Endless Mode Part 6: Daily Runs

Yeeeaaaahh!! Bleed 2’s Endless Mode is now out on PC, Xbox One and PS4!

The perfect little cherry on top of the new Endless Mode is that (on PC, at least) it comes with daily challenges, too! This feature was put in very last-minute, in literally the final week of development. I had no idea what I was doing at first, but thanks to help from Vertex Pop’s Mobeen Fikree, this pastebin snippet and my dad, I managed to get it done! I thought I’d share the process of making daily runs, since I couldn’t find many resources online for this kind of thing.

Warning, this is a very wordy post. I use images to try and break it up but if you really wanna know how to do this… you gotta read!

Okay, so, first challenge: how do you give everyone the same run each day? This one’s actually really easy: there’s a thing called Unix Time, which tells you the number of seconds that have passed since Jan 1, 1970 in UTC. Given that information, you can find the number of days passed since Jan 1, 1970 UTC, and that gives you a number that goes up by one, every day, at the same time, for everyone! Use that number as the seed for the level-generating RNG and bam! Good to go!

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Bleed 2 on PS4/XB1!! And, Endless Mode Part 5: Miscellaneous Stuff

First off, awesome news: Bleed 2 is headed to PS4 and Xbox One on Feb 6 and 9, respectively!! Finally!! That’s basically the one-year anniversary of Bleed 2 on Steam, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the milestone. As always, the port and publishing are all thanks to Digerati Distribution and Nephilim Game Studios.

Naturally, the console version comes packaged with Endless Mode — coming out on console is what pushed me to take another shot at the mode in the first place, and I’m glad it came together. Speaking of coming together, here’s one more blog post to detail some of the miscellaneous work that was needed to make Endless Mode a reality!

For instance, the boss that concludes every level (there has to be a boss fight, right?) Thanks to my work on Challenge Mode it was pretty easy to set up bosses, with 16 of the Story Mode bosses available to be fought! The selection is slightly limited at the start of a run, but quickly expands the farther in you get. There might even be a chance of a boss rush happening, if you’re really unlucky…!

As a side note, when things like bosses, chunks and environments get randomly chosen they’re all recorded in a list, to make sure you don’t see repeats too close to each other (and in the case of bosses, you should never see the same boss twice in a run.)

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Endless Mode Part 4: Enemies

It’s finally time to talk about the baddies and hazards you’ll face in Bleed 2’s Endless Mode — yay! First, some broad information:

An Endless Mode “run” is five levels long. To differentiate those levels and lend a sense of progression to each run, every level is tagged as a different “environment”, changing the chunks that are used to create it as well as the baddies and environmental hazards that appear!

So for example, in a level that’s a “lava” environment: when the level gets pieced together from random chunks, special lava-only “hazard” chunks are sprinkled into the mix — those chunks are built around lava-themed hazards like falling rocks and lava-spewing geysers. Throughout the level you’ll also see lava-themed baddies, like the flying and burrowing bugs from Bleed 1. It helps give levels their own identity!

Hazard chunks are used only by specific environments, but all the other chunk types are shared across all environments — so every chunk needs to spawn the right baddies for whatever environment they belong to. To accomplish this, chunks have generic enemy spawn types and spawn positions. So instead of saying “always make two flying bugs here”, it’s more like “make two flying enemies here,” and then it’s up to each environment to fill in the blanks with their unique baddies.

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Endless Mode Part 3: The Camera

Now we’re on to the REALLY exciting stuff — the camera!! Seriously, I don’t know how this will read from a player’s perspective, but from the development side this was a tricky puzzle, and REALLY important to solve. The camera in Bleed 2’s Story Mode is meticulously controlled — maximizing screen space, showing the way forward and making gameplay as smooth as possible (I showed a little bit of that in this post.) Having a similar-quality camera in Endless Mode was an absolute must.

In abstract, the way I did it sounds kinda basic. I created “camera zones” — invisible volumes that, when entered, give instructions to the game’s camera on how to behave. Every level chunk is absolutely plastered with camera zones — if I did my job right, they cover 100% of every chunk (and if I messed up on this I guarantee you’ll be able to tell.) Here’s a shot with camera zones drawn in translucent blue:

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Endless Mode Part 2: Variety

Hello again! Last week we talked about the basics of Bleed 2’s Endless Mode, and this week I’d like to start going a little deeper. One of the first challenges I ran into was how to make the randomly-generated levels feel varied and interesting, and I tried to solve this in a variety of ways.

First, the design of the chunks (the building blocks that make up a level.) Maybe this is obvious, but I tried to make sure the gameplay within every chunk was unique in some way, mainly through the architecture and hazard usage/placement. Some chunks are narrow and cramped while others are open with a missing a roof or wall, some use lots of ramps while others feature pass-through platforms… you get the idea.

Same thing with the kinds of enemies and how they’re used (one chunk might mainly use grenade enemies while another focuses on turrets… etc etc etc. This is really important too, but I’ll be getting into enemies a bit later.) Not all of the differences are so extreme, but every chunk provides something the others don’t, and I think the moment to moment contrast helps keep things fresh.

(By the way: in one of the examples above, you can see pits that extend way down to a floor. In the actual game, the floor is off-screen, so they look like bottomless pits. You get damaged and teleported back to safe ground before hitting the floor, so nobody will know the difference! This is to stop you from falling through to a different chunk, or coming back up through a chunk with an open ceiling.)

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The Return of Endless Mode!

Happy new year, anyone who still checks this blog!! I’ve got some cool news to share: I’ve been working on a free update to Bleed 2, which I’ll be ready to release Soonish (like, maybe in a month or two?) As you can guess from the title of this post, the update is the newly-resurrected Endless Mode (something I worked on before, but ultimately scrapped because I wanted to actually finish the main game.)

“Endless Mode” is what I’m calling randomly-generated levels for Bleed 2! The number-one complaint I hear is that folks wish the game was longer, so I hope this mode can help remedy that. It also has a slightly different flavour than Bleed 2’s content — the main game is all about bosses and set-pieces, but Endless Mode is more Bleed 1-style, focusing on “traditional” levels with lots of smaller baddies and environmental hazards (there are boss fights in Endless Mode too, of course — 16 of them from Story Mode will appear!)

Just to be clear, there won’t be any new bosses added, but OG Bleed players will see some familiar enemies and hazards return, remixed and improved to fit with Bleed 2’s gameplay and presentation. Also, Endless Mode is fully playable in co-op. Yay! There are a few other fun elements about it to share, but I’ll keep those secret for now.

Creating Endless Mode was an interesting journey, and I thought I’d blog about the process for the next little while, beginning now!

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Bleed Arrives on Nintendo Switch Dec 14!!

HELL YES!! Again, with the combined powers of myself, Digerati Distribution and Nephilim Game Studios, Bleed is coming to Nintendo Switch on Dec 14, 2017! That’s this Thursday!! It even got a fancy new trailer:

I’ve seen so many devs say this that it feels like a cliche at this point, but I really can’t describe how cool it is to have my game on a Nintendo system. Nintendo is a HUGE part of my falling in love with games as a kid, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be making games today if it wasn’t for them. If I went back in time and told Young Ian about this, his poor little brain would shut down. So it’s pretty awesome for me.

In addition to the new trailer (not made by me) the game has a new box art / game icon (made by me) for the Switch version of the game! Here’s the “box art” version:

Aside from my being excited as hell, there isn’t much more to say — so here’s a visual journey of the box art’s creation, like I did with Bleed 2!

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Bleed Is Coming To Xbox One + PS4!

YEEAAAHHH! I can finally announce that the original Bleed is coming to XBO and PS4 next month (Aug 22 on PS4, and Aug 24 on XBO!)

This is all thanks to Digerati Distribution & Marketing, an awesome publisher who liked Bleed enough to take it to the console market! I also have to thank Nephilim Game Studios for doing the porting work. Both parties have put in a lot of effort getting the game ready for launch!

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PAX East Minibooth 2017

It’s been a month since it happened, but Bleed 2 was shown in the Indie Minibooth at PAX East 2017! It was a ton of fun, so I thought I’d do a write-up about the experience and compare it to showing in the MEGABOOTH! They’re both a blast, but there are of course differences.

First though, I gotta get a huge thanks out of the way — the costs for showing in the Minibooth were heavily reduced by some extremely generous MEGABOOTH alumni. Showing at PAX — even the Minibooth! — can be a large expense, and the generosity of these devs really helped me and all the other Miniboothers get there. I can’t thank them all enough and I wanted to make sure that was front and center.

So! Showing at the Minibooth! For anyone not aware — the Minibooth is a smaller, more simple area you can show at with the MEGABOOTH. Instead of a 10ft x 10ft space with multiple setups and tons of equipment, the Minibooth offers a nice, simple, single kiosk to demo your game at! For reference, here’s a comparison of my MEGABOOTH space from West 2016 and the Minibooth space from East 2017.

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GDC (and, Is It Worth It?)

I’ve wanted to attend GDC for a few years now, but I’ve always been hesitant. I hear many game devs talk about what a great and inspiring time it is, I see all my Twitter dev pals posting about the fun they’re having when they go — it sure sounds incredible, but I always doubted whether it was worth the time and money. Every year I’d spend waffling up until the last moment deciding should-I-shouldn’t-I, but this year I resolved to just go and see for myself whether it was worth it. Maybe this post will help someone else decide the same questions! I’ll start with the cost, weigh that against the various reasons for going, and close out with my final thoughts along with some general tips and observations.

A shot of San Fran from a GDC building!

Let’s start with money: GDC is expensive. It cost me $1,500 to go, and I was being relatively cheap about it. I only stayed for four days (many seem to stay up to five or seven) and I stayed in the “indie hostel” (the HI San Fransisco Downtown hostel, which is full to brim with indie devs during GDC.) I also bought the cheapest pass, the Expo pass, which gets you into the expo hall, the IGF awards, and a very VERY limited number of talks. For reference, if you want the All-Access pass, you can add another $2,000 to the total (no, not a typo.) I could have saved more money by getting connecting flights and skipping the pass altogether (some people do this, focusing on the social aspect) but I wanted to not be too stressed, and to get at least a bit of exposure to every aspect of the experience.

So, with the cost established, what are the reasons to go to GDC as an indie? I’ve seen a few, namely: to meet up with dev friends and party, to go to talks and learn, to get inspired, to network, and to meet with and pitch to developers and publishers. I’ll go one by one and describe my experience with each aspect as best I can!

The park and food court right next to GDC!

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