Monday, September 26, 2011

We Built This City

Alright then. Couple of things to talk about today. First of all, school is back in session. So these updates may be less frequent, but more stuffed full of, um, well stuff. Second, I got the City level all working. It looks more or less like this:

You'll notice, especially if you look at the last entry in the diary, that this looks pretty close to the kind of thing that I was after from the last image. All in all, it looks correct. But while I was putting the level together I had an idea. You'll notice that all of the blocks are just black. There's no outline to speak of for the buildings or anything like that. A small tweak with the color display (i.e. actually feeding a color to the color function that I built a million years ago and then making it specific for a certain stage) and I got the black that I wanted. Anyway, since I didn't have to worry about the outlines, I could get a little weird with the way the level actually plays. So I went ahead and made everything, all the way to the ground, out of the Gravity Type Ground.

What happens by the way, is that when you shoot the buildings, or enemies crash into them or shoot them, is that they fuggin pancake. Then they leave rubble that you can continue to interact with. It's awesome. Couple of things, no the physics engine hasn't gotten any more advanced and the system is basically a cheat. So, yes, occasionally the rubble with fall in such a way as to leave impossible gravity defying gaps. Also, yes, I'm okay with that since making it perfect is less important that making it play well. Using a Zeppelin to lay waste to a city is incredibly satisfying. So much so that if I ever decide to revisit the world of Paper Zeppelin, then I intend to make large portions of the game work the way this one level does, and with a proper physics engine, but that's tinkering for another time.
Also, the city level is quite easy comparatively speaking. So I'm switching the Train level to the Hard track and moving the City to the Easy path. The weirdest part of the level, is that there is no bomb to speak of. Instead I hid the base inside a building. Bombers guard this domed structure. So if you shoot them down, they fall and create a cascade of destruction fun that destroys the base. I think that by this level the conceits of the game are established enough that I can screw with them and not lose anybody. Also, they'll be busy getting their Boom on.

Also, while building the City, I realized that the Rockets play like ass. First of all, the timer on them is hidden for all intents and purposes. The timer is based on the average positions of the players when the rocket is fired. Paper Zeppelin is a shooter, so it's not like those players are going to stay still for very long, now is it? That makes the timer seemingly go off whenever it feels like it. The big explosion makes it even worse and feel cheap and broken. Also, the trajectories don't really want to play nice for some reason. They work occasionally, but usually don't. Moon-walking rockets are an all too common occurrence. So to sum it up, they look and play like crap so they are going away. I know, I spent quite a bit of time making them work, but even working as designed, they aren't very interesting.

So I'm thinking about making something with a little more character and more of a distinctive method of destruction. So I'm thinking mortar bombs. They can be fired, follow a graceful arc up and through the sky and fall back down picking up speed the whole way. Nothing in the game moves that way. The question then becomes, do they fire consistently and create an arc of doom. (L'Arc Doom?) Or do they calculate a player's position and try to hit them, doing the complex mathematics involved with hitting along the arc? I'm thinking the targeted approach is better and here's why. If they shoot all the time in the same areas, they create a zone where the players can just avoid them. That's not interesting. Making them try to target in some way creates tension. The game systems already encourage player's towards the top of the screen. Having something that will reach out across the screen to lob bombs at you creates the tension of encouraging the player into a dangerous position to take care of something that is quite dangerous if left alone. Also, I'm thinking of making those mortars destroy enemies too. Might be fun. We'll find out.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Living in the City

Alright then. Up next on the magic hit parade of levels (where the hits just don't stop!) is the City level. What's that you say? There wasn't a city type level in the original planning? You'd be correct if you said that, although about the same amount of correct if you wrote it though. Anyway, since I've decided that the train concept wasn't really enough to support an entire level all by itself, and was instead better as a kind of condiment, I needed to think of something different to fill the train shaped hole that was left.
So what I wanted to do instead was do a different kind of level that had different kinds of geometry. I really enjoyed the design space that I discovered when I built the last Hard Level, which turned out to be more of a Base than the sharp hills archetype would lead you to believe. The sharp angles and severe changes in the available gameplay spaces allowed me to do unique stuff with the design of the encounters. A city, which could be all sharp edges for the most part, would do that even better I would think.
The issue though, is that a city requires a bunch of different art. The buildings could all look the same and share textures, but that doesn't work as well as say, islands or caves would. The uniformity would look both stark and unnatural.
Unless I did something different with the art requirements. So I'm thinking of doing the level in monocolor. Something like this:

As you could see (provided the link still works in Future Land) the buildings are all just silhouettes. They are devoid of textures, but still have personality. I could also do background in a similar way provided that I blue shifted them enough. But that's a topic for a different post. Probably one that I'll get to once I start making the art pieces.

Conceivably, I could also make a small modification to the enemies, to make them match. Not sure though.

Either way, I'm starting to build the concept out in my spreadsheet in 3...2...1...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Training Day

Bloody hells I hate the level that I'm building. It's just not working. I keep throwing ideas and assets at the thing, but for some reason it simply refuses to come together in a way that I'm happy with at the point in the game that the level is. I'm talking, by the way, about the stupid Train level that I've been putting together.
The thing is, I spent a bit of time to code the trains. Usually, I'm happy to throw out stuff that doesn't work, but the trains do work, and in the right circumstances they can work pretty well. The thing is that where I have them doesn't want to be anything but ruthlessly fuggin hard.
What I came up with was the idea that since trains by themselves aren't terribly interesting, it would be better if I combined them with something else. Hence I had an idea about a sequence involving a cave and the train. Like the end of Mission Impossible, except swap out the helicopter for a zeppelin, and put guns all over the train. Also get rid of Tom Cruise.
Anyhow, the first couple versions that I built were way too damn hard. Turrets trigger based on proximity. So turrets in the open are pretty tame. Odds are they won't even shoot at you, and if they do you have a crap load of space to dodge in.Enclosed though and are the work leader in widow making. No place to dodge and usually, you're well within their range to they fire an imperial shitload of bullets.
So I thought I would combine the tricks that I made into something cool. You see, destructible ground triggers from pretty much everything. Stuff crashes, and the destructible ground goes away. Player bullets? Yep. Enemy bullets? Also yep. So I made some cover just above the gun bedazzled train all out of destructible ground. First of all, it was intense. Too much so. A train covered with guns quickly shreds destructible ground, which leave you with nowhere to hide, and you consequently get shot to bloody, flaming pieces.
So that was right out. Instead I tried to go in and make the middle sammich pieces out of normal ground. That didn't work either since the core parts ended up too small to cover all the angles that the guns were shooting at. While that would be kind of cool in a cover based shooter, it seems to have a bad case of Fail in a shooter.
What I finally ended up with in my tunnel, is a kind of bridge with holes in it. The train runs underneath this "bridge" type structure, and can fire through the holes. "But," I thought to myself, " I can't really shoot down on the train from here." So hanging above the bridge holes are some gravity ground, that you can shoot to drop onto the cars. Is it tricky? Yes, possibly too much for an easy track level. Yet at the same time there is an alternate route that avoids the train (and the Bomb natch) altogether. For now though, the level works well enough and I'm happy enough with its rough hewn shapes to move my happy ass along to the next hopefully easier level.