Saturday, November 5, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.538, "Intro Mission At Last," Released!

This one is one that I've really been looking forward to ever since beta began: the intro mission for the game is now complete!  Pending feedback and further testing, of course, but so far it seems pretty good to me.

Intro Mission Notes
The goal for the intro mission is to give new players a linear way to get acclimated with the game before they ever encounter the world map or have to make broader decisions, etc.  This is a more traditional intro for any sort of platformer, really: you start out with no ability to do anything except run and jump, and rapidly gain new abilities that have to be used immediately.  My inspirations for this ranged from the original Metroid, to Braid, to Limbo.

Other goals for the intro mission included to make it so that it has some goodies that you want, some side (fairly mild) secrets to find, and some optional challenges to face to get ahead in the game if you want to tackle them. 

Oh, and another goal was to make it so that if you want to speedrun the intro mission, you can do so pretty quickly.  I just clocked myself at three minutes and three seconds on a speedrun, and I: 1) detoured to get storm dash; 2) took two very minor wrong turns; 3) took the time to stop and kill the optional miniboss in the last surface chunk just to get the EXP.  I imagine that if someone were so inclined, they could shave as much as 30 seconds off my time, if not more.

For an actual new player who is playing through the intro mission for the first time and who is stopping to read the tombstones, explore all the little caverns, and so forth... I'm not sure what the completion time would be.  I imagine it would vary; anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes seems likely to me, but that's just speculation.  There are 24 hand-crafted chunks to explore, but about half of them are completely optional.

But the important thing is that a new player isn't just sitting there reading a boring tutorial, or doing boring tutorial-style things.  This is why I'm not labeling it a "tutorial," although it does serve that purpose.  It's more like the first 10-30 minutes of Metroid, where your character has fewer powers and fewer options on where to go, but still full autonomy within those constraints.  This is also where the inspirations from Braid and Limbo come in, is that they weave their tutorial into the main gameplay in this way, too.

Once you complete the intro mission, will you be an expert at AVWW?  Of course not.  But you should be comfortable navigating around the world in the side view, and familiar with how buildings, surface areas, and undergrounds all work.  You should be able to feel comfortable striking out on your own to explore the world map -- which is kind of the point.  People were getting to the world map too fast before, and feeling intimidated by it rather than excited. 

Hopefully this changes that first encounter with the world map in a fundamental way, but I guess we'll see.  Whatever the case, the new player experience is vastly better now than it ever was before, anyhow.

Oh Yeah, There's Other New Stuff In This Version, Too
Well, there's a laundry list of bugfixes and tweaks that I won't just repeat verbatim here -- check out the full release notes for those.

One big change is that enemies no longer die from environmental factors like walking off the side of the chunk or falling into water/lava, though.  Instead, at the side of chunks they just turn around, and with the water/lava they now have a little meter that quickly fills up before they shrink away to nothing and respawn at some random monster spawner.  This style of respawn, in practice, isn't much different from what the game was doing before, but it will have some major positive ramifications for multiplayer (and several smaller positives for solo).  See the release notes for some details.

The next really big change is to how damage gets calculated for your equipment.  The details are once again in the release notes, but the general message is that way-outdated stuff is now worse than it was before, while better-than-your-current-tier stuff is now more useful than it was before.

More to come tomorrow: I'm excited to finally be able to get back to some content development, so expect some new spells and possibly some new enemies.  This week is going to be a quite odd schedule for me, as I have some personal stuff going on and I'll be out of the office from this coming Thursday through Sunday; so this weekend I'm getting in some extra time to get ahead of things.  Anyway, I know folks will be pleased to see me working on stuff for existing players rather than new players again.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. When you launch the game, you'll see the notice of the update having been found if you're connected to the Internet at the time. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

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