Excellent, it’s all falling into place.

Gonna Catcha 0.9.2rc is available for download. The “rc” is for “really cool!”. Actually, no, it stands for “release candidate”, meaning it’s ready to go, barring it destroying the world in the next few days somehow. You can find the download link on the game page.

For now, the download is only available on IndieDB because I got tired of Comodo Dragon (Chromium-based) and Internet Explorer (lol) telling me the downloads from my domain (quadolorgames.com) and Dropbox are “dangerous” because they’re new kids on the internet block. Firefox doesn’t seem to care though.

I haven’t had time to prepare a proper blog post to describe the release of v0.9.2rc in detail; I had been going out and getting people to playtest the game. And no, I don’t feel like getting in a debate about whether this post is technically “proper” or not. In any case, I’ll be making another soon, which will include something peculiar I’ve noticed about one part of Gonna Catcha.

While I wait to see if Gonna Catcha will trigger the apocalypse, I’ll be focusing on trying to increase the marketability of the game. In other words, the description pages of this game on this blog and IndieDB are a mess and really need to be updated and cleaned up. That should be fun.

Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.

Spit shinin’ the ol’ game, make ‘er all nice and pretty.

Gonna Catcha v.0.9.1 is now available for download from the game’s info page. It is largely a “polish” update; I’m tweaking things here and there to start finalizing the game. Here is a summary of what was updated:
Improved movement around corners, as discussed in my previous post.
Bumped up the score requirements for getting extra lives, from 20k/40k/60k… to 20k/50k/80k… I felt that getting extra lives was a bit too easy in previous versions, especially in the later levels where points are more abundant. Players are reminded of the requirements on the title screen.
Updated the user interface. If either player gets more than 5 lives, the lives counter just draws one icon and then the number of lives. (Shown in above screenshot, sort of. Just imagine a number beside Donum’s icon on the lower-left.) Before it would keep drawing icons the more lives a player has, eventually intruding on the space of the round counter and the other player’s life icons. I was surprised it took me this long to realize this problem. In addition to that, I’ve added small indications that appear when a player picks up a power-up item (P): “LOnG” for the first pickup that extends shot range, and “DBL” for the second that gives the player a double shot. Before this friendly reminder, the power-up item was the only item that did not obviously indicate what it does.
Rewrote the help manual and changelog as a Compiled HTML Help file (CHM). Now in colour! Images, links, and an index! Multimedia for the win! But seriously, the manual looks much better and easier to use now.
Lastly, I updated the “Starring” screen to include the new, and possibly finalized, Chinese names for the characters. This time I opted for a transliteration than is biased towards the pronunciation of each Hanzi rather than the meaning,, using this chart as a basis. 
Pohena Das: 波伊娜 ・ 達絲 (Trad.) / 波伊娜 ・ 达丝 (Simp.)
Mandarin (Pinyin): bo1 yi1 na4   da2 si1
Cantonese (Yale): bo1 yi1 naa4   daat6 si1
Donum Dono: 多南姆 ・ 多儺 (Trad.) / 多南姆 ・ 多傩 (Simp.)
Mandarin (Pinyin): duo1 nan2 mu3   duo1 nuo2
Cantonese (Yale): do1 naam4 mou5   do1 no4
The problem I had with Pohena’s old name (魄伊娜) was that the Cantonese pronunciation for it didn’t sound very nice (paak3 yi1 naa4), and being the Chinese dialect I grew up with, it was gnawing at the back of my head. It does work very well in Mandarin (po4) though and its meaning is relevant (魄 = “soul, spirit”), but still. As a compromise, her name is now 波伊娜. I had a similar problem with Donum old name; actually, it was much worse: 當納睦 ・ 當儺, dong1 naap6 muk6   dong1 no4. I also decided to simplify his name and came up with 多南姆 ・ 多儺. Fun fact: his last name, 多儺, can be interpreted as “many exorcisms of evil spirits”. It would fit Pohena better, but meh.
I plan on rewriting the bio pages on this website, not just to update the names, but because the info on there is out-of-date. The lore of the Gonna Catcha universe has changed since I put that page up. I’ve also considered incorporating it and the other extended descriptions of the game linked on the game’s info page to the manual. That will be part of my next update.

P.S. The Japanese transcriptions for their names are unchanged for now: ポイナ・ダス (Poina Dasu) and ドナム・ドノー (Donamu Donō). I don’t know why I decided to put that out there.

P.P.S. Wish I knew something about transcribing to Korean Hangul… and Vietnamese.
Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.

Today: Improving movement around corners in Gonna Catcha. Tomorrow: Humour check-up

In my various playtests of Gonna Catcha, I have noticed that many players were having difficulty trying to turn at intersections, going from one corridor to another perpendicular corridor. The solution I came up with was simple, yet I still managed to write this whole blog entry about it, so here goes.

Gonna Catcha uses a smooth, grid-based movement system, as in, even though the players move smoothly, they will always be aligned with the grid that divides the play area when stopped. This is to facilitate players in lining up properly intersections and going around wall corners, instead of having the player painstakingly line themselves up with pixel-perfect precision. Even with this alignment aid, I’ve noticed in my playtests that players were still having problems negotiating those corners.
To explain this better, below is a figure showing five different cases where a player is approaching an intersection (click on it and any other figure to expand):

Figure 1. Five cases of a player approaching an intersection

The figure shows two horizontal corridors linked by an opening between them. In cases 1 and 5, the player is not aligned with the opening; in cases 2 and 4, the player is partially-aligned, and in case 3 the player is fully-aligned.

The next figure shows what happens when the player holds [Up] to try to move upwards in each case:

Figure 2. Results of holding [Up]
As expected, in cases 1 and 5 the player cannot move upwards since they are completely blocked by the wall; and in case 3, the player is free to move upwards since there are no obstructions in the way. The problematic cases are 2 and 4; where the player is partially obstructed by a wall, which for all intents and purposes counts as being fully-obstructed by the game. In most of my playtests, players end up in cases 2 or 4 when they try to turn too early, and they end up getting snagged in corners, which was a bit frustrating to them.
For a long time, I’ve thought about whether to fix this problem, or just leave it in as a “quirk” of the game’s movement system that players need to get used to in order to get good at the game. Many games in the 1980s did have control schemes that had quirks or little annoyances that players needed to learn to in order to master them (I’m looking at you, Bubble Bobble, Ice Climber and Super Mario Bros.).

One day, out of boredom, I found my copy of Midway Arcade Treasures 2, an emulated collection of old Midway arcade games. I only played it a few times on my Gamecube a long time ago, so I decided to give it another chance and popped it in my Wii. After chopping down trees in Timber and crashing cars in Hard Drivin’, I played a game that caught my attention: Wizard of Wor, an action maze game from the magical year of 1981:
The basic premise of of the game is you and a partner must shoot and kill all the monsters in a maze-like dungeon to move on to the next one. The partner can be another human player or, if you’re playing alone, a computer player with limited intelligence. From what I’ve seen, the players’ movements aren’t confined to a grid like in Gonna Catcha. However (and this is the whole point of me mentioning this game in this post), the game had no problems with players getting caught in corners, as the player characters would “hug” the corners if they were close enough to one. In technical terms, the player would move in the direction perpendicular to the direction the joystick is being held, towards the nearest intersection if one was close enough. Confused? Don’t worry, there will be figures soon.
This got me thinking, if an actual early-1980s arcade maze game could handle intersections like this, then Gonna Catcha should be able to too. So I modified the movement code (something I haven’t touched in a long time) to make it handle corners and intersections like Wizard of Wor (and likely the multitude of maze games that came after it). The figure below shows the results of holding [Up] in each case with the new movement system:
Figure 3. Results of holding “Up” in the new movement system
Cases 1and 5 remain the same, however in cases 2 and 4, the player will now scoot around the corner of the nearest intersection if they are partially-aligned with it. Playtesting the game with the new movement system, I can say for certain that turning around corners is now much easier and smoother. One other thing I noticed when I was playtesting was that I had coded the movement direction and the way the sprite faces independent of each other. Before this change, the player’s movement and facing were always in sync, so I never noticed it, but now that there are cases where they’re not in sync, and in those cases it looks like the player is sidestepping or strafing around a corner. Technically, this is a graphical glitch, but I think I will allow it, because it looks cool.

The v.0.9.1 update will be coming soon. It’s not the finalized version of the game, the later levels are still unbalanced and possibly impossible to beat, but I am one step closer to it.

Copyright © Quadolor Games. All rights reserved.