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baftis
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« Reply #180 on: January 26, 2022, 02:18:05 PM »

DAY 67

Eyo, guys and gals. Hope you've having a great day. So, work continued yet again on the tree level. And I've gotta be honest, I had no idea where to go with the level when I started today. Tried some things that didn't work out and was slightly puzzled. But then, out of nowhere, a thought came to me. How about letting the player go outside for a bit? And I did just that. Take a look:


















I'm starting to feel particularly good about this level in particular. When working on it, it's like the brain is on the lookout for ideas and then grabs one in mid air, just like a frog catches a fly. Good stuff.

BUT...there is a big "but" (noice)

I tried the wall run mechanic on the exterior of the tree trunk. And I've gotta say it bumps up the difficulty by a lot. Doing a wall run on a curbed is a challenge on the inside of the trunk. On the outside....hooo BOY what a nightmare. This one dangerously borders on the bad kind of frustrating. And I'm seriously thinking of removing it. But after I playtest it with other people. It definitely is something to master (I needed about 3-4 tries to get one run right) but I think it's too much. It really spikes the difficulty quite a bit.

What I also tried is a NEW mechanic, the crusher. Right now it's garbage, but it has a lot of potential. Some adjustments are needed: the crusher doesn't detect the player all the time, therefore it passes through him/her instead of pushing the player over. Should be an easy fix, the crusher moves too fast for it's collision to detect the player capsule (I've seen this before, it really is a quick and easy fix). While I'm at it, I should work on the crusher's timeline curve for it's movement.

This area is pretty consistent, feel wise. It's 80% a walk in the park and 20% a complete nightmare (because of the wall run).

Other than that, I have nothing to add. So that's it for today, guys and gals. See ya in the next post. Bye!
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JobLeonard
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« Reply #181 on: January 26, 2022, 09:48:43 PM »

I mean the occasional difficulty spike can be fun, as long as it isn't "unpatched Meat Circus" difficult
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« Reply #182 on: January 27, 2022, 06:34:46 AM »

Putting some of it on the outside is a great way to vary it! Do you get a view of the valley below the dam we've seen before from there? Maybe the difficulty is fine as long as there's a checkpoint not too long before or something?
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baftis
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« Reply #183 on: January 27, 2022, 08:52:40 AM »

Do you get a view of the valley below the dam we've seen before from there?

Actually, the tree would be placed much further down the line in the game world.

You would basically:
- climb the dam
- then get through the first cave level
- then complete the paraglider level (which I have not started),
- then reach a forest level (which is a half-finished prototype level that was supposed to be implemented in another game, but got scrapped, so I'll re-purpose it here)
- and THEN the tree level starts.

And after that, I had an idea of a zipline level, where you'll swing left and right on the zipline to avoid obstacles.

Maybe the difficulty is fine as long as there's a checkpoint not too long before or something?

The checkpoint is exactly at the exit from the tree, so yeah.

I mean the occasional difficulty spike can be fun, as long as it isn't "unpatched Meat Circus" difficult


I played Psychonauts years ago, but never got to the Meat Circus level. Looked it up on youtube now. Lucky me, I guess =)). And that's definitely not the case.
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baftis
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« Reply #184 on: February 01, 2022, 03:21:41 PM »

DAY 68

Howdy, guys, and gals. Hope y'all are having a great day. Here's me with another update on the development of this game.

This tree level is taking much longer than anticipated, but it takes shape pretty nicely. I'm a little unsatisfied at the moment on how things are shaping up to be for the latter half of this level. Let me show you.







So what I am trying to do at this articular moment in time is mix everything that has been thrown around in this level. At first, the player is presented with a few mechanics: wall run, some grappling hooks and some platforming. In the second stage I've added the jump pad, the monkey bar and the ledge climb. In the third part of the level, I tried "going out of the box" so to speak, by introducing the player with mostly familiar mechanics in a different setting, with one key addition, the crushers.

In this last section, the player is going to experience all of the above combined: You go in and out of the tree trunk and all previously presented mechanics will be encountered in this level. I haven't gotten that far down this particular road, but what I have keeps momentum.

Speaking of which, After I've expertly played through the level, I've noticed that the first outside area breaks momentum in a noticeable manner.

It's kind of difficult to explain with words, so bear with me.

What I mean by this is that up until now, the player was presented with various mechanics, only to have a halt to them. Maybe it's a placement mistake, maybe I paced the level wrong at one very specific point (don't know which one), but throughout the first half, there's an anticipation for something more difficult that the player experiences or the player reaches and maintains momentum, only to have it lost when reaching the latter half of the level. It feels "out of left field" but in a good way. BUT after this specific point, the experience dips a bit because of lack of challenge.

When the player reaches the area that I've shown you in this post above, at the moment it feels not as challenging or exciting or at the very least defies an expectation. In a bad way. So I'll keep a mental note of this and work on it tomorrow.

Other than that, not much to add. So that's it for today, I'll see you guys and gals in the next post. Bye!
 
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baftis
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« Reply #185 on: February 02, 2022, 03:35:45 PM »

DAY 69 (noice)

Hello, guys and gals. Hope you are having a great day. Here's me, providing you with an update on the state of the game.

Today I have managed to finish the tree level. Well at least the first iteration of it, anyway. I'm too tired to test it now from start to end, but I will do so tomorrow.

It's been quite a ride with this level. Mostly smooth, surprising more than occasionally and inspired most of the time. I'm especially satisfied with the ending. While very short, it manages to keep you tense. Check the last part of the level out:















As I've said yesterday, the main focus was to try and mix inside exploration and outside exploration. I cannot attest to the success of the endeavor, because I have not tested it. I'm especially satisfied by the bridge section with missing planks and crushers. It's really tense and provides a satisfying conclusion to the level.

That's it for today, guys. I know I usually write a lot, but I'm tired, it's late and can't see straight Smiley). I'll make it up in future blogs, I promise. See ya in the next post, bye!   
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« Reply #186 on: February 03, 2022, 01:16:32 AM »

Congrats! Looking good!  Coffee

I know it's just a side-effect of the texture placeholders but the wedge shape is doing funny things with my perspective perception :D
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« Reply #187 on: February 03, 2022, 01:23:10 AM »

Hey, Leonard!

Thank you. Well, the angle at which I snapped the screenshot doesn't help, either. It's not that egregious when playing, I can tell you this much. Either that or I got used to how UE handles BSP subtractive brushes and don't notice it anymore. But it's mostly the first.
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« Reply #188 on: February 03, 2022, 11:47:09 AM »

That bridge looks fantastic! Hope the full playtest was a success Smiley You're really progressing fast.
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baftis
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« Reply #189 on: February 07, 2022, 03:15:04 PM »

DAY 70

Howdy guys and girls, hope you are having a great day...well as great as a monday night can be, anyways. Me? Oh, I'm having some second thoughts about the layout of the tree level. And I'm spilling the beans as to why.

Recall that I've been using square platforms in a tree trunk (which is round) and we all know how square pegs fit in round holes (spoilers: they do not). For your convenience, here's and old picture to illustrate how it looks:



That is not pretty in the slightest, but it does the jobs of placeholding and fast iteration. Now, since this level is pretty much done on a layout level (pun not intended), I'd figure I'd "ennicen" the looks of the placeholders. Ennicen is not even a word, I just made it up, but it wouldn't be a far fetch from what sh*t I've heard thrown around. To ennice something is to make something nicer, I've decided Smiley).

Anyway, so the most reasonable thing to "ennicen" is to make the platforms fit the round shape of the tree trunk. Now, I'm by no means a 3D artist, BUUUUT... I think I know how to do it.

The outer radius of the tree is 2000 unreal units and the inner radius is 1600. Height of tree trunk is irrelevant, because I'll shrink it down to 100 unreal units to be the same size as any platform. There are 64 sides to the cylinder. With this info I can do the following:

- make a semicircle from this full circle
- take the semicircle and half that
- take the quarter-circle and half that too
- repeat process until left with decent sized platforms that can look/feel aesthetically pleasing and thematically sound.

Once those small pieces are done, I can go replace the square platforms in and around the tree. I'm super curious as to how it's going to turn out (I've barely started the work on it)

I will try this in 2 different radius thicknesses (is "thicknesses" the correct term in the context of the radius even? Genuinely asking, I'm not a native English speaker....I think it's "wide"...right? RIGHT?!?!)



So, on the left hand side we have the 100 unit radius difference between inner and outer radius (1m) and on the right hand side we have the 200 unit radius difference between inner and outer radius (2m). Now, this might be the least interesting screenshot of all time, but I assure you in the end is going to be worth it...which end? The game end, of course. When the game ends development...*sighs and daydreams about a day that is so far away it is incomprehensible*)

I will give it a shot with both thicknesses, because variation. Let's see how that goes.

Now, for the next change that I want to add: if you'd recall, there is a bridge at the top of the tree trunk. This one:



And it has great value for the gameplay experience. So I thought "why just keep that as the only one"? Just place more of them, with variations of course (bridge with full set of planks, bridge with few planks missing, bridge with half the planks missing and so on). I did not expect I would enjoy that bridge so much I'd be making it as a recurring death trap thingy.

Speaking of which, this new idea will allow me to place multiple types of death traps near and/or around the bridge. Some crushers in various orientations, some death traps like arrows, swinging axes and so on (oh yeah, I have those now). Keep in mind, if one touches you, you die.

So yeah, that's about it for today. I know I haven't been showing off with new and interesting screenshots, but it is to be expected when you post this often and about this particular subject too (replacing place holders), but this might be the beginning of a pretty looking tree level instead of the "functionally doing good-to-great, but fugly looking" level.

I'll see you guys in the next post. Bye!
  

That bridge looks fantastic! Hope the full playtest was a success Smiley You're really progressing fast.

Haven't got to playtest it yet, but I will in the following days at some point. And thank you for the compliment (I know, right?? Bridge looks cool, but could be better). As far as progressing, it feels a lot slower now, but it's something. Your project progressed fast too, so you should be proud of it as well.   
« Last Edit: February 07, 2022, 03:21:25 PM by baftis » Logged

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« Reply #190 on: February 07, 2022, 08:56:28 PM »

Introducing the bridge and gradually increasing the difficulty level (with the occasional difficulty spike of course) probably is a nicer "implicit tutorial" experience too  Smiley
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baftis
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« Reply #191 on: February 08, 2022, 04:36:35 AM »

Hey, Leonard.

Yeah, that would be the main reason for doing that. Although I'm strongly contemplating adding the bridge with gaps in earlier levels as well or at least in the level preceding the tree level. So the tutorial would actually begin there.
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baftis
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« Reply #192 on: February 14, 2022, 02:57:24 PM »

**DAY 71**

Why, hello, guys and girls. I'm back with another small update on the project.

Last post I've talked about making some aesthetic changes to the current version of the tree level, because the placeholder meshes were simply too primitive and ugly. And in this post I shall present the new changes. Mostly visually, though.



This is the entrance to the level.



Continuation of the entrance



The one below is a layout modification:



...of this area:




This is the view from about a quarter of the way up the tree. Compare the above screenshot with this one:



Now, as you can see, there have been both cosmetic changes and layout changes, but mostly cosmetic. The changes done to the layout happened because I'm trying to find spots for more broken bridges in this level. Broken bridges allow for a more precise type of jump and it adds tension for the player.

I'm about halfway into the level with replacing the yellow platforms and it looks heaps better. All the platforms visible in the screenshots will be replaced with logs, planks and/or branches in Blender, and the form of the placeholders allow me to make stylized models of platforms in this specific shape.

Not only they are newer versions of these placeholders, but they are also smarter versions: the outer radius of the platform matches perfectly with the inner radius of the cylinder that is a placeholder for the hollow tree. The gimbal/gizmo is placed in the same position as the center of the tree trunk. Put these two things together and you got a placeholder that, when copied in the exact same location as the tree trunk, can be rotated on the Z-axis flawlessly and not worry about minute positioning of the mesh.



Simple stuff, really. But it helps a lot production wise. There are about 9 versions of these placeholders and they all work wonderfully. 

So that's about it for today. Tomorrow I'll be focusing on replacing the platforms in the other half of this level. See ya, bye! 

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JobLeonard
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« Reply #193 on: February 14, 2022, 03:04:04 PM »

Looking a lot better already!

Do you have a "mood board" with IRL images representing the look you're eventually going for?
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baftis
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« Reply #194 on: February 14, 2022, 03:14:14 PM »

Hey, Leonard.

Almost none at all for this particular area, because I couldn't find any references that suited the idea. The closest thing I have is how log rafts might look IRL and some references for giant sequoia trees. Either that or I did not know what to search because of language barrier (this happens once in a blue moon, but it just so happened for this level).

I've got tons of references for other areas, though.
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baftis
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« Reply #195 on: February 16, 2022, 02:03:04 PM »

Day 71.5

Hello, guys and girls and hoooo BOY, do I have a treat for you guys. Now, I'll keep this short and sweet. Yesterday was the 6 months anniversary of this devblog. And to celebrate this momentous occasion, I present to you....(drum rolls)....gameplay footage of the entire tree level.

No more talking, enjoy: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LNPIkungJeKm3qWPWP0QAONLc5Iy8Xr9/view?usp=sharing

Let me know what you think, I can't wait. See you in the next post, bye!
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« Reply #196 on: February 16, 2022, 08:23:27 PM »

Ok, writing down reactions as I watch

- ok, looking up when you enter shows this is a properly massive tree, that's a good feeling

- this feels like watching someone speedrun a game, in the sense that in those cases people know exactly where they're going and skip anything like exploration. Not that this is bad, but it reminds me that it might be worth thinking about whether or not people can get lost (which can be fun! figuring out where to go is fun!) and how hard it is to figure out what to do next

- continuing on the previous point, I kinda like how the level gives zero hints as to what to do next at the moment (which of course is due to how it is minimally functional right now). It gives it a platformer puzzle feel. Having to take a good look around to figure out what to do next could make for a fun puzzle platforming element.

- if you fall from the bridge, is that fatal? Is there falling damage or a certain height after which you have to retry? Are there respawning points?

- to get back to the puzzle-navigation points again, I don't think I would have figured out that I had to jump off a ledge to find an anchor point across the tree (2m10s). I would be far too scared to fall down to try something like that. But that is speaking for the level as it currently presents itself - I assume there will be visual hints like a jump off-point and a clear anchor point on the other side.

- thought I had as you cross the second bridge: if you fall through, will you grab a plank like you would on the side of a box? Would make it a bit too easy though I guess

- trampolines look fun Smiley

- hey, we're outside!

- falling platforms and pushing blocks, classic

- thought I had as you moved back into the tree: what if there are strong winds that gently push you when you're outside, to slightly throw off your jumping intuition but also give that feel of relief when you're back inside the tree?

- satifsying ending with the bridge and zipline, nice Smiley
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baftis
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« Reply #197 on: February 17, 2022, 04:50:19 PM »

Hey, Leonard. Thank you so much for the feedback.


- this feels like watching someone speedrun a game, in the sense that in those cases people know exactly where they're going and skip anything like exploration. Not that this is bad, but it reminds me that it might be worth thinking about whether or not people can get lost (which can be fun! figuring out where to go is fun!) and how hard it is to figure out what to do next


Yeah, I was kinda speedrunning it, I got used to the layout.


- if you fall from the bridge, is that fatal? Is there falling damage or a certain height after which you have to retry? Are there respawning points?


Which bridge? The last one? Either way, the answer is slightly complicated: during the first half of the tree level, the layout is placed in such a way that if you fall you'd most certainly land on a platform and take minimal to no damage. With a few exceptions (the first bridge section) which will be fine tuned. When you fall during the second half of the tree level, you get reset to the last checkpoint (The checkpoint system is made, albeit in another project and have not imported it yet). This particular aspect is a design challenge that I found unique for this level in all my gaming and game design/level design experience because it forces you as the designer to approach the same fail state from 2 different angles:

1) soft reset (where you fall from a platform onto another platform from a previously explored area, but don't die)
2) hard reset (resets the player at a checkpoint if you die)

The first one is the tricky one because you have to have multiple types of test cases and edge cases in mind (which is extremely difficult without outside testers to find bugs or exploits).

Granted, it would have been a lot easier on me if I had a big hole in the ground underneath the tree. But it seems that either I like to flagellate myself when designing levels or the best ideas come halfway asleep, which I am now.


- thought I had as you cross the second bridge: if you fall through, will you grab a plank like you would on the side of a box? Would make it a bit too easy though I guess


Hmmmm....HMMMMMMMMMMMM......



- thought I had as you moved back into the tree: what if there are strong winds that gently push you when you're outside, to slightly throw off your jumping intuition but also give that feel of relief when you're back inside the tree?


I do have this exact thing planned for a latter level, which will take place near the top of the mountain. You'd have to go uphill and avoid obstacles while a strong wind really pushes you around and makes you cold, like in survival games when your body temperature drops. And you have to find shelter a.k.a. a campfire to warm you up when you are too cold, otherwise you are dead.

Coming back to this level, I guess this would make a great foreshadowing-like piece for the player. Though the implementation might be tricky a bit. I'll break this down and see what I can do. This is great stuff.


- falling platforms and pushing blocks, classic


To be honest, the first outside section doesn't really do much for me as a player, it's one of if not the least interest part of the level. On one hand, it gives the player a breather, yes, I'm aware of it. But it feels like it could be made a lot more interesting.


- continuing on the previous point, I kinda like how the level gives zero hints as to what to do next at the moment (which of course is due to how it is minimally functional right now). It gives it a platformer puzzle feel. Having to take a good look around to figure out what to do next could make for a fun puzzle platforming element.


I don't like handholding in games and this level is most likely a reflection of that. Handholding gives me, as a player, the vibe of "OK, as the designer, I'm in charge of your experience, I get to choose what you experience" instead of being like "Hey, this is the level, here are the "tools" you'll need, go figure your way out". This way, as a designer, I'm facilitating the ways the player can not only feel smart, but actually be smart.


- to get back to the puzzle-navigation points again, I don't think I would have figured out that I had to jump off a ledge to find an anchor point across the tree (2m10s). I would be far too scared to fall down to try something like that. But that is speaking for the level as it currently presents itself - I assume there will be visual hints like a jump off-point and a clear anchor point on the other side.


The grappling hook base is pretty visible and which the player at this point is very familiar with, so there's that. But you do make a very strong point, a god ray shining on the grapple base would do the trick.

Absolutely stellar feedback, man. Much appreciated, great stuff.   
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« Reply #198 on: February 18, 2022, 03:51:23 AM »

Happy to help out!

Quote
To be honest, the first outside section doesn't really do much for me as a player, it's one of if not the least interest part of the level. On one hand, it gives the player a breather, yes, I'm aware of it. But it feels like it could be made a lot more interesting.
You could make it more interesting aesthetically while giving the player a breather gameplay wise. It's easier to appreciate the nice view of the landscape if you're not too stressed about the platforming
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« Reply #199 on: February 24, 2022, 04:34:19 AM »

Looks really good! I don't have much to add to what JL said, but with everything overall being so snappy, the jumping does seem floaty, lacking the weight of the wallrunning or the grappling. Have you given that any consideration? Also crossing those bridges without being able to see your feet and the way ahead at the same time seems absolutely terrifying! Cheesy
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