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Post news RSS ChronoVenture Devlog 2020/09 (+ Postmortem)

First monthly development log of my game and also a postmortem of how the game received when its demo was released for an expo.

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G'day everyone. I'm thinking that at the end of a month, I should write a progress report on what I've been working on for my game, ChronoVenture.

Most of the progress I'd be talking about would be already revealed on Twitter but I couldn't discuss about them in full detail because of Twitter's character limit and long posts wouldn't suit well for the platform anyway so writing this monthly report would be a good place to recap my progress and discuss about them comprehensively.

I also got a postmortem to share after the two game features I'll be talking about so let's start with them first.

The Planned Gauntlet Feature

gauntlet

Screenshot of a new feature I've worked on. To unlock the gate, survive and eliminate all enemies.


For a game that involves some form of combat, I figured it would be beneficial for the game to complement them by incorporating some kind of system where the player will be stuck in an area until they defeat all the enemies.

I wanted each stage to be unique to other stages by not just utilising gimmicks but ways that would affect the gameplay style. With Dryforest Drought being the introductory stage, I wanted it designed in a way that encourages the player to either go fast akin to a typical Sonic the Hedgehog level or explore the stage to find and destroy bonfire torches while at the same time being a relatively short stage.

For the next stage, I wanted it to focus on the combat aspect of the game.
So how could I do that when my game is rendered in such a short screen?
For a start, I implemented this feature where if the player enters an area, they'll be trapped in that area where enemies will spawn and they must eliminate them in order to proceed. It will be wave-based as each wave will have its own set of enemies. Once the player completes the final wave, they're free to go.

I don't know if this would make a fine addition to the game or not but while ChronoVenture is in its infancy and figuring out what it should be, it's good to do some experiments to see what would work and what wouldn't. I believe this feature would be better if I create new and unique enemies.

Screen Crunch and Camera Panning

Runner 2020 09 30 21 41 34 95Screenshot of the game's camera being ahead of the player.


When I released the demo of ChronoVenture to the public for the first time, people who gave feedback on it always mentions the screen crunch (limited view due to the game's small rendering resolution). I knew this is inevitable when creating a Gameboy-style game with Sonic-inspired gameplay but I still wanted to give it a try to see if it at least works. Not to mention that the Gameboy aesthetic is a good start for me to draw pixel art as I only have to draw almost everything as small sprites with three colours.

But anyway, some players said that the playable character, Lizzy, runs too fast. Personally, I think the maximum speed is good enough so that the player doesn't run too fast that they'll never have enough time to react what's ahead of them while not too slow to the point that it barely counts as running.
So what I did to address this is is to halve the player's acceleration so it takes a little bit longer to reach maximum speed.

I reckon this helps with the screen crunch issue as players will have slightly more reaction time whenever they're moving but this will not help with the screen crunch as much as camera panning.
It took some time to get the camera panning right so it won't induce nausea or headaches and break the camera during cutscenes but it finally got implemented and can be toggled in the Options Menu (it's enabled by default).

Since Camera Panning is now an available option in the 0.1.2 build, I've also worked on another Camera Panning setting where the camera will always pan ahead of the player's direction even if they're not moving.

Camera Panning is the least I could do to make screen crunch less problematic hopefully. I could have the game support widescreen but if I be honest, I want to keep having ChronoVenture be an authentic Gameboy-style game just for a little longer. Once 0.2 is done, I'll focus on incorporating modern features but there is something I want to talk about once I reach that stage of modernising my game but for now, the next build will be focused on the next playable stage along with some new features and improvements.

SAGE 2020 Postmortem

Emblem Logo of the Sonic Amateur Games Expo's 20th Anniversary.
I downscaled and edited it to fit my game's resolution.


Now it's time for me to look back on how the game was received when it was first released for the 20th Sonic Amateur Games Expo which started on 5th of September, 2020. The exhibition was hosted on the Sonic Fan Games HQ website and my game is part of the 77 original indie games that were all showcased there.

Everyday, I visited my game's showcase to see if anyone made any comments or reviews about my game. There's only one of each and they're both seemingly positive but not without the mention of the darn screen crunch. I'm pleasantly surprised that someone reviewed my game with a 5-star rating. It gave my game a nice boost to the first page of the Original Games list on SFGHQ which is sorted by ratings (descending) by default. I'm quite delighted to see that over 340 people have downloaded my game. That doesn't mean all of them have played it though but it's a really nice feeling that my game sparked enough interest to other people that they would download my game. If only I could know what they think of it... I did asked for feedback but I didn't receive much.

There's a couple of feedback over at Twitter when I searched my game's title. In fact, the very first feedback I've seen for my game was rather soul-crushing. "Combining Sonic-like gameplay, constant vulnerability, and screen crunch is a recipe for disaster."
Imagine waking up one morning and this is literally the first thing you see. It's not a good feeling but I was willing to understand why they felt that way so I asked them if screen crunch and enemy placements caused this feeling of constant vulnerability. They did, which is why I focused on remedying the screen crunch issue along with changing or removing some enemy placements to make the game less difficult.
Criticism like this hurts but it's important to address them well if you really wanted the best for your game.

I mean, would you rather have your game called "rubbish" or have its existence not being acknowledged at all? While my game is not completely ignored as its showcase has been viewed over 940 times, I have a feeling that my game's reception has been rather apathetic for the most part. Lukewarm at best. I don't see my game being mentioned on the SFGHQ Discord server and as far as I know, none of the scheduled streamers played my game. I can only deduce that my game didn't made much of an impression because it's too niche; it's an authentic Gameboy-style game and the graphics isn't too impressive. The yellowish green colour palette didn't help either.

It could also be because I didn't post much about my game on social media and forums either. I only started Tweeting about my game after I finished making the first playable demo which was on the 9th of August.

Very first tweet about my game. Essentially its first reveal too.


I know it's best to do some marketing for your game early in its development but I wanted to establish a somewhat good first impression by revealing a finished demo first before making weekly posts about my game as I'm developing it to its completion.

I'm aware that most people came for the fan games in Sonic Amateur Games Expo but there are plenty of people, over thousands, that came for the original games too that are much greater than my own game. It's no surprise that games like Starbuster, AdventNeon, Rad Venture, Brock Crocodile, Antonball Deluxe, Teabat, and other amazing games received more attention, and rightfully deserved too, than some monochromatic Gameboy game with a questionable title about an uninteresting character where the time travelling element is just warping to the near future.

I don't mean to talk poorly of my own game but I believe that's the reality of what most people think about ChronoVenture. SAGE 2020 taught me some things about what I should do about my game. It could be much better than it is right now. It needs to do way better if I want people to care about it because right now, only very few cares I think. I'm also now unsure if it's a good idea to call my game "ChronoVenture" so perhaps I should rename it to something less dramatic if it's just going to involve time warping.

The expressions of a small Gameboy cat.


I definitely need to improve on the character design of Lizzy the Cat, the protagonist. I know nobody cares about her. I don't see her on artworks that featured protagonists from most SAGE 2020 indie games being together. She's just as much as a loner as me. I can only blame myself for not establishing who the character is and what her design would look like in promotional/official art that isn't in-game which is not gonna happen any time soon unfortunately as I'm currently not a good artist who has access to a drawing tablet yet. You know, I find it fascinating that people thought that Lizzy is a "he", a "dude" when I intended the character to be female. Not a big deal of course but I do find that interesting. It's kind of hard for me to make her small sprites look feminine so the least I could do is have her in-game appearance androgynous. I don't oppose to the idea that Lizzy is a tomboy however.

These are the best sketches of Lizzy I've done so far and that's when I was doing storyboards for cutscenes. I guess this is the closest thing to establish her design outside of the game.


So yeah, while I'm disappointed that ChronoVenture didn't made much attention as I hoped it would, I'm glad I released my demo to SAGE 2020. It's anxiety-inducing but it's the right decision as it's the best place for me to get some attention for my game because I did release the demo on Itch.io, Game Jolt and Indie DB but less people there have viewed it. Itch.io is currently the worst because my game only received 15 views on one day and it's not getting any better as my game didn't appear long enough on the New & Popular section when browsing for games. Any chance that my game's Itch page been seen is extremely low as it's now lost in the deep ocean of hundreds of thousands of games.
As of now, Game Jolt is the best with over 115 views as it's gradually been seen every day and I hope that continues. I don't use that site much, even as a player, but I'm happy that people there are taking a gander at my game. Indie DB is a little better than Itch with over 50 views so far but I don't think anyone has downloaded my game from here.

With that being said, I recommend game developers that expos and perhaps game jams too are the best places to attract attention to your game and possibly yourself even because they generally already have an audience that may play your game compared to just uploading on indie game sites if you barely did any marketing.

I may not interact with the SFGHQ Discord community much because I'm a shy and quiet introvert, I mean that's just how I am and I'm more of a forum poster than a real-time chatter, but I do want to say thank you to everyone at SFGHQ for having me and my game. You guys may not know me well but I am grateful to be part of the community and I hope I'll come back with a much bigger and greater game.

Conclusion

This is quite a long post but that's because I wanted to share my experience with SAGE as a developer since it happened in the last month. The next monthly devlog won't be as long as this as I'll just be talking about the game's development.

I doubt many people will read the entirety of this post but if you actually did then thank you so, so much! It really means a lot to me that someone actually bothered to read my long written post about my game when it's unpopular and I'm just some random guy.
Seriously, thank you and I hope you have a fantastic day!

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