Defendy Rocket - Development Update #1

It feels a little weird writing this so soon after the announcement of the game, but it kinda shows you how fast these things can move (not to mention I was adding a lot of this stuff yesterday while Dave was preparing the announcement video and accompanying blog post).

So we've made a whole bunch of changes since that original video. I'm going to discuss each one below.

Time Dilation

One of the biggest features we've added this week is the introduction of time dilation into the game, which activates while the player is drawing the rocket's route:

This solved a really huge problem we were having with the game: As the player was drawing the route, the enemy rockets - as slow as they used to be - could make it a fair way down the screen. This meant by the time you'd got half way through drawing, you were no longer in the correct place to intercept them, and you'd have to compensate. In fact you would have to over compensate... A LOT! It made the game artificially difficult and a bit annoying at times.

By giving the player some breathing room while the game slows down, they can take their time to plan the rocket's path. Nailing a good route through multiple rockets now feels really satisfying, like it should, and not as if you just got really lucky. This also meant we could significantly ramp up the speed of the enemy rockets to make anticipating their path important again (it used to be more like that in earlier builds). We also ramped up the speed of the player's rockets to balance out the new enemy speed.

Currently we've got the player rockets, enemy rockets and the star field in the background being manipulated by the time dilation. The particle explosions when the enemies die still need to have some functionality added before the same happens for them, but this is going to be a little trickier to get to work.

Also, one downside to the time dilation logic being implemented is that we've lost the hit stops that used to occur (short pauses when the player destroys an enemy). Although these were very temporary and not done particularly well, they improved both the impact of the player's rockets destroying enemy rockets, and spaced out the explosions nicely. We're going to look into ways to re-incorporate them without making the time dilation unpredictable.

Multiple Rocket Spawning

The second biggest change we did this week, was to re-write the route generating system, allowing the player to create multiple rockets at once! This is a quick grab from one of the tests I did:

Although the rockets are flying backwards and the routes don't disappear when the rocket reaches the end in this preview, it shows just how much of a different to the dynamic this makes to the game.

Previously the player would spend a second or so drawing a route, then wait another 2-3 seconds for the rocket to complete its path, before being allowed to draw a new route. This meant that the player was literally spending most of their time waiting to see if their rocket reached its destination, rather than interacting with the game. Now they can start drawing another trail instead, keeping their interest a lot higher. We have plans to make this relevant to the scoring system too via combo system, but it's a very rough idea at the moment, so I won't go into detail here.

Route Creation Rule Change

We added a requirement to make the player draw a new route from the bottom of the screen (rather than being allowed to start anywhere and having the game automatically plot a straight line up the screen from the ground plane). This makes picking off the single rockets a little trickier and forces you to use a bit more skill (rather than just tapping your finger on the screen over the rocket to get a perfect, straight line shot).

Later, we went back and gave the player a little leniency when creating a new route, allowing them to start drawing about 8% of the way up the screen from the ground plane. This meant that if you dragged up from the ground plane, but happened to be off by a few pixels, you wouldn't be harshly punished for it by not having a route begin drawing (which happened to us a few times).

Route Length Capped

We've reduced the length of the route that the player can draw (we're thinking of making this upgradable later). This doesn't currently have any affect on gameplay if you're playing the game correctly, but forces you to think about what you're doing a little more if you used to just draw haphazardly.

Other Minor Changes

Finally, a few other minor changes that have happened:

  • Dave's been designing and modelling a new set of enemy rockets. A very rough new single enemy rocket has already gone in. We took this time to get a better idea of how big these rockets should be in the game world.
  • We tweaked the ground plane a little, raising it up slightly. This was mostly to put it back into the right place after it got shifted in the prototype. I spent some time making sure this was in the ideal position on a smaller phone's screen.
  • The route shader has been improved a little (better than the bright pink anyway!).

Video

You can see all of these changes working together in our end of week 1 video, below:

What's Next?

Next week we intend to get the following into the game / fixed:

  • Multiple enemy rocket types starting to go in from both code/logic side.
  • Make the explosions affected by time dilation.
  • Improve the game over loop (it's way too sudden a transition at the moment when you die).
  • Add an entirely new scoring system.
  • Improve some of the feedback systems.
Posted on June 5, 2015 .