Mecromage is officially in production! We’ve designed our Tinker Toys, and now it’s time to put them together.
We’re assembling the game from the ground up, focusing on what’s fun, exciting, tense, and mysterious. We’ve created many game mechanics we can employ to help us convey those feelings, and we’re picking our favorites. In the future, we probably won’t be creating many more mechanics for this release; instead, we’ll be mastering, defining, and refining the boundaries of the existing mechanics.
Of course, learning a new method of working can have its growing pains, especially under increasing time constraints. We’re discovering and trying out new roles for ourselves, the most effective development and communication processes for us, and how to best set our milestones and schedule.
One of the first points of our build up is to create test levels, which range from a series of individually rewarding things to do to a more complete level, all of which will contain parts that will go into the final levels in one way or another. The purpose is to capture the strongest aspects of our game, so that we can string them together in the final game levels.
So Chris and I (Jeff) have been working on our own test levels, each bringing our own unique styles and approaches to the process. Chris is wrapping up his level right now and is including some new, simple enemies and story-telling, all of which are contributing to a fun play-through. I just finished two levels that are lighter on enemies and focus on enjoying the traversal mechanics (jumping, grappling, etc.) and wide-open rooms. This was my first attempt at making a complete level, so I had a lot to learn about level flow and being in the player’s head from moment to moment, but I think my fresh perspective offered something that we’re all digging. It looks like we’ll be an effective level-making duo.
Josh has been slaving away at the hero animation. He’s refining his process, which as best as I can understand, involves creating a doll of the hero character in Flash, with movable parts, which is overlaid on top of key frame sketches. Here’s a peak at our hero.
Before getting into production, we added vertical chains that dangle from ceilings or platforms for the player to climb. As a means of traversal, they are complimentary to the existing grapple strips, which the player can grapple to and also climb. The chains can be placed in more open areas, which can create different kinds of scenarios, like jumping from chain to chain, without being as restrictive on where the walls and ceilings are placed. Grapple strips, on the other hand, seem to do well when they are out of jump range from the player (hence the need for the grapple) and there isn’t a large open space to fill with chains. Obviously, there are contextual differences too.
It’s strange how little we may be cognizant of the “rules” of 2D games as a player but are forced to figure them out as a developer. Enemy projectiles are one of those things for me. We have the option to vary all kinds of properties of simple projectiles shot from an enemy – is it a missile, a bullet, a fire ball, an ice ball? How big is it? Can it be blocked? Can it be attacked? How does it move?
The more quickly, effectively, and painlessly we can convey the most critical of that information to the player, the better. In other words, as the player, it would be nice to know if you have a chance of blocking the projectile while you still have time to react. So, with feedback from Josh and Chris, I’ve taken a stab at making the “rules” for the projectiles. Right now, we’re using projectile size as the way of communicating the player options for disposing of a projectile and less critical information may be implied by its nature (mechanical, fire, ice, etc.). A small projectile can be countered with the mace or shield, a medium projectile can be countered only with the shield, and a large projectile… well, you’d best make like a tree and get out of there.
Chris (aka goat) is taking part in the Vampire Variations III Project, which is a compilation of video game mixes from Super Castlevania IV. It looks like goat will be submitting his version of ‘In the Castle.’ Should be awesome! Check out the OCRemix thread and Alex Mourey’s twitter feed for details on the project. We’ll check in with you next month!