• New continuous level preview

    Here is a preview of the new setup where you go directly from one boss to the next with no break. The boss portrait changes and the background fades from the current one to the next with each boss change. The blocks already placed stay there as well as any smaller enemies spawned.

    This also shows the addition of retaliation to line clearing from the beetle and cobra bosses, as well as spawning those smaller enemies for the cobra and crocodile.

  • Continuing development of Shinobi Blocks

    Now under a new title: Sarcopha-gon!

    Check out a little bit of simple gameplay here:

    The pitch

    Theming the game around a mummy escaping from his tomb, with a variety of entities trying to stop him. Animals, fellow mummies, and mythical creatures drop blocks on him while he leverages mystical energy against them to remove blocks and bypass them one by one.

    Gather your preserved organs to unlock special abilities to push and pull the falling blocks into place.

    The history

    This game started off as a jam entry for Alakajam 4. I really liked the way the game played and got some good feedback on it so I decided to continue development. I made the classic mistake of planning on a gigantic scope for the continuing game, dreaming of a puzzle platformer game where you traverse levels full of tiny block puzzles, traps, and enemies ultimately arriving at a boss chamber where you are assaulted with a continual stream of falling blocks. Each boss chamber would be a version of the original game, clear 10 lines to beat the boss, get the organ they guard, and continue on to the next area. This plan featured branching paths based on performance: leave a specific spot uncovered after beating a boss to claim an unlock to get the 'harder' boss afterwards. 

    After about 2 levels of that I found I was quickly running out of ideas for the level content and decided to cut scope to just the boss chambers. Each chamber would still feature an animated boss creature at the top, spawning blocks in a variety of ways: rolling dung balls, throwing junk, and controling a pair of mechanical devices to name a few. The development continued on that path for about a year and a half with some stick figure creatures moving around while Karl tried to keep up with the assets (he made 3 great sets of sprites with all the crazy animations I was requesting before we realized this wasn't going to be done any time soon). 

    Now, three and a half years after the original jam game it's time to cut scope again. No more animated bosses, no more different level sizes, no more branching paths. Really getting back to the core gameplay: move blocks around and clear lines in continuous play until you get crushed or the blocks pile up too high. There is a portrait to show which boss you're 'battling', and when you bypass them you move right along to the next in the same area. There's still plenty to be done to complete it but we're on a much shorter timeline. 

    We're refreshed and the goal is acheivable. Keep an eye on this space for playtest information, this has been stewing for too long with only our eyes and hands on it, we need external feedback on what works!

    How many times to I have to keep learning this lesson: make the smallest possible thing that fits the idea.

  • Moon Tarot Card Design

    With The Game Developers Conference creeping up I have been taking on commission to help pay for my trip. I didn't get to go with the original design I liked but I'm pretty happy with how this turned out. I tried refining it in photoshop but the drawing lost it's sketchy charm which is what the client was asking for.

  • From The Sun Postmortem

    In the over a year since the last blog post I've done very little development on From The Sun and a few months ago decided to stop work on it all together. As I built on the initial concept of playing as a particle of light that changes color and energy levels by absorbing other light or running into obstacles I realized that I didn't have a full plan for what the final game would look like. As an experiment and learning experience I consider it a success, but I don't see a larger appeal with it in its current encarnation so I'm taking what I've learned and am moving on to a new project. More about that to come.

    Taking on a solo project and exploring more of the aspects besides programming was really good for me. I gained a renewed appreciation for all that goes into a game. Chiefly among the aspects of game development that I had underestimated are design and production. I did no real design work going into development for this game. It started out as a little experiment with no player interaction where colored balls spawned on a screen, redder colors on top falling down and bluer colors on the bottom floating up. When balls collided the bluer one would become one step bluer and the redder ball would be destroyed. I then iterated on that design a few times until I reached the mechanics in the current build. That was my design process.

    Once I was fairly happy with the game mechanics I started building out actual levels and a structure for the game. In that process is where I learned the value of planning the production beforehand in order to be able to plan a timeline for the game. I didn't have a timeline at any point in the development process. My documentation consisted of a trello board that I threw tasks in to as I thought of them and some pages in a notebook with ideas for what levels should be like. As a result of that a lot of little things in this game are completey flat and bland: menus, interface, sound effects, etc. I'd realize that one of those aspects needs attention, spend a little time on it, and then get distracted by the next thing that needed attention.

    Two things that I ended up being pretty proud of making as part of this project are the level editor tool for building waves of debris and a crystal 3d model that I don't actually remember if made it into the game.

    The level editor tool makes use of lessons from CatLikeCoding's Splines tutorial to spawn debris along smooth curves in addition to manually placing prefabs. In the screenshot below two such curves are visible. Not shown are the widgets that appear when they are selected for editing. This is a view of the first few waves in the Venus level (if you want to see it in action you'll have to give the game a play.) Also visible in this screen shot is how a wave with a bezier curve only allows for one curve so the parrallel curves are actually two waves with very close together timing.

    Level editor showing bezier curves and prefabs at the start of the Venus level

    The crystal model is for a type of debris that wasn't as useful as I had hoped. I wanted to have them fill the role of providing a reason players to try and be a specific color rather than going for the highest power level, but in play test it was confusing whether you could pass through them if you matched their color or if they turned you to their color. I had thought the former made sense but many players expected the latter.

    Spinning green crystal

    Ultimately the usefulness of the crystals hinged on a ditched mechanic where redder colors would still fall from the top and decrease the player's power level. The design iteration process led me to get rid of any reason to change to redder colors and the design took on a model where the player could take more hits and deal more damage by being high powered and there was no reason to go lower. This is the change in design that made the most sense and also removed much of the original inspiration.

    The final version of From The Sun is playable here on itch.io. It includes Mercury, Venus, and Earth as levels, they end up getting pretty difficult.


  • Third Rock From The Sun

    That's right, you can finally destroy Earth! 

    The new level introduces a new type of hazard, complements of Earth's inhabitents: satellites. The solar panels they have absorb your shots instead of being damaged by then, some satellites use the generated electricity to fire back at you, so watch out!

    This build also has all levels unlocked so you can try all of them even if you get stuck on one. It also features an animated sprite for the player. It's a little rough right now but it's a start.

Hello World!