Holiday Post thing

Whoa, it seems like forever since my last post. Since the Bit Bazaar ended, I’ve been focusing my attention on many things, some regarding Gonna Catcha and some not. But there’s no time to explain them all here, so I’ll pick the most important one.

As I mentioned in my last post, Gonna Catcha was played in an arcade-style environment at the Bit Bazaar on December 7. Players weren’t be able to read the manual to figure out how to play the game, as it wasn’t available to them. So in an attempt to minimize confusion, I added the instructions screen below, which was shown just before the first round started.

Crash course in spirit catching.

It explained the basic rules and goal of the game, i.e. what you can and can’t touch, what you should and shouldn’t shoot and how to progress.

I didn’t arrive at the Bit Bazaar when it started, so I might have missed some of the early birds playtesting the game. The first people I saw playing didn’t seem to have too much trouble figuring out what to do, but as the day went by and more people played, it became apparent that the instruction screen wasn’t doing its job very well. My guess that it was too brief and too detailed at the same time, and that confused people about the rules of the game. It presented all of the shooting and touching rules for each NPC type all at once, but due to the lack of space, the descriptions of each rules were too laconic. By the end of the day, I was back to my old ways, explaining the game myself and skipping the instructions screen, and things went by a lot smoother.

In retrospect, the instructions screen was more of a band-aid solution than a real fix to the problem. Since it was a bust, I figured that I need to go to Plan B, which is to use demonstration cutscenes to explicitly show how the game is played. As such, on my to-do-list I’ve promoted “Demonstration cutscenes” from “Optional” to “Necessary”. I also grouped it together with “Attract mode” because the two have one thing in common: the ability for the game to play itself. But before I get into that,

Or kicked upstairs, whatever.

Ahem. So anyway, I’ve started working on the new instructions delivery method: new tutorial cutscenes that will replace the old instructions screen. Here is a screenshot of what it looks like so far:

Don’t fear him.
Essentially, it’s just a half-size level that plays itself to teach new players how to play the game. And speaking of playing itself, I’ve also started on making the autoplay system too. I think I’ve got the playback system working pretty well, the recording system on the other hand, which is only here to help me record gameplay to be played back by the autoplay system and may not be part of the final product, has a few bugs to work out. For starters, it generated a 500+ MB output file when it was only supposed to be a few kilobytes in size.

I feel bloated… ugh.

The recording code is working much better now. I’ll go into more detail about in a later post, because this one really needs to get out there. I don’t know when, because it’s the holiday season, with the whoop-de-do and hickory-dock. And don’t forget to hang up your sock, ’cause just exactly at 12 o’clock, he’ll be coming down the chimney, down.

P.S. Now that I think about it, Donum and Pohena bears some similarities to Sinterklaas and Krampus of Alpine folklore.  Krampus punishes naughty children while Sinterklaas rewards good children. Pohena and Donum does the same with spirits, according to the supplementary material.

Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.

Gonna Catcha v.0.8 Post-Mortem (Oh no, somebody catch its spirit!)

Gonna Catcha is gonna be shown in the Arcade at the Bit Bazaar Winter Market on December 7 (the day after this post was originally published). Being an arcade-style game played in an arcade-style environment; Gonna Catcha will be put to the ultimate test in its own element. I’ve been working hard to get it polished up for public playing. Here’s a list of changes and improvements I made between v.0.7.4 and v.0.8.2:

High Score Tables and Name Entry

Your name registrated

This is no doubt the biggest change to the game since the latest update.  Instead of only keep track of one high score value, Gonna Catcha now keeps track of twenty high score values: the top ten for single-player and the top ten for co-op.  Not only that, it also keeps track of the highest round reached for that playthrough and, of course, the player’s initials, so that your valiant efforts will be remembered forever for future generations to admire, until someone bumps you off the list. Hmm, better stock up on quarters and snacks.

AAA – the undisputed champion

Instructions Screen

Crash course in spirit catching

As I mentioned earlier, Gonna Catcha will played in an arcade-style environment at the Bit Bazaar. As such, players won’t be able to read the manual to figure out how to play the game. Heck, they won’t even get the luxury of instructions printed on a cabinet. Sure, I’ll be there to help people out if needed, but frankly, after explaining the rules to the many new players to the game in previous playtesting sessions, I’m getting tired of it.
To minimize confusion and delay, I added the above instructions screen, which is shown just before the first round starts. This explains the basic rules and goal of the game: what you can touch, what you can shoot and what the heck is going on. The game’s “hidden” rules can be learned through experience. Hey, at least I’m not charging anyone multiple payments of 25¢ to learn the game by trial-and-error.

The Fourth Maze and Endless Play

How high far can you get?
After much procrastinating, I finally added a fourth and final maze to Gonna Catcha. This also means the game can finally be played endlessly, as it was intended to. Rounds 1 to 16 have a fixed distribution of spirits and pretas. Beyond Round 17, however, the distribution of spirits is randomized for each round, likewise with which pretas decided to show up in a round. In addition to that, spirit and preta movement gradually speeds up each time the maze changes after Round 17. Speaking of rounds, next we have…

Rearranged Rounds

I’ve probably played Gonna Catcha more than anyone else in the world, and because of that, I’m probably the most likely person to get bored of it. One problem I’ve noticed in my playtests is the round progression. Originally, you needed to play four straight “regular” rounds of spirit catching before you hit the bonus round, and then afterwards the maze changes and the cycle repeats. In all my playtest sessions, I was playing co-op with another player, and I felt fatigued at the fact that I had to endure four rounds of pretty much the same gameplay before two major gameplay changes happen one after the other. It’s not as bad in single-player because the character you control, and therefore the gameplay, alternates between rounds. Still, I knew something had to be changed for the sake of co-op mode.

The solution was simple: in each existing set of five rounds:

4 regular rounds → bonus round → (maze change) → rinse and repeat

I just moved the bonus round into the middle, i.e.

2 regular rounds → bonus round → 2 more regular rounds → (maze change) → rinse and repeat

This way, instead of having two major changes to gameplay every four regular rounds, now there is one major change for every two regular rounds. Hopefully by spreading out the changes, it will make the game more interesting to play for longer.

Pause Function

One minor annoyance I had with Gonna Catcha while playtesting it was that I couldn’t pause the game when the other player had to attend to something else for a moment. After all, why would I need to put a pause function in an arcade game? There’s no time for pausing in the arcade business, time is money. However, since I’m not really interested in extorting quarters and attention from people in exchange for making it on the high score list, and the fact that I’ve already violated a few limitations and conventions of early-1980s arcade games, I decided to put a pause function in the game for the sake of convenience. Actually it was more like taking he pause code from Rise & Fall (shader and all) and plopping it into Gonna Catcha, hence the black-and-white blurry effect.

*ZA WARUDO! Toki yo tomare!

(Yes, it’s actually “Toki yo…” not “Toki wo…”.)
Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.