With Playthrough Gaming Convention in Raleigh on the horizon, we've been hard at work building new levels and making some changes to things - we'll be very interested to hear what y'all think!
Give Yuki SAtoka What For!
The Japan level is now complete, and after several rounds of revision seems to feel pretty good. The ninja cats of the Clan of the Black Yarnball pose a unique threat to Chris, as the mysterious Shadow Stalkers are immune to all attacks but their own, requiring a "stealthier" approach until Chris acquires his new sword - the "Masabarune" - which can reflect enemy attacks!
Feline assassin Yuki Satoka now puts up a fight as well, with a variety of special moves at her disposal, as well as the ability to block most of Chris's attacks! Japan is intended to be one of the harder levels of the initial 8. We'll see what you think!
To The Great Barrier Reef!
Progress is being made on the Great Barrier Reef level - backgrounds are nearly good to go, we've got a new song ready, and we have several characters designed and animated. The most notable is Blue-32, the psychotically chipper personal submarine that offers to ferry Chris from the beach at Cairns to Large Urchin's undersea base beneath the Great Barrier Reef - but why would Large Urchin be expecting Chris?
A New Way to Float?
One of the things that's been incredibly useful about taking Adventures of Chris to gaming conventions is getting a chance to watch a lot of people play through the game. We can see what's fun, what's getting laughs, and where people are having more difficulty than intended.
One concern that we've had, watching people play, is that some players seem to take a fairly long time to get used to Chris's floating ability. Certainly, we've had people tell us that it's a lot of fun once they figured it out - but sometimes it takes until they've beaten the first real boss (or the second...) before they feel like they've really understood the mechanic. Of course, having some learning curve is good - it feels satisfying to master a new ability! But it's possible for a curve to be too steep...
Previously, Chris could switch into balloon mode and back by pressing the Jump button while in the air. This meant that we were basically taking a common, intuitive concept (double jump) and giving it a new meaning (gravity reversal). In the earlier, pixel-art, OUYA version of the game, floating used a separate face button on the controller. We switched it to the double jump in an effort to reduce the number of buttons needed and hopefully eliminate confusion - as some people tend to forget which button is which when stressed. It also reduced another area of potential confusion - when some people learned they could float, they stopped jumping entirely, and Chris really needs both jumping and floating to achieve full mobility, so they would get frustrated by any challenge that couldn't be solved with floating alone. By changing the control scheme to a double jump, we were basically forcing players to integrate jumping and floating.
This came at a cost, however. Chris needed to be able to jump from ceilings while floating, so deflating became a bit more complicated - when on the ceiling, Chris basically had to double jump again to deflate. What's more, even though players didn't have to remember different buttons, many players would press jump one too many times when they were stressed, unintentionally inflating or deflating. These are issues that could certainly be mastered, and many test players eventually did, but should they have had to?
So what's the plan?
We've decided to try a different control scheme. We're moving floating back to another button, but instead of using a face button, we're using the Right Trigger of the controller. Also, the player now has to continually hold the trigger to stay inflated, releasing it to deflate. By using a button with a completely different finger, we're hoping it avoids any confusion. By tying the mechanic to hold-and-release rather than a toggle, we're hoping it feels more intuitive. It takes some getting used to if you're accustomed to the old way, but feedback from playtesters so far has been almost universally positive on the new system. The little bit of effort required to stay floating feels good, and the new precision available to Chris is a nice plus. Chris can now deflate off of ceilings or inflate from the ground.
Of course, the potential issue from before may have returned - players may fall into the temptation of forgetting they can jump at all. Using the controller, this feels unlikely, though, as using the jump button is so standard by now. With the keyboard, however, it may be a bigger issue, as holding the Up Arrow to float and pressing Space to jump (our current default configuration) may not match anybody's instincts or conventions (as people don't tend to play platformers with keyboards historically).
So we're interested to hear people's feedback on this. If you're up for playtesting the new build, shoot me an email at email@example.com, and I will send you the links! Thanks!
Rooting for the Hero
Another concern we're looking to address has to do with the storyline. Granted, the storyline is really silly - but we still want you to feel reasonably invested in what's going on. A number of playtesters have told us they don't start feeling any investment until Chris reaches the Kingdom of Lost Balloons, about 10-15 minutes into the game. Granted, that's not terribly long compared to, say, a 90's JRPG. But that's longer than we would like. We'd really like to get players rooting for Chris as quickly as possible.
To that end, we're going to be revamping the very first couple of "rooms" of the game - giving you just a little bit of Chris's backstory as a picked-on 7th grader (inspired somewhat by my own real-life middle school experiences...), and hopefully making you feel invested in seeing him overcome his difficulties just a little bit more...
More on this as it develops!
Various and Sundry
We're still planning on showcasing the game at Playthrough GC in Raleigh, North Carolina, March 30-31. If you're in the area, stop on by!
If you haven't wishlisted or followed us on Steam, here's the link:
And here's the animated trailer, for anyone who hasn't seen it yet!