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A pixelart exploration game where you play a shape-shifting girl whose powers are destroying the world she is trying to save.
A pixelart exploration game where you play a shape-shifting girl whose powers are destroying the world she is trying to save.
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Mable & The Wood - July 2018 Update

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Hi everyone,

Welcome to the latest update! Hope you're all enjoying the summer (or winter for my southern hemisphere friends).

Over the past 6 weeks I've been focusing on adding in new art and polishing some of the stuff that I want in the new trailer, I've also been finalising which areas, levels, bosses and scenes will make up the most basic path through the game.

This month I want to talk in more detail about the structure of Mable but, before we get to that, I've already talked for too long without posting a GIF!

Speech bubbles

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After making do with it for so long, I finally updated the speech bubbles. I changed the font and wrote a script so that words start on the correct line. It's one of those things that nobody notices unless you don't do it. 

Here's the original speech bubbles for comparison:

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Better :)

Stone Giant

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I've also been working on the animations for the new Stone Giant and I'm really happy with it. This is his basic idle animation. His shading is ruined slightly by the awful GIF compression, but you can get a good idea of the movement :)

Priory

Yes that building is inspired by Castlevania
Yes that building is inspired by Castlevania

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I'm not 100% sure on the colour scheme here, but not a lot of it will be visible as you climb up through the collapsing towers. You may also find a way beneath the surface to one of the backer designed areas if you're paying attention...

Story wise, this is where everyone has gone to wait out the 'end of the world' but when you get there it appears to be deserted.

Medusa form

Medusa form was rubbish previously. It was just an alternative version of the fairy form where your sword turned enemies into platforms. Now it's an AoE attack:

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As you can probably see, they only remain as a platform for a certain length of time (testing is required to make sure this is long enough). What you probably can't see is that it automatically switches you back to your previous form as soon as you press fire to turn your enemies to stone.

There's also a cooldown timer on the power that you can see slide in at the top left. You see the cooldown timer too on the form select wheel.

There's a bug with it at the minute that sometimes crashes the game and it also needs a little bit of polish.

Secrets

Now I'm pretty set on the standard route through the game, I've been working on adding in ways for me to hide hints for how you find the alternative routes through the game or unlock some of the hidden abilities.

This is one of the basic ones, breaking wooden doors down:

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There's also a bonus new character in there for you!

I think secrets are an important part of the play experience, but they're usually just little rewards for curiosity rather than giving you the option to fundamentally alter your playthrough.

One that note...

Let's talk about structure and secrets (and additional game modes I guess)

Games are too long

I feel like games can often outstay their welcome. The shine can really be taken off an otherwise great game because it can really feel like it's being dragged out.

You know that feeling where you're actually really invested in the game so you want to get to the end, but you're a bit tired of doing the same thing over and over. I felt this way about Breath of the Wild, I burned out on it but I forced myself to finish it. That is a pretty big game, so I guess that makes sense. But I also felt a bit (nowhere near as much as I did with Zelda) like that with Owlboy, and that is not a big game.

I'm certainly concerned that Mable could fall into this trap. There are so many gameplay possibilities that I kind of feel like I could be designing content forever.

Think about almost any Mario game; about how many different enemies and challenges there are and the massive variety between them. All of these are designed to interact in an interesting way with your core move-set, your run and jump.

Mable has 8 move-sets. Sure, there's crossover in that you can use various forms to deal with a particular challenge, but the variety of possible challenges is huge.

And games are too short

On the other hand, there are games that I've finished and just felt like I want more of it. To be honest, I rarely have time to finish games anymore so I don't have any recent examples. Unfinished Swan, Beyond Good & Evil and Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath are some older examples though.

So...

I'd rather leave you wanting more than leave you wanting it all to end. And then I want to give you a few different ways to keep playing, if you do want to.

There's 3 ways that I hope to achieve this. I'm going to use the following games as examples so that it's hopefully a bit clearer what I'm actually going on about:

  • Chrono Trigger
  • Spelunky HD
  • Gears of War 2 (with a side note for the Super Mario All-Stars collection)

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger was the first game that I remember having any kind of New Game + mode. It was quite awesome too, and necessary if you wanted to see all of the endings.

I'm probably too time poor to play a game of the size of Chrono Trigger through once, let alone multiple times, but Mable isn't going to be as big as Chrono Trigger.

NG+ in Chrono Trigger fit seamlessly with the plot of the game and the same will be true of Mable. I'll be spoiling one of the endings if I say too much, so I'll very carefully just say that you won't have to start your next game with fairy form...

So, it's a short(ish) game that you can play through multiple times.

Spelunky (I'm adding HD because I never played the original)

When people talk about Spelunky, they usually talk about the level generation and how that lets you keep playing the game possibly forever. And it is pretty cool, but when you've beat the game it's not the level generation that keeps you coming back. I don't think it's the high score for most people.

It's the secrets.

I know I've alluded to secrets in the past, but they're a vital part of the game. Mainly because of the story in the game.

Because I'm trying to keep the game short, I don't want to waste your time with exposition. I've been writing a lot of dialogue for the characters you can speak to and I realised that most of it is pointless. It's a lot better if you discover things about the world by what happens when you do some things.

There's still dialogue, but it's more driven by the character you speak to, their situation and how they're feeling about what's going on.

Again I'm being careful to avoid spoilers here, but I fully intend to hide some secrets that nobody will ever find. My only rule is that they have to make sense in the world of the game.

Gears of War 2

I played Gears of War 2 through co-op, which was one awesome thing. Another awesome thing was the different game modes.

I'm considering what additional game modes I want to add to the game. At the moment these are the most likely:

  • Horde mode (including co-op mode because co-op horde mode is awesome)
  • Boss rush mode (pick the order you fight the bosses and use their form on the next one you pick)
  • Inspired more by Super Mario All-Stars that Gears 2, I want to include the Lost Levels (a bunch of linear levels that weren't included in the main story that are quite a bit harder than the normal game)

Any of the above will be added after I've released the full game.

The next few weeks

So, onto talking about the next few weeks.

I want to get the trailer finished and polished up so that I can promote Mable leading up to EGX, then hopefully get some coverage from the event itself.

Then it's all about getting the last of the shapes in and starting to polish up some of the key set-pieces. My plan is to get all of the main content in and polished up before I start really tightening up the pacing, but more on that in the next update.

The personal bit

From a personal point of view, it's been a tough few weeks just gone by. The kids both had birthdays in June, turning 1 and 3. Our 1 year old had his jabs 10 days ago and hasn't been sleeping. So far tonight he's woke up every hour and a half, but that's an improvement on the last 2 nights when he was up for 6 hours and would only fall asleep, screaming, on me or Sarah.

My mum also had her operation scheduled in, but caught a cold so couldn't have it. It's now scheduled in for the 16th of July, next Monday. It's the day before my birthday so I'm hoping my present this year is a successful operation and a healthy mum!

Anyway, I'd best wrap up this update before the kid is awake again...

I've enjoyed this update and I hope you have to. I'm looking forward to the next one!

As always, thanks for your continued support with everything that's been going on over the course of the project. You're all awesome.

Andrew

Comments

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    1. Andrew Stewart Creator on

      @Daniel Miller: thanks Daniel :D

    2. Daniel Miller
      Superbacker
      on

      Another excellent update - always worth reading!

    3. Andrew Stewart Creator on

      @Ben - thanks! When I'm polishing I have to be careful what bits I pick to redraw. I'm a lot better at the art than I was when I started the project, but if I redo everything then I'll be there forever.

      @Shawn - Persona 5 is a game that I've not bought specifically because it'd take too much of my time! I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy it, but I've got a lot of big games in my backlog that I need to at least try and make a dent in first...

      In answer to your question, it's not an easy one to answer! On your first play-through, you're looking at 3 ways the game can come to an end. There's a few variables that can make it feel like a different ending, but in reality it will be a subset of one of those 3. If that makes sense?

      To try and illustrate it somewhat, this is not an ending for Mable:

      Umbrella ending - Mable wins the international waffle eating competition
      Sub-ending #1 - but she doesn't know her rival has poisoned the waffles!
      Sub-ending #2 - just as her estranged father runs in to tell her she's gluten intolerant (is there gluten in waffles?)
      Sub-ending #3 - but the world begins to collapse, as the maple syrup she's stolen earlier for those waffles was holding it together

      etc etc

      Basically I've got a big table where there are lots of smaller decisions that you can make as you play through the game and many of them, or combinations of them, can lead to an alternative version of one of the main endings.

      It's a big spreadsheet! I think some of the more convoluted stuff will be patched in post-launch...

    4. Missing avatar

      Shawn Heatherly on

      The speech bubbles look much better. As for game length, I feel like I'm the odd one out. I love a lot of shorter games, but I was also perfectly happy sinking 99 hours into my first playthrough of Persona 5 only to then start the second run to Platinum the game. That said, the inspirations you have for Mable listed here and your logic on game length and secrets sound good to me. If this is too much of a spoiler, I will understand it not being answered but I am curious just how many endings Mable will have.
      Good luck to your mother! I'll be rooting for her.

    5. Ben Grange on

      I seriously love this pixel art. Sorry to hear you've had a rough couple weeks with kids, but this looks great and I can't wait to play it. :)