The Dodge Mechanic
Three blogs in and I believe this is the first ACTUAL development blog I've made.
As I mentioned in the previous dev blog about the Gamer Grace Convention, I gained a lot of feedback from different players and learned a lot about what can be done to make War Ender a better game. Since then I've taken the time to apply the lessons learned and the advice given, and I hope it'll show once the public demo launches on this website. So, without further ado, let's take a look at the things I did. Of course, it wouldn't be video game development without fixing bugs, and I got plenty of those both during Gamer Grace and after. Many of them were small things, such as the screen suddenly scrolling down on a player's death, while others were more...interesting. For example, I had to take the time to assure that the player could not acquire more than three destroyed checkpoints in a single level. After all, it wouldn't make much sense for the game to tell you, the player, that you destroyed seven checkpoints when there's only three in a level.
Fixing that was surprisingly easy though. It was mostly a matter of the game not resetting certain stats upon restarting a level, primarily through the pause screen. Another major bug fix implemented was to prevent players from continuously jumping up walls. The way this happened was tied to what's in the code as a "ground check" that the game is constantly checking. As the name implies, it checks to see if the player character is on the ground or not. But I for some reason mixed some things up in code so that the ground check was much bigger than it needed to be. Once again, simple fix. Just rearrange some code. But talk about a silly mistake!
So that's it for the major bugs that are interesting to talk about, but what about new features? Well, for starters, as seen in the gif above, the player now has the ability to dodge! This was a fun one to do, not so much because of the process of it (though it had its funny moments), but because of the number of possibilities this opens up. As a general rule, I try not to include a new mechanic into a game unless I can think of at least two or three reasons that the player would use it throughout their quest. As soon as a player mentioned the ability to dodge attacks at Gamer Grace, my mind quickly went to the possibilities that such a mechanic opens up. However, it was not until I got back home and actually implemented the dodge mechanic that I really saw what a game changer it was. Funny how a simple thing like dodging opens up so much.
You can see one of the uses of dodging in the above gif: dodging bullets. He can of course use this to dodge enemies walking towards him as well. But I thought to myself "why stop there?" So I came up with new situations that would require the use of dodging. Two things quickly came to mind: new enemies and new obstacles. Up until this point, there hasn't really been any "static" obstacles presented within the game. Most of the challenges come in the form of enemies and platforming. With the dodge mechanic complete, I went into the game's first boss, the Wall of Lasers, and changed around some of the objects that the player has to dodge in the game. From the middle and on in the boss level, there are these smaller lasers that will move across platforms that, originally, the player needed to jump over to prevent taking damage. But what if jumping over them wasn't an option? So I changed the height of these lasers and replayed the boss level to see how they feel. The effect was, of course, obvious. Now you have an obstacle that you simply must dodge past if you're going to survive the room. And they're constantly moving too, so in addition to dealing damage to the boss and watching out for bullets coming from different directions, now you have to prepare to dodge for when a tall laser comes heading your direction, rather than just jumping over it. I noticed myself keeping a healthy distance from this moving laser, giving myself room to dodge rather than before when I would often wait till the last minute and just jump when it got close.
Perhaps my favorite new item in the game that came as a result of the dodge mechanic is in this gif. Internally I refer to it as the Shielded Flamethrower Enemy. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? You might be able to gather what his quirk is from the above gif, but basically what's going on is this enemy will walk forward holding out a shield with some massive spikes on the front of it. So you can't just shoot him from the front, and pushing against the shield is obviously a pretty bad idea. You essentially have a staple among video game enemies: you can only get this guy from behind. But as you can see, I didn't stop there. The guy is also holding a one handed flamethrower that constantly spews fire above him, so simply jumping over him and attacking is out of the question too, unless you want to take some damage. He's a clever man, he is. Maybe he's seen a platformer or two. However, he's got one thing he does not counter well. You guessed it (I'm assuming you did at least), you can dodge past him, shoot him in the back, and get rid of him that way. I haven't had a lot of time to play with this enemy yet, but I look forward to seeing how he changes the battles the player has in War Ender when combined with other enemies.
Another enemy that asks you to use the dodge mechanic is simply referred to as the Pyro Enemy. Unfortunately, I haven't quite got the code for him ready yet, so I wasn't able to get any gif of him in action, but I can at least describe what he'll do. In many ways, he behaves almost identically to the basic shooter enemy that is seen in the game, but like the Shielded Flamethrower Enemy, he also sports a flamethrower. However, he uses it in a much different way. Rather than firing a constant stream of fire, he will instead only fire every now and then. Plus, due to the design of his weapon, he doesn't spew fire out of his gun in a stream. Rather, he shoots a large wall of fire that will be impossible to jump over. So once again, to prevent taking damage, you have to dodge past the fire wall.
The dodge mechanic is a significant change in the game. But surely there's more? Oh yes there is! There's another new enemy type called "The Obsessor" that was created. It's basically a flying bomb that is always following you. Thus, I felt "The Obsessor" was an appropriate name for this enemy. Oh, and it always has this delighted look on its face. He must be happy to be noticed by you. In addition, controller support has finally been achieved! You'd think this would be there from the start, but I often found that I didn't quite like how some controls felt on the controller. Primarily an issue of "I don't like that this is the button for this thing, can I rearrange it a bit?" And over time I'm sure I'll continue modifying the control scheme of the controller, but for now I have something that works and feels good. A dedicated tutorial section has also been created for the game, allowing the player the chance to learn all the mechanics and their uses before going to battle against real enemies. Not only that, but if they at any point need a refresher on the controls, they can just pull up the tutorial level and quickly relearn them before getting back into the action.
Among all this were plenty of smaller things fixed and implemented too. There were other bugs that got squashed, little tweaks to levels, and slight changes to menus. But as for the stars of the show, new enemies and a new dodge mechanic gets the spotlight for today. Between now and the next development blog, you should see a demo available for download on this website, showcasing War Ender in its finest iteration yet, so come back now and then and check to see if it's available. And perhaps, I might even come back with reports of making more levels, finally expanding on the five levels currently in the game. Of course you can always follow my Twitter for updates as they come. *wink* *nudge*
Until next time!