Bonsoir, hope you all have been doing well in these weird times. I’m Christophe Galati, the creator of Save me Mr Tako. It’s been a while since I last talked about Tako in an extended blog post. A lot has happened but I never did a post mortem article as for me things were not over for the game. As you can see with the article title and preview image (drawn by Valentin Seiche
), an exciting new day has come for Tako. I’m writing this post to tell you about what went down and what is planned for the game in 2021:
Patch note :
- Better game physics
- Better camera behavior
- Improvements of hat and ink systems
- Improved level design
- Rebalanced enemies IA
- Many bug fix
- New and rebalanced difficulty mode (hearts)
- Hint System
- New visual options (auto color palette / Photosensitivity mode)
- Juke box ♫
- New UI elements (speaker arrow, key items…)
- Other changes (localization, borders, control page…)
- More things for you to discover
All the listed features are detailed below this quick post-mortem. The game will be released digitally on Nintendo Switch and Steam on May 5th 2021
1) Quick postmortem and Revival goals
Save me Mr Tako is the first game I created as an indie. I was 19 when the development started (back in 2014), I spent 4 years working on it mostly on my own (with the help of composer Marc-Antoine Archier
) before getting published in 2018. Tako opened the doors of the game industry to me and I learned many things along the way during the development. My main goal was to create a real tribute to the GB era and mood, to tell a story with the scale and cast of a JRPG. I believe I succeeded in that goal, but after years of development I couldn’t feel the game difficulty anymore, I fell into many traps due to my lack of experience and desire to be as true as possible to the Game Boy. The game was also marketed as a cute Kirby-like platformer, so players wanting to get a fun platforming experience were bothered by the amount of story and surprised by the dark undertone of the game, while players in search of a JRPG story were frustrated by the game difficulty and were getting lost. I didn’t expect that outcome at all, while I was happy with the game reception and that it touched many players, I really wanted to improve its balance and polish those rough aspects I couldn’t see before to make it more accessible. So I watched many streams, read all the reviews and started making a patch soon after the release. Unfortunately the patch was never released and time passed with the game staying the same.
Last year for the game's two year anniversary I announced
that I had parted away with my former publisher Nicalis, resulting in the game being removed from the stores (Steam and Nintendo eShop). Because the game was delisted and is now under a new publisher, we are unable to patch the existing game and instead need to deliver it as a new title. Unfortunately this means anyone who previously purchased the original game will still have to purchase this new version to enjoy all the new content
. I contacted both Valve and Nintendo to see if I could do a special discount for players with the original version in their library but unfortunately it's impossible. I wish things would have gone differently, but otherwise the game would have stayed stuck in its original and flawed form.
That’s why we have been working hard to improve the game even more than the original patch so it’s worth being repurchased, leading to it being renamed: “Save me Mr Tako: Definitive Edition
”. As time passed, I could see the game with a fresh eye and find many aspects I could put more thoughts into. I want to thank all the people who supported the original version of the game and gave me precious feedback, and also to all the people who helped me playtest the update. The goal with this new version is to make the game more accessible so more people can enjoy its story, and to make it go from hidden gem to indie classic. The game is now almost ready to be re released this spring, from now on I’ll be handling the PC version myself, while the console versions will be published by Limited Run Games
(stay tuned for more information). Here is what have changed in the game:
2) Improvements and rebalancing
In this section, I will describe how I improved the existing features and content. I was still learning programming when beginning the development and I made the mistake of building the game on my bad code base from the original runner prototype
. The more time passed, the more I got scared of messing with the code as I was afraid to break things. It’s not the case anymore, so I went deep into it and cleaned many core systems, including the game physics
. If you played the original version, you might remember that the collision withs doors and npc was not working sometimes, and that there was a glitch in the invincibility frames, leading to unfair deaths. Those issues are now fixed.I also reduced Tako fall speed, so now he don’t fall to oblivion like a rock anymore and the jump feel more satisfying. A lot of bugs were fixed, making the game more stable than ever and hopefully way more fair.
Another core system I reworked is the camera. One of the main complaints was that as the camera was always centered on Tako it was moving too much, that most of the time you couldn't see danger coming from above. To address that, the camera is now centered a bit above Tako, and doesn't move if you only do a small jump. Before you could only look down, now you can also look up.In the original game, when hitting a switch the camera was sometimes showing you what you opened, but during those cutscenes Tako was not freezed so you could move. I made it that way because in events some testers thought it was cool for speedrunners, but in reality it was a real issue to the players not realizing they were moving and then dying in the cutscene. In the new version the player is locked during those short cutscenes. This pause also reset enemies ink timers, moving platforms are also locked so they don't resume their movement while you are locked. While we are talking about switches, the timed ones now also have a sound effect and icon in the hud.There were many small adjustments like those to make the camera feel more smooth. I also increased the time before the screen fading when you die so players have more time to see what killed them.
The hat system
was also reworked. Now when taking your stocked hat if you were already wearing a hat, it stays in a bubble so you can actually swap hats. The checkpoint animation is more obvious so players are less likely to forget that they can get a hat there, and if you don't select a hat, Loulou stays there. Now she also remembers the last hat you used so you won't have to scroll into the hat list as much as before. I added FX on the HUD to make it more clear when you earn a hat, life or gems, but also to highlight when you are locked with a hat (in dungeons or when playing other characters).The ink system
has also been reworked, now checkpoints and life refills your ink gauge, it also refills itself up to the quarter if you stay a while without attacking, and can refill itself completely if you enter the sleep animation.
The other big task was reworking the level design
. I removed a lot of enemies or improved their placement to avoid unfair deaths, while adding checkpoints in long levels. I reduced some enemies' speed, especially those with projectiles. The infamous ones like the ghosts are also more fair, and stop following you when you enter a door. The spiders can be hit while they are still on their web. Many players dropped the game during the graveyard levels, so I reworked those by giving Evan a hat to dodge enemies. I added shortcuts to avoid long backtracking in many late game dungeons and change some of them a bit. I also reworked some bosses that were too harsh (the Sarona boss, the farm boss and the final boss) and improved their animations so it’s more clear you are damaging them.I also reworked some of the sprites to improve lisibility, by removing the black outlines of sprites you can’t collide with. Shortcut bubbles to go back instantly to the boss after a game over were already here, but now there is also an animation showing you when they appear. The cutscene skip has also been reworked and improved. With all those changes, the difficulty curve should be smoother.
The game has also got a new and improved english localization
by Jessica Nicholas, some lines were improved to give more directions to avoid players getting lost. The border images
also had to be replaced, so we got 10 new ones drawn by Pixel Boy
, they are more true to the game universe and showcase the cast more. Mini games were also improved. Put like this, many of the changes I did seem like obvious things that should have been here in the first place, I kind of feel guilty for not being able to see them before releasing the game. I can’t put the whole list of changes in this article, but I’m glad that the game is now more polished.
3) New Quality of life features
Time to talk about the new features I added in the game! The biggest change was the most requested one, the inclusion of hearts to avoid the one hit death! I added a new mode and reworked the existing ones, so there are now 3 difficulty modes
You start the game with 20 lives and have 3 hearts, you don’t lose your hat as long as you have hearts, the hearts are refilled when getting a new life and at checkpoints.
You start the game with 10 lives, you get an extra heart when you are locked with a hat (during dungeons and bosses) or when playing another character.
The actual “standard” difficulty from the original version, you start with 3 lives and can’t stock more than 9. I conceived the game with this life limit in mind as I didn’t want it to feel like nowadays Mario or Kirby games, where you always stock like 50 lives in the early levels and don’t ever see the game over screen anymore. I realized it was not a good idea to keep players under such pressure so that’s why it’s not the “standard mode” anymore. You don’t have the extra heart during bosses, but if you already have 9 lives, you can temporarily stock more if you find others during levels. There is also a new side quest where you have to beat all the levels in classic mode to reward the players up for the challenge.
I added a room in the octopus village to allow the players to change the game difficulty
after starting the game (which was not possible in the original version). There are no restrictions so you can change difficulty as much as you want.
As I grew up playing retro games, for me it’s expected to create a mental map in your mind, but it’s something that is hard to do now that we all play much more games than what we used too. It led to many players getting lost in Tako as they were not remembering where to go. To address that, I added a hint system
: now when you return to see Loulou in the towns/hat houses, she reminds you about your current goal, and if you talk to her again she also reminds you about the ongoing side quests. As there is no in-game inventory, having a whole quest book would have clashed with the rest of the game, so I thought it was the best way to include hints and to help remember about all the quests. Now when you travel through the various worlds, their names also appear to help players remember the places locations.
As I mentioned, the game is very story driven and text heavy. There are a lot of cutscenes and I did my best to animate the characters to give them personality and highlight who is speaking, but that was not enough. That’s why I also reworked the dialog box to include an arrow above who is speaking
. I also improved the HUD to display temporary items you might find in dungeons and quests, like the keys.
I added two new options, a Photosensitivity mode
to disable flashing effects, as well as an auto-palette option
, which changes the palette depending on the level you are in. I wish I could have added a Game Boy Color mode, but it would have been too much work due to how the game was conceived. That’s also why I called the game “Definitive Edition” and not “DX”, as I thought it would have been misleading.
There is now a control page
on the main menu. I was also able to implement a sound system
menu where you can listen to the game 113 music tracks, which unlock during your quest. There are also some bits of new content appearing in the post game now, including new steam achievements and a hidden boss fight. I’m glad I was finally able to do everything I wanted to with the game.
Thank you all for reading up to here. I can't discuss every issue that was fixed here, but it should be enough to give you an idea of how the game has changed and why. Tako has been a long adventure and learning experience for me, I poured my heart into it and did my best to do the most with this second life the game is given, hope you will give it a second chance. The game will be released on May 5th 2021
. I waited a long time to get the game patched and I can't wait for you to experience the game in all its glory in this Definitive Edition. Thank you again for your support over the years, and stay tuned for what will come next for the game once it's back on stores. Have a great day and take care of yourself! - You can wishlist the game on Steam here: Store.steampowered.com
- Follow me on Twitter: Twitter.com