My Indie Game — Pre-Alpha Build! (part 5)

This is an on-going series where I document my transition from a full-time career to becoming an indie game developer. In case you missed it, you can catch the last segment here:

I’m not going to lie, I have a ton of ideas for my update this week so I’ll most likely split this into a couple different posts. Make sure to follow me here on Medium so you don’t miss out!

Pre-Alpha 1 Released!

The exciting news this week is I’ve released my first test build to a handful of friends. Here’s a video showing everything that currently entails:

Note: I’ve provided the raw, uncut video above. However, I’ll try to provide an edited video in the future. I’ve provided time stamps of points of interest below:

  • 0:00 — The very beginning of the game. You start in the bottom-left corner on every world.
  • 0:06 — I’ve picked up a few items and reached the World Exit. This puts you on the second level (World 1–2)
  • 0:14 — Here we can see the two variations of enemies with unique path-finding. Snakes (go left/right, up/down) and Sprites (free roam).
  • 0:23 — I collide with an enemy which causes damage (loss of Minirls) plus animates both the player and enemy. The enemy then disappears.
  • 0:40 — I find myself in a sticky situation. Even though their path-finding is simple, you can already see the challenge.
  • 1:00 — Once you complete Sub World 5 you’ll see the transition to the next work 2–1 with a new visual style (Cave themed).
  • 1:21 — Take note of my elite dodging skills.
  • 1:25 — Whenever an item is picked up a your avatar animates.
  • 2:18 — Transition to World 3–1 with a Snow theme. I’m really pleased with this background design. It’s definitely set the standard.
  • 3:12 — I’m still a bit unsure of the map size for the 5th sub worlds. I like that they provide provide a chance to explore and zig-zag though the maze like structures. I feel I’ll need to add more enemies and items before this keeps the game’s pace and challenge at an acceptable level though.
  • 3:20 — A minor casualty of procedural level generation. The enemy at the bottom of the screen is trying to move up/down but is blocked.
  • 3:35 — The transition to World 3–1, the Fire world. The red Snake enemy blends into the ground, but this shouldn’t be an issue. Mobs will eventually be unique per each world.
  • 4:20 — It’s also worth noting that Worlds 3–5 all use the same visual wall designs, recolored from the World 1 (the Forest). This is simply a time saver on my end. Each world will have a unique tileset design.
  • 4:30 — The transition to the final area, World 5–1, with a Space theme.
  • 5:37 — End of the game. Closes automatically at this point.

So as you can see, there’s lots of progress. I haven’t even been able to mention everything here, but the game can actually be played from start to finish. Even if game play is currently very rudimentary and challenge is a flat line.

Enemy and Item Balance

From this point, this most important thing for me is to start implementing the unique enemies and items for the game. This will provide not only more challenge, but give each world a more unique feel.

No more of these motherf’ing snakes in motherf’ing space!

To aid in this process I’ve created a spreadsheet for deciding what items and enemies should be created, where they should spawn, and how powerful they should be. See the Enemy/Item tabs along the bottom-left:

I have three unique enemies planned per world theme. Stronger enemies will appear in greater numbers as you progress through Sub Worlds 1 to 5. I’ve also documented their path-finding, special abilities, and a few dev-related notes. The levels will be integral to combat and damage mechanics but for now they scale in a linear fashion from from 2–16. This balance will be tweaked during play tests.

Play Testing

Speaking of play testing, today marks the first time I’ve let someone besides my girlfriend or myself play the game. I selected five friends that have expressed interest in trying the game and distributed the build to them.

Simple instructions for controls and objectives were provided along with a short questionnaire to gather some feedback. Here’s what that includes:

  • Were you able to play the game to completion?
  • Did you experience any technical issues?
  • What’s your opinion of the Unity splash screen on startup?
  • How do you feel about the controls? (player speed, camera speed, etc)
  • What’s your opinion on the visual design? (art style, colors, backgrounds, etc)
  • What was your favorite and least favorite world theme? Why? (forest, cave, snow, fire, space)
  • Did you have any issues with the level generation? (blocked items, etc)
  • How do you feel about the current character designs and animations
  • Which enemy was more difficult to avoid? (red or purple)
  • What feature would you like to see implemented first (see list below)
  • What’s your favorite part of the game so far?
  • Name any games and/or genres Minirl reminds you of
  • Would would you prefer to play this type of game on desktop, console, or mobile device? (be specific)
  • Are you interested in testing the next build (ETA is 2 weeks)

The goal here is to provide structure for their feedback. It lets me know what’s working and not working, plus I tossed a couple fun opinion-based questions in so this doesn’t feel too much like work. We’re making games after all!

I’ll follow up in future posts with any interesting feedback I receive.

What’s Next?

While this is an exciting moment, there’s still obviously lots to do. Here’s a rough list of the big ticket items in no particular order:

  • “Combat” mechanics
  • Health & XP mechanics
  • Fifteen unique enemies with interchangeable path finding
  • Puzzle/traps/obstacles
  • More items and power ups
  • Music and sounds
  • Game menus and improved GUI
  • In-game tutorials
  • Ranking system

The plan is to release a new test build every 2 weeks until release. I’d like to bump the game’s status up to Alpha for the next build, but that decision will be based on how many of the core mechanics are implemented.

So with all that said, I’m going to get back to work! Until next time. As always, thanks for your continued interest and support. Again, be on the lookout for those interspersed posts over the next week!

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