Friday, December 9, 2016

Rhythm Quest Update 10 - Back to the Drawing Board

This'll be the last update on Rhythm Quest for a short while!

As a bonus, instead of an animated gif, I actually have a full 60fps video (with music!) to show off this time.  Here it is:

A bunch of things have been tweaked and added!  First of all, we have actual music now, hooray!  I started trying to make a real song with the two-track idea, which was pretty interesting.  Also, the scroll rate is higher now, so things are moving faster.

I've also added support for compound notes, like attack-attack and jump-attack!  I decided that the attack-attack notes weren't actually serving much purpose (more on that later), but you can see the jump->attack notes here.  Also!  There are yellow "uppercut" notes where you need to press both buttons simultaneously.  (I don't have a separate animation for that yet)

I've also done some small tweaks to the UI as well as the audio sync.  As expected, it might be a pain getting the audio to sync correctly across multiple platforms, but on the plus side, I at least have it working very nicely on either PC or iOS (just not both at the same time yet).  That's right -- I've run my demo on my phone and it works great!  It actually looks extremely smooth, as it runs in 60fps but also probably makes good use of the higher resolution to smooth out the screen scrolling by not having the "retro snap" behavior described in my earlier update.  So that's great!  Latency is very responsive as well, so yay!

I've reached the end of my 1.5-week sprint on Rhythm Quest and I'm pretty proud of what I've made so far!  However, with my current prototype I've noticed some design issues that I need to rethink.  You can see my notes below on the issues, as well as me rethinking what made Ripple Runner and Melody Muncher intriguing and what I should be striving for with Rhythm Quest.

Essentially I'm not sold on the multiple-track idea after seeing it in action and actually playing around with it.  It seems like more of a distraction than anything, and while it IS cool to think that you can hear different variations on the music during a second playthrough, that doesn't really make your first playthrough (arguably more important) any better.  In practice it's probably most straightforward as a player to just stay on one track the whole time and ignore the junction points.  What's the motivation for switching??  I could of course add some actual incentives, or do other things like hide the non-playing track altogether, but I think the problem is a little more fundamental than that, and I don't feel like I NEED the multiple track idea to make a fun music game that builds upon my previous successes and plays to my strengths.  Initially I reasoned that it would feel really cool to be switching between the two different tracks mid-song but I find that that's not the case.  I also reasoned that it adds extra replay value, but with the effort that went into making a double-track song I could have just made two normal songs instead!  That's sort of sad as this was one of the main ideas underpinning the game initially, but I think it's important to realize that the game will probably be better if it doesn't turn out to be the exact game I set out to make.

The other issue is that I'm not sold on the two-button actions and the actual gameplay being interesting enough.  I know that runs a little contrary to what I said before because Melody Muncher was PLENTY complex and that only used two buttons, but I think there's an important difference in that Melody Muncher actually involved some pattern-recognition and "mental processing" in terms of translating the obstacles to button-presses, and that mental translation step was actually extremely nontrivial.  Ripple Runner has the same idea, though to a lesser extent.  On the flipside, the current design for Rhythm Quest has almost none of that in that the colored diamonds tell you quite plainly what you need to press and when, which makes it boil down to a "normal" rhythm game with only 2 buttons, which is hardly interesting at all!

So those are two things I'm aiming to fix with a redesign.  I do think that the "running to the right and clearing obstacles" idea works well and want to keep that, and I'm actually quite happy with the graphical style so far (though I've received a complaint that the character resembles Kirby too much).  Attacking the enemies to the music cues, along with the corresponding sound and visual effects, is actually extremely satisfying already.  But I'll probably ditch the multiple-tracks idea, and also try to come up with something that involves more vertical motion, probably involving jumping a la Ripple Runner or Bit.Trip Runner.  I think that two (or possibly three) button controls works well on a touchscreen, but I think it would be better if I didn't spell out the button presses plainly and added some level of challenge in parsing the music.  I could also take a page from Rhythm Doctor and Bit.Trip Beat in terms of making obstacles that travel toward you at different times.  I do also think that focusing more on the obstacles themselves rather than abstract "notes" will differentiate the game a little more as well.

So there's a bunch of brainstorming to do in terms of how I'll lay out the levels, what kind of obstacles to feature, what kind of gimmicks to have, how to introduce vertical movement, etc.  In the end it might end up as some sort of ripple runner + melody muncher mishmash.  There's a lot of different possibilities!

But for the time being, I'll be setting that all aside, as tonight is the start of Ludum Dare and I'll be cranking out a completely separate game in 48 hours!  After that I'll have a brief day of rest and then it's off to my new job!  That week will also be my crap-crap-crap-cram-cram-cram week for xmas letters, so I anticipate lots of letter-writing being done on the train ride to work.  We'll see if I can come up with some good ideas for Rhythm Quest in the meantime.

Also!  I'm finally going to go through with dying my hair! (not all of it, mainly the ends)  I've always been conflicted but think it's time to finally try it out.  I've always loved reddish colors on hair but think I might go with something blue to match my color styles better.  I don't know, it's really hard to choose, to be honest.

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