Hi, I’m the animator and co-designer of Slap City, and today I want to talk about the ideas and philosophies that go into making the game.
Slap City is mainly designed to be fun and silly, but it should preferably also hold up when played competitively, even if not to the degree that serious competitive-only games do. Like most of our games, we’re only six people developing it, so we stick to this whimsical and self-indulgent approach to the art style and characters and hope that others will like them as well.
The heart of Slap City is the fluid character movement. Any ground move can be performed while standing, walking, running or turning, and instead of the “L cancelling” from the first two Smash Bros. games, we have Dash cancelling which gives your character a burst of directional speed if you press the Block button while landing. Meanwhile the Clutch button can instantly reverse the facing and momentum of certain moves, as well as doing a bunch of other things that help the player perform most “analog” inputs with a digital controller or a keyboard. Like the individual tricks that each character has, the idea is that the more options the player has, the more exciting it can get, but they shouldn’t need to use all of them (and newcomers should be able to have fun without discovering them).
Our main focus is to make new content for the game, and we’re currently working on the new single-player Story mode where you’ll learn more about the characters and their silly adventures. But we also look at tournaments and discussions and try to tweak the balance of the characters when we have the time. Here are my personal guidelines:
-Buff weak or underused moves so they become useful.
-Chaingrabs and moves that combo easily and infinitely into themselves are no fun. These are “nerfed to make the game buffer”, as project lead Elias puts it. If there’s an infinite somewhere, we just missed it.
-After the patch that nerfed Ultra Fishbunjin in ten different ways at once (I’m sorry!), and that time I messed up Jenny Fox’s axes and skateboard (I’m sorry!) I try to only nerf one move per character per patch at most, while buffs are free. Sometimes we may still feel the need to change multiple things at once, but if the change isn’t well received, we try to come up with something better.
Our design process for each character is to draw all the moves on a whiteboard until we get tired, and then keep going anyway, at which point you get things like Fishbunjin’s “trust fall” triple Down strong, and the Goddess of Explosions breathing fire or punching bouncing projectiles around. It wouldn’t be Ludosity if the game wasn’t ridiculous.
We have plans to turn the Free-For-All mode into something where points are scored by doing all sorts of things besides KO’s, including some form of items or modifiers you can earn mid-match. So please stay tuned for that.
When it comes to the “Library”, previously known as the “Gallery”, there’s a lot we’d like to put there in the future. The player is meant to unlock additional pages by finding secrets in the upcoming Story mode – some with silly lore about the world and its characters, and some with information on hidden moves and other tricks. I also want to hold off on updating the little video tutorials until the characters have stabilized more.
Oh yeah, the stages! We try to have a mix of wild and competitive stages, and since the standard Slapball stage is very basic, future Slapball stages may get even crazier than Soccer field and Golf. It’s no fun if KO’s or Slapball goals depend too much on stage hazards, of course, but variety is always nice. And if you haven’t tried it yet, there’s a different Smack the Crystals stage for each difficulty level which can be independently selected in the single player menu.
Today we can announce the upcoming release of Princess Remedy – In A Heap of Trouble!
It’s the prequel to PR – In A World of Hurt, the game we jammed together during the Games Against Ebola jam in November 2014 and then released for free on Steam a year later. We were blown away by the reception and since we had such a blast making the first one everyone was excited to do a new one.
Here’s a little teaser to get you started. We’ll release a lot more info and trailer in the coming month!
Princess Remedy – In A Heap of Trouble will be released on Steam this summer!
Today we’d like to announce a brand new little game, PsyCard!
A cozy cyberpunk minesweeper-like game for iOS and Android, coming soon!
If you’re an avid follower of all things Ludosity, you may remember a game prototype vote a while back. This is the result of that vote. We looked at the result of that, and based on other factors like the downtime we had and who on the team had said downtime, we decided to make the 3rd placer (out of 11) into a full-blown game. It was PsyCard, the versus minesweeper-like! Of course, this doesn’t mean we’ll never make any of the other prototypes. They’re all still ideas from various people at Ludosity, people who would like to see these games get made some day. But for now, the convenient choice was to make PsyCard.
Before I get into the development stuff, let me explain the rules of PsyCard.
PsyCard is a two player game, played with 8×4 cards (for standard rules at least) placed face down on a table. The players take turns picking cards to flip over. The contents of the opponents cards are always hidden (unless super powers are involved).
5 of these cards are ”Fruit Cards”, 2 of them are ”Star Cards” and 3 of them are ”Skull Cards”.
Finding 3 fruits makes you win the round.
Drawing a skull makes you lose the round.
The stars add points if you win the round with them.
When a round is over, the cards are reset and a new round begins. This continues until one player reaches the score limit and wins the whole match.
The trick to the game is that when you draw an ”empty” card, you get some psychic hints about what the cards around the empty card contains. Kind of like those numbers in Minesweeper, you know. And using these hints, and your characters special powers, you must find the good cards and avoid skulls to win.
I am to blame for most of the things in PsyCard – the gameplay design, the character art, the writing (lol!), the card match programming. Basically everything except for backgrounds and music (scroll down for more on those topics). I also made the original prototype. The initial idea was to make something interesting based on the popular game Minesweeper, but with something of an ”anime” twist – super powers etc. The gameplay was pretty much set from the start, but the art had a really bumpy ride even before the prototype was started! Check this out:
One of the things I wanted in this game was for the opponent to be more ”there” during the match than in for example our Card City Nights. So I made these kind of cut-in frames that pop in to let the opponent react to things like thinking they’ll win on their next move, or fearing the lack of safe cards to draw. I also show the full character portrait with some particles and stuff when the characters use their best special power.
As for the story… I tried! Since our resident awesome writer/designer Daniel Remar was busy with fine tuning Ittle Dew 2 (he did draw 3 bonus characters for PsyCard though and help test the game), I wrote this game and that’s really all there is to say on the matter.
Basically it’s a dystopian cyberpunk setting, but that doesn’t seem to bother anyone in the game. It’s just the world they live in, and they want to goof around and play this popular psychic card game.
The main characters that you choose from are a bunch of freeloaders that mooch of their mutual friend who got rich from being in some kind of accident. Then they go out to play cards and meet a bunch of weirdos while doing so, the end.
Honestly, when we put up the poll for those prototypes I had already discarded PsyCard as a dead idea but threw it into the ring anyway. I expected it to place super low, but somehow it didn’t. So I reluctantly tried to rekindle my feelings for the project and get things going. In the end, I think it turned out to be a fine mobile game for picking up and playing in short bursts.
Now let’s hear from some other people who worked on the game!
Nils’ comments (Background art)
When I started making the main story’s background art I only had a few character portraits to go on, it’s a nice thing to have free reins. As the main story had a setup similar to our earlier game Card City Nights with static backgrounds behind Antons character portraits, the heavily outlined cartoon style from CCN’s backgrounds felt appropriate to make a return. However, the mood of the characters where far less bright and wacky in PsyCard. This would reflect on the world as well. Not a lot of details where nailed down early on more than the idea of a darker future setting. To fit the cartoonish nature of Antons drawings, I started thinking back to the cyberpunk infused comic books I used to bury my nose in as a lad (The nerd store the characters visit in PsyCards campaign is heavily inspired by the store I read a lot of those comics in). I went heavier on the dark lines and mood, and easier on the anachronisms and wacky imagery that fills CCN. I wanted a bit of the feeling of those old comics and decided to use a limited color palette for the backgrounds. They also inspired me to segment the coloring; grouping objects together with the same color. To tie the world together, I tried to keep a theme of snow and winter in the areas. As if the city is isolated in a world of ice.
Mattias’ comments (Music)
The short musical themes made for the story were heavily inspired by the random animés I just happened to be watching around the same time. Tracks like these almost overemphasizes the mood of a scene or the character it’s bound to and does so very quickly.
The music used for the battles are all dance electronica tracks with old school sounds, from basic synths to single sample instruments and breakbeats common around the 90s. Check out some of the awesome song over att Mattias’ SoundCloud!
Two weeks ago, Ludosity participated in the four-day Games Against Ebola game jam. Daniel and Anton made Princess Remedy In a World of Hurt, with music by Mattias and Stefan, and Simon and Nils made Fist of Healing with more music by Mattias.
Today we’re releasing Princess Remedy for free, while talking a bit about how it was made. Get the game here:
Daniel on the game design
In Princess Remedy, you travel around the world to heal people with various ailments. The “Healing Mode” is a single-screen action sequence where you shoot band-aids and throw a limited amount of flasks at enemies like viruses and ghosts. Most of the ideas came from looking at Anton’s various concepts made before the game jam, which were expanded upon on our whiteboard on the first day of the jam.
Since we had four days, I figured it should be possible to make a fairly small RPG world with plenty of characters to heal, and several different enemies. After coding the overworld and basic battle screens, I received 64 NPC sprites and 16 enemy sprites from Anton, and two sets of tiles for the overworld and towns. With only two days left, I made the overworld areas, 49 regular battles, spent about four hours on the final boss, wrote the dialogue (hence why it’s so simple and rushed), and in the final hour of the jam added a save system. Since me and Simon decided to skip sleep on Saturday, I worked for about 32 hours straight, and managed to finish the game without having to cut any content from the plans. We also got a set of sweet final boss tunes from Stefan near the end.
Anton on graphics
Graphics for a jam game should be quick and fun to work with. I decided on a very low resolution look with very few colors on heavy black backgrounds. To spice it up I decided I should only use 1 color per 8×8 pixel block on a sprite or a tile, and I had Daniel code the sprites “erasing” tiles below them (it looks cool! Oldey!). This isn’t to emulate a specific console (although that is fun, I wasn’t up for that kind of dedication in a jam timeframe) but merely because limitations like these are fun to work with and forces one to be creative and try new things. And trying new things is a key to improvement, I feel.
This simple style, combined with very clear instructions on exactly what graphics we needed and how they should be set up, allowed me to churn out all the graphics in 2 days. Which was necessary since I would be away on the weekend.
The biggest thing I had to make was the final boss. For his concept design, both me and Daniel drew simultaneously on the whiteboard, just doodling whatever we could think of. Then I simply polished that design and translated it to pixels (still adhering to the 1 color per 8×8 area was the thoughest part!).
Haku on music
While the graphics are technically emulating something older than the NES I didn’t want to go that far back with the music. Thus the music is made by samples from the NES and the Gameboy, but disregarding any limitations those console would have. I played around with the noise sounds and with using moody arpeggios, also, I’ve been very much into jazz since the Card City Nights OST, so a jazz track naturally made it in there. All in all, I’m very proud of the soundtrack.
Hello there, scores of rabid Ittle fans swarming our offices and staring through the windows. Daniel here to say something vague about Ittle Dew 2 again!
What’s going on?
At the moment, only me (designer) and Anton (artist) are working on the game at all, mostly planning and making the graphical content. Stefan (programmer) becomes available for some small coding work now and then, but most of the time we have to make do with the functionality we have. Therefore, progress is pretty slow.
What’s done so far?
The game’s design has been mostly laid out down to the finer details, but a lot might change as development progresses. As far as actual development goes – as opposed to me just drawing dungeons and puzzles – we have a player running around various work-in-progress areas and smacking enemies, an enemy scripting system and level editor by Stefan, and some neat room transitions.
What’s the plan?
As the rest of the team are tied up with other projects for a few months more, the game will continue stumbling along, maybe picking up a few lines of code here and there. We don’t even have a deadline on deciding a deadline yet, but hey – here’s a Fishbun with legs.
The plot and setting were inspired mostly by Doom and Sin & Punishment, though it’s not as over-the-top as the latter. Since each person the player meets only gets a few minutes of screentime, it’s hard to establish them as characters, and as a side-effect they all get portrayed in a pretty negative light… on the other hand, the story is about strife anyway, so it might just fit.
I wanted it to be possible to take the story as both serious and/or cheesy, depending on what you want to get out of it. One tester managed to be immersed at least, but I think it’s a mindset you need to have when going into any media with a dramatic setting. Heck, I liked the bizarre and creepy story in Doom, eventhough most people I’ve talked to didn’t even know it had one, and Doom is hardly a game I take seriously.
I didn’t want reading the story to be mandatory, so you can skip the cutscenes and still enjoy the game. Of course, the reason you’re fighting the weirder bosses won’t be clear, but if you’re not interested in the story it shouldn’t matter anyway.
While I made Iji previously, which has a lot of modifiers depending on what the player does, Muri only has one alternate way out of a specific bossfight which doesn’t change the episodes that come after it. It wouldn’t really fit this kind of game to be more complex than that, I think.
One of the biggest challenges in level design was the fact that the player can only see a short distance vertically, so platforms, spikes and enemies had to be placed carefully. Though the player can safely bounce on enemies’ heads, making it more fair when falling into unknown places from above, I just avoided putting enemies in unknown areas below the player in the first place.
The small screen size also made it hard to let the player know what a boss on the other side of a big room is doing. One enemy that is part of a boss encounter was designed to rush the player from a distance, but since this was hard to anticipate when the enemy was off-screen, I lowered its speed by a lot. The boss was hard enough as it was, anyway.
Teaching the player
Although the game only needs a few buttons to play, I have to tell the player the controls somehow when they’re playing with a keyboard. I didn’t want to show the controls on-screen like more modern games, instead prompting them to “PRESS F1 FOR HELP” which explains the controls, and if you flip the pages, the most basic parts of the rest of the game.
The testers never looked up the help screen aside from curiosity, as they immediately found at least one set of the buttons that perform the game’s only two actions (jumping and shooting): Control and Alt, Z and X, Numpad Ins and Numpad Del, and a few more. Y is also mapped to Z due to these being swapped on German keyboards. I decided against the user remapping the Z/X keys, since it wasn’t necessary given that Control and Alt are in the same place regardless of your keyboard layout, and rarely “block” the arrow keys when used in conjunction like other keys do.
In the first level, the player is dropped into a small room with a barrier guarding the exit. A nearby generator (obvious reference to Hero Core) needs to be shot while ducking, lowering the barrier. The player must then keep the jump button held to jump higher and reach the ledge above, and with this they have discovered the basics of the game by themselves. Jumping on enemies is usually discovered in stage two, where enemies are clinging to a wall at the bottom of a thin vertical shaft. The player inevitably bounces on the enemies on the way down.
The game could’ve clearly communicated everything about how to play it through text and icons, but this being a DOS-like game, I didn’t want to overdo it. I prefer when games don’t underestimate the player or waste their time, too (though I’ve made some long-winded tutorials in the past).
Well, that’s it for the Muri dev blog. I hope you’ll like the game! 🙂
Many DOS games let you choose between PC speaker sound or MIDI and digital samples, which required a sound card. When dad got a Sound Blaster 16 we had to manually input the IRQ and DMA in setup programs for each game, though later games like Tyrian could autodetect the sound card.
Anyway, the PC speaker can only generate one fairly simple wave at a time, with no way to adjust the volume. For Muri I used a synth emulating the PC speaker, set up by Mattias, to generate these sounds. The game uses a priority system to make sure that only one sound is played at a time. A higher priority sound will overwrite a lower one, which works surprisingly well in practice!
Mattias also wrote two PC speaker songs for the game, but only one was used. The other was going to play in a cutscene, but was considered too distracting.
There’s at least one new enemy or boss in each of Muri’s 20 stages, ranging from small robots that don’t even notice you to jumping, ducking and dodging humanoids with rapid-fire rifles. Most robots come in four different colors with slightly different abilities, and each episode has a unique enemy that usually guards or carries something important.
Though most enemies are limited to simply running into you or firing slow-moving bullets in one of 8 directions, I hope I’ve managed to add enough variety to them. I noticed during testing that since you can jump on enemies from above to damage them, some testers tried to do this all the time, even if it meant crashing into them and dying more often than usual. :p
Pickups and weapons
Aside from the regular point bonuses, there are several energy pickups and one extra life more or less hidden in each stage. Both the energy and extra lives are replaced by point bonuses on higher difficulties.
Since all the enemies and bosses are defeated by simply shooting at them, the game could become too hard or too easy depending on your current weapons. To alleviate this, there’s a rare kind of pickup that gives you infinite ammo for a weapon, usually before a boss where I wouldn’t want the player to get stuck with just the regular gun. I also tried to make the weapons different enough from one another that they all had their uses, though as you’d expect they are more powerful the rarer they are.
The weapons got the DOS-y names RAPID, MKV, LASER, MEGA and CHAOS, with distinct sounds for each one. MKV stands for Mark Five, but this isn’t explained by the game. Letting the player guess at the meanings of weird acronyms is part of what I liked about old games. But now I’ve ruined it for you. Oh well.
Next up is story, vertical problems and teaching the player!