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Angel's Gear Devlog # 7 - The Waterworks

Hey guys, it's been a busy two weeks! I know I said I was taking a mental health break, but I was already feeling better after a couple days, so I got back to work on Angel's Gear.

Before I begin talking about what I did during these two weeks, I need to announce that I'll be doing a month long hiatus on Angel's Gear to work on my Halloween project. I also would just like to relax for a little while during the month of October, and take in the good fall air and changing temperature. So yeah, No Angel's Gear updates until either late October or Early November.

Let's rewind, it's about three days after the last devlog, I'm refreshed from my fucking around and relaxing, so I begin to work again.

In my last devlog I briefly showed the next area, "The Waterworks", as a work in progress. I had made a little bit of the tileset, but it was still rather early. On my return, the first thing I did was make the palette fit Angel's Gear's theme a little better. It's still plenty saturated, but it's a nice dark blue tone now.

Next was actually blocking out the levels. I block out my levels on paper weeks to days ahead of when I actually create them, so I can knock it out in one fell swoop. Here's the result of that.

As you can see, it's a damp and gnarly blue factory resting on top of a huge cavern. I like the theme, but the game is going to get a lot weirder than this. These first few zones will be a fair bit more grounded then the later ones I have planned.

After that, I forgot an important story element of Angel's Gear and needed to introduce it earlier into the game. Right at the beginning of the game, when you enter the tutorial, I decided it necessary to introduce one of the antagonist's. The Soldier's Id.

Sort of a primal manifestation of the Soldier's troubled past, this Id will taunt the player throughout the game- subtly guiding him to their eventual showdown.

I love his design, it's my shit. His anatomy and design is what I enjoy drawing. Boney-fleshy- beaked demons.

After finishing him up, I decided the the levels still need 'more' to them. They don't feel wet. I want cool effects like weather or ambiance to really sell each zone as it's own place. Color, effects, creatures, difficulty, all of these elements are instrumental to each zone's identity. I hope the player will eventually find this place and it's rain quite comforting when further into the game.

For this effect, I added rain, rain droplets hitting the ground, and dew that accumulates and drips down from the walls and pipes. I think it looks fantastic, super proud of how this looks.

Next! The zone's new enemy....

First, I'd like to talk shop about how Angel's Gear's combat and general loop works.

Angel's Gear will have a comparatively low amount of combat contrasted against it's "metroidvania" (Angel's Gear is a 'lite' Metroidvania. Backtracking and unlocking takes less precedence than it's story, atmosphere, and exploration) siblings. I want these encounters to be infrequent, but high-intensity. To go even further with this- when enemies die- they are dead. Permanently! Some people might scoff and wax their pseudo gamedev knobs- b-but balancing!!! Shut up! Stupid... I want to do it. I like it. It's cool. Cockroaches do not revive when you leave your room and re-enter after smashing them. This sort of speaks to Angel's Gear's design as a whole. I am sick of stagnation and want to do things differently- so that's why I'm making risky decisions with the design of the game.

Anyway, back to THE POINT. IF- enemies are never going to respawn, I want each encounter to stretch the player, make them stressed. Huge risk of dying quickly- but if you snuff out the monster, it's gone for good. That's why I want these enemies to be more complex and dynamic than a standard 2D action game enemy. Each enemy has multiple moves, reactions to elements, ways to kill you. This enemy, the Bonecrow, is a great example of this.

It has low health, but it's movements are strange. It bounces from wall to wall, flying towards you to claw at your throat, or shooting out a nasty dart to make you fly backwards in pain. I want these enemies to seem like they're doing their best to kill you- without them LITERALLY doing their best to kill you. It's insanely easy to make an enemy kill the player, but it's a challenge to make them SEEM like they're trying to kill the player. This enemy is really easy once the wave of intimidation wears off, and you know what they're going to do. But that's just the thing: Your initial battle with these monsters will seem so unfair- but after you master the game's controls and know what an enemy is capable of, you'll be able to pull of a room-clear like you're from the fuckin' Navy Seals. You'd say "wow kind of like Dark Souls" if you've never played a video game ever in your whole life... Or, now it's "wow, kind of like Elden Ring... dude..." I hate video games!!!!

A lot of this same design thought is going into the game's various planned Boss Fights. The first one here, sort of an introduction, is The Scrap. He's a nasty bugger. He also introduces the best mechanic in the whole game- instant death grab attacks. Yes, you heard me, and no, I'm not kidding. Every. Single. Boss. Will have an instant death grab attack. It's going to be fantastic. No, I will not be budging on this.

But yes, the bosses are basically just more intense, larger enemies, that lean more into the spectacle rather than difficulty. One of the most important things to figure out for this boss is "what is an acceptable amount of time for the player to be in an intensive situation like this?"

I found that between one and three minutes is the perfect length for a fight. But there's another problem! The player needs ammunition to continue to damage the boss, otherwise I'd have to make the HP value of the enemy LESS than the players max ammo count. That's lame, and feels pretty horrible, which A- would fit the game perfect BUT B- stretches past the line drawn in the sand for how much I want to punish the player. SOLUTION: Make the Boss spawn enemies so you can refill your ammunition. Bam. This will be different for all bosses, but works perfect for The Scrap's big nasty mouth. And there I had it, a pretty stellar fight with different tactics that used almost every mechanic in the game. I have it! A Vertical Slice!!!

After completing the boss, the first zone was pretty much complete. I just added a few story bits in, and bam- done.

Speaking about these story bits, here's a chance to swing my big weewee around a bit. After defeating The Scrap, you encounter your Id again. Once the conversation ends, he flies UP.

But here's what's interesting! The way forward is actually to the left here, but going up will bring you back to the Hub area in a big interconnected loop. This brings the player back to where new quests are available, and to where you can catch up with all of your hub buddies. Most areas in the game will weave into each other like this, I have no plans for any sort of teleportation system- so I think it'll be pretty cool to see how it all fits together. I never want the player to defeat a boss and the game goes "Okay, turn around and walk out of the zone the exact way you came in". That's super lame. I never, ever want that to happen, I want to make the player feel like they're constantly moving forward, having things naturally loop in on themselves.

I also spent the last two days before writing this making the Hub NPC's first set of questlines. I won't be showing them here as I've already spoken at length about so many topics. Plus, they're like, huge spoilers dude!

Lastly I'll wrap up with some thoughts that have been on mind about games and the indie scene in general. I am by no means an authority on any subject, I don't really believe in something like that- I am a personification of the word 'subjective' in bold text, with stubby legs and a fat belly attached- but this project is supposed to be an antidote to the stagnation I've been seeing in the indie space. I want to encourage everyone to not 'make a video game' set in a genre and stick to said genre's conventions like they are the word of god. I have no say or pull over the AAA's space and how they make their projects- 99% of AAA studios follow the money and nothing else. However! Indie games are suffering from a similar, yet different flavored curse. They are not following the money, but- they ARE following inspiration and trends. Whether subconsciously or not, I am seeing so many indie games that are just games that have already existed with a slight spin. I am guilty of doing this, too. I got my start making Doom and Undertale Clones. But as the indie space grows larger and larger, and more people begin to make their own projects- I think we need to do our best not to just 'replicate' games that we love, but to create games that stand on their own. Make strange ideas, make games that are like none other. Add strange controls, or esoteric mechanics. Do what's in your power to give your game an identity that isn't parasitically feasting on it's inspiration. I still have my 'fun' projects like the Lycanthorn Series- but these games are for me, really. I want to push myself and game's forward how I can. That's what I've been trying to do with Vomitoreum, Loplight, and now Angel's Gear. I want to make a game that stands on it's own feet as an art piece and unique game experience. Not just another Metroidvania, or just another zelda-type game. The best, most memorable games, draw their inspiration from beyond it's home medium, and transform from a "video game" into a genuine art piece. In summary, I am sick of le epic roguelikes with survival crafting mechanics and stuff like that. We aren't out of ideas, we are consumed by what's the hot new thing. It's like we're confusing inspiration with derivativeness.

Anyway, that's enough from the 20-something year old baby boomer yelling at kids on my non-existent lawn.

See you in a month-ish!

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