One More State-side Update

Sadly this past month hasn’t been as productive as I might have liked.  The main culprit is probably the fact that tomorrow I’ll be flying to the other side of the planet, where I’ll be spending the next year.  Aside from the time I’ve had to spend preparing for the trip, it’s a bit hard for me to focus on development with something like that looming over me!  I guess you could say the move has stolen the game’s thunder for the time being.

For the next week or so I’m guessing I’ll be swamped with getting situated.  After the initial craziness though, I’m hoping that I will actually be more productive overall with Why Am I Dead At Sea than I have been this summer.  Though I’ll have less potential waking hours to contribute to the project, I think that my day job will keep me from burning out and will force me to value my development time more.  When all of my day-to-day structure is self-imposed, it is so much harder to stay on task!

With all that said, there has still been a good deal of progress that I can share, so let’s get into that!  Note:  Every picture is linked to a GIF that shows the same thing but with animation.  If you want to see the animation, just click on the picture!

1. Scenery Layering

One thing I did since my last blog update was rewrite a lot of my collision detection code, mainly because it was legacy code from the first “Why Am I Dead” that was needlessly complicated and honestly just done very badly.  To make my life easier in adding other stuff to the game, I decided to just bite the bullet and tear it all out.

One thing that I then proceeded to do with the help of an improved collision detection system was to include support for layered props.  Previously, only characters could be layered to give an illusion of depth, while props were completely static and could not be moved in front of or behind, but simply around.  Now, they operate in the same way:

So that’s neat.

2.  ‘Spectral’ Effects and Unlocks

I’ve known that I wanted to have a different visual style in the game for the ghostly/supernatural things that happen in the game — something that seems to be separate from the pixel art of the rest of the game.  After flirting with particle effects, I decided on a…motif of sorts, involving relatively simple vector art combined with lots of different animation effects.

The screenshot below, actually, is a pretty bad example of that, but it also demonstrates one of the big applications that this motif will be seen in.

This is still really rough, but gets the idea across.  So…what are we looking at here?

Currently the ghost is using an ability to sense what things it can interact with.  As you might guess, green means that it can, and red that it can’t.

In most cases, both characters and new areas must be unlocked before the ghost can successfully enter them.  In the case of possessing characters, you generally have to be able to understand the motives of that character before you can steer them.  And in the case of different areas, you need to have explored the place behind a door before you can ghost-magic your way through it.  This means that you have to possess someone who has access to that area before you have the ability to visit it as a ghost.

This may strike some as rather un-ghostly; generally ghosts can pass through anything, without question!  However, you will very quickly be able to unlock most areas and will spend the majority of the game floating through everything.  This is simply a way to give some more structure to the early parts of the games, and allow for a few surprises.

3. Mind-reading

You have yet another ability in your ghostly arsenal: mind-reading!  This can be done on anyone at any time, and satisfies two functions:

– Additional, optional background and development for those who are interested in seeking it out

– Hints and cues for those who are stuck

It’s as simple as going next to a character while in ghost form and hitting a button.  You will then be brought to a screen that generally has an animated pattern in the style that I outlined before.  On top of that, the thoughts of the character fade in and out.

Each character will obviously have different text that corresponds to what’s going on in their heads at that time in the story (and it will change over the course of the game).  But more importantly, each character’s mind-reading-screen will have radically different animations and visual effects that correspond to their personality and emotional state.

Given how eccentric some of the characters are, I’m going to have a lot of fun with it.

 

Well, that’s it for now.  The next update that I make will be from the city of Xi’an!

Anchors Aweigh

Quite a bit to cover this time.

New title.  I’ve decided to change the name of “Why Am I Dead 2” to “Why Am I Dead At Sea”.  It’s not a huge change, but a lot of thought was put into it.  I came to this decision primarily because this project really isn’t a direct sequel in many ways, and I wanted the title to reflect this.  In addition my hope is that this game will be able to reach a much wider audience than its predecessor did, and I don’t want anyone to think they will need to play another game to understand it.  It really is a project that I hope will stand on its own…so tacking on a number at the end didn’t seem to fit!

Though I feel it’s a bit on the wordy side, I went through innumerable potential titles and could find nothing else that more accurately described the spirit of this project than “Why Am I Dead At Sea”.

Screen3

Beta testing.  Though development time has exceeded even my wider estimates, I can happily say that I will soon be ready for closed beta testing / play-testing.

Given that the weakest area of my last project was the amount of bugs it had on launch, this is something I’m taking very seriously.  The last time, the only play-testing that my game had was from fellow developers on FGL.com, a website for other free browser-based games.  This was a big mistake!  While I’m eternally grateful to everyone there who helped me out, I should have really used it in conjunction with other sources, as I didn’t get enough feedback on the game to smooth everything out.

For instance, the reason there were game-breaking bugs at the end of the game is very simple: out of all the people who played my game before it was released, I think only one person who gave me feedback actually reached the end!  And then when the game was launched and I was scrambling to push out new fixed versions, I didn’t have anyone but myself test those, either…so they sometimes ended up creating new bugs.  It was a mess!

This time I’m going to be much more proactive in getting feedback, gathering a wider pool of testers, and putting the game through play-testing longer.  My plan is currently to find volunteers who would be interested in the type of game I’m making, and offering incentives for their help (obviously a place in the credits being one of them, but ideally other things as well).

Screen6

Marketing.  Around the same time that I start beta-testing, I will have enough assets to feel comfortable in making a serious effort to publicize my game.  This will mean a teaser trailer, a website launch, a Greenlight page, and loads of other stuff.

My plan for publicizing the game is a two-parter, since I feel the game is in a bit of a grey area.  It has a lot of elements that I think would appeal to a smaller, but more dedicated audience — which means that the sooner I start talking about my game, the more likely I am to reach that audience.  But my game will also be very cheap and on the smaller side — which says to me that most people will only give it their attention once, and if it isn’t available then, they won’t pursue it later.

So my compromise is to release everything I can to publicize the game as early as I feel comfortable, with the sole exception of a free demo, which I will reserve for the day that the completed game launches.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I’m definitely reaching an exciting stage now where the game is taking shape.  Hopefully by my next post I’ll be able to show a teaser and the game’s dedicated website.

Some more art for WAID2

I feel I’m a bit overdue for an art update, so here’s a twofer; two new characters in one post!

I’m not sure I want to go into great detail about each character whose art I finish, since I think a big part of the game will be figuring out about them as you play.  And a lot of times they won’t be at all what they first seem, so it’s a bit hard to come up with non-spoiler descriptions.

First up is Xu:

Second is Marcurio:

I’ve already tried to mix up the pace/mood of the characters’ walk-cycles, so hopefully the animations are still clear.  It definitely makes things more interesting, and I generally walk away from each character having learned something new about animating.

Also, here’s the typical spritesheets for both games, old and new, side by side.

Cricket     RevisedAltonanim