot more trouble with the platforming (you did say that the difficulty was toned down, after all) so maybe that would help the pace a bit if I died once or twice. As it was, it seemed extremely short.

As for the message of the game, I think the problem with the game's pace would help make the message seem less... not exactly heavy-handed, but maybe just overly omnipresent. Literally half the game is spent hinting the message, though no one seems to be totally clear on what it is. I feel like it's a bit too much, when that's the situation. In a longer game, it wouldn't have seemed so overcooked.
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Benjamin Rivers
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« Reply #15 on: May 26, 2009, 09:08:53 PM »

Aw, come on, that's like dropping a load of big hints and then acting all innocent. The game is practically begging to be interpreted metaphorically. And you did it like that on purpose! Don't be coy...

Nice work for three days, by the way, especially all the art.

Thanks for the kudos.

I can assure you though, the game mechanics themselves aren't really metaphoric, and there is no insincerity implied in my assertion of this fact. What you're reading is your interpretation, and not at all what the game is actually about.

Why are you going up? Because the theme of this year's TO Jam was "scale," and the first concept that stuck in my head was that of climbing a tree. Why are you a little girl? Because this character design just kind of popped onto a piece of paper and I liked it. She had to be small, to represent scale. She had to wear a scarf to demonstrate wind and movement. (There is another, secret version of this game that includes other kids as well.)

The setting? The story? All reverse-engineered from the mechanics (which I should note changed 100% about 36 hours into the Jam weekend) and the character design to give the context I thought the game needed.

Which brings me to the other design goal of the game: to prove a theory of mine, that a simple game, given the right context and personality, can be inherently more interesting and meaningful to a player than its mechanics or genre may suggest. In this case, I wanted to take the most basic of gaming tropes—jumping up—and give you a reason to care about the game (with its personality, visuals, story) so that it becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Originally in the game, you climbed mossy patches and jumped on clouds and whatnot. Programming limitations and an overall design that wasn't satisfying caused me to change this up completely.

I know the game is flawed, and right now the mechanics are being improved, thanks in no small part to generous supporters here at TIGsource. I understand and appreciate the feedback about the story. It's good for me to hear, because believe or not, many people who played this game previously "got it" right away; hearing more comments to the contrary means I probably still have some work to do. I agree with comments that the ending doesn't quite fulfill the "build up," as it were. I'm looking into a solution for v2.5 (or whatever it happens to be).

But I am completely honest when I say that not only do I not wear ironic clothes or drink Pabst Blue Ribbon to be cool, but The Ascent is not an "art game," at least not in the way that the term is being used here. I'm an illustrator and designer; I work by solving problems. The Ascent was a collection of problems that I attempted to solve, as opposed to a mythical opus I needed to express.

I mean, I didn't even use the word "juxtaposition" once in introducing the game. I've got the notebook pages to prove it! :-)
« Last Edit: May 26, 2009, 09:13:45 PM by LestradeTGQ » Logged

Ixis
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« Reply #16 on: May 26, 2009, 10:27:04 PM »

I can't get the game to run, also getting the same error. I'm running Windows XP pro if that makes any difference. All my drivers are up to date and everything, running the game off of a portable HD. I can't really think of any other pertinent information.
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Benjamin Rivers
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« Reply #17 on: May 27, 2009, 12:36:45 PM »

Thanks, Ixis. I'm working on figuring this out now. My apologies for not being able to run the game.
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Anthony Flack
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« Reply #18 on: May 27, 2009, 04:21:40 PM »

Quote
Which brings me to the other design goal of the game: to prove a theory of mine, that a simple game, given the right context and personality, can be inherently more interesting and meaningful to a player than its mechanics or genre may suggest.

Yes, that was kind of the feeling I got - that you were trying to provide little prompts that would get people to create an interpretation. So I had a go at doing one, but it didn't really turn out so well. I'm not sure if you really can rely on throwing a few emotive elements together and hoping that some kind of meaning emerges in the mind of the player.

Definitely, though, there is strength in being small. The less there is in your game, the more significance is attached to what IS there. So you can create emphasis on things that might otherwise be entirely overlooked or dismissed as insignificant.

Similarly, if you create a painting that is just a black circle on a white background, then that makes the formal elements that ARE present all the more important. Anybody trying to understand your painting would probably consider the canvas size, the size and position of the circle in relation to the edges of the canvas, and the type and quality of paint used as being quite fundamental to your expression in some way. There's not much else there, so that draws attention to the few elements that are, and we presume they must be important.
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