Saturday, August 29, 2015

Flash Game Mini-Review: Dangerous Dungeons

Title Screen

I waited quite a while to review this game, mainly because I don't like to give positive reviews of games I haven't beaten.  Dangerous Dungeons probably should have been an exception.

It took me ages to beat the last level, but in a good way.  Dangerous Dungeons is a frustrating, challenging pixelated puzzle platformer that would feel right at home on an eight- or sixteen-bit system.  Not only does it evoke the graphics of that era, but the challenge, gameplay, and even music, as well.

It's a simple game, in terms of story: get the loot in the dangerous dungeons.  It's also a simple game in terms of controls: left, right, and Z to jump.

But using just those simple mechanics, it really shines in the level design.  Every level is unique, and the difficulty ramps up perfectly.  My only real complaint is that there aren't enough levels--there's 34, but it seems to go by too quick.  I very much hope for a sequel that is simply more of the same.

Big scary level
Simple, yet challenging.
There's a Story Mode and a Time Attack Mode, which are fairly self-explanatory.  You have unlimited lives and unlimited time in both, but there are achievements for beating Time Attack in ten or fewer lives, and in thirty minutes or less.  Regular Story Mode was so brutal, I don't think I'll ever be able to beat Time Attack.  You can also enable checkpoints if you like, though I never tried; I assume it's for the levels that are longer than a single screen, like the four boss battles or the three secret levels.

As a minor complaint, it would have been nicer to have the Level Select be a menu or something other than a long corridor.  While it's nice to see your progress in a straight line, I took so many sessions to beat the last level, I got sick of running a mile before trying again.

But overall, Dangerous Dungeons is a thorough challenge for those who enjoy the likes of old school platformers and want a taste of new nostalgia.

You can play Dangerous Dungeons here.

Update: Dangerous Christmas is an ice-themed level pack!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Job is a funny word. Job job job job job. Job job. Job.

I've got myself a full-time regular job now, which means this blog will take a back seat for awhile, at least until I get adjusted to the hours and figure out where my free time is.  So that means posts will be sporadic.  I doubt I'll be able to do once-a-week posts, at least until life clears up a bit.  We'll see how things work out. ... I think
I'm a big boy now.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

FissureVerse - Four Cards get art

Thanks to Soup-plz, Luis Angel "MetaShinryu" Payano, and Joakim Olofsson for the art!  The artist list on the sidebar is getting large and unwieldy, so I may have to find another place to put it.  I don't want to bury it very deeply, so perhaps I'll make a new tab for credits or something.

Vista of the Infinite, Forsaken
Click for bigger!
Vista of the Infinite and Forsaken look pretty opposite.  One has a lone figure, relaxing, looking up into the sky; the other has a lone figure, on guard, looking down into some terrible pit.  For Vista of the Infinite, I think I shrank the flavor text a hair, but is otherwise unchanged.  For Forsaken, I don't think I changed anything at all.  The art I used for Forsaken could have been used for Trenches of Otherworldy Sorrow, and I debated a bit with it.  I think Trenches will be harder ultimately to find a perfect match for, but this art really said 'Forsaken' to me.

Creatures, Of the Sea

In an effort to put more non-human entities on Crusader cards, I picked these two pieces.  Creatures was always meant to be... creatures... and for Of the Sea, I'd kinda played around with the idea of mermaids, but I like this better (actually, look close, there is a mermaid in it).

Neither card gets flavor text; Of the Sea has no room, and I felt that the creature in Creatures was fairly dumbstruck.  Cropped out of the picture was a woman or girl, so it had a very similar idea behind it as the art for Of the Sea.

I switched the Reason and Water stats for Of The Sea, both to keep in more in line with Blue's theme, and also, a water-based creature should be best in water, eh?

Oh, hey! Emptiness cards are half-done!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

FissureVerse - Nine cards get art, and a Location Diagram

Thanks to Alberto Vangelista and Chibionpu for letting me use their awesome art!

A Child's Imagination, The Crystalline Tower, Treetomb, With the Fishes
Click to make all big and stuff.
Locations are filling out nicely.

A Child's Imagination removed the actual child itself from the picture, so I decided to remove the mention of the child from the flavor text, as well.  I think this new flavor text makes The Infinite more sinister, and less stupid.  The art itself is of course very much what I was going for, giving off vibes of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Mario games (fun fact: Alice was where Miyamoto got the idea of mushrooms making Mario get bigger! But I digress.)

The Crystalline Tower was always a tough one, because I had such an exact idea of what I wanted it to be, so I was never satisfied with art that looked kind-of-sort-of like what I had in mind.  But upon finding this art, I decided it would be better than my original vision.  It pays to welcome the new!  It looks more solitary and haunting in this image, but the blue bands give a technological feel.  I shortened the flavor text in hopes to reflect the new mood of the card.

Treetomb was similarly tough, because I had a hard time straying too far from my original placeholder art, but when something new works, it works.  The knight in the middle helps set it off as a haunted, lonely place.  In this instance, I expanded the flavor text instead of shortening it, partly because The Infinite is supposed to be a wordy bunch, and partly because I was trying to capture something more than I previously did.  I do kind of think the flavor text clashes with the art a bit, but I can always change the flavor text when inspiration strikes.

With The Fishes, initially, was a flat, calm sea, while Path of the Righteous was a roiling wave.  I like With The Fishes this way better, because I think The Noise would rather dump a person in an ocean like this, rather than the mobster cement shoes way.  Even so, I kept the flavor text the same, because that's just who they are.

Stalkers, Fountain, Tames, Bravery, The Cracked

The running theme here is "I changed my mind on what the card should look like."

Stalkers was originally a person in a gas mask, and I searched hard for a great image similar to the placeholder art, but I ultimately picked this because I like how it doesn't show a Stalker, it shows a victim.  Look closely at the picture and you can see the red dots of laser sights covering the guy; the Stalkers are outside the picture, about to make a kill.  With that comes new flavor text in that spirit: brutal and demotivating.

Fountain was initially inspired by the Fountain of Youth, though of course that's not quite what it means.  By having a noun be the name of the Frenzy, I arted myself into a corner, finding it hard to find something like a fountain that wasn't.  Then I found this, and it works excellently.  I decided to go with no flavor text, after trying a few things, because I think really explosive images like this don't need any extra words; the art speaks for itself.  There's triumph and power in the art, and anything I tried to say distracted from the art.  This art also works well because I know a lot of the Frenzies are going to end up being dark cards, so having a bright one like this helps to draw people to Frenzies a little more often.

Tames, similarly, needs no flavor text.  I think the woman or nature spirit here wouldn't say anything, she would just create and dance.  I recall a sunrise or sunset symphony in the book The Phantom Tollbooth, where an orchestra played instruments, but all was silent, and they controlled the colors of the sky instead.  This gives off a beautifully similar feel.

With Bravery, I had a lot of choices to make for the artwork.  Of course in this card, the brave individual is the girl on the right, but I could have easily made this Deceptive instead, and had the focus be on the creature on the left; or I could have made this a card of Emptiness or The Noise, to boot.  Many times when I have these kinds of options, it comes down to the mechanics of the card and how well they are represented in the art.  Here, I think, Bravery is represented best.  The flavor text was just me being goofy, using the opening to DragonStrike as a quote.  Sometimes you gotta break up the seriousness with a joke!

The Cracked was yet another I kept hemming and hawing about with art.  I kept wanting the term "cracked" to mean "crazy", but ultimately I think a broken-down robot fits quite well with the mechanics of this card, as well.  A robot isn't likely to be converted by Fear, or could be reprogrammed to get back into the game if captured.  I chose no flavor text because this guy to me looks like he's all bite and no bark.

Anatomy of a Location Card

Lastly, I add this picture to the instructions.  I need to start putting in stuff like that again, so I'll be adding more diagrams to the instructions soon enough, as well as putting the examples back in.

Next Log: Four Cards Get Art...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Flash Game Mini-Review: Hexad

Oh, god, the music! It's so catchy! It burns! It burrrns!

Hexad is a quick little puzzle game where you click on groups of hexes to remove them from the screen.  If, in doing so, you separate the connected hexes into groups, the smaller groups all disappear.  The goal is to make all the hexes disappear given a limited number of clicks.  Some hexes can't be clicked on, so you have to find a way to put those into a small group to make them disappear.

Hexad Level 9
I don't know why, but this level killed me.
Each level offers at least four ways to beat it, since you can click on each of the four colors as your last move, and you get a mark for completing the level and ending on that color.  My minor complaint about that is that in some levels you can win two ways just by repeating your previous moves verbatim but switching the order of the last two hexes you click on, so there's not always too much challenge in discovering a completely new sequence of moves.  However, you also get more stars for beating a level under the maximum number of moves (although I think you might also get three stars just by beating a level with all four colors last).

It's a fun little minimalist game that has some challenging replayability to each level (if beating a level once isn't challenging enough for you), but the biggest draw for me is the music.

I don't know what that tune is, if I've heard it before or what, but my god does it ever get stuck in your head.  When you click off the game, the music pauses, which is a blessing, because if it didn't, I'd be listening to it until I went crazy.  They must have tested this game without that and sent half their tester to the nuthouse.

Now that I think about it, it sounds like the Super MarioLand music somewhere.

Do do do do, do do do do...

I take it back! You can do other stuff and listen at once! I'm doing it now!

Wah doot doot, wah doot doot...


Friday, July 17, 2015

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It's been a pretty long haul getting lots of FissureVerse stuff moving along.  I basically spent each week thinking "this will be the week where I can't get anything done", but then I get great responses from artists and can post some art (and make other adjustments to the cards and rules).  This week I finally got nothing.

Notice there is no paper in the typewriter. That's metaphorical of something.
Now I think I'm a little burnt out with FissureVerse, and of course I've been itching to get back into Latchkey ever since I set it aside.  It always one of those things where you change your mind the moment you've made a decision.

So this week I guess my post is just this update.  The schedule for me is: next week I'll make at least one post (if I still have no work on FissureVerse to report, I may do a game review), but I'm off on an adventure the week after so no post for that week.

When I get back, I may settle down and start cranking on Latchkey again.  I'm reconsidering a lot of things I was doing (including making the interface less than six big blocks), so the project may get restarted, which, on the whole, is probably a good decision, so I can use proper programming practices from the get-go.  I will likely also reconsider some mechanics.  But I guess that remains to be seen.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

FissureVerse - Symbols, Frenzy Bluff Attacks, and New Cards

First: six cards get new art!  Thanks to Mariel, cubehero, and Saana Viinikka for the art!  All of them are awesome people and awesome artists!

Coded, Twister, The Cursed, Through the Mud
Click to read the macabre!
I'm so happy to be getting more art for Frenzies and The Noise! Of all the different categories of cards, they've been lagging behind the most, but all of these catch the darker, more brutal tone of these kinds of cards.

For the flavor text of Coded, I considered writing "Never give up, never surrender!" in binary or hex, but neither come out looking interesting, so I decided a more Infinite-esque quip would do better.

For Twister, it's got a bit of a similar theme to Solidity's Turbulent, but I tried what I could to break it off from being identical.  In lieu of flavor text, I decided to make the special rules a little twistery.

I might have considered flavor text for The Cursed, but trying to get the special rules text to be logical enough without being awkwardly verbose was a challenge enough in itself.  Besides, I think this guy looks sufficiently dark and brooding to warrant a more silent card.

Typically when I find a great piece of art, I go down the list and see what could be a potential match.  For the last piece of art above, I was hemming and hawing over a bunch of different cards, like Brainwash or Corruption or Decomposing, but when my eye glanced over Through the Mud (a card my eyes usually glance over, as I never expect to find art for it), the name jumped out at me.  I did not expect to find such great art for Through the Mud so fast.  It looks like he's draining her energy or strength, which works in a wonderful way, taking the metaphoric visual of dragging someone through the mud and making a more literal and macabre act out of it.

I also like how I'm now tying cards together.  I like to think that The Derelict live on Grime, or possibly the Plains of Filth (maybe Sewerlife coexists with them), but now I've gone a step further in cohesion to give flavor text from other Crusaders.  I had done it with Trail of Emptiness (giving it a Song of the Walkers), and I hope to do it with more, as I can find places for them.

Brim of Despair, Limbo Rock
Click for more macabre and sadness.
Brim of Despair gets a nice revamp.  I changed the flavor text to be more disturbing, and in line with how Solidity acts.  They aren't the jokey type like The Noise is, so I removed the old mixed up quote I had and replaced it with this new text.  I think it works in that brutal, Stockholm Syndrome way Solidity likes to operate.

Limbo Rock gets to keep its old flavor text, but I think I've found just the right art to capture what I was getting at.  I think of Limbo Rock as being something of a holy site or pilgrimage site, but I always thought it would be tough to find art that's just right.  Luckily, like Through the Mud, I found the art long before I expected.

If you haven't noticed on the cards, I've also added symbols to them all.  I wanted to make sure colorblind players could distinguish factions and turn order, and I think I found a good way to do it.  I'll try my best to refer to each faction by name, rather than color now.

The symbol of The Infinite is, most logically, an infinity sign.  The symbol for The Noise is a heartbeat/pulse/sound wave.  I think those two work the best in terms of making a literal translation of their names.

Of course, Solidity and Emptiness were tougher.  What was I going to do to show Solidity? A cube? So I went with something that shows their personality and place in the cosmos: a spiky crown.  They are the rulers of the universe, the movers and shakers, and the King rules from his throne on Capitalia, with the Bishop of Hatred whispering in his ear, his legion of Thunderheads striking fear in the hearts of the people.

For Emptiness, the obvious thought is to have no symbol, but of course that's just unsymmetrical.  So I went with a leaf or feather, because they are tribal, nature-type people.

You can see these symbols on the Location cards inside the colored dots for turn order, and you can see them on the bottom of each Crusader card.  I used to have a tilde there, and I still do for Rogations, but I figured that was a good space-saving spot to put those symbols, so when you're counting up cards at the end you can quickly spot the symbol on an outer edge.

Of course, once again this only effects cards with art and cards that will get art (I am so bad at organizing templates and such).

Lastly, a new change that affects the rules: you can now not only Bluff Attack a Conditional Rogation, but you can also Bluff Attack a Frenzy.  I altered the way the rules work a tad so you get a choice of rewards for doing so, and if the Opponent wasn't bluffing, they get a few options to rectify the situation.

It's been a few posts since I actually linked to the drive, so here it is.

I do want to make a change to the goal of the game, or at least how points are potentially scored, since doing a bit of calculating leads me to believe the factions are imbalanced.  I almost want to hold off on that though, until I get some playtests and get a bit of a gauge on win ratios.  A heck of a lot of factors can go into this kind of thing.

Next: Nine more cards get art, and a diagram is made.