Everything A Game Should Have

Before recording the final playthrough video, I’ve played through the entire game myself to make sure everything works and to work out an effective route to follow so that I can show every blossom being obtained. This was also the best way to see if the jump to the ending slides worked, which as it turned out it didn’t! So I’ve fixed that, and added one more very final slide that shows the kanji for “owari”, meaning “end”.

To wrap the game up for testing, I’ve added a few finished touches. I’ve replaced the default Game Maker loading screen with a horizontal version of the game’s logo. The main reason I’ve decided to align the logo horizontally this one time only is because it sits better on the monitor. This is shown when the game is initially opened up.

In this screenshot you can also see the Hanami blossom icon in the task bar along the bottom. This is the same as the game icon, although because it’s bigger it hasn’t actually scaled very well. I’ll be sure to scale it properly myself before converting it to a 32×32 pixel .ico file!

The last addition I’ve made is a readme and help file which will come in the game folder. I had fun creating the typography in the readme text file, inspired by the likes of Spelunky and Ninja Senki! The file is a basic and quick look at some game info including controls, although a pdf version of the game manual will also be available.

The game’s help file is the same as this but unfortunately without the bubbly title. This is brought up in game by pressing the F1 key.

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.

Quick Fixes

Today I’ve been fixing up little bits here and there, rather than concentrating on something bigger…my intention is to clean up some of the game’s little blips before moving onto anything excitingly new. This is following on from my previous to-do list, which as the days go on gets increasingly longer…

  • Apply more accurate collision masks to objects
  • This I have done today, although most of the problems with collisions were solved by reducing the collision mask around the player object.
    Previous mask:

    Based on head dimensions

    New mask:

    Based on lower body dimensions (much thinner!)

    This stopped the player from gradually sliding down corners and standing on thin air! This also means that collisions with obstacles are more accurate, as it is often the body that contacts that obstacle sprite rather than the head. I’ve increased the masks for the mushroom and swinging enemies to accommodate for this reduction, but only slightly.

  • Improve environmental tiles
  • I haven’t done much to improve the tileset, but I’ve cleaned up some of the edges by adding corner details and rotating some of my existing tiles to fit in more instances.

  • Make new sprites
  • There were just a couple of things from the end of the level that I’ve omitted to draw so far, so I figured it was probably time to put these in. Among the sprites still to create was the “end object”- the door to the next level. This stays closed until all the flowers are collected (although I haven’t coded for it opening yet as there is nowhere to go!) The idea for the new sprite came from this lonely little place, that sparked my imagination.

    The orange doormat represents the colours of the next level…

    As well as these items from my previous list, I started to work on some more minor details that I wanted to be ready in time to demonstrate to others. I’ve spent a lot of time working out a parallax scrolling system which affects the rate that the background imagery moves at, although this isn’t quite finished yet as it produced quite a jittery result. I’ve also added in a code to randomly generate the cloud sprites I previously drew. This works by producing a small amount of cloud sprites just outside of the player’s view, scrolling each cloud along at a set pace and deleting them once they are off the screen at the other side. The code then regenerates each sprite at the same coordinates back on the first side of the screen, resulting in an endless amount of clouds.

    This seems to work fine, until you enter a cave or building and exit back into the main level. Instead of randomly generating cloud sprites at this point, they seems to align along the Y axis and scroll across together. This is probably a fault with my coding, however I haven’t figured out how to solve the issue yet…

    So I’m kinda just creating more problems for myself right now! As a de-stress technique, I’ve been sketching details into my new level design, which looks a little like this right now:

    Personally, I think this level looks a lot more like its original kanji than the previous design, but it’s still pretty tenuous!

    Weekend Catch Up!

    Tying up some loose ends…

    New Characters
    Here are rough designs for three more characters, all with specific roles (should they make it into the game!) I’ve tried to create one unique character for each of the game’s levels, as well as recurring characters who will appear throughout restoring health and saving the game.

    The idea for the purpose of Most of the characters is that they will give Hana a flower petal, which can be combined with other petals to create one flower. Five characters in each level will give Hana a petal each, which will then make a whole. I really hope I can get this to work, otherwise they will simple have to give her a whole flower that they have found (to make it easier on my lack of coding knowledge).

    Left: a guy who wears a face mask to protect himself from germs, or possibly to protect others from himself. Apparently, the lovely Japanese people wear a mask when they are ill to protect others from catching the bug.

    Middle: a resident of the “pink” village- the game’s first level. He is based on Tsukimi from 51 Japanese Characters, and prefers watching the moon (“tsuki”) to the flowers. He sits high up in the mountains at the end of the level.

    Right: I think this guy will appear in the next level. He is found in a hot spring, hence the lack of clothing!

    Old Characters
    While I’ve been working mainly on level design, I’ve also been doing character pixel-art for the characters I created a while ago.





    I’ll give each of these characters walking and fidgety animations so that they can move. They’re all a very similar size and shape so that I can apply similar animations to all of them.

    Level Developments
    I’ve started jotting down ideas for the next level I’m going to create, which revolves around Japanese forest rather than the current emphasis on mountains. The colours scheme is orange, so I have a new Kanji to work with! There isn’t so much a structure as individual features at the moment.

    First Try 2D Level Design

    I started off today by drawing this artist’s impression of the outside of my Ryokan for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to work out what the landscape around the building looked like, and secondly I wanted to try to practice a slightly neater style of drawing that I can use for tidy, accurate level design! As it turned out, the building took up most of the page and I didn’t manage to get many surrounding objects in! But I think my tidy lines worked out much better. I have a tendency to scribble, and my designs are often indecipherable except by me!

    I watched the Japanese Ring last night by coincidence. For those who aren’t familiar with the series, half of the story of Ring takes place in a holiday resort in the country called Hakone Pacific Land, which I always imagined was similar to Centre Parcs! In the Japanese film version, there is a big wooden sign at the entrance to the resort, which inspired the wooden sign next to my Ryokan. A little homage to one of my favourite Japanese novels! Whilst watching the film, I couldn’t help but analyse building structures. The film constantly moves about from city apartments to country inns, so there’s a variety of sources to go by. One notable feature of the Hakone Pacific Land cabins were that they were raised from the ground, with steps leading up to the entrance. I’m not sure if this is just a reason to hide a well under one of the buildings or whether this is a typical Japanese feature, but kind of reminded me of the part in My Neighbour Totoro where Mei peers underneath her large country house to look for a small spirit being who is hiding there. Personally, I’ve never had a house that I could look under! And I would be very worried if I could…

    The house was actually recreated for the Expo 2005, which will be a really great model to design from for future buildings!

    If anything, this morning’s Ryokan sketch got me thinking about the difference between the playable level background and the inactive, distant background. This will probably be mountainous, which is a backdrop which came up in Ring a few times, and makes a good background because it takes up a lot of space, is huge and consists of dull colours which won’t detract from the playable level. There may be a little sky and some clouds too.

    To give myself another starting point, I started to think about level shapes. Personally, I think it’s easy to work inside a set space than design random pathways with no real structure. Just as an experiment, I looked at the shapes of some Japanese colour Kanji, as each of my levels will have their own distinct colour schemes.

    The colour scheme for the first level is pink, or rose-coloured– “momoiro” in Japanese! I double checked all the kana in case the internet was playing practical jokes, I’ve heard stories of people accidentally getting “soup” tattooed onto themselves when they wanted “dragon” for example! Pink is also sometimes referred to as peach-coloured, but apart from that I think I’m safe to use this symbol.
    From this, I tried to build rocky structures with buildings and other features, although I still found it difficult to arrange an entire level off the top of my head. I think my safest bet for now is to keep drawing it and adapting it until it becomes clear. I’ve also found that it’s easier to concentrate on a smaller area at once, so I may split the map into four and work on a corner at a time, starting with the top-left corner where the Ryokan is situated. Here are some of my very early scribbles, you’ll see what I mean about them being fairly difficult to read! I know what they mean though.

    This is the first step in level design, according to Peter McClory who posted his really great insight into his design technique on his Blog. This was his initial level design for a game currently in development:

    I’m glad to read that he favours the scrap paper approach to initial design! My original Ryokan interior design was drawn on the back of an envelope! I think it’s important to get an idea down on paper before it fades or changes, so sometimes it’s necessary to grab whatever is closest and draw.

    With this design down, McClory moved onto squared paper to get a scale and accurate version of the level. He explains how important this is, because it must be designed to the constraints of the character who will be moving through the level.

    Once this was complete, McClory moved into tracing paper and drew in the small details of the level, traced from the basic structure on the squared paper. The result is a wonderful pencil sketch, which I could only hope to equal! Tracing paper is currently top of my shopping list.