Saturday, April 30, 2011

Update Batch!

Hey everyone! Today I'm going to talk about some recent updates I've made to my game, and my methodology behind them. So, I'll jump right to it!

Most notably, I've changed a few things in the Cave generation.(what else is new?) As you might have noticed from playing, the difficulty curve is rather... Well... Insane. You can be in one skinny hallway, go down a floor, and be mobbed by 100 enemies waiting in a large open cave area with no cover or way out to be seen. You try to block-dash your way to safety, but your shield breaks and you get F@#&'ED.

To add to that, I wasn't even able to get past level 15 at best. Ouch!
So for one, I mellowed down the algorithm's a little bit. The room size doesn't blow up so quickly now, and most importantly I changed the enemy spawn method. Before, my "level builder" code would scan every empty space, and take a random chance and place an enemy there. The disadvantage of this system is that while it does fill up all space rather evenly, cramped floors become rather sparse, and large open areas become rather hellish.

To that effect, I changed the spawn method to become quantity-based, where the generator will predetermine how many enemies it will spawn, and then pick fitting places for them on the map. In the end, it gives me much more spawn control, and later it will allow me to do some cool black magic with enemy spawn patterns. Now the difficulty is much more manageable.

Now then, a small update on the HUD. As pointed out by JWK5, it was nice that the magic gems in the HUD would "blink" when you killed an enemy to show off that you were gaining MP, but it wasn't enough information for him. He wanted to know how close he was to getting his next full gem, so that he could plan around it. And for a while I thought about it and came up with a method that would make sense-- The gems slowly saturate until they hit full, where they begin glowing in the center. Overall, this works out very well. I suppose it's obvious that you should provide the player with this kind of information, so they can better plan their moves.

To add onto the graphical increases, I've been broadening the tileset and adding more variations. Grass tiles are no longer awkward blocks, and I've created more dirt variations and stuff like that. I also created new torches, which I'll talk about in a bit. Soon there will be small water puddles and things like cobwebs in the Cave. While they don't impact the gameplay at all, they tremendously add to the experience and engage the player in my game. Creating this kind of atmosphere helps me pull the player into my world and have them, at least somewhat, feel the world of my game and make the experience much more 'real'.

And now I've been working on the game's story. Well, implementing it. Now there is finally a much needed intro dialogue when a new Protector is created, and it gives a short and sweet introduction to the general mood of the game. The goal of the introduction isn't actually to tell the player anything, the goal of it is mostly to make them want to know more. With that, I've began adding parts of the Cave's story(yes it has a story), and I rewrote my text wrapping algorithm and it now works excellently.

For my last update, last night I added lighting. It might surprise you at how amazingly this affects the game's atmosphere. Or, maybe it won't! Either way, it definitely helps give a great sense of depth, and it'll let me do cool things like day/night cycles and make the cave totally creepier. That's where the torches come in, of course!

Anyway, that's all for today! Next time: a gameplay teaser trailer!
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pocket's Future; Pt.2

Hello readers! This is part 2 of my little series on where I'd like to go with Pocket Protector. Read to to learn about my ideas to "flavor up" the game, and better dazzle the players!

So, I realize that peoples' expectations for Flash games tend to be fairly low. This gives me two options. One, I let these expectations act as a crutch for myself and allow my game to deliver a fairly low amount of production value. Option two, I take this opportunity to make my game even more of a standout. I choose option two! Although my game isn't visually or soundingly stunning, and although it will never rival that of a first party game, keep in mind it is in Alpha! That said, the visual style is probably going to stay pretty constant from where it is, but I do have plans to increase the atmosphere exponentially.

That said, it's immediately obvious that the atmosphere of "The Pocket" is nothing but lacking. It fails to really warm you up to the silly community of Pockets that live there, and fill you with the quirky and comedically misled society that I'm aiming for.
For one, I need music in my game. I'm slowly working on my composing skills, but it's taking it's time. Music and sound is a huge part of a game's atmosphere, of course, and I really want to get that right in due time. To boot, some extra sound design would greatly benefit me. Perhaps some minor, silly voice acting would be appropriate, to the execution of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
And finally, I think I need to 'liven up' the Pocket a little bit, visually and interactively. More hints of people living their, and more things to do and explore! More on that in a bit.

One thing that I'm constantly suggested to attempt is multiplayer. Everyone says multiplayer would be great. First off, online multiplayer is very unlikely, and it's the only way I can see the game working with multiplayer. "Hot seat" gaming doesn't sound very good, it simply doesn't fit my gameplay or the topology of my control scheme. And from what I've heard, Flash isn't the best at live network gaming. In the future I might look into it, but for now the answer is "probably not". I wouldn't even think about attempting that without funds to set up a reliable server. That said, I think multiplayer would be absolutely awesome in my game, and if I were ever to redesign my game and reprogram it, I'd definitely make it with multiplayer in mind.

So, if you've really explored The Pocket, you probably saw the currently un-enterable building called "Protector Place". I really want to flesh out the world of the game by adding a full library of various things to read about the game. Learning about the backstory on your own whim instead of simply button-spamming through a cutscene so you can get to the action yourself. I'm actually pretty excited for this, although perhaps it's questionable at how significant this will be to players. Let me know, I really want to hear what people think!

Lastly, talking about the far future of my game! I'm very interested in porting and advancing my games for other platforms. If my game is successful, I might have a good leading entry into getting somewhere. I'm thinking about creating an Android port, as the game was originally intended to be a handheld game. But my 'dream port' would be for the Nintendo 3DS, which is probably unlikely, but that would be awesome. Although, know that the first thing on my to-do list after I finish the first complete version is to optimize the game for touch-screen devices, like Android!

So that's it for today! This was part 2 on my series about Pocket's future.
Next time: Some recent updates to the game, and design theory from me about why they're important.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pocket Protector 2.5 Released!

Haha! Guess what people?!

Pocket Protector Alpha 2.5 is ready to be played! The link in the sidebar has been updated-- Have at it!

General update list:
- Bugfixes
- New player notification system
- Shops
- Break room
- Cave generation improvements
- Arrow box trap
- Score multiplier
- Books
- GUI improvements
- Balancing
- Did I mention bugfixes?

Pocket's Future; Pt.1

So, today I'm going to start talking about my future plans for Pocket! Is this a futile hype attempt? Maybe! But I'd like to share some of my ideas for where I'm going with this game, and hopefully get some feedback. After I wrote out my outline for this post, I knew there'd be no way to do it all in one writing. Therefore, read on, for this is Part 1 of a two part series on the future of Pocket Protector!

First off, I've designed my game core to be very flexible to my demands. When I started this game, I knew I'd be shifting my gears quite a bit, and adding content that I had never planned in the first place! This game has been designed to be updated after official 'release'. As time goes on, the idea is that I'll continue adding to the game.

So, right now, if you've already played the game, you've noticed there's only one area to go into: The Cave. It's nice, but I'm sure that after a while you got tired of seeing those brown walls. If you're not sick of them already, you will be. For the future, I plan on designing entirely new levels to explore, built on entirely different generation algorithms. I wouldn't want to recycle the same old code skinned with a different tileset. I'm aiming to provide a completely different level-diving experience in each separate area.
One that I have in mind is the "Deep Forest", or perhaps a Jungle, full of wildlife and flora, neither of which would necessarily be 'kind' to you. And of course, to honor the age-old RPG tradition, I've been entertaining the idea of creating a dungeon. Wouldn't it be awesomely creepy if prisoners were shrieking at you from inside their cells as you went by? I hope the player doesn't do anything to simultaneously open all the cages. *maniacal laugh*

One thing that keeps coming to my mind as 'absolutely awesome' is status effects. Yeah, I know, when you or I play RPGs these status effects are like, "Ugh, again? f***". But, alas! Effects like poisoning, burning, and even more obscure effects sound like a whole lot of fun. Wouldn't it be awesome if the Red Burst spell set enemies on fire? I think it would. What if cave bats poisoned you? Even cooler: What if you used a spell to "set fire" to your weapon, letting you swing a flaming sword or shoot a burning arrow, or what if some natural gas was spewing out of a hole, and you used a fire spell on it, causing a massive explosion? Things like this all sound pretty fun to me.

But of course, I want to keep giving the player new things to do. That's what all of my development is right now, as I near the first complete release. After that, I want to start giving the player more slots to equip weapons and spells, and I want to give the player many, many more magic crystals.(current can only obtain one.)
Isn't that boring without other things to put in those slots, or use those magic crystals with? Yes. *reader nods*
I want to begin adding more powerful magic spells to the game. Higher cost, higher output. Typical RPG fare, I suppose! While trying to avoid typical tropes, I'm working on designing lots of strategical spells, and those which work with and have an effect on the environment. We'll see!

So everyone, thank you for reading! That concludes Part 1 of Pocket's Future. Next time: Pocket's Future; Pt. 2!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Protector In Every Pocket

So here I am going to formally introduce my Pocket Protector project.

Pocket Protector started when I was bored in class, early this month last year.(there's actually a post on it~) At the time, I was working on a game called "Messenger Boy", which didn't go over so well in the end. After that game epically failed, I reminisced to the utter fun I had making Pocket Protector, and hence continued my work on it.

The game draws upon experiences from my favorite action RPGs and score-based arcade games, and the overall goal of this game remains to be a easy-to-play, addicting, yet involved and in-depth Flash ARPG. From the beginning I knew I'd have to encounter the limitations of Flash before too long, most importantly the limitations of the players.(note: flash game attention span.) Nonetheless, it hasn't stopped me.

When I was thinking up the name, I wanted it to be something simple and at least relatively catchy, so it became "Pocket Protector". The name comes from my idea that this game would be be played as a handheld game, and it was a totally funny idea thinking of a little critter smashing baddies in your pocket, contained in your smartphone or whatever.

Oh, and there's that link to play the game in the sidebar. Click it, play it, give me feedback! Yeah!

My next article: Ideas for Pocket's future!

Pocket Protector Alpha 2.5 Feedback

Returning from the grave

To centralize my work once again, I'm bringing back this blog in full-force.

First article: Pocket Protector, the Flash game that breaks the mold with the bald.