Sunday, October 12, 2014

Projects - Sisters #2

It's been only a week since my last post and it's crazy how so much have happened in a so short period of time. This week I dedicated most of my free time discussing ideas and trying to implement and make them work on Sisters.

It all began with a gameplay video Hamenopi made of Sisters. I couldn't imagine how awesome and helpful it would be for me to watch a video of someone playing my game. It helped me A LOT to realize things that I would never figure out by myself.
I test the game countless times a day, but it's nothing compared to someone who's not familiarized with your code and doesn't even know the game map. Every time I play the game, I go strictly to the point I want to test and do the exact correct action expected. I made a secret door, of course I know where it is and how I activate it, but... is the trigger on a good spot? How do I expect players to know why is that door opening? From what I experienced, you can just smash the buttons searching for the switch and if you are lucky enough you will find it. The same can be applied for the puzzles and riddles, if I make a puzzle that can be solved based on luck, how would the player know he solved it?
So I spent some time reworking trigger ranges, doors colliders, general objects positioning, basically everything I wanted to be easy to find and easy to interact with.
Those were some of the points made regarding the game design after watching the gameplay video and talking to some friends. I'll talk of each major change individually, to explain in detail what's going on.

An important topic to talk about is the change of the player's only tool to light the way, the torch. I don't know why it took me so long to realize the torch wasn't a good element inside the game, I was carrying this burden and didn't even know why.
Firstly, the torch was using 1/3 of the screen to nonstop render a flame animation right in front of the main camera. This is terrible for performance, screen visualization, lighting, damn.. so many bad things I can think of.
Secondly, I don't need to work on the wooden grip animation anymore, I tried improving that, but the transitions between idle and sprint animations were really bad. Also, that torch had a magic switch where you could light it up from nothing, so realistic..
Thirdly, why would someone use a torch when there is a lamp post pretty much anywhere? A flashlight makes much more sense. The torch would've been a good thing if there were no electricity, or if the game were medieval, I mean, some specific cases where there is no other option.
The fourthly and last reason, the flashlight helps a lot on the jump scare factor. The vision angle is almost half than before, you can only see the center of the screen, your sideways are very dark and mysterious. The sight distance is much higher, good for map exploring and gameplay in general. Both of them combined are perfect to build a suspense atmosphere.
I think I can go on with this forever, but I'm done talking about it, goodbye old torch.

Flashlight effects - Sister's in-game screenshot

I've made some updates on the Sister's AI too, always increasing the random factor. I want to get to a point where even I, the creator of them, get unexpectedly caught and scared. I must admit it happened few times already.
It was a calm and warm night, I was casually play-testing something and totally forgot about the Sisters, then, the inevitable happens, "Hm... maybe I should move this door a bit to the riOMFG!!!".....Out of nowhere she appeared, I don't know how I didn't see that one coming. 
"I'm not touching your code tonight" Yes, I grounded them for the night.

Anyway, back to updates. I started working on some puzzles and riddles, developing some ideas that will make the game more interesting, especially when talking about replay value.
My game is considerably short, therefore I want to make something you can replay and still have fun. To do such, I will be working on several puzzles solutions, their results can be combined in order to generate an alternative ending or path.

THeRe Is no Good way - can you solve this mini riddle ?

I consider events that get triggered considering your past decisions a very good technique to make a game not linear, 'replayable'. People can play the same game over and over again just to see what happens if he chooses another way, especially when talking about a short game. If I really decide to go down this road, I'll need a lot of inspiration and storytelling skills. Soon enough I'll be on vacation and have plenty of time to study and develop this idea. 

I'm working on a friend's suggestion on sanity regeneration. After some discussions on the matter, I decided to try and implement it. The main idea is to create a sanity source. While the player is close to it, he regenerates sanity faster. The source would be located on a corner of the map, away from the game dangers.. The end-game areas are far away from the source, therefore, less affected by the sanity regeneration multiplier, making it progressively harder as you explore and progress.
The visual representation of the sanity source can be anything that reminds the player of something good, currently I'm starting to build a lighthouse, but it's not definitive yet.

There are also some minor changes that I won't get into much detail. The in-game menu is improved, game pauses when it is opened and some options are now available, like mouse sensitivity and sound volume. The remaining changes are all inside the game code, some tweaks and little adjustments.
I also started working on a game opening scene and a splash screen with my logo, unfortunately my insane Photoshop & Blender skills makes me very limited on this subject.

Cup of coffee for the splash screen - made on Blender

The original idea was to make a hot cup of coffee, which represents the Java language and of course, coffee. The cup holder forms the letter 'P', my initial. I have some ideas to make it better, but my lack of skills and knowledge won't let me, at least for now.

I'd like to sincerely thank those who are helping me and contributing in some way. This keeps me motivated and hopefully I won't disappoint you.

If you have any feedback, please contact me.

I don't have any website to host my game, so my only option is to upload it on my dropbox, I guarantee it's completely safe to download but I will find a better way as soon as I can.
Link to download the latest playable version of the game:
Keep in mind that the game is still under development, so there will be bugs. Read 'readme.txt' file before playing for more info.