Tweaks & design discussion after the last demo day

Thank you to everyone that tried the last demo

It’s so easy to get tunnel vision when deving and playing your own game that you step around all the fires instead of putting them out. That’s why I appreciate every comment and opinion from you guys.

The feedback can be categorised in a few different headlines.

Clearity a.k.a. Wtf is going on?

This is the biggest criticism right now. It’s just too hard to process and see what’s going on in the heat of the action. Part of it is my vision of creating a fast-paced “cool” action game. We all know cool is created from a lot of JUICE. Thus I’ve put in a lot of things that’s supposed to give the player constant feedback. So at any given time there are things flashing, breaking, flying, pausing etc. to make the player feel like s/he is doing something well. Often it all happens at the same time. This is the key sentence.

The other part is that the art has been created in pieces instead of it being done together. Most of the sprites use the same palette which makes all colors go well together but they also blend together since I haven’t done a good job of separating colors depending on what the object is. Also I’m terrible pixel art but I’ve improved which means that sprites are made in different styles because it changed over time.

So what has actually been done?

  • Over the last two months I’ve tried making the art more cohesive. It’s still not 100% there but they look more like they are in the same universe than before. I’ve also cleaned up a lot of the sprites and removed a lot of detail in background objects. Less clutter = easier to focus.
  • Balancing effects
    • Made screenflash only trigger on kills and be less intrusive.
    • Micropauses only happen on kills and critical hits.
    • There’s way less blood particles. It gave a good performance boost but it also cleaned up the battlefield.
  • HUD. Since the beginning I’ve had the idea of putting critical information around the crosshair because that's where the players eye is most of the time. Problem is once again balancing and communicating properly what’s going on.
    • Ammo counter is smaller and neutral grey. Players were aiming with the number which makes the bullets go the wrong way. In other words I just moved it away so the eye doesn’t focus on it unless the player wants to.
    • Crosshair changes during reload. There were situations where the player didn’t understand why they stopped shooting. Crosshair now changes to a reload animation when needed.
    • Weapon names now pop up when you switch hopefully giving you a hint how they work

Making the player use their skills properly a.k.a. What's the point of this?

Another interesting thing I noticed was that players didn’t use the slow-mo skill enough… some didn’t even use it at all. The game balances between two play styles, when in normal speed you have to pot-shot and be careful to build energy and then you can run in and clean up enemies because you can dodge bullets. It was intentionally fast-paced to force the player into slow-motion.

But it didn’t work. Players played the normal speed way more than planned which made the game much harder than it is. The skill is there to be abused and players were being gentle with it.

Couple of things creates this situation 1) player overvalue the energy because they don’t know how easy or hard it is to refill thus they hoard it 2) player doesn’t realize it’s something that should be used regularly and not on special occasions.

There’s also an overload of information and features when it’s all given to the player. This will be fixed in the future with a tutorial and giving skills over time.

This is something I need to work on more but for now here are some changes

  • The game now gives you a full energy bar at start.
  • The teleport skill now needs a clear line of sight, players were using it as a main way to trigger slow-mo. While it’s not wrong in itself it puts the player in harm's way more often than not.
  • The never ending sprint is replaced with a dash. Making it more clear that you can dodge bullets with it and hopefully giving more control to the player.

New sprint

Difficulty a.k.a bro c’mon that wasn’t fair

This is the hardest thing for me to change and adjust since I’m so used to the game. But what was clear was that it’s just too hard right now. A lot of the reasons above affect difficulty but things can still be adjusted.

I will probably give the player more HP in the future but for now this has been changed:

  • Enemy bullets are now a bit slower. A lot of deaths happened without the player knowing what happened. Hopefully this gives the eye a chance to see danger heading towards them.
  • Enemies don’t shoot instantly when alerted. The initial cooldown was a microsecond, this has been raised. Which means you can run/teleport in and get some shots off before getting sprayed with bullets.

Other things

A bunch of other small things have been tweaked and fixed.

  • Hopefully fixed enemies leaking outside the walls, by doing a floor check and killing them.
  • Made Gears of War reloading easier (no one knows this exists, which is another reason the above category needs more work)
  • You can’t reload when clip is full
  • Fixed the laser-trap bug where they shot off to the side instead of up and down.

To sum it up, I'm working on meshing the two different play styles (Slow-mo on or off) and nudging the player into the slow-mo state. That's how it's supposed to be played and the different systems have been balanced for that. There's not one single thing that will fix but hopefully the combination of all above things make it better. I also realize people trying the demo probably played for two minutes maximum and then moved on, which isn't really optimal. But if Mario ca communicate its game design instantly we should strive to do the same. 

Thanks for reading! Please keep giving feedback, many of my design ideas are great in my head but in reality they play out different. There isn’t a new alpha at this moment with above changes, but a new version will come soon.

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