Gameflow and evolution of gameplay

Development has been slow the last few weeks due to many different things taking up my time and energy. I find getting started again after a stop is always a lot harder than working continuously.

 

April 6 marked two years since I started coding RTA. Yes, this post is a bit overdue. Because of various breaks, especially when I moved last year, it’s been more like 20 months in development. Gameplay was the first thing I started coding, I wanted to get it just right and see what I could do before I did anything else. The platform jumping and monster slaying is the core part of the game. Now that I have come full circle and improved on the gameplay, what better time to talk about how it has changed.

 

Thanks to the feedback I received after releasing the pre-alpha and my own ideas I have made many changes to the gameplay. I decided to modify it according to a concept I call gameflow, something I have used when I designed board games. The idea is to look at every aspect of the design in terms of how it affects the flow of the game. For example controls that are unresponsive or if you are forced to stand still in the game then the flow is broken. In addition to this I have added 3 abilities that the player can unlock throughout the game. These vastly changes how the game flows and the way the player moves throughout the levels.

 

Movement speed was the first thing to get altered. When I first coded the movement I went for specific look of the walk. And when I started making levels I was already used to this speed myself. But players wanted more speed and this improved the gameflow. Moving faster while recovering energy at the same pace, made it obvious that you had to stand and wait more often. With all the other modifications, movement through the levels had become much more important. I decided that a good player that doesn’t waste attacks should also not have to stop and wait. The delay between an attack and start of recovery has been completely removed and the recovery speed has been greatly increased but each attack in turn takes more energy. This gives a lot more joy to me as a good player to play the game. The energy drain from attacks is lower on easier difficulties, I decided to go with this rather than having enemies take more damage on higher difficulties. If enemies take too many hits to kill then gameflow is again broken. Starting and stopping movement has been smoothed out a bit. This is a game of precision and if you don’t have perfect control, it will become much harder to play. This however adds to the feel of the game. This also means that those who had problems landing blows because they were out of reach will now glide a little closer to the enemy.

 

RTA have no moving platforms or ladders to climb. To allow for more freedom in level design, the jump height has been increased. Originally the jumping was designed so that jumping over enemies that also jumps shouldn’t be too easy. But this is a game where you want to kill every monster on the level, running past them is only an option to get through a level that is currently too hard for you. Skilled jumping is a tool to duel with monsters. Landing an attack, jumping to avoid the enemy while waiting for your energy to charge and then land behind the enemy for the final blow is very satisfying. It’s a combination of many things contributing to the gameflow. Since you have perfect control even in mid air, higher jumping height allows for increased precision. Adding to this precision are two new features I call jump assist and attack assist, both are not uncommon in other games. You are now able to jump for a brief time after running off a platform. Tricky jumping where you have to jump right at the end of a platform will break the gameflow whenever you miss. When I worked on the special abilities I added in attacks that last for more than a single frame. Applying this to the normal attack as well makes it much easier to hit enemies while jumping. The hit box for the normal attack has also been increased since many had problems with its reach. By making jumping and attacking easier, the difficulty of the game shifts more to level and enemy design making the game more interesting. And you also do not have to blame the controls for not being able to do what you want.

 

The special abilities are a bit odd as they have evolved over time without going through much testing. Although they have been in my thoughts since the beginning they were only coded very recently. Originally I wanted only 4 buttons as that would be optimal for a mobile game. The idea would be that you held down the attack button to charge up a powerful attack. But since the hero stops when you attack, it would be annoying to having to do a regular attack before charging. I experimented with having the attack activated on button release but I never liked that. So I was going with a separate button for the charged attack. Later on I wanted to add a downward attack while airborne. Powerful attack while on ground and down attack while airborne on same button, that should work right? That didn’t feel OK. I wanted to be able to jump and charge the attack while airborne, not being able to do so really hurt the gameflow. So I decided to make them both separate buttons, and that is so much better. I got the suggestion to add a running ability that would drain energy, that could be used for adding new elements to level design. This I thought was a great idea and I also went with a special move if the player attacks while running. So in addition to the regular attack the game now features 3 special attacks that can be used in different situations. Mastering these adds creativity to the way you can deal with monsters and move quickly through the levels. In the end, you want to take out all monsters and finish the level quickly to get that S-rank. The abilities makes this a bit more of a puzzle and makes the game more varied.