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December 09, 2019, 01:36:52 PM

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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsSuper Rocket Ride - hardcore retro action
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snugsound
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« on: July 31, 2019, 01:03:18 PM »

I'm pleased to announce my next game: Super Rocket Ride!



For this one, I'm teaming up with Felix (Unruly Games) to develop a premium (Steam/PC, initially) version of his mobile game Thumb Rocket. (available for free on Android and iOS)

Super Rocket Ride can best be described as a cross between Lunar Lander and Super Mario World: a simple control scheme (as of now: two buttons), lush pixel art, and fairly unforgiving levels fraught with obstacles and hazards. Some of Felix's inspirations for the original version include Retry and Leap Day.

Our goals for the premium version include:

  • Analog gamepad (dual trigger) and keyboard controls
  • More obstacles, hazards and levels
  • Overhaul of the music/SFX and visuals
  • Collectibles
  • Steam achievements
  • Improved star (world) map/level select screen

As with all my games, sound is going to be a big part of it. Despite the retro-inspired graphics, I'll be going with something contemporary, and really trying to create a sense of immersion and "life" with the sound. This will likely include a soundtrack that is mostly ambient and somewhat mysterious, rather than going the obvious route of peppy chip tunes. (though the SFX will certainly have a nod to the 8 and 16-bit eras)

If all goes to plan, this will be number three in a series of games that I've challenged myself to develop and release in under three months (the last two being Cosmic Ray and Brainmelter Deluxe). The goal with these games is to build up experience (especially on the marketing front), and perhaps make a few bucks to fund my more ambitious long-term project, TOXICANT.

Here's some footage from a recent build:



If this sounds interesting feel free to stop by the Cosmocat Discord: Felix and I are in there regularly and will be posting dev shots, soliciting feedback, and running frequent play tests.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2019, 04:44:55 PM by snugsound » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2019, 02:00:49 PM »

FIRST! Following topic!

"Unforgiving levels"
Ok, can't wait!

I'm already part of the Cosmocat Discord so I'll be among the first to know! Looking forward to more Smiley
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snugsound
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« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2019, 11:26:05 AM »

Heyo! So we've been at it for a couple weeks now and are making some solid headway.

Keyboard and Gamepad Input
The very first thing I did was implement keyboard/gamepad support across the board, as the existing code was based entirely on touch/click. As with all of my games, I'm using Gallant's InControl asset, which is a huge time-saver for handling multi-platform input across a wide range of devices. Highly recommended!

The biggest challenge so far has been getting the star (world) map fully functional on keyboard and gamepad. A lot of the logic relied on the UI to block touch/click input, but this is obviously not something you can rely on when responding to input in code. So I had to refactor quite a bit to track state, ensure input was ignored during transitions, etc.

I also had my usual battle with Unity's UI system to ensure that a) a button is always selected by default, and b) buttons can't be deselected, but I finally won. I've picked up enough tips/tricks in the past few games that I almost have it down to a science!

Here you can see me navigating the star map using only the gamepad:





Camera
I also did some work on the camera and player movement, as I found it to be a bit choppy. Firstly, camera logic was being handled in FixedUpdate, resulting in visible jerkiness, so I moved it to LateUpdate. I then implemented smooth damping so the camera trails the player ever-so-slightly. Lastly, I decreased the physics fixed timestep to 0.1, for smoother player movement (the player is moved via physics engine). It's still a tad jumpy, but almost there. (Oh yeah, and I also added some screen shake for good measure, of course.)

Prototyping
Now we get to the actual fun stuff: prototyping new hazards! We have a number of ideas on the table so we're doing some rapid prototyping to see what clicks/what feels right. Here's a prototype level I built to demo/test some new concepts: falling blacks, projectile emitters, and sniper turrets. (you can also see the camera and movement tweaks in action as well)





It's quite challenging, but totally beatable (and certainly satisfying when you do).

More to come! If this looks interesting pop in to the Discord, we'll be running a closed alpha fairly soon.
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« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2019, 11:31:33 AM »

Nice progress! I love the gameplay clip, it looks really hard but fun. The sniper turret will make a lot of people desperate, looking forward to testing this game Shocked
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« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2019, 02:51:11 PM »

Looks great! The camera movement definitely feels very smooth and polished. Are you going to implement any type of damage or will the rocket die as soon as it touches a wall surface?
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snugsound
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« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2019, 02:05:25 AM »

Looks great! The camera movement definitely feels very smooth and polished. Are you going to implement any type of damage or will the rocket die as soon as it touches a wall surface?

Thanks! I'm thinking it'll probably stay one-hit death in the interest of keeping it challenging. That said, I've pitched the idea of having a single-use shield item, and there's also the option of halfway checkpoints for longer levels, so we'll see where we land on that (pun intended?).
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2019, 03:40:21 AM »

Well, after careful deliberation, we've given this thing a name: Super Rocket Ride!



We wanted a name that accurately described the game, and also reflected the retro-ish visuals and difficulty. The name is admittedly a tad obvious/predictable, but it tested well with the internet folk, so that's good enough for me.

In other news, Felix has been working on some enhancements to the star map; specifically, implementing rotation for the planets. Initially this started off as 3D renders which he was pixeling by hand, but this would have been quite time-consuming to get enough frames for a smooth look. Here's an early test:



(you can also see a WIP button highlighting animation that he's working on)

In the end we went with a looping sprite/sprite mask approach, though. We lose the nice curvature that came with the former, but it's much more feasible to implement this for ~8 planets or so. (and I might see about doing some trickery to fake the curvature)



Oh yeah, last but not least, we now have a fully playable PC build! Still lots of stuff in flight, lots more content to come, etc., but it's still a pretty big milestone. My Patreon patrons get exclusive early access to this all way through development, starting now.
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« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2019, 09:32:31 AM »

Some more progress on bigger planet textures for the star map. I'll soon be spending some time seeing if can fake a little bit of curvature via a shader or something.

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« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2019, 05:35:04 AM »

Back again with another update!

3D Star Map
We weren't entirely happy with the lack of curvature in the "simple" approach, i.e.



So we've decided to go 3D (sort of): the 3D planets are rendered to a texture, then scaled down and rendered with the rest of the 2D scene and UI. In the process of doing so, we also added support for more winding paths.



As you can see, there are still some loose ends left to tie up (i.e. the lock icon that moves vertically/out of sync with the path--we'll likely end up creating a "mystery" planet to be shown instead of the lock icon).

Arguably, we've spent a disproportional amount of time on this (relative to new game play), but hopefully it makes a good first impression for new players!

Level Index/Iteration
To aid in planning, I've created an index of levels, including their difficulty rank, which hazards they include, etc. This led to some subsequent iteration of existing levels to introduce certain hazards earlier and balance out any inconsistencies in the difficulty curve.



More Camera Improvements
Nothing too exciting here but finally getting to some long overdue items:

  • Implementing camera bounds for the levels: basically, I take the bounding box of the tile map and clamp the camera position to ensure it never extends beyond the level.
  • Letterboxing: I'm experimenting with letterboxing as means to force the 16:9 game play area regardless of physical aspect ratio, and therefore allow for certain types of designs (i.e. enemies and hazards that activate when becoming visible).

Tooling Enhancements
We've started setting up "rule" brushes that will allow for quicker level design by automatically handling common scenarios:



Due to limitations of the brush system, we've had to handle sloped tiles in a separate brush, and there are a few edge cases as a result of this (one of which you can see in the above GIF), but overall, it should save a bunch of time!

More Prototyping
Lastly, I've been experimenting with a few additional types of hazards.

Proximity bombs/mines, swarming creatures:



(You may recognize the placeholder sprite from Operation Hardcore Wink)

Alternative projectile spawner:



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« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2019, 01:35:28 PM »

Heyo!

Progression
So one thing Felix and I have been kicking around for a while now is how we want to approach progression. Originally, it was very much linear in that you needed to play all levels in order, beating all of them to progress to the next world.

Unfortunately, this doesn't give players very much freedom, and it also runs the risk of players getting stuck (and perhaps giving up) on the more difficult levels.

Our solution to this is to--as I'm sure many others do--take a page from the book of Mario Grin We'll be going with the classic "collect X items to progress". (for now, X = coins, though this may end up being replaced with something more space-ish).

To that end, we're adding 3 coins per level. In most cases, a couple easy ones, and one more difficult one.



This will also double as an opportunity to add some achievements (i.e. collect all coins for a world, collect all coins in the game), and open up the possibility of some extra content (i.e. unlock a bonus world by collecting all coins).

Level Completion Status
As part of the above I've also added a level completion badge to the stage select screen. This gives the player a way to tell which levels they should revisit in search of more coins.



Mystery Planet
As I alluded to in a previous post, we've been working at rejigging the star (world) map. I've now completely eliminated the old UI lock icon and have implemented support for a mystery planet texture (placeholder only, subject to change one Felix gets in there):



As you can see, I'm also displaying the required number of coins (again, somewhat crude placeholder).
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« Reply #10 on: October 12, 2019, 10:13:18 AM »

I'm finally getting around to doing a proper pixel logo to replace the old placeholder. It could still use a bit of clean up and perhaps a bit more "flare" but I think it's a step in the right direction:



Old vs new splash screen mockup:



I've also got a whole whack of other things in progress, most of which can be seen in the GIF below:

  • Death animation improvements (improved SFX, flaming debris, slow time, more screen shake)
  • Scrolling background clouds in Earth levels
  • Placeholder props (bushes, rocks)
  • Spinning coin animation
  • Impact SFX for rocket (i.e. when landing)



Felix has also put together a couple new levels which I'll be integrating into the main game flow soon. My hope is to prepare a nice, concise version to be used as the basis for play testing, and eventually early access (via Itch).

I also want to push myself to do more visual work, as this is pretty much a must-have for any kind of marketing efforts. (... the eternal struggle!)
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« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2019, 07:04:43 AM »

I did a bit of work on the sniper/turret hazard over the long weekend:

  • Add SFX for rotation, firing
  • Add screen shake for firing
  • Add separate material for "firing"
  • Implement clamping for rotation (-45/+45 deg)

I think it's shaping up!



I also added placeholder props to all Earth levels, and mocked up some placeholder props to be used in Moon levels (craters, moon rocks):



Last but not least, I took a screenshot of a level from each world and I'm asking the following question: which 3-4 of these look the best and are worth developing further? (adding props, additional polish pass, etc.)



Your feedback is welcomed!
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« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2019, 03:12:37 AM »

Phew, lots of progress in the past couple of weeks!

New levels
Felix has built two new levels and I've built three. Here's a video of me attempting all five of them.




Visual improvements
All levels now have placeholder props, with Arcadia being the final world to get them (as seen in the above video and the below GIF). The props are standardized, as are the tilemaps, so we can easily swap the visual style of a world.

Felix has also done a pass over the coin sprites (uncollected and collected variants), and I've tidied up the animations and sped them up slightly based on feedback.



Last but not least, Felix has improved some of the hazard sprites. You can see most of these improvements in the following GIF:



GIF recorder
I've integrated Moments, a GIF recorder for Unity. I'm hoping this will be helpful in capturing GIFs for marketing, but I may leave it in for players as well. It currently captures the last 5 seconds of gameplay when you press G, with the caveat that it will fail to save if the scene gets unloaded (i.e. if you save after dying), though this is something I hope to address as death GIFs are pretty much my favourite thing!

Alpha/early access build
I've taken all of the completed levels and condensed them down into three worlds: Earth, Moon, Arcadia. (we previously had seven worlds, but most only contained one or two levels) We're now at a grand total of 24 levels (3 worlds x 8 levels each). I've also added a pause menu to the star map with an option to exit the game, eliminating the need to force quit.

The next step is to run a play test (registration coming soon), and then we'll open it up for public alpha/early access via Itch.

Weekly dev stream
I'm going to start streaming development regularly, at least once a week (Saturdays from 10AM to 12PM AST, at a minimum). If you're interested in that sort of thing, feel free to follow me on Twitch.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2019, 11:02:05 AM by snugsound » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2019, 04:02:53 AM »

Back with more new stuff!

Exploding mines
What were previously falling crates are now falling mines. They'll explode on contact, even when "docked", and damage decimate the player via splash damage:



This can lead to some neat chain reactions:



To prevent doubling up of explosion SFX, they will only play their SFX if they collide with something other than the player.

Parallax and twinkling stars
Also seen in the first GIF are the new parallax clouds in the Earth levels. Felix and I debated a bit on the colour scheme (blue vs grey/muted blue), but in the end settled on a reasonable compromise somewhere in the middle:



I've also prototyped some subtle parallax stars, as well as some twinkling stars, in the Arcadia world:



Obviously parallax is not "realistic" for stars in this context--it implies they're much closer than they would be--but it helps to add some depth for now. (we'll probably end up replacing with something else eventually)

Experimenting with alternate control schemes
Last but not least, I've been experimenting with a variety of alternate control schemes in an effort to find the best "feel" possible, as well as make the most of the gamepad support.

Currently this includes:
  • full thrust left or right
  • analog thrust left or right
  • full thrust left AND right

And most recently, I've been experimenting with physics-based controls using the left analog stick, though this is largely incompatible with the current player movement implementation so may not end up panning out.

I'll be going through some of this stuff in more detail on Saturday's stream, including integrating the parallax and twinkling stars into the remainder of the Arcadia levels as well as the Moon levels.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2019, 08:57:50 AM by snugsound » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2019, 08:36:49 AM »

Parallax FTW!



(A quick update to the palette, and a GIF that shows more of the range.)
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« Reply #15 on: November 11, 2019, 01:46:37 PM »

Big news! Closed alpha registration is now open! To celebrate, here's a trailer-esque compilation of clips from the most recent build:



Along with this, the Itch page is now public--we'll be using Itch to run the alpha, and subsequent early access.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2019, 11:00:01 AM by snugsound » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: November 23, 2019, 04:02:34 AM »

I thought I'd try something a little bit different for the next little while. As previously mentioned, I've been streaming some gamedev lately, and more recently, also recording the stream. So basically, I'm making dev vlogs, but they just happen to be a little bit more hands-on in nature.

Here's a highlight from the last stream in which I improve the behaviour and animation of the "swarmer" enemies:



Bonus: in the video you can also see some of the work that Felix has done on the Moon levels, like iterating over the props, and adding constellations and satellites to the background.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2019, 04:16:56 AM by snugsound » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2019, 04:44:42 PM »

Big news! We launched in early access on Itch this past Friday! Toast Right (key requests here)

Since then I've been plugging away at prototyping. I've added back the "Venom" world and have been throwing all the prototypes/WIP levels in there for folks to check out. Currently this includes some new stuff like "gravity wells" and invincibility pickups.

Here's the latest concept I'm working on: invincibility pickups + destructible blocks. (to be included in the next build)



You can also see in the above the foreground particles (bubbles) I've been experimenting with. Feedback welcomed on all of this!

I'll be covering some of the other new stuff in the next dev stream.
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