Three Years??

I did some fact-checking and it turns out I’m a little off on the numbers – Bleed has been in production for over two years, but not quite three. My bad. Still, a pretty long time, right?? I figured I’d show a bit of how the game started and how it’s changed over the years!


Bleed was originally created with two goals in mind; to be an incredibly quick and fluid sidescroller, and to be as dark and violent as possible. Huh? Well, before Bleed, my games had a very goofy style. People enjoyed them, but a common complaint was that they were a little… you know.



So in an effort to reach a wider audience – especially on the XBLIG market – I was gonna make an uber-violent, uber-bloody ass-kicker of a game. It was going to star a ruthless, animalistic warrior on the brink of death, clawing his way back to life through a surreal hallucination of a dream word. He’d probably look something like this.

Look how serious and brooding he is! He’s so damaged, he’s wrapped in BANDAGES!! Thanks to my good friend Illya for the dude on the right.


I put together a two-level prototype to test everything out – collision detection, enemies, bosses, dynamic camera, etc. Here’s some footage of a run-through I whipped up!


Laughably puny rockets vs. SUPERPOWERED ROCKETS!!

You can see some… interesting gameplay mechanics at work. The air-dash move is there in a basic form, and the game rewards you for narrowly dodging attacks by super-powering your weapons for a brief time. Inspired by Bayonetta, most likely (that game rocks.)



Red vs Blue.

The boss even survived, at least in spirit! I really like the idea of battles that become progressively more outlandish, and it’s an enemy that forces you to use all the gameplay basics to fight effectively.




Even the menu was going to be dark, brooding and dreamy!

Now… it looks like this.


So what the hell happened? Two things.

The game was going to be heavily focused on story – but at the end of the day I had to realize that 99% of players just don’t care. Besides, I’m not exactly Shakespeare. I have no doubt that it would have ended up as a pretentious, self-important mess.

Much more importantly, doom-and-gloom, ultra-serious-for-no-good-reason just isn’t me. I’m a lighthearted, fun-loving guy and I think it would have come off inauthentic. I believe what I have now is much more entertaining, and a more pure expression of myself to boot!


Some other notes:
-People who played the prototype were freaked out by the hero character and thought he was supposed to be an enemy.
-There used to be separate buttons for jumping and air-dashing. It was confusing and most people ended up awkwardly air-dashing everywhere when a jump would have sufficed.
-Do those tilesets look familiar? If you think so, you’re probably wrong. You should just forget about it.

The games are Plucky’s 3D Adventure and Grapple Boy, if anyone is curious.

Animating Wryn

Animating characters in a sidescroller is usually pretty easy, especially when you use something called a sprite sheet. A sprite sheet is a large image that contains all the animations for a character. Example time!


Shazam! Here’s a walking animation for a cool robot dude — all the frames are stored inside one large image. You play them one at a time, it looks like he’s walking! Simple!


But let’s say we want him to be able to shoot while walking — we’ll need to make a seperate animation for that. And what if we want him to be able to shoot up, down, and forward while walking? Each one of those has to have its own animation. A little more work, but still pretty simple.


And what if he can jump? And dodge? And shoot while jumping or dodging — in all directions? I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Sprite sheets are great, and often they’re all you need. But they can get out of hand if you aren’t careful.



So now I’m making Bleed, and the main character can run, jump and dodge — and she can shoot 360 degrees around her while doing it. Is it time to make a sprite sheet with a million animations? Nope. Now it’s time to do something a little different.


Here’s the sprite sheet for Wryn. I divided her into three parts — head, body and legs. Now all I have to do is layer them on top of each other and I can mix and match for any situation.



Notice that some body animations have arms, and others don’t. While moving and jumping around normally, Wryn uses the bodies with arms. When shooting she switches to a body with no arms, adds two separate arm layers rotated in the shot direction, and overrides the head to look in the direction she’s shooting. When she shoots and air-dodges, every body part is overridden to match how she’d be twisted in the air to shoot in the proper direction.


Dividing Wryn up this way also allows me to animate in some other touches using nothing but code. I can angle her body and legs to make her lean into her movements, and I can subtly raise and lower her head and body while she runs, making the animation look more powerful.


And here’s a video of it all coming together!

Making A Better Tileset

Like most old-school platformers (and many modern ones) Bleed is a tile-based game. For those who don’t know, that means the game world exists as a big grid. Each space in the grid gets its graphics by using a section from a larger image called a ’tile set’. A picture will express it better than any words I can muster:

See? Sections of the tileset are re-used and arranged to create whole levels!

So with that out of the way, let’s be honest. That tileset? Not so hot. It’s all muted and monochromatic and where the hell is that supposed to be, anyways? Well, it was supposed to take place in a mansion during a stormy night, but the Dream Build Play 2011 deadline was looming so it was brainlessly rushed out. Oops.


I started over, this time putting a lot of thought and research into the location I was designing — doing sketches, picking colour schemes, that kind of thing. “Mansion during a stormy night” sounds pretty simple, I guess, but there’s a lot of different types of mansions out there — as evinced by a Google image search — and having a strong visual goal is very important. I decided that climbing up the roof of the mansion would add some drama to the level, and I started by designing a tileset for the exterior.

So. Here’s my method, more or less. Once I have a clear idea of where I’m going, I rough out the important parts of the tileset. It’s done in greyscale so I can focus on making well-defined tiles that blend into each other well without worrying too much about little details. The player is stuck in there for a size reference.





Next I colour in the important tiles, which is usually where silly mistakes come in — much more useful than it sounds! Here I had decided on a dark purpley-blue as the main colour for the tileset to evoke the darkness of a stormy night. Good idea, sucky implementation, but I feel making mistakes is an important part of the process! They let you know what’s not working and help you improve, so every time it’s a step in the right direction.




Changing my colours a bit and putting them to better use. I experimented with patterns of roof tiles until I found one I liked.






Refining the colour scheme and colouring in the rest of the tiles to match the roof.







I had made a test level in Tiled (an excellent and free 2D tile editor) to check that all the tiles were repeating well and looking good together while I was doing this. You can see the test level here.


With all the important tiles done and looking good, I was free to use the remaining space in the tileset to add flavour to the level with trees, windows and other small details.






From there it’s a matter of revising and revising, changing colours and removing tiles that weren’t very useful to make room for ones that are.






Unfortunately I didn’t take any in-progress shots as I remade the interior tileset but I put the same level of research and thought into its design and followed the same basic method, both of which I believe helped immeasurably and I think you’ll agree.


Finally, a few tileset pointers I picked up along the way:

Hiding the grid: By their nature levels made with tilesets can look a bit artificial — just square images aligned in a grid. Good tilesets seem to hide their grid-based nature when possible, as I have tried to do here. The grass, for example, takes up two tiles vertically instead of just one. It uses more space but it breaks up the grid and looks more organic.

Maximizing tile use: It’s another big plus if your tiles can be used for more than one purpose. Most people are aware that the grass in Super Mario Bros. uses the same image as the clouds, only painted green. I’m not that clever but the tops of my trees double as bushes when placed on the ground.

Intelligent use of contrast: The further away something is from you the less contrast it will generally have. Keep this in mind when creating tilesets, making foreground elements brighter and richer in contrast than elements intended for the background. It’ll help give depth to your levels and better express where the player can and cannot stand. Two big pluses!

That’s it for now! Thanks for reading!

A Brief Introduction to Bleed (and the Difference a Year Makes!)

Hi! Welcome to the development blog for Bleed!

What is Bleed, you ask? Well, Bleed is a lot of things. It’s my vision of the evolution of action-platform games — a genre I hold dear but feel growing stagnant. It’s my stab at creating the kind of game I’ve always wanted to play, one where movement and attack are fluid and truly unconstrained, where nothing holds the player back but their own skill and split-second decision-making. It’s also just a whole lot of ridiculous fun that I hope anyone will be able to enjoy. Thanks for asking!

Bleed stars Wryn, a spunky young girl who wants to be the best video game character of all time. The only way to the top is taking out the roster of everyone’s favourite heroes, and with a little bit of help and a whole lot of bullets she’s bound to succeed!

Bleed’s been in production in some form or another for two to three years now, and the light at the end of the tunnel is finally beginning to peek ever-so-faintly into view. It was entered in Dream Build Play 2011 and while it didn’t go anywhere you’d call successful, it’s back in a huge way this year and better than ever. This blog will focus on the making of the game, lessons learned over the years and the process of examining and improving what was entered in 2011! Lots of content will follow but PAX East ain’t gonna attend itself, so for now here are three screenshots. Though they aren’t much, they go a long way towards illustrating the difference a year can make.

Before / After 1Before / After 2Before / After 3