Nearing a playable product

Welcome to the week of big bosses!

For those who follow me on twitter you already know what I’ve been up to this week. I’ve been creating various end of level bosses, and managed to get four done which means I still have at least two to go (with the option of adding another area to the game, requiring yet another boss).

The above video is a bit of a spoiler, but I also plan on keeping the other bosses a secret for as long as possible, so don’t worry.. it’s not a big spoiler you’ll see this boss pretty early in the game anyway ;)

The bosses vary from still-standing, to fast moving and even a multi-part boss. It’s been really fun process of creating them, the only real problem I had was coming up with new designs every-time.

I actually create the bosses by first drawing them, and usually while I draw them, the ideas on how it should move and act automatically start flowing. After I draw the full boss, I look at splitting him up into various separate parts, and then I start writing the code to make it all work in the game.

Besides the bosses I’ve also done many other tweaks and improvements. One such small detail is the fact that all enemies now have a similar “black duck army” hat making them look more organized !

As for the game flow, I’m still pondering about the missions and as you can see from the video above right now the missions are not even shown. The way I had the missions, didn’t really add to the game in anyway. It was just a mission description that basically said “take down the towers” or “save 3 hostages” which all boil down to you running through the level, killing everything, and flying out at the end of the level..  which you also do if there are no missions.. so: pointless!

So perhaps I’ll go back to the original Gunslugs mission objectives, and have them as a little extra besides the normal gameplay.. or perhaps I’ll just have no missions at all, the game won’t be less fun or less interesting if I remove them.

Finally, I’m getting a lot of questions on “when is it released!?”, which is cool cause that means you people wanna play this, but really, I don’t know when it’s done!  Possibly still at the end of this year (2014), but since this game is already growing in scope, it will also require more time to port it to all the various platforms and test those versions.

Also there are still a bunch of things I have to add and implement. The weapons right now are just silly and don’t make much difference, also the characters all pretty much play the same right now, and the whole coin collecting thing is pretty much pointless cause right now nothing is being done with the coins! :D

So many things I still need to do and work on, and that’s excluding ideas I have as “extra” that I’d love to add but haven’t even started on yet..

so.. it’s done when it’s done! I’m working as fast as I can ;)   You can, and you should, sign up to the Orangepixel newsletter if you don’t wanna miss the release or possibly early playable demos or early access thingies.. who knows ;)

Glueing it all together

Screenshot_2014-08-06-10-48-32So up to this point I have mostly been creating content.. lots and lots of content. From level graphics to enemies, special effects, characters, all that funky stuff.

During the development of Groundskeeper2 and Heroes of Loot I noticed that having a lot of content makes it easier to streamline your gameplay and gameflow. So when I started working on Gunslugs 2 I knew I had to try and test my theory.

So now that I have all this content, it’s time to glue it all together.  In Gunslugs 1 I used the missions mostly as a fun trigger for people to keep playing and trying to complete all objectives. For this game, the whole game-flow will come from the missions. Even though there are all these levels and worlds, your progress is dictated by how you complete the missions.

So, for example, unlocking the Wasteland area is done by completing the “stop the train” mission. Which then opens up new and harder missions that take place in the Wasteland area.

This structure also allows me to easily make you go back to earlier area’s, adding more difficult enemies that weren’t there the first time you got to play the area. As you can imagine, this extends the value of the game as you get to play a much bigger game.  I’ll just have to make sure the missions don’t feel too much like a boring grind.

Screenshot_2014-08-06-16-17-40

So while working on the missions screen, it turned into a part of the actual game where you could just run around the “Command H.Q.” bunker and talk to the general to get your mission. I then took that a bit further and made Command HQ the game interface.

So all unlocked (rescued) Gunslugs characters will walk around, and you can swap to any of them on your next mission.  There will also be a jukebox to change the sound settings, and I plan on adding things to change the controls and to check your achievements/leaderboards.

The cool thing (warning: tech-nerd stuff) is that this whole hub runs as any other level in the game. So I could even drop in a little enemy or two if you hang around Command HQ for to long. I could place a tank in there at random, and you can drive around… I won’t.. but I could !

Sadly no new gameplay video yet, I hope to have one early next week with some of the mission stuff in there and of course Command HQ!

 

Gunslugs 2 big progress

Just noticed how long it has been since my last update on Gunslugs2 !  I do have a good excuse tho, few weeks of vacation, some side projects and basically it’s summer! so I work less :p

But, that doesn’t mean Gunslugs 2 work slowed down to a halt, far from it, look at the above video showing a lot of new content and let me walk you through it.

A bunch of new game area’s are now added. The jungle, The himalaya, changes to the Wasteland and Wild wild west, and of course the original “the docks” is also still in the game.

small_screenshot04

The jungle comes with some nice rain effects, the further in the game the harder it rains. I’ve also started adding bigger scenery pieces like the huge statues. The one in the jungle is especially cool cause you actually walk underneath it’s right arm, and on top of his left hand.. it’s in the details!

Further more I started adding a few extra weapons like the rocket launcher, double-gun, flamethrower, grenades, really just the stuff that was also in the original Gunslugs but updated and improved. Most of the weapons still need some tweaking, right now they do about the same amount of damage.

A bunch of new enemies and obstacles also shows up in the above video, like the cool lasers in the jungle buildings, or the mech-ball thingies in the himalaya.

The character unlocking is also in there for some testing, I think I’ve seen this mechanic in Broforce and was very much in love with it. Rescue a character, and then you play as that character with your energy refilled. It’s a cool life system, so I might keep it.. we’ll see!

Next phase is glueing all the content together. I’m thinking about giving the player missions which you have to complete in order to unlock the next mission, the next world, the next character, etc.  So it will be a slightly different mission setup as the original Gunslugs had, but it will also give players a better feeling of progression in the game (I hope).

My aim is to have the game completed this year, the August/September deadline won’t be made, cause there is simply a lot of stuff I have to add to the game and I don’t plan on rushing this one as it’s really becoming something special and huge !

 

 

The tweaking process

newwildwildwest

So where are the Gunslugs2 updates?!?!  wellllll.. this is one? But it’s not a movie or anything like that, just this boring text blog… oh and the above screenshot which shows the Wild Wild West level with a different color scheme, cause I found the purple-pinkish colors becoming too much like a candy cane setting… yuck!

With Gunslugs2 I tried to do a new approach on developing the game, what I learned from Groundskeeper2 and Heroes of Loot before that, is that it’s easier to tweak and build your game, if you have a lot of content already working and completed.  So I set out to create a bunch of content, and then work them all into the game while I balance and tweak the gameplay.

So the first few weeks of development was mainly generating content, drawing a couple of worlds, creating game settings, creating enemies, writing the code for the enemies, and basically doing the rough outlines of the game (level transitions, inside/outside levels, etc).

That is the stage where it’s easy to show new awesome stuff, so the early video’s already showed many things happening, but they also revealed there was very little balancing going on.

After the content-generation is done, we now enter the less interesting weeks: tweaking, balancing gameplay, and placing enemies and hope it all makes for a fun experience.

Right now my main area of concern is the game flow, I don’t enjoy the running/shooting experience as it currently is. Again with Heroes of Loot and Groundskeeper2 I was really worried about the gameplay and got frustrated with my self for taking so long to figure it all out.. but I do believe that both those games ended up being near-perfect for what I tried to create. So the time “wasted” on trying various gameplay changes is worth it.

I’m probably very uptight about this stuff, but I do believe it’s part of what make my games recognized as “Orangepixel” games.

What I basically do is play this unfinished goo we call “Gunslugs2 prototype” over and over as if it was a finished game. And in my mind I keep making notes about things that frustrate me. For example, every time I played I was getting pretty pissed off that crates took 4-5 bullets to break up, it just didn’t feel right and seemed to slow a process. The problem is of course that using only 1 bullet is also a no-go cause then you can’t ever use crates to hide behind or jump on cause you’ll shoot them before you even see them. So I tweaked it to now just take 2-3 bullets and it feels better…. for now.

It’s really a million details like this that I’ll be going over before this game sees a release date!

My current frustration is a more difficult one tho. At some play-through’s I enjoy the game as it is, but in others I feel it’s either not interesting enough, maybe because of it being too slow, or maybe other things being too fast.. it’s not something I have pinned down yet, but something has to change.

So the next step is redoing the level generator and completely rewriting how enemies/obstacles are placed and coming at you, and how many at a single time. I have to figure out the right pace for this game, the speed at which a person should play it, and then make sure the player is aware of that speed subconsciously, the rhythm and heartbeat of the gameplay which, in my opinion, is in every game.

 

 

Choo choo!

Sometimes game development is just awesome cause you get a great idea, try to implement it, and it comes out even better than you had hoped.

This week I added the “train ride” level to the game, and I’m extremely pleased with how it ended up. Basically this will be the second level in the Wild Wild West area, but while you ride the train it moves into the next area : The Wastelands.

With the original Gunslugs I tried adding these big AAA-game style events and set pieces to the game, but it really ended up with only the slow-motions, the big explosions and the take-downs.  With Gunslugs 2 I’m pushing to really put in those same type of moments that I enjoy in AAA-games, but with a retro touch to them.

The train ride is a perfect example of this, I still have to work a bit on the transition from level to train back to level, but you can see where I’m taking it in the above movie. I’ll try to come up with a few more of these kind of things cause it really makes Gunslugs 2 move towards the game I wanted to create with the first one: a small “retro indie-AAA-styled game” .. first of it’s kind?

I added a lot more things in the game since last video, but I cut the level short for this movie, so many different enemies, obstacles, etc are added and I’m not done yet!

Right now the Wild wild west area is mostly finished, I might add another “tutorial” like area before it, but it’s fairly early in the game since it’s not a very difficult area. The wasteland will now have my main focus in the coming days and I have to figure out a way to take the player from the Wastelands to the “the docks” area that I originally started out with..  I’m thinking maybe a boat with a lot of thunder and stormy sea’s might be interesting?

I also have to figure out placing some big bosses, and right now I’m aiming to not have them at the end of each world, but just jump out at more varied places (again like in AAA shooters, where you can run into big monsters that even make a re-appearance later on in the game).

Now my main challenge is not putting too much time into playing Mario Kart 8 on Wii-U, and I should have new stuff to show in a week or so ;)

The Wild wild West

Some productive days since last update. I started work on one of the other worlds for Gunslugs 2 called “Wild Wild West”, adding a train in the background which actually moves. I still hope to add a bit more to it, like enemies jumping from the train onto the playing area, but since the train is in the background I have to figure out how to graphically make that look good.

steampunkspider

The Wild Wild West also comes with some steam-punkish enemies, guess where the inspiration comes from, including a big spider-jumpy-thing and a tank. The tank can be controlled once you shoot the original owner out of the seats (much like the first Gunslugs’ tanks).

The vehicle controlling is done much better than in Gunslugs 1, it allows me to pretty quickly make anything controllable by the player(s), where the previous game had a bit of a hacky solution for that.

steampunktank

Besides these additions I’ve also been adding flame-thrower and laser obstacles for inside the tower-levels, I can really make those levels a monster challenge in the later worlds with all these things aiming to kill you.

flamethrower

Doing a simple play-through is already proving a much longer and interesting experience than the original Gunslugs levels. The tower-area’s really add a lot and almost make it feel like a different game,  I can’t wait to have it a bit more playable and play a 2 player co-op mode on any of the Android consoles.

Right now I could probably stick to one “top level” per world, add an end-boss level for that world, and maybe add one or two different things for some of the worlds (like the wild-wild-west could have another level which is just a train ride like the bonus stage in Gunslugs 1).

I still have to figure out / sort out the design on how all the progress works. Since I get a lot of requests from people to make the characters play different, it’s something I really want to aim for (I can see B.A. move slower for example, but also capable of picking up heavier weapons than Johnny Rumble).  In that case it becomes more interesting to find and unlock those characters as I can generate the levels depending on which character your play as.

Long way to go, but the game is becoming one of my biggest yet content wise and I really enjoy being back developing a world around the Gunslugs

Organic development

Almost two weeks since the last video, and as you can see I’ve been busy on Gunslugs 2. Right now I’m basically adding a lot of crazy ideas and bringing back stuff from the original Gunslugs improving it where needed.

I like to call this “organic development”. The rough outlines of what this game should be are clear (especially since it’s a sequel) but to best create a full experience it’s a lot easier to have all the various obstacles, graphics, items, enemies, etc, etc all available.

That way I can get a clearer idea of what should go where and when the player will be ready for it challenge-wise.

So the movie up there really shows a mixture of all the stuff that’s currently added, and most likely some of those things won’t show up on your first or even second run of the game.

I still have a bunch of idea’s sketched out and written down, so for the coming weeks I’ll probably be doing more monster creating and drawing some of the other world graphics.

Once all that is done I’ll start working on balancing the gameplay: how much damage should the player take? at which point is it safe to put in the bigger baddies so the player doesn’t get overwhelmed on their first few games? how many different monsters can we throw at the player while still keeping the next few levels/worlds fresh and interesting?

I personally don’t think you can plan stuff like that, because you only know how it all works and plays, once it’s actually in the game.

So.. next: adding some flame-throwers and maybe an even bigger mech-enemy!

Gunslugs 2 – it’s on…

There you have it, the new game I hope to create and complete is Gunslugs 2. Ideas for the game have been brewing since Groundskeeper 2 early development. I was adding stuff to GK2 and couldn’t help but think “this would be awesome for Gunslugs”.

I don’t have all the ideas ready yet, but as you can see in the early prototype movie up there, I plan to add bigger and more interesting inside-area’s to the game. Basically the top-world is only there to act as doorways to the actual levels.. a chaotic doorway, but still just the entry point to the actual game.

Since it’s a sequel to an existing game, it’s gonna be a fine line between adding new stuff and staying true to what made the original populair.  At the core, Gunslugs was always about that heroic feeling and lots of big destruction, so that’s something I hope to recreate even in the inside-levels. Large area’s with stuff crumbling, breaking, exploding and causing chaos all over your screen.

…so let the fun begin :) Gunslugs 2 is hopefully coming this year!

Searching for the next thing

So, what have you been up to!?  me?  I’ve been looking for a new game idea mostly! I haven’t been inactive while searching tho. I finally managed to fully update the Orangepixel website, so that all games (10 years of games making!) are now on there, nicely ordered into categories per platform, and everything now runs neatly from a manageable WordPress instead of various old php scripts I wrote over 5 years ago.

I even added some nice community “twitter” like area where, in theory, people can register and interact.. which isn’t really happening. People are registering, just not interacting! I might decide to remove it if it stays like that, but we’ll see for now.

gk2_chromeos

Besides that I’ve been diving into Chrome OS stuff!  I really love that whole environment. You can seriously create some awesome games in short development time using HTML5, and then run them as standalone, fullscreen, controller-supported, games!  It’s really perfect, works smoothly, and I think and hope it has a future as a platform.

So Groundskeeper2 and Gunslugs are now up there on Chrome OS and you can just “try before you buy” and see how it runs.  Heroes of Loot is 99.999% done, just need to do some final testing and will then release it on there also.  Groundskeeper2 is currently being featured on the front-page, and Gunslugs is very likely following that soon thanks to some new contact I finally found at Google.

Basically Chrome Apps are stand-alone desktop versions of the game. Instead of having to install EXE’s on Windows or download game files on Mac, you just download them into Chrome and run them using the Chrome app launcher.  Also great for Chromebook users who are in need of some great indie games ;)

smalltile

But there’s a lot more I did!  I actually created a new game during last weekend’s Ludum-Dare contest and you can play it on the web, or also download it from the Chrome webstore. Check out the LD page for the game.  You play a boy who has a Hellworm as friend. And when the world is being attacked, you and your Hellworm have a unique way to take care of the problem!

I already got a bunch of requests from people to turn this into a full game, and I actually have some ideas that could work. So who knows, this might be the first playable of a new game ;)

orangepixelouya

Finally I’ve been all over the place with my current games and contacts just doing random stuff. I wrote a blog over at the Ouya site, and it comes with a nice “playlist” of games I think you should play on your Ouya.

I’ve been talking to some app-stores concerning Groundskeeper2 and hopefully getting that a bit more downloads, cause it didn’t do as great as I was hoping. But the ratings have been awesome so far, mostly 9/10 or 4/5 ratings from both press and gamers, so I know the game is great and people are enjoying it.. just wish it had more downloads!  To put it in perspective, right now I’m still getting more downloads/sales on Heroes of Loot then I do on Groundskeeper2 ;)

So in between all that stuff, I’m still looking for the new game to work on. I did a bunch of tests with procedural level-design code and funky graphics, but nothing really sticks to the wall yet..

I got hate mail!

This was the first mail I found in the support box of Orangepixel this morning:

Besides EA, you guys are literally the worst game developers ever, your games are unfair beyond imaginable, leaving some levels to be almost or certainly impossible to beat, not only that, but every game you make is literally just a repeat of a game you’ve made before, for example, star dash and jump, the only difference between the games is the art style, its as if all you did was take star dash and retexture it and call it “jumpy”. You guys are a pathetic example of a game developer.

And it made me smile! Mainly because I think this is one of the first of it’s kind in all those 10 years of creating games. I’ve been extremely proud to create games for such a loyal fan-base and having so few complaints and even support emails.  Sure I get to occasional bug report or “hey I got some cool ideas to make this game even better” email.  But this type of email is very very rare.

I was tempted to reply to the kid, but I don’t think that would make a lot of difference. He might even be partly right!

I don’t agree with the games being “unfair” and “certainly impossible” cause I know my games are actually fair just extremely challenging sometimes and I always play every level until I’ve proven to myself it’s do able. I know that some levels in Stardash require a lot of work, and that’s excluding the extra tasks of collecting everything and completing it within the time limits, but they are do-able !

However! I do agree, partly, that all games are a repeat of what I made earlier. Every time I work on a game I bump into some new “trick”. It can be a gameplay trick, it can be an idea on how to visually show something or even how to handle in-game tutorials.  I take those new tricks and put them into the new games I create.

I usually start thinking about the new game mid-process of the current game. Often triggered by a cool little feature or moment in the current game which makes me think “hmm, I could turn that into a game”.

Each one of my games is evolved from previous games, so in that sense all games share a lot of common things.  However, comparing Jumpy to Stardash is like comparing Mario to Sonic: they both run and jump, but they are fundamentally different.

I would actually encourage other developers to do the same. It allows you to re-use a lot of code and quickly hit the ground running on a new game. In the end all my games share many common things but they are all different. Even the sequels are improvements over the original (Meganoid2 was much better build and paced than Meganoid1)

I think I’ll just leave his email un-answered.. I got a feeling he is used to that