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Author Topic: Untitled atmospheric metroidvania  (Read 1596 times)
muki
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« on: September 21, 2020, 04:39:28 PM »










I've been a long-time lurker/poster on this forum, have occasionally posted art and engine experiments, but never really found the time to actually plan or complete anything. So I'm going to give this a go. Not aiming for anything crazy, though. If I can develop a 2-3 hour atmospheric game with an actual beginning, middle and end, and release it for free, I'll be happy!

Buzzwords on the side of the box:  Moody atmospheric metroidvania, alien biomes to explore, secrets to find, general science theme.

This started when I was having all too much fun sketching a mock metroidvania map. I got way too into it and then said ".....but what if I actually did this!". I know, metroidvanias are not original. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel. Also, I am not good at game design, programming and especially planning things and just generally being organized. But I am good at art and visual storytelling, so using a game genre I know fairly well as an outlet for my visuals is the plan! It'll be a learning experience!

I don't have much yet. I have a rough story, a long to-do list, a 3rd or so of a map of the world (just sketches, not actual playable map), a bit of placeholder art, a couple nice tilesets, and some GameMaker scripts/shaders I spent years (on and off) working on for some rather fancy environmental/visual effects. I'll update this thread with stuff I work on, past, present and future challenges. Definitely working on this only part-time though.

Currently I am working on nailing the mechanics. Moving around and slashing baddies has to feel fun! I've also started on AI the last couple days, so expect my first post after this one to be a gif of some crawly thing inching around and bumping into walls, before croaking to my pneumatic sci-fi hammer.

FAQ

What kind of game is this? - Metroidvania is the easy answer. It'll have some mechanics challenges, but mainly I think I want it to be somewhere halfway between a metroidvania and a narrative/ambient walking sim. But if I can make the grapple mechanics fun enough, might make for some pretty involved platforming! Otherwise, standard fare, find upgrade, unlock previously-teased new area. I'd like to stay away from basic double-jump and dash if possible.

What are my main sources of inspiration? - I fell in love with The Swapper's atmosphere when that came out. I absolutely love the shallow depth-of-field and just generally how thick the atmosphere (or lack of) felt. Add to that, Metroid II, Hollow Knight, and a bunch of SNES games for the rest of the look. Or at least, how me as a teenager thought future SNES games might look ten-twenty years in the future! Had 2D platformers continued getting fancied up instead of being overshadowed by the 3D revolution is another way to put it!

How much will this cost? - $0! For a couple reasons, I am treating this as a personal passion project and sort of portfolio piece. I'm already fairly accomplished in 3D art, but not so much in 2D. Using this opportunity to get better at that! As well as learn a thing or two about game design, programming and just generally try and get better at project management. But I definitely plan to make this freely downloadable when I have a demo, and possibly a finished game!

Am I looking for people to help me? - Unfortunately not. Partly because I see this very much just as a personal passion project, not a commercial one. And I definitely want to work on every aspect, including music/audio! Also partially because I will work on this only part-time, a few hours a week tops. I can't commit to it with someone since I may have to drop it at any time for other priorities.

What engine am I using? - GameMaker Studio 2.

Current priorities? - I aim to make a 30-45 minute "slice of gameplay and world". 2-3 biomes, 3-4 distinct enemies per biome, a bit of unique art per "room", 3-4 upgrades, and 1 boss. Then I want to release just that as a playable demo. If it shows promise, I'll make a bigger world and flesh everything out with variety and story.

« Last Edit: March 08, 2021, 10:19:06 AM by muki » Logged
trudatsound
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« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2020, 02:38:55 AM »

really like the atmosphere on this, following!
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muki
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« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2020, 02:43:30 PM »

A bunch of stuff done since last week!





- Doubled the frames for some of the animation cycles. Some of them that I'm not super satisfied with (like walking) still need to be redone, but at least overall they're smoother.

- First AI creature! Just your standard metroidvania crawly thing. Turns around when bumps into things, gets agitated by the player character and moves faster, that sort of thing. A lot of the work was just trying to make knockback work on both the creature and the player, without spaghettifying things too much. Still needs work, but it's got potential! Getting bounced around feels pretty fun..

- State machines are hard when you're not experienced in them! My script that keeps track of which frames and when is getting pretty complex. I do a few shortcuts like translating vertical speed directly into the sprite number for the jump cycle.

- Hey! I finally tried that DAIN App to tween a low framerate electric field effect I made into a smoother one! It's not perfect, but it's good enough that I'm sure to use it for other special effects in the future.



- Made little puffs of dust at the player's feet. It's subtle, but that's how I like that effect. Still needs work on some of the states. The crawly thing also emits them, though tinier.

- Other details, like longer vines for decoration. Random engine tweaks.

- I kind of now understand why a lot of devs make their characters short. It's a little awkward to make slashing something that's half your high without making it feel like you're just swiping at air. Most baddies won't be that small, but I may also slightly shorten the player character by a couple pixels (it's placeholder-ish anyway).

What's next? Probably more tuning of all the hitboxes, collisions, and sprite frame stuff. It's a little boring but I'd like to get it in a slightly better shape before I move on to another new feature or mechanic. Speaking of witch, making the harpoon gun will be pretty fun! Next creature I create will be some flying/floating thing.

really like the atmosphere on this, following!

Thank you!
« Last Edit: November 02, 2020, 10:15:58 AM by muki » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2020, 08:05:46 AM »

Been slowly working on flying AI, ray cast, collision avoidance and aggro since the weekend:



Gonna plug hurt/damage into them tonight, and hopefully make some art as well.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2020, 10:16:05 AM by muki » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2020, 09:04:18 AM »

atmospheric metroidvania would be a cool band name. this looks incredibly sick and i am excited to give it a try Hand Fork Left Hand Knife Right
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muki
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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2020, 06:03:46 AM »

atmospheric metroidvania would be a cool band name. this looks incredibly sick and i am excited to give it a try Hand Fork Left Hand Knife Right

Thanks!  Gentleman It's not the most original style or game genre, but I'm having fun working on it.

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muki
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« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2020, 08:16:14 PM »

Figure I'll post on how I think I'll do the characters/creatures. And some random style brainstorming...

I'm not that good at pixel art when it comes to animation. I get by with pixeling static environments/tilesets, or animating abstract shapes and effects. But pixeling a character and knowing how to animate them doesn't come naturally to my poor brain.

3D however is very natural to me! 3D animation somewhat less so, but I can do enough of it that I can "sketch" a 3D character/model fairly quickly and start slapping some basic animation cycles to it. After a couple tests, I figured this would be a good way to do this.

Donkey Kong Country landed when I was in my early teens, it just completely blew my mind. I was already into amature digital art and video games, then DKC came out and it opened up a whole sense of wonder of what video games could look like for me. I couldn't at the time even fathom how it was being done! The characters looked so real! What the hell was this sorcery! To me there's a nostalgic period in the mid to late nineties just before realtime 3D games really hit a mainstream where we were seeing an amazing graphical evolution in 2D games. I guess how I want to visually style this metroidvania is, what if a state of the art SNES game from 1997 had a lot more horsepower, access to shaders and a lot more memory. And I guess prerendering my sprites from 3D models can sort of work with that.

I started sketching silhouettes one evening. Figuring out some poses and proportions. Some are pretty bad, others are okay, so I picked one and modeled it -ish.



It didn't even end up looking like the sketches. Mainly I just needed to de-rust my character modeling skills and get something done and imported in the engine. I fully intend on remodeling this character, it's not quite what I want, but it allowed me to get started on figuring out how to hook up sprite animations to my movement/mechanics.

It also served as a proof that, with a bit of post-rendering cleanup on the sprites, that it can work.



When I'll have a better idea of what this project should look like, I won't hesitate start the character over. But for now it'll do!
« Last Edit: November 02, 2020, 10:16:18 AM by muki » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2020, 05:58:53 PM »

Since last time, added an in-game UI. The game has different areas with different ambiences planned, so I need a way to play around with graphical variables in-game to really nail them down. I also want to add non-graphical variables, like player upgrades, toggles, AI stuff, etc. and separators!





Also, stress-testing swarms is fun:

https://i.imgur.com/zvagIXT.mp4
(still trying to figure out how to embedd mp4/webm)
« Last Edit: October 12, 2020, 06:08:01 PM by muki » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2020, 03:24:53 PM »

Wow, the DoF on the background is gorgeous! I wonder if it'd be worth your time to make the vines wiggle ^^ keep it up, good luck!
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« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2020, 04:27:34 PM »

Wow, the DoF on the background is gorgeous! I wonder if it'd be worth your time to make the vines wiggle ^^ keep it up, good luck!

Thank you!
I got obsessed with that DoF look after playing the Swapper several years back. You could say that game kick-started my whole venture.

The vines sway a bit when you walk through them. They're pretty still otherwise though. Definitely need some dynamic vegetation, like all the grasses on the ground. Those are details I shouldn't touch until I have a sort of game first, I think. It's really tempting to work on the pretty things, but it's all wasted if I don't have something fun and interesting.
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« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2020, 06:03:43 PM »

Been a while! This is very much a part-time project for me. 10-15 hours a week, maybe.

I got some new stuff done!





1. Scaled-down the player sprite by about 30%, and tweaked the control constants to make movement overall more responsive. Slightly faster, slightly more air-control, that sort of thing. The smaller sprite helps make the environment slightly more imposing. Player-to-environment size ratio more with how I imagined it.

2. Basic particles! I could have used GMS' own system but I wanted to make my own. You can see some of them flying off the bugs when I hit them!

3. Grapple! This is a pretty huge one. I actually wanted to make something like this for another personal demo years ago but abandoned it, it was too hard for me. I sort of tried again, based on this example. It was really hard to make it work with this game's physics. The game uses horizontal and vertical velocities, but the rope physics is verlet integration, which is something I don't quite understand. It took a lot trial-and-error and modifications to make the end of the rope work nicely with the player character, and still give the player some degree of swing control.

 I had collision issues like when the rope swings under and back up on the side of a small ledge, the player would get stuck. I had to dynamically shrink the player's collision if he got stuck in those "U"-rope situations (by checking if his velocity was < 0.1) then growing it again when he was freed. Lots of little hacks like that. Also, particles on grapple impact!

In the video, I have a normal rope state and an upgraded rope state! The normal has a recharge time after you let go (you can see the rope takes its time to retract). The upgraded rope can be recast instantly, which makes it really fun to stay airborn!  Plus it looks flashier. That was pretty easy to do with the rope state machine I already had in place. Stretching and squeezing the sprite rope segment, changing the sprite image, etc.

It's still a bit buggy in certain situations, but it works and it's really fun! I really wanted an ability like this to take advantage of the vertical environments I have in mind, without just resorting to double-jump and walljumping (might still do walljump though). Still needs a bit more realization, but it's more than functional enough to put it aside and work on something else.

Maybe death pits next?
*checks notes*
Ah yes, death pits, and maybe some plant-based critter.
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« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2020, 04:58:43 PM »

Made this piece of background art this afternoon. Also, a lot more dust particles in the air! And some other stuff under the hood.








Are image/png embedds not working for anyone else in this thread? I have a whole bunch but none of them are visible (direct links to them work perfectly). They're on a paid host so not sure if the problem is just me..

EDIT: ok, think I maybe fixed the embedded image problem. turned on some encryption setting for my host.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2020, 10:17:10 AM by muki » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2020, 08:37:35 PM »

Been on a sort of break, so haven't had much progress. Will drop a clip of a new spiky pit tech, though!

Had to make a few new small systems for this to work. The hurt zone of course, but also fade in/out, and teleporting to the last 'safe' spot.





I suppose I should add a FAQ eventually too. I'm not looking to collaborate. I see this more as a personal/portfolio project than a real game that will be sold. I've had a couple offers for sound/music, which is really cool! But I have to unfortunately decline any collab. Partially because I want to also do the music/sound myself.
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« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2020, 12:03:39 AM »

Hey muki! I love your art style and can't wait to hear more details about your game. I'll definitely be following it!
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« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2020, 08:02:44 PM »

Added FAQ to original post.



Hey muki! I love your art style and can't wait to hear more details about your game. I'll definitely be following it!

Thank you Alain!
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muki
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« Reply #15 on: February 19, 2021, 07:55:14 PM »

Been mostly on break from this.

I spent almost the entire day adding sound & music to my project. It was completely silent before.

Here's me swinging around and hitting stuff for three and a half minutes.





A lot of samples from freesound.org, layered and tweaked in ableton, plus some of my own. Music is an original too, but still very much WIP (like everything else). Shows what kind of atmosphere I'm going for.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2021, 08:04:20 PM by muki » Logged
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« Reply #16 on: February 20, 2021, 03:29:38 AM »

I think you did a nice job with the music, it seems to fit the overall atmosphere well. And the sound effects really make things come to life. Keep up the great work!
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muki
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« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2021, 10:14:14 AM »

I think you did a nice job with the music, it seems to fit the overall atmosphere well. And the sound effects really make things come to life. Keep up the great work!

Thank you!

The music is still rough and mostly made up of older recordings of mine. For now this (and a few others) work nicely and placeholder music.
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« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2021, 10:18:42 AM »

I haven't been working on this project much last few months, but every now and then I can squeeze a bit in.

This weekend I tried to make my dark and claustrophobic environments look better.





I wanted to explore how to "light" almost dark environments, and portray shimmering bioluminescence and phosphorescence, as well as handle extremely small and bright shapes (like holes in a cave).

Half-way through I display some of the render passes to help illustrate how it works. The unlit pass, the shadow pass which contains a shadow-casting source and some non-shadow light volumes, the combined result of these two passes, then a glow/bloom pass generated from the unlit, threshold-soft-clamped, blurred and additive blended.

Some details:


  • I have to transition between these dark areas to brightly lit areas smoothly, which I do at the end. This is done by lerping global variables when moving through a transition volume.
  • Player character always has a subtle light aura around them, even in total darkness. You can see it in the shadow pass.
  • I wanted a look where bioluminescent plants are visible beyond the reach of your light, but they are blurry with no detail. The detail comes in when your light reaches them. This is really difficult to get right (still needs some tweaking).
  • The light beams are just hand-placed sprites/objects with alpha modulation. Sometimes there's pollen/particles in them which looks really nice! Most of these ambient particles are randomly generated on room creation, so some light beams will have them, others not, which is fine.
  • There are a lot more surfaces/passes than what is shown here. All the parallax/depth-of-field is pretty complex in itself. And also there's color lookup tables. The rendering control object is now pretty complex and hard to follow, I'll probably need to refactor it in the future. Still runs pretty well though!
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« Reply #19 on: April 03, 2021, 01:23:34 AM »

The game looks and sounds absolutely stunning.
I'll totally watch this!  Blink
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