So, at this point I’d say Bleed 2 is close to an alpha state! …you know, kind of. I left the final level half-finished to create the demo for TCAF, but that aside the story mode is playable from start to near-finish. The only problem is that it kind of sucks right now, but don’t worry (yet) because that’s part of the plan.
Rather than an “alpha”, I’m considering it more of a “first draft”, like I’m writing an novel. Now I get to “edit” it, going level-by-level refining and tightening until it’s a slick, cohesive package. I’ve already finished the process for level one since I had to prepare it for TCAF (yay!) so this week was on to level number two.
The second level is where the Kitties and Lil’ Guppies make their re-appearance, but they’re mostly physical attackers. There isn’t much to dodge or reflect for the whole level and as a result it feels pretty boring… so, I redesigned some things:
The Kitties barf up big energy balls instead of hairballs now, so at least you can reflect those! They also wear bandanas so you can tell their colour before they attack.
As I mentioned, I spent the previous week exhibiting at TCAF! After the madness that was getting everything ready and then showing the game, I was totally beat. I’ve taken the week off to recharge so I don’t have a ton to report, but maybe you’re interested in hearing a little about the ups and downs of exhibiting from the perspective of a newbie like myself.
Pros: Everything was hooked up to my laptop on the other side of the monitor, letting people see the game from either side of the booth. When not in use, the main menu would display action shots to try and get people interested in playing, which seemed to work! Sometimes passerby would seem to be on the fence, and in that case politely asking if they’d like to play was enough to tip them over. I also had a few little signs printed up at Kinkos, which helped tell people the name of the game and differentiate the first and second-player controllers.
Cons: I had no merch — not even postcards or buttons or whatever. I have some on order, but almost three weeks later and they still aren’t here — I guess the lesson is to order far in advance! Without them, people who were interested in my game and wanted to remember it had to take cellphone pictures and stuff. Not cool. Also, I didn’t have a tablecloth until I saw other booths looking mighty fancy with theirs. I rushed out to the Dollar Store to get one, but it would have been nice to be more prepared and have a bit better presentation.
Woohoo! This weekend I’m exhibiting Bleed 2 at TCAF! The show is as awesome as it is free, so come give the game a shot and say hi if you’re in the area!
Something I managed to add for the exhibition is a co-op mode! In the original Bleed, co-op was basically a hack I put in at the last minute because I thought it’d be fun. I know there were a lot of issues with it as a result, so I’ve tried to improve it in several ways.
Previously the camera followed only player one, but now it’s weighted to take player two’s position into account. It’s not an even weighting — it strongly favours the first player — but it is there, and I can always fiddle with the bias to see if it helps.
This weekend I attended TOJam — an independent Toronto-based game jam that’s been going for ten years now! For anyone not familiar, you (alone or as part of a team) get three days to create a game that adheres to a certain theme. At the end, everyone eats pizza and goes around playing each others games. It’s a great challenge and lots of fun.
This year’s theme was “it’s all come to this”. My game is about a medieval city under attack by aliens. You defend and push a weapon to a vantage point where you use it to make a one-time shot. I called the game ‘Spur’. Here’s a time-lapse video of me creating it, followed by a quick play-through!
(You may notice the resolution changes a few times in the video — a monitor failure forced me to work on a Cintiq screen for a bit, and I had to go home to work on the animation. I don’t animate well unless I’m in front of a mirror, and am preferably not in front of strangers haha.)
This week I playtested the first level of Bleed 2 at Bento Miso! It was a really positive experience — everyone there is creative and intelligent and super nice, and I learned a lot about how my game will be understood by new players. I figure this is as good a time as any to go over some changes I’ve made based on playtesting.
The game features a few (very quick) in-game cutscenes to move the action along. I’ve done my best to make these as seamless as possible, but in some cases they’re apparently too seamless — it took a while for some players to realize when a cutscene had ended. To combat this, the HUD is hidden and the game is slightly letterboxed during cutscenes. Hopefully this makes the distinction clear.
This week I finished the menus for the demo, re-worked some bosses, did a lot of difficulty balancing, and also added tutorials!
This may be a familiar concept to many, but I’ve built the first level to slowly and (hopefully) organically introduce Bleed 2’s mechanics. In case you don’t know what I mean, check it out:
This is the first, very small area of the game. Wryn wants to run outside and see what’s happening to the city, but this elevator shaft is in the way and needs to be jumped over. It forces the player to either prove they know how to jump, or learn the skill.
In a game with more traditional controls I’d be tempted to leave it as-is and force the player to figure it out, since it’s pretty simple. But I don’t think it’s fair to expect anyone to guess that right trigger is the jump button, and I don’t want to frustrate anyone (especially not at an exhibition.) So, if the player can’t figure it out after a second or two, Wryn pipes up to tell them what the jump button is.
The rest of the level’s first half continues in this way. I try to introduce concepts one-at-a-time, and then incorporate them a few more times later on to keep the idea sticking in the player’s mind. For example, you have to keep jumping over the gaps between buildings (but there are fire escapes that come into view to catch you if you fall!)
This week I got audio working in the game, as planned. Creating music and sound effects takes me a very long time, so for now it’s re-used audio from the original Bleed. My goal is to create a functional demo first, and then spend whatever time I have left over making it polished and fresh.
I did add one new feature to my audio setup: sounds now fade the farther off-screen they originate. When a sound plays, I just measure the distance between it’s origin and the camera. Within a certain range (basically, enough to encompass any sound on-screen) they play at max volume, and after that they fade until they don’t play at all. It’s simple, but I like the effect.I also got to work making the menus for the demo! Just like the audio, they’re pretty rough, but I don’t need them to be complicated or ultra-detailed right now, I just need them to be there.
One of the things I worked on this week was particle effects! You probably know what they are, but in case you don’t — particles are tiny images, used purely for aesthetics. I have them all in their own sprite sheet, just like tilesets or animations or anything else.
Particles don’t need collision detection or AI or any other fancy code, so you can have a whole bunch of them on-screen without much of a performance cost! Mine have a few basic properties like weight, transparency, scale, rotation and animation speed… and that’s about it!
Anyways, they can add a lot of life and polish to any game. There’s already a bunch in Bleed 2, like bullet casings and air-dodge trails. Here are some more I put in this week:
Bam! Hitting enemies with the katana now plays a slicing animation along with some other effects, and dying Invaders lose their guns. These are all particles! Continue reading →
Soooo this week, I got the final level roughly half-way finished… but then something happened. I got accepted to show off Bleed 2 at an upcoming expo — something I’ve never done before! The prospect is equally exciting and terrifying.
The event is about a month away, which means I really have to alter my game plan here. Up until this point I’ve been piecing Bleed 2 together in rough, with the intention of having a very-unpolished-but-fully-playable alpha that I could playtest, improve and add to. While it might look okay in gifs, the fact is there are a LOT of basic things missing or rough around the edges, including music, sound effects, particle effects, menus, etc. There’s no way I can show it off like this.
And so, the assembly of the main campaign has been put on hold. Over the coming weeks I’ll be focusing on making the first level as complete and polished as possible. In many ways this will be good for the game, because it means a lot of refining and bug-fixing, which will positively affect the entire game as a whole. It’ll also be a test of how good I can make the first level, hopefully establishing the level of quality for the rest of the game and giving me an idea of how long it will take for me to accomplish that.
This all happened late in the week, but I got a little work started already:
I altered the sprites of enemy bullets to make their colour more clear. I’m also playing with an alternate colouring of the unreflectable yellow bullets, to further differentiate them. This is for the sake of visual clarity, and to help out people like me who are colour deficient.
I also fixed a bug with the Entity draw order. If several Entities were drawing on the same level, it would cause the sprites to flicker and fight since they didn’t know which should draw on top of the other. Now every Entity has a small random offset to their draw order, solving the issue.
That’s it for now… there will be many more changes in the weeks to come. Hopefully I can get the level together in time to show it off well! Aiiieee!!