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Silly Puddy

So this is another lengthy post, but this time there are pictures!

Looks like I'll show a bit of my mapping process for DT3. First up, here's a screenshot of some stuff. Yes, I do use Windows Classic theme, I don't like the bubbly look of XP, Vista, and 7. Just a basic clean interface is all I need.

These black blocks you see on corners are the static world collision. They're simply a 16x16 pixel sprite that is scaled to fit a simple box area. For example, look all the way to the right of the image to find the word 'Turn Cannon'. The box to the left is scaled up by 6 to match that area. It looks like it would take a lot of time to manually scale each collision object, but I've gotten really good at eyeballing how much scaling everything needs so this process is pretty fast for me. Those yellow squares with the C are simply visual reminders to me that I've fixed up the collision for that area. They're deleted the moment the map is loaded in-game. This method allows me to keep the amount of world collision objects very low, even on bigger maps. Of course there are other static collision types that are used for various situations, like drop-through platforms and slopes. I don't use any sort of tile-based collisions, there are advantages to it, but I prefer the method I use since I have more flexibility and run-time speed isn't an issue. Takes a bit more time to make maps this way, but I'm fine with that.

Scan Window Changes + Damage Colors
Some changes that the final game will have...
The scan window has changed a bit.

Peter, it's your fault this was changed. :P Instead of those silly colored orbs, you have easy to read colored numbers. 1x damage is still white, but the rest of these all match the colors in here, with 3x being larger flashy numbers flying off the enemy in a somewhat arcade fashion. The initial idea was warm colors were good, cool colors were bad, but this has been reversed. The colored orbs were hard to understand at a glance. That's really all anyone should do in the scan window; take a quick look at it and continue on with the game.

A Major Skill Change and Stun Time
Here's another change that's actually not in the current build, but will be soon. The skills to boost attack speed for Jerry and Claire's melee weapon will be changed. The player isn't going to be able to alter attack speed through the skill tree. The default will be set to the equivalent of Lv.3 for each character. Instead the skill that replaces it will boost the stun time of each character's melee weapon for each level of that skill. Quite a few other abilities will have their stun times changed and the enemies will also have their stun resists redone. Of course this also makes the beginning of both Chapter 4 and 6 much easier, but those areas are essentially a tutorial for how the new ability works, so I'm perfectly fine with that. They may be altered later on anyway, some earlier maps could use a bit of reworking here and there anyway. This will be implemented after I finish the Chapter 8 content, though I'll be talking to the testers about it first.

I don't think the demo will be updated with these changes, the idea of the demo was to get feedback, which has been great so far. I'd like to thank everyone that shared their likes and dislikes of the third game, it has all been super helpful in shaping how the final game will be.

One of those things the first game got wrong
The first game had something I didn't like once it got near the end of its development. That being how long it takes to dispatch normal enemies. They take too many hits to bring down. There's elemental weaknesses and crippling that the player is supposed to use and certain abilities that are optimal for each encounter, but once I started seeing other people playing the game, I realized no one was using any of it very often. The system, when using all of its mechanics, was too complex. There's far too much metagaming going on in DT1 for most people to effectively play it. You're meant to be constantly keeping your hit count up throughout the maps, chaining air dashes, and using jump attacks. (Yes, even jump attacks.) All this while making sure you're using the right element. If you're on Hard or Distorted, crippling is pretty much necessary for everything once you reach post Black Rock levels. On top of that, it requires you to swap elements far too often. It's simply too much for most people, and honestly, it's not designed well. I don't hate the system in DT1, but it's really for a very niche group of video gamers. It could have been taken down a notch in terms of complexity.

The second game... meh, lets not talk about the second game. It's simpler. (Aside from level layouts.)

A few chapters into the third game does use some of the first game's complexity with using the right tools for the job, but I've learned a lot from all the past game's design flaws. The goal and vision of this game is much clearer than the first game ever was and I'm liking where things are going with it.


Notebooks and Memory

One of my very fondest memories of playing games on the NES and SNES as a kid was keeping a notebook next to me. It was the notebook where I stored all my discoveries made in my travels through these game's worlds. It was like charting out undiscovered territory and I was the pioneer of it all. This is something I simply don't do anymore with today's games. There are a bajillion reasons for this, time, internet, etc. I feel though, that it's just not necessary anymore with how much information is provided for the player today. Back then, games provided a minimal amount of information, only giving what was fundamentally necessary, and said "GO!". It would be unfair to state that it's only the modern game's fault for this change.

The first Zelda gave a map on the overworld, but there were no details, it only provided your absolute position within the boundaries of the world. Nothing told you where 'dungeon x' was located, it was up to you to figure that out. Even if you did find one, it wouldn't mark it in-game. There were secrets everywhere, and every tool you found in dungeons allowed you to explore the world easier and more efficiently. It pushed you to explore and experiment.

It never told you to get yourself a notebook to write anything down, but the game's design promoted it. I drew a map which detailed everything I found and what was needed. When I found a spot for a raft, I'd mark it so I knew to come back later. When I found the other swords, same thing. Any time I found an in-game tip from the many cave dwellers that stole/bargained rupees from me, I'd write down what they said. The dungeon maps and compass didn't show where anything was, only the spot where the Triforce piece was located. Even there, I drew my own maps, detailing all the little intricacies of each. Especially the very large labyrinth that was Level 9.

In a way, I wanted to bring back a bit of this with DT3. I practically did a coin flip on whether or not I wanted that menu map for the game. This figurative coin flip favored having the map mainly for item locations. Heart pieces and ammo upgrades are quite a thing in DT3, so there needed to be a way to guide the player toward those rewards that they might've missed. Aside from that, I was tempted to put a map in places like the Gate 2 Water Palace, but thoughts above kept me from doing so. I felt it would be better left to the player to unravel that labyrinth.
I'm blabbering again...

A few people may have discovered an empty map in the DT3 demo called the Cave Network, which is a large optional maze that links up to different places on the main world. Again, it doesn't have an in-game map. Instead I'd like to hand off all of that to the player. There's quite a few items to find, and the overall reward for figuring out the whole thing is something that extends to the end-game.

Slaix and slit08 have finished their LPs of DT1 now. If you're wanting to see how certain parts of the game are done by other people, their LPs are a pretty good source, especially since they both play the game differently. Thanks to you guys for putting these LPs up. I definitely never thought I'd ever get LPs of this game when I started it.

This Brian fellow is moving at a fast rate, who is at the Veiled Detritus on Distorted I believe.

The cow of rao is also getting very close to the end. My assumption is about 9-11 more videos for that, depending on Shroud Lord shenanigans. That Shroud Lord...

Things have been more eventful with the birds (grackles) this week. A few days ago, one of them let me touch it, which was pretty nifty. Yesterday was much more than that though. One ate food right out of my hand. Though the females at this time of year are all running around with their young and seem to be willing to take more chances for food. I've noticed the females will come much closer than the males in most cases. Aside from one male, but he sees me and hears my voice daily, and has gotten used to me being close by. That and I've thrown him food from time to time. He still keeps roughly a 4 foot distance though. I doubt he'll ever let me touch, but eventually he might get brave enough to grab something from my hand. Which I'm sure if he does, he'll scamper off in a hurry.

That same day I also moved a baby grackle roughly 4 feet. She was in a relatively dangerous place, so I moved him to the base of a bush, which she stayed near the rest of the day. She had fallen from the nest, but the nest was much too high for me to reach to put her back and I don't have the utilities to get up there. She wasn't injured in any way though, so she was better off being left alone, aside from being moved to a better location. The mother still came down and took care of her. It's not always the case with grackles, but luckily the mother was still caring for it here. Which I observed from a far distance. The baby did make some noise when I moved her, which caused the mother and about 3 other birds in the area to circle me for a bit. Needless to say, she was pretty pissed off at me. Before I get comment about it, the whole thing on bird parents abandoning their young after being touched is a myth. The only thing I did as far as interacting with the baby was move it to a better location 4 feet from where I found it.



I love days off. It means I can do what I like to do most, which isn't actually playing games. I much prefer to make them, experiment, and such. DT isn't the only game I make these days, but that isn't something that I want to show yet, nor will I probably affiliate it with this blog. I'm still unsure if I will even mention on this blog, games that I make for profit.

Anyway, I've been asked a few questions about my process at times, and most of the time, they are simply answered only to the person asked. I have been asked on a few occasions how I go about making my levels. This process changes per level/map. It depends on the complexity and general flow, BUT most of them do start out the same way.

An in-progress interior level.

Here's a shot of a map that's still in the layout/planning process. I'll usually start with an empty grid (16x16 pixels per tile, sometimes 32x32) in a paint program and pencil in the static level collision. Giving myself notes and such on the image of what should happen, what I want the player to do at times, and all that.

The colors of notes/scribbles don't usually mean anything specific. Since I'm the only one looking at these, I don't have any sort of standard for that. In groups, this would obviously be different. They're usually drawn to scale so I can drop it in the game as a static background in the map editor. For both quickly getting the collision done and play-testing/tweaking. At this point, changes are super easy and quick to make. The screenshot above is indeed in-game.

Once the graphical details are tiled in, it takes a lot longer to make changes, so I like to tweak the level before moving on. Sometimes even before this step, the layout (with notes) is drawn on paper since that's even quicker. The lines in the screenshot are clean and straight, but I have a quick method for that. (Yay shortcut keys.) There are times when the graphical details are made as I go. For simpler maps, usually boss rooms, I'll do this. Even if the layout needs to be changed later, for these maps, it isn't a hassle at all. The more complex a map is due to anything, be it enemy/trap placement, puzzles, etc, the more planning that goes into it.


Snapping Turtle

Edit: (July 16,2012) Slaix commented in the previous post about video editing... In case it was missed.

Slaix223 said...
For video editing, I've found that Video Pad Video Editor is great. It's shareware (I.E. not free for the full version), but its free version comes with all the essential tools. You just can't encode in most video formats, which is fine. You still have all the editing capabilities.

Perhaps you should give that a go?

Before I go into this post being what the previous post was going to be. I'd like to ask if anyone knows about any decent, and free, video editing software. Specifically one that separates the video and audio tracks. If so, leave a comment so various people searching here might see it as well. :3

DT3 Thingie Thing
Back when DT3 started, I knew I wanted hookshot/grapple beam type of thing in the game. Going even further, I knew it would be a Mega Man ability, notably the Strike Chain. For the longest time, it was going to latch on to any solid wall and allow the player to grab the wall for a short period of time. To limit its use, it was going to follow the same rules as the air dash. Hit an enemy or touch the ground to reuse it. Over time, I was realizing that DT3's level designs were simply not going to work with such a free roaming tool. Especially since the player was going to be able to jump off the wall they were grabbing.

The Strike Chain is still present, there was no way I was going to remove this ability, but its use has been altered. I would say scaled back, but I feel that would be incorrect to say.

The extension is longer than that!
He's holding on for dear life.

As the screenshots show, maybe, the ability latches onto specific points now. When the hook end of the chain finds a grapple point, it will pull Jerry toward it and he'll hold onto it indefinitely until the player jumps off, drops down, or takes a bullet to the face. (Or anywhere else.) There's no limit to its use, however when Jerry leaps off a grapple point, it closes itself for 3 seconds. Characters and abilities cannot be swapped while grappled, but Jerry can fire any X-Weapon from it.

Ability Set Pairs
The sets that each character gets share a lot of similarities to each other.
The first one that Jerry and Claire obtain allows them to use a close range melee attack with a few ranged supplemental weapons. The melee being the only true unlimited use ability, where everything else has a slight limitation.

The second set they each get gives them a fast firing, but limited rechargeable ammo, primary weapon. A few extra abilities, and another notable thing about their second set is a mobility/exploration based tool. Jerry's is the Strike Chain, Claire's is... if you've paid attention you'll know already.

The third sets are very different and that's about all I'll be saying about them at this time, other than they are probably the most complicated to use. Mixing the use off all 3 for both characters together will definitely be a thing though. By then, the player will have used each of them alone to understand them and already be very used to swapping out characters and their abilities.


Lots of Lets Plays

For once, the post title has something to do with the subject matter. So last time, I said I was going to talk a bit about another MMX ability in this post, but that will in fact be next post.

I've noticed quite a few Lets Plays of DT1 running about the youtubes, so I'd like to list them here. At least of the ones I know of and have found, and there may be others. There's much more than I ever thought this game would have. Just a note, I've seen bits and pieces of these, but I do not watch everything. A few of these have only a small handful of parts, but will be listed anyway. Here we go, in alphabetical order by youtube username, all linked to the first part of each LP.

AmatsuDarkfyre (Veteran) Cancelled
Compushwa (Distorted) Cancelled
DieHammerbrueder (Veteran)
hoginufc (Beginner)
kurtisharen (Beginner) Cancelled
LudorExperiens (Distorted) Cancelled
raocow (Veteran)
slaix223 (Hardcare)
TheCandos (Beginner) Cancelled
WhattayaBrian (Distorted)

As you can see, there's an LP for every setting as well. Why anyone would want to play this game on Distorted is beyond me though. On Hard, those Sentries in the last level require a lot of precision and understanding of the spells that no one seems to use, Distorted bumps that up even more... Rave Mode aside.

DT3 Stuff
Last time, I also mentioned how the bike's boost works. That was a lie. The bike boosts only as long as the player is holding the boost button. This way the player has more control over when and how long they want to use it. It doesn't auto-charge, the pickups are what charge it up. Slaix had a thing to say about the previous way the booster was handled and said it was dumb, which hurt my feelings and made me cry, and then he punched me and threatened me with more physical violence if I didn't change it. Actually quite a bit of that isn't true, but he did instigate the change and had a huge hand in how this works now, which I prefer this way, so yay.


Red Twizzlers

French Bread + Turkey + Gouda Cheese = An amazing sandwich for lunch.

The Motor Bike mechanics have been fleshed out now.
Screenshot still not exciting.

The meter on the bottom left is your boost power. (Yay to a tester for wanting a booster of some sort, he got his wish.) Once used, the bike will have a burst of speed for 2.5 seconds. The booster takes 7 seconds to fully recharge on its own. That little Metroid icon (which may change) will fill up the recharge meter by a bit. If you're boosting when getting those, the booster time will be extended a little. These mechanics allow me a lot more flexibility with the level layouts, which is definitely nice. The camera was pushed forward as well to allow more time to react to oncoming obstacles.

The bike will show up in other areas of the game as well, not just this level in this gate. Gate D will have one bike map. The next blog post will speak of another fun MMX ability which had been in the works for some time.