Category: News

Weeks 20-22: Starting to wrap up v1.0

I finally got around to checking the color issues. I believe it’s specific to my TV. When changing between different levels, I noticed that the colors would change automatically. So it’s a fancy auto-adjusting TV, and sometimes it happens to pick crappy auto-adjustments which make some colors look bad. Oh well! Since this seems specific to my TV, I won’t be doing anything to the graphics colors.

Since then, I’ve been fixing bugs in the editor and making small improvements to the overall code. Version 1.0 is nearly done, but it does need playtesting. I want to do one more round of testing battles, and I would like a handful of playtesters for testing the level editor. Then fix those, and version 1.0 will be ready to ship!

Speaking of shipping, I’ve been readying up for the launch. You might notice I’ve updated the site, so that it’s now only the blog itself and the press page. I’ve created an itch.io page for THE MISSION. That page has all the information which was previously on this blog’s home page, and it’s also where the game will be available for download. I also created a forum a while back, with the idea that it would be the place for people to share custom levels, comment on them, etc – the center for THE MISSION community. The game itself now contains a quick link to the forum. The top-of-page menu for this blog is also updated with links to the game’s various pages across the Internet.

I’ve dressed up all the pages with the game’s theme colors and star background. Also, note the new title is now on display! Many thanks again to my artist friend Rezan Ansari for his very cool work. I haven’t revealed the box art he made, but it is STELLAR. I’ve started working on making a fake box using the art, and that fake box will serve as the game poster from here on. Keep an eye out for it!

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Announcement: THE MISSION will be FREE!

Why? Reasons:

  1. I think any price would be a significant barrier to people getting and playing the game.
  2. I want more and more people to play the game.
  3. At this point in my life, I’m fortunate enough to not need what little money would come in from a priced game.
  4. Hopefully, people will enjoy THE MISSION enough that in the future, they will be willing to throw money in my game-making face.

Besides that, I haven’t gotten to check the game colors on my TV. I haven’t even turned the TV on in months! I need to just set some time aside for it at some point when it’s dark, which is a little tougher in the Danish summer time – the sun comes up early and stays up late.

Oh yeah, I mentioned family stuff in the last update. That’s because my wonderful wife and I had a baby! That’s why I haven’t had too much time to spend on THE MISSION. I primarily take care of my wife while she takes care of our baby, and when they’re set, I’m taking care of our home. So it doesn’t leave too much time for other things, both in terms of time and energy.

But I’ll find the time to finish up this colors issue and decide what to do!

Weeks 2-13: New Foundry graphics!

It’s been a busy few months for me due to family stuff, but I’ve continued to work on the Foundry colors little by little. And actually I did a fair amount of reworking of the art itself, unifying the indestructible tiles across areas and adding more contrast to the Foundry palette. Check it out!

F1

F2

F3

Gifs made with nice little tool GifGear! :)

Much less abrasive on the eyes, and much easier to read! So now it looks much better when I run the game on my Mac.

Sadly when I tried it out on my TV, the colors throughout the game looked atrocious. Now I have to say that I did some manual recoloring, because the colors are changed when packed using TexturePacker. The reason for this is that Macs by default use “Generic RGB” color space instead of the standard sRGB, while TexturePacker naturally assumes sRGB. Anyway, since I had already made all the assets in the Generic RGB, I just recolored the packed files. But now they look poor on my TV. So that’s what’s bugging me right now. Any input and/or suggestions on this are super welcome – I’m out of my element here!

Also finalizing some stuff in relation to the framework I’m using, OpenFL. For about a year now, it has had Legacy and Next modes, with the former being more mature in most areas and the latter having a unified codebase. Projects could be set up to still use Legacy and then switch to Next when the time was right for them. I’ve been working on moving THE MISSION over to work 100% with Next, and I think I have it all done now :D

So what does this mean? I need to figure out this color stuff, maybe even switch back to not recoloring the packed spritesheets (since they looked acceptable on my TV). And then I’ll be done with version 1.0 of this game, and ready to prepare for actual release! Look forward to it!

Weeks 53-1: Figuring out what to do for Foundry colors!

Man, this palette recoloring task is a bit beyond my knowledge and ability. The issue itself is that the Foundry palette is too saturated. I’ve gotten that from feedback, and noticed it during playtests as well, when the game is running on a TV screen. Because I’m out of my depth, I started researching in order to help me figure out how to fix the issue. I’m writing this part of the process down because I’m a bit stumped, and I believe that putting it down into words will help me progress.

Our perception of colors on-screen are highly influenced by the video hardware, which makes it a bit tricky. Would it only be an issue on certain monitors and TV screens?

THE MISSION is meant to recall the 8-bit aesthetic with the low-resolution graphics. But I made some significant departures from the NES limitations. I added some necessary colors in the palette. I also disregarded the layer restrictions, such that there are way more colors on-screen at the same time than the NES can have. This means that, when it comes to representing different areas and in this case a foundry/fire/hot area, I don’t have the same problems that existing games of the era have. Back then, many games put a flat color as the background, such as Super Mario Bros 3.

So I have a different problem, where the background has a color, so screen as a whole is dominated by a color or 2:

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 8.44.40 AM

Comparing to Mega Man’s Fireman Stage, I could introduce some black and scale back the saturation of most of the colors…

Besides that, while looking into this subject, I came across some blog and forum posts (http://kayin.moe/?p=2598 and http://nfgworld.com/mb/thread/661). These are the main points that I found relevant to me:

  • Generally speaking, the pixel art movement in games today is rather poorly emulating the graphics of the 8-bit and 16-bit era.
  • This is because the artists at the time created the in-game art with the video hardware artifacts in mind, knowing that what they were creating would undergo significant transformations while being displayed.
  • Those of us who grew up during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras remember the graphics incorrectly. We think they were crisp and blocky and consequently make pixel art that way, but the video hardware made them soft and somewhat more impressionistic.

Reading this article has led me to wondering if I should add some effects to THE MISSION, in order to soften the graphics and make them more pleasing to look at as a whole. I looked into how to implement it technically (namely with scanlines and some distortion based on color layers), and it sounds like fun to implement. These effects are also usually a setting that players can enable/disable at will, so I should keep that in mind.

Besides that, I’ve kept looking at the Foundry areas, and I think if I adjust 2 colors, it should be easier to look at. Maybe reducing the saturation for those 2 colors would be enough. Unfortunately the tool I use doesn’t properly switch between RGB and HSB values (when switching from one to the other, the colors are not correct). I worried about the redness being lost, but I think it should be fine – the Terrarium palette is greens as well as browns, which works well.

So that’s where I am now. Writing this has definitely helped me identify what to work on; I actually wrote this over the course of 2 weeks or so. Look forward to an update with the new Foundry colors!

Weeks 47-52: WIP on title, and upcoming plans

It’s a busy time of the year and a busy period in my life, so I’ve slowly progressed on creating a low-resolution version of the super great title art that Rezan has made for THE MISSION. Here is his artwork:

Submit_logo

 

And here is the lo-res version I have made for use in the game:

 

 

title

Currently I’m working on the game intro screen, since the title has been changed.

I’ve had little time to spend on other things, so not much else news on the development front (and why it’s taking so long to do this stuff). But this busy-ness has made me reprioritize for THE MISSION a little bit: I’ve decided to ship the game without a lot of niceties.

So a release 1.0 which will have these last things:

  • New title and intro
  • Palette: Find different reds for Foundry, it’s too saturated

And then I’ll release minor updates with these niceties:

  • SFX: Molten metal death sound
  • Music: Editor
  • Music: Terrarium battle
  • Music: Foundry battle
  • Art: Shading on Terrarium vines

This will allow me to release the game and hopefully get people out there to finally – at long last – play the game. Then I can get some feedback and hear opinions. I’m hoping that it’s become the kind of game that can sustain interest in a small community, especially with the level editing and level sharing features.

So that’s what’s coming up for THE MISSION early in 2016. I wish you all happy holidays with family and friends!

Weeks 42-46: Level sharing complete!

I finished up the level sharing feature! This means that players can create a level, share it with a friend, and then the friend can play with it, or further edit it, and reshare it and so on. I hope people like it!

Besides that, I’ve been working on implementing the title art and portraits from Rezan into the game. I’ve tried a few things for turning the portraits into good-looking small resolution images, but they look bad and inconsistent. I think part of that is because the player’s score appears next to the portrait, and it’s in a much larger size font, so having the portrait in a relatively finer resolution looks weird. In the end, I’ve decided to not update the portraits. So they’ll look as they do now. I don’t like dropping something that I think would look cool, but unfortunately, I don’t have the skill to make it look cool. Moving on!

I have a hopeful fix for the charging sound bug, but I need more players to reproduce it. I might organize a playtest soon at my work!

For now I continue work on the title art, since that will require coding work for changing the intro (the old one won’t work with the new art). It’s less intricate than the portraits so it’s going all right at the moment.

Weeks 35-41: Road to shippable!

Hello! It’s been about a month since my last update. I’ve been busy with some other things in life in the past few months, most importantly that my wife and I are going to have a baby! So at home I spend less time working on THE MISSION and more time with her, taking care of her and doing house stuff.

This development has also given me a nice way of focusing the time that I do have into what I think is most important in order to finish the game and get it out to all of you.

So I have made a prioritized list of things missing for THE MISSION to be shippable. I want to finish all the code work first – the more finalized the code is, the more actual bugs will reveal themselves (instead of odd behavior due to a development setup). Then I’ll move on to graphics, sound effects, and music, since those are unlikely to cause bugs.

The list:

  1. Editor: Generate code for levels, create levels from code. This is a feature enabling player to share their custom levels with each other. Nearly done.
  2. Bug: After leaving battle screen, gun charging sound still remains! I’ve tried to fix this a bunch of times but still it eludes me. Nemesis.
  3. Title: Implement title art from Rezan, requires changes to title screen. Sizable art task since I have to trace the vector art into correct size pixel art.
  4. Portraits: Rezan made awesome poses for the player characters! I want to update the in-game portraits to use them. Also requires tracing the vector art into correct size pixel art.
  5. Palette: Find different reds for Foundry, it’s too saturated.
  6. SFX: Molten metal death sound, for when player falls into molten metal in Foundry.
  7. Music: Terrarium battle
  8. Music: Foundry battle
  9. Music: Editor
  10. Art: Shading on Terrarium vines, they look ridiculously flat right now.

So this is what remains to be done for ME to consider THE MISSION a shippable game. After I finish the code work I’ll have more playtests to try to find any bugs. I’ll also have some usability testing for the level editor. And if you are interested in participating in that, please let me know!

Weeks 33-34: Molten death animation!

I finished the molten death animations! Check out the sweet gif!

That’s pretty much all I’ve done in the last couple of weeks. It took more time than I expected, and I’ve gotten quite busy as well.

Next thing is to figure out a new palette for the Foundry. It’s too saturated and actually hurts the eyes. Luckily it’s a fairly easy batch job to apply the colors. The difficulty is in finding the right colors. Wish me luck! Continue reading

Week 32: A few steps closer to finishing!

I spent a lot of time working on the stamps during this week. They were looking pretty nice, and they were working roughly well. Finally I got to a point where I would have to make some heavy changes to the physics system in order to get the details to work properly. Because of that, I decided to cut the stamp hazard from the Foundry area. This was tough, but I think it’s for the best – it was getting more and more expensive (time) to implement, and I did not observe it as particularly interesting during the playtest.

So after that decision, I was able to finish a few other tasks on my list:

  • Reduced the number of bomb flowers in the last Terrarium level. Players noted there were just too many, making it a pain to play in the lower half of the level. I wanted to make it risky in order to encourage play in the upper half of the level, but players still want to get to lower ground!
  • Implemented close-quarter kills, so players will be able to hit each other with shots and blasts if they are overlapping each other. This will reduce some silly moments of bouncing around trying to  kill each other, but I think overall it will afford better gameplay.
  • The mouse is now visible in the editor. This is to make it easier for the player to see what they’re doing.
  • Fixed a bug where having exactly 4 spawnpoints would make the game hang when a player was trying to respawn.

The bulk of what remains to do now is assets! The list:

  • Background for Foundry
  • Music for Terrarium
  • Music for Foundry
  • Music for Editor (it will be nice to make a relaxed, major piece instead of action-y stressful music!)
  • Implement final art received from Rezan
  • Odds and ends (bugs, small improvements, etc)

Weeks 30-31: Finishing up Foundry

So I had my playtest in week 30, and that was quite good. I unveiled the Foundry to my playtesters, and they gave me valuable feedback on it, from the visual side to the actual gameplay of the 4 candidate levels I had made for it. Above is the first of the Foundry levels!

I’ve now selected 3 levels for inclusion in the game, and have been refining them to hopefully fix the design issues in them.

I’ve also worked on the graphics so that they are better and easier to read. This also means reworking my palette of reds, because currently they are too saturated.

I added some default controls for players 1 and 2, on my friend and artist Rezan’s suggestion. When I approached him with my proposal to make some art for THE MISSION, I also sent him a demo link. And of course this revealed one of those “I’m making this game so I’m blind to it” issues – you are forced to set up controls before you can play the game. Well, no longer! Default controls are now set up the first time you run the game.

Some bugs have also been squished, such as shots being able to pass through the very top of tiles.

For next week, I’m continuing to work on these:

  • Mechanical stamp animation
  • Implement feedback from playtest