Its time to post more updates, in this post I'll be telling more about our work on Stage 1, the Crystal Cave. When developing the Training Stage we were learning how to properly build the tiles, our first tries where total failures but we learned with that. We started to use Tiled (a freeware software you can find here) for map editing, what made our work (and life) easier. Then, at the Crystal Cave, we had more issues.
Alike the Training Stage, Crystal Cave was a true area to play, our first challenge in level design. At first, we tried to make 3 possible paths and cut the map into 3 separate images, but it became confusing and made the player feel he lost something. Also, the miniboss only blocked one of the paths. In the end, we decided to merge everything and make only one path like it should be.
Miniboss: The Worm
The first big challenge for the player was also a big challenge for myself. I'm not a professional animator, in fact, Meawja is my first approach with animation frame-by-frame. I could have made a simple miniboss and added "bones" to it, or made only 1 or 2 frames each animation, but I wanted it to feel alive. The first idea was a big dino who threw rocks at the player, but it would look more like a boss than a miniboss. After some thinking, we ended up with a mix between one of those deep-sea fishes and a snake. I had this idea from the plants that illuminate the cave, also I wanted a static monster and got one.
The fight should be simple but at the same time, it tests the player skills so far. The worm only has 2 different attacks, but the only way to hurt it is when the belly is red. This just happens during the spit phase, where he turns his head up and spit 3 times in a row. Each of it releases 3 spitballs, in the end, there will be 9 of those falling down. This way the player has 2 choices: approach and hit with the sword as many times as he can, or hit with shurikens from a safe distance. The spitballs reach all the fight area, but you can block them with a sword attack. But if you're still in the worm range when it ends up spitting, it will bite hard. At first, it looks really hard, but once you get better in the game, it turns out to be a piece of cake (a spit cake). And that's the game idea: it gets easier because the player got better, not because the character grew stronger.
Originally, the boss was supposed to be a monster too, a bear who lived deep in the cave for so long that crystals grew in his skin. It was a nice concept but had a lack of purpose: just a monster that you had to slay. With that we started to rethink the lore: the Lion Master had a test for our hero, but was this just about defeating monsters? Then we came up with the idea that there where other Masters, and each stage is their domain with challenges prepared by them. If you beat the challenges and beat each Master, you would receive more knowledge (power-ups) and, at the end, became a ninja.
With this idea in mind, we could explore more of each Master, creating a unique character that players can relate to. You don't kill them, and they are too strong to be really defeated by a mere student, but you prove your worth. After that we created all the plot around them, the hero and what lies ahead, but that a post for some other time.
With the boss design decided, we wanted to make the gameplay still simple but challenging. You can't get very close for too long or you will be slashed, and if you try to get away from his reach he will start a ranged attack to force you down (we nicknamed it "Avatar State"). He is testing your resistance. You can still hit him from far with shurikens, but the damage is lower and he will go after you. Be quick or be dead.
We wanted to keep the paw-like HP meter, since it was something that people loved about the game. The problem is that each "finger" is equivalent to 1 HP for our hero, and following this same rule our bosses would have very little HP. We could have set only key-moments to hit the boss, but personally, I don't like it. I'd rather hit the boss many times again and again and feel I'm getting that bastard down. So we decided to add an energy bar for every "finger" in the paw. In this case, the Bear Master is, well, a bear, so have lots of HP. Different bosses will have different HP meters.
That's all about the Stage 1 boss and mini-boss. The next post will show some concept arts and its development.
Thank you for reading.