Author Topic: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark  (Read 783 times)

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Offline awergh

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CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« on: 12:25, 09 November 19 »
Fitzroy in the Dark
Having succeeded at seeking feedback last year, I thought I should do it again.
I am sure this time I have found some new and improved mistakes to make with my game.  :P
That said the game the game appears to be significantly less buggy then last year’s game, which was even buggier than I realised.
I have written up my thoughts and a few questions on this year’s game and would appreciate the feedback but be aware I have written significantly more than I intended to so I won't be upset if you don't read the whole thing. I am sure it is the longest post I have ever written on cpcwiki. (It was supposed to be a couple of paragraphs not an essay.  ;D )

This year I managed to get some feedback on the way but not a whole lot so it may have suffered a little from that again.
Having seen Xyphoe's comments and Novabug's from the chat on his stream it seems like I have made a somewhat complicated game but not explained it particularly well.
I originally intended to provide some in-game information about how to play the game but time ran out and instead the instructions got relegated the user manual. Unfortunately, as I wrote the user manual around 5am I have no idea if it provides a good explanation for a new player. In addition, players (myself included) tend not bother reading the user manual unless they are stuck. The only exception is when you read the cassette inlay while waiting for the tape to load.

Maybe next year I need to write the user manual much earlier, and supply the user manual so that it can be tested alongside the game.


How the Game Works
For purely technical reasons (i.e. it was easier and I had not done it before) I made the player move one square at a time and made the game turn based. The plan was that there would be some strategy involved in choosing where you went and where enemies go as a response.
However, some of the levels do not actually have any enemies; I wanted to make sure the game was not too difficult by having some of the levels not kill you as easily. (More thoughts on that later.) The choice of turn-based movement enabled diagonal moves and as an added bonus it enabled secrets (it was original bug that became a feature).


Light Sources
In this game everything is dark except where the light(s) are.
If you move in the dark too many moves you will die (there is an L on the HUD for this), the explanation is that there are monsters in the dark that will get you if you stay too long in the dark.
This means you must keep to the light as much as possible. In order to do this you can equip either a torch or an oil lamp.
Both of these require fuel but they use different types of fuel (displayed on the HUD) so you could swap them when one of them runs out of fuel.
Sadly, the oil lamp is superior to the torch instead of giving you a reason to equip the torch instead of the oil lamp.
I also added support for static light sources on the map but I use them sparingly because it interfered with the moth enemy.
It now occurs to me I could have let the moths ignore static light sources and only focus on the player light sources.


Levels
The game opens up with a map screen that lets you choose which level you want.
The only game I have played of that does this on the CPC is Sir Lancelot, but other PC games like Commander Keen and Secret Agent do this.
Theoretically, you can choose any cave you want and start the game there but you may need to have some items in order to complete the level. Generally, the easier levels were in the first cavern and the harder levels were in the second cavern but I do not stop you from trying the later levels first.
This design also allows me some flexibility with difficulty as you can just replay a level until you get the level done or try another one.
You cannot actually completely die in the game. Instead, it will respawn you on the entrance map.
Given the pre-requisite nature of some levels containing persistent items, I decided to let you replay any level as many times as you like. If you have to do this, I have probably failed at map design though.
Is it better to let the player figure out that they have missed an item in a level or to tell them that they cannot leave a level until they have the expected item?
I did not really hide items so it should not have been too much of an issue.

The goal is to complete each of the 10 levels and then open the last cave entrance to the final game level. Adding the final level makes 11 levels in total, which I thought, was a good number.
Generally, each of the game levels has a different focus for example one level has many keys and doors and another has many mines.
Possibly, I could have combined ideas more but designing good levels requires practice. That said this game I spent more time designing levels than previous years however this game was also bigger than previously so it was just as much a side effect of the size of the game as it was better organisation.


Controls
The controls were made a little more confusing because I did not make the inventory keys rebindable (ran out of time).
What you need to know is that there is a cursor that you can choose one of 8 directions around Fitzroy.
You then press the use (should have been called use\move in the menu) key to move Fitzroy to that position.

Alternatively, a more convenient way to move was to hold down use\move and use the direction keys but this has the disadvantage of not being able to move Fitzroy diagonally.
Picking up an item or using an object is just a matter of moving to that square.

The inventory screen lets you equip an item either left handed or right handed or to drop it on the ground.
However, some items need to be equipped in two hands, the goal being to force the player to drop the light if they want to use certain items.
To equip left press 1
To equip right press 2
To drop it on the map at Fitzroy's current position press 3
Inventory operations do not count as turns which I think was the right decision.


Possible Problems
During development I felt I had a few problems which I'm not quite sure I fixed. Feedback on what I should have done or what I could do to fix them would be appreciated.
I am considering doing some updates to the game as there were some small things that didn't make it into the game that might have helped make things clearer.
(When it is near the dead line sometimes you just have to give up on your "fantastic" ideas because there is not enough time and for fear of breaking the game.)

Therefore, in no particular order what I thought were the problems and might still be the problem.
  • I felt that the game did not give you much urgency you just sort of wandered around and did things but it was not super compelling.
  • I thought the game was a bit barren with not enough stuff in the level to make it interesting (my solution of putting gems everywhere may or may not have worked), it has occurred to me today I could have made it an actual objective of the game to collect a sufficient number of gems. Some of them are hidden in secrets so I would not require you to collect them all.
  • There was not nearly enough testing of the levels, I basically threw all the gems, fuel and health in the last minute which would hopefully allow people to finish the game without them dying repeatedly. (No matter how diligent I am at working on the project I always seem to run out of time to implement everything.)
  • game is perfectly playable when you have a map and because time is of the essence this is the main way I tested it. I think there is a possibility this could be a good game for people who like making maps but not so fun for everyone else.
Feedback and Thoughts\Questions
I appreciate anyone who has taken to read my thoughts and plays my game.
A few more questions that some people might have thoughts on them (some might be a recap of above)
  • Did I make the game too slow with my turn based style movement?
  • Does the game feel alive or did it end up still being a bit barren and how could I fix that?
  • What is the best way to explain to the player about how to play a semi-complicated game (I'm assuming I basically failed at this)?
  • Is designing levels with a different main concept in mind for each the best way or should I go for a different approach (eg building on previous level concepts)?
  • Do people like having a non-linear choice of what levels they can play and does this limit the options with how I can design levels (prerequisites are harder this way)?
  • Would this be a good candidate for save and load (eg The Hobbit you could record your progress to a separate tape)?
  • Should I have made the HUD bigger given a significant amount of the screen wasn't actually used?
Programming Question
Are there any good examples of saving the game state to a separate tape or to disk?
I don't see anything quite like that in cpctelera, I see a load but it seems more for writing a loader than for saving and loading the game state.
Does cpctelera have any way to write code that is specific to disk loading or tape loading based on what the user has chosen?




Changelog

v1.1 (Build 588)
  • Player now always starts with the one handed sword.
  • Implemented eight directional movement.
  • Implemented four direction movement with option to switch between diagonal and non-diagonal directions.
  • Changed default key bindings to numpad keys.
  • Added menu item to switch between four and eight directional movement.
  • Changed menu to use numbers for selection instead of arrows.
  • Various optimisations to save memory.
  • Adjusted bow to fire arrows from one of four positions regardless of selected movement type.
« Last Edit: 10:42, 07 December 19 by awergh »

Offline AMSDOS

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #1 on: 01:49, 10 November 19 »
It looks like you've put a lot of work into this game and it looks like you need to have a Load & Save game option, unfortunately I feel like I'm the wrong person to be giving feedback, I played the game on the easiest setting and had to go to the Manual, unfortunately I'm terrible at exploration/map game, I picked up some light source and wandered around with it until I got to an area with all these doors which had Water(?) place around, I didn't know what to do! :(

Perhaps just as well your game was well received more than mine towards the end of the presentation.
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Offline awergh

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #2 on: 08:04, 10 November 19 »
It looks like you've put a lot of work into this game and it looks like you need to have a Load & Save game option, unfortunately I feel like I'm the wrong person to be giving feedback, I played the game on the easiest setting and had to go to the Manual, unfortunately I'm terrible at exploration/map game, I picked up some light source and wandered around with it until I got to an area with all these doors which had Water(?) place around, I didn't know what to do! :(

Well I think everyone has to go to the manual because my game isn't exactly intuitive.
Probably what you missed is you need to pick up a light source and then equip it from the inventory screen either in your left or right hand (1 or 2).
Then you will be able to see where you are going. The idea is you go into one of the cave entrances and complete the level see the attachment.

I am happy that you had a go and can provide some feedback. This is partly why I posed some questions on what I could have done to make it a better game.
Answering them from a higher level game design perspective is fine as well as the discussion\answers are still helpful I think.

Perhaps just as well your game was well received more than mine towards the end of the presentation.
Well its all a bit subjective in the end, if people can't understand how to play it they can't really find it enjoyable can they?
Or if they never find an enemy they can't exactly find any AI.
I got points from three of the judges but I'm not sure what the third one (Amstrad Eterno) was judging on.
One day I will do sound\music and thus giving myself access to the points based on those categories rather than getting nothing for them.


 

Offline Arnaud

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #3 on: 12:11, 10 November 19 »
Hi @awergh,
first of all, i like the idea of using light and make a gameplay with it.

Here my remarks.

CONTROLS:
  • You really should by default use the Joystick, and the game should allow to use keyboard in same time.
    To start a game i press fire button, if it doesn't work it's already complicated to play.
  • I think the square to select the direction is not really useful and really slow down the play. The classical way to move the player will do the job.
  • When a key is pressed for a direction, i should not have to release it and press again to make another move.
  • There is too many keys to use : USE / ATTACK / INVENTORY / EXIT / SELECT SLOT INV (1) / SELECT SLOT ENV (2) / DROP OBJECT (3) / UNEQUIP (4). Your game uses 8 keys without directions. I think you should have mapped all on two keys (or button) and another to exit.

GAMEPLAY:
  • You should use another tile to distinguish darkness and block. When i'm exploring i have to test every square before seeing where to go because i don't know if the nearer squares are a block or darkness. It's not really fun.
  • When i take a torch i don't know how many time it will lighted.

For now i haven't succeded to finish one level (in normal), but i'll try again  ;)
« Last Edit: 12:42, 10 November 19 by Arnaud »

Offline awergh

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #4 on: 13:10, 10 November 19 »
Hi @Arnaud
Thanks for the comments.
Seems like people like the concept but the execution isn't quite there.


You really should by default use the Joystick, and the game should allow to use keyboard in same time.
Makes sense to default to joystick rather than the arrows which is what I tend to do for testing with an emulator.
I generally figured I could just get the user to rebind them so it didn't matter on the defaults.
Only trouble I had with this is that it was very sensitive with a real joystick and it would often do two controls instead of one.


I think the square to select the direction is not really useful and really slow down the play. The classical way to move the player will do the job.
When a key is pressed for a direction, i should not have to release it and press again to make another move.
I think the trouble with the controls is once I decided to make the game allow for diagonals I didn't want to change it.
I liked the idea of secret areas that were only accessible by diagonals ignoring the fact that no one is really going to find them as I only occasionally point out where they actually are to the player.
However now that I think about it I could have achieved the same secret feature with wall tiles you can move over that are entirely black.
I think I was amused my bug got turned into a feature too much and didn't think about the consequences to the controls, basically I became too invested.
The other problem with removing diagonals is that it makes it harder to avoid the enemies.
Enemies can also attack you diagonally as well which probably doesn't help this issue.


There is too many keys to use : USE / ATTACK / INVENTORY / EXIT / SELECT SLOT INV (1) / SELECT SLOT ENV (2) / DROP OBJECT (3) / UNEQUIP (4). Your game uses 8 keys without directions. I think you should have mapped all on two keys (or button) and onother to exit.
Your right here, I should have revisited the inventory controls.
I think it all happened because it was supposed to be a quick thing to implement in an hour or so and instead it took me a series of evenings. This meant once I got it working I moved onto something else to reclaim lost time. For cycling through the options I didn't want to push out items previously stored in a slot (I thought this would be inconvenient) but I could have prevented you from doing this by not allowing you to use a slot filled by another item.


You should use another tile to distinguish darkness and block. When i'm exploring i have to test every square before see where to go because i don't know if the nearer squares are a block or darkness. It's not really fun.
Someone mentioned this to me and I couldn't come up with a solution that I liked to this problem.
Again I let my diagonals\accidental secrets dictate the design because I didn't want the secrets revealed to the player by lighting up the wrong squares.
Either way as it was the 19th October when I tried this it was starting to get too late to make major changes to the lighting in the game.

Do you think it would be better to have an indicator for any solid walls inside the light radius (easier) or should I have gone with the more logical only the first tile in each row\column is visible (harder)?

I have attached an example of what I was doing where you could see the first of the wall tiles when shining a torch north.


When i take a torch i don't know how many time it will lighted.
The battery on the HUD indicates how much power you have left for the torch.
The drain of the battery and the lamp oil is determined by moving an arbitrary number of steps.
« Last Edit: 13:16, 10 November 19 by awergh »

Offline Arnaud

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #5 on: 13:38, 10 November 19 »
I think the trouble with the controls is once I decided to make the game allow for diagonals I didn't want to change it.
Not a problem at all, just handle diagonals in a classical way. Maybe there is a technical problem behind this ?

Do you think it would be better to have an indicator for any solid walls inside the light radius (easier)
Yes it's exactly what i'd like to see.

The drain of the battery and the lamp oil is determined by moving an arbitrary number of steps.
You are right, i did not recognized the symbol  :)

Offline awergh

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #6 on: 14:21, 10 November 19 »
Not a problem at all, just handle diagonals in a classical way. Maybe there is a technical problem behind this ?
Do you mean that I should check to test if two directions are down and treat it as a diagonal if they are valid directions?

Yes it's exactly what i'd like to see.
I will have a go to see what this looks like. I didn't want you to be able to see through walls but maybe there is a compromise I can find there.

You are right, i did not recognized the symbol  :)
Haha someone else told me it looked like a fire extinguisher. :)
Last year my flamethrower was apparently detergent\cleaner so I think there is a precedent of people not seeing it the way I do.  :laugh:

Offline Arnaud

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #7 on: 14:27, 10 November 19 »
Do you mean that I should check to test if two directions are down and treat it as a diagonal if they are valid directions?
What i have in mind :
Code: [Select]
if key for right then x++
else if key for left then x--

if key for down then y++
else if key for up then --

if (CanGoToTile(x, y)) then GoToTile(x,y)


I will have a go to see what this looks like. I didn't want you to be able to see through walls but maybe there is a compromise I can find there.
Haha someone else told me it looked like a fire extinguisher. :)
Last year my flamethrower was apparently detergent\cleaner so I think there is a precedent of people not seeing it the way I do.  :laugh:
;D

Offline awergh

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #8 on: 15:10, 12 November 19 »
What i have in mind :
Code: [Select]
if key for right then x++
else if key for left then x--

if key for down then y++
else if key for up then --

if (CanGoToTile(x, y)) then GoToTile(x,y)



So I had a bit of a play with this.
Diagonals seem to work except for the first move.
For example initially it will go up and then right and then the next one is North East as you are holding down both instead of them being very close together.
I haven't tried joystick yet to see what it is like but with the keyboard in winape it seemed less precise than I had hoped.


Is using the numpad for 8 directions a better option? I know this means more controls but it provides more procession (I am assuming that I have different control schemes for joystick and keyboard)?

Offline Sykobee (Briggsy)

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #9 on: 19:20, 12 November 19 »
I think using the numberpad is a viable option for this style of game to make movement simpler.


Checking for two directional keys can work, of course, but there's the issue that if they're pressed slightly out of sync, it will lead to the wrong direction occurring. It's probably not too hard to wait a frame or two in a slow paced game before deciding on the movement action.

Offline Arnaud

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #10 on: 22:26, 12 November 19 »
Code: [Select]
if key for right then x++; GoToTile(x,y)
else if key for left then x--; GoToTile(x,y)

if key for down then y++;GoToTile(x,y)
else if key for up then y--;GoToTile(x,y)

Could that be working ?

Offline awergh

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #11 on: 15:00, 13 November 19 »
Code: [Select]
if key for right then x++; GoToTile(x,y)
else if key for left then x--; GoToTile(x,y)

if key for down then y++;GoToTile(x,y)
else if key for up then y--;GoToTile(x,y)

Could that be working ?


I have tried this or been inspired by it and it works but there is an instance where your arrows are not in sync and you don't move in diagonal because of it.

Quote from: Sykobee (Briggsy)
link=topic=16268.msg180329#msg180329 date=1573579251
I think using the numberpad is a viable option for this style of game to make movement simpler.


Checking for two directional keys can work, of course, but there's the issue that if they're pressed slightly out of sync, it will lead to the wrong direction occurring. It's probably not too hard to wait a frame or two in a slow paced game before deciding on the movement action.



I am certainly tempted for 8 direction controls even if it will look a little excessive.
I have tried delay and it seems to help but I can still sightly out of sync.
Still need to try it on real hardware.

Offline awergh

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #12 on: 14:48, 14 November 19 »
Disappointingly it doesn't work so well for the joystick.
Part of it might be the joystick I am using that isn't great.
It seems maybe the best option for 4 directional movement is a bit of a delay.


Currently I am using cpct_scanKeyboard_if in the interrupt handler.
What is the best way to do a delay. I was trying to just increment a variable in the interrupt like normal but it seemed to have some strange behaviour with my wait.


someVariable = 0;
while(someVariable < 50)
{
// do nothing
}

Offline Arnaud

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #13 on: 19:42, 14 November 19 »
Another solution could be to use fire button while selecting a move.

When fire button is released make the move.
If fire button is release without any other move in same time it's a fire action.

Offline awergh

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #14 on: 08:56, 15 November 19 »
Another solution could be to use fire button while selecting a move.

When fire button is released make the move.
If fire button is release without any other move in same time it's a fire action.
That isn't a whole lot different to what I had before.
I think I am going to implement a few and have them as options and call it an experimental 1.1 version and use it to determine the ideal options for v1.2.

As it happens someone suggested why didn't I let you select any square on the screen so you can move more than one square a time.
I had never thought of this and it might have been a good solution you would just be doing multiple turns instead of one.
Not quite sure how pathing works though.

I had thought of today using the fire button to let you switch between the four non diagonal directions and the four diagonal directions.
I think this could work but I will have to see once I implement it.
« Last Edit: 08:59, 15 November 19 by awergh »

Offline awergh

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #15 on: 10:35, 07 December 19 »
I am happy enough to release version 1.1 now. (See first post for attachment)
I haven't done everything I want but I am happy with the alternate movement options in order to release version 1.1.
I am still planing on 1.2 but as is usually the case I've almost had enough with this codebase and am somewhat afraid of touching some things in case I break it.


There are now two options for movement:
  • Four directional movement
  • Eight directional movement
In eight directional movement you have eight different keys you can use to move in eight directions.


In four directional movement you have four direction keys and a switch key that lets you switch between diagonal and straight directions.
This was so that you could still use a joystick for playing the game. I could not get the joystick (at least the one I was using) to reliably move diagonally.
However I think my alternate idea may take some getting used to. There is an indicator in the top right hand corner showing that it is in diagonal mode instead of straight mode.
Choosing the direction will only allow for straight directions.

User manual has not yet been updated because I am feeling lazy some things may be subject to change.

Changelog

v1.1 (Build 588)
  • Player now always starts with the one handed sword.
  • Implemented eight directional movement.
  • Implemented four direction movement with option to switch between diagonal and non-diagonal directions.
  • Changed default key bindings to numpad keys.
  • Added menu item to switch between four and eight directional movement.
  • Changed menu to use numbers for selection instead of arrows.
  • Various optimisations to save memory.
  • Adjusted bow to fire arrows from one of four positions regardless of selected movement type.
« Last Edit: 10:45, 07 December 19 by awergh »

Offline Arnaud

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #16 on: 21:26, 07 December 19 »
Really more playable with the 8 directions.
This time i was able to find the teleporter to reach the second part of the labyrinth.

What are you planning in the 1.2 ?

Offline awergh

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #17 on: 04:10, 08 December 19 »
Really more playable with the 8 directions.
This time i was able to find the teleporter to reach the second part of the labyrinth.

What are you planning in the 1.2 ?
I'm glad it is an improvement. :)  I'm guessing you must be on the level with lots of key cards.


For 1.2 I was planing to do some of the things I wanted to do in the game but ran out of time because it was 5am.
Make the cause of death a bit more obvious and that you are running out of dark moves.
If you aren't paying attention you will just feel like you are being kicked out of the level without knowing why.


I had thought about whether some of the levels need more enemies such as in the closest level to the start (keys and doors) to make the levels more interesting.
The keys and doors level was deliberately without enemies to make it easier but that might have been a mistake.
I was planing to change moths so they weren't attracted to the static light sources (light bulbs, I had intended to do something more cave like but ran out of time) so that I could both in the same map.
Otherwise the moth doesn't go after the player most of the time which isn't interesting.

Offline Arnaud

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #18 on: 10:04, 08 December 19 »
And about using another tile to distinguish darkness and block ?
Can it be done or it could break the gameplay (or code) you want to have ?

Offline awergh

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #19 on: 13:29, 08 December 19 »
And about using another tile to distinguish darkness and block ?
Can it be done or it could break the gameplay (or code) you want to have ?


Ah yes that is still on the agenda as well, I need to take another look at it to see if there is a simple way to do it.
In terms of gameplay I like the idea of not being able to see past the wall so it is a light blocker.
The light blocking was a bit fiddly to implement. I tried making part of the wall visible but wasn't quite happy because I thought it revealed too much but I will think about it more.
My main problem now is I am running out of memory, I'm sure there are savings to be had but I have to find them first.

Offline Arnaud

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Re: CPCRetrodev 2019 : Fitzroy in the Dark
« Reply #20 on: 14:47, 08 December 19 »
If you want you can send me your code, i can have an external point of view for finding some memory optimizations.