Long time no see! We’ve been on multitask mode the last months, balancing the gameplay with continuous testing and adding new content in form of enemies and bosses.
A lot of time has been spent debugging one of the most challenging chapters of the game, focused entirely on puzzle solving and interaction with the player surroundings. It took us a little more than expected but the result was worth the effort since it gives a twist to the game narrative and adds a great variety of mechanics.
And in the end that is our main focus with this project, trying to develop an experience that is constantly shaping the gameplay and allows players to face situations in their own way. Now let’s take a look at some of the things that we’ve been working on.
Start Menu: skills, collectibles, tutorials and options
All game menus are coded and completely functional by now, though some of the designs like the skill set descriptions, photo locations, or tutorials are unfinished and will remain so probably until the game is completely balanced and tested -Fx need to be added too-. Here you can have a look at the structure of the START / ENTER menu and its navigation in detail.
This is the interface where players will be able to see what abilities have been unlocked, their skill set and the number of skill points obtained to enhance them.
The skill points are shown in the center of the tree and can be used to power up all the abilities that have an icon with the shape of said points below them.
These abilities can be reset to LV1 on Garden rooms -Save places-, giving the possibility to readapt the gameplay strategy for each player -some may prefer to boost the offensive skills or upgrade other stealth techniques instead-. This makes the gameplay more malleable and could help players to overcome certain situations if they have problems solving them with their current set of abilities.
Della’s pictures will be scattered throughout the facility and will reveal the location of hidden skill points. Once players figure out the room revealed by a photo, an interactive prompt will appear upon the object that hides the skill point. Pressing the action button near it will drop this item.
Once an important scene has been played the personal info of certain characters will appear below this submenu.
The texts will expand the universe of the game and, also, show the Kickstarter profiles send by backers of the Replicant and above tier -don’t worry, we didn’t gather your bios yet. We’ll let you know by private message and e-mail-.
Not much to say about this. You’ll be able to change the resolution, audio, language, and other common stuff that can be found in most games. The game options submenu allows to load a game file or exit to the main menu / desktop.
New development tools
Development tools have been created in the meantime to improve different work routines like to speed up the creation of rooms and the testing process. This is a selection of some of the most useful:
Room Version Swapper
This script allows us to change entire rooms, adding or modifying enemies, situations, and graphics inside them such as backgrounds and interactive objects -platforms, panels, etc.- while maintaining the main structure of the rooms unaltered -sorting layers, positions, and others-. This was required for different reasons like changing complete rooms for aesthetic purposes -going from a regular background to a burned one with partial parts of both rooms intact, for example- or the need to show a different color adjustment curve for a certain situation.
In reality, this script only changes the room a door is pointing at, so when you cross that door the room seems different than before. The consequences of doing this, however, are much more complicated to deal with, considering that we have to update the map and the internal information about the room. Persistence of objects in both rooms becomes a bit tricky too.
A simple tool to replace selected game objects with other ones on the editor, useful for changing decorations on duplicated rooms or updating objects without losing old prefabs. It preserves the position of the object on the scene and the sorting layer.
Improved climbable platforms
Since not all the platforms need to show a climbable prompt on both sides – for example, connected shelves, stacked piles of boxes, etc.- we needed to unfold each interactive platform on the project hierarchy and deactivate its properties in order to make it unclimbable.
With this new script we can check / uncheck this option inside the script if an object needs to have an active corner to be climbable.
Additionally, any side that’s left activated will check every frame if it’s truly climbable or has to deactivate itself in case anything is blocking the way like a pushable platform, or moving the platform itself and losing the ground.
Upgrading the World generator
The rooms are conceived as individual entities which in turn are part of another GameObject: the chapter in question stores multiple room prefabs with different components and properties so it took some time for the engine to create playable builds for testing. The larger the project was growing, the longer it took to generate those builds so we decided to make a new option on our own Level editor tool to generate specific areas of the map instead of loading the whole bunch of stages and connections between them. Now we can create test builds in no time and perform changes faster.
Removing the walk restriction for the Camo ability
As you were able to experience after unlocking the Camo skill on the playable demo, anytime you make a move while having the invisibility on Subject W will abandon this state and left the player exposed to the enemies.
Our main goal with this ability was to give players a tool to resolve certain situations and not overshadow the rest of the skills or avoid the use of the surroundings -basically going invisible and walking by most of the enemies-. Allowing certain npcs to detect us depending on the Level of the skill helped to balance it, but on the other hand we couldn’t help but sense that penalizing players to stay quiet during its use was a little bit harsh and the cost of wasting an energy leaf if they press the skill inadvertently or need to maneuver during its use might be a little abusive.
We tuned up this mechanic and now you can move with the camo active. Enemies will still be able to detect Subject W if you move on Camo mode and they will attack until the plant stays put in another position (think of it as the Predator visual effect: quiet is untraceable but the graphic distortion generated by any movement reveals its position). A light tint effect was added to the camouflage on movement to differentiate both states.
As you can see in the video, enemies will stay in front of the last point where they identified the plant so players won’t walk past them every time to avoid complex situations. Upgrading the skill to another level will increase the time of use to avoid enemies on alert state.
Pixel perfect animations for state bubbles
So far these bubbles -which represent if an enemy is distracted, searching, alerted, or knocked out- showed a smooth transition emptying the bubble of its color to reflect the amount of time left.
Each bubble box has an icon inside it, and these kinds of transitions sometimes blurred the graphic and the final design wasn’t very clear so we decided to show progress pixel by pixel, blending with the pixel perfect look of the game.
Well, not exactly new but we made a few tweaks to it. First of all, we noticed that making the decoy appear by Subject W’s side caused different errors like getting stuck inside a box or appearing in the air near a corner before falling:
Now the decoy appears in front of Subject W to avoid these problems:
Also, in order to differentiate both W and the decoy we changed its color scheme and tinted its seed green like the one of Subject W to relate them aesthetically.
It is only a simple detail but now the door gap shows more detail instead of having a black mass on their inside when the door is open.
New corridor maps
These graphics have been reworked to show a more clean design of a sector and stand out the colors representing Save gardens, elevators, and others.
Also, the squared modules are imported as individual game objects instead of full maps designed by hand outside the game engine. This helps decrease the size of the graphic atlas and allows to quickly modify them if rooms that are changed or replaced.
LED lights for different decorations
Animations of flickering LEDs have been added to different elements such as computers, servers, and other electronics, giving more depth and richness to the backgrounds.
A lot of interactive panels can -or must- be accessed by the decoy so we created larger surfaces for these elements in order to see that they both work as a panel and as a platform.
Skin shading achieved
As shown on a previous post we were looking for a way to modify the color palette of a character while applying other effects above it, like the red alarm layer. Eventually, we ended up doing one of the first ideas we had and one which was suggested by some of you -huge thanks to those that tried to help us- so we made an uber-shader capable of processing all the color effects in place at any given point.
A shader is created for every type of enemy that we are going to need, these shaders take a variable amount of colors -that varies on the type of character- and when the shader detects a pixel with one of these colors it changes it to another color -for every original color we have another which is going to replace it-. Apart from this, the shader is capable of tinting and blending external color effects with the character’s current palette.
More enemies and traps
These turrets won’t allow Subject W to go through a specific way by shooting viciously in our direction if we dare to go pass their warning range.
They can be disarmed if we deactivate their button from behind or drop a decoy without being noticed:
Remember those annoying enemies from Megaman that run in your direction any time that you put a foot on the floor? They are back! Well, more or less…
The saws are designed to interrupt their patrol routine when either Subject W or the decoy are at surface level. The camo ability doesn’t work in this case but the decoys can stuck them temporarily.
It could seem that we slowed down a little bit in content creation since the game required a huge amount of debugging for certain levels that were built with multiple versions, but we are developing most of the milestones much faster that months ago. Still, there’s sooo much stuff that needs to be added, especially in the bosses department. We are putting around 10 hours a day on the project -and happy to do so if we manage to give you a polished and entertaining product- but even with all that time invested in the development, we are still unable to give a closed release window as of now. We usually resolve key milestones while building levels and testing, but there’s a limit to the stuff we can do being a team of 3 with a single programmer. Luckily the core is solid and from now on most things rely on already made gameplay mechanics, but a pair of enemies and some of the bosses still require new structures and ad hoc routines that can’t be reused from other ones.
In any case, we can state for sure that 2018 will be the final year of development for Paradise Lost and we’ll -luckily- complete the final bits of the game for the first quarter of the year. With that in mind, we don’t want to rush it and have an early release with a lack of content so we’ll keep you constantly updated about any issue.