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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Bleed 2 Has Launched!

Whew! NOW it’s done! Bleed 2 is out. What a trip. It’s got some very kind coverage from places like Hardcore Gamer, Destructoid and Attack of the Fanboy, and overall I’m really happy and relieved at how it’s been received!

The launch certainly went better than the original’s (when I accidentally shipped an .exe that was only playable by like 10% of the user base, and then didn’t find out for hours because I decided to go for a celebratory lunch, oooooops.) People have still found bugs I wish I caught (and every new one found is another knot in my stomach) but I’ve been working hard at fixing them and I think I’ve got all the critical ones now — and so far I’ve managed to keep replays intact, too! Sweet!

If you’re wondering what it’s like to launch a game, it’s seriously overwhelming, in both good and bad ways. My Steam account, Twitter and inbox has been absolutely slammed — I’ve answered (or at least looked at) at least 200 emails alone this week. There were some incredibly kind messages, a couple rather unpleasant ones, and the rest was either people reporting bugs or (the vast majority) requesting copies of the game. It might not sound like much work, but it somehow is! There are a lot of key scammers out there, and you gotta hustle if you want to avoid getting taken advantage of. I fell for a lot of it back in the Bleed 1 days, but I’d like to think I’m a bit more canny now.

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AAAAAHHHHH (3 Days to Release!)

…wow. I did it! Well, almost — Bleed 2 is out in three days, on Feb 8. I’m stressed, I’m excited, I’m really proud!

I discovered a 2.5 year-old version of the game, so please enjoy some comparison shots as I pat myself on the back for all my hard work!

Four years ago, when I was just starting to put the game together, I had a moment where I suddenly realized the scope of what I was planning. It profoundly depressed me — it honestly didn’t seem possible to complete; trying seemed like a waste of time. I literally curled into a ball went to sleep in the middle of the afternoon. I’m not sure why I kept going from that point, but I’m really glad I did. Piece by piece, day by day — my skills have improved, the game has come together, and now it’s all culminated in the game you’ll be able to play in three days!

I’m not giving an Academy Awards speech of anything, but: huge, HUGE shout-outs to Joonas and Jukio for all the amazing work they’ve provided, the game wouldn’t be half of what it is without them. Additional huge thanks to my family and the friends I’ve kept and made along the way. Having their support and enthusiasm and belief really helped keep me going! Finally, a shout-out to the Toronto game dev community at Gamma Space. I’m so glad to have met such awesome, creative people who share my passions. I tend to think of myself as an independent, solo kind of guy, but I’ve learned having a community like that is really special.

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Double Feature: The Clawed Girl, and Greater Difficulty!

With a week and a half left, things are getting tight! Bleed 2 is looking good, but I’m still cramming to make sure everything is as polished as it can be. A ton has happened this week so there’s tons to talk about: first, the Clawed Girl!

Yes! The Clawed Girl from They Bleed Pixels is an unlockable character in Bleed 2 — a huge thank-you to Spooky Squid Games for trusting me with their intellectual property. This was a really exciting opportunity to me, and I hope I’ve done the character proud!

Like in her own game, the Clawed Girl is a melee-focused character. This instantly makes her harder to play in a fast, ranged-combat game like Bleed 2, but she’s got plenty of tricks to help balance her out. Her swipes and stabs do way more damage than Wryn’s pistols, and even her air-dash hurts enemies! She can only air-dash once after a jump, but landing hits refreshes her dash — so if you’re good you can combo like crazy and never even touch the ground! Additionally, not pictured, you can end her air-dash with a flying kick that reflects any attack

(UPDATE: I removed the kick because while it looked cool… it always came out when you didn’t want it to, it was hard to use even when you tried to, and when you did use it slowed you down and ultimately wasn’t worth it — you may as well have used the swipe instead! RIP kick.)

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Almost There…!

This week I was invited on the Escapist Magazine Twitch stream to talk about Bleed 1 and 2! John Markley played through the original, and a demo of the sequel. Here’s the link if you want to check it out, it was a whole bunch of fun!

Anyways — two and a half weeks until the game comes out, yay! Also: yikes!!

I’ve been busy with bugfixing and playtests this week, which is an invaluable but high-pressure (to me) part of the process. Playtest feedback is almost always useful, but fixing problems also tends to create more problems — Bleed 2 is such a giant interconnected machine at this point, it’s hard to fully appreciate the impact of even small changes (until someone tells me I broke something.)

That’s all fine, but to me the pressure comes from when the feedback concerns more than bugs. What if players aren’t sure how to dodge a specific attack, or they don’t find an unlockable character fun to play? That’s when I have to start weighing my own perspective against fresh ones — sometimes many fresh ones! I feel strongly about the design decisions I’ve made, but I also recognize that I’m not objective on this game any more. I have to decide what to stand firm on, and what to change to make the game as fun as possible!

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