Oh you, Ladder Cave…

All programming/development has literally been on hold this week while I fill in graphics, so it feels like I don’t have much to say recently. Level 3 is now looking pretty finished, so I’ll include some video footage in my next Devlog Video of me running around it! I didn’t have to make too much more for my latest blue level, except for a new water tile for the onsen (which may be temporary for now), and a new structure to mark where the onsen are.

The tile in the middle of the structure can be repeated to increase the width of the structure, as most of the onsen are different shapes and sizes. I originally wanted the middle to be peaked, but this raised serious difficulties when trying to extend the structure width-ways! I’ve placed the new tiles into the level, including the finished second hald of the level, which was looking very bare before.

The last part of the level to design was the level’s only cave, which stands alone with four entrance ways as opposed to having two cave sections with fewer entrances. You can see how each of these entrances align in the centre of the map in the image below, obviously in the room editor the pink squares represent warp points between rooms.

As with all cave sections, I’ve based the shape of the inside of the caves on the outer landscape. This cave has ended up with a long vertical spine with a horizontal part that crosses over it near the top. Because of the cave’s long shape, I decided to see what I could accomplish here using ladders, which can only be used for moving up and down. I worked out that the Hanging Adversary can be used as a very effective obstacle while the player is moving vertically, by placing it to one side of the ladder like this:

The player can only wait until a timed move past the plant, because a left or right movement would result in the player falling. So, with this in mind I designed (most of!) the cave to revolve around climbing as many ladders as possible.

I got a little stuck in the bottom left-hand corner, so I waited until I could test the effectiveness of the rest of the area to place something in here. In the end, this area ended up being a little maze section with no real obstacles to overcome. Because this is the last cave of the game, I’ve placed as many Hanging Adversary obstacles as possible without the stages becoming impossible/ridiculous. This cave scares me a little, but I’m glad I have the upper hand of knowing where everything is :S I recorded this video to show the evasion of each obstacle in the cave, and I somehow managed to not take any damage until right at the end! The hardest placement of obstacles here is where there is a sharp left or right turn at the top of a ladder, or where there are many obstacles together (which is where I failed!)

Thinking With Platforms

I’ve changed my tactics slightly while designing this level, so that I can essentially design and test simultaneously. I’m trying to keep level layouts varied and involve new challenges for the player with each level, but it’s been difficult to judge the success of drastic changes on paper. So my new process is: draw, test, redraw, test, create!

The kanji for “blue” which I’ve based the level 3 layout on is: 青, which gives the opportunity for a lot of long horizontal platforms. Unfortunately, I ended up with a lot of these after creating the level based on the kanji for “orange”: 橙 (it doesn’t look like it has many horizontal lines but I ended up putting a lot of emphasis on the small lower section on the right hand side!) The long, straight parts of the previous level are pretty much the most boring game sections I’ve made so far, so I really wanted to avoid them this time round.

I started off with this level mock-up, which like all of my other level designs has ended up looking nothing like the original kanji! The blue patches are “onsen” hot springs, which are the unique little features in this level. In Japan, accommodation and bathing facilities are often placed near onsen, so I’ve placed the buildings near the hot springs. I’ve also tried to avoid placing buildings in the level’s four corners, which seems to have inevitably happened in levels 1 and 2. This level is unique however beacause I’ve only placed one cave, which is larger than all previous cave levels and connects more parts of the level. It’s difficult to see in the mock-up, but I’ve placed grey squares where the entrances and exits are located. My main concern with the mock-up is that there are still a lot of long, straight platforms, but at this point I printed the design to work out the rest on paper.

When I printed the layout this time I didn’t join the two pieces of A4 paper together, so I’ve ended up with two halves which were really easy to scan! You can see the detail in this design much better than in my previous photos. The level starts in the bottom left-hand corner, where the warp door object is. I’ve got a few more tiles to create for this level, mainly where the onsen are. The structures around the onsen are based on this image from Onsen No Tengoku (Onsen of Heaven) in Hakone. The travel guide describes the site as “slightly run-down but remains atmospheric”, which I though fit in perfectly with my rural setting.

In this design, I’ve added a section to one of the long horizontal platforms to break up some of the length and add more rises and falls. The idea was to place obstacles where there are large gaps between the platforms, however I had to change this idea again when it came to testing because some of the scaling didn’t work well- this is main disadvantage to designing on paper with no grid! After drawing up the design, I roughed out the platforms in Game Maker to test the changes and jump distances between platforms etc. I’ve spaced out a lot of level more than usual to make the path less decipherable, and it seems to have worked pretty well. I’ve since added a lot more detail to this first half of the level, using my new blue-coloured tileset! You can see the platforms in the room editor in this screenshot:

The solution to the problems with lots of straight horizontal sections seems to be the obvious answer. I’ve made the lengthy run seem less “lengthy” by adding jumps that create thinking points for tactical evasion, as you can see here in a section which original consisted of one long horizontal platform. When making a platformer, think with platforms.

The second half of the level is still incomplete, I’ve simply added in the basics of the platforms for testing. I drew up the rest of the level today, so this should be filled in soon. There are still some platform changes to be made.

Ao Iro Mood Board

Aoi things from Japan:)

I feel so blue now!