In my previous “Blog A Week” I reflected on the Great Big World. Previously as a reward for completing the story you unlocked one HUGE level but that had its flaws. To tackle this I’ve looked to create a series of smaller rooms.
Work in progress
Each room has a portal to save your progress (I may replace this with your classic disk sprite) and collectible items. The design is very much about puzzle solving your way to the books and scrolls then moving onto the next room. Each room is styled based on the main chapters in the game so you could climb up from the underground areas and enter a city level or go along to a castle.
I’m rather liking it and this could well be something that I look to use in future versions. I’ve actually had a play about with Invertical as a mobile game. A lot of the levels involve inverting whilst jumping diagonally. Unfortunately this is a bit too fiddly on a mobile device. In order to make the game work on Android/WP8/iOS the levels will all need redoing. However I feel that the design and structure of the new bonus and Great Big World levels are the foundations for a great mobile game.
Lets not get ahead of ourselves though. This PC version (definitely Windows, likely Linux too) has to get finished first and X-Orbtek II is shaping up rather nicely!
After completing the main game in Invertical you unlock “The Great Big World”, which is a huge level encompassing aspects from all of the different chapters. This allows for more in the way of exploration, however I’m not sure whether I like it any more.
Does this need replacing?
On one hand being able to take your time and explore the worlds is an interesting and enjoyable experience but it can be hard to navigate your way around and there are performance impacts. I like the way that saving works so rather than being stop / start you have to find the portals. If you die, you lose everything. That said, you don’t really die. In fact I’d be tempted to remove all stuff that kills you! In fact I’m tempted to remove the whole damn level.
Obviously I don’t want to re-release Invertical with less content than there was originally but if I’m making major changes then coupled with my current improvements, I could just you know, redo everything and make it a sequel. However I’ve other projects on the go and I’d like to get this done. Decisions, decisions. Let me know your thoughts on Twitter (@OxygenAddictUK).
This is a question that I’ve been debating quite a bit.
This isn’t a full sequel, nor is it DLC as I don’t want any requirements on the original. It is a bit like releasing a deluxe extended edition of a DVD with loads of extras, a fancy box and previously unseen footage. As a result I am unsure how much of a push should I make on promoting the game, especially given I’ve something else on the go and this is all in my free time. I need a hook. I need something new to show and not just feature improvements or additions but something brand spanking new about it.
There is however one thing I am certain of… I need to get around more. Be more active on forums and then just before the game comes out, I need to get in touch with people. Instead of working hard on the game, getting it done and contacting everyone I should get it 99.999% done, contact people, get some attention going and set a release date around 2 or 3 weeks ahead. This gives writers a chance to play the game and I’ve an enforced quality control period to be a bit more of a perfectionist on any trivial issues.
But going back to my earlier thoughts, I still need that hook. Something big. How about releasing on a platform other than Windows? Sounds like a plan!
Simon is the main character from my game Invertical. Visually he is a cuboid shape with small arms and legs. I always planned for him to look very plain but I felt there was a kind of charm to the placeholder version and he stayed. I even undid changes to fix his weird walk as it amused me.
However in the game I don’t think you really get to know much about him. Okay, he is described as a square (both visually and personality) and reclusive but intelligent with a passion for books but that isn’t a character. In my head I’ve always had a better idea of what I wanted to do with him but never really saw it through. Aside from the introduction, the only time you really interact with the character is the ending where you make a decision that affects whether you actually complete the game or not. The point is that the adventure is meant to have brought out a new side to him and the decision was presented to see whether the player would react to this but I don’t think that was communicated very well.
In the forthcoming update to Invertical I plan to include explore a bit more of his personality, growth during his time in “The Invert World” and try to introduce a bit more story. I’d also like to explore the book theme a little more. The ending will also have a change to effectively “undo” the move to have a right/wrong decision at the end of the final chapter. There will still be two endings but one will give a bit of a twist.
In terms of bringing the story and character into the game and build upon the idea of the game to feel more like a story. To help achieve this there I am looking to expand the story text. A big part of me has sirens going off… eughhhhh tl;dr text… but I don’t think a cut scene fits the theme.
As for Simon’s character, I will be bringing in how he has been immersed in books and loves the escapism. However what I really want to explore is his reaction to being on his own quest. I imagine many of us have read stories and thought “I’d love to be this hero” but what would it actually be like? Do you really transform into a hero?
I’ve always found the “what’s my motivation for … ?” questions rather odd. Why do I personally play games? Because I enjoy them? Why do I want to collect hidden objects? Because I enjoy hunting for things and the feeling when I find them.
In Invertical you could collect books and scrolls, hidden throughout the level. These usually meant a deviation from the main path and had an extra challenge, either making you risk dying or simply puzzle solving how to reach them. Given the game is at its most fun when you are trying to spot your route, collecting books and scrolls was intended simply to be an extra bit of fun. Having the completion total also gave players a reason to go back through the levels. However the question was asked “Why do I need to collect the books & scrolls?”.
In the forthcoming massive update to the game I am looking to provide an extra incentive. This will be in the form of bonus levels that are unlocked when you get all the scrolls and books. These new levels will follow a set a design guidelines to make them a little bit different to the rest of the levels. For starters the room/level size is the same as the screen size meaning that straight from the off you can see everything on the screen at once. I was a bit critical of Portal 2 for having objectives you couldn’t see and whilst Invertical does have a consistent direction (up) and a map, having smaller and more contained puzzles can be more enjoyable.
The other thing that I am looking to do with these levels is use more items and objectives that need completing before you can access the portal. Each level will have a NPC (machine, human or weird thing) that tells you what the objective is then usually items that need collecting. For example one level has the portal guarded by a blobasaurus rex monster (not a final name, or actually used in the game at all). A knight by the name of Sir Boris will give you your objective, which is to get kitted up and scare away the monster. Various other levels include retrieving cats for a nice old witch, getting power cores for a portal generator and retrieving a farmer’s lost key. Simple stuff but it is a nice variation in play and they are enjoyable levels.
So in the forthcoming version of Invertical, why should you collect the books & scrolls? Because it is an enjoyable and challenging task to unlock cool levels!
Welcome to the first of my “blog a week” posts, starting off with a look at Invertical and part of my work planned to turn it from what is a good little game into something a little special.
I’ve great belief in Invertical as a concept and also believe that the released game is great fun, original and for the price, an excellent buy. However it has its flaws and all too many of them are in the first few minutes. They aren’t huge but if you are put off by the first 2 minutes, there’s no guarentee that you’ll continue playing. The one I’ll be discussing today is the first level.
The original introduction level was meant to give players practice at jumping and changing colour. In truth it turned out to be slightly too difficult for players and just wasn’t an interesting level. The fun part of Invertical is figuring out your route and this was just jump then change in mid air several times. Of course it is good practice for levels where you need to jump and change colour in mid air but the game needs to engage players so early on.
I’ve made a number of changes to the level. For starters the level design is very different with no requirement to change colour whilst making diagonal jumps. Now there are just simple jumps and you can usually change colour whilst standing. There is also a very simple bit of puzzle solving. The other notable change to make the level a much better tutorial is that will introduce the both the concept and controls to the player, not just jumping practice. Finally I’ve altered the artwork slightly rather than being very plain. Still considering a background and neutral change but that is still to be decided.
If you have any feedback, fire it my way! I’ve put together a quick video where you can see the two levels. Hope you agree, the new one is much better!
Last year saw a crazy amount of games released (check out my 2012 reflections) and I’ve already released two Android games this year along with a free version of Invertical but things are going to get a little slower now.
I’m not stepping off the gas (at least by much) but rather trying to focus on creating more “complete” games. My current Android prototypes will find themselves on the backburner whilst I work on two other titles. First up we have a re-release of Invertical. After getting positive reactions during an event last weekend where I demoed the game, I want to improve it further. Its a cool game but could it be even better?
There are two weaknesses that I’d like to address. The initial impressions you get aren’t great. The front end is too simple, early levels look dull and most importantly, the store front artwork doesn’t excite. I’m hoping addressing these will help in bringing attention to the game and getting it some coverage. The other key area is progression and use of books / scrolls. This still isn’t 100% but I’m probably going to have a few bonus levels that are unlocked based on how many books and scrolls you have. Finally of course I’ll tidy up a few of the levels while I’m at it.
I’ve not fully announced the second project and I’m hoping on taking a lot more care and time over its release. The project is a huge learning curve for me and I want to be a bit more of a perfectionist. Often I’ve been guilty of cutting corners to “get it out there” so this time my approach is going to be a little different. I want the game to be a good representation of gameplay when I reveal it. I want the game to be awesome already before thinking about letting others play it and most importantly, I can’t let myself say “that’ll do” for any aspects come release!
As I am really bad for going “ooo nearly there – lets show it off”, I have a plan! After finishing that build, promo artwork, video or screenshot I’ll save it for a day or two. If I’m not happy with it a few days later, it won’t go out. This applies to the revamped Invertical as well!
One thing I’m keen to do is a blog a week. This will help me focus on being productive and having something to talk about or show each week, even if it is just a paragraph or two. Hopefully it will be interesting as well, discussing some of the challenges and also anything useful I learn. In particular looking back at how the game evolves could be a good read! If I’m lucky it may even raise awareness in the game, which of course would be fantastic. Not only could that help the launch but it should help in gathering feedback! This won’t start until I announce the project and its nowhere near ready at this point.
You can now play Invertical for free without going through Steam Workshop with a new version has been released on the Oxygen Addict site!
The free version contains loads of levels (although not as many as the full version!) with several hours of gameplay and even boasts new improvements such as different control configurations, including use of a game controller, and an improved progression system where you must collect the books and scrolls to unlock new levels!
Within the next 48 hours I hope to complete the core game content and start on work such as the sound effects, front end, tweaking level design, improving artwork, refining the jumping code and so forth.
At the same time there is an absolutely massive task ahead… actually getting the game some attention! I really believe there is something pretty cool about Invertical and that people will on the whole enjoy it. Quick note there – not all games are for everyone and I’ll never claim that my games are the exception. Unfortunately I’ve left this a little late as the various websites that I’d look to target don’t know “Oxygen Addict” and may not care. The game is going to need an awesome sales pitch!
I’ve still not got the perfect headline for the game (if anyone can come up with the new headline you get a free copy of the game!) and limited assets. Screenshots shouldn’t be too hard to put together but making a video is a lot more complex and I’d want to take my time over it. I’ve got the Deep Sea preview video, hopefully that will do! I’ll maybe provide my playtest build which will be complete in the next 48 hours.
Pricing is the final big question that I have. For the full release I’m thinking maybe £1-£2… at most $5. Of course none of this goes into my pocket as the game is for charity but deciding what is a fair amount to maximise the amount that I can raise for Sick Kids Save Point is a tough one. Hopefully the forthcoming playtests will help get a better idea of where people value the game.
There will also be two free versions. First of all is a demo, which will be a stripped down version of the full game. I’ll pick around eight to twelve levels that I believe gives a good overview of the different styles of gameplay, ending in one of the chapter finales (but not the actual final level). The second will be a HTML5 version that is much the same as the demo but I’ll strip it down using just a couple of chapters and have only the one piece of background music. This is to reduce the file size substantially as loading times will be a huge barrier to entry.
As I plug along, albeit still slowly, with the gameplay side of Invertical I have something nagging at me in the back of my mind… the plot. More specifically how I intend the set the background for the game. Who is the main character and what is he doing in the world of Invertical?
The actual story isn’t so much of a concern for me. Aside from wording, it is pretty much set, but delivery is what concerns me. Ordinarily this is where the animation or 2D art experts in the team get to showcase their skills, however this isn’t something that I’m really capable of. Even if I dedicate just as much of my time to creating the intro as the rest of the game, I have to admit it will come up short. I thought of some simple ways to create a basic video and even contemplated a high school powerpoint style intro with stages in the story appearing one at a time. Not very nice really. Then it hit me…
The main character, Simon’s, main objective throughout Invertical is getting home but the secondary objective and often the more challenging and enjoyable gameplay is finding the books & scrolls. I’ve named my areas of the game “Chapters” and the WIP title for the intro is “Preface”. I should present it as a kids story book! A simple picture with a little bit of text. Press space and you get the next one (or after X seconds). Simple and effective. The main issue of course would be creating the artwork but in truth given the very simplistic art style of the rest of the game, I don’t see it being a problem if I stick to that. In fact having the same character design with happy / sad /scared face and a different background might suit it quite well!
I’m now actually kinda looking forward to making the intro to the game!