Ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out.
Hey guys and/or girls and/or sentient ants!
First of all, a progress update: I’ve begun finishing the enemy AI and soundwork while Tangleworm works on a couple final animations for the enemy. I don’t know how long it will take altogether, but hopefully I can show you guys a working enemy AI soon!
Cariboo is off on some newfangled school trip, so he’ll be absent for a couple days. Not that he does a whole lot ;D
We might be getting a new face in the next couple days, but more news on that if and when it happens.
NOW, onto the topic for tonight’s musing: My insecurities…
Way back when, while we were still working on Grief, we came up with a simple concept: A horror game set inside an empty skyscraper. Simple enough, and we had no real ambition regarding the project. Come Grief’s end, we suddenly found ourselves in a position to realize that concept, regardless of how daunting the idea of creating a horror game was.
We discussed it over a couple days, and ultimately decided that out of the few game concepts we had, this was the one we wanted to pursue. We knew it was going to be difficult, and we decided early on that we wanted to make this a rather lengthy game, longer than Grief (which was about an hour long). We thought we had covered all the bases, and understood exactly what we were going to have to put into this game to get it to come to life. Good GOD, did we ever underestimate.
At the time of writing we are now… 4 1/2 months into development of Ascension. Four and a half. As a refresher, Grief was two months of work. We’ve already DOUBLED our longest development time, and we’re not even into demo phase. This is going to be a long haul. The thing is, we have this nasty tendency of making our projects larger than we originally intended for them to be. Ascension was originally estimated to clock in at around 2-3 hours. Not bad, but not super long either. Right now, if things go as planned, Ascension is going to turn out to be around 5-6 hours, not including side quests. Holy shit. That’s retail-release numbers right there. I won’t go into the details of WHY the game is so much larger now, but suffice to say the individual floors are a lot larger than they were before. And that’s a good thing.
Another issue I personally have been struggling with is the creation of horror itself within the game. Horror is not an easy genre; most games that try it fail miserably. What were we thinking, you ask? I haven’t a clue, my dear. Do I think we’re going to pull it off? Yes, but I didn’t originally. Let me explain.
One thing I’ve forgotten about this game is the fact that it isn’t done. Yes, silly me. But what I mean by this is that I was playing the game a couple weeks ago with a deadpan expression, thinking to myself, “Well shit, this game isn’t scary. Did we fail?” No, you idiot, because you haven’t MADE the damn game scary yet. While this sounds ridiculous, it’s how I was thinking, and I was swiftly losing interest in a project I thought was doomed before we even hit the demo period.
The demo period itself is what saved me, though. I originally planned to spend a couple weeks in demo period, taking up complaints and fixing them for the final product. That’s not what I want anymore. My goal for the demo period is to get the game as good as it can possibly be before I continue with the full product. If that means spending two months testing, so be it. I didn’t spend 1/3 of a year on a game just to ruin it by speeding things along.
Right now I’m working on some scripted events; things that are going to creep you out or just plain make you shit your pants. At least, that’s the hope. In practice, who knows how things will turn out? Most likely, our initial testers are going to play the demo and go “Meh, that’s it?” and we’ll work from there, doing our best to make the game scarier and more difficult. We have no deadline, no release date to match, no funds that will run out if we don’t sell our game. We’re free to spend as much time as we want working on this game, schooling and personal life notwithstanding, of course. In my eyes, we literally cannot fail.
In order to make this idea work, however, we need testers. Lots and lots of testers. Testers who are willing to play the game and be scared or not scared, and to tell us what they think is wrong with the experience. I’m going to go ahead and make this next bit really obvious for those who live by the TL;DR:
If you somehow managed to miss that, there’s nothing I can do for you. If you’re interested in testing the game, drop us an email and we’ll give you some details. The more the merrier!
Anyways, that’s enough of my long-winded blog post. I’m going to advertise for beta testers in the next blog post as well (providing I remember) so with any luck we’ll get enough pre-demo testers to make the demo period smooth and scary.
Until next time,
I just got home from work and I haven’t had dinner, so I’ll keep this brief. We’re about 75%+ done the Ascension demo; all we have left to do is add in the scripted events, tweak the atmosphere, finish the AI, finish the basement tileset and do pre-beta testing. It sounds like a lot, but with any luck (typed lunch the first time around) we’ll have a demo before mid-October. I don’t have a set date just yet, but I should be able to get one to you guys relatively soon!
Here’re some statistics on the demo, because everyone loves statistics:
-The demo has 25 rooms
-The demo has one main quest
-The demo has one side mission, leading to a ‘secret’
-There is one type of enemy
-There is lots of scary (hopefully)
I have no estimation for how long it’ll take you to beat the demo, since I haven’t scripted in any events and it’s hard to account for fear. What do I mean, you ask? Well, if you’ve ever played a horror game before you’ll know the feeling of reluctance to continue. You’ll move slowly, scouring each room for any sight of an enemy in case one decides to sneak up on you from behind, so on so forth. Typically, horror games take the longest to play, regarding room-sizes. Since I’m making the game, I can’t very well pretend to be frightened at each event and wonder what’s going to happen if I run head-on into the darkness, because I know what’s going to happen.
I’ll outline the demo period once we get closer to it, but I can safely tell you a couple things in advance:
-We’re going to stay in demo period until the game experience is perfect
-We’re going to be looking for a large number of beta testers who will be willing to help make the experience as good as possible
-We’re going to be taking every complaint, suggestion and bit of praise into account, and will likely release an edited demo near the end of the demo period to make sure our changes are ideal
That’s all for now! See you guys soon!
Hey everyone! If you’ve been following along lately, you’ll know that we’ve been having a bit of an issue with designing proper 2D stairwells. I’m happy to inform you all that the issue has been resolved, and I’m going to tell you how!
Our game is one that follows general physics, meaning that the PC (Player Character) cannot jump two stories high. While this works for creating a believable atmosphere and character, it restricts us in terms of architecture. We want the setting for the game, MN Towers, to be architecturally sound (to a degree). Games like IJI would solve the stairwell conundrum by simply having Iji jump between magically suspended pieces of ground in an elevator shaft. While that works for IJI, it doesn’t work for Ascension.
We ran into the problem of jump-through slopes midway through designing the stairwells. While they sound simple enough, jump-through slopes are a difficult thing to get working properly. I spent a couple days trying to A) find an existing example of them online and B) trying to make my own, to no success.
After giving up on the idea of jump-through slopes, we spent a few days toying with the idea of having the player press the action button (E) when at the foot/head of a set of stairs. Doing so would either jump-cut the player to the top/bottom, or send the player to a separate area (GameMaker-wise) holding the set of stairs and nothing else. Both these ideas were a compromise, however, and we needed something that wasn’t.
We also toyed with the idea of eradicating stairwells and instead having long, ominous stairways. We discarded that, however, because it removes the idea that MN Towers is massive and sprawling. It also makes the player feel like he or she is being herded in a particular direction, which we don’t want.
Two days ago, out of the blue, I had a sudden concept for a stairwell design that didn’t require jump-through slopes, but still maintained somewhat-proper architecture. I showed the design to Worthington and he gave it his magical thumbs up of approval (TM). I’ve spent the past day working on the design. Here are the fruits of my labour:
This is the design I came up with for stairwells. Using jump-through blocks (regular) and solid slopes, the design allows players to traverse the stairwells without having to learn any new complex game mechanics or tutorials.
As a side note, the Ascension demo is now over 50% content complete! While I can’t promise the release date, especially now that school has started, I’m aiming for some time in the next couple of months! Yes, I know we originally said it would be before school. We’re getting there.
If you have any questions about the stairwell design and how to implement it into your game, feel free to drop a comment here or on Twitter!
Let us know if you love or hate it!
EDIT: New versions up, apparently WordPress despises resizing images.