Shifting Dungeons ~ Post-LD35 Update 1

One thing I’ve become exceedingly bad at is updating games once I’ve thrown them onto the Internet for the first time. The last time I did such a thing was probably over a year ago. But, starting today, I am a changed man! For I have vowed to complete Shifting Dungeons to a standard that I’m happy to put my name to and watch it run off into the wider world, playable and somewhat consistent. Ahh, games, they grow up so fast. I’ve been very preoccupied lately with ruining my sleep schedule by doing coursework right up until deadlines (and beyond…), but that didn’t stop me tweaking Shifting Dungeons a bit.

Without further ado, it’s time to list what’s changed! That’s what change-lists are for, after all.


Character Customisation

There’s a handful of new character customisation options, bringing the total of skin and clothing colours available to 8 each. That may increase in the future, but for now I’ve stuck with 16 total options because the UI feels clean and not overwhelming with choice, while providing a relatively broad number of outfit combinations.
The whole character customisation scene has a background too – I’ve decided to make it look like the player is getting changed in their bedroom. It’s woefully incomplete currently, but it’s a start.


Options Menu

The bare basics of an options menu are also now in the game. Most importantly, this menu has an exit button – something I’m very good at forgetting to add. Now you don’t have to Alt+F4 out of the game or use Task Manager! There are sliders for adjusting music and SFX volume and for changing text speed, but they don’t do anything right now (especially since there’s no music and next to no text). However, the sliders’ values are accurately stored, so it’s a start! I’ll probably have them fully implemented by next update.


Intro Cutscene

I’ve also started work on a cutscene for the start of the game. It’ll be rather short and serve only to introduce the concepts and backstory of the game in a better way than the Ludum Dare entry version handled it – a wall of text. Instead, short sentences accompanied by pretty pixel art will probably work better. Similar cutscenes will appear during major story arcs, but since there’s no story right now, this is the only cutscene implemented.


Controller Support

Any controller that supports X-Input should work with the game. I say should; I’ve been testing the game using a Wii U pro controller and an adapter that allows it to mimic an Xbox 360 controller (which uses X-Input), so hopefully it also works with other X-Input devices, although I can’t promise anything will work perfectly. The controls are fairly simple and you shouldn’t have any trouble getting to grips with them. However, there are no in-game instructions for controllers, so here is an image detailing how the controls work (which I probably could have just included in the game anyway):


Enemy Lock-on

To make it easier to take down baddies, you can now lock onto them. On a controller, aim in the general direction of the enemy and press the left button; using a mouse, press the right mouse button. It’s the same button to de-lock (lock off?), but make sure you’re not aiming at an enemy when you do it or it’ll just lock onto the new enemy. Unless that’s what you wanted to do, then great, that’s how you do that. When locked onto an enemy, their health will appear next to them and decrease in realtime, plus your bullets will fire straight at them, so you can see why it’s a handy feature. Plus, when you kill a locked-on enemy, it’ll automatically lock onto any nearby enemies. To aid your aiming, there’s a second cursor – the orange one is for locking on while the white one is the mouse’s actual position. I’ve yet to implement the white cursor for controller input, but it’ll be in the next update for sure. Oh, and the cursor sprite and animation is a lot fancier, too.


Mechanical Changes

The biggest gameplay change is possibly the addition of the Energy bar. There is a distinction between powerup energy and general energy, hence there two energy bars; the leftmost one, with the thunderbolt icon, will decrease when you fire bullets or slow down time and replenish when you move. The one on the right, with the arrow icon, starts off full when you pick up a powerup (try saying that five times fast), then slowly falls as you move until it reaches zero and the powerup expires. Health replenishes as you move as before, but at a slower rate, plus the UI is more reactive; being hit makes the health bar shake, and having low energy makes the energy bar shake more, the lower energy you have. Staying stationary also no longer stops time completely, but it slows it down a lot.

Shooting mechanics have had a bit of a mix-up too. Your bullets and enemy bullets don’t collide any more, as it provided an easy way to get rid of enemy attacks and there was no incentive to use the time-slowing mechanic to dodge bullets. However, you can now hold down the shoot button to start a hailstorm of bullets and wipe enemies off the map without me being liable for loads of repetitive strain injury lawsuits! To balance the increased shooting speed and the ability to lock on to enemies, your bullets do half as much damage, although in the next update I hope to add some system such as different bullet types that’ll let the player (and enemies) do more damage.

A few other changes are there, namely that rooms are much larger and the camera is zoomed out so the player can see further. It makes it slightly less confusing when you can hear you’re being shot at, since you can more easily see where it’s coming from by virtue of the threat actually being on-screen or only just off-screen, not a million miles away.


Yay low-quality GIFs! My computer is just bad at everything…

Bug Fixes

You know that game-breaking bug I wrote about in the last blog post? The one that means you couldn’t get past the first dungeon because you’re unable to move on its final floor? That’s been squished. There were also a couple oversights where the game would sometimes skip to the final floor when there was supposed to be another standard floor before it, but now the floors act like they should.

Bugs Implemented

There’s only one that I’ve actually found and can remember, and it’s not hugely important: on the character select screen, the player’s face appears blank. That’s because technically he’s looking upwards, and due the the fact the player’s at an angle in 3D space, the game doesn’t recognise the mouse position correctly and doesn’t face it. If you press the right stick on a controller, the player will face the correct way, but unfortunately the right stick’s rest position has the player looking upwards anyway… Swings and roundabouts, huh?


Meet the very introverted and shy hero of the game.

Next Update’s Priorities

Most of all, I hope to implement more enemy types. Right now, there’s only one type, and they share the same sprites as one of the character customisation options. They all share the same terrible AI too, so I’m going to at least attempt to work on pathfinding and give some enemies different attacking styles. I’ll also try to make more dungeon types and give more variety to the dungeons themselves – different sizes, shapes and maybe obstacles inside the rooms. Plus, I’ll try to finish the powerups that were originally planned for the Ludum Dare version and implement new ones – the ‘shapeshifting’ aspect of the game is a little bare currently. Finally, I still need to balance the floors’ difficulties and spawning rates of enemies and powerups, since it’s still very imbalanced.



Shifting Dungeons ~ Ludum Dare 35 (Shapeshift)

This weekend was the thrice-annual Ludum Dare game jam. The rules for the competition are simple: working alone, you must create all game assets yourself and come up with a complete game in 48 hours to abide by a predetermined theme. There’s also a more relaxed ‘jam’ version, with a 72-hour time limit, in which you may work in teams and use assets from online, but because I must be a masochist I entered the competition version for the fifth time in a row. These game jams are a bit of a habit now!

The theme is voted on by the community beforehand in several phases (and is almost always terrible), so this time we got stuck with ‘Shapeshift’. Immediately the idea of shape-shifting dungeons came into my head, because I’ve been hanging out with people obsessed with making Mystery Dungeon-like games for far too long (James, I blame you. Unless you’re a different James, then carry on with your day). I’ve basically made a dungeon crawler-meets-my Ludum Dare 32 entry, but it has a twist!


I tried making the art look pretty. I think it worked?

In some tile-based dungeon crawlers, such as Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, players and enemies move simultaneously each turn. However, to avoid having to create a tile-based turn system, I’ve allowed players and enemies full 360-degree movement. To keep things somewhat ‘simultaneous’, enemy and bullet speeds are tied to the player speed. Think 2D SUPERHOT. This allows the player to stop for a moment and think: do I shoot the enemy’s bullet down before it hits me, or move to the side and shoot them directly? It’s the closest analogue to a turn system I could think of in a continuous game other than each character moving in turns of, say, five seconds each. Which would have sucked.


I also added a couple of powerups for the player, and had planned more that got cut due to time constraints. Currently, there’s the axe powerup, which turns the player into a massive slab of metal on a stick that ups attacking power massively and increases defense. There’s also a slime powerup that turns you into an amorphous blob (in the style of Dragon Quest’s slimes) and lets you shoot bullets that slow enemies (or, well, they would if they weren’t bugged in the release version). That brings me to the next feature: bugs!


The second dungeon, Glacial Rift. Shame that a bug prevented reaching it.

In the release version of the game, there were three dungeons. However, because of a wonderful bug on the lowest floor of the first dungeon, you can’t access the other two – the player won’t move once you reach that floor. It’s a bug that took 5 seconds to find, one line to correct and was stupidly introduced right before submission – I immediately knew what I did wrong but hadn’t thought to check whether the stuff I added would have any negative consequences. In short, I’m an idiot when I’m sleep-deprived. Above is a screenshot from the second dungeon, Glacial Rift, albeit taken after submission (I’ve been working on the game a bit since the deadline). There are a few smaller bugs related to combat, but they’ve mostly been figured out and weren’t too disastrous.


The character select screen was one of the first things I fully implemented.

I had to abandon a couple of planned features, too. Originally, there were set to be more powerups – the Drill, American Footballer and Super Magician. The drill powerup would have let you tunnel through walls, while the footballer would have granted you a powerful charge attack that lets you vault through enemies at high speed. Transforming into the super magician would have given you a cape and made your magic attacks stronger, faster and larger. I also didn’t get time to implement all the little flourishes I wished to put into the game – there are no particles (a disgrace, I know!) or death animations for either the player or enemies. The screenshake is also a bit weak in places – I’ll probably increase the strength when enemies die. On the graphical side, I wanted to have a few more character customisation options, but at least that system was working entirely. I’d also planned a couple more varieties of dungeon theme, like City, Forest or Volcano, but I’m happy with the two that made it through (Temple and Ice).

I’ve already got a ton of notes written down for how I’d improve this game, and that’s just what I’m in the process of doing. I’ll have an updated version up soon! In the meantime, you can play the game on the Ludum Dare website! Just clicky da box below. Voting is still taking place, so if you also made a game for Ludum Dare 35, I’d really appreciate it if you voted for my game and left feedback!


Ludum Dare 32 – An Unconventional Weapon

At the weekend was the latest iteration of the three-times-yearly competition Ludum Dare, in which participants have 48 hours (or an extra 24 for the Jam version) to make a game entirely from scratch, with all assets and code being made by participants in the time limit. This time around, the theme was “An Unconventional Weapon”, so naturally I chose a gun that fires hugs, love and affection.

i_will_be_happy_3This is NOT what you want to wake up to on a Monday morning.

The story of the game is that you’re in a city full of overly-negative inhabitants, and you’re sick to the back teeth of hearing their sulky, albeit comically-high-pitched, comments. You decide it’s high time someone put a stop to this madness, and you strut into the city centre with your arsenal of happiness-inducing munitions.

i_will_be_happy_4The shotgun is SOOOO satisfying when you hit loads of enemies at once.

You have five guns to hand, each with slightly different mechanics – one fires a single hug, while one is a shotgun that blasts a cone of affection in the face of enemies. The Rainbow Blast is your get-out-of-jail-free card, as it eliminates most enemies in all directions in a flurry of colour, but only has two shots. My favouite part of the game is the voice acting – I just recorded myself saying stuff in the very highest voice I could muster, then stuck it in Audacity and pitch-shifted it even higher, resulting in the Worms-meets-Croc kind of voice in my game.

The character select was another cool feature too. Rather than the player be forced to choose one single (probably straight white male) character, I opted for a way to let players have at least some choice I how the player looks, and made the enemies’ appearances choose randomly from these colours too. All people in the game are also somewhat gender-neutral too, as they are way too featureless to really have a gender, however I may add options for hair or hats in the pot-competition version.

i_will_be_happy_1What started out as procrastination turned into a feature.

Hitting enemies with weapons felt pretty responsive, with a satisfying ‘bang’ sound and some screen shake. The enemies’ quotes did get annoying at times as there were too many things being said at once, although this could be helped by introducing a variety of new sounds and controlling when enemies speak in a different way.

There are many things I will add and change for a post-competition version –  first of all, I’ll introduce enemies that try and shoot you with hate. One thing players seemed to notice is that the game is too easy, and enemies that shoot back will totally help with that. Another thing is that the enemies seem to congregate on top of each other, but the game would work better if they formed a horde of pessimistic city-goers.

There’s a few other features I’ll add to make the game a bit more varied too – combos, more scenery, new weapons – but I’ll try and focus on fixing the problems in the competition version first of all. You can play I Will Be Happy on the Ludum Dare website. If you participated, then please vote and feel free to leave comments, ideas and criticism!