Wednesday, June 30, 2010

BETA #1 Out Now!

Download Link Removed

As you can see above there is a link to download the first BETA for Approaching Dawn. I was fairly pleased with the outcome result for the first BETA, finishing off some small things just a few hours ago.

This BETA focuses pretty much on the layout of things in the Game: Main Menu, Pause Menu, Options/Controls Menu, Level Start/End Screen, Cutscene layout, Level layout. I do know however that the first Level is rather short, but don't fret! As they will get longer and more difficult as you progress.

This BETA is a relatively short BETA in terms of content, with there being only around 5-10 minutes of playable time. I wanted this mainly so I could get some feedback before moving on (perfect what I have now, without moving on and causing more imperfect things).

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 (plus it shouldn't take long to read).

In the Game itself, has a few functioning things. Below I'll list the key aspects I need feedback on:

  • Saving - frequent enough?
  • Level Start screen - does it feel crowded, does it fit in?
  • Level End screen - any suggestions/feedback is welcome for this particular screen.
  • Cutscene - do I need to add anything more to the Cutscene, is the Powering Gem giving the impression of Power?
  • Level - Should I make each segment of a Level inside a different room, or should I merge it all into the one room?
  • World HUB - Is it straight forward knowing where to go?
  • Menus - Are they presented well, is there any likes/dislikes about the differing Menus?
I also know there isn't enough sound in the Game at the present time, I'm very aware of this, but it isn't at the top of my to-do list.

My contact info. is in the readme file, leaving a comment on the blog also helps a ton.


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.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Congratulations, you have completed the Level!

Hey, it's me again. Throughout the past through days I've been working heavily on the begin and end Level screens, which... to say the least, have gone through a bit of a phase.

When I first began the project, I wanted the Levels to have a scoring system, with the player being able to score the most by completing the Level the fastest. This I was going to incorporate with some pick-ups. However, not too long after I began planning this, I felt that it didn't feel "right" within the game, with the game's story and overall setting sort of contradicting this.

But, because there were reasons for completing Levels, I decided to change this system into a "time-based" system. Where the player completes the Level, their time will be recorded. With the recorded time being displayed at the end of the Level in a "Level Complete" screen. However, I quickly noticed players have nothing to get a "best time" for, apart from themselves, so this is where I began to tweak it a bit more.

When players complete a Level, for instance Level One, their time will be recorded and compared to the Best Time (Best Time begins at 9999 seconds, but this isn't displayed to the player), and once they complete the Level for the first time, their time will be set to the Best Time (I doubt the player will go AFK leaving the game running without pause for over 150 minutes, but if need be I can always force the game to auto-shut down if the timer reaches 150 minutes because the player is obviously not playing the Level, or to go back to the World HUB). However, the thing is, for each level there is a specific time stored, where if the player reaches the time specified, they will receive a "different" congratulations screen which is shown below:

Regular Congratulations Screen

Special Congratulations Screen

As you can see in the above, the Regular Congratulations Screen is shown if a player completes (in this case Level One) in more than 35 seconds, with the Special Congratulations Screen being shown if the player completes the Level in 35 seconds or less (of course new Best Times can be added without reaching the specific "Special Congratulations Screen" Time.

Also of course I don't plan on giving the player no reward for "Perfecting" these Levels, as I'm planning to have it as a REQUIREMENT, to enter Bonus Levels, having for an example, Bonus Level One requiring the Perfection of three Levels to be able to enter. (These "Bonus Levels" will be part of the Main Storyline as well, so make sure you get a few Perfections!)

In addition to the Level End screen however, I also wanted to have a Level Start screen, instead of the player just hopping straight from the World HUB into a Level. These screens are pretty simple and short, and enable the player to prep in real life before the play the Level.

Level Begin Screen

This should also give the polished feeling I was hoping for towards the Levels (currently these screens only apply to the four Arcade Levels).

In addition to all of the above I've also been working on the first cutscene to be implemented in the game (the introductory area cutscenes haven't been made yet). I'm very happy towards how the cutscene has turned out so far, and I hope to keep a higher standard of cutscenes throughout the game.

Powerful?.. I think so.

Throughout the cutscenes you will also notice those black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. No this isn't me attempting to go wide-screen, but it shows the players the cutscene isn't skip-able. With the more cutscenes I implement, I only want the crucial ones to be shown to the player without them being able to skip it, scenes which are of less importance in the game can be skipped. However I want to make it so the player don't skip any scenes, because if they love watching them they won't need to skip them.

Well, that's the end of the read for now. With the Level System and Cutscenes nearing completion, the BETA is coming closer and closer!


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, June 23, 2010

BETA #1 Progress

Figured I may as well give an update on how the first BETA is coming along. In this BETA I hope to have a few things done and dusted (like the current World HUB - remove the secret areas ;) ). It's not going to have a lot of game-play, as it's mostly just the engine that is done at current, but I will have some other stuff so don't worry!

Some things which will be in BETA #1:
In the Game Executable File

  • Main Menu
  • Controls Menu - PSP mode.
  • Options Menu - no music in the game at present, so that option will remain on no matter how many times you try to change it.
  • Pause Menu
  • World HUB - parts #1 and #2 only for the time being.
  • Introductory Cutscene to the Game - for feedback.
  • Level One - the whole level which should be working correctly.
  • Some Sounds - like changing selections in Menus and some other sounds.
  • Score System - this MAY be implemented just as a "trial" for the First Level to see how things go.
  • Saving System - only one save slot for the game at current, this may change in the future.
And in the Readme File
  • Controls for the Keyboard, should help out because at current the game only shows PSP controls.
  • Some information about the game, most likely including this list of what's in the BETA.
  • Information about RAM and CPU usage (at current, the game uses 90Mb of RAM on start-up which falls to ~5-10Mb after a few minutes of playing. The CPU usage is around 15-40. By the end of the development I'm aiming for under 140Mb of RAM used and maintaining the CPU usage. I "hope").
  • Also some information about myself, contact also to link to the blog.
  • Some copyright/distribution stuff.

Also I'll put up my contact details here just in case you ever want to ask a question(s):
Personal Email: (only email me here if it's of high importance)
FAQ/Help Email: (email me here if it's any sort of A.D.-related question)


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.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Progress Report #1:

Well, I've decided to make a series of progress reports throughout the development to keep track of some elements of the game.

Main Menu: Main Menu development is almost complete, with the only things remaining are the clean-up of some sprites and some things added here and there. (90%)

Options Menu: I've been heavily working on the Options Menu for some times, thank goodness it's almost finished, just a few replacement sprites to add in and it should be perfected! (90%)

Controls Menu: I've only just begun working on this menu not too long ago, but progress is happening quite quickly. I've decided to stick with the one style of menu for now, enabling the choice of keyboard or PSP controls later in development. (45% [current]) (20% [total])

Pause Menu: This would be a menu which I will start work on after the Controls Menu, the menu itself will be easy to make, so the development of the Pause Menu will be quite quick. (40%)

Game Areas
World HUB: The World HUB of this game is rather special in my eyes, so it will be broken up into three differing percentages. The first indicates on the current (from total) being the base rooms, with no decorations etc. The second percentage is for the current with decorations. The third and final percentage is for the current room with decorations and hidden areas containing Bonus stuff (this most likely will stay very low until all key areas of the game system are developed). (40%) (25%) (15%)

Game Levels:

  • Level One - this being the only level currently in development will be the only level given a percentage during this progress report. (25%)

Game Engine Capabilities: The Game Engine indicates the variety of obstacles etc. throughout the game, with this at 100% the obstacles, item and player systems are complete and are ready to implement into the game. (70%)

Game Plot
Plot: This is the design of the Game's Plot. It shows how far into the development of the story is. (90%)
Introductory Areas: These are rooms covered within the game's introduction. This includes the beginning cutscenes. (30%)

Well this is the end of this progress report, another one will be released within the next month or so, considering the two weeks holiday coming up which will allow for greater development within the game.


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, June 20, 2010

Level Mania

Finally got around to writing my next blog - with exam week coming up it's been really harsh on my Game-Making time, but soon enough that will be over and I'll be able to make some great progress to the game.

One of the things that I've found most difficult making is in-fact the levels, as level design is a crucial aspect of Game-Making, and not only that, I want it to be challenging, and to have the appropriate length to it.

I've found that to make the best-fit levels for the theme/length/difficulty comes from following these few steps which I will later elaborate on:
  1. Brainstorm
  2. Plan
  3. Re-Plan (fix old plan)
  4. Create
  5. Test
  6. Plan
  7. Re-Plan...
  8. Etc. until the desired level outcome has been reached.
Now, you may think "well, duh of course!" but this only goes for specific areas during the level, the whole level itself is made up of segments which hold different obstacles and challenges. Between these segments I usually allow the player a break (length depending on the difficulty of the level - the easier the level the larger the break). This break allows the player to refocus and usually save their progress before moving onto the next segment.

Now to elaborate on the Steps taken:

1. Brainstorm
The Brainstorming step is a crucial element that can change the outcome of the level quite drastically. Making sure that you take the level's theme into account e.g. you wouldn't make a level in the sky with floating blocks etc when the level's theme is based underground. The Brainstorming phase will hopefully be able to show you how many segments to divide the level into, the length of the level, the difficulty of the level and the obstacles to use.

2. Plan
This is where the action comes into play. Plan out the level style incorporating some of the Brainstormed ideas so that you have come up with. Make sure if drafting on paper, that the level is too scale (and that you know your maximum jump distance and maximum jump height) so that you can properly space gaps to where the player must jump to etc. 

3. Re-Plan
Now you need to look over your plan once more linking the Brainstormed ideas and the incorporation of those ideas together, this is often done to "refine" the level, by removing unnecessary obstacles or adding in obstacles so that the level is what you desire at the current time.

4. Create
In this step you now create the level segment, this may be the beginning, middle or end segment it's really up to you which order is desired.  Remember to keep an eye on spacings so that there are no impossible jumps or very risked jumps which are in the easier part of the game.

5. Test
Now it's time to test the level segment! Play the game through and test the level segment which is created, note any harsher difficulties or abnormalities which you did not have in mind for creating the level, this would also be the time to see whether or not there are too many obstacles, or even, too little of them.

6. Onward
Now that you know the things requiring fixing from Testing the level segment, you can now go back and change these by following the steps (2. onward), this will refine and polish the level until you get the desired outcome. Remember through, linking the segments is important, you may want to go for a specific the player can feel when "taking a break", whether having a nice checkpoint, of some flat ground with no obstacles, it's up to you.

NOTE: Remember you can also share your game with some friends etc. as a BETA so that they will be able to give some feedback on the levels that you've created.

Using this layout of steps is how I build the levels throughout my games, so in 'Approaching Dawn' I will be doing A LOT of checking to make sure that the levels are worthy to be beaten. I will however give you guys an insight into the Level Types which 'Approaching Dawn' will have as well:

  • Jungle - side-scrolling left to right, broken up into two segments.
  • Earth - side-scrolling right to left, broken up into two segments.
  • Fire - side-scrolling top to bottom, broken up into three segments. (Does include a left to right segment.)
  • Air - side-scrolling bottom to top, broken up into three segments.  (Does include a right to left segment.)
  • I'll release more info. about the Quality Levels when the time comes.
  • Again more info. on the Bonus Levels will be released at a later date.

Any feedback or queries about the steps/layouts etc. in this blog entry,  just send me an email and I'll try my best to reply!


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, June 13, 2010

Oh bother, not another Menu!

Welcome to my next blog! Today I've been feeling the bloggish sort, so I decided to put up my third blog of today (not to mention I want to get into the habit of blogging!).

Within the past few weeks, I haven't really been working on content for Approaching Dawn, but instead Menus. Yes these dreadful Menus are weighing my content delivery down, but don't fret! They will make a nice addition and shouldn't make the content any worse for the wear.

A few Menus however, will be required, so I thought I'd rather get them done now, and get them out of the way, rather than later.

  • Main Menu - of course, the Main Menu, before this the player will be shown a brief introduction to the game (nothing fancy), but this is the place where all the pre-game action takes place! Being able to choose from other options which send you into - you guessed it - more Menus!
    Below is a small snapshot of the current Main Menu (remember it's still under development!):

  • Options Menu - this comes in at a close second for annoyingance because of the plain reason that it gives so many of them! The Options Menu will house player options such as: Sound (on/off), Music (on/off), Fullscreen (on/off), Fullscreen on Start-up (on/off). These options will stay persistent throughout the game and are saved for later use (this does not apply to the regular Fullscreen however, which will be shut off when the game ends).
  • Controls Menu - thirdly, the Controls Menu. This will be a special Menu in that players can toggle which control sprites they see when prompted. For example, if the player has it on Keyboard (PC) setting, the game will display "Press [Space]" (with an image of the spacebar where [Space] is). If the player has it on PSP setting, then it will display "Press (X)" (with the image of a circle button with a white cross in the centre, similar to the above Main Menu picture. This will help players find the correct controls without any trouble.
  • Pause Menu - finally, the Pause Menu. This, being one of the hardest, if not hardest Menu to implement into the game, due to what to put it, how to put it in, how the pausing will work etc. The Pausing Menu in Approaching Dawn will have three options to it: "Resume"(resumes the game), "Load Game"(loads a previously saved game - prompts player if they want to make sure) and "Main Menu"(where it returns the player to the main menu, without saving [prompts player]).
Of course, these are the predominately focused Menus in the game, there may be more in the future, but who knows! The Menus will use the Arrow Keys (or the Pad on the PSP) to move the selection, with the spacebar (or X on the PSP) to confirm selection. Pressing ESC anywhere in the game, including the Menus will quit the game completely (pressing ESC is the only way to close the game, there is no option in the Main Menu, however players will be notified previously about this).

Well, that just about sums up my ideas/plans for the Menus I have/am programming into Approaching Dawn at the current time, I'll put up a blog post in the future letting you readers know about their progress etc.


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.

Story time children!

Well, here's my first official blog post for Approaching Dawn. As you can see I even included the spiffy logo which is used in-game. In this post I'll be talking a bit about the story and the background of the game.

The main character of the game - Dareo, the explorer's background story is shrouded in mystery. The back story isn't necessary towards the overall plot to the game, but it would provide an interesting read to those who find the game fun.

This led me into thinking about how I could introduce the back story to the game without it flooding the player's minds, and also to have it available to those who WANT to find it. So I came up with this: have bits and pieces of scrolling jammed in secret places throughout the World HUB so that the player can learn about the character's back story if they wanted to. The scrolls themselves would hold bits and pieces about Dareo which the player could then link together after finding all of them.

As for the rest of the story, the World HUB begins off as a lush greenland, the player is "forced" into moving forward, as that is the only path to move on. Eventually the player finds an entrance to a large dungeon on the top of a "mound". The player then enters this dungeon entrance to go into the real World HUB, the dungeon itself.

The dungeon will sprout off into different routes (may not at the start, but towards the end it will), and will hold entrance to all of the games levels and hidden secrets. The story will mainly focus on Dareo's travels throughout this dungeon, and the secrets he unfolds. Not to mention the treasure he finds at the end (I'll keep it a secret for now).

This doesn't mean the entire story is set in stone, changes will be made (where necessary), but in all I'm very happy in the way the story turned out, very.


Welcome to the Approaching Dawn Blog!

 Well, first blog post on my new blog dealing with the development of my latest game (well soon to be) "Approaching Dawn". Now work on this game begun long ago back at the beginning of the year when I was making my game engine for the fifth YoYoGames Competition. Turned out I didn't have my game out in time, and sitting there I had this great platformer engine which I had built (of course during the course of building this engine, I had made reference to other engines which I had learnt off in the past - to make something new!).

Once the announcement was made about the Competition Six on YoYoGames I was stoked, because not only did I just finish my engine a week beforehand, but because that I could now put it to the test into making one of my best (and favourite) games yet! After settling with a Project name (it was GPD-####-##-## at the time), I could finally get to work on this game!

The first thing I began working on was the story, as time and time before I had always built everything, THEN incorporated the story into that, which led to the game, and the story, not having that "mood" and myself ending up quitting and moving onto the next project due to the sheer ill-organisation that was put into the project.

So, welcome to my blog and I hope that I do indeed continue blogging about the development of my new game.