Con La Cabeza en los Cielos Y Mente en Infierno
Updated: Feb 20, 2020
Hey, it's been a minute, hasn't it?
The month or so was less than kind, but I'm glad to come back and share some cool projects with you and maybe vent a little, but probably not. Let's just see how this all goes.
This first project, called Sky Writing, is a fun little game that uses basic platformer conventions to teach kids how write and spell by turning their tracings into platforms. I've been programming my butt off to make sure all the systems play nice, and the gameplay loop stands in a good place. I'm still far from done, but the progress has been fairly significant since I last showed it off under a different name so I figured I'd go over the development in a few more details.
The "narrative" behind the project follows a bird attempting to recover their hatching eggs with the help of the player. In order to proceed the player needs to trace the letter with limited ink/clouds and collect the eggs across the level.
Nailing the drawing down was way more difficult than I imagined. Each cloud circle is an object instance, adding to the "drawing score", and detecting collisions with the player. In a fun chain of conditions, the clouds only remain in the grayed out area. All extra clouds are deleted and remove any points they added to the overall drawing score. For fine tuning I made sure there were extra checks a few pixels from the border and the cloud hitbox was reduced to make for more strict letter shapes. They still have room for distinct penmanship, but there won't be any major strokes of clouds covering the centers of O's or A's if players decide to just draw massive swaths.
You may also notice the whole looping borders thing going on in the gameplay gif. At the end of the day, kids are going to be playing this, and bombarding them with a slow life or health based system is tried and boring. I don't wan't players be penalized because of their developing dexterity. The platforming is supposed to be the fun pay off for something they successfully created. The only fail state is not properly tracing the word or letter with enough clouds to both appear as a letter and successfully get all the eggs.
The specific level design comes in when I need to ensure the player has enough clouds to trace, time to complete the trace, and eggs placed in spots that engages the letter or word with platforming. I'm making sure to get each level reaching a certain feel, but I'm really hoping public playtesting will help determine how many resources each level needs.
The whole project started because my mom wanted a game for her first grade bilingual students, and I'm so excited to soon be running a few weekend playtesting sessions with a few of them these coming weeks. There will definitely be some fun update posts coming out of that.
Now, it's been nearly two weeks since I've really put much work into Sky Writing because I've been dumb enough to enlist in the Dallas Society of Play's Spoopy Jam 2019! Submissions are October 30th and hopefully you'll be seeing an itch link with a download of my own submission by then.
So let's talk about the spooky interactive masterpiece that is Don't Drag Me Daddy.
What happens when the devil's son tries to sneak out of hell and go play with his angel friends? Satan's gotta spank the soul outta that kid and drag his ass back to bed!
The game is an action platformer with some cool modular structures and environments. There's currently three different structures the player can randomly encounter and maneuver around, but I'm hoping to increase that to at least eight by Wednesday.
The platforming that's shown in both Don't Drag Me Daddy and Sky Writing relies on the same platforming engine I initially purchased on the Game Maker marketplace. While I've developed my own platforming engines in the past, I really appreciate the way developer ForeveIsBetter handles angles and slopes. Those were always incredibly difficult for me to get down, and with their help I can now focus on innovative ways to use slopes rather than spending hours trying to figure out the math and functions behind them.
The same can be said for Vortex Game Studio's Old TV Filter shaders which are featured prominently in Don't Drag Me Daddy as well as Habla Con Migo if anyone remembers that beautiful mess of an award winning project. It's helped me not feel bad for creating terrible pixel art characters. and basic color schemes. I've been trying to go for that old VHS horror movie feel.
It's not an overly complicated game, but it's been plagued with many Game Maker bugs during development such as booleans resulting in the opposite of what they were originally assigned and what not. If I take some more time I'm going to see about introducing verticality to The Son's AI and explore more pathfinding opportunities. However, with The Outer Worlds and Modern Warfare both being released this week, I'm not sure I want to put anymore time into the project after slapping on a menu and more structures. When it releases, I hope you get the chance to play it and let me know what you think. It'd mean a lot. Always does.
Those are pretty much the big two projects at the top of my development list as of late, but it doesn't mean I've forgotten about my overly ambitious abolitionist action game, Ningun Sombra, and unannounced sci-fi novella. Over the next few months I'll be wrapping up Sky Writing and revisiting these other projects. Until then, I'll continue posting development updates and try very hard to keep on a regular schedule again. Pretty much every aspect of my life has been off schedule and out of whack, so I'm gonna try to make a greater effort to keep sharing my work and feelings. Thanks for the few minutes you set aside to get through all of this.
Take Care, and Be You.