Game Development: Frog Hop’s Beginnings Part 2

Hi everyone, let’s go and continue on with some various stuff I thought I’d go over as I show how Frog Hop evolved in it’s earlier stages.

When I began work, I started on adding systems such as health and lives. Handling things like, does the player get launched when taking damage? Or making the UI face react to things such as pickups or death. Such decisions would have an indirect effect on the player’s gameplay.

The lives UI reacts to circumstances and the brief loss of control while invulnerability occurs when taking damage.

The lives UI reacts to circumstances and when you take damage a brief loss of control happens as well as invulnerability occurs.

Of course, there was exploration of other concepts that occurred as well, this was after-all an old school platformer…

Yep, the game originally was going to have a game over screen. But it was kind of a dated concept and I wanted to make the game's transitions quick.

Yep, the game originally was going to have a game over screen. But it was kind of a dated concept and I wanted to make the game’s transitions quick.

The development continued, and I would go about adding some enemies…

The first enemy in the game

The first enemy in the game

I started to think to myself, I need an enemy that tries to counter the player when they try jumping on them…

Alpha Hedgehog

Alpha Hedgehog

I’m not sure why I had the hedgehog damageable during it’s attack in the early version, Perhaps at the time I was thinking it would be less frustrating to at least kill during the attack?

The game needed an air enemy…

Funny thing is, the thought of copying Mario with winged turtles NEVER crossed my mind.

Funny thing is, the thought of copying Mario with winged turtles never crossed my mind.

Also notice how just pressing down on a thin platform sends you through it vs Holding down and pressing jump. This was done to avoid accidental fall-throughs.

The enemies at the time did not have a colored line drawn around them. I think I was trying to stay true to my personal restriction of making the sprites 9×9.

But after giving it thought, the player sprite is actually 11×8 and I made a new rule to have the base sprite be 9×9, but then make it 11×11 to add a line stroke…

The line stroke was added to retain consistency (because the player had one but the enemies did not) and to help with visibility against the background

The line stroke was added to retain consistency (because the player had one but the enemies did not) and to help with visibility against the background

Speaking of which, the reason 9×9 was chosen vs a more common size like 16×16,24×24 or 32×32 was because I wanted to make a “simple game”…

An imagining if I had done the game at a higher resolution

A re-imagining if I had done the game at a higher resolution

The reason 9×9 was done (11×11 because of the stroke) was because 9×9 allowed more tiles to appear on screen within a widescreen resolution. 10×10 (12×8) was considered too but the Player sprite looked weird. Of course, back then my pixel art skills weren’t that great at the time so I went ahead and drew the player sprites at a higher resolution for fun. I’d be cool to animate a game at a higher resolution now…hmmm…if only games didn’t take so much work and time to make…

Okay, so now that we’re here, what was the point of showing these GIFs? Other than just seeing how the game changed and also retained some of it’s form, what is there to take from this?

After all it’s just a pixelated game that looks like a kid made it right? It should only take a week to finish the game…well…

Perhaps we’ll briefly delve into that in the next post, but as we all should know, the game took a little over 4 years to make.

If there’s anything to take from this, my biggest recommendation for anyone who is starting to make games or hasn’t finished any is:

  • If you’re just starting out, do game jams (Making a game in a short time frame). They force you to at least finish something and you will learn A LOT faster than just having some perfect pet project (frog hop) like I did and just tinkering and endlessly adding to it.
    • Regardless you will still learn, there was a lot of ways to code something that I discovered with Frog Hop, and I implemented what I learned into Nameless. And even after Nameless I still learned a lot to carry over to the next thing.
  • If you’re in the middle of a big project and you just want to be done with it quickly, put away that 200+ page design document and look at what you have so far. If anything looks salvageable, is there a way to cut it down so that the game can be simplified and still be a fun game?
    • This obviously depends on your circumstances and priorities though, with Nameless’ case, its Kickstarter nosedived really fast and as a result, A LOT of content was deleted in order to get it out the door fast before I started wasting more time than necessary.
  • Of course though, you can also not cut things out and trudge through to the end, fulfilling your Grand Vision. It’s not easy but it is possible. I can at least hope I’m living proof that even for big games like Frog Hop or Nameless, where the support was pretty meager, that you CAN finish big games (yes believe it or not there are people who finish stuff without the support from 1000+ followers on social media).

Thanks for reading, perhaps I will cap this short series off with one more episode before doing posts on other things. (Maybe it will continue another day)

To be concluded…

-Brandon

Game Development: Frog Hop’s Beginnings Part 1

Hi everyone, I’m back with another post on game development! Today I thought I’d share the oldest build of Frog Hop and run through the design decisions that took place. Obviously I won’t show EVERYTHING but I think the earlier Builds (A build is basically a version of a game) would be fun to talk about.

In the year 20XX, it all started in the magical land of Americana-…

When I had finished releasing my first game Rocket Launch. I wanted to make a new game but I had a handful of incomplete games that never got to see the light of day. (perhaps I’ll one day show these old games)

I had already created over 50 game design documents and had so many ideas. The excitement of being able to create worlds and fulfill my childhood dreams, it was great.

Reimagining of old characters I dreamed of making games of. Who are these characters you ask? YOU MAY NEVER KNOW MUHAHAHAH!

Re-imagining of some old characters I dreamed of making games of.

Of course, my skills at the time were simply underdeveloped. While I had attempted to undertake making the games of my dreams, it was too much work and I could only get as far as making a block jump around. If only I could make something super simple, like a game where you jump on stuff and hop around…like…a…

…!

I took out a piece of paper and began drawing my newest game character. He had to look bold, heroic, tough, epic, detailed, lots of backstory, dynamic, complex, deep…

Deep character design

And so Hoppy was born, now let’s get to the actual game development.

I started with the basics, studying open source code, picking the stuff I liked in the code and incorporating it into my project, adjusting it as I went along.

The first build of Frog Hop

The first build of Frog Hop

Some things to point out from the build, the intent and why they changed:

  • You could not walk on the ground. I wanted to emphasize the jump to move, but it got changed to walking since you could carefully adjust your position before a jump and still helped emphasize that you’re playing as a frog.
  • The jump was originally an auto-hop. I think I was playing games like Quake at the time which featured an auto-hop. My intent was that the jump should feel effortless and not tedious, which was originally why it was there. As a result of that however, players got more bored with the auto-hop since you could just hold it down and hold right and recklessly bypass half the level. Thus the auto-hop was removed.
  • You had full-on air control. If you wanted to changed directions on a dime you could. At the time I think it was mostly a coding thing and so I never got to tweaking the air physics quite yet. As I worked on Frog Hop more, the air control became “floatier” but you can still easily influence your air movement.
  • The character always faced towards the screen. At the time I wanted to go for a simple charming game (like Atari) with unique quirks to it. One being that the character did not face left or right. This actually stayed this way for quite a while because the tongue ability had not yet been utilized.
  • Hoppy had a smile. Something simple like this actually proved to be a problem. One thing that made this game challenging to work on was that the sprites had to be within a 9×9 sprite size limit (technically 11×11 because of the stroke effect). Because of this limitation, the mouth section was removed because the face of the character was hard to read.

Believe it or not, Frog Hop was just going to have 3-5 levels and a boss and that would have been it. Of course if you look at my previous post you can see one of the reasons why it started to grow out of control.

To be continued…

-Brandon

Game Development: The Pros and Cons to using an “Instance Test” Room for your game

Hi guys, I thought I’d make a game development post about how gameplay mechanics were tested in Frog Hop and the effect it had on the overall result of the final game.

An “Instance Test” room is a developer level that end users won’t be able to play. Its purpose is to bug test and prototype gameplay elements before they are even put into an actual level.

A simple example of the kind of stuff that you'd test for. In this case, if the enemies got stunned, the collision check script didn't run. And when out of stun, if they collide with the ground or an enemy below they jump.

A simple example of the kind of stuff that you would test for. In this case, if the enemies got stunned, the collision check script didn’t run and they would phase into each other. Normally when out of stun, if they collide with the ground or an enemy they jump, which is why they hovered in this example.

It seems like a no-brainer to have a test room so that you don’t tamper with the actual levels of your game. However there are problems that I ran into when using a test room.

When it comes to making a bigger game, it becomes harder to predict what might happen since there are significantly more assets to make than just a spike and trampoline for a Game Jam game (A small game that is usually made in a short period of time).

One of the biggest problems I ran into with Frog Hop was that I would finish creating a simple enemy such as the rabbit, but I would continue exploring that enemy type, which resulted in several variants. While this might not be bad in a short term and can be fun to explore, It resulted in creating A LOT of objects and interactive assets that made it very difficult to figure out where to put it in the actual levels of Frog Hop. Especially if it’s your first game, it can sometimes be hard to plan what assets will be the most fun to put in.

In general, you want to avoid getting carried away with spending too much time on polishing and adding too many new assets. Focus on creating your game starting from level 1, play your first level, if you feel it needs an obstacle of some sort, just instance test that one asset get it to a fairly functional state and just put it in your first level. I used this approach with my first game jam game Tempora, a puzzle-platformer where you can change the seasons to affect the level’s shape as well as how you interact with things.

Tempora, a puzzle platformer created for the Buswick 2014

Tempora, a puzzle platformer created for the Buswick 2014

I’ve found this approach works well for smaller game jam games, since you can naturally just play your game from start to finish and add what it needs. Of course with a bigger game, having some experience and good planning (I’ll talk about that in another post) are key to helping you avoid spending too much time on overly polishing and adding assets.

(Of course, we are talking about video game development here, and boy do games require a lot of work and are hard to plan out!)

I’ve found the term for this is called Scope Creep, where the project size ends up becoming larger than intended, resulting in having a huge back log of assets to make and potentially resulting in burnout.

Unlike burnout, Hoppy here is experiencing the opposite of burnout…chill-out?

When using Instance Test Rooms…

PROS:

  • Bug fixing.
  • Helps avoid tampering with final level designs.
  • Can discover new design concepts that could potentially work well for your project.
  • Decent source for capturing bizarre gameplay moments for your social media posts.

CONS:

  • Can result in Scope Creep, meaning you could get carried away with creating too many assets.
  • Can get caught up with polishing just one gameplay element and lose track of the overall layout of your game.
  • Can get “lost”, where you become attached to the test room and don’t actually design levels that would properly implement your asset.

In conclusion, from my own experience, instance test rooms in general are very useful for testing and polishing your planned asset. While they are great for this purpose, as well as for exploring game concepts, they should be used with caution as the project can run the risk of scope creep! Instance test rooms are important to have, just…don’t get TOO attached to them!

Hope you enjoyed reading,

-Brandon


www.tinywarriorgames.com

Frog Hop’s 1st ANNIVERSARY!

Hi everyone,

Happy 1st anniversary for Frog Hop! It’s weird to think that a year has gone by since its release (Honestly feels like it has been longer than that).

To celebrate, I will be releasing a short video series, where I play-through the game with developer commentary:

Feel free to Subscribe and stay tuned for the other episodes, enjoy.

-Brandon