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New version of Ex Vitro available for download. Main features include gamepad support, datalog archive, 35 new rooms, 2 new weapons, part of a new zone, and misc minor updates.

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Here is the long overdue next version of Ex Vitro. I've been extremely busy with graduate school for the past 2 years, but I'm finally getting back into the indie gaming... game.

Download here.

Technical updates:

  • Gamepad support (To compensate for the less precise aiming, some of the 'homing' weapons automatically track enemies. But no control customization at this time, sorry!)

  • Datalog archive (with option to disable all datalogs if you feel the game goes overboard with the 'grimdark' story)

Major content updates:

  • 35 new rooms (including parts of a new zone)

  • 1 new mini-boss

  • 2 new weapons (a new 'hidden' beam and an EMP charger)

Minor misc updates:

  • Short intro cutscene

  • Wall-jumping controls improved (more like Mega Man X-style)

  • New item that allows recharging of EMPs

  • Charging a weapon sucks in nearby power-ups

  • Pulse and Entropy beams improved graphics and function

  • EMP singlets are more obvious in where they're hidden (and many more added, including a couple of real tricky ones)

  • EMP graphics improved (along with screen shake)

  • More data logs (10+)

  • Other updates here and there

It turns out that creating a large explorable world takes a long bloody time, so I've had to trim back a lot of my original plans for what the full game is supposed to be. My future focus is to have at least 3 more big boss 'set-pieces', including the final boss. A good excuse to use all of the weapons you've been collecting.

Also, the main character sprite desperately needs an upgrade, but I am not a rigger/animator, and alas, can't do it myself. So I am currently looking for someone to hire to accomplish this.

And unfortunately, upscaling the resolution would require replacing pretty much all of the existing tiles already placed in the game, so no can do there. Hopefully nobody's eyes are damaged too much by the tiny 640x480 screen.

I'm sure there are bugs I missed, so please let me know what you find and I'll do my best to fix them.


Hey a new version! I was just thinking yesterday about Ex Vitro if it has any new info posted, but here I am today to find a playable new version! Yay :D

Will be having fun with this in the next couple days. Do you have any particular thoughts you'd like to hear from a player after trying this version? (Any question is welcome) My goal would be write some feedback after I finish the new version, so now would be a good time for me to gather info on what you'd like to hear me mention.

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Adjuvant Author

Awesome! Glad you'll give this version a try (since you are basically my lead tester...) ;)

Honestly, I'm acutely aware of most of the fundamental flaws already, but I guess I'm just interested to see if you come across any game breaking stuff. There are a few missing sound effects, some enemies may glitch, but from my experience there wasn't any major scripting errors that I came across. But then again, I only played through this version from start to finish a few times.

Interested to hear what you think of the gamepad controls (if you have one, of course). I tried to go for a 'retro' control scheme ala Super Metroid, but I suspect there may be some better variants I'm unaware of.

I guess other than that... hmm.. whatever you think stands out? Anyway, I really appreciate your time on this! :)

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Part 1...

Finished it! It only crashed once at this part:


Its located at the top of the map, you'll probably recognize it from the minimap. I was going up from the room below up to this one and then I started getting this error window. I tried dismissing the error a couple times, but it kept persisting so I close the game.

I then restarted the game and kept playing it, then decided to try going to that room once again at a later time and it worked fine.

I do not possess a gamepad, so I can't comment on that.

You did mention lamenting the 640x480 resolution and I did indeed had to either lower my monitor resolution or squint my eyes with my current 1920x1080 (I went with the latter. Didn't want to mess up my desktop icon placement). If there was a way to either temporarily set the screen resolution to 640x480 or to stretch the current gameview to 2x size, that would fix the issue.

Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and the new content. The EMP charge-up nuke was particularly neat, although there were no other bosses to try it on after I got it. The new environments, enemies and bosses felt awesome too. I like how they have a unique atmosphere to them. The yellow reaching tentacles in the parasite place were creepy, while the bone creatures in the last area were interesting too, actually making me want to use the refraction beam to hit their weakspot.

I also really enjoyed the changes and upgrades you did in general too. Sucking pickups with charge up was useful and fun, while the wall jumping became easier and the weapon upgrades for the old beams really gave a sense of empowerement.

The biggest thing that captivates me in this game is the story. When I first read the story in the main menu, it seems to give the idea like humans are dicks, but then some logs make it seem like actually the aliens were dicks to humans, so I'm going from room to room, log to log wondering who's right or wrong in this.

I like that intrigue and am hoping to find definitive answers or some sort of revelations to the following topics in the finished game:
-Who is the hero? How'd I get here and why?
-What happened to the facility? Any survivors left at all?
-Whats the state of the current universe?
-Did humanity already unleash its revenge on the galaxy or did they die trying? Or are they still working on it?
-Are the aliens wiped out? Do humans still exist?
-Am I just arriving at the scene right after the facility failed or is this like 1000 years later?
-Whats up with EMP? Whats the secret behind it?

I really hope those will get answered, otherwise I predict I'll feel dissapointment at the end of the game.

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Adjuvant Author

Wow man, thanks a whole lot for the detailed feedback. If I ever start a gaming company, I definitely need to bring you on board somehow! :)

It's not immediately clear what is causing that error, but the lighting effects can act wonky sometimes. It may have something to do with a memory leak if a restart fixes it. Hmm, I'll have to do some digging into it.

Honestly I bashed my head against the wall trying to find a good solution to the resolution issue. I can scale the screen to whatever size I want, but due to the Game Maker engine the tiles get all glitchy at any resolution above the default. There is a crappy work-around that would technically work, but it pixelates the hell out of everything and is just unacceptable. The lesson here is I didn't plan ahead very well... :(

I'm really glad you enjoyed the new areas. I love messing around with atmosphere (it's the whole reason I love Metroid to bits!). Although to be honest, I wish I had made far more alien environments to start with. I would redo the jungle area and 'technology' areas and even the blue areas to be far more bizarre and weird. I'm going to go nuts with the final zone to compensate fort that ;)

I'm glad you like the story. My goal was to make it ambiguous enough to make people interested in the mysteries, but not so vague as to be unsatisfying. There's some perfect combination of intrigue and revelation that I'm aiming to reach by the end of the story, so we'll see how well I can achieve that goal.

You have no idea how happy I am that you're asking all those questions, because that is exactly what I aimed for! As for answers, some will have obvious resolutions, but some you will have to read between the lines to answer. I hope to leave enough clues in the environment that people should be able to parse them together. Let's just say the 'final' zone will probably answer 75% of your questions... (at least, what I'm hoping to do!)

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Excellent! I'm happy the feedback was helpful. Appreciate the gratitude. :)

Too bad about resolution, but atleast it does not make the game unplayable. I tried playing the game on 1024x768 just now and it was better, so I'll be playing the next release like that for sure.

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Part 2...

Couple thought that came to me while playing. These are minor things that I felt remarkable enough to mention:

-I'm not sure how effective the beams are. Especially when comparing Pulse, Entropy, Refraction and Seeker. There are no damage numbers displayed, so I'm feeling unsure if using certain beams is better than the other. Given how the game provides 5 beams which all can be active only one at a time, it gives a sense that all 5 beams are equal to some capacity, just different.

That said, there are upgrades that obviously make a certain beam better than the other during the course of the game, like the Seeker Beam having a small explosive radius, making it more valuable than most other beams, especially at the last area in the 0.51 version. Meanwhile, micro beam seems useless throughout the entire game, despite being available with a dedicated slot and not even being replaced by anything.

The other thing is that spamming the basic shots of a beam seems more effective than charging it up, atleast for Pulse, Entropy and Seeker. If I had information to know how much more valuable it is to charge the shots, I'd be more willing to use it with more vigor.

-EMP singlets don't seem to have any indication on the minimap, unlike all the other powerups that have a dot to mark their unclaimed status. This makes hunting them down after I've been everywhere else a tedious world tour, with no clue where to start looking.

-Often after entering a new room, I notice that if I held the movement button in the previous room, in the new room suddenly the key is unresponsive until I unpress and press it again. Breaks momentum while moving through areas.

-Running could really use faster and shorter acceleration. Most rooms are too tiny or lack the necessary surfaces to properly use it. Maybe even replace running with a dash move for dodging or for quick boosts of speed.

-I think having a minor particle effect for double jump would be suitable. I imagine that the double jump is a suit thruster function that gives the "jump", so it probably would make sense to have a blue glow or some other particle emission to represent it.

-I really like how distinct the EMP charger is to let me know when the shot is going to be a charged up one. I lament that the regular beams are not as articulate with their visual charging effect as the EMP one to let me know if I'm about to fire a regular or a charged shot.

-Datalogs are great, enjoy reading those a lot. For datalog archive could be slight more useful if it displayed the last datalog I picked up with a highlight or some other "this is new" indicator. I ran into a room with tentacles that can't be killed and it had a datalog among them, so I ran to it, but was panicking by shooting at the tentacles, so I accidently skipped and closed the datalog before I could read it. I had to trial and error in the datalog archive until I recognized a datalog with text I hadn't read before.

-For the map screen, it would make sense if the name of the planet was displayed somewhere. Not mandatory, but could be a nice touch as Super Metroid's map displayed names of areas and the name of the planet.

-Seemed odd that while the minimap does not function in the entropy beam sector, yet opening the map screen lets me see where I am. If its just an intentional spooky-thing, then I'm ok with that.

-I appreciate the inventory screen. While it does kinda spoil the mystery of how many special items I'll be finding in the game, it does provide a very clear function of knowing what I'm missing to give me a clue what I may be missing and how many of it I can find. Excellent for a completionist. : )

-This is a bit silly, but I felt somewhat concerned after I got the EMP charger and had to blow up the containment wall to exit the yellow parasite area. I mean, that stuff is gonna contaminate the rest of the entire facility now, right? I almost considered just returning back the way I came lol.

That should be everything, I think.

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Adjuvant Author

Yeah, the beams are another thing I would do differently if I could restart. I would do some kind of composite beam where they are continually added to each other rather than being independent. I think if they each had more obvious effects (ice, for example) I could better justify them being separate.

Because yeah, the 'micro' beam is obviously deficient compared to the others. I attempted to make it slightly useful in the yellow zone against the squirmy tendrils, but it probably doesn't beat just spamming the others. Like, I mean, the later beams have to be more powerful to justify why they're found so late, but then how do the early beams compensate? I feel the only beam that is probably always useful is the Refraction beam because it can go around corners, at least until you find the 'optional' Seeker beam.

Redoing the charging effects (both visually and in terms of gameplay) was on my master list of needed improvements, but seemed to have fallen in favour of stuff I find more fun to do, like enemies exploding ;)

I'm torn about whether to display singlets on the map or not. I like the idea that they are hard to find, but completionists will likely hate me for that. I think we discussed this before, but an item that allows easier tracking of them may be required at the end game.

Interesting about the movement button. Didn't notice that!

Running is a hold-over from the game's original Mario engine, so I didn't really touch it. One of the first things I tried to do before anything was make a dash effect. Believe me, I tried and tried but just couldn't get it working. But maybe I could attempt it again after so long. Megaman X style would be perfect I think.

Good point about the double jump. It also needs a sound of some sort.

I had a lot of fun making the EMP charger... If I could make even more ridiculous distortion effects, I would.

Ah, good point about the datalogs as well.

The map screen should also have customizable notes! Number 101 on the list of things to do :) Yes, the map screen should be all glitchy and distorted like the minimap. Number 102... lol

Glad you like the inventory screen. I like the tease of seeing what else there is to find, although adding more items is going to be annoying as hell as the screen is already quite cluttered.

Haha oh yeah, believe me, that containment wall definitely should not have been broken. Punishment for being lazy and not going back. Lol. But seriously, one thing I wish I could do was make the zones change over time and interact more. I LOVE the idea of having the yellow parasite begin spreading everywhere (and even creatures from different zones to spread too). Sigh, maybe one day...

But seriously man, thank you so much for all of your time and feedback. If you lived nearby I would buy you a drink for sure! You are always insanely helpful, and the fact that you're doing this for free makes me feel a little guilty...

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"Because yeah, the 'micro' beam is obviously deficient compared to the others. I attempted to make it slightly useful in the yellow zone against the squirmy tendrils, but it probably doesn't beat just spamming the others. Like, I mean, the later beams have to be more powerful to justify why they're found so late, but then how do the early beams compensate? I feel the only beam that is probably always useful is the Refraction beam because it can go around corners, at least until you find the 'optional' Seeker beam."

Personally, I felt like each beam does serve a specific purpose. Some more than others, but I found they are mostly all worth using.

Pulse has a wide spread and shoots fast. Excellent all around.
Refraction allows delayed behind-the-corner shooting. Tactical.
Entropy has a large AoE, allowing to hit targets through walls or multiple targets at once.
Seeker fires slower and has slower projectiles, but the small explosive radius and homing make it effective in its own way too.

For the micro beam, the thing that I felt most annoyed was that I found two upgrades for it, but they didn't do much. I think the micro beam can be justified to be on par with the other beams through these two upgrades that take effort to find as much as the other beams do. The first upgrade can increase the damage, make it full-auto, fire faster. The second upgrade can double the amount of beams per shot, then make each shot split into short-lived three sub particles on impact, that act as fragments to cause further damage.

It would be the only weapon that can be fired by holding the button down and be impressive in its own machine-gun ish special way.

"You are always insanely helpful, and the fact that you're doing this for free makes me feel a little guilty..."

Thank you, I appreciate the gratitude and honesty. I'm also slightly confused, since I think I'm the one getting the bigger piece of the pie here. :D

You're making an awesome game that you've shared freely and are actively listening and responding to feedback. A lot of devs don't do that, let alone make an great game that is worth playing. To me, it is a priviledge to give you feedback and I enjoy doing it too. So please, recieve my gratitude as a gift, since thats what it is for what you've offered me in return. :)

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Adjuvant Author

Yeah the beams remain a big conflict for me, because I keep going back and forth between being glad I kept them separate or wishing I had merged them into one composite beam. But as with such things, I just wish I could have my cake and eat it too! But I'm glad that find them all useful in some way. To me variation is part of the fun of it, and making them distinct but still useful is a big challenge on top of that.

Ohhhh nice ideas for the micro beam! Those are great suggestions! Yes, full auto would be extremely cool, and the fragmentation idea is awesome too. Ironically, the reason I added the micro beam in the first place was because people were complaining that the pulse beam was too slow, but now I cranked up the fire rate on that one, so the micro beam is kind of out-of-place. But your suggestions are perfect, and may just bring it some much needed respect :). Once again, thanks!

So without spoiling too much, I have plans for one final beam that will tie into the final zone. I'm debating whether to make it balanced against the others or just going hogwild as it is supposed to be the ultimate one. One idea is to make it have some dramatic trade-off while active, like draining health or something. But then again, once you complete the final zone you are essentially done, so why not just have a screen-annihilating weapon to plow through everything? LOL.

Well, I've said it before and I'll say it again: thank you! For me, if you take the time to play and give me feedback, then the least I can do is try my best to respond in some way. While I can't promise I agree with everything, you certainly seem to have some great ideas. I often get a bit of tunnel-vision with things, so it's really helpful to get outside perspectives. I just wish I was better at technical stuff so I could implement more of your suggestions! I definitely value your time and effort (and kindness, too, of course)! For me, this was about having fun designing and creating something, so if I can maximize other people's fun, then win-win for everyone :)

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Definitely make the final beam overpowered. The Hyperbeam was a joy to use in Super Metroid and empowered is a common feeling I get through out Ex Vitro, so I'd prefer the last ultimate weapon upgrade to be as nuclear as possible. : )

By the way, do you intend to sell the final game? I was just thinking how many people could be introduced and enjoy this game if it were uploaded to Steam. The market for anything that provides an authentic Super Metroid experience is greatly appreciated and sought after.

Gamemaker seems to have inbuilt functionality to integrate with Steam, so it is possible. I think a 5$ price tag would be most fair, considering the resolution issue. It would not too low to be unprofitable, nor too high to prevent people from taking issue with the shortcomings.

Heres the documentation: Tinyurl.com

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Adjuvant Author

At this point I've settled on this version of Ex Vitro as just being a prototype for an eventual full game (with modern functionality). It contains a ton of creative commons assets and programming that belong to other people that it would be pretty much impossible to replace. But it is actually on Steam Greenlight under their concepts section!

And the other downside (relating to the resolution issue as well) is that it doesn't use Game Maker Studio, just Game Maker 8.1 which isn't integrated into Steamworks, as far as I'm aware. Ultimately, I would like to include a level editor with the full version.

I think using this version as a concept for a properly developed future game is my best bet for now. One that is designed from the ground-up to be accessible and modern with all the bells and whistles. We'll see!

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