We can't have multiple rockets and no way of choosing between them. Here's the Play screen before and after the rocket picker. The screen is also more dynamic, those flares spin behind the selected rocket and the Go button pulses.
I was trying to avoid showing the game to people or even speaking to anyone about it because in my heart I knew that they would send me back to the Freemium game path instead of Paid-up-front. "I'm not paying for any game!" – that's what any teenager tells me. Adults agree too.
And I was so close to releasing this thing. So close.
Right, so I've accepted that and now I need to go back and make it free with IAPs again. I'll need a Shop screen, some added value purchases like consumable power-ups, and also a choice of rockets.
This past week I sketched up a few rockets, created two of them in Blender, and have been hand painting those 12 frames each so they look good and in style with the game:
I can see a light at the end of the development tunnel. I'm thinking v1.0 is pretty much done.
I've been through a lot of fit-and-finish since the last post:
- added the loading spinners, Facebook icon, email links and a whole new About screen
- created a webpage at hugotron.com, with video and gallery of screenshots of the game, along with download links
- and I played through all the 45 levels again, tweaking them here and there, making sure they look as good as ever and are playable on Medium difficulty level and without any extra times.
Which means I have now pushed a beta build onto iTunes Connect and am now trying to understand what's next on the release checklist. I know I am doing it all wrong in the marketing department: I haven't built a community of interested people – basically no one has ever heard about this game other than a few friends, and it's likely to stay so, but I'm dying to have it released.
It has been a 6 or 7 year hobby project of stubbornness. Mostly loose half hours in train journeys and lunch breaks. I wanted to create everything myself and take as few shortcuts as possible, so I went with my lower level tools: C++, OpenGL ES, OpenAL, Box2D, I created my own level editor and totally refused to use any off-the-shelf game engine. I was lucky to have Darren helping me out with music, because I had already been learning how to create music for some 3 weeks – that would have taken me a while longer, so that's where I drew the line.
So now what...? Right, let's go through some checklists again.
Most people who played the game weren't aware of the goals of the game when initially playing it. And most people won't play the tutorial before giving the game a go either. So I've added these explicit goal hints to some of the levels. It's a flag that I set in the editor for each level, and at the moment the game displays a message in English only, with the number of stars the user has to pick up and the number of spacemen, robots, aliens that need a ride. Then after three or so seconds it fades away.
I've also tweaked the end-of-level screen with some colours, green for success, red for failure and added the number of attempts so far.
And finally I've fixed a bunch of issues in the tutorial, to make it even usable. The engine is switched off right until the end, so the rocket doesn't go flying about before the user reads the whole thing, the order of the messages was changed, and a few other issues.
Now I'm working on submitting a version to iTunes Connect... Is this the final corner?
If there's one thing that all the 3 people who've ever played this game have asked for, it's an arrow pointing to where they should go next.
The phone's screen is a small window into a "vast" universe. You've just loaded a passenger and he told you which planet he wants to go to, but you have no idea of where that is. So from now on, in Easy and Medium difficulty levels, you'll see a yellow arrow bouncing in the direction of the destination planet. On Medium, the arrow is only there for 3 seconds.
I've also changed the menu background from a 3 layer parallax of some really wide images of stars to a particle emitter and some nebulae images. It has a clean synthetic look, and the stars move individually and more fluidly.
It was mostly created using assets from the game and some hand warped text, all in Affinity Designer – great app! Object manipulation is so direct and you get instant feedback that you feel so much more in control.
I call it retro-naīve-pulp-scifi style. Obviously inspired by comic books from the 1940's.
One idea I've had for a long time is to be able to configure the rocket by tuning variables like power, steering, weight and strength. That's just what I've done with this first version of the Rocket Configurator. You get to it from the Play screen:
Power is obvious. Steering effectively gives it more powerful steering jets, turning the ship more quickly. Weight makes the rocket lighter and direction changes easier. Strength is how well it handles collisions with rocks and planets.
The player can't max out all four variables. If each variable has a range of 0..1, the sum of all can only go up to 2 and the default is [0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.5].
It would possibly, maybe, be cool to have this configurator on the Apple watch and be able to change it at any time. But that's a stretch goal.
There are five animated characters in the game: Rocket, SpaceMan, Alien, Robot and TimeBomb, and only the Rocket was colour painted until now. It's taken me the last three weeks of my spare time to colour through 111 frames. Here's a sample of the result:
After all this work, I'll make sure the animations are shown well zoomed in. And I'll hopefully use them in scripted tutorial animations.
I've been slowly creating new deep space backgrounds and nebulae for each level, adding star particle layers too, and making sure they fill the whole viewport. All these layers are parallaxing, giving the game plenty of perceived depth. I've also given those planets some atmosphere and tweaked their colours a little bit. Up to date screenshots below.
So... not a huge amount of progress since I stopped posting on the blog last October! From what I can recall, I re-did the UI, got new buttons and fonts, fixed a bunch of bugs and worked on all the 45 levels, which are all playable. I still need to go through them all again and sort by difficulty level, and get them play-tested by someone.
In the process of building the levels, I added quite a few functionalities to the game. For instance there are now four types of characters which you can transport from planet to planet - Astronaut, Alien, Robot and TimeBomb. They also fight each other. Astronaut beats Robot, Robot beats Alien, and Alien eats Astronaut. The TimeBomb explodes planets 10 seconds after being dropped.
I've also created an audio engine on top of OpenAL and added some placeholder sound effects, like the rocket engine, star and power-ups and explosions, and I've had the help of my co-worker Darren, who so far has created two soundtracks, one for the menu, and one for in game. The in-game music is split in tracks, so I can flip the volume levels on each track depending on the situation, like when an Astronaut is aboard the rocket, the music becomes more exciting.
Besides audio, I also added Game Center support, all highscore tables are working and there's UI for that too.
Camera movement is so much better now too, it never shows space outside the game area, the rocket is usually in the centre of the screen, but if he approaches the edge of "space", the camera stops moving.
I'm now going through the graphics assets and either polishing, colouring or re-working them from scratch. My plan also envolves creating a bunch of background images and a few nebula and stars semi-transparent overl ays.
Here's the before and after of Asteroids:
These screenshots also show a timed level and the three blue character heads, indicating what the goal of this level is.
* Oh, right... I realise now that I hadn't even shown the old asteroids yet.
After a long time playing with all those images of planets from the web, I designed 14 new planets for using in the game. Many still need changes or touching up here and there. It was hard at first to understand what style I wanted and what would work well with the rest of the game. I think I downloaded all of NASA's available images of planets, asteroids and other celestial objects. Some of the planets are double-layered, so the SpaceMan and the Rocketship are shown behind the clouds, orbiting rocks or the rings of a planet. Here are some of them:
Grabbed from an old version on my iPad, for reference: