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ReTurtle, ReVised

Posted by
Friday, September 13th, 2013 5:41 am

In this post I want to describe the changes I made to the game for the post-compo/post-jam/bonus-week-version of the game (wanted to write this earlier, but has been a busy week for me). You might also call this the post-mortem part two (here‘s the actual post-mortem), since it will be mostly about what changes I would have suggested to myself. The changes also were an exercise in making a game more audience-friendly, so I would really appreciate any feedback on how well I did. If you didn’t get to play my game yet, you might want to try it now, to avoid any bias.

I might also post a few example-runs later if there’s interest, showing how to beat the silver- (sub 6s) and gold-times (sub 5.5s). Especially beating the gold-time requires some mastery over the mechanics of the game (the shield gets important at this point).

A new look

The main menu and the boss were on top of the list of things I didn’t like the look of, followed by the stage and the player.

It's the first time you actually see what you controlled in my game, isn't it?

It’s the first time you actually see what you controlled in my game, isn’t it?

First the boss was changed. I wanted him to look more like the sketch I made during the design-stage. With less pressure this time around, I approached everything a lot less awfully inefficient. The heads are completely detached now, which allowed me to add new effects in the actual battle. I also added these holo-rings I originally dropped because they would have to be tuned (to not obscure the boss) and animated. This time I also was able to add the health- and time-display to the boss.

Like a boss?

Like a boss?

Next I made a new main menu, which took the most time, simply because I need yet to learn how to properly setup a scene with all plain-white objects. Redesigning the main menu was also a good opportunity to experiment with scene-transitions in Unity. So I used it as some kind of playground.

The stage would still need some work, so it could provide the player with some landmarks for positioning, but I had to draw a line. Will definitely redesign it if I ever pick the game up again.

Feeding it back

A lot of information didn’t make the cut for my original entry, which in turn made it hard to approach the game.

In the main menu I now have set up a simple progression-path of three steps. I’d be curious how well these new instructions work for someone just picking up the game. I still probably don’t tell clear enough that you can shoot faster than you should.

I also increased the amount of information in the actual battle at various places. I added auditive and visual feedback to the enemy/player/shield getting hit, I also added the actual ring-display for enemy-health where it was supposed to be. For both shot damage and shield-reflect I’ve added popup-values to inform about the effect of charging- and shield-mechanics more directly. The time-display on the boss is a nice gimmick, but I don’t feel it has much actual value.

On to gameplay

For the gameplay itself there are two major clusters.

The first one is based around making player-characters destroy each other on contact. The reasoning was that I didn’t like some of the most effective strategies being based around putting your characters on top of each other. You could for example place all of them in the bottom right corner once the first grenade is launched, and for a while everyone can shoot from this safe spot at the boss. Related to this change is also a new starting-position for player-characters. In this layout only the third one is in the path of the first batch of enemy-bullets. While it’s not a major change, I think it hurt the compo-version that you had to move your first character right away, or got killed within two seconds (and killing the player within the first two seconds is not the best message you can send).

Yeah, not exactly making the game easier

People found my game hard, so I obviously had to increase difficulty. Logic?

The second batch of changes is based around the upgrade of my ordinary seconds to fancy Marvel-seconds, now with 60% more time per second for 36% more hype. One of my biggest issues with the compo-version was that the boss moved really fast, not letting you setup any shield-tricks. Also the player’s projectiles were so slow it was hard to hit over longer distances. I distributed the additional time between the part before and after the laser-sequence (which means they get 80% more time each). The laser-sequence is just as long as before (but with more pew). I think this change makes gameplay more methodical and finally I could at least myself start building shield-setups. To keep the boss interesting I added more projectiles at various spots (through you might argue it could have been the drop in difficulty the game needed). Of course one could claim I just made him shoot more fireballs because the heads can now rotate independently, but… Look! A three-headed turtle!

Sneaking in Features

I silently added support for the XBox360-Controller to the game (last-minute-change, so only battle, not menu, sorry). Use left stick to walk, right stick to aim, A/RT to fire, B/LB/RB for Shield, Back to retry (same use as ‘r’) and Start to return to menu (same use as ‘m’). Might be only useful on Windows though and need some proper tuning.

Conclusion

Unfortunately I still had to limit myself on what I would add to the game. I do have some ideas for two or three additional bosses. One could teach you the basics of the game while the others could properly cover unexplored aspects of the existing mechanics and add new interesting patterns to move characters through. On the other hand I always have a bunch of projects just as interesting and waiting for me to continue them, so back to Ministry of [redacted] for now (or the unnamed Roguelikelikelike).

ReTurtle post-mortem

Posted by
Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 7:29 am

I had a run at a few LDs before, but every time something came up that didn’t leave me the space to flesh out my concepts (which also happened to be quite ambitious most of the time). Between the last LD and this one I gave in and picked up Unity. For a while the proprietary/closed nature of it and the scene/gui-centric design scared me (as did the reporting of information about my machine during installation). Unity itself clicked with me quite quickly after I started doing things with it, and it is just what I needed for prototyping. I start (way too) many small experiments, so I want something that allows me to easily setup lightweight projects. In regards to that I only wish Unity would let me setup an empty project with metafiles and text-based assets from command line.

Also “error CS1061: Type `int’ does not contain a definition for `f’ and no extension method `f’ of type `int’ could be found (are you missing a using directive or an assembly reference?)” some day will make me break something.

Visionary

I designed ReTurtle) as some kind of puzzle-shooter. You would have 10 seconds to beat a boss, so you need to find out how to do enough damage to him in the time. To make things interesting you would record 10 8 6 5 characters, one after another, where the coordination would give the game some depth.

At first I was worried that coordination would be trivial. To fix this, friendly fire would make the player have to actually adapt the path for each incarnation to keep them out of each other’s aim. That doesn’t necessarily make for non-trivial coordination. Every character could still have his own small space he would stay in and just move a little now or then to avoid attacks. So it became the enemy’s job to make them move. I designed a set of attacks to get this done:

  • Motion: He would move everywhere once, and cover some space with bullets, so the whole group would be pushed around the stage, having to avoid bumping into each other.
  • The Grid: Having attacks that separate the playfield into cells would force the player to pick different safe spots for his individual characters if he wants to keep shooting at the boss.
  • Grenade: The grenade aims for the current position of every player. This way you have to consider where your previous incarnations will move to, while picking your path, which adds another aspect to the puzzle. The second use of it is that it avoids any completely safe spots.

Now having an idea of the base concept, I wanted to add a bit of depth, so I added two mechanics.
pm_tutorial

  • Gun Charge: Friendly fire is already there to keep the player’s finger off the trigger, but I didn’t want to make him feel bad about it, so I added a small challenge. While not firing, the gun charges for one second. Firing once the gun has fully charged does quite a bit more damage but getting the most damage out of it requires focus. This creates space to improve.
  • Shield: You would have a shield that reflects attacks (by either player or enemy), making them more powerful in the process. To make things more interesting the shield is not able to reflect projectiles right back (which would leave some space for abuse). A frontal deflect would just destroy the projectile, while bouncing it around at 90° would maximize damage.

The numbers were designed so you can do 25% damage with one character through rapid fire. This means you need four of your five incarnations to beat the boss that way. Using all perfectly timed charged shots lets you raise that to 34%, which is just enough to win with three characters, but requires to not waste time between the shots (and of course every shot to hit). An optimal reflect doubles the projectile’s power, so reflecting a charged shot adds the equivalent of another on top of it (without needing charge). This way the first character can replace the third, if all shots are perfectly reflected by the second. So every mechanic was designed to cut one character by perfect use (note: due to projectile flight-time it probably doesn’t, but gets close).

Back to earth

For the first day I planned to make all core mechanics work and do all the visuals. That’s quite risky, since I couldn’t tell whether the parts would work together at all. So after day one I had incarnations being able to get recorded, shoot and reflect shots. The boss just sat there and fired a shot straight down now and then. Modeling the boss took me longer than it should have and he didn’t look much like my sketch (I suck at blender). To make up the time the player built from a few 2D-Layers without any animation. The stage suffered the same fate. Planned were multiple layers of tech-y plates and a stripe in the center with numbers running through it to show you the remaining time. But to close out day one, I made what is in the game now instead.

Schedule for day two was boss-actions, menu and intuitivation (that’s a word now), sound was pushed to what would be left. After attaching a hitbox to the boss and making him move through the stage, I could finally test some of the feel. To my surprise coordinating characters already was more interesting than I expected at that point. One of the challenges I didn’t think of is that under pressure one tends to react to an attack the same way every time. This makes the act of creating different paths for all characters challenging by itself, since any time you have to rely on reactions you end up in the line of fire for another incarnation.

Fireballs were already there from day one, so I only had to implement lasers and grenades, which went smooth. Unfortunately not everything went this well. With most gameplay in place, shield just didn’t work out. I boosted its value by making the scaling multiply. That doesn’t help if you can’t set it up though. It’s still too powerful due to a bug, but quite useless for proper gameplay.

pm_easy

What threw my schedule off was the upgrade for player-visuals that got pushed over from day one. I wanted only the ‘head’ to move and the game also needed something to point at the currently controlled character. Some information on the charge-state and something to show the number of an incarnation was critical too. With all of this done I was already closing in on the deadline.

I still had to add a menu, and link everything together. So I threw together the atrocity that is the main menu, added some hit-detection for clicking, and moved handling of the game-progress to the new scene. That left me just enough time to set up a dropbox-account until the submission-hour started. What fell off was sound and any kind of ingame-instructions, including any hints on what you have to do on the main menu.

Conclusion

I’m mostly ok with how the game turned out, I got to play with a few mechanics and they didn’t rip each other apart. It is desperately in need of instructions, some tuning for the core and an overhaul in regards to presentation. I gave myself a week to tweak everything, before I let the game go and focus on other prototypes. The time is up and I’ve added the post-compo-version you might want to try after playing the compo-version. You could also try to beat these informal challenge-times in the post-compo-version: under 6 seconds as a ‘silver’-mark and under 5.5 seconds as ‘gold’-mark. I’ll follow up with an overview of the changes soon, this post is long enough already.

Maybe in

Posted by
Friday, August 19th, 2011 8:49 am

Not quite sure if I’m in, 50% certain I can get enough time to try. Then I also need to be inspired by the theme, 40% chance since I’ve got trouble with that recently. Now when it comes to getting done on time, I’d give me a 5% chance, I really suck at that. Finally this would be my first Ludum Dare, which adds another factor of 10% on success chance. These completely made up numbers leave me with a 0.1% chance of success, hooray for that.

I thought about using Ogre/SDL+OGL and a custom toolset I’ve built together with a friend of mine, but decided agaist that because I can’t do anything web-based this way (at least not until Ogre gets NaCl support). For now I’m using play’N (which was known as forplay until the recent name change and is still in alpha stage). While I might have to write code in Java I already have in my C++-toolbox, being able to easily export the game to HTML5 is worth a lot for me.

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