Indie platformer

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

An interesting lesson

2:03:00 AM Posted by Nikola Bulj No comments
The game has been in development for almost a year now. Not constantly, sometimes I release 10 versions in 3 days, sometimes there's no new version for two weeks or so, depending on what stage of development I'm at or if I have some important duties IRL. And during that time, I've had 2 or 3 reports from testers that, when using gamepad, pressing "fast forward" during intro would react in a weird manner and skip several "pages" instead. Mind you, the same thing works perfectly on keyboard, and I've decided to leave that minor annoyance for later. After all, the only story sequence where there's more than one page is the intro at the beginning of the game. Then, the other day, I've been watching a youtuber play pre-alpha version... and noticed that half the story screens are not showing. Suddenly, it wasn't just a minor annoyance, it was a problem.

This story has a tl,dr; but let me tell everything, it will be more funny. Or at least I hope it will.

How it all started? I had a single story screen with audio for both dragon and goblin. At the time, I added a skip intro command, which would simply go to the next screen. Simple solutions are the best, right?

Some time later, I replaced this audiovisual sequence with an old-timey typewriter text intro and static images, which is something I enjoyed back in the NES times. Then I added more screens. So, skip intro became skip "page" or "screen". And some screens got two or three lines of typewriter text. You see how it's getting complicated? I could have used a single screen for all of this, but found this way to be easier to control, so I don't make a mistake. And while it may not be the solution someone else would go for, it worked.

It worked perfectly on keyboard, that is. Just as it was intended. Screen would open with a static image and typewriter text would start appearing. If you held the space button, you'd rush it to go faster. If you pressed space again at the end, the next line of text would start. If you wanted to skip the entire screen, you'd press ctrl button and it would change to the next one, just as intended.

But couple of testers reported that pressing "space equivalent" on gamepad would skip "several pages". Just like that.

Now, mind you, I don't have a gamepad. Well, I have one of the old ones that are not X360 compatible, so it doesn't actually work with the game. I don't have a way to test this and reproduce the bug myself, have to rely on feedback from testers. I could get one... but X360 gamepad in my country costs a lot compared to the average paycheck, so I postponed that until it's really necessary, because I wouldn't use it much.

Instead, I took upon myself to solve this problem without actually testing it myself. And that was a huge mistake. Why? Because after everything I did and all the work I put into it, I realized there was no problem. Command keys were working as intended.

So, how come the game skipped a lot of story for some people? It's simple. They used the wrong button. Or more precisely, I used the wrong button, when I selected the keys for certain actions on gamepad. Let me explain this. There are two actions in game that have dedicated buttons on gamepad, jump and action (enter doors, turn the lever and so on). Jump was btn1 and action was btn2. Or call them X and Y, or A and B if you'd like. "Action" is controlled by space on keyboard. So... I used the same button to replace space in the intro, for consistency. Which led to btn2, or B on x360 gamepad, to be "fast forward" or "next line of text", and btn1 or A, to be "skip this screen entirely". This was documented in the quick started guide, of course.

You don't see the problem yet? Neither did I.

Then, while talking with two early adopters yesterday and today, I realized something. They have a very strong habit of pressing the first button (A) to advance through the story. Apparently, every other game does this, which I would know if I played any games on gamepad... or used common sense in the first place. I've used gamepads on NES, Genesis, PS2... I should have known everyone is gonna press the first button instinctively. Which did the skipping in my game!

Of course, add to that starting confusion another one with "page" meaning line of text for them and a screen containing any number of lines of text to me. Also, they didn't expect skipping intro would skip a single screen but the entire intro, so when it happened it looked like a bug to them. It was a feature, lol.

Lesson? Fixing problem you don't understand fully may be an opportunity to learn... but also a waste of valuable time if you're fixing something that isn't really there and not noticing the real problem.

Who's to blame in all of this? Well, me of course, who else. While trying to achieve some meaningless perfection by using the same button that imitated space in the game and space in the intro, I totally forgot to use common sense and ask my self if that is the button everyone would use without reading the instructions first. Because, who reads instructions for such a simple game... or any game except maybe very complex RTS? I certainly don't.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Level 3-2 available now

1:13:00 AM Posted by Nikola Bulj No comments
Now that I'm finally happy with tile set for the Gassy Swamp, I've decided to release a new level, 3-2. It features more of the same as 3-1 but also some shallow muddy water which hides "bean shooters" plants, which is a surprise that I've mentioned the last time. They are not hard to disable or avoid, but could surprise you if you don't expect them. Oh, I guess I just spoiled the surprise. Never mind, the level is challenging enough. I'll wait for some feedback by the early adopters and potentially add some bean soup to make it easier. Also thinking of going back to Cursed graveyard and adding bean soup to at least one or two levels there.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Improved end screen

7:53:00 PM Posted by Nikola Bulj No comments
I've realized changes to the platform outlines for world II do not work as intended so I've decided to revert them to the previous look. Then I added some minor tiles to world III to improve the overall experience... and earlier today I've created a new monster for the swamp and fixed a small audio glitch for one of the existing enemies there.
Not one of these things would make me release a new version immediately - not when I'm in the process of designing a brand new level and a new version is planned already anyway - but I've also improved the high score / end screen by adding rating of your play trough expressed in golden stars - and I wanted to add that to demo too, so everyone can see it and... We have 0.0.3.1b / 0.0.2.16 now. Yay!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Enter world 3 - Gassy swamp

6:42:00 AM Posted by Nikola Bulj No comments
It's my pleasure to inform you that work on world 3, Gassy Swamp, is progressing well. Enough of new tiles and enemies have been finished in order for me to prepare the first level for this world.

It's a short one, but will show you what to expect in this new environment - snakes, rodents of unusual size, wasps, water to potentially drown in (expect more things related to water in later levels; I have some nasty surprises ready but didn't include them in the initial level in order to pace the "incoming troubles" better through all 7 levels of this world).

As always, if you notice any bugs, please let me know and I'll do anything I can to fix them asap. I'll leave the stable branch as a separate download just in case, and new levels will show up in pre-alpha 0.0.3.x branch (windows only, for now).

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Archetype: Walkers

9:14:00 PM Posted by Nikola Bulj No comments
There are many kinds of opponents in platforming video games. The most common kind are walkers who, simply said, walk around a pre-defined area of the level and interrupt players progress by simply being there. More advanced types have additional skills like shooting, throwing, rushing an enemy or something similar. Here's a short video introducing you to the walkers of Goblins and Coins:


What do you think?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rous

4:04:00 PM Posted by Nikola Bulj No comments
I admit, I'm a fan of the Princess Bride. I've seen the movie several times and have a book close bye. It's true that you need a grown up to skip the boring parts, sadly. But I guess that's the point, in a way? Speaking of a point, this article is about a new enemy for the world#3 (Gassy Swamp) and it's huge (proportionately to our little Goblin) and I just could not avoid naming it ROUS (rodent of unusual size). Take a look:


What do you think?

Changed the look of the world map

1:23:00 AM Posted by Nikola Bulj No comments
I'm currently working on assets for world 3 (most tiles and a few of new enemies are ready to be implemented) and while making a map screen for it, I've decided to improve the entire map visually, but also to push the fog of war a bit further away so players can see one world ahead, and not just the world they are about to play. I hope this will provide additional motivation for finishing unlocked worlds and continuing with the game.


Demo has been updated to the latest version.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Making of: Plant based platform

10:00:00 AM Posted by Nikola Bulj No comments
I made a short video to show you how an unsafe platform is made from scratch. First, there's a drawing - on paper. Then, I create several sprites in order to animate it. At the end, the easiest part - adding sprites to the game, assigning them to an object and coding it's behavior. In this case, it's a plant based platform for world#3 (Gassy Swamp). You can watch the video here: