Muri dev blog, part 4
It's the last part of the Muri dev blog! Oh my!
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! :)