Mechanical fine tuning From The Sun

With some recent incremental builds that I've been sharing amongst friend I've worked out a fair about of small changes to the core gameplay of From The Sun that have really improved the feel of the game:

  • Removed ammunition limit. It wasn't serving a purpose in terms of gameplay, I just added that arbitrarily because it felt like part of how ammunition 'should' work.
  • Player color always moves towards ultraviolet on the spectrum when collecting ammunition photons, previously it could go up or down based on the color of the ammunition. That wasn't intuitive and now the behavior is more in line with an intuitive expectation.
  • Shots do damage based on their color. Previously player color had no efect on attacks, I had considered using different attack types, such as spreads of shots, for different player colors. Again, this complicates behavior and expectations for the player. By changing the damage of shots the player does not have to have the expecation of that to make use of it, but with that expectation they can make better use of it.

In addition to these smaller mechanical changes I've been updating the tools I've been using to design levels. I was limited to placing individual prefabs in Unity, of which I had created some using splines. I added support for editing splines directly in the Unity editor and I've been able to make much better shapes and layouts for debris clusters. Speaking of debris clusters I also changed the way the planet is put together, now it's a composite of small objects instead of a single large one. It makes breaking the planet down more satisfying.

I've also been learning more about making music with LMMS and it's a lot better on the ears that the previous builds have been. The improvment in the sound quality is primarily from switching from pretty pure tones to sounds created by the triple oscillator provided with LMMS. The sound effects need the same treatment.

Overall the game is getting to a good place and I'm ready to focus more on building out levels and improving the audio and visual assets..

Link to latest build

What I'm Learning About Game Audio

My initial plan for audio in From The Sun was to have it be entirely procedural. It seemed like a promising direction for a game where player state is already influencing gameplay. The tones would be based on player speed, everything generated at run time. At first it seemed like it was coming together: I had a simple system set up to play arbitrary tones and constants available for the wavelengths of musical notes. Mostly I was generating sine waves, created a player that would combine all the currently playing sounds into a single stream. Eventually I had sound effects for most game events: shooting, collecting photons, taking damage, and dealing damage. They were ... harsh. The simple sine wave tones do not sound good. I would have to create filters for them to make different instruments voices. It would be a lot of effort to recreate something that's been being built up for years. On top of the sound quality not being good I discovered that Unity's WebGL, and maybe WebGL in general, doesn't support generative audio. I like being able to host builds online to show progress. I could have started hosting OS specfic builds, but combined with the low quality sound I was getting it was clear that generative audio is not the way to go.

So I started looking at authoring tools, of which there are tons. It's really overwhelming to sift through all the options, but I managed to find a pretty easy to use sequencer called LMMS. It was really easy to get started on and now I've got some better, although still not amazing, sounds effects and even a dinky little music loop. They've taken me just a few hours to put together, rather than the couple of evenings I spent getting a really low quality sound generator going.

I think the real take away for me from this whole process is that finding the right tool is always going to be faster and give better results than trying to make a new tool without having ever used one like it.

Now here's a link to a new build with that new audio in it.

From The Sun: Tutorial and A Simple Level

Been working on some level planning tools and refining the UI for From The Sun.

My initial toolset was an editor that placed each obstacle individually. This grew tedious quickly and I started setting up groups of spawns as waves and a couple of basic types of waves to generate programmatically. My favorite of those types was one that divided the screen by fifths, picked a random ordering for each of those subdivisions to get a waves, then use the same ordering to place five pieces of debris within the subdivision. I liked it because it created a good spread that hit every point on the screen but wasn't too hard to avoid, plus the first wave of debris describes where the rest of the waves will be on the screen. Those are still in use in the sample level, but there are some new types that I'm generating as well.

In addition to the generative waves I added some new tools to create groups of debris using splines. Following the Cat Like Coding spline tutorial I was able to learn a lot more about custom editor tools to help me lay out paths of debris. Next up will be composite debris that consists of multiple types of debris as a single physical object. That will allow for some interesting debris to navigate that rotates as a unit.

The UI has a new side bar layout that uses its background as a quick color indicator, plus easier to read score, and a less distracting ammo icon. There's also a tutorial that helps describe the mechanics of color changing and gathering ammo.

One big task that I have't even started approaching is audio. I should find some creative commons music and sound effects to use, at least for now.

Play and comment please!

Direct Link To Game

Test level of From The Sun

This is the first build of a game I've been working on for a little while. You control a photon travelling through space. Collision with other photons give you energy, which you can use to destroy obstacles. WASD to move and space to shoot.

Link to web build.

Ludum Dare 35 and Circumstances Beyond My Control

CAUTION, CARTOON WEINERS AHEAD

Got me and Karl's Ludum Dare 35 entry submitted almost a week ago now.

For the theme 'shapeshift' we went with our idea of a reverse werewolf, cursed to change from a regular wolf to a helpless naked human during the full moon and be hunted by the wolves. The ultimate goal of the game is to kill the gypsy queen to free yourself from the curse.

We changed the idea for the plot a lot as we went, finally settling on this one early last Sunday. Until then we had considered setting it up in a zoo instead of the woods. There would have been an inventory and some sort of goal acheivable by going around the zoo and trading items for tips. Once we realized that was too much to try to put in we scaled down the scope to what we have now.

Karl made some assets that didn't end up in the final submission because I didn't have the development time Monday after work that I had planned on having, thanks a mechanical problem with a bridge on my way home. I felt so impotent seeing the time tick away while traffic failed to move, my 1 hour commute taking just over 2 hours. Luckily I still had time to actually upload a build and submit it during the submission grace period.

Today I took the assets from Karl that didn't make it into the submission and put them into the game so we can at least show what should have been. Play that new complete build here.

Here's some of the initial art, as well as zoo art, that didn't make the final version:

Reverse werewolf #1, too happy

Reverse werewolf #1, too happyPompous Lion

Pompous Lion

 

 

Helpful Giraffe

Helpful Giraffe

His flashlight doesn't even work, budget cuts are rough.

His flashlight doesn't even work, budget cuts are rough.

 

Hello World!