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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsMoons In Crystal [Metroidvania; Top-Down; Fantasy-"Space"]
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« Reply #160 on: June 05, 2023, 01:35:46 AM »

Blog post (5th of June, 2023)
Denizens of the Serpent Moon


Summary: In which three snakes are made; "updating effects" are updated; a new undead foe is implemented; and the design-doc is worked on and expanded in a number of ways.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot is again an animated gif, showing a new enemy (albeit using an old model):



The week just past was an active one, I do feel, with work being done both in implementation and concept:

As shown above, some new enemies were added in the week just past, intended for two different moons.

The Serpent Moon, as one might expect, is full of snakes, and to that end I implemented three:

First is a quick, relatively-fragile snake that delivers a venomous bite at close range; it is this snake that is shown above, using the model from the demo's "spitting worm" enemy. And as shown above, its venom does not incur just an immediate loss of health--it incurs a loss of health over time!

Second is a spitting snake, less fast than the biting snake, but a little tougher and able to attack at range. At least its venom only deals immediate damage!



And third is a tough, slow, non-venomous constrictor. But lest that sound unalarming, let me note this: should it manage to reach and attack the player, it will wrap around their vessel and crush it to inexorable death--thus delivering a kill regardless of the player's health...

(Noting that there's no proper animation for this as of yet.)



On the technical side, the "venom over time" effect used by the biting snake was implemented via an "updating effect" applied to the player. The making of this involved the creation of a new "alter health over time" "updating effect"--one that might be useful for other things in future.

Further, I made a change to the extant "updating effect" classes such that any such effect may optionally run for a given duration before ending.

Returning to new enemies, one more was made in the week just past, this for the Tomb Moon.

This is "the immured", an undead enemy that's not terribly tough--but that is very fast and very vicious. What's more, and as their name might suggest, they're not often immediately visible. Rather, any breakable wall within their bourn may or may not contain an immured...



Still, I will confess that I'm a little on-the-fence about them: as they're intended to be found within breakable walls, and as such walls are generally broken by shooting, they'll tend to come out directly into the player's line of fire, which may de-fang them a bit.

I do have some ideas towards this--one of which is shown in the gif above--but we'll see!

And finally in matters of implementation, in the week just past I added a new weapon--but decided in the end to not keep it.

This weapon was, essentially, a sword. The idea was that it would do more damage the faster it was going both in terms of player-movement and in turns of being swung about.

I implemented most of this I believe--but discovered in the end that, with this game's controls, the process of swinging the sword about was just not all that fun. :/

Thus, I've decided to scrap that particular weapon. So it sometimes goes in game-dev!

Still, it did give me the idea to perhaps have a DLC focussed on (traditionally-implemented) melee weapons for both player and enemies...

But not all of the work of the week just past was in implementation. Indeed, one decision that I made during the week was that it's perhaps time now to focus primarily on my design-document, on fleshing out the game's moons, enemies, items, events, and so on.

To that end in the week just past I worked on a variety of elements in the document: on the details of moons; on solar-system layouts; on enemies and bosses (including the final boss); and more besides!

As part of this, wanting to fill out the exploration a bit, I went looking for one or two new medium-to-large moons to add. I did find a few potential moons--but none that I was convinced of, and none that seem large enough. I'm thus still searching!

Conversely, in doing so I ended up finding inspiration for one smaller moons that I'd previously set aside! ^_^

And once again, there were a few minor changes that don't seem worth detailing here.

That, then, is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #161 on: June 12, 2023, 01:28:53 AM »

Blog post (12th of June, 2023)
To Sprite or Not To Sprite, That is the Question


Summary: In which concept-work is done; the current number of moons (and asteroids) is reported; and an experiment is performed.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot is another gif, showing an excerpt from an experiment:



The week just past was primarily one of concepting--but also, as shown above, one of experimentation:

As noted above, the main work of the week just past was that of concepting: of continuing to build out the design-doc with enemies, moon-design, and more.

During the course of this, one set of (small) moons was removed; conversely, further moons continue to be considered!

It may be interesting to note at this point that, at time of writing, the game has planned:
  • 4 "large" moons
    • (Being of large size, and having several levels)
  • 5 "medium" moons
    • (This being the broadest category: these moons vary from smallish to largish, and are intended to have two or more levels)
  • And 4 "small" moons
    • (Being of small size, and having one or two levels--often the former)
  • Plus 1 asteroid

As also noted above, however, this work was not the only done in the week just past: an experiment was performed also...

You see, the final art-style of the game remains to be determined, and one possibility that I've considered has been to switch from 3D characters to sprites. While I imagine time-consuming to produce, I suspect that sprites may nevertheless have some advantages--possibly including an improvement in performance.

So, in the week just past I set out to test that last thought: that sprites may provide better performance than my current approach.

To that end I created a test-program, complete with simple implementations of both a new sprite-class and my current approach, and a simple model (both in 3D and sprite-sheet) with which to test. I then populated a basic scene with a great many such objects--a grid of 15x10--first using one approach, then the other. In each case I noted the frame-time that Panda3D reported.



With my current approach, I recorded a frame-time of about 8ms.

With my sprite class, I recorded a frame-time of about 2ms!

So indeed, it seems that a switch to sprites could well improve performance!

Although I will note that the implementations and testing scenario used here were fairly naive--it remains possible that things would be different in production!

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #162 on: June 14, 2023, 04:39:35 AM »

Pretty sure you will have better performance with sprites, but there are quite a lot of drawbacks. Off the top of my head:

- no change in lighting is possible
- you have to handle the drawing sequence of the sprites
- scaling enemies requires higher res rendering
- no dynamic cameras or view changes
- if you have complex animations, you need them to be rendered in every direction you require -> tons of images
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« Reply #163 on: June 14, 2023, 12:59:56 PM »

Indeed, I daresay that all approaches have their drawbacks! (Even 3D geometry has some, I do feel.)

That said...

- no change in lighting is possible

I have actually seen some pretty decent lighting applied to sprites, as I recall; I imagine that it uses normal-mapping, or something similar.

Of course, this does incur additional work, likely additional textures, and a more-complex shader.

- scaling enemies requires higher res rendering
- no dynamic cameras or view changes

Thankfully, as things stand the latter isn't required by my game.

As to the former, it should only be an issue in a rather limited number of cases, so the cost of rendering those cases at a higher resolution should be minimal.

Conversely, it might also be noted that sprites come with some advantages outside of performance, too:

  • It's easier to have good-looking outlines
  • It may be easier to design for small-scale objects
  • It may be easier to design for objects view at an angle from above
  • Special effects can in some cases be integrated directly into the sprites, rather than being handled as separate objects

(And perhaps others that are not occurring to me right now!)
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« Reply #164 on: June 19, 2023, 02:37:00 AM »

Blog post (19th of June, 2023)
Developing Concepts


Summary: In which further game-design work is done; quest-lines are worked on; some concept art is begun; a new enemy jumps in; an extant enemy splits into two variants; a technical idea is gained; and a second wave of publisher-pitches is sent out.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot is a trio of excerpts from some new concept art:



The week just past was a somewhat varied one, I feel, with work done on game-design, concept-art, implementation, and more besides!

As with the preceding week, I believe, the main of the work of the week just past was in game-design. And indeed, the design-doc continues to fill out, with enemies, items, and more! (And with the demotion of one "large" moon to the "medium" category.)

But perhaps the most salient part of this was that I began filling in the game's quest-lines.

And this proved rather tricky, I will confess! Specifically, I think that I had difficulty in finding a "handle" by which to grasp the quest-lines, a starting-point from which to begin finding them.

In the end, I think that I found at least some such "handles", for the planetary-puzzle quest-lines at least!

This then led to a number of sights that I had described, along with others from previous work. And I think that I worried that these might not come across clearly to future team-members (should I get to recruit such, of course), or perhaps that I myself might forget.

So, I thus began the work that is excerpted in the main screenshot above: putting down rough concept-art, aimed at showing what I had otherwise described.

There's plenty yet to be done, I believe, but I'm reasonably happy with the start that I've made.

In terms of implementation, in the week just past I made two additions:

First, I added a new enemy, a foe intended to be encountered in the Aethereal Moon: The Echo of Necrourgy.

These echoes, as inimical to the living as the magic that they reflect, will teleport to the player and release a damaging burst of aethereal energy. With good timing they can be avoided--but I will say that I've found such timing to be challenging! Wink

Here below you should see a short gif of prototype Echoes of Necrourgy in action (with stand-in art, of course):


And second, I added a variant of the Stone Guardian that bears a huge stone shield, rendering it invulnerable from the fore. Along with this I tweaked some of the numbers used by the Stone Guardian, in particular such that the variants likewise varied in their attributes.

On the technical side, a set of ideas came to me in the week just past that may help with the question of loading times--although they have yet to be tried!

And finally, I was getting perhaps a little antsy in my wait for further responses from publishers, and so decided to send out wave two of my pitches! We'll see, then, what responses I get from this group...

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #165 on: June 26, 2023, 03:33:21 AM »

Blog post (26th of June, 2023)
Painting Fragments


Summary: In which design-doc work continues; and a fair bit of painting is done.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot is once again a selection of excerpts taken from newly-made concept-art:



The week just past was a bit of a slow one, I'll confess. This is perhaps due to a few causes, including the work itself progressing somewhat slowly and, perhaps in part, the effects of a cold (as I presume it to be) that I caught.

To start with, I continued work on the design-doc for the game, albeit as far as  I recall only with relatively-minor updates.

Rather, and as shown above, the main of the work of the week just past was in the making of more concept art.

There I set down images for several things, including events, locations, two bosses, and even an item!

(Not all of which are shown above; a few pieces were rather schematic in nature, and I decided to exclude those from the compilation image.)

Even at the fairly small size at which I'm painting these pieces, I'll confess that making them took some time. This was due not only to the painting itself, but also to figuring out what to put down, and the specifics thereof.

Still, I'm not entirely unhappy with the progress thus far made! ^_^

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #166 on: July 03, 2023, 07:41:23 AM »

Blog post (3rd of July, 2023)
Characters Depicted


Summary: In which more concept-art is made; the design-doc sees more work; as part of that, one set of quest-lines is completed; and one more publisher response comes in.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot once again shows a set of excerpts from concept art made in the week just past:



The week just past was once again primarily a concept-art week:

To start with, and as mentioned above, work has continued on making concept art for the game!

In this case, the art depicts four standard enemies (three shown above), one NPC (who under certain circumstances may become a boss...), one boss, and some of the game's finale...

In other matters, work continued on the design-doc, including changes in various matters, as I recall.

But most saliently, I believe that I have finally completed the quest-lines for the planetary-puzzles! (Or at least this draft thereof; naturally they may be changed in the future, and it remains to be seen how they feel in-game.)

And finally, I received in the week just past one more response from a publisher, that being another decline.

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #167 on: July 10, 2023, 01:50:32 AM »

Blog post (10th of July, 2023)
Those of the Shattered Moon


Summary: In which enemies are prototyped; a bug is fixed; and the design-doc sees further development.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot moves away from concept art, and back to the prototyping of enemies! (With stand-in art once again, please note.)



And indeed, the week just past was primarily given to enemy-prototyping, I believe, albeit with a few other things done besides:

First amongst the enemies that I prototyped, as I recall, were those that I intend for the Shattered Moon.

Like their moon, each of these denizens is shattered, each in one of four different ways:

(Noting once again that all of the gifs shown below use stand-in art.)

Simplest are the Shattered in Body.

Like their body, their attack shatters: they fire a single projectile, which on impact or reaching a given range breaks into a spray of lesser projectiles, which in turn break into lesser projectiles still.

The result is, effectively, an Area Of Effect attack, devastating close to its centre--where more shards will hit--yet still dangerous at its edges.



More troublesome are the Shattered In Time.

These each remain on the field for just a few seconds, then blink out for a moment--only to reappear with their health reset.

Thus, while they're not tough, the player has only a limited window in which to defeat them.

Their projectiles are likewise unstuck in time: these skip back and forth along their trajectories, making them a little jarring, and harder to react to.



Harder to hit are the Shattered in Space.

At intervals these Shattered will skip to a new location, thus challenging the player to recover their aim.

And again, their projectiles follow their theme: here the projectiles split and split again, creating a fan across the space through which they travel.



And somewhat tricky are the Shattered in Life.

Each of these is separated from their life, which in turn has been split up, appearing as crystals scattered about the room.

As such, they are themselves impervious--instead, the player must target their life itself.

However, they will attempt to prevent that, appearing between the player and whatever life-crystal is being aimed at--until they commit to an attack, at least...

As for that attack, it's fairly straightforward: as their life is split up, so too is their attack, appearing as a row of projectiles fired together.



And as part of working on these enemies, as I recall, I fixed a bug that turned up in the convenience class that I use for simple projectile weapons.

With that set of enemies done, I moved on to a new enemy, from a new moon--specifically, the ghostly Shrouds from the Tomb Moon.

These drift about and around, circling inward towards the player--and fading in and out of visibility. They must reach melee range in order to deal damage--but keeping away from them can be a little harder when they can't always be seen...

You should be able to see this enemy in the first screenshot, above!

And finally, during the week just past I continued to work on the design document, on various elements.

Perhaps most saliently, I've put down some notes regarding the tutorial-level/starting-location, as well as the arcanist met there; indicated the effects of killing a certain boss; and made a start to considering the order in which bosses become available during the game.

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #168 on: July 17, 2023, 02:21:00 AM »

Blog post (17th of July, 2023)
Mummies Alive!(...?)


Summary: In which the design-doc sees more work--including additions; two more enemies are prototyped; a "cone" AOE is implemented; an extant spell is tweaked; two new spells are prototyped; and the functioning of the "damage-over-time" class is altered.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a prototype of a new combat spell! (As before, with stand-in art.)



The week just past was a fairly active one, I feel, with work done on a number of different elements!

Once again the design-document saw updates in the week just past, not only in minor changes, but also in some cleanup and sorting of the various artefacts and spells that are therein described.

But perhaps more saliently, it also saw the addition of new artefacts, new spells, and even a new boss-encounter!

On the prototyping side, I implemented two new enemies in the week just past: those being two types of mummy, both intended for the Tomb Moon.

The first is fairly basic: hungering for life, they seek out anything living--like, say, the player-character--and attempt to drain their life-energy for themselves. (Healing any damage dealt to them in the process.)



The second is a little more complex: a mummy sorcerer, seeking to prolong themselves not by draining life-energy but rather by draining mana. Against most of the living, this is most easily done by killing the victim and draining mana from the death and the corpse--and this is what they attempt with the player-character.

To this end, they have two spells: First is an offensive spell, which charges and then activates a dangerous area-of-effect attack. And second is a defensive spell, which throws back (and slightly damages) those enemies who draw too near.



Now, the life-drain attack used by the first mummy takes effect within a cone-shaped area. (Or rather, a sector of a circle, being two-dimensional.) As I didn't previously have such an area-of-effect implemented, I thus did so in the week just past.

This in turn involved reworking somewhat of how I handled "beams", such that they and "cones"--the two of which share some properties in this game--could descend from a single base-class and be used by the same weapon-class.

And for the purposes of testing this new functionality, I created a simple combat-spell. (One not intended for the final game.)

On the matter of combat spells, in the week just past I implemented two new such and tweaked one that I already had:

The tweaked spell was the old "regret" spell, now adjusted to instead reflect a different artefact--a flower--and, as I recall, to polish the spell a little. The essence remains the same, however: pull nearby enemies in, and very briefly stun them.

Of the new spells, the simpler was the "envenom" spell: it's essentially the attack used by the "biting serpent" enemy, being a melee-range damage-over-time attack.

As part of this, however, I adjusted the class that controls such "damage-over-time" effects: it now deals damage in "pulses", rather than "continuously".

The other new spell is a little more complex, and is the one shown in the animated gif at the start of this post. This is, essentially, a turret--but one that has a very limited range, and a "projectile" that it re-uses.

That limited range solves, I think, a concern that I had with my previous "turret" prototype: why would the player not take essentially-free damage?

If the player had a more-limited number of slots for their spells (something that I have considered), then taking the turret would potentially have a significant impact on their damage output. In effect, they would be trading raw damage for reliable damage.

But with four slots, there is I feel plenty of space for the player to gain that reliable damage and still have a solid damage output.

This is solved, then, by making the use of the turret risky or skilful: the player either has to take the turret to the enemies, or bring the enemies to the turret.

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #169 on: July 24, 2023, 01:03:40 AM »

Blog post (24th of July, 2023)
The Enemies Take What's "Mine"


Summary: In which two new spells are added; health- and damage- values are rebalanced; and a fair bit is done in the design-doc.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows another new combat spell--this one of a defensive or tactical nature! (Once again using stand-in art.)



The week just past was another varied one, I feel--albeit with one particular element taking a significant proportion of the work done:

Two new combat-spells were added in the week just past, both somewhat defensive in nature, albeit in different ways.

The first is shown in the main screenshot above: it allows the player to drop three "markers", forming a triangle within which there then appears a field that slows all--player included--that enter.

Broadly speaking, the smaller the triangle, and the closer to equilateral, the more powerful the field.

After a time, or if the player picks up one of the "markers", the field dissipates and the "markers" return to the player.

(Technically speaking, the strength of the field is determined internally by the size of the detection-sphere that's associated with it.

This is in turn based on the centroid of the triangle, and the maximum distance from that centroid to a vertex of the triangle, if I recall correctly.

Which should, I believe, correspond to being smaller when the triangle is smaller, and when the triangle is closer to equilateral.)

The second weapon is a little more aggressive: it drops magical mines behind the player. These explode when an enemy draws near, dealing a little damage--but perhaps more importantly, knocking the enemy back and briefly stunning them.

If no enemy activates a given mine within a span of a few seconds, however, the mine disappears.



Remaining (broadly) with matters of combat, in the week just past I attended to the matter of rebalancing certain health- and damage- values.

You see, I had found that effects that could damage both player and enemies tended to feel more effective against the former than the latter. For example, detonating a mana-crystal took about a fifth of the player's base health, but felt ineffective against the not-overly-tough Deceived Acolytes.

So, I set about reducing the health-values of enemies (approximately halving them, to be specific), and then likewise reducing the damage dealt by the player's combat spells (so that enemies wouldn't feel like paper against normal attacks).

And, while some tweaks may yet be called for, it does feel better this way I do think!

But perhaps the greatest portion of the work done in the week just past was that done on the design-document.

Here I filled out various questlines, expanded and set down the mechanics for several boss-fights, figured out the order in which bosses become available, worked on various artefacts and spells, changed the order of the "metroidvania upgrades", and more besides!

And finally, there were various things done in the week just past that don't seem worth detailing here!

That, then, is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #170 on: July 31, 2023, 02:02:14 AM »

Blog post (31st of July, 2023)
Keeping a Dragon in Sight


Summary: In which the design-doc is completed (sort of); the availability of a boss is changed; this change prompts a new combat-spell; the dragon-boss sees work; a new boss is begun; and the question of boss-arena visibility is addressed.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot once again shows a new combat spell--of a sort:



The week just past was another busy one, I feel!

To start with, work continued on the design-document, in a variety of elements.

Indeed, there was work done on the order of availability of bosses, changes to the moons from player actions, boss-mechanics, questlines, and more besides! There was even the addition of a new boss to the Shattered Moon!

And with that, I think that the design-doc is... pretty much done! 0_0

Aside, that is, from a few changes that I yet want to make.

And indeed, while the document may be "done" after those changes, I don't expect it to be a static text, a work inviolable.

As the game is developed--presuming that it does get to go forward, of course--I expect that things will come up. Perhaps a combat-spell will prove ineffective (or too effective), or an enemy will be unchallenging, or a boss un-fun, etc. These would presumably call for changes--and thus the document would be updated to reflect said changes.

Now, one of the changes made to the design-document in the week just past involved altering the availability of a particular boss, placing it effectively later in the game.

However, I felt that the reward that it gave was perhaps a bit underwhelming for a boss fought then so close to the finale.

So, I brought back an artefact previously held under consideration and applied the aforementioned reward to that, and assigned to this boss a new duo of artefact and combat spell.

Well, sort of: while functionally it is such a pair, conceptually what the player actually gains is... well, a pet.

This little creature keeps close to the player, flying around them, following them--until enemies draw close, at which point it attacks! (... The enemies, not the player. Tongue)

And it is this "pet" that is shown in the screenshot above!

Remaining with implementation work, having the design-doc (pretty much) done, I returned to implementing bosses.

Specifically, I resumed work on the "dragon" boss-fight. I adjusted it in a variety of ways--and I believe that I have it now pretty much polished off! (As a fight, at least--art, environment, scripting, etc. have yet to be done, of course.)

And what's more, I've made a bare start to another boss, this one intended to be available early in the game.

The dragon boss-fight did present a difficulty, however: I wanted there to be a fair bit of space in the fight--but moving too far away from the dragon hid it from view.

There were a few potential solutions, I felt--but I wasn't confident of any of them.

So, I decided to research what approaches were taken by comparable games. Specifically, I looked at three other metroidvanias: Aquaria, Depths of Sanity, and Lila's Sky Ark.

And the result was... varied!

Aquaria seemed to rely on zooming the camera out. Depths of Sanity sometimes fixed the camera in position, sometimes did nothing. Lila's Sky Ark generally fixed the camera in position.

In the end, I implemented Aquaria's solution: the game can now zoom the camera out to widen the battlefield! (Or, I suppose, zoom it in to limit things more.)

And trying it with the dragon boss-fight... it actually works pretty well, I feel! ^_^



That, then, is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #171 on: August 07, 2023, 02:11:32 AM »

Blog post (7th of August, 2023)
Boss-Building


Summary: In which the design-doc sees updates; a boss is fixed and tweaked; another boss is reworked; more bosses are implemented or begun; some boss-related miscellaneous work is done; a consultation aids with matters of pitching; and one more wave of pitches is planned.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows an excerpt (using stand-in art, of course) from work on a new boss:



The week just past was perhaps a "week of bosses"--but nevertheless, a number of other things were done, too:

You may recall that I reported previously that the design-document was done--but also that I didn't expect it to be a static document, never changed.

And indeed, in the week just past changes were wrought!

Much of this had to do with the availability of combat-spells. In particular, as I recall, I discovered two things: First, that there were few straightforward "attacks" available early in the game. (And that two of those were spreadfire attacks!) And second, that one rather powerful "attack" was available awfully early on.

After deliberation, I made a few changes:
  • A new questline (and NPC!) has been introduced, being available relatively early on, and providing the "lightning ball" spell.
  • The questline that used to provide that spell--which is completable only later in the game--now instead provides the "meteor" spell.
  • The moon that provides the above-mentioned "rather powerful 'attack'" has been moved to a later part of the game.

Now, that last point did leave the solar-systems that are initially available to the player each holding exactly three moons, and one of them having only smaller moons. So, I further moved a medium-sized moon from one of those systems into the system with only smaller moons, thus solving both problems.

Regarding the second point, the "meteor" spell was previously acquired by defeating a boss--that boss has now in turn been removed. And in fairness, it was a boss that I was finding didn't fit ideally into the mechanics of the game.

And regarding that first point, let me note that this new questline is not quite complete--I'm not yet sure of what the NPC wants from the player!

But speaking of bosses, it was perhaps work on such foes that occupied the majority of the work of the week just past.

To start with, I fixed the "Dragon" boss (there were some missing import-statements and an incorrect file-path), and then later applied some tweaks to it: removing one attack, and altering another.

Furthermore, I reworked the "Skeletal Sequential Boss" that was present in the demo. While the basic idea remains, the nature of its attacks and patterns has been altered, and its health has been reduced a bit.

This, I hope, better reflects both the boss itself and its (early) position in the game, and further makes it more distinct from other bosses!



And beyond that I implemented three new bosses, and started a fourth!

I hesitate to say too much here, as discovering bosses can be part of the fun of such a game as this, so let me say little more than that they're each from a different moon, and each at least a little different from the others.

They're also all from relatively early in the game: I've been somewhat working from earlier to later in my list of bosses--the above-mentioned Dragon aside!

But let me not leave you with only that: the first screenshot above shows an excerpt from one of these bosses, and here below you should see another!



Along with this, I updated the spreadsheet that holds record of enemy health-values (bosses included), and reduced the intended maximum value for boss health-bars.

And finally, in the week just past I took a consultation with indie-dev and indie-consultant Rami Ismail, in which we discussed some questions that I had regarding my pitch, and in particular whether and when to query it.

The short answer to that last is: some time ago! (He recommended only a short time before first querying--a few weeks I think that it may have been.)

So, I also sent out a set of queries to those publishers from whom I yet awaited responses. (Save for two--I think it was--who didn't seem to provide a clear email address or message-page.)

This got me two more responses: one a "decline", and one a "wait a week for response", more or less.

I will confess, that "decline" did hit me a little hard, specifically in that it noted dissatisfaction with my player-character, finding the initial sphere-like form too impersonal.

(However, this was not their stated reason for turning the game down, and they did say that they appreciated the game's charm.)

But, I think that I have a way forward there: Should a publisher who is inclined to take the game on feel similarly, my thought is to suggest that we simply start off the player with all of the ship-parts currently given alongside upgrades. The final form--a sort of brass bird, wings outstretched, and with a great crystal set in its centre--has to my mind significantly more personality!

Mr. Ismail also suggested that I pitch to a third wave of publishers, and so I intend to do so tomorrow! ^_^

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #172 on: August 14, 2023, 01:30:25 AM »

Blog post (14th of August, 2023)
Fixed Teleportation


Summary: In which boss-implementation continues; a spell-bug is fixed; teleportation sees tweaks; the testing-area backdrop is changed; the design-doc sees updates; the removal of a mechanical element is considered; and more pitching is done.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a bit more boss-work (once again with stand-in art):



The week just past was a fairly varied one, I feel, with implementation, bug-fixing, design-doc work, and more!

To start with, and as shown above, work continued on the implementation of bosses. Specifically, I finished off one that I had already begun, implemented a second, applied a fix to a third, and began work on a fourth.

I will confess: Making bosses has been proving to be fun, thus far! ^_^

(And occasionally challenging: as I recall, at least one of those called for some serious thought into how I might approach it!)

Moving away from bosses, but remaining with coding-work, I applied some changes to a few extant elements in the week just past:

First and simplest was that I fixed a bug in the "lightning ball" combat-spell: The previous reduction in player damage-values, and the fact that this particular spell reduces its damage with each bounce, had resulted in it reducing its damage to negative values, thus actually healing enemies! XD;

Thankfully, this was easily fixed!

Second and a bit more complicated was that I made some adjustments to the "teleportation" "metroidvania upgrade".

This was brought on, as I recall, by the discovery that the upgrade in question didn't work very well when the game was played with a controller.

You see, the teleportation upgrade previously targeted the player's cursor, up to a certain range.

Now, when the game is played with a mouse, the player's cursor moves with said mouse. This then allowed the upgrade to be targetted somewhat freely.

But when the game is played with a controller, the cursor stays at a fixed (and small) distance from the player-character, merely shifting direction around them. (It could be more free, I daresay, but that would be awkward with a controller-stick, I fear.) This left the upgrade targeting a point that was too nearby to be all that useful.

What I've thus done is to standardise the teleportation upgrade to target a point at a fixed range from the player (in the direction in which they're aiming), regardless of input device--but at a range closer to its old maximum.

Now, this does mean that it's less easy for the player to adjust their targeting for nearby walls. So, I furthermore added some logic to account for such things, to a degree at least.

Overall, the result is a little more awkward than it used to be (with a mouse, at least), but it does work, I feel!



You might also note in the gifs above, by the way, that I've changed the background texture in my testing area. This texture should, I hope, be a little more gif-friendly--and maybe also a little nicer to look at?

Moving to the design-document (and related documents), I made a few changes there in the week just past.

On the relatively-minor side, I finished off one questline (or a draft thereof at least); listed out and gave consideration to the order in which artefacts and spells become available; and contemplated the addition of a new artefact-and-spell to the early part of the roster.

I also addressed the issue that a particular, relatively-late-game region lacked any side-questlines. To this end I found one for it--and incorporated one of the optional bosses into that, making said boss, and the artefact that they provide, now part of a questline.

On the more drastic side, in the week just past I gave serious thought to effectively removing the "mana" mechanic from the player's combat-spells.

In short, I'm not sure that it's actually good for gameplay here: I find that it can be frustrating to be low on mana, to have one's combat-spells working only intermittently. Especially early on in the game, when the player has few spells to switch between while recovering mana.

It might be more fun, conversely, to allow players to fire freely--to have the choice of what spell they use be purely one of which seems best at the time, or of personal preference.

Further, it would open up some UI space, in which I could then bring the player's selected artefacts to the fore alongside their spells.

Conversely, I do worry that the removal of the mana mechanic would reduce the game's tactical depth...

All that said, I've decided (for now) to leave the matter until such time as I get more feedback on the demo...

And finally, I believe that I mentioned in last week's blog post that I intended to send out a third wave of pitches. And this indeed I did!

That, then, is all for this week--stay well and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #173 on: August 21, 2023, 12:34:22 AM »

Blog post (21st of August, 2023)
No More Mana


Summary: In which a mechanic is removed; some UI elements are relatedly reworked; a combat-spell is adjusted; knockback is tweaked; one boss sees changes; another boss is begun and completed; a third boss is started; and a big step is planned.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a significant change to the mechanics of the game, along with concomitant changes to the game's UI:



The week just past was perhaps a little less busy than the previous, but still, a number of things did get done:

I mentioned in last week's blog-post, I believe, that I was thinking of removing the "mana" mechanic from the game. In short, I felt that it was perhaps more hindrance than help--although at the time I was hesitant to make a final decision before I received more feedback.

Well, in the week just past, at the encouragement of a friend, I made that decision!

The game now no longer uses mana!

Sort of: technically, the system does still exist internally (albeit with some tweaks), and it is in fact used by certain spells for timers or cooldowns.

But no more does the player "run out of mana" via excessive firing, leaving them either pressed to switch combat-spells or stuck with firing in dribs and drabs!

What's more, in removing the mana-bar at the bottom of the screen, UI space was freed up. This in turn allowed me to bring into the main UI a depiction of the currently-selected artefact--and after all, the artefacts are part of the uniqueness of the game. ^_^

All of this should be visible in the first screenshot above--but here below you should see a still screenshot, showing the new UI in context:



Speaking of changes to extant elements, in the week just past I made some tweaks to the "Meteor" combat-spell.

You see, in testing a new boss, I found that this spell rather trivialised the fight--I often didn't even get to see the last of the boss's attacks! Where conversely, using other spells left the boss rather more of a challenge, and that last attack did tend to appear.

So, I thus made a few changes--both nerfing it and slightly buffing it.

Specifically, the spell will now only charge a single meteor, not the three that it previously would. But conversely, the damage and area-of-effect of individual meteors have both been slightly increased.

On a similar note, I made a change to the handling of "knockback" in the week just past.

Specifically, when applied to the player it now incurs a brief period--0.3 seconds, if I recall correctly--of immobility. This prevents player-movement from overriding the knockback, allowing it to be more effective.

I mentioned the testing of a new boss, and indeed, work continued in the week just past on the implementation of bosses.

First of all, I made some tweaks to the "dragon" boss, primarily to its "cone of fire" attack.

But perhaps more saliently, I implemented two more bosses; one of these is completed, and the other is still a work-in-progress.

I will confess, that work-in-progress boss is proving tricky! I do think that the idea is workable and interesting, and I think that progress has been made--but it's proving difficult to make fun and challenging!

The other boss, however, I'm fairly happy with! Let me share with you, then, a brief excerpt from that boss:



And finally, I have it in mind to take a somewhat big step (as it feels from my perspective, at least) in the next few days--but keep an eye on my Twitter account to see that...!

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #174 on: August 28, 2023, 01:18:38 AM »

Blog post (28th of August, 2023)
Seeking Aid!


Summary: In which work on bosses continues; meteors are made (a little) bigger; two spells are nerfed; the nerfing of a third is discussed; caution is noted regarding said nerfing; the effect of mana-crystals is adjusted; bugs are fixed; a new social-media platform is joined; and positions are opened...!

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows another work-in-progress boss:



The week just past was a fairly active one, I feel, with work done on a number of fronts--including the taking of one (I feel) particularly salient step...

As shown above, work continued in the implementation of bosses. Specifically, I concluded one boss, started and finished a second, began a third (the one in the screenshot), and went back to a fourth to add a new element (MORE FIRE! Evil).

Regarding that first-mentioned, the one that I concluded, I will confess that I'm a little unsure of whether I've made it work. But if I have, then it would seem that spinning helped. ^_^

Turning now to the player's combat-spells, in the week just past I made a few changes to those:

First and simplest, I slightly increased the size of the player's meteors.

But a little more complex, in the process of boss-testing I came to find again that some spells felt too powerful.

And indeed, looking at my weapon-value spreadsheet, I started to wonder whether the damage-per-second gradient between spells wasn't perhaps a bit too steep. (That is, that DPS values didn't jump too greatly as one looked from one spell to another.)

At the time, I concluded that this was probably an issue to be attended to in a later polish-stage.

Then I did something about it anyway. ^^;

Specifically, I've now reduced the damage dealt by meteors, and by the Dragon's Heart. Both are still powerful weapons--just less boss-breakingly powerful. (I hope. ^^; )

Now, the "Retrocaster" spell remains much more powerful than either, making it tempting to nerf that one, too. However, it's also much harder to use, which I think may balance it out. This, at least, I'm content to leave until I have better evidence that it's overpowered...

I will also say that I do feel a note of caution in making these changes: I'm aware that what's easy-to-use for me may not be so for others... (After all, I made and have extensively played with these spells.)

Remaining with gameplay work, I adjusted the effect of mana-crystals on the player--and I have it in mind to do yet more there!

And last in matters of implementation, in the week just past I fixed (I believe) some bugs in my inventory-viewer class.

And finally, on the social side, I have two things to report and announce:

First, I'm now on Bluesky! If you want to find me there, you should be able to reach me at:
https://bsky.app/profile/ebornian.bsky.social

And second, and somewhat anxiety-inducing I will confess, I have now opened up a call for two contractor roles!

To be clear, I am currently only seeking a "soft yes" on these--actual contracting being contingent on gaining publisher support (and thus funding).

That said, if you're interested in working on Moons in Crystal, take a look at the page linked-to below for the details!
http://thaumaturge-art.com/index.php?/pages/contractPositions.html

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #175 on: September 04, 2023, 01:23:10 AM »

Blog post (4th of September, 2023)
Interviews!


Summary: In which menus become a little more controlled; a handful of gameplay matters are attended to; bosses are worked on; visual elements are experimented with; and interviews are held!

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a UI change implemented in the week just past:



The week just past was an interesting one for me! There was the above-mentioned UI change, and gameplay work, and experimentation--and a task unfamiliar, but potentially salient!

As shown above, the week just past saw an update to the game's UI.

You see, as I previously had things--and as things were back in A Door to the Mists, as I recall--the menu-system would reactively adapt to the player's input: if they used the mouse, it presented a mouse-cursor and responded to it; if they used another input-mechanism (such as the keyboard, or a gamepad), it presented a different selection-indicator and responded to that input.

The idea was that this would allow players to interact with the menus as they preferred.

However, I found that it all too easily switched between the two modes, reacting sometimes to gameplay-related inputs.

So, in the week just past I took the step of removing that reactivity, and instead having the menu-input mode be selected (and saved) as part of the key-binding system.

This is what you should see in the screenshot above: the key-binding UI adjusted to make space, and in that space a new check-box controlling the menu-input mode.

Turning to gameplay, in the week just past I fixed (I hope) a bug in the generation of bone-walls, implemented new responses from the player-spells to mana-crystals (mostly affecting their timers), and even did a very tiny bit of writing.

And as in previous weeks, I did some work on bosses--if less so this time.

Specifically, one boss saw work, but remains a work-in-progress, while another has now some area-denial arcs that are produced by one of its attacks.



On the more experimental side, in the week just past I toyed with the game's lighting; tried out a (fairly naive) light-bloom filter; and even tried a revision to the game's shader-based outlining. None of this came to any solid conclusions, but all were interesting and some perhaps worth further consideration.

And last but not least, I mentioned in last week's blog post, I believe, that I was opening a call for contractors.

This I did indeed, posting the call not only on social media, but also--at the prompting of one respondent--on the itch.io and TIGSource forums!

At the end of the week just past, then, I met with a number of potential audio-engineers and visual-artists! More, as I write this on Monday morning I have just finished another interview, have one scheduled for about half an hour's time, and have a final one set for the afternoon!

It has been an unfamiliar experience, a tiring one--and an enjoyable one, I will say. ^_^

Then, of course, comes the matter of decision--of choosing to whom to offer these positions...

Wish me luck!

That, then, is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #176 on: September 11, 2023, 12:47:27 AM »

Blog post (11th of September, 2023)
The Interviewees!


Summary: In which there's news on the matter of the interviews; updates are sent to prospective publishers; a sprite-class is worked on; some bug-fixes are dealt with; some enemy abilities are considered; and bosses continue to be built.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows an excerpt from another new boss: (Once again, with prototype assets.)



The week just past was one that held a perhaps-significant development, and one of work on a few different elements!

To start with, I mentioned last week, I believe, the interviews that I held and was planning to hold for a visual artist and an audio engineer.

Well, I concluded those interviews in the week just past--and moved on to deliberating the candidates...

It was a difficult decision, I will say! I had some very strong candidates, and in the end faced two sets of primary options, both seeming like strong possibilities.

But the decision was made--and I now have those "soft yesses" from both an audio engineer and a visual artist, with whom I'm excited to start work! :D

(I will however for now hold off on introductions, I think, until such time as we can move to official contracting!)

And with that done, I took another step: I sent out a wave of update-emails to various publishers!

These emails did two things: they introduced the abovementioned two new artists, and they gave a very brief listing of some of the more-salient changes made since the initial pitch.

Now, the visual artist in question has advised the use of sprites going forward--something that I had been wanting anyway, I will confess.

So, in the week just past I spent some time cleaning up and developing my prototype "sprite" class:

I separated it from the sprite-testing program, fixed bugs within it, reworked and added to its functionality, and even upgraded its shader--such as making it respond to lighting!

Here below then you should see a simple test-sprite, located in the game and responding to light! (Forgive the blurriness of it; the frames are small and the sprite is scaled up.)



There's more to be done, but I'm happy with where the class stands right now! ^_^

But not all work of the week just past was directly related to the new artists.

On the minor side, I enacted a few bug-fixes, and gave further thought to the abilities of standard enemies.

But perhaps more saliently, work continued on the bosses of the game!

One boss was completed; another was started and finished; and a third is now under way. And of course, one of these can be seen, in part, in the first screenshot above!

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #177 on: September 18, 2023, 12:45:46 AM »

Blog post (18th of September, 2023)
The Curving of a Projectile


Summary: In which sprites are worked on; boss-prototyping continues; one particular element of said prototyping proves quite tricky; and some bugs are fixed.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows once again an excerpt from a boss-fight, with prototype assets, of course:



The week just past was perhaps a bit of a slow one, I fear, I daresay at least in part due to a matter in my personal life that has taken up some time and energy.

Still, some things did get done!

To start with, in the week just past I did a bit more work on my sprites.

Specifically, I had an idea in mind regarding their internal updating, one that should result in their functioning much like Panda's built-in model-animation.

I was, at first, concerned that the approach that I intended would be rather slow.

So--prompted by advice on the Panda3D forum--I ran some experiments to test this worry.

And as it turns out, it is slower than my prior approach--by a pretty-much negligible amount.

Indeed, testing with more that 600 sprites on-screen (and thus with the overhead of drawing so many), my prior approach had a frame-time of ~18ms, while the new approach had a frame-time of... ~19-20ms.

So, I set this new approach in place, and am happy with the results, I do believe! ^_^

But perhaps the main work of the week just past was in the implementation of a boss.

"Just one boss?" You might ask.

Indeed, just one boss--because that one boss is composed of a sequence of five minibosses!

Some of this work was, as I recall, done already--I think that I had the first of the five done, and a start to the second.

But that second did then give me a lot of trouble!

You see--and as shown in the screenshot above--this miniboss throws out projectiles that then fly around the arena.

My first attempt at implementing this, as I recall, involved NURBS curves. And indeed, it worked, and produced some nice arcs.

For one thing, it was a bit of a struggle to get it to go where I wanted it to go--in particular, to get it to pass through a given point along the way. This, at least, I solved with some work I believe.

But worse, I discovered that NURBS curves don't easily provide consistent speed along their courses--I gather that it can be done, but it looks like tricky stuff!

Next, then, I tried circles--the idea being that a projectile would move along a circular path starting from a particular angle, exiting at another angle, and moving on then to the next circle.

The circles themselves worked nicely, as I recall--but the tricky part was in getting to the next circle.

I saw two options: I could define the exit-angle, at which point it proved tricky to determine the largest circle that I could make within the bounds of the arena, given its centre-point lying on the current trajectory. Or, I could define the next circle, at which point it looked tricky to determine the appropriate exit- and entry- angles.

So, I moved on from that, this time to avoidance: the idea being to have the projectiles attempt to turn away from walls, more strongly the closer the wall.

And this... actually worked pretty well, I found! Indeed, it's the algorithm that you see in the gif above! ^_^

As it stands, the boss isn't yet quite done: I have the fifth-and-final component-miniboss yet to implement, and at least one tweak that I want to try on one of the extant minibosses.

And finally, in the week just past I enacted a little bit of bug-fixing!

That, then, is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #178 on: September 25, 2023, 01:10:49 AM »

Blog post (25th of September, 2023)
Wildlife of the Cave Moon


Summary: In which sprites are further upgraded; a boss is completed; the final boss sees work; a moon's enemies are begun; and an old enemy has a change of attack.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a reworked attack for an extant enemy:



The week just past was a fairly productive one, I feel! It was also a week focussed primarily on enemies--albeit with a little bit done besides:

First of all, in the week just past I implemented a few more upgrades to my "sprite" class:

It now supports the setting and getting of its animation play-rate; the getting of the current animation-name; the getting of the current animation duration; and the optional setting of a given sprite's frame-rate (defaulting to 60fps).

Here below you should see a test-sprite demonstrating alteration of the play-rate of an animation--including reversal via negative values!



Now, I mentioned in last week's blog post, I believe, that I was working on a multi-part boss. Well, in the week just past I continued working on that boss: I adjusted some health-values, upgraded one extant component-boss, and implemented one final component-boss.

And indeed, I believe that I now have said boss complete, at least at a prototype level!

Furthermore, I updated my "enemy values" spreadsheet to include this boss--as well as a few other bosses that it seems that I'd forgotten to so include.

And with that... I believe that the prototyping for the game's non-final bosses is... complete!

I won't say that I won't return to tweak or rework anything, but as it stands I daresay that I have no more such bosses to work on!

So, with that done, I turned then to something larger: the final boss.

This boss is a little more complex than the others. You see--ah, but that would be telling! ;P

Indeed, I intend to be a little more tight-lipped about this encounter--it is the finale of the game, after all, and I want to keep at least some secrets! Wink

I will say that I've begun the process of prototyping it, and have I believe made some progress.

However, I do want this encounter to be, well, climactic--a suitably-dramatic finale. To that end, I intend to put in further thought on the design of it...

Which means, of course, that I'm not actively working on implementing it right now. As a result, I've moved active work over to the standard enemies:

Specifically, in the week just past I turned to the prototyping of those foes that are met in the Cave Moon.

First of these was a simple worm, one that pops out of a hole in the ground with random timing, spits a sticky venom at the player, then ducks back inside. This enemy, I believe, is done!

Second--and more complex--is a cave-salamander. This large amphibian predator uses an extensible tongue to pull in prey from moderate range, and bites viciously at close range.

What's more, it has a defence mechanism on being attacked: any damage dealt to it will trigger a spray of toxin. And yes, multiple hits means multiple sprays...



This enemy is, however, still a work-in-progress!

And as part of the work on these creatures, I implemented a few behind-the-scenes additions, being functionality that seemed like it might be useful, or in one case a separating out of common logic that was being repeated.

An old enemy saw rework in the week just past, too. You see, I was previously not quite happy with the attack used by the Shattered in Space. And on thinking one day about my enemies, a new--and I think more-fitting--concept came to me:

Now a single attack from one of these foes arrives from multiple directions at once--the attack itself distributed in space. And should all of those parts land, the damage dealt may be significant...

(It is this enemy and attack that you should see in the main screenshot above!)

That, then, is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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« Reply #179 on: October 02, 2023, 01:16:11 AM »

Blog post (2nd of October, 2023)
Making Enemies


Summary: In which various enemies, from two different moons, are worked on; and enemy reactions to breakables are upgraded.

Greetings and salutations!

This week's screenshot shows a new foe to face!



And indeed, the work of the week just past was given primarily to the making of enemies, with a few other changes besides!

To start with, I believe that in last week's blog-post I showed progress on the prototyping of a cave-salamander enemy. Well, in the week I largely completed that prototyping, I believe. This included the addition of logic for the creature's movement, the selection of targets other than the player (they're predators in their environment), and the enacting of some tweaks.

Remaining in the cave moon, then, I prototyped two more enemies, one native to the moon and one foreign:

The former enemy is a kobold, a small, sentient denizen of the caves, of which I currently have two variants.

Both sorts are fairly simple in their attacks: they seek to shoot the player with intertwining magical blasts.

However, where one variant gives chase on foot, the other teleports towards--and a little around--the player.

That teleportation did prove tricky, I will confess, primarily in defining points that would allow the enemy to first teleport towards, and then teleport around the player.

The latter enemy is a little more complex, being a bandit from a group using the caves as a lair: these foes will attempt to move to surround the player--taking into account the positions of their fellows--and then open fire with magitek blasters.

Beyond the foes of the Cave Moon, I moved on to the foes encountered in another moon: the Plant Moon.

These have the (to me) interesting distinction that--being plants--they tend to be sessile.

A good example of this is the enemy that, as I recall, I prototyped first: a huge flytrap-like plant that lies in wait on the "floor" of the moon.

And indeed, it reacts not at all to the player's presence... unless should the player come into contact one of a set of scattered hair-like "triggers". If that happens, the trap will swiftly snap shut--and deal damage over time as it attempts to consume the player-character!

However, at this point it can also be shot, giving the player a chance to blast their way free!



But some plants do at least elements that travel--and so it is with the next vegetative foe that I prototyped:

This one is inspired certain plants of our world, the fruits of which bear a wing that allows them to "helicopter" slowly to the ground--and thus, I imagine, to cover greater distances.

This plant does similarly, continually dispersing such fruits--which then on contact explode into a shower of deadly seeds!

The plant itself, however, can be destroyed, allowing one to remove the hazard!

(It is this plant that is shown in the main screenshot above!)

And last in the enemy-prototyping of the week just past--and still very much a work in progress--I began implementing a plant that grows explosive bulbs at random points along its floor-growth.

Aside from such implementation, I also took some time to upgrade the logic by which enemies attack breakables. They should now be more reliable at it, and it should integrate a little better with the various states that enemies may have!

And finally, I made a few changes that don't seem worth detailing here: updates to the enemy-values spreadsheet, and some minor bug-fixes and changes!

That then is all for this week--stay well, and thank you for reading! ^_^
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