Brooks Bishop — August 27, 2012
After floundering for a couple of days trying to work on stage three, I think I finally worked out something that is fairly interesting, pretty fun, and manages to scale well with the difficulty. Nate play tested it, and for the first time ever in Aeternum from a play tester the response wasn’t “too hard.” Then again, this being a first an all, I’m not sure what to think.
This is probably the third incarnation of stage three. I just plain wasn’t happy with how things were going in my first two attempts so after getting a good chunk of it done, I would just clear out the whole script file. I do find it a bit amusing that this seems to be my modus operandi in working on these stages though, because it’s a little known secret in-joke that every time Geoff would write anything for TwoFedoras, my first response would always be “Looks good. Delete it and start over.” What I love though, is how this strategy is, I think, a fairly sound one. It led to much better posts on Geoff’s part, and saved me a lot of trouble in having to salvage his initial work through editing.
Jesse continues to be in a tough situation, what with the moving and the house fixing and all, but we still manage to talk about the soundtrack for the game from time to time. I’ve been feeding him specific songs that I like for particular stages or boss fights, and I’m confident that once he gets a chance to sit down and actually compose, he’ll knock it out of the park. To go a little more behind the scenes, we had a brief talk about developing the boss themes in a more “piecemeal” manner and dynamically modulating the song based on the current phase of the fight. I had to shoot Jesse down on it though, because although I really like the idea and I think it can produce some really cool audio effects (the music in Fez for example), I decided it would just be easier all around to simply have complete songs.
Nate is actually back to his keyboard and he’s been turning out some great new stuff, but I believe he wants to write an update of his own. I will defer to that, so look forward to his own post soon!
Speaking on the bigger picture I’ve been thinking about game length lately. I’ve realized over the development of Aeternum that shmups like this are in a very interesting position, in that stages are almost entirely timed. Yes, something like Mario for example even though it has a timer, is still largely paced by the skill and desires of the player. You can rush through it, or you can take advantage of the largely permissive timer to saunter through and enjoy yourself. Aeternum on the other hand is very rigid about what happens and when. The only timing variable comes in how fast you can exhaust a boss’s health. In this case since bosses also have time limits, there is even a hard cap on the length of each stage. Because of this, I have a very definite control over the length of the game and figuring out what that final length should be has been another struggle. I get the feeling though that for the average player this won’t make too much of a difference. The game will feel much longer because of its difficulty and the necessary restarting of levels whereas someone who gets really good at the game will see the actual length and find it much shorter. It’s just another situation where there must be a sweet spot in the middle between having a game that is too short to be a challenging experience and too long for fun score play.