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Journal Part 7
February 23, 2017
This is the final Journal entry. The project is now in what I would regard to be a finished state, since the last entry much has been done. A lot of visual tweaks were added, a not completely immediate example is the anti-aliasing, I used FXAA to smooth out the edges of the black borders throughout the game, as well as the particle effects. I tried to use Temporal Anti-Aliasing but the image became too blurry, so FXAA was the better choice. A more immediate difference is the leaves that are close to the camera, these were added to give more depth and generally make the Temple feel more like it has been taken over by nature. I decided to give the game more visual depth because of what David Doak (Developer of Goldeneye and, more fittingly, Donkey Kong Country 3) suggested, he said that since iv'e used some foreground and background layers why not push it further? So I did.
Rayman Legends (Ubisoft)
I looked to the Recent entries in the Rayman series to help with adding visual depth, a large number of scenes in the games have multiple layers that scroll at different speeds, I wanted to replicate this in some small way. As a result, in my game some of the decorations are placed in the foreground and background and the leaves are placed very close to the camera .
Another change noticible from the start is the lack of a stamina bar until you get the dash powerup, I made this change because during play testing players seemed confused about it's purpose as they couldn't use the resource until they gained the dash. This allowed the gems to solely act as bread crumbs during the beginning. Players also often assumed the bar represented their health, the character does not die when the bar is depleted, so to resolve this issue I titled the bar 'Stamina' and added a line. The line represents the amount of stamina at which the player can dash, this was added because it was difficult for players to understand that they cannot dash when the bar is completely depleted, this shows them how long they have to wait and makes it look more like a stamina bar.
In terms of the platforming challenges, the ones at the start involving jumping between pits from small platforms were cut in half. Players felt the travel back took too long, I also realised having it that long was unnecessary, the purpose of these challenges are to let the player prove their ability jump gauged distances, taught earlier in the level. I also added another platforming challenge that I found when playing LOVE:
I chose to use this because I thought it would work well with the now-implemented double-jump ability, the player can manipulate this ability to avoid the spikes and reach higher ground. I also enjoyed that this one is essentially a puzzle, the player can search for the safest route, there is not only one. The falling platform segment was also extended as the player learns that the first crumbled platform falls, so they can exercise this knowledge rather than having it being a possible cheap death.
I didn't want to use spikes as used in LOVE, the idea of a stone head falling on stone spikes created a form of Ludonarrative Dissonance for me, I spent a while thinking for a replacement. Ultimately I was much more comfortable with using poisonous mushrooms, they also fit better with the focus of man-made being overrun by nature.
A form of secret was also added, I was thinking about the recent Mario games and how it handled it's Star system. I wanted to implement something similar in that the character can find 3 hidden objects, to fit the theme I decided that the player will look for 3 pieces of a golden skull, making me think of Indiana Jones to some degree. This gives the player a reason to replay the level, and an incentive to explore further, or at the very least get them into the explorer mindset which works with the games theme.
The minibosses were given more health, this made them actually feel like minibosses as opposed to larger versions of the same enemy that drop power-ups. Speaking of the sprites for the powerup themselves, I wanted them to show traits of the animal it came from, so the dash powerup is the same shade of red as the boar and has hair, the frog powerup is blue and has spots. The circles as opposed to the triangles used previously for them is more effective in bringing this across because the enemies and the main character are/is circular, so they are linked.
A problem I came across while other people were playtesting my game was that even after the sprite change, players did not know they had to dash into the back of the frog enemy, and often just rolled into the back of them with no success. To solve this I added a damaged wall before the encounter, jokingly using the plaster as represented by everything else that can be damaged. This means the player understands they can use the dash to damage something with the plaster before they go on to encounter the frogs. Another change I made to help resolve this problem is that during the dash the player's sprite gets tinted red for the frames that it is active. This not only creates another connection between the player and the boar from before, but since red is the colour representing a hazard, the player now has their own hazard. The breakable walls also allowed me to make another secret location, towards the end of the level one of these walls is placed follow by a part of the skull. The player can miss this if they choose to just travel up the platforming challenges, so it requires some small exploration.
King Boo, Mario (Nintendo)
Earlier on I talked about how I wanted to try and link the enemies with spirituality some way because of what the totem pole represented to me. To do this I made it so when an enemy dies they leave a ghost behind which uses the same behaviour, but does not make any sound or particle effects and is transparent. I enjoy this a great deal because I can't think of a direct comparison in platform games, it is a purely visual change but helps with the slightly somber atmosphere I wanted to create.
Finally, the boss fight was something I spent a lot of time on, I wanted it to revolve around the exploitation of weak points similarly to combat encounters before. I am pleased with the way the player actually starts the fight, Olmec rolls into the bosses head, the boss wakes up and his head erupts, bursting the player back out. This was in some way inspired by how some of the Dark Souls boss fights start, for example the fight against Iudex Gundyr in Dark Souls 3 can only be started when the player pulls the sword out of his chest. It makes the player feel responsible for meddling and waking the monster up.
Dark Souls 3 (From Software)
My boss fight is ended when the player dashes into both bandages on either side, when the player gets thrown out of it's head enemies are spawned on either side, making it a challenge. Then the player jumps back into it's head and the game ends. The character's purpose from the start was to feed the ancient olmec head energy, so the player travels through the level collecting gems and then sacrifices themself. The sacrifice aspect connects with the Temple theme and is something I wanted to include in the ending. If this were a broader game each level would revolve around a new stone head on a journey to feed the Ancient Olmec Head.
To conclude, I enjoyed this project thoroughly and sunk a large amount of time into it. In the end I am very happy with what I produced and I am looking forward to the next project.