Space is so hot right now. I recently purchased a NASA shirt from Target, the movie Gravity came out, I was playing through Strike Suit Zero and Lady Gaga is talking about performing in space. All of this inspired me to compose a few tracks with Space in mind.
The album is a single continuous song with a slow, atmospheric start that transitions into tension filled tracks and others with driving beats. All of the music is free to use in your games with attribution. And if you do use a song: message me (@franklinwebber); I would love to see your work.
During the long car rides, to see relatives, I drew 32×32 images to accompany each of the tracks. It was great fun. My first foray into the world of pixel art.
Now that the euphoria of not sleeping and game-developing has settled down, let’s take a look at what went right and what went wrong during the development of Metal Sphere Solid.
Well actually, everything went pretty alright. There isn’t much that went “completely wrong”. Ah well, I’ll talk about it anyway.
What went (somewhat) wrong
The theme – Because “escape” is such a non-theme. You can put virtually everything in it. In that regard it is even worse than “it’s dangerous to go alone.”
The color-scheme – The main charater needs to contrast with the environment he’s in too create tension. If the main character just blends in, he’s not in jeopardy, he’s at home. So I was a little miffed when I figured out with 12 hours to go that the environment was mostly blue, and I didn’t want to create a red ball again.
I went for a glowy green (which I nailed this time), which nicely contrast with the level. The color-combination is still a bit weird.
What went right
Tile-based level – Having everything in clean tiles made putting this together much easier. This further creates a nice little gag when you leave the tile-set at the end.
Timelapse – I love timelapses. Everything seems ultra-efficient.
The Story – This is the largest amount of story I ever put in a game. Until now I’ve worked under the premise that good games-design has to be the basis, while story is optional. That still holds true, but now I see how an engaging story can pull you into the game.
The end – I love it. Too bad I couldn’t extend it a bit. First you see your friends, an assortment of balls similar to you, but with different colors, core-structures and sizes. You free them, they say a random, possibly funny line, and roll to freedom. You join them, and while joining them leave the rigid, tile-based confines of the main level and enter a free terrain.
I need to expand upon the “friendly ball”-theme more. It’s fun.
The ball-design – Compared to one of my previous games, Unstoppaball, the ball-design is much better. The glowing core is warmer, the outging light shows the strength of the character, and the brightness contrasts nicely witht he relatively dark surrounding.
The Soundtrack – I experimented with my guitar until I found something that was both interesting and fitting to the gameplay. So far it is only good, but nothing special. Also, the loop is off by half-a-second. Need to remember that next time.
What I would have liked to add/improve
Better character-fragments – So far the “remains” of the hero or the enemies are just four to five relatively uniform fragments. With more time I could have created something more complex and organic.
Better score – The score that is now measured is the time you spend being seen. The highscore-list is reversed, which means that people with the least amounts go on top places. This is far from optimal, as there is a “finite” highscore, and after attaining it doesn’t create an incentive to keep playing.
More complex enemies – The original plan of having patrolling enemies fell through due to time-contraints, but I still managed to make something interesting with only stationary guards.
Well, pretty much every aspect came out positive – The game is emotionally engaging, throwing enemies in spikes is fun, the sneaking mechanic is relatively rare, so far I’ve gotten a pretty good amount of votes, critiques are positive, and a good number of people have played it.
So it’s time to look back at my 48 hours of game-making, like many are doing. Let’s see what happened during the development of A Steampunk Axebot Supply Run.
What went wrong
The Theme - “It’s dangerous to go alone” was the one on the bottom of my list. Why would anyone vote for it, I thought, when there are so many interesting alternatives, like nihilism, or climbing? Why, indeed. I had nothing prepared whatsoever for this theme, and spent the first 2 hours panicking over what to do.
The Level – It occured to me only later that I could have made this in 2D, or using tile-based movement, either of which would have made creating this stuff considerably easier. Oh well.
Textures – As in “I don’t have any”. Adapting UVs is a grueling and time-consuming task,which I would rather avoid, and spend the time otherwise. Using the toon-shader for all 3d-objects was a great choice, but it would have been prettier with added textures. The terrain clashed with this. I couldn’t use the toon-shader on it (so far I know), and creating extra textures for it alone was not efficient.
Preparation – Slept too little the first day. Woke up at start-time (4am), but forgot to check the theme. Felt unmotivated and guilty for first 36 hours, bevofre I finally kicked into non-stop game-making mode.
What went right/not-so-wrong
Timelapse – It felt weird, at first, knowing that my every move was being recorded. But the video makes everything seem ultra-efficient
Music – this one actually surprised me. I never really composed anything bigger, and I just aimed for something unobstrusive. I ended up with a sweet theme which fits the game awseomely, complements it, and people actually like.
The Title – No matter how good or bad this was going to turn out, “Steampunk Axebots” sounds awesome.
The Scoring system – Your profit is determined by several systems, which are based on enemies killed, health of the robots, extra fuel left, and over-healing. Each robot has an own pattern and unity set of enemies at different times, so it is quite challenging to figure out the best combination. I still haven’t.
The fuel gauge – The rockets can travel only for a limited time, before they crash. I intented this to stop players from hovering over the playing field or leaving it, but the time-constraint added another tactical layer. The rocket takes some time to reach its target, but once it passed a certain point, reaching the other targets would be impossible. It was however possible, that the robot you tried to heal died while you were on your way, meaning you had to carefully decide where to shoot. But since all robots converge on a central point later in the game, it became at that point possible to switch targets should something happen.
3D-models – My first though was a little knight, which I would have need to animate. Unfortunately, there was no time to either animate one or learn how to include animations in Unity (note to self: learn how to include animations in unity).
Biff-Particles – They are quite a good substitute for fighting-animations.
Healing-Particles – They look much better than I planned.
What I would have liked to add
More stages – which become increasingly complex and tell a story
A menu – Which I already had around, but no time, and no good reason (with only one level) to implement
No introduction screen – I’ve always hated these. Dammit, I want to play the game, not read a novel! There are ways to start the game at once, and teach the player on the fly.
Destroyed robots and rockets – Which I would have added were it not for a game-stopping bug I encountered with only 40 minutes to spare
Having the title of the game appear somewhere in the first level – Like I did in Unstoppaball. I love that gag.