Progress, Level Edition and Game Jam’s Feedback

This week I would like to talk about three different topics, the progress I’ve been making on the games I’m creating, the status of the Unity Level Editor and some thoughts on the past Ludum Dare 38 experience.

Progress

Fiery Squirrel is currently working on a couple of games. One of them is (tentatively) called Zin, which is the game that is benefiting from the new tile editor. There is also another game I mentioned in previous posts, Kuon’s Saga, developed in collaboration with Gabriel Uguet, illustrator and creator of Serpentarius, an online comic.

ZIN

Zin is a action-puzzle game that narrates the story of a little creature unable to move by itself due to a magic curse. The creature needs to recover its powers and escape from its captors. This is a very simple game for computer and consoles that involves mastering different kinds of abilities and gameplay mechanics.

The game is still in very early stage of development, I’m currently focused on designing and testing the first level, including concept art, sounds, etc. The game is divided in four different chapters, each one with four levels.

In case you are curious, you can play a very early prototype made for Ludum Dare some time ago in Newgrounds. The game now includes many more things and it’s bigger but the essence is still the same.

For this week, the focus was to create and test levels with the new editor, which is really helping a lot with the new tiles and perspective of the art. I hope next will show some new screenshots and progress.

Kuon’s Saga

This is a game that has been in development for some time, despite its simplicity and its casual nature, we created different versions of the game and tested too many things on a very slow development pace.

The game is planned to be released for free at some point next month and will include one level with 24 waves for players to enjoy. Progressively, depending on players’ feedback and reactions, we will keep adding new content with new levels and challeneges. This will be available for Android and iOS.

This week has been basically working on completing all the final elements for the gameplay, including graphical stuff and level design. By next week we will have a very solid demo to show.

Level Edition

I have good news about the Unity Tile Editor. All the basic functionality is already working properly and we submitted it for approval to the Unity Asset Store. The editor will be free and available for people to download.

This first version is a beta that will be expanded in the upcoming weeks, there are a lot of things to improve, from the functionality side of the editor to the usability, we plan to add new stuff to help automatize cumbersome tasks and create levels faster and easier.

For all of you that are interested in the details on how was the editor created, I’ll be posting details about the code in future articles. If you have specific questions, please let me know.

The video shows all the current features that will be available for people when the asset is approved on the Asset Store.

Game Jam’s Feedback

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was part of the Ludum Dare 38 three weeks ago. After playing a lot of different games and receiving feedback from people on the game I made, I have some thoughts that might be useful for people making games out there.

First of all I want to thank people for their observations, getting feedback is really nice and one of the reasons I like participating in this event. Comments from people really help improving our work, they show us a perspective that we probably do not have or just different ideas that enrich our way of thinking.

Feedback

When I talk about feedback, it’s not only players’ comments, ideas and bug reports. Feedback is also related to that concept of making your game react to the player’s input and be able to clearly show in the screen or  through speakers what is going on in your game.

I decided to talk a little about this because my most recurrent comment on other people’s games was exactly that: “it would improve a lot if it had more feedback”.

And this is something that I really think developers can easiy do. Feedback does not really require super high art making skills or 3D modeling years of experience, this is all about the feeling of the game, this is related to showing the status of the game in a very clear way.

In SORLD for example, although I know there is a lot to improve and much more feedback to add, the basic actions have clear feedback and they were implemented in very few time. Shooting, being hit, recovering, dying and making progress are some of the basic actions that this game includes and they were represented with particles, screen shake, sprite rotation, sound effects, etc.

Seriously, with few changes on the feedback side, adding particles, sound effects, changing the rotation a little, zooming in and out, in most of the cases make the game feel much better and meaninful and it’s not really a difficult thing to do.

Jan Willem Nijman from Vlambeer has more experience than me on this topic and he gave a nice talk about “Game Feel” which is related to what I mentioned here. Enjoy the talk if you haven’t already and hope this helps you make better games!

This was basically it for this week. A lot of things going on, I’m trying to keep people up to date about what we are doing here and get some comments on what would be interesting to talk about for future post.

Have a great weekend!

Progress, Level Edition and Game Jam’s Feedback

Level Editor

 

I’ve been slowly working in a project for computer and console devices, a puzzle-action game based on a prototype I made for Ludum Dare back in 2013. The idea evolved quite a bit and I’m focused now on more puzzles and action, the idea actually changed a lot but the base is still the same.

 

Since last year I’ve been writing code for physics, gameplay, etc using OpenFL for this projects and after a while I decided to start working with Unity (I want to release the game for consoles as well and it seemed easier). The game involves big levels now and a lot of level creation, so I wanted to use a tool to create levels easy and simple, this really saves a lot of time when testing and changing features.

Inkscape

First I decided to use Inkscape as a level editor, the tool itself is very good and combined with its possibility of generating XML code from the elements you add to the document (graphically) it’s very handy. I wrote a small parser on Haxe for a small prototype I created last year, also used in the first version of this new project I’m currently working on.

It really worked very well when I was using OpenFL. After deciding to work with Unity, I also tried to do the same thing because I wanted to keep the levels separated from the game engine and also Inkscape itself runs faster and better when I’m focused on creating only levels. I wrote a parser in C# of the XML code that Inkscape generates and it worked well too.

Generally speaking, Inkscape is a really good tool for creating levels, it is lightweight and very flexible. Inkscape was also doing the basic functionality I needed from the editor but there was still work to do to really make it good enough for this project.

Unity and Custom editors

Since I’m still in the process of learning about Unity and all its features, I didn’t know you could customize the editor and include custom scripts to minimize the efforts when doing cumbersome or repetitive tasks.

This week while reviewing some code, I found out that you can actually create your own menus and customize a lot of things. So I decided to play a little bit with that and try to create a very small tile editor for this game.

After struggling a bit about understanding how to make everything work, I was able to put together the most basic functionality for the tile editor I wanted: adding tiles as fast as possible, having a grid that snapped tiles automatically to it, removing and moving tiles.

Having this functionality inside the editor while creating levels and the possibility of adding more stuff like rotation, layering, etc is really a great advantage if you want to save time and avoid doing repetitive tasks. I will keep improving what I have so far, keep posting about it and share it when it’s in a decent state for people to play with it.

Closing

Before writing this post I thought about detailed explaining how to write a parser for Inkscape and how to create a custom editor for Unity, however, I’m not really sure if it’s worth it. A lot of people have done this before and probably they explain it better than me.

If someone wants to know details about what I did, I’ll definitely explain everything step by step, meanwhile, you can check out the following links that helped me a lot understanding how to both processes work.

Once I clean up the code for the Unity editor I wrote and the Inkscape parser, I’ll upload them to my repository in Github.

Ah, in addition to the new project, Fiery Squirrel is also focused on this new mobile game: Kuon’s Saga, I’ll talk more about it soon!

Level Editor

SORLD: Ludum Dare 38

This will be a short post about the result of a game I made for Ludum Dare 38 last weekend. I will basically cover why did I decide to participate and how did I come up with the idea.

Why

Recently I’ve been very busy working on other projects that are planned to be released this year. However, after the theme was unvelied, I decided that if could find something that had a message I could transmit somehow (I want to make a full educational game in the future), I was going to participate.

In this case, I focused the brainstorming in two topics: what’s going on in Venezuela (my country) now  and global warming. I decided to go with the first topic because this is how I feel can contribute to what’s going on there, we can all contribute to a cause from different perspectives and my perspective is from the game development side.

How

The Jam lasts only two days and there was not a lot of time to decide what to do. As always I try to keep things as simple as possible and concentrate on a small idea.

important points for the game

  • Choose a message
  • Communicate the message clearly
  • Make something dynamic
  • Try as hard as possible make it fun
  • Polish as much as possible until the Jam is over

Message

As message, I just wanted people to be aware of what’s going on in other countries, make people think about what’s happening in other parts of the world. I wanted people to understand that despite the fact that we have different cultures, live in different places and have different ways of thinking, we all belong to the same planet and should care about each other.

I said earlier that I wanted to focus on what is happening in Venezuela and it’s true, however I also think it’s important to take a look at other countries because people are suffering everywhere.

communication

The message is communicated not only in an explicit way in the end of the game but also the whole mechanics are based on the idea of caring about others, helping and cooperating.

The rules of the game are:

  • Beat the aliens: To beat the aliens, members have to combine the power of their colors to attack
  • Stay alive: You need at least one house in your territory to respawn
  • You can attack any alien
  • You can give one of your houses away
  • You can repair your or someone else’s house

The game is made in a way that these rules are not explicitly taught. From the game you know you can move, grab and place houses, you can shoot and you can repair houses, but I don’t tell the player “to beat the aliens you need to cooperate”. The idea was that the player understood the rules by looking at the NPC or just using common sense.

The NPCs have different behaviors:

  • Attack an alien in my territory
  • If someone helps me, I’ll help too
  • Stay alive
  • Give the player a house if he is out of them

Since I didn’t have enough time to make things smoother, I included a condition to randomly decide to help someone sometimes, so the player could understand easier what to do.

Dynamism

The game is really simple. Since the theme of the jam was a small world, I just decided to make everything in a very small world created from four different parts. To add a fast pace, the aliens attack non-stop in a random way. In addition, all the NPCs work very hard to attack the aliens and try to stay alive too.

The focus here was trying to stay concentrated on the main message and make something enjoyable.

Polishing

After all the basic elements were complete, I just focus on trying to add things that improved the experience of players.

I think that when time is very limited like in a game jam, one should focus first on adding important feedback after finishing the basic mechanichs of the game. Shooting, receiving damage, reparing a house and subtle details to explain how to play were the core of this part.

Also the planet reacts to what is happening in the game, if it’s attacked, everything shakes and when something good happens (like defeating an alien), it winks.

These things are very small but they improve the experience of the game as a whole. I really wanted to put more efforts here but… not enough time.

Wrapping up

This is it, I wanted to make a small post and I feel it’s very long already, so to wrap up, this jam for me was different and interesting for the following reasons:

  • First time I base everything on communicating a message
  • First experience using Unity for a game jam
  • I tried to make simple but pretty graphics with a different palette of what I use to
  • Programming the NPC was a challenge but really fun

So if you have any questions, let me know.

You can visit the Ludum Dare 38 entry here and play the game online or download it in your computer.

By the way, I’ll still think about the idea for the global warming game, I think it’s an important issue.

 

SORLD: Ludum Dare 38