Monday, 23 July 2012

Game Design - Don't Waste My Time

I had a bit of a think about Conquest’s design today, and I think I might have to look at restructuring the start of the game a little bit.
Right now, I’m going through 3 screens and 5+ minutes before I reach the first enemy encounter. Considering that this is a small game anyway - that’s kind of a lot!
Regardless of how long the player’s relative attention span is, the first few minutes of the game should accurately sum up what the game is about, and what will be expected of the player. That means giving the player control as soon as possible, and demonstrating what kind of gameplay mechanics they can expect from the game.
An example of a great game where this was done poorly? Persona 4. Persona 4 may be one of my favourite RPGs and games of all time, but that doesn't excuse it from a really slow start which gives players a bad impression of what the game is about.
I recommend anyone who hasn't played this game to pick it up and give it a shot. But just know that the first three hours of the game are dedicated to exposition. Three hours before you’ll reach any sort of proper combat, and another hour or so before the game really opens up and lets you explore. That’s not great!
Contrast this to many older jRPGs where the player was thrown into the action straight off the bat. Super Mario RPG - where the player is immediately thrown into Bowser’s castle to fight through a series of mooks before battling the king of Koopas himself.
While I’m focusing on RPGs here because they’re relevant to my own game, it’s not like this isn't an issue with other genres too. Recent Zelda games, Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess, each took several hours before any action really started. Link to the Past and the original NES Zelda games wasted no time in this respect, dropping you right into a dangerous world while still being given enough necessary backstory. It was a nice balance.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

ConQuest Update: More Spriting, plus game balancing

Okay, so I’ve already established that my main goal for now is to polish the first section of the game and turn it into something playable and presentable. 
Or at least, I hope I’ve established that. If I haven’t said it already, I’m saying it now.
This week marks my first one back at Uni, but I’m still finding some time to work on various things. Here’s a boss sprite that I finished up yesterday. Or at least, he’s good enough for now.
I ported him into the game and started playing around with the boss encounter. Stuff I tested included:
  • the health and defenses of the boss enemy
  • attack power and different attacks the boss could use
  • weaknesses and how the player might be able to use skills like a healing spell and earth attack to make the fight easier
  • the optimum level for a player to be before taking on the boss, along with the level the player would most likely be after going through the forest area
it’s a lot of stuff to consider! And even after fiddling around with everything, I realised something was missing. The fight just felt too boring.
A lot of RPGs will make their boss battles interesting by turning them into a puzzle of sorts. The battle will appear tough at first until a solution appears, which will make the fight much easier. Some puzzles might be simple, but they’re a lot more engaging than simply attacking and healing over and over.
So here’s a really rough development thing I drew up tonight. “Sexy Pichus” or something. Like“Sexy Tails” but hopefully a little less painful to look at? 
That said - I really don’t like seeing these sorts of cosplays at conventions. If you’re cosplaying a character like Yoko Littner and are able to pull it off - that’s great! But taking a character and changing its design completely as an excuse to wear a revealing top and fishnets — it really rubs me the wrong way.
Anyway. These two will function as healers/status dealers/something along those lines. Just something to make the fight more entertaining. I’ll probably make an update when I finish their sprites.
That’s all for today, though. Hopefully more to come soon. :)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

ConQuest Update: More Spriting and Progress

Today was pretty good. After a fair amount of time without any major progress, I managed to finish scripting the boss encounter for the first area of the game and fixed up some maps in the process.

My job now is to polish up the first area of the game - turn it into something playable and perhaps “fun” before moving on with the rest of the game. So I’m simultaneously working on sprites and menus and equipment and secrets and yeah. There’s a lot I want to do. Here’s an enemy I created last year that some of you may remember.

Naruto cosplayers are pretty common at conventions, so they’re another mook for the player to take their anger out on! I previously faced problems when I tried to scale this art down to fit in the game. It ended up looking pretty shitty (as if my art wasn’t mediocre enough as it was!)

It looks so-so when uploaded to tumblr, but within the game engine this sprite looks pretty damn horrible and blurry. But lately, I decided I’d try and combat this by doing pixel art instead. A pretty painstaking process, but I think it’s worth the trouble in the end.

I may edit this slightly later on, but I feel happy with it for the most part. The shading’s a bit off and I might need to do a bit more Sel-Out with those black edges — but otherwise it seems pretty decent. Now that he’s done, I’m going to work on some terrain sprites to get the game looking a bit prettier. I might look for some placeholders where possible, but I’d really like to practice my spriting and make some cool art on my own. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

ConQuest Update - "Smart" Enemies

Or at least enemies which have two states. In their inactive state, they roam around on their own. When the player comes within a certain range of them, they activate and start to chase the player.
Big thanks to Chad Sexington (sic) of neoseeker’s RPG Maker XP forums for help with this. I should really be making a better effort to learn how to program this stuff myself, but his assistance was really great. 
Since this was scripted using RPGMaker's event system, I may need to take this out and replace with a script later. Reason being, with too many parallel processes going on at once I may get lag in the game. I'll wait and see.

Now that this is pretty much out of the way, what’s next?
Battle systems, I think. I’m going to start looking into them this Thursday after my exams - preferably a system which involves less bashing of the button to go through menus and select the same attack every time.
I’ve bookmarked another site/forum to help me with this stuff, but I’d really like to be able to customise this a little bit. Which is a big ask because I am terrible at programming/scripting. But I’ll try anyway!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

ConQuest Update - Level Design and Mapping

This is really two updates in one, I think.

First off, here's a timelapse of me mapping out a screen/area/level. Or half of one, at least. This was over the course of about an hour.

Here's what I did today - a bit of post processing with some fog effects. Just to give the place a bit more atmosphere.

I also figured out how to work treasure chests properly, though I guess that wasn't too big of an accomplishment - just a short move route and a switch statement. But I hunted down some custom sound effects for them anyway which were pretty cool, if I may say so myself.

This forest area has another few screens/areas for me to finish. Two large maps, along with a couple of small ones. It's grown quite a bit since my initial plans, but I like it better this way. Feels more like a place you could get lost in and an actual dungeon-ey type area, rather than a few screens players are able to rip through with ease.

I'm hoping to draw up some more character/enemy sprites soon... but map making is proving quite addictive at this stage. Whatever happens, I'll keep you guys updated.

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