This week I went through every level, enemy and boss (so… the whole game) with the goal of unifying how everything feels and looks. There are a bunch of (admittedly fairly common) tricks I use to try and make Bleed 2 feel extra good to play, such as…
- Hit stun: The game freezes for a split-second to lend extra punch to certain events, like reflecting a large attack
- Screen shake: The camera shakes around to accentuate events like explosions, heavy objects landing, etc
- Screen flash: The screen flashes for a split-second, which also accentuates explosions and other strong hits
- Sprite shake: Enemies themselves shake — a little indicates damage, a lot indicates charging a strong attack
- Particle effects: Dust clouds, bullets impacts, metal bits and other debris, etc, make the game feel more alive
- Enemy corpses: Many enemies leave corpses when they die — it just feels better than them disappearing in a puff of smoke or the like (fun fact: enemy corpses move a lot slower than other objects when time is slowed, so you can get that typical anime-style all-the-bad-guys-fall-to-the-ground-at-the-same-time thing going on when you un-slow time.)
…etc etc! But their application wasn’t universal or consistent, so I paid attention to each one to make the game a more unified whole. Many elements were especially missing particle effects, so I had to create a bunch of those as well. The art never stops!
This “consistency” might be hard to consciously appreciate generally, but many areas of the game were sorely lacking in these bits of polish and illustrate really easily the difference between having them and not. For example, the Kitty Chopper’s death animation before:
And the death animation after! It might look a little strange playing out in this debug room, but in-context it makes sense.
I put a bunch of time (maybe too much?) into deciding little details of the particles to make them look as good as possible. For example, the metal scraps fly out from the explosion, but quickly shrink and fade after a set time — it would have been easier to let them simply tumble off-screen like every other particle in the game, but something about it looked really cheap to me and I couldn’t leave it like that.
So now there’s tons more corpses, scraps of metal go flying everywhere, the screen’s shaking around, it’s a grand old time! But in some cases I ended up purposefully withholding these bits of polish, as I felt they were harming the game.
For example, I tried putting smoke trails on all the rocket-powered enemies and elements — like Jet Kitties, Semi Core missiles (above) and Invaders with jetpacks — so on and so forth. I tried colouring the particles to fade into the background, I gave them a special property so that they’d never draw over top of the action, but I still often found them to be distracting, cluttering the screen and making the action less readable. It definitely can apply in the Semi Core fight, but it’s actually one of the less egregious examples.
To me this clutter would be a huge mark against the game, so I removed most of the particles in these cases. For example, in the scene above, the missiles no longer have trails but the Semi Core’s thrusters still do, since they don’t get in the way and help sell the attack. Any particles like this — that appear in the periphery, or during a cinematic moment like a boss death — are allowed to stay in, but any that compromise the game’s readability are gone. It’s kind of annoying since I put the work in to make them happen, and I think the game looks better with them, but I think it plays better without them and that’s the most important thing.
Everyone’s favourite tester Noobii continued to kill it as well, finding lots more bugs that I keep on fixing! See above: the ninja fight in Challenge Mode. The ninja appears and rushes forward a certain distance, disappearing when it hits the floor or travels outside the boss room boundaries. However, this Challenge Mode arena is larger than the ninja was designed for — the ninja can exceed the charge distance before it leaves the boss room, so it gets stuck in place spazzing out. Oops.
So now all these elements of polish are implemented and consistent, and I’m feeling pretty good about the game (except for all the bugs that keep being found, haha.) Starting next week, my plan (besides playtesting) is to look at my Big List of Things To Do and decide which items will have a meaningful impact on the game (likely very few) and which can be cut (likely the majority, if I’m honest with myself.)