Saturday, April 30, 2011

In Profundis progress (4/30)

Have gotten noting done on the game over the past couple of days, partly due to working in the dreaded pizza mines (I have a sucky job), partly because of trying to think of new avenues to explore for pledges.

I'm thinking the best thing to do at this point is to get basic equipment working (pitons, ropes, pickaxe, airgun), without inventory management if need be (just allowing for infinite uses), and trying to make something playable on a rudimentary level.  If I can do this in a week, I can then maybe take it to TIGsource or Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and get mentions in those places before the project expires.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

In Profundis progress (4/28)

Unfortunately the last few days progress has been fairly limited.  I tweaked graphics a little.  I did make a couple of Reddit posts, but that's about it.

Honestly, the Kickstarter thing has made me nervous beyond all reason.  I keep racking my brain for places to write to try to publicize the thing that might bring in some more backers, but so far I haven't come up with many that it seems likely would post a link to it.

The Kickstarter blog posted an entry recently saying that 90% of projects that make it to 30% funding then go on to get to 100%, but it doesn't seem awfully likely to me right now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

About In Profundis

IN PROFUNDIS (Kickstarter project) is a 2D cave exploration game in a very random world.  Not only is the cave highly unpredictable (as you can see in the below demo video), but it also has dynamic, flowing water, falling boulders, dangerous gases with random properties, and many other dangers besides.  It is somewhat realistic; your character's abilities are modest, more like what a real person could accomplish, but you can use equipment brought from base to help you get around: pitons, hammers, ropes, air guns, and more. 

Platforming demo:

In Profundis is inspired by the roguelike games in the high consequences for failure, the dynamic, mysterious nature of the randomized world, and the limited range of vision.  While some monsters are planned, the player's true foe is the cave itself.

If you went to an unexplored cave in the real world, how would you explore it it?  How would you explore it without getting yourself trapped, crushed, flattened, suffocated or lost?  What would you need to bring with you to ensure you could get out alive?

The Kickstarter page is here.  Please pledge today and help to make my game a reality!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In Profundis progress (4/25)

I've gotten the platforming part working acceptably for now.  I've added one more task to accomplish before making the new video and going on the ALL-OUT MEDIA BLITZ which honestly just includes posting to Reddit and submitting to Rock, Paper, Shotgun and maybe Tigsource.  But that's because it's one of the key features that I think will make In Profundis worth playing: the limited visibility routine.

When you can see the map around you on your screen filled it, the feeling is entirely different when you can only see the area right around you.  But just limiting what is shown to what you can see at a given instant, I think, is not fair to the player.

My compromise is a roguelike-style on-screen "map memory" that shows places you've seen before but can't now with a different graphics style.  The idea is to present those areas with a "hand-drawn" graphics set, like sketched with a marker, but for the time being they're displayed with schematic-style shapes with line shading.  The graphics aren't bad I think, but I need to work more on the visibility algorithm.  It works currently acceptably in real-time, in fact I'm often seeing a substantial time gain since I don't have to draw the parts of the map that haven't been seen yet.  But it's a little _too_ realistic I think; for gameplay's sake, I think it would be better if the player had a little extra visibility, maybe a little around corners.

Here's a screenshot, which is also the first public viewing of the little guy who's the placeholder I'm using for the player (he's crouched down in the middle of the screen).  Click for full-size:

Monday, April 25, 2011

In profundis progress (4/24)

Today's lesson: Don't make the platforming engine more complicated than it has to be, especially while in early development.  Thus I've, for the time being, taken out some of the more complicated aspects of state changes from crawling/swimming to standing/walking.

Today I've been getting swimming physics working better and (just now, technically on the 25th) working to cause water flow to reflect on the player.  There's still a state change problem between swimming and standing though that causes the player to get embedded in the ceiling when there's not much vertical space between the water and the roof.  Work continues....

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In Profundis progress (4/23)

Basic platforming is working satisfactorily.  Today I spent working on implementing swimming and crawling.

Crawling is necessary because of the variable heights for rocks and sand; it will allow you to enter passages as low as 3 levels high. The tradeoff is that movement is much slower while crawling... which isn't a huge drawback really.

Swimming lets you move fairly freely in the water.  Eventually the tradeoff will be that you can't live for long without coming up for air.

Both states actually change your character's dimensions a little.  Since you're laying down, effectively, in both postures, your height goes down while your width increases.  I could have implemented this as just a height change for crawling and a Mario-style vertical swimming pose, but it's a matter of detail.

That is the point where I think I'll be able to make a new demo video.  It still wouldn't be what I'd call playable, because without equipment there will be many inescapable areas.  That's by design -- real life cavers live or die by their equipment, and not every situation is escapable.  In game terms, I'm planning on having a "call for help" option where you can call for rescue if you get trapped in a truly inescapable situation, but at a huge monetary cost.  (Maybe even a cost that increases the more times it is used?)

Friday, April 22, 2011

In Profundis progress (4/22)

Today was spent working on the most troublesome part, I think, of any platforming engine: collision detection and resolution.

I worked on a game before this one called Mayflight, and although it used Game Maker and could take advantage of its considerable collision detection facilities it was still maddening to work on.  I spent so much time hacking away on it, desperately trying to make it work to meet a contest deadline that, as some people seem to delight in telling me, it's controls are rather fidgety.  Harumph.

It didn't help, in that one, that your character could reach very high speeds.  There is a reason, I think, that every non-Genesis 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game has had lackluster physics, and that's because the original games' physics were highly optimized and dependent on the Genesis architecture.  And Sonic is definitely a physics game; everyone remembers the speed, but few remember that what made the speed work was its sharp physics system.  If you jump on an enemy with the jump button held down, Sonic will rebound up to the full height of the jump.  If you jump on the enemy from four screens up, Sonic will rebound four screens up, which is exactly what he should be doing if he were a rubber ball.  This, I feel, is no accident, but no 2D, non-Genesis Sonic seems to remember it.

Fortunately for my sanity, In Profundis doesn't need that level of physics simulation.

In Profundis progress (4/21)

I was going to make a Reddit post on the game today (yesterday) but wouldn't you know it was down all day.  So I spent the time working on the framework for the platformer engine.  The smooth scrolling is done, and so is the basic artwork for a placeholder character.  Hopefully I'll have something more to show tomorrow (today).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In Profundis progress (4/20)

Today was mostly consumed writing an article on fluid simulation using cellular automation.  It links to the Kickstarter project page, hopefully it'll enable the project to keep up its momentum.

Program progress: image loading code for sprites, drawing animations, prep work for the platforming engine.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Progress (4/18)

Not a lot of programming work today, but I did draw some graphics for the player.

The next objective for development, I think, is to implement basic gameplay, if just to show people how the game will work.  I imagine it as a kind of puzzle game, but with dynamic situations.  You want to cross that gaping pit; how will you do it?  You could parachute to the bottom then climb the rear wall with pitons, you could use spanners to cross the gap, you could mine down on your side beneath the gap and tunnel up the other side, you could find water above and flood the hole, or you could try other things.  You have a good number of tools each with precise uses, and each is good for overcoming a certain kind of situation.  Used in concert you can go almost anywhere, but you can't carry them all with you at once, you aren't nearly strong enough.  So there will be situations you can't get out of, but with skill and ingenuity you can minimize those.

It occurred to me just now that the game's really kind of an amalgam of concepts from other games mixed together.  It's got the play structure of Solar Jetman (returning periodically to base to resupply and drop off treasure), the loneliness of Metroid, the dynamic difficult situations of a roguelike, the rocks of Boulder Dash, the fluids of Falling Sand, and probably a half-dozen other elements I haven't noticed yet.  Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft and Spelunky are in there a bit, too.  Take note budding creators out there: all creation is like this.  You can't create something from nothing; all invention is combination.  In my recognition of my inspirations I'm just more explicit about it than others might be.  (And many games, when it comes down to it, borrow from the same games over and over again.  Super Mario Bros, DOOM, Dune II, etc.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

In Profundis: Today's progress (4/17)

Modified terrain generation to make much more interesting terrain, from a game standpoint.  (More flat ledges, fewer tall walls.)  Real gameplay isn't implemented yet, but when it is this will pay off.

Created a new type of pseudo-fluid, "sediment."  Sediment is mostly non-reactive and it doesn't flow.  Instead, it forms smooth ramps and uneven floors.  Real liquids tend to pool in depressions in these floors.  Further modified terrain generation to lay some sediment, creating nicely sloping floors.  More will be done with this soon to create more playable terrain.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

First day of Kickstarter project, dev progress

Have gotten six backers in the first day, which isn't too bad I guess although they were mostly people I know or quasi-know.  Up to $280 of a goal of $5,000.

Now that the project is launched I can feel okay in working on it some I think.  I'm working on smoothing out the floors a bit so it's not quite so much about exploring the caves of Cubeland.  The player's character will probably only be about a block tall, so it's important that there are some slopes here and there.

I've also worked somewhat on the terrain generation.  Caves don't care much about whether they're vertical spaces or not, but for gameplay purposes it's important that there are lots of plateaus to walk along.

IN PROFUNDIS Kickstarter project has launched!

The page is up on Kickstarter now:

Go have a look!

Second pitch video

This is mostly the same as the one on Kickstarter:

Background information: The wisdom of stone

At the Cavern Exploration School at Alpha Centauri, they teach about the many dangers of spelunking throughout the known galaxy: landslides, sudden washouts, poisonous gas, sand buryings, gaping pits, acid baths, equipment failure, alien monsters, suffocation.

But as Doctor of Speleology and veteran explorer Mendius Schlum says as the first lesson in his class "The Fundamentals of Caving," the primary danger facing any cavern explorer is, ultimately, rocks.
This prompts the more alert students to ask, what kind of rocks?  Cracked and weakened?  Corrosive?  Radioactive?  Explosive?

"No, not that kind of rocks," says Schlum.  "The rocks you most have to worry about are your own.  The rocks in your head!"

As he goes on to explain, most of the dangers a cave explorer faces are, ultimately, those of their own making.  Over thousands of years, caves settle into a situation of minimum energy.  Landslides don't happen randomly; if they were going to, they'd probably have done it centuries ago.  Over time, rocks, water, sand and stone, they settle.  But that state of equiliberum can upset easily.  A pushed boulder could release a deluge of water, washing the sand from in front of a sealed cave, releasing poisonous gas.  Whatever you do, you must do it with care, lest you set in motion a chain of events that could spell your doom.

And yet, everything you do in such an environment changes it.  Your footsteps echo across the stone vaults, possibly unsettling a pile of rocks.  The pitons you hammer into sheer stone walls to climb them unavoidably damage those same walls.  To pass a blocked route requires pushing boulders.  To find sunken chambers, you have to swim.  Even the air you breathe is a limited resource.
So, you're in an environment in which everything you do could be foolish, because just being there is foolish.  But here you are anyway.  According to Schlum, learning what choices are less foolish than others is the beginning of wisdom.

The wisdom of stone.

Gameplay narrative #2

"If I hadn't brought that emergency parachute I'd be dead now, killed by that 200-meter fall.  I survived that, but how am I going to get out of here?  The shaft ends high in the ceiling above me, so I can't use pitons.  I could climb up a side wall and extend a spanner out, but they're heavy so I only brought one and it won't get me up high enough.  And the expedition isn't yet profitable enough to use high-tech tools like jet packs.  I did find some gold nuggets down here; if I can make it out, maybe that jet pack will be mine yet.

"A thought.  Water is dripping through cracks in that wall.  If I hammered at that a little I might break through and flood the chamber.  I could use one of my compressed air canisters to fill my inflatable life raft, break the wall, then ride the flood back up to the shaft.

"The situation looking dire, I inflated the raft before smashing through, weighing the possible wasting of an air canister against the water damage to my equipment if I had to swim.  Fortunately it was more than enough water to fill the chamber.  By the time the flow died down I was up to the shaft and even partway through.  I hammered the pitons into the wall to give myself handholds for the remaining distance, noting with concern the cracks forming in the stone surface as I did.  That might be trouble later.

"Back at base I had the nuggets appraised.  They were only worth 1,500 credits, enough to replace my used equipment and then some, but not nearly enough for the jet pack.  The word from the natives is that there are incredibly ancient ruins down there, unseen for millennia, loaded with treasures both historical and valuable.  I'm more interested in the latter, but either would make the expedition a success.  I hope I find something soon; the equipment needed to explore these alien caverns isn't cheap, and so far profits have been barely worth the dangers.

"But I'm getting close.  I can feel it.  Maybe this next trip will be the one."