VividBlog 3 – The Year of 2016 and Beyond

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(4th art change, a smaller Vivid was born)

Vivid has gone under so many changes that it makes me dizzy. Around February of 2016 was when both the art and game play would change for the better. At least a little. For the first couple of months Vivid was very tiny, and it was off-putting. I don’t recall why I didn’t make the changes immediately but I would end up making Vivid’s sprite bigger over time.

The art direction was becoming a mix of Kirby’s Dreamland 3 and Paper Mario. What to draw and make levels based on was more challenging. I had no plans on making a complex story, just wanted a simple game where you went from point A to point B. So the worlds were going to be your standard Grass World, Water World, etc.

As I continued renewing the physics and experimenting with mechanics I began thinking about how to approach art. At one point it was going to all be paper. There would be levels that were literally taped or stapled together. I tried color crayons scribbled on paper, colored construction paper, paints. It was very messy and remade over and over again.

The most interesting take happened at the end of 2016 where I did an entirely new approach. Instead of using tiles that were placed accordingly, I’d make entire backgrounds that were made specifically for a level. It was very exciting to do and made the game stand out.

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(Levels were a single background instead of tiles)

However there came many problems, some of which had I been more knowledgeable at the time and risky I could have approached differently. For one, all these backgrounds made for just a few levels weighed down on memory, causing the game to take longer and longer to load when I had to process it. I assumed it was because my laptop wasn’t powerful but later on I’d learn Game Maker: Studio naturally did this.

I was also cautious when it came to optimization, and still am. Many programmers say not to worry too much and put in what you want. Optimize later. It’s not so much I worry as it’s that I want to consider those with lower spec computers. I want my games to be available to as many people as possible. That’s why when I began understanding how graphics were done I was very nervous about doing this art method for an entire game.

But the absolute biggest reason was because it was exhausting to make them. It took weeks of dedication to make just a few. Each one progressively wore me out and I felt they got lower in quality as it went on. I imagine if I had a more solid plan it wouldn’t have tired me as much. It was a good lesson.

The final reason was simply due to the fact I limited the levels so they all had certain dimensions. Some levels were a single screen. Others were two screen lengths. Some were two wide and three tall. I was trying to space them to fit on Texture Pages, which for the non-programmers is where all the images are stored and drawn from. Sometimes you need multiple pages to draw stuff and using multiple ones is expensive. So having a game with entire levels made of multiple backgrounds gets a little frantic.

Ultimately I went away from this method and back to tiles. But if I were able to do a better job at managing in the future perhaps this style could be tried again. I am hoping to utilize it to some degree in the final product.

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(New tile designs with tilted view to give depth)

Instead I went with a more Kirby Super Star Style design. Now instead of looking flat, everything was made to look like it was drawn from a tilted angle. The floor could be seen giving a 3D effect while 2D. It is this look that Vivid has stayed with thus far.

Mechanically the game evolved to be faster. The previous design was large levels to explore and collect. This new one had shorter levels with a speed running mentality. You were on a very generous time limit to quickly go through a linear level. Collecting stars, defeating enemies, finding the fastest route for the best rank. The game took huge cues from Super Meat Boy and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Challenge Rooms.

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(Super Meat Boy – Team Meat)

This design overall felt right. I had various friends try it out and it worked extremely well. Vivid has retained many of these ideas.

However the big problem was theme and story. Levels could be anything and for all you knew you’d end up in a clock tower after leaving a canyon. And the story didn’t have room to grow or develop in short stages which made it less interesting. It definitely could have worked fine as it was. After all I wanted a simple story with point A to point B design. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about the previous open level design.

Thinking heavily about how to approach story and design, I found a solution. A mix of both. Levels would be made of rooms, which could be straight forward or open or lead to other rooms. This is the mentality the game now uses to shape its levels. Allows for flexibility in design and room for story segments if needed without disturbing the flow of the game.

I’d end up redoing enemies and Vivid in a completely fresh coat of paint several times due to all these changes. That’s something that happens to most people; you have something for a while and feel the need to change it or refurbish.

Besides all the art changes and design alterations the physics didn’t change too much. Only compensating for Vivid’s size. More mechanics would be introduced and tested before becoming core elements of the game. Like the weapon upgrade system.

The absolute biggest and latest change to Vivid’s design was how the Color Block mechanic worked. For over two years you had two buttons that allowed Vivid to swap colors at almost any time. It allowed for a lot of freedom and you could take control of a situation at any moment. Which is why I took it away!

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(You’re crazy)

To get into the mechanics of Vivid is something for another Blog. So next time, I’ll begin talking about the design philosophy of Vivid as a whole. It took years to fully realize it and I’m excited to write about it in detail!

VividBlog 2 – the Many Forms of Vivid

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(At least 4 iterations of Vivid thus far)

It’s so interesting to see the evolution this game has gone under. In truth I feel a lot of the ideas and even prototypes of Vivid could work as separate games just fine had I continued in that direction. But I wanted to make the game as clean and polished as possible. Some of the original ideas were also very…miss.

The original art direction was so terrible. In truth I wanted to do a marker style to support the color theme and for the colorless areas there would be a minimalist theme. As you explored, the color and art would return. The problem with mixing styles is that they clash. That and sometimes I honestly don’t have a clue what I’m doing with art. It was around this time I was still grasping at straws to understand what my style was.(Yes, I was that moron who used the bavel feature incorrectly)

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(Top- Colorless Level, Bottom- Level Restored)

My nature for creating a lot of things is sporadic I feel. I just throw whatever I can muster and see what works. Now that sounds bad and isn’t very organized but to me I’d rather have some failures and a rough time than having a clean time without mistake. There’s a more genuine feel to what you have. I suppose that’s similar to the whole idea that artists who suffer make great art, but I don’t suffer. I just have a complex relationship with it is the best explanation. Which is perhaps why I feel so happy with the current design.

So I just sat with the art for a while and see if I could make up something better in the future. In the meantime I tried thinking up more mechanics. The most interesting one during the first months was “Wolf Mode”. Vivid could transform into a wolf when she had enough color. With it came interesting advantages. Like climbing up walls, shooting energy beams, and being able to touch all the colored blocks.

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(Vivid running up the wall in Wolf Mode)

I tried designing around this feature where you’d start a level with no color collected. Collecting more filled a meter that fueled the Wolf Mode. To activate it you’d need to have the meter fill up to a certain threshold which got lower and lower as you restored more of the level. The meter would slowly fill up naturally too. So the game was dependent on you exploring and collecting all the color to proceed, gaining you better abilities as you went on. A lot of these elements are still present.

However the transformation felt limiting in one way. Constantly designing levels around having to find a certain amount of color before doing this or that. So it always felt the same in a sense. It just felt repetitive to me. Plus if you ran out on Wolf Mode during a bad time, it meant waiting. I’d eventually get rid of Wolf Mode completely and add a new character named Spirit, who’ll I’ll talk about in another Blog.

I think out of all the ideas though my favorite was the colorless world being transformed back. When making Vivid I didn’t know how big it was going to be. I thought it would be a couple of levels with a bare minimum plot, point A to point B. So the idea of having the terrain change as you explored felt overly ambitious at the time. Instead it was all cosmetic and very simple. But what I loved about it the most was how it all changed based on a percentage of what you collected. Then certain powers and elements would be granted to you as you made progress. If more work was done with this, it could easily be a game of its own. However that didn’t happen to Vivid. Perhaps another time another game.

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(2nd art change, along with varied weapons)

The absolutely biggest difference between Vivid now and then is the combat. Originally all she had was a simple short range magic attack. It would hit anything directly in front and was very limited. While transformed into a wolf she’d launch the spell, turning it into a projectile. It eventually became a sword to signify what it was better.

I’d end up redoing the art style which I stuck with for a couple of months. It was very, rough. I think out of all her designs this one was my least favorite that I did. It was made to help signify what color she was, and I gave her a sword animation to somewhat shake up the combat. It was still very much the same game but with a new coat of paint…though wolf mode changed. Mechanically the same but she kept her normal form while emitting energy. The wolf she originally became ended up becoming a separate character who’d eventually be playable… and also, my attempts to make a new wolf form looked ugly to say the least.

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(I tried)

One day, a friend pointed out to me why doesn’t she have different attacks or effects based on her color. I hadn’t really considered it since I was trying to make the game relatively simple. But I began thinking about the possibilities. It was too good to turn down, and it was the stepping stone between the initial design and the Vivid we’d get later on.

I forget exactly what all the concepts for the weapons were or how I came to a decision for which one was which. But I ended up having a Sword, Bow & Arrow, and Pick-Ax. In doing this I also realized the wolf character, Spirit, if she were to be playable would need to follow suit. That was very, VERY interesting to design. Again, I’ll talk about her in a later blog because there is so much to talk about with those decisions.

So now with that in mind, the game changed a third time. Now having a better understanding of art, I tried the Yoshi’s Island style. I was relatively pleased with it and kept experimenting. Getting rid of the colorless world idea was ultimately for the best since now I didn’t have to worry about clashing styles and the player was always gazing at colorful graphics.

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(3rd art change, Vivid loses color due to story reasons)

So many different details that were removed or changed as the game evolved, it’s hard to count. Originally there were checkpoints you could break like in Shovel Knight to get items. There was a weird grab mechanic that let Vivid telepathically lift and throw objects. There were “Animal Friends” you could find that gave special abilities like double jump that would be needed in certain areas. I had a colored butterfly that switch colors as the reason Vivid could do all this. I’d given up for two months. List goes on.

A lot of those ideas weren’t bad in particular but the game evolved and didn’t need some of them. The game overall for the first year had the mentality of needing to collect color or explore to progress. The reasoning for it when the third change happened didn’t make much sense since the colorless world idea went away. Not to mention, I began feeling the freedom of the levels was not very intuitive nor particularly the best use for her abilities. She wasn’t particularly fast unless you swapped characters making backtracking a hassle at times.

I reevaluated my design to be more straight forward. I decided to make shorter and more linear levels with a higher focus on the mechanics. Now the game felt more focused which allowed me to think of new ideas within the restrictions. The need for a art change happened as a result since the character would need more room to roam around. That’s how Vivid ended up becoming a short child.

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(Younger Vivid design originated around 2nd art change)

Most of what’s been summed up is how Vivid got to where she is. That was all of 2015 in a nutshell. Next Blog I’ll talk about 2016 and how Vivid took on a more Super Meat Boy style of game play along with many other elements being introduced.

VividBlog 1 – Conception

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So I’m going to attempt and start a blog series about the development of my game, Vivid. It was around the last few days of December 2014 that I began thinking up ideas for the game. I’m always thinking up new ideas, putting them on paper then seeing if anything comes from it. I wasn’t sure what game I wanted. All I knew is that it was going to be a relatively simple platformer since that’s my strong suit.

At first I wanted a Megaman type game, a simple run and gun. But I’m not the type of developer who simply wants to make this or that. Exploring new ideas and concepts is what I strive for in my design. So I needed to think of a new concept for players to play with inside the game.

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(Kirby Triple Deluxe – Hal)

The first idea was that there would be multiple backgrounds. Ever played Donkey Kong Country Returns or Kirby Triple Deluxe? In those games there were parts of the level you could see in the background and eventually reach or swap between. My idea was that you’d have layers the player could swap between while playing. This gave a pseudo 3D element.  I went further with the concept by making it so there were 3 backgrounds; red, yellow, and blue. That’s when the game really began to take shape.

While doing research for similar games, Way Forward’s the Mighty Switch Force popped up. It also has a similar switch mechanic but instead used blocks. There were only two types the blocks could be. That being transparent or solid. When thinking about how the levels could play out, I thought perhaps using different colored blocks instead of backgrounds might make designing a little easier. So now we have a run and gun type game with an ability to switch between 3 colors.

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(Mighty Switch Force – Way Forward)

But one problem I realized with this design was that it’s simply the Mighty Switch Force with 3 blocks to change between. And if players were to freely swap between these blocks, the design would rarely need there to be 3 kinds to get the job done. To solve this issue, I approached the blocks with a different mentality. Instead of needing to jump off or on them…what if you wanted to touch these blocks? So I made it when you touched them, you were rewarded with a collectible.

This helped shape both the game play and story for what would become Vivid. Since you were touching colored blocks and changing between them, many ideas about who the character would be appeared. I thought it would be fitting if the collectible was color itself and that it was used to return a colorless world to normal. A similar game with this theme of reclaiming a lifeless land was Okami. So I eventually made a goddess with wolf features in reference so Amaterasu.

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(Vivid Radiance Initial Design)

This was the initial design of Vivid after some doodles on paper. This is quite different from the current design in several ways. This being her official design:

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(Official Design of Vivid)

I’d eventually make a prototype that took a few weeks to work out, learning how to make the block changing work correctly took some fiddling around along with the platforming. And after that, for the next 2 years I’d experiment with different ideas before settling with what I have now. It’s honestly a little embarrassing both how long it took and how simple some of decisions were before I felt it was a true fit.

I’ll discuss those in the next Blog – the Many Forms of Vivid!

MaxBlog 1 – Hi there!

Just putting up this short blog to state who I am and what I’m doing. I’m a wannabe game creator whose been failing at making games for over 5 years. Okay, well that’s being negative, and while I haven’t made anything successful, I have had a lot of fun.

Through those failures I’ve learned a lot about game design, art, and production. For the most part its just been me at the wheel but I’ve made plenty of friends who’ve tested my nutty games and given advice. And I’m hoping to make more with better games in the future.

My current project at this time is called “Vivid!“, and have been working on it for nearly 3 years at this point. It’s a 2D platformer about using color to attack, platform or solve puzzles. It’s gone through quite the journey but I’ve been pretty satisfied with it thus far. If you’re interested, I’m pretty sure I’ll have the recent demo up soon once its been tested by some friends for bugs!

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