Category Archives: Gravity Box

Gravity Box Update #02: Happy Halloween

Gravity_Box_Screenshot_141027

Happy Halloween everyone. It’s been two weeks since my last update and I’ve had a bit of time to work on Gravity Box. After my last update, I thought to myself: What intrinsic thing is missing from the game, something that would improve the overall experience with one simple feature. Then I thought of the one thing that would add so much to the games experience:

Added Explosions

You may have seen these red objects appear in some screenshots from Gravity Box. These are the games enemy. These are the spikes/goombas/balls of flaming death that populate some of the levels and their only purpose is to kill you. There are a couple of different types of enemy: ones that move and one’s that don’t. The one’s pictured below are static enemies and you have to carefully manoeuvre around a particular corner in order to avoid them. In the early prototype, the level would simply reset if you touched these red death traps. I felt it was important to offer feedback to the player as to why this happens when you touch them and the answer was simple: They explode.

dswda

So one of the first things I did when I had time was to make these little red buggers explode when you touch them and in turn, the box explodes and restarts the level. It was a simple thing to implement, but it made so much difference to the game. I also added a nice sound effect to really make it pop.

The Game now shows Gravity Direction

As I said in my previous update, I wanted a way in which to give the player feedback on which way the gravity was currently flowing. I thought about having smaller objects in the background also reacting to gravity and have them loop if they fly off the edge of the level. This ended up being too much to implement and I’m not too sure how to code something like that, so instead I added a background texture which scrolls in the direction the gravity is pulling towards. It seems effective and works for now and was inspired by the types of background textures that appear in VVVVVV. I’ll see what feedback is like for this feature when I get people to test it next.

Added More Levels

The game now has around 25 levels. I said I had 20 in my original post, but I removed some of the levels as well as adding new ones in. Some levels I removed because I felt that they were boring and weren’t adding any thing to the game and I removed others due to altering the mechanics of certain objects slightly, which meant some of the levels no longer worked. My aim is to be able to say that the game has over 100 levels (I’m just thinking ahead for my key features section of the game description) and I think this will be achievable. I have a lot of level designs still on paper and some additional mechanics which I may or may not add in, which would add to the number of levels. That being said, I managed to speed-run the game in under 6 minutes, so I’m going to have to see how long it takes others to complete these 25 levels.

I’ve been designing levels intended to appear towards the start of the game in order to ease players into the mechanics of the game and for them to learn how to play the game. Of course, I won’t really know if the game succeeds with this until people who haven’t played the game before tests it. I also accidentally created a couple of super hard levels that even I struggle to finish. I’ve put these in a folder marked ‘Bonus Levels’ for now.

dedf

Added a Crude Menu

The game has a very crude menu at the start, but eventually this will work properly (currently only start and quit work, the rest do nothing.)

This was made by following a tutorial by Shaun Spalding. He’s an indie game developer and video-tutorial maker who’s Game Maker video tutorials have been invaluable while I’ve been learning to develop games using Game Maker myself. I recommend checking out his YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/999Greyfox), especially if you want to make games with Game Maker. They’re mostly platformer-related, but you’ll learn a lot from following them.

What Next?

That just about brings you up to speed with Gravity Box’s current developments, but where do I go from here? Well I’ve updated my list of tasks and it includes implementing 2 new mechanics which will then need levels designing and creating around them. There are also a number of things I’d like to play around with within the game aesthetically, but these things aren’t too important for the time being.

I also need to update the website with a section on Gravity Box, which I can update as I add more screenshots/videos. There are few other things I’d like to update you on such as Scared Square’s new digs, but you’ll just have to keep your eyes out for that one.

Gravity Box: Update #01 – New Art Style & Preparing for Ga-Ma-Yo

It’s been over a month since I introduced Gravity Box in my last blog post and in that post I said I wanted to be as transparent as possible, so I thought it was time for an update on my progress. This is officially the first ” for Gravity Box, since the last post was more of an introduction. Any following updates will use the Update#XX title. So what’s been happening with Gravity Box?

Gravity Box Game

Player Feedback

I’ve had a couple of people play a very early prototype of the game and have found out some  interesting things about my game. The first thing I found out is that some of the levels ARE REALLY HARD. This is an easy trap to fall into when developing your own game. Obviously, you know how the game works and you test it every 5 minutes, so you know the controls so much that they basically become an extension of yourself. The problem which occurs is that new players will not have that same knowledge and experience and so when they are struggling on a level which you find so easy, you need to think about introducing interim levels to allow players to gain more experience with the mechanic, make the level easier or moving it to an optional bonus level. People seemed to have fun at least trying to complete levels though, which is good.

The other thing people was suggested was some form of visual representation of the flow of gravity. This had occurred to me already, however having someone suggest it reaffirmed its need in the game. The current plan is to have a texture in the background which moves in the current direction of gravity, but this is something I can play around with further down the line.

Art Style

I was recently playing VVVVVV my Terry Cavanagh. It’s an awesome action puzzle platformer in which the player can switch the direction of the gravity. Due to the game mechanic it’s an obvious source of inspiration for Gravity Box, but there’s something else I really liked about the game: the art style.

VVVVVV

The graphical style of VVVVVV is heavily influenced by the Commodore 64. In an interview with indiegames.com, Terry said that he lacked the technical ability to make his games look good, so he worked within his own narrow limits and had only 5 shades of colour for each room in the game. His feelings towards his artistic ability mirrors my own in a way. I know I’m not a great artist and so I wanted to use an art style that would be easy to work with and quick to produce.

This also got me thinking about these for some reason:

lite-brite-heart

Lite-Brite is a toy created by Hasbro that allows users to create glowing designs by inserting coloured pegs in to a matrix of holes which illuminate to create a lit picture. I have vague recollections of playing with something similar as a child, but my main knowledge of them comes from pop-culture references in various TV shows.

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So I somehow had this mixture of VVVVVV’s art style and the Lite-Brite toy and wanted to produce an art style that took inspiration from both these things. After toying around with ideas and mock-ups in Photoshop and getting some advice from Ben (Ben304) Chandler, I eventually produced these mock-ups:

GravBoxMockUp03

The style I’m going with is number 1. These mock-ups are obviously WIP and I plan on doing as much as possible to polish the game visually. Number one is the image which most closely represents the Lite Brite style and the final game will look something like it, but much better!

As I said in the previous post, Gravity Box is going to be a Sci-Fi game. I think that Lite Brite already has a Sci-Fi feel to it, so hopefully with a few adjustments, the art style will suit the tone of the rest of the game.

Ga-Ma-Yo

Ga-Ma-Yo stands for Game Makers Yorkshire. It’s an informal network of people that make video games in and around Yorkshire, England. A few times a year they hold an Ga-Ma-Yo event where these people who work with games meet up, have a few drinks, network, listen to a few talks and show off their games. The next event is the 13th of November. This gives me just under a Month to update the game into a standard that is fit to show off to people. The event will be an ideal opportunity to receive input and feedback on the game and one that I can’t pass up. With less than a month to go, I need to prioritise what needs to be done and do it fast! I also need to work on a way to pitch Gravity Box.

That’s about it for this update. Hopefully I’ll have more to share soon as I crunch on a version for Ga-Ma-Yo.

Introducing: Gravity Box

So this is what I’ve been working on since the release of Entrapment. It’s an idea that I’ve had for a little while now and something totally different from my previous releases. For starters it’s not an adventure game, it’s a physics puzzle game. Secondly it’s not being made with Adventure Game Studio, it’s being made with Game Maker: Studio.

GravBox

Why I’m making it

At one of my previous jobs I used to work in sales and I hated every minute of it. Every day was the same mixture of repetitive, monotonous phone calls and tedious boring paper work. My only solace was an hour-long dinner break that I had, in which I would sit and play games on my iPhone.

The type of games that I like to play on iPhone or any touch screen device are games that I think suit touch screen the best: Puzzle Games. I’m not saying that a Platformer, RPG or Action game can’t be done well on a touch screen (there are many games), I’m saying that these types of games aren’t best-suited for a touch screen platform. If someone were to say to me, you can play Sonic using a game pad or a touch screen, I would opt for a game pad every time. The genre that I feel suits a touch screen really well are puzzle games. I think Adventure Games do pretty well on that type of device, but I would still rather play it with a mouse. Also tower defence is pretty good on there. Anyway…

So on my lunch times I would sit and play games such as Where’s My Water and Cut the Rope and it was around this time that I started thinking of a game design that would work really well on a touch device and this led me to start thinking about Gravity Box.

What it’s about

Gravity Box is a game where the only thing the player can do is to change the direction in which gravity is pulling. For example, if the player swipes upwards on the touch screen, then all of the physics enable objects in the level will be pulled upwards. If the player swipes to the right, then gravity will pull all of the objects to the right.

This is the only thing that the player is able to do to affect what is going on in the level, much like how in the early stages of Where’s My Water, the player can only move away dirt. That’s it. The aim of each level is to alter the gravity in order to guide a box through the level to the exit, but it won’t always be simple.

GravBox2

Key features

Here are some important things about the game:

Focus on Level Design

The key focus of the design behind gravity box is going to be making sure that each level is unique, fun, challenging and engaging.

Lots of Levels

The current goal is 100 with around 20 already designed. I’ll perhaps maybe add even more into the game if I come up with additional mechanics that warrant more levels.

Sci-fi storyline

Although Gravity Box isn’t an adventure game and is essentially just about flining a box around various rooms, I’ve still managed to come up with an idea for a story. I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but some things that inspired the story are the movie Event Horizon and the adventure game 7 Days a Skeptic.

Quick level restart

I’m currently working on a prototype for the game. If the player dies, the level resents itself straight away in a similar way to Super Meat Boy or Flappy Bird. I think that this is a key thing to take forward with the design.

Puzzle Mechanics & Progression

With early testing I can already see that the game is currently WAY TOO HARD! One thing I want to do well with Gravity Box is to ensure that new puzzles mechanics are introduced in a way that the player can easily understand them before progressing them onto levels where the same mechanic is used in a more difficult way.

Its current state

I recently finished a build which has 20 levels in it. This is a prototype version, but it has many of the core puzzle elements which I want to include in the final game. Next thing I want to look at is maybe the art style. I’ve already got a few ideas around this and want to try them out before committing to one. I’d also like to implement some form of Interface.

Why I’m talking about it now

Tom Francis is the developer behind Gunpoint and who is now working on Heat Signature. As soon as he started developing Gunpoint, he started to talk about it and this helped him with promotion, feedback and keeping motivated. I’m hoping that writing about it will do the same for Gravity Box and I hope to release GIFs, Videos and developer diaries along the way. So if you’re interested, make sure your following Scared Square Games in some way. You can do this using one of the methods shown underneath the ‘Get Social’ heading near the top of the site.

Want to help?

I’m looking for people to play the aforementioned prototype and offer some feedback. The game is currently Windows only, but if you’re interested then get in touch!

Stuart.lilford@scaredsquare.com