Thursday, December 2, 2010

AD: Lights.. Camera.. Action! + Musician Found!


Warning: This blog post does contain a fair few spoilers, read at your own risk!


Wow, it's been 8 months since I started this project and I cannot believe how far it has come!

This is a special (sorta) blog entry for a few reasons, all of which will be revealed later in the blog (hehe). But in all seriousness, there is going to be a HEAP touched on in this blog post, ranging from the development of the last levels, last HUB rooms, secrets, bonuses, ending, code room, music and sound, graphics and much much more!

So let's get started!

Quality, Final and Bonus Levels
Even though they're not finished yet, I can still say I'm very excited to be making them. The Quality levels will be easier/harder depending on the individual person. People who have no patience will think of the Persistence level as a challenge, whilst those who aren't quite good at thinking quickly and being quick in general might have 'fun' in the Speed level. Let's not forget those who don't like to think ahead much, they might find themselves in a bit of a pickle in the Thought level.

The Persistence level

The Final level is also in concept stages - let me tell you this though, it will not be for the faint of heart. This level brings together all the elements of gameplay in the game, even adding a few little extras in just for fun! The actual look of this level is yet to be decided, but I can assure you that you might get the false impression of home when first looked at! This level will be similar to an Arcade level in parts but without the time, parts will be also similar to Speed where it will be time counting down, rooms that seemingly repeat themselves until you find that going through portals will not help you, spaces that seem to be impossible but require careful planning and much more!

The Thought level

Last but not least are the two Bonus levels! These two Arcade levels have their own little unique themes of Core and Wasteland! These levels will be similar to the other four Arcade levels except do not have a perfection time, but instead gift the player with something special if they dare complete them! Unlock the double jump ability which might be of great help later in the game or unlock one of nine secrets.

The World HUB
Not only will you be able to play new levels, but you will also be enabled to travel deeper into the World HUB! As you get deeper into the Temple you will be greeted with areas of darkness along with the core, a powerful light that powers the entire Temple - but what secrets does it conceal? You may also find the floor beneath you begin to warp into something not out of this world, but out of this dimension!

You may also fancy to be an explorer and search around the Temple as there are five secret areas hidden! What are in these areas nobody knows, but they might just hold more secrets or perhaps a Stone Slab that will help you decrypt where the next secret area is!

Secrets and Bonuses
As told above somewhere there are nine secrets to be found. Of course all of these secrets are documents giving you information about a heap of different things. Insight into the mysterious Universal Exploration Institution, the Government and a hint towards what'll be at the bottom of the Temple if you can work it out!

Stone Slab and Code Room
Now, I was originally going to make the Stone Slabs yield a mini-game in order for it to reveal its secret. But now I figured I'd have it reveal a code, with the player jotting it down somewhere or memorizing it. This code can then be entered into the Code Machine.
Click the image for a larger view.

You may also notice the carvings on the walls, yes, these are the perfection times for all four Arcade levels! I had to sneak them in there somehow so I thought why not this way. Of course I figured they looked better in seconds so I kept them like that. (You will notice a dramatic change to the first dungeon room.)

Well... what exactly does the Code Screen look like you say? They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so here's one!
Click the image for a larger view.

I had to include screenshots in this post somewhere so I thought why not for the Code Room! You may also be asking: "What on earth are those goofy symbols?"... Well, they're the symbols for all ten levels! (You never get to see some of them in/near the levels themselves but it helps me remember them!) Top row (left to right): Final, Persistence, Thought. Middle row: Speed, Vivacious Volcano, Everlong Everest. Bottom row: Mellow Meadows, Craving Caverns, Core. Very Bottom: Wasteland. You will however see the Persistence, Thought and Speed symbols as they are... littered throughout the level.

Graphics
Along with some new content comes more and new graphics! You will be witnessing more than three new environments in the final release such as the Final level, Wasteland, and more! 

Some of the old graphical bits will also be undergoing a makeover to better fit the rest of the stuff in the game!  Also, as said in an earlier blog post, a range of different looking World HUB doors are being made to give the feeling of something new instead of old and reused!

This would have to be one aspect of the game that I'm extremely happy with, the graphics turned out great - especially when I was working on the programming aspect a lot more heavily than the graphical one. I plan to keep this style of graphics when developing Nearing Dusk, Approaching Dawn's sequel and the final part of the Vest Trials series.

Music and Sound
Last but not least music and sound. Good news, I've found a musician who is making music for Approaching Dawn! His name is Brian and you can check some of his stuff out here http://stargenx.newgrounds.com/audio. Hopefully when it's all done Approaching Dawn will have over 15 different music tracks being heard throughout the game. Not only this but some other sounds - such as level start/completion will also have some unique sounds and achievementous noise for you! (Yes, I made up that word.)

There will also be a heap more sound being added to the game. Sounds in new areas to sounds in old areas where they were lacking (such as the Arcade Gems and environment noises). So I hope you enjoy that!

________

I think that concludes this blog entry. What? I lied? Oh right I didn't put anything about the Ending in.. oh silly me. I guess you'll have to wait and find out what's at the bottom and what happens along the way yourselves!

Enjoy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

AD: The Price of Memories


Hey! It has been a while since my last blog post and a fair few things HAVE happened within the last two months!


  • My laptop's screen broke. The wires that connected the screen to the computer were a bit iffy so I had to send my laptop away to get fixed. Good news is that after two weeks it is back! Bad news is my hard drive is wiped of all programs and issues with Game Maker mean I have to use my second 'activation' which I'm awaiting reply back from Softwrap so I can get back to making the game (properly). Considering I began writing this blog entry two days ago since then I've reactivated GM8, hooray!
  • Two days of high school left forever! Been busy something mad these past two months but now things are beginning to quieten down so that will leave me with much much more time to work on the game (hooray!). FINISHED!
  • Last but not least - Vest Trials: Approaching Dawn was a finalist in YoYo Game's Competition 6! I feel honored! I actually didn't expect AD to make it past the first round let alone make it to the finals so it's great! Gives me a heap of motivation to finish it off.
Because of the 'glory' of being put on the front page of YoYo Games the game has had its ups and downs and a fair few comments, some of them pointing out the obvious things:
  • Music
  • Sounds
  • Story
Of course all of these will be addressed in the future as, to be honest I didn't have enough time at all to complete the game, let alone get music done for it.

So... despite some comments of people being ignorant towards an 'incomplete' work.. I've decided I would probably be better off answering some of these questions on here.

Q: Why are the first four 'Arcade' levels so repetitive? Think of something new!
A: Well... The first four Arcade levels are my interpretation of original platform games. They didn't all include hundreds of features and were pretty simple and repetitive, which is why I fell in love with them I guess. These platform games inspired me to make the first four levels in memory of them.

Q: No story, poor level design... Gee you spend so much time with the graphics that no other part of the game gets any attention.
A: Actually... I beg to differ. The first four levels took me an incredible amount of time to make and plan, I went through at least 6 different layouts for each level until I settled with the one I liked the most, I still had to tweak things of course. The graphics took up minimal time compared to the actual work of the game rooms, and I really mean that.

The story - even though not implemented at the present stage - is not meant to jump out at you saying "I'm the story!", I wanted to go for something different. OK you're an explorer, and you want to be the greatest explorer, understandable... But why? What is the world outside like? Why is there no one around? These are the questions I want people to be thinking throughout playing the game. The story is split up into 9 'secrets' which are hidden around the Temple (some have to be earned) that give information about the world around you and to help you get a slight grip on what's going on. Of course this is part one of a two part series and all it does is help 'set-up' the scene for the next game.

Q: What's to come? Seems pretty simple as yet...
A: I agree, but there are 6 more levels are yet to come! Ranging from the Quality levels to the Final level and the two 'bonus' levels. Not only this but nine secrets will be available, 11 more HUB rooms (including five 'secret' rooms), more cutscenes, more sounds, music and a few more additions are yet to come!


Q: When do you think you'll get this finished?
A: Soon. I've put many dates on when I'd get this game finished in the past and it never happened, mainly because things kept coming up. But now... I should be able to finish it rather quickly, not too quick that it'll hurt the gameplay!


Q: What was your inspiration for the game?
A: A few games inspired me to make Approaching Dawn:

  • Seiklus - one of my all time favourite Game Maker games, I love the way it doesn't include violence and can still be bloody entertaining and fun to play.
  • RuneScape - OK, OK. This is actually where I drew most of my inspiration from, with the release of the Dungeoneering skill it actually influenced the whole plot of the game, the dungeon, Temple and lots of other things. Not to mention the Runecrafting skill influencing one of the game's levels - the Persistence Quality level.
  • Vest Trials - the first game I ever 'created' (even though it wasn't finished). The game itself had a very sloppy storyline because it kept changing all the time which led to it being scrapped. Approaching Dawn began being made under that name, but after I tweaked the storyline I figured that this game is pretty much what I wanted Vest Trials to be, so I decided to have this and its sequel THE Vest Trials game I wanted to begin with.
The graphics scheme of Approaching Dawn really wasn't inspired by anything. I've been testing doing different forms of graphics - Vest Trials had really smooth detailed sprites, Bulb: Circuit Problems had simple sprites. So I decided to combine the two - have smooth sort-of detailed simplistic sprites. Maybe that was my inspiration after all... Meh! Who knows what goes on in my head sometimes!

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Well... I think those are all the Frequently Asked Questions that I've been getting the past few months, if anymore pop up I'll be sure to make an entire page of them for the fun of it and also to give a bit of background insight into the game.

Enjoy!

Monday, September 20, 2010

AD: Progress Report #3


Welcome to the third Progress Report. I've decided to change the intended 'design' of the PR to outline exactly what I'm going to do before the next beta release. Because of unfortunate events I've had to delay the release date... again. So I'm not fixed on a date now, it's out when it's out. This PR will have a few different sections outlining aspects of the game such as Graphics, Music, Design, Levels etcetera.

Improved Graphics
Well before the YoYo Games release I was working on upgrading some of the game's graphics to keep up with the new 'trend'. This included revamping the 'real dungeon entrance' and the dungeon doors. Of course there's more to be done however!

I plan to implement more types of HUB doors instead of keeping them all very similar and repetitive. These will include dungeon and temple doors along with a revamping of the outside world doors. On the subject of doors I'll also be looking over some of the level doors and 'sprucing' them up so they look much cooler!

The Quality level tilesets are in the making so for now the place-holder temple set (which is coloured to either purple, blue or red for persistence, thought or speed respectively) will be shown in the three Quality levels. They will be upgraded at a later date when I plan to upgrade more of the game's graphics.

Extension to the World HUB
Now, this part of the game is most likely going to have a few changes here and there between the graphics, and the cleaning up of a few HUB parts which look out-of-place. This includes changing the 'laddercase' at the beginning of the dungeon to something which is more fitting, along with changing some of the tiles so it looks more pleasent.

I'll also be implementing the bonus level rooms, however they will not be playable (most likely not playable until the last beta). This also means more cutscenes will be shown but more on this later!

As of yet the World HUB ends at the Quality 'main' room, I expect to stretch this to a further room, namely the room just before where the final level is located. This will also introduce my new lighting mechanics (which aren't that complex to make, hehe!) that I've had sitting there doing nothing for the past month. I'm very excited about making the upcoming HUB rooms as we're nearing the end of the game!

HUB and Level Transition Change, Plus Changes to Saving
The transitions between the level rooms and the World HUB rooms were a bit... Generic. So I'm now making some changes to them! Upon exiting the level room via the start pad or the next/finish pads you'll now see the same "cutscene" as the death cutscene minus the whole screen flash, hopefully this'll smoothen the transition from level room to level room (also note this will occur upon appearing back in the 'level select' area and in the cutscene rooms if completing the level for the first time).

The Saving 'notice' will also change. You'll now be greeted by some particles and a flash to know that you've saved along with the scroll-down bar. This also makes the transition look much better when loading a game from the Pause/Main Menu.

The World HUB transitions are yet to be decided, but a quicker transition from one room to another is most likely to occur.

Stone Slab Modifications
I wasn't very impressed with the current Stone Slab feature, mainly because it currently just takes you to another room that displays the 'secret'. I want to change this to a sort-of Mini-Game feature with each Stone giving a higher difficulty Mini-Game challenge each time to beat the previous. Still yet to be decided what type of Mini-Game, but it'll most likely be something small. This will probably not make its way into the next beta but the Stone Slabs will show a blank slab after the new beta.

The Almighty Quality Levels
Ready to test your abilities to their maximum? Perhaps a level which requires your speed to manoeuvre quickly through a room before being crushed by a massive solid wall, or a level which requires you to think about your every move before you move after you move!

If you're not into those perhaps you'll have fun with the persistence level, travelling through room by room, hang on a minute, haven't I been here before? The persistence level takes approximately 20 minutes to complete with you needing to complete 40 smaller rooms, testing your endurance and well, your persistence!

These levels will also have differing HUD's than the Arcade levels, along with different Beginning and End screens, no more timed levels! (Well, except for the speed levels.)

These are the next three levels in the game dealing with specific qualities. Because of this some of them (namely persistence) won't be as fun, or might not be fun at all - which is the point. I hope to get all three of these done along with their cutscenes so that then there will be seven of ten levels complete!

The New Introduction Cutscene
Another thing that I'm really not happy with, the way it begins feels... unnatural. This will be going under an overhaul where some new 'dialogue' takes place that will hopefully make things a lot smoother. This also means you start in a new room! Perhaps Dareo will speak less formally and more self-confident about his to-be endeavours.

More Sounds Added
I plan to increase the amount of sounds in the game, most notably to the Arcade cutscenes. The pulsing of them along with the power beam will both have sounds added to them. I also plan to add a few background sounds to the game in the HUB areas such as bird tweeting outside, and mysterious noises from inside the dungeon. Some old sounds will also be going under the knife such as the Saving sound, the 'Select' sound and a few others.

If all goes well I'll also be adding sounds to the Congratulations and Level begin screens to give a more polished feeling. No music at this time sorry guys! I do plan to get in contact with a musician after the release of this beta so that they can work with more/make more songs at once. A few of the tracks that I need made are the main menu/pause menu music, world hub music (for both inside and outside), Arcade level music and Quality level music.

Other Small Additions
There will be a few more small additions to correct old bugs/oddities. Some include changing the Main Menu background to better-fit the new graphics/better screenshots, adding a blank Secrets and Map menu so they can start being worked on ASAP.

________________________________

With the fifth beta release we will be nearing the end of the game! It's so exciting to see I've almost finished A game. So with the next beta being released comes the daunting task of creating the final and bonus levels, add a few last areas, the Secrets and Map menus and let's not forget the ending cutscene!

So until then, thanks for reading!

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

AD: The Quality of Persistence



Lately I've been playing RuneScape (unfortunately old habits die hard). But I think that this will benefit Approaching Dawn a fair bit! Considering the whole basis of the game was developed because of RuneScape, I've been now working on getting my Runecrafting to 99 (at 95 at the time of the blog post, no, this won't turn into a RuneScape blog either), and whilst doing so, people have been asking me: "Where do you get the patience from?" except it isn't patience at all - it's persistence. Now looking into the second Quality level, at first I was going to make it a maze, a giant maze which would test the player's persistence. But, seeing as I've run a good 1000 laps in the past week (for those who don't know, Runecrafting is the creation of Runes used for magic, you create them by using things called Essence and binding it with the energy in a specific altar to create Runes, you often have to follow a path to the altar, and will then bank, restock with Essence and go back again), this got me thinking about the different elements that I could put into the Persistence level.

Now, I've thought up a set 'path' that a player can take throughout the Persistence level, as creating a maze would ultimately lead the player to finding a guide and to cheat. Instead what if I made the player continue doing the same path over and over again twenty, thirty or even fifty times? I really want this game to be different in aspects of level design so I really want something that will force people to work to beat the game, and not just look up a guide to say "go left, right, up, right, right, up" etcetera.

I'm now thinking about merging the both and creating some aspects of the level repetitive whilst continuing the maze idea with some aspects. Such as the player completing the lap 'forty times', but with each time the player completes the room, it chooses the next room randomly from a list (there may be 10 different rooms created each offering different 'paths' to lessen the amount of repetition) which the player must then complete. If I can make each room a suitable size and 'fun' in an aspect, then it might just create the unique Quality level I'm looking for.


Unfortunately I half-wrote this blog a few days before it was posted, so half of this stuff is out-dated. Luckily though school-work is almost over and done with for the third term and I should be back to my blogging self in no time.

I've concepted seven of ten rooms which will be used in the Persistence Quality level. These have just been quickly done in paint, and a few consist of a few game gimmicks I've played throughout the years, some are just plain boring and straight forward, whilst some require trial and error and planning.

I plan to make this level approximately 10-20 minutes long to really sink in the feeling of persistence. Of course because of this I'm going to be using save points throughout the level for those who can't do it all at once (like a save point every 10 or so rooms completed).

Something else that I have been working on for the past week was the last tileset 'used' in-game. This was also the longest to create (mainly because I wanted to capture a specific feeling). I do have an incomplete screenshot of the new tileset handy so I'll throw it up. Remember though, this will likely change before its release (which won't be for a while anyway).


As you will notice the background isn't done, nor are the small decorations from within the tileset. They will be finished soon however.

Of course I still need to complete a fair few things, so expect another "Progress Report" coming up sooner or later outlining what is left to be done!

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

AD: Beta Numero Three!


Well it has been a while since I've last released a beta, so I figured I'd release the most recent one now! (I also saw some people only downloaded this not too long ago - sorry!) This version includes a heap of new features catering to the current game (sorry, no large expansions for levels yet!), however you can now look around the testing Quality main level room.

So the changes made between this beta and the second are listed below (this is taken from the readme file):


MAJOR:

  • Fixed a bug where players could skip past level rooms to end of the level
  • Fixed a bug where players could skip level cutscene without initiating it
  • Fixed a bug where the player could go to the next room by examining the stone slab


OTHER:

  • Text for Pause Menu, Main Menu, Level Begin, Level End changed
  • General text changed font
  • When falling off a ledge after double jumping, player can now perform another jump as intended
  • Changed the time of transitions
  • Added level names
  • Added an exit bar to the levels so that players cannot accidently exit a level
  • In levels, time is displayed as HH:MM:SS instead of just seconds
  • When failing a room and restarting, the time now changes back to the time you entered the room with
  • Level hud now displays the level and its name, which disappears after beginning the room
  • Level hud reappears if it has disappeared and the player pauses
  • Death animation/transition tweak added
  • Fixed some decorations in level rooms
  • Modified level congratulations screen, displaying time in HH:MM:SS and shifting the placement of text/sprites
  • Player now knows if they've perfected a level (whilst not in the congratulations screen) with the level doors turning gold
  • Perfection times modified to fit new timing system
  • Fixed an issue with the paths 'jumping' in the lava/mountain level completion
  • Added a world hud to display level/name/best time if the player is infront of a level door
  • Changed decorations in the first dungeon room
  • Stone slab now correctly displays blank slab
  • Backgrounds (sky, far mountains, mountains, underground, lava, far ice mountains, ice mountains) changed to better-fit graphics
  • Added additional decorations to some Temple rooms
  • Changed the real dungeon entrance sprite completely
  • Added 'lighting' decorations to dungeon rooms
  • Changed the 'YoYo Games' logo on start-up
  • Changed the 'created by: Andrew Wickens' on start-up (currenty a placeholder)
  • Changed the game loading bar (currently a placeholder)
Quite a long list, so I hope everything has gone to plan. (Note: I forgot to update the readme file when uploading this version, so it isn't in there, don't worry although, I most likely won't be adding the second-third change log until I release the fourth beta).

Well, short blog post, but now hopefully I can get some feedback to do with these changes! Also the download links on the Approaching Dawn page are updated with the third beta, so don't worry about downloading the second from there by mistake!

Enjoy!

Friday, August 20, 2010

AD: Graphics, Gameplay and.... Other?

Well, it's been 10 days since by last blog post (got to love to hate school). So, some more things have been happening in Approaching Dawn, spiffy new graphics for some of the old stuff! At the beginning of AD I wanted to 'anti-alias' the whole game, but after doing it to a few sprites (and leaving them in there), I scrapped the idea. I also created a few 'place-holder' graphics (such as doors etc.) whilst I then fill them in later with better ones. Well the time has come and I'm replacing quite a few sprites, especially doors (love doors).

The first and most important door that I wanted to alter was the 'real' Temple entrance. The original entrance looked too similar to the 'fake' entrance (it was a copy, to be honest) and it didn't give the 'feel' that I wanted it to give. So after a good hour (or more, I lost track of time), I finished the new door!
(click for full-size)
The old 'real' entrance on the right, with the new and improved one 
on the left.
I still have a fairly long list of graphics to replace and edit, so things will change visually (some things). These include re-doing the other regular doors going from world hub place to another; the pause menu 'slots'; the options menu 'slots' etc.

This also brings me to the next planned 'thing', to modify the Arcade Door cutscenes, to 'better-fit' and 'not overuse the white fading effect'. Hopefully with these I'll use some particles to make it look much better than it currently is.

I am also in the process of drawing up the level design for the 'Thought' Quality level. This I hope to have finished (and implemented) within the next week (or so), moving onto the next Quality level - 'Speed'. These will be a challenge for me, as I want to... make them 'difficult' but not overly, emphasizing on their set characteristics and hopefully exploiting them in such a way that it makes for fun gaming. These Quality levels will also make use of a new 'pad' as well (like the Save, Exit, Next and Finish pads), the 'Checkpoint' pad, with the levels being longer than the others. These 'Checkpoints' will enable the player to leave the level completely, being able to return to that Checkpoint at a later date. More info. about Checkpoints will be released with the coming of the Quality level beta.

The two planned extra Arcade levels have also gone under a bit of 're-thought' as they'll now serve as the bonus levels, fitting in how I originally imagined it. The 'core' and 'wasteland' Arcade levels will not be out for a while however, and will have difficulties equal to the fourth level and higher.

The world hub has also been extended to the Quality level select area (now the world hub goes - OUTSIDE: begin, dungeon entrance; DUNGEON: begin, Arcade level main, Junction, Descent, Quality level main), with the 'Pit', 'Darkness', 'Path', 'Core', 'Final Descent', 'Floor' and Secret areas being built at a later date.

I think I managed to release enough 'spoilers' there, so that about wraps up this blog!

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

AD: Spit and Polish

Over the past week (nearly two), I've been receiving feedback from testers of Approaching Dawn (all two of them, hooray!), and with this feedback I've been 'polishing' the game. Lots of minor things have changed, such as the Level HUD and the 'Level select area HUD', time has also been changed from being displayed in seconds - "148 seconds", to a different layout - "00:02:28". Hopefully this will look a lot cleaner and improve the overall look of the HUD. As from feedback I've also changed the backgrounds of the mountains and the underground areas.
New Lights/details and More Detailed Background for Underground Areas
Changed Background for Mountain Areas, also changed Timer and "Level" display
Improved Lava Background, also Text has changed font
(which should make it look less generic) and an "exit bar"
Background of the fourth level also modified.
(This may also look new to some testers!)

Considering I wanted a connection between Arcade levels (both the field and the mountain/snow levels, and the underground and volcanic levels), I've kept the backgrounds and tile-sets "similar" to each other, still giving the effect of a completely new environment, but at the same time retaining that 'homey' feel.

Apart from these small fixes here and there I've been heavily working on the next main aspect of the game - the Quality Levels/Areas. This allowed me also to draw more doors! (I love doors for some reason...) However, as some of you guys have realised, most of the main doors of the game are "mechanic" in some sort of way with the whole temple being ancient (some-what). This is simply because those who built the temple... let's say they had to somehow make it "time-resistant".

The door of Quality, after being opened of course! (Still in planning stages)

This is a rather short blog-post as I haven't had much time to write! But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's five of 'em!

Enjoy!

Friday, July 30, 2010

AD: New way of Texting

Well hello there! No, this is not a "new project", but a correction of an old one. You may remember a quote from one of my previous entries when I said: 
"In saying that, I still hope that the overall plot of this game leaves a few loose ends, as I want it to lead pretty much directly into the sequel with (the planned) opening sequence for Nearing Dusk tying up many of those loose ends. Those who were following my first work "Vest Trials" will be rather surprised with this series... Not telling why!"*
I guess the secret is spilt and you all now know that both Approaching Dawn and Nearing Dusk are pretty much "Vest Trials". Vest Trials was my first ever Game Maker game which I never finished (I didn't even get through one eighths of it due to my aims of making it immensely large [the first world which I did complete had about 30-45minutes of game time], I was aiming for a total of ~10 hours). So yes, now I have a new spiffy-looking logo which I'm happy about, and I'm actually updating all the current text's looks in the game. I thought I'd share a few pictures:

I wanted to give them a simplistic and smooth look compared to their "messy" appearance beforehand. Not only the text which is changing though, as I'm going through and polishing a lot of the game up, tweaking old graphics, etcetera.

This leads me to the next major(ish) change which is being made - the keys. I'm swapping around some of the keys which are used because I've always thought then I played around: "The spacebar doesn't seem right for jumping" and "The Pause button (P) is too far away". The Pause one in particular gave me difficulty when unpausing the level just to do a jump or something, and with it being so far away I would often miss/mess up. So I've come up with a new controls scheme which will hopefully remedy that. 

From now on the jump key will be "X" (It was "Z" but I felt uncomfortable when jumping, "X" feels a lot more natural), the pause key will be "C" (very close to the jump key, so even if the player accidentally pressing the pause key, the game can easily be unpaused and continued without much hassle), the skip cutscene key will be "Z" (they're relatively close to each other which means the player doesn't have to move their hands as much). This will result in the spacebar, and P not serving any function at all, and the arrow keys will stay as normal. Hopefully this set-up will allow for much better user input efficiency. 

I also really dislike having those 'floating' pictures on the Approaching Dawn page. So I'll hopefully clean that up within a few days and have it looking much more nice than it is now. Same goes for HERO: Stone of Wonder, I'll edit that page providing a lot more information about the game itself.

As for progress towards the third beta, I'm currently analysing what exactly to put in it, as the finishing game will be released after Competition 06's completion, due to the mere time consumption by school work (not only that, but I'll need to focus on my tertiary education for next year). I intend to implement all the story into the game however (including the background story scrolls), and 'most' of the content (the three Quality levels and all the 'bonus' stuff that I've planned will have to wait).

*Quote taken from blog entry here.

Enjoy!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

AD: BETA #2 Out Now!

EDIT 26-07-10 FIXED: Download Approaching Dawn BETA

Once again it is BETA time, with the second BETA having a lot more content than the first BETA. I'm very happy with the outcome of this BETA and I hope you guys are too!

This BETA focuses on the Arcade levels and their cutscenes, and the World HUB, along with the menus. I will be reworking some of the menus in the future, with "Dungeon Map" and "Secrets" not yet available in the Pause menu.

This also concludes the first Level section of the game, with the four main Arcade levels being now complete!

There is about 16 minutes of content on here for those who are experienced enough to rush through the game and perfect every level their first try, so for most testers, there will be close to 30 minutes worth of testing here (if you wish to perfect all four Arcade levels).

In the .zip file you should find the executable file and the readme file. I suggest reading the readme file because it contains all the controls/information about the BETA, along with the change-list from BETA one to BETA two.

You will also know when the BETA concludes so that shouldn't be a problem. Below are a few key aspects I need feedback about:

  • Level HUD - should I add more/less to it? Does it need improving?
  • Cutscenes - how are the cutscenes? Any general feedback on this is good.
  • Levels - how are the in terms of difficulty, length and overall feel?
  • Menus - are the menus presented well? Was there any likes/dislikes?
  • World HUD - do I need a World HUD to display more things, like level best times etc.?
  • Level End Screen - does it need fixing? (I might be fixing up the placement for a few things before release of the third BETA)
  • Hidden Door - did you find it?
  • Backgrounds/Graphics - do they fit the overall scheme of the game?
My contact info. is in the readme file, leaving a comment on the blog also helps a ton.

Enjoy!


NOTE: All sprites of the game "Approaching Dawn" in this blog and blog post(s) are © of Andrew Wickens 2010. Permission is NOT used to use any of these sprites except by emailing myself and by posting true ownership of the picture(s) towards myself.

Friday, July 23, 2010

AD: Back on Track

After posting a few screenshots of Approaching Dawn on the Game Maker Community forums under competition six on the "official" competition thread, I was rather nervous at first to see how it was received. Much to my surprise a lot of people complimented the graphics (with some feedback on the graphics side of things), so I've now been... "inspired" to complete this game before the competition of 31st August. This will be a.. difficult feat, but should be achievable if I put a bit of work into it.

This is why you'll most likely see less of me here on the blog. I will post, I'm not going to let this "almost-habit" die out on me, just that school and making Approaching Dawn are of higher priority at the current time.

After posting it on the forums I also received some feedback towards the game's look. It was very well received apart from two comments who offered some feedback. One asked why the "triangle" button was upside down (it was the down button) and another commented on the background of the mountain area (which I agreed about, it was need of fixing for a while now). So that very day I modified both the mountain background sprite and the directional PSP buttons!
Screenshot showing both the changes.
You may ask - "Why make the directional buttons square, that's still not the PSP shape!" But to be frank, I find the PSP directional buttons rather ugly when putting an exact copy of the "shape" so I decided a square, due to the player being able to tell the different between the Triangle button (a circle upright triangle outline) to the Down button (a square upside-down triangle). I also first had the new mountains background using three colours, but figured I'd rest with two as the third didn't make it fit the graphics.

Apart from this I've also been working on a few of the Level End cutscenes when you first complete the level (similar to the cutscene in the first BETA). These cutscenes and the last segment of the fourth level are the last things to be completed (major things) before I (hopefully) release the second BETA on Sunday. If it isn't out by then I'm in very deep trouble!

You may also notice that I have now made a few pages, About Me, HERO: Stone of Wonder, and Approaching Dawn. The pages of games in particular will hold basic information about the game, along with a few screenshots and download links. Hopefully this will allow me to better-organise the blog and improve it vastly.

On a final note I have hit a milestone, with the release of the second BETA Approaching Dawn will be the most complete game that I've created so far. I will be using all my strength to persist with it!

Enjoy!


NOTE: All sprites of the game "Approaching Dawn" in this blog and blog post(s) are © of Andrew Wickens 2010. Permission is NOT used to use any of these sprites except by emailing myself and by posting true ownership of the picture(s) towards myself.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

CT: Named and Framed

Yes, yes indeed - this is the second of my "CT:" blog posts, and now with a spiffy logo (not that it's spiffy). I'm actually thinking of ditching the name "Hero" altogether, but we'll see what happens.

So yes, this is my game that I'm planning, sort of a small exploration game with no real objectives, has a small story behind it, but I don't want to make it a full-on 30 hour exploration game, I'd rather settle with a 10-20 minute high quality exploration game where you take on the character "Hero" (pronounced: heh-row).

Hero lives by himself on his own little world and that's the whole reason he needs your help! The Stone of Wonder will grant Hero his one wish to not be alone any more. Simple, yes. However the Stone needs to be powered up to work, as at current it is just a bland, grey, stone slab, magic-less, but scattered across the lands of the elements are monoliths which require powering by small elemental energies which are found in the surrounding areas (yes, we must power the monoliths to power the Stone of Wonder). These districts are home to some hazards which will set Hero back on his small quest.


Story is very simplistic at the current time, and will most likely remain that way. I also hope to reflect this on the game's graphics, which are also simple but "pleasing to the eye". There will be no "levels", but there will however be Achievements which the player can earn - with some being required to complete the game.

This is very similar to seiklus (I know, I wanted to make this game reminiscent of seiklus as it was one of the games which inspired me to start using Game Maker and making games for that matter), but hopefully it'll differ in a fair few ways.

Enjoy!


NOTE: All sprites of the game "HERO: Stone of Wonder" in this blog and blog post(s) are © of Andrew Wickens 2010. Permission is NOT used to use any of these sprites except by emailing myself and by posting true ownership of the picture(s) towards myself.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

AD: Arcade Frenzy and Major Changes


Well, back at school now so progress has slowed quite a bit. The second BETA is on its way (with only the fourth level requiring to be completed and a few small touches). However I may push the BETA back in date. I know I said I would definitely have it out by the 18th, but due to some unforeseen problems, I want to fix those before the release.

This also brings me to my next point - Approaching Dawn will not be ready before the deadline of the sixth YoYo Games Competition. I know this is very unfortunate, but due to the sheer importance of school, and not having a longer holidays (the Summer Competition was aimed at those who were actually on their Summer holidays), I cannot physically have it done.

You may be thinking this is the time for me to pull out an excuse, leg it and abandon this project like I did to my others. No, I'm not going to abandon the game - if anything, this deadline "stress" being removed will improve the quality of the game because I can now add in the things I wanted to which didn't make the cut for the Competition!

This means of course, more levels and overall more content! It also allows me to improve the overall quality of the current developed content which I had to rush through to make. (I will throw a Demo up on the YoYo Games site with a Competition06 tag for the sake of having a go and hopefully getting some good feedback.

Now that this has happened, I can now reveal some of the things which I have planned to release and change:

  •  Two more Arcade levels - "Wasteland" and "Core" themed Arcade levels which will not be linked to the four at the current time.
  •  Running "ability" removed - This will instead be replaced with the reward of a Background Story Scroll.
  •  Stone Slab Hint mini-games - To reveal the hint on the Stone Slab you'll have to play a short quick-paced mini-game.
  •  More World HUB areas - This means more exploration which also allows me to add in some new levels and mini-games.
  •  Mini-games - such as top-down "dodge the falling stagmite"; which will reward the player with a Background Story Scroll.


Of course some of these still won't make it into the game, because I do want to get this game done and dusted as soon as possible.

The Storyline and plot will also be re-worked allowing for a full introduction and small cutscenes here and there throughout the game (excluding the level cutscenes). Hopefully this will improve the quality of the entire storyline which is carried over to the second game too.

Finally, I want to rework some of the graphics (of course this won't happen until the near release so long time away!

While I'm at it, I'll throw up some screenshots of the third and fourth Arcade levels!:

Enjoy!

NOTE: All sprites of the game "Approaching Dawn" in this blog and blog post(s) are © of Andrew Wickens 2010. Permission is NOT used to use any of these sprites except by emailing myself and by posting true ownership of the picture(s) towards myself.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

AD: Secrets too Secret to be Secrets


In the past day or so, I've been working on some "hidden" things which are found within the game. Most of this is actually writing, but with some I had to design some interfaces for some "secret" areas. Of course with the World HUB being somewhat of a linear exploration, there are some secret areas which are well hidden, perhaps too well hidden.

This was when I started brainstorming ideas about how I could put "hints" into the game without it being blatantly obvious, or the hints being of no help at all. I then came up with the idea: "Stone Tablets", with these, being rather large looking stone slabs sticking out of the ground, the player will have to go investigate!
A stone slab which can be examined...

Upon examining the stone slab, the player is shown a simple screen (like one of the ones below) which display the "hint". The hints which are displayed, will all be pictures, exempt of text. Using this players will then have to pretty much "piece things together".
Shh.. That's a secret.

Shh.. So is this.

With this mechanic in place in the game, I want to take full advantage of it, so now I'm thinking of ways to expand it to help in other aspects of the game - like the Persistence Quality level for instance. If I can stretch it this far then the Persistence level will not only be about persistence, but of "piecing things together" as well.

Of course, with some areas being currently non-existent (like the secret areas and the last five areas of the World HUB), this mechanic will only be in place after I develop these areas and that they're able to be explored.

I'm contemplating adding these to the "Secrets" slot in the Pause Menu, due to the player (at current) having to either write it down, remember it, or know it as soon as they see it. However this fix wouldn't be one of my top priorities, as there are still a lot of things to implement into the game.

This leads into my next topic - the foreground plot for the game. Ever since creating the "dream" tutorial to the game, I've been struggling into tying it in to the background plot (which is actually the main plot of the game - it's very close to it). I've decided to scrap this "dream" and all of its cutscenes and rooms that I've completed and overhaul the game's background plot to become its foreground story.

In doing this I've created what I call a "void". The player is thrown into the game, without any knowledge of what has/is happening, and is given one option - to explore. Exploring not only in the World HUB but throughout the entire game to actually piece together the story.

I wanted both Approaching Dawn and its sequel - Nearing Dusk, to be heavily story-orientated, and with this comes the possibility of losing the player in all of this. This is why I want to keep the "secret" background story scrolls very short, and possessing only the vital information that the player can piece together. This is definitely turning into a game that "everyone can play and understand", because if they choose not to obtain any of the background story scrolls in the game, they will be left at the end of the game with a rather large question mark over their head.

In saying that, I still hope that the overall plot of this game leaves a few loose ends, as I want it to lead pretty much directly into the sequel with (the planned) opening sequence for Nearing Dusk tying up many of those loose ends. Those who were following my first work "Vest Trials" will be rather surprised with this series... Not telling why!

Enjoy!

NOTE: All sprites of the game "Approaching Dawn" in this blog and blog post(s) are © of Andrew Wickens 2010. Permission is NOT used to use any of these sprites except by emailing myself and by posting true ownership of the picture(s) towards myself.

AD: Progress Report #2:


This is the second instalment of my progress reports, outlining the progress in certain aspects of the game. This report will be relatively larger than the first progress report due to the increase of elements now in development.

Menus - 70%
Main Menu: The Main Menu development is very near complete, with a few more refinements it should be at 100%, done and dusted. (95%)

Options Menu: This has been pretty much finished, it will only need to be edited when new sounds/music are added into the game. The sprites which are in there at current will remain there (unless changed in spare time at the end of development). (95%)

Controls Menu: Unfortunately development on this Menu hasn't gone very far quickly, there are still many elements of this Menu to be completed, but the priority of this Menu being completed at the current time is very low. Regular Keyboard Controls still need to be added into the game. (30%)

Pause Menu: The Pause Menu was relatively small and simple at first, but has now developed into a much larger project. With the "Resume" option now absent (is replaced by a "START" key which prompts the player to press "P" to unpause) and two new options added ("Dungeon Map" and "Secrets"), development on those two new options will take a while to develop (and will be developed on at a later date, due to a higher amount of progress needed to create them). (60%)


Game Areas - 35%
World HUB: The World HUB has been under some serious development, with a lot more details being added and a lot more new areas being created. Development for this aspect has been fairly solid, and will be continually updated with the expansion of tilesets/decorations. (65% - not including Secret Areas)(50% - including secret areas)

Special Areas: There are a few special areas in the World HUB which are required to be made. This however is only necessary at a later date (for instance when the Bonus Levels are added into the game). (5%)


Game Levels - 22%
Arcade Level One: Development on this level has stopped due to it reaching completion. (100%)

Arcade Level Two: Development on this level has stopped due to it reaching completion. (100%)

Arcade Level Three: Development on this level has begun a few days ago, with some good progress being made in level-design but in GFX as well. (15%)

Arcade Level Four: Development for this level is yet to begin. (0%)

Bonus Level One: Development for this level is yet to begin. (0%)

Bonus Level Two: Development for this level is yet to begin. (0%)

Persistence Level: Development for this level is yet to begin. (0%)

Thought Level: Development for this level is yet to begin. (0%)

Speed Level: Development for this level is yet to begin. (0%)

Final Level: Development for this level is yet to begin. (0%)




Game Plot - 50%
Plot: This is the actual design of the game's plot, having all of its ideas and main foreground and background story covered. (95%)

Implemented Plot: This is the level of plot actually implemented into the game to where the player can follow. The main background story (which also acts as most of the game's foreground story) will be implemented at a later date along with most of the other secret areas. (5%)


Engine - 80%
Game Engine Capabilities: This indicates the variety of obstacles etcetera throughout the game. Wit this at 100%, the obstacles, items and player systems are complete and are ready to implement/are implemented into the game. (80%)

You may've notice that throughout this progress report that there is no music. This is the case because music and sounds will be placed in at a later date when they are of more importance.

Enjoy!


NOTE: All sprites of the game "Approaching Dawn" in this blog and blog post(s) are © of Andrew Wickens 2010. Permission is NOT used to use any of these sprites except by emailing myself and by posting true ownership of the picture(s) towards myself.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

AD: Difficulty in Perfection


With the first BETA releasing a look at the first level, and with the second to fourth levels under development, testers did pose the question of difficulty towards the levels. However, not everything is as it seems!

When designing the levels, due to their 'thought' non-time restrictions, players can take their time throughout the level, which in doing so renders the level very easy. However, as some (those who achieve a specific time of higher) would notice that they would achieve the following screen:
This screen shows (and tells) the player that they've "perfected" the level, reaching the ultimate time goal. Of course the player can continue to retry these levels in hope to beat their "perfected time", but once they've perfected the level once, it remains perfected.

As mentioned before I will also be adding in two "bonus" levels, these, when completed (and found for that matter), will congratulate the player with a fancy new move - either the ability to double jump, or the ability to run.

Simply "finding" these bonus levels isn't the only requirement for obtaining these abilities however, as the player will need to "perfect" specific Arcade levels to enter!

For the first bonus level, the player will require perfection in both the first and second Arcade levels, with the second bonus level requiring perfection in the third and fourth. Of course I'm not going to spoil what ability is behind each level, but I will say is that the abilities found will be required to complete the game. That's right, these bonus levels aren't really "bonus" at all, as the last level will require both of these abilities AND completion of the previous levels (those being the three Quality levels).

In doing so this creates a "higher" difficulty on the four Arcade levels, which will continue the flow of difficulty throughout the rest of the game. Below is a little list of the levels and their difficulties, with 1x being very easy, and 10x being extremely difficult:

Arcade Levels

  • Level One - Regular: 1x
  • Level One - Perfect: 2x
  • Level Two - Regular: 2x
  • Level Two - Perfect: 4x
  • Level Three - Regular: 3x
  • Level Three - Perfect: 5x
  • Level Four - Regular: 4x
  • Level Four - Perfect: 7x
Bonus Levels
  • Bonus One: 5x
  • Bonus Two: 8x
Quality Levels
  • Persistence: 9x
  • Thought: 9x
  • Speed: 9x
Other levels
  • Final Level: 10x
And in saying that it is time I get back to work, progress is going smoothly, with some bugs and rooms to fix up before moving onto the final touches for the second BETA.

Enjoy!

NOTE: All sprites of the game "Approaching Dawn" in this blog and blog post(s) are © of Andrew Wickens 2010. Permission is NOT used to use any of these sprites except by emailing myself and by posting true ownership of the picture(s) towards myself.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

AD: Release Schedule


Well, because development is further than I anticipated (not only that but the workload is bigger as well), I thought I would add in a Release Schedule in a blog post. This is it. I hope that the dates in this Schedule are incorrect, and that the BETA's are released earlier, but only I can control that, so here it is, the Approaching Dawn Release Schedule!

Layout
Title - for example the "Game Name" + "BETA or RELEASE" + "BETA/RELEASE number"
Release Date - this is the expected release date for the BETA/RELEASE, it should be at most this specified date.
Importance - this is in terms of feedback, with it being "very high" meaning that the BETA requires very constructive feedback so that necessary fixes may be made so the game can be at the top of its ability.
Feedback - the feedback line provides the type of feedback expected in the BETA. Things that are not mentioned and do not fit into any category can be given feedback during any stage.


Approaching Dawn BETA one:
Release Date: 30th June 2010 has been released! Check the BETA #1 Release Post for more information.
Importance: High
Feedback: Level(Arcade)/Menu

Approaching Dawn BETA two:
Release Date: 18th July 2010 has been released! Check the BETA #2 Release Post for more information.
Importance: Very High
Feedback: Introduction/Level(Arcade)/Cutscene/Menu

Approaching Dawn BETA three:
Release Date: 1st August 2010
Importance: High
Feedback: Level(Quality)/Level(Bonus)/Cutscene/Menu

Approaching Dawn BETA four:
Release Date: 15th August 2010
Importance: Very High
Feedback: Level(Quality)/Level(Bonus)/Cutscene/World HUB

Approaching Dawn BETA five: (This BETA is for thorough Testers only who will be contacted by myself)
Release Date: 25th August 2010
Importance: FINAL BETA
Feedback: Level(Final)/Level(Quality)/Cutscene/World HUB/Secrets/Story/Map/Menu/Ending


Approaching Dawn RELEASE one: 
Release Date: 27th August 2010
Importance: Release
Feedback: Overall


Enjoy!


NOTE: All sprites of the game "Approaching Dawn" in this blog and blog post(s) are © of Andrew Wickens 2010. Permission is NOT used to use any of these sprites except by emailing myself and by posting true ownership of the picture(s) towards myself.