Although initially discouraged after showing off my mascot based endless runner game, I recently started fiddling with it again. The feedback wasn't negative per se; it just wasn't useful in any obvious way. A lot of people were misunderstanding the genre of the game, but that makes sense considering how blind I wanted my feedback, and where most of it was coming from. Anyway, let's talk about how that feedback has affected the game itself.
Main Event: The Demo
The game was a bit too hard. It's tricky to judge the difficulty of your own game because you know it inside and out, and don't have the benefit of ignorance literally everyone else has. That's one of the reasons I released a demo. I don't think anyone explicitly said it was too hard, but when I asked people how far they got, I was surprised that it wasn't far at all.
So to make things easier I've increased the maximum extra hits from 1 to 3. I did this by dividing the 9-piece cheese wheel into 3 segments of 3 pieces each. This also reduces the number of pieces needed for an extra hit to 3, which makes the game more forgiving, and thus more fun. This also greatly increases the chances of a player getting any extra HP at all.
This required I change the graphics for Lamby when he has extra HP. Instead of changing entirely bright orange for the queso shell, he turns orange in thirds, one for each hit point. I also added some cheese pieces that fly off when you get hit to make it clear that they're your health.
The biggest take away is that it's not clear you can hold down the mouse to charge a higher jump. I wasn't under the impression that it would be, but I released it with absolutely no instructions just to see what people would pick up from playing it. Because I want to include as little instruction as possible.
The game now has detailed instructions, but the screen is a little busy, so I'll probably divide it into two screens. One screen for the basics, and another for the complications of rocketmode.
I got a lot of requests for enemies, and even bosses. Despite the fact that there's no method for attacking in the game. I'm not going to completely ignore such a common suggestion, so I'll be adding some enemies. They'll be more like moving obstacles mechanically speaking, but there will be tractors and bats and other such entities assaulting the player. Still no way of attacking them though, as Lamby is a pacifist.
I made some mechanical changes to the game, but there's very little in terms of new content. I'm just kajiggering the gameplay mechanics. More areas and obstacles will come after I get the basics straightened out.
Starting a Run
Now when you start a new run, instead of just nonchalantly walking out of the barn, you get the chance to charge up an initial boost of speed. I based it on the end level bonus of Dynablade in Kirby Superstar. The visuals are temporary. I'm either going to to with something that fits the theme for the HUD, or try to incorporate the meter into the barn you start in. (This part ins't in the instructions yet.)
I felt the beginning needed to be more dynamic and interesting. When you charge the meter even a tiny bit past the maximum, you're penalised with a slower start than if you never tried to charge at all. It's got a risk vs reward thing going on now. Balance is a work in progress, so this will likely be tweaked somewhat.
I've added an overlay for when you enter a new area very reminiscent of the one used in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. This will pop up each time you enter a new area, or start a new run. I'm not 100% sure I like how it looks/works at the start of a run, but my tests for entering a new area look great and give a strong sense of progression.
There's also a counter for how many laps you've done through all the areas. Right now it says "Pass 1" but that might change. I though of using "Lap 1" but that seems to imply there is a maximum number of times you can run through all the areas. I don't want to give the false impression that the game has an end goal. It is an endless runner after all.
When you come out of the rocket powered hotsauce state, you can't die or lose hp by colliding with obstacles. Instead, you will lose speed collision, until you are at or below Lamby's regular top speed. This is indicated by the thermometer on the right side of the screen. When the mercury drops below the white line and the meter slides of the side of the screen you become vulnerable again.
I changed this because I felt the uncontrollable amount of speed would lead to damage or death and discourage players from collecting the hotsauce packet in the first place. It's a powerup, and so it should always be something you want. Plus, now that it provides invulnerability, you're encouraged to take risks to hold on to the speed.
I may need to work on some way of making the speed based invulnerability clearer to the player. He doesn't drop cheese, but that's likely not enough. And I don't want to have to explain every detail of the game up front. Perhaps sparkles or some other visual effect will work.
Colliding with obstacles now reduces your rocketmode time less than before, but also cause a loss in speed now. It's better balanced this way. It gives the player more time to figure out rocketmode before they reach top speed.
There is now a large red arrow that appears when you hold down the mouse/touchscreen. IT indicates how high you will jump. By default it's set up to show how high the highest point of Lamby will go, but can be changed to align with his feet, the bottom of his shell, or the middle of his shell.
This was a necessary change for the mobile versions. It's much more difficult to judge jumps without the tactile feedback of a button. You can turn the guide off if you please.
Added a menu to the game with instructions and a couple of options. Instructions are a WIP. The logo isn't necessarily final, but I like the '80s vibe, and it adds some colour to the game.
An option for volume is now available. At five preset levels: 25%. 50%, 75%, 100%, and muted. I didn't think a fully granular 100% range was necessary. And a slider would be a pain to use with a touchscreen.
It's a bit boring right now, so I'll probably add all kinds of stuff in the background to spice things up. Lamby running by, obstacles from the game, stuff like that.
The first 1/10 of a second you hold down the button/screen now results in the lowest possible jump. This is mostly to accommodate touchscreens, because it can be difficult to touch for just one frame compared to using a mouse.
Jumping beans require 1/10 of a second of charge time. This is to prevent accidental use, especially after exiting rocketmode.
I also added a small burst of speed and brief invulnerability when using a jumping bean. I compare this to the instashield from Sonic 3, only finite and more useful. This isn't as necessary as it was before I changed the health system, but it's still a nice bonus. (Jumping beans still don't feel right, will probably change more.)
Lamby makes a frowny face when he gets hit. This was especially necessary considering how common it is now to take damage without dieing.
I altered some hitboxes that felt a bit unfair. Most prominently the stack of hay bundles.
This isn't a concern yet, but I may increase Lamby's top speed slightly each time he completes an area, or maybe just when he laps through every area. Nothing huge. Probably just 5% of the base speed, This would act as both a reward and an extra challenge to keep the game from turning into an endurance test.
I tested out using Adobe AIR to port the game to Android. Turns out it's very easy. I didn't have to change a single line of code. So that's great. It ran like crap because I haven't bothered to convert the game's vector art to raster, but I'm confident it will run fine when I make the necessary changes. I just like being able to alter the art in the same application I'm coding it in; it's a good workflow.
I plan to port to iOS as well. But I don't have an iPhone or iPad, so it may come out later on iOS because I don't have an easy way to test it like I do for Android. My phone isn't super powerful either, which is probably a good thing. It makes it easier to test for performance on lower end mobiles.
I'm going with the name Lambtaco Run for now. It's short and descriptive; good for a mobile app. I'm not married to that name, so if something better comes up I may change it.
That's all for now.
Updated on March 12th. A new version of the game replaces the March 9th upload. Text updated to accommodate.