Devblog 36

Our second year of development comes to a close with Beta 1.5.

You can download the build here and read the changelog here.

It’s been a pretty rough year for Gerty: team members have come and gone, plans have changed, but we’ve stuck it through. We would’ve hoped to have the game a bit further along at this point, but such are the realities of development.

Plans for the future

Before anything else, a quick overview of what’s to come next year. Firstly, we’ll be having some well deserved holidays for the rest of the year, coming back to work in January. I’d estimate that’ll leave our next blog somewhere around February. Secondly (and most importantly), we’re aiming to finish Gerty’s development some time next year. I won’t give a closer estimate than that, since our timetable is in flux. That leads directly to the third thing: we’re planning on having Beta 1.6 be our last public build before release, at least in terms of content. We’ve long talked about about moving away from constant builds and that point is finally at hand. If we’re to stick to our projected timetable, we’ll need to focus fully on content development. In all honesty, we’ve been in somewhat of an iteration loop for too long and it’s time to break out from that. More details regarding all of this at the end of this post.

Forges & Items

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Our old item system (Chests and Shops) have left a lot to be desired, so we have a new system to replace them: Forges. Instead of having to make a limited decision on the fly, you’ll now get to spend more time building your character as you see fit.

forge-ui

Though the UI might be quite a lot to take in at a glance (especially in co-op),  Forges should enable more interesting character building and progression. In addition to the element of choice they provide, there are other significant changes and limitations compared to the old item system.  All items now have individual costs instead of being based on rarity, most (but not all) are upgradable with a maximum level of 4 (instead of unlimited). Your inventory is also now limited to 10 different items (previously unlimited), so you’ll never be able to own every item at once. All in all these changes allow us to make individual items feel more powerful without totally wrecking the balance. You might also notice items no longer have any mention of rarities. They are now divided into 4 groups based on functionality: Offence, Defence, Utility and Stats. Each group has it’s own Forge, so you won’t be purchasing every item from the same place.

forges

Though we didn’t expect to have much time to work on items themselves, I’m proud to announce that we have our full set of 40 items (plus 5 reusable “services”) usable in the game. For this reason we’ve disable all achievements in this build, so that you’ll have access to every item from the get go. So go test them out and give us feedback! I would hazard a guess that some of the items will be replaced before our final release, but it’s really nice to have such a big part of the game “finished”. I also expect there’ll be a minor changes to the Forge system too down the line, but we’re starting to lock stuff like this down to break the iteration cycle.

items

HUD rework

I’ve gone through most of this our previous blog so I’ll be brief. We’ve got new player skill HUD’s, which are now positioned in the corners of the screen to help co-op. We’ve replaced the previous threat timer with a snazzy Threat Bar. We’ve removed the stage name from the HUD as it’s visible in the Loading Screen before the stage. The objective announcement text has been redone and it no longer sticks around.

ui-comparison

The Threat Bar shows the overall threat level of the stage, which should help you gauge when it’s time to get out. It also warns about incoming threats with a clear 3 second flash and rumble sound.

We’ve also added more info to the indicators around the player. You can now see your Ultimate skill charges, skill cooldowns and Combat Shield (when purchased from a Forge)

indicators

Game Over

It was high time to address one of our shortcomings as a rogue-like: fast restarts. Previously when you got killed, the Game Over -text stuck around for quite a while before fading to a loading screen, after which you could restart, which led to another loading screen. No more. A few seconds after death you’re now taken immediately to the Game Over -screen, which cuts down on unnecessary down time. We’ve also made the visuals of the process a bit nicer as well as added a few new stats for your amusement.

Options at all times

It’s been a looooooong time coming (over a year in fact), but our in-game Options are finally accessible. You no longer need to quit back to the Main Menu if some setting is wrong or your buttons need tweaking.

options

Tutorial improvements

Although having a good tutorial is super important, reworking it is pretty taxing. With the addition of Forges (and new HUD), we had to make somewhat sizable changes to the Tutorial, which eventually led to us making a decent overhaul of it in the process: we’ve stripped some steps, combined others and added some new ones. Most notably the Tutorial now includes the threat mechanic (Mother Worms) and our new Threat Bar. In total it’s about the same length as before, but it should flow a whole lot better than ever. Unfortunately I already know there’ll be a few changes to it in the next build…

tutorial

Signs of battle

Based on feedback we’ve received and… “borrowing” things from successful titles such as Nuclear Throne, we decided to try out if leaving corpses, blood and explosion craters around for longer would make the stages feel more lived in. The result was a resounding yes.

battle

We’ve also given all our explosion effects a little move visual oomph.

Plans for Beta 1.6

For this build we had two focuses: the Forge system and reworking the UI. For Beta 1.6 we’re going to be quite ambitious. Here’s a quick rundown of our goals:

  • Revamp unlock & achievement system
  • Expand stage creation with new elements
  • Revamp our enemy generation and add new types of enemies
  • MINI-BOSSES!
  • Expand world length to 8 levels

As you might expect, that’s quite a lot of stuff for one build. The thing is though, most of the stuff is interconnected in some way or another, so it really makes most sense to do all of this in one batch. Seeing as this post is already pretty lengthy, I’m going to leave the details for next time. That’ll give me something to write about early next year, so you guys don’t have to endure several months of silence. However let it be known some of this stuff is already underway.

In addition to adding new enemies, we’ll also be reworking the visuals of old ones. You can see a little taste of what’s to come in the build already:

Content changes for full release

Lastly and quite related to the previous topic it’s time to discuss the biggest change related to Gerty’s release. We’ve done some soul searching and seeing how this year has gone, we’ve decided to cut out worlds 3 and 4 from the game. Instead, we’ll be expanding worlds 1 and 2 by doubling their stage count, adding more variety to the stages and cramming them full of new enemies to fight. In practice this means less visual variety throughout the stages and only two major boss fights. Though this will most likely be quite a letdown for most of you, this is done purely out of necessity. If we’re to finish the game within the next year, we really have to be smart about our content creation, as it has been our biggest stumbling stone during development. I’ll spare you of all the minutia of the matter, but know that we’re still aiming to deliver the most engaging experience we can.

Summary

Making such big revisions to the core mechanics as the Forges was quite a harrowing task, but we believe it was the correct choice in the scope of our revised future plans. And though our plans for Beta 1.6 are big, we’ve already laid some of the groundwork in this build though it mostly not visible. As I’ve said many times before, game development ain’t easy.

Happy holidays for everyone, we’re due for some well deserved time off!

Till next year, folks!

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