Thursday, January 24, 2013

Valley 2 Beta .719 "To One Who'll Stand And Fight" Released!

This one is another "after just one day" release, but it's pretty epic nonetheless.

Soundtrack Complete: New Vocal Title Track
Check. This. Out.  This is one of Pablo's best tracks ever, and I had no idea that his wife Hunter had such an amazing singing voice, either.  You can bet this will be the track to our next trailer for the game, and it's the first thing you hear when you launch the game now.  The link above takes you to a number of comments from Pablo, which give some great insight into the creative process on this one.

Strategic Refinements, Round 5
In round 4, we added the first overland spell for the Demonaica, letting him summon monsters on the world map -- definitely a big deal!  This release adds five more, all of which let him cast debuffs on tiles on the map.  There is one more overland spell that we are considering adding for him, and that would be the full set of overland spells for him for 1.0 -- too many and you get out of the realm of depth and into the realm of more complexity than is good for the design.

There are also a number of other refinements, tweaks, and bugfixes in the strategic area on this one.

Completely Redesigned Henchman Boss Fights
These were definitely the weakest part of the game as of the prior release, and I think that this release really addresses all the largest points.  I'm sure there will be more tweaking and improvements, but I think the fundamental premise here is sound and fun now, rather than being iffy all the way down.

A Really Good Question About Boss Battle Design Goals
On the forums, the following comment came up today from madcow: "I hope we get some multilevel arenas. And some really interesting boss behaviors, boss battles in metroidvania games tend to be epic and what I remember the most in them."

Here was my response:

They're just never going to be a centerpiece of this game, I'm afraid.  I've made things more varied, but I've focused on making things more in line with the rest of the game just on hyperdrive.  Thinking about games like Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, that's a game that had a lot of great core mechanics, and what they did for the final level was pit you against more of those core mechanics in a really interesting way. 

Or thinking about recent Mario games, Super Mario 3D Land had a final boss fight where Bowser is chasing you and things are crumbling and you're running for your life.  It's a lot more interesting than the Bowser boss fights in Mario Galaxy, for instance, which strayed into completely different mechanics from the rest of the game and were shallow and repetitive for it.  Same with Mario 64, really.

Metroid games are kind of a different beast, and the boss fights are built in as a really core mechanic.  That requires a really intense amount of AI and design for a specific boss fight, however, and I think we can all agree that playing the same 6ish boss fights from Super Metroid over and over again wouldn't be terribly compelling.  They are epic in the context of that game because each only happens once, period. 

But with a procedural game like we have here, especially one that encourages serial playthroughs because of the strategic component, that's just not something that fits with the design -- having hugely involved battles on the level of Super Metroid would either lead to huge amounts of repetition of really specific stuff (ugh), or it would lead to an exponential increase in development costs due to us having to spend ridiculous amounts of more time to create dozens or hundreds of boss battles where the entire Super Metroid staff at Nintendo just had six.

All in all, what that really means is that the the boss fights need to overall stay out of the way; they are now a lot less frequent than they were in prior versions, for one thing.  And for another, they are mixing the general game mechanics (rooms with other enemies in them) up with the bosses themselves to create a combinatorial effect.  It helps bring some of the feel of the tactics of the combat of the rest of the game to the boss fights, while not making them too overwrought or lengthy.

Based on my playtesting I think that this is enormously more successful than the past boss fights were, but we'll see where there is room for improvement as more people get their hands on it.

Everything Else
There are also new slices, fixed slices, tons of balance improvements, an interface for changing the difficulty during an existing game, and a variety of bugfixes.  Busy day!

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have any version of the game.  If you have the beta on Steam, it will automatically update for you.  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 the standalone game, you can download that hereIf you already own the first game, just use your existing license key to unlock the sequel for free!

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