Metroidvania Gameplay Mechanics 4: Body Parts and The Death of Pixel Art

The Shedloads of Stuff Involved in Developing a Metroidvania-Shmup Indie Game

It’s been too long since I last post anything so I apologise for the delay but I’ve been busy doing more than ever on the game itself and feel it’s finally getting somewhere…

Art is Hard

You may have noticed that Tim is no longer listed as ‘Artist for the Game’ on the About page and indeed, the man is too busy “doing actual work”, “making a career doing what he loves” (being an amazing artist blacksmith) and “generally being a decent and upstanding guy” to help out at the moment so we’ll be keeping him in an advisory role for the time being and seeing how things go later 🙂 (Actually love that man).

So, without Tim helping out with the artwork I’ve had to make some big decisions about how to present the game – even to the extent of possibly being forced into changing the story of the game in order for it to be even comprehensible, given my limited art abilities.

However, where there is a problem, there is often an opportunity.

And so I present the new look:

Geometry what?
Geometry what?

I’m by no means there yet but the direction for the art style is taking form. I’m moving away from a time-consuming ‘100% pixel art’ look and trying to take advantage of in-game effects such as the vector grid shown above, glow, dynamic lighting and shadows to make the game look nice. Bright neon colours and a retro 80’s aesthetic await! This may end up having some bearing on the music I put into the game too 😉

Enemies can play with the grid too.
Enemies can play with the groovy waves too. (If you let them).

So, obviously the vector grid is the biggest change here but I’ve also added a light to the player (which may help you find some (secret) things you would otherwise miss), made a bucket load of minor changes and most importantly of all, changed the color of your robot. I’ll probably add some glow to him as well at some point (to make him look super retro cool) but the bright colours will help him stand out against the dark backgrounds and will contrast nicely with (what will be) the glowing red eyes of his enemies.

I learnt after many hours spent trying that pixel art is difficult. I have full admiration for anyone able to do it well. It is as hard as any art medium I’ve tried; it has its own quirks and you must invest a great deal of time in order to do it well. I am sorely lacking time unfortunately at the moment (I’ve been working on this game alone 8-18 hours a day since May now and I’d like to release it at some point) so learning an entirely new art style in detail before being able to show anything off for the game would be a massive blow to me right now.

Hence, a visual style that I could achieve using largely programming (and only a little touching up by hand) was starting to sound very attractive to me. I love Geometry Wars and while making games on the iphone using Objective-C I tried to make a similar background for my breakout-style musical game. I failed miserably making anything of the sort that would run on the iphone 4s’ processor. But I’m not programming for the iphone anymore, and I’m not coding in Objective-C using Apple’s (frankly disappointing now that I’m used to Unity) Xcode.

So I was going to make one. But, embarrassingly, and as has happened far too often recently, I came across someone’s amazing asset on the Unity asset store that does what I wanted better than I could do given the time I should be spending on it. Shame on me. But thank you misterSquare 🙂 I recommend anyone looking to check him out.

Progress Has Been Made

What I have been programming recently is the ‘body-part switching’ mechanics. This takes us back to the actual Metroidvania Gameplay Mechanics :/

Now, you are able to equip two different body parts and switch between them at the touch of a button. The body parts will all have different attributes in the form of weight and health, as well as other abilities unique to each part. For example:

Reverse Joint Legs move faster and jump higher.
Reverse Joint Legs move faster…
...And jump higher.
…And jump higher…
Explore much more quickly...
…Enabling you to explore much quicker.

I’ll be adding many more body parts into the game in the next few days but the framework is in place now to do so. So, claw arms and spider legs, here we come!

Another big change made recently is that I’ve separated the regenerating health off from another pool of health that does not regenerate. The regenerating health will now be our shield, while the health that does not regenerate will be…our health. Both represented now by two bars (blue for shield, red for health):

Don't die...
Don’t die…

The circle on the left is the shield regeneration cooldown indicator which kicks in if the player’s shield empties and indicates that they must wait 2 seconds for the shield to begin regenerating again. This cooldown timer of 2 seconds is paused whenever the player is firing (as the shield does not regenerate while firing) and is reset if the player is damaged before it can complete. Thus firing your weapons tactically affects your shield regeneration.

I’ll be back to show more soon…

Thanks for reading,

Robots Will Destroy You.


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