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 Post subject: ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup
PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 9:59 pm 


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Joined: 20 Sep 2018
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ZOE is a drawn on film style shoot 'em up - a cross between Resogun, Cuphead and Splatoon, with bright, colourful and unique visuals set to an old style boogie soundtrack! Reclaim your territory from the annoying animator as you shoot their irritating creations to bits and destroy their tools of vandalism.


Itch - https://retchy.itch.io/zoe
Game Jolt - https://gamejolt.com/games/zoe/336363


Gameplay
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oM0iombyPRM

Hi everyone! My name's Graeme, long time shmup fan and forum lurker, first time game maker and forum poster. I've been putting this off for too long, but I finally plucked up the courage to post my little Shmup ZOE here for you to have a look at, if you fancy it.

It's got the looping level structure of Resogun/Defender, a visual style from the same era as Cuphead, and a territory reclamation mechanic sort of like Splatoon... sort of. The power up system is similar to Resogun as well, as you have to kill chains of enemies to trigger them, and you've got an invulnerable dash too. Energy and health are replenished by pounding the dots along the ground - if you miss one and hit the floor (or if you run out of energy), you'll be able to shoot in 5 directions, but your movement speed is considerably reduced, and you're unable to dash.

Territory is also reclaimed when you pound the dots, and the percentage you've turned back to blue once you've beaten the level is added as a multiplier to your final score, along with a time bonus. A multiplier is also built up and applied to your score during play by chaining enemy kills, so dashing between enemies becomes essential to keep the chain going.

I've been working on it for a year or so in my spare time. I'd really appreciate some feedback on it from you, such as how it feels to play, is it too easy / hard, is it fun? It'd be great to see what kind of scores you're able to reach as well, and if my scoring system holds up!

Ultimately I'd like to get four or five more levels done for a full release, but it's just the one level and boss fight at the moment.

I hope you enjoy it, but please let me know your thoughts either way.

Cheers!
Graeme

Version 0.13.2 update -
- A Mac Version!
- An Online Leaderboard!
- More Sounds!
- More Music!
- More Bugs Fixed
- Reduced screen shake

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Last edited by Retchy on Sat Dec 21, 2019 11:13 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2019 4:51 am 


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Joined: 09 May 2019
Posts: 22
I haven't tried the game yet but it looks cool. Something that strikes me immediately is that most of the graphics appear quite blurry. I'm sure it's intentional, but I feel that you went a bit too far with the effect.


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 Post subject: Re: ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup
PostPosted: Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:21 am 


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Leander wrote:
I haven't tried the game yet but it looks cool. Something that strikes me immediately is that most of the graphics appear quite blurry. I'm sure it's intentional, but I feel that you went a bit too far with the effect.


Yeah the blur is really integral to the look and theme, but I take your point, maybe it's gone a bit too far in places...


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 Post subject: Re: ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup
PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:15 pm 


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Hi everyone,

I've just updated ZOE, the main additions being a Mac version, and an online leaderboard.

Please check it out and let me know what you think!

Itch - https://retchy.itch.io/zoe
Game Jolt - https://gamejolt.com/games/zoe/336363

Version 0.13.2 update -
- A Mac Version!
- An Online Leaderboard!
- More Sounds!
- More Music!
- More Bugs Fixed
- Reduced screen shake


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 Post subject: Re: ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup
PostPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2019 2:37 pm 


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Joined: 20 Sep 2018
Posts: 12
Hello, I thought I'd share a few of the dev logs here that I've written during development of ZOE, documenting my progress with the project. Here's the first one from December 2017...

Dev Log Post 1 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

This year my spare time has been mainly about figuring out how to make games, at least when I’m not playing them. Or thinking about them. Or watching stuff about them. I’m obsessed really, which is why it’s ridiculous that it’s taken me so long to come to the conclusion that I should be making one.

Turns out it's a bit hard to do that tho, so here I shall document my struggles!

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At the start of the year I bought myself a copy of the latest version of Game Maker Studio and got to work on some tutorials by the likes of Shaun Spalding and Gloomy Toad on Youtube. These guys, and I’m sure others, are great at taking you through the code and explaining what’s what. It’s extremely daunting at first for someone with zero experience with coding, but concepts and thought processes are slowly sinking in now, and I can start to go off the beaten track a bit and implement ideas of my own, albeit sloppily and inefficiently.

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Having followed the Gloomy Toad platformer tutorial until there were no more videos left (footage of the results above) I felt able to adapt that code into my first idea for a Shmup - a Defender style game with a Zoetrope (my other obsession) twist! The idea being that the player slowly builds up the Zoetrope style animation by activating the frames, while fending off enemies, and then takes on a Boss fight at the end of the level as they accelerate to the right speed for the Zoetrope to come into effetc, providing a lovely animated backdrop for all the violence.

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I got the general concept of it working relatively easily (probably about three weeks of struggle that a programmer could’ve done in a day) - you can get the general idea in the video above, probably best to full screen it as the Zoetroipe effect isn’t too clear when small. The feel and theme and context of it all was a complete mess tho, so I took a break from the coding side of things for a bit to try and nail down the visuals and come up with some sort of background and context for the game mechanics.

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Hux (from the tutorial) made a comeback for a bit, and I cooked up some silly idea in my head that he was trying to stop an invasion of his planet or something by activating a defence system that happened to work very much like a Zoetrope. Pretty stupid, but it helped me push the visuals forward a bit (and away from the confines of pixel art, which was limiting my thinking a bit I think), and I also took a bit of inspiration from a lovely feeling, looking and sounding game called Gonner, by trying to simplify and clean up the visuals. Which in turn led me to just stick in some frames of an actual Zoetrope I’d made, to see how it might look.

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It was getting better, but still felt wrong and a bit forced to me. I feel like someting has clicked into place now tho, with the latest complete overhaul of the visuals. The aforementioned Zoetrope frame I used was from this Zoetrope I made a few years ago, which was essentially utilising an enlarged version of the drawn on film technique that animator's like Norman McLaren were experimenting with in the 1930's and 40's, and which prompted me to look at the kinds of visual styles they were using back then.

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This is as far as I’ve got so far, but it feels like I’ve landed on a good style - it’s unique as far as games go (to my knowledge), it’s nice and abstract so I don’t really need to worry about bothersome story and stuff, and it fits the Zoetrope concept really well!

Cheers!
Graeme


Last edited by Retchy on Fri Dec 27, 2019 10:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup
PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 11:19 am 


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Dev Log Post 2 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

I've been focusing on the look and feel of the game for the last couple of months, and it feels like something is starting to come together now. It feels pretty nice and responsive to control (many thanks to forum member Leandro Saccoletto for helping out with the code!), and even with the simple placeholder enemies it can be quite fun to play.

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The music in the video below is ripped straight from the film “Boogie Doodle” by Norman McLaren and Albert Ammons, and is just dropped in there to try and get a feel for the vibe of the game at the moment - it’ll all be replaced at some point. My next little stint on this will be to implement some more of the game mechanics - some sort of energy bar that is depleted when you fire and dash etc, and which is replenished when you hit the buttons on the bottom - and some more interesting enemies.

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 Post subject: Re: ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup
PostPosted: Sun Dec 22, 2019 6:11 am 


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Joined: 09 May 2019
Posts: 22
Hey, I thought it only polite that I try out your game too (I had been meaning to for months but forgot...)

Here's some things that I think could be improved:
    - The length of the level. I feel like you could have split it into two levels. After dying at the boss I stopped because I wanted to play more but not through the entire level again.
    - I think you could increase the bullet visibility by making them flash more/different colours.
    - Almost every time I used the dash I crashed into an enemy so I ended up ignoring the dash completely.
    - Most of the enemy designs. I realise it's part of the aesthetic but I can't get excited about shooting black circles or yellow squares. I realise this is possibly unsolvable.

And here's some things I liked:
    - The general aesthetic. It doesn't look too blurry in game, I believe the blur level changes on the fly?
    - It's challenging enough to want to play more to get better.
    - Everything is really polished.
    - The scoring system seems solid - looks like you got moglar playing a bit so that seems like a seal of approval.

Anyway, nice work :)


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 Post subject: Re: ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup
PostPosted: Sun Dec 22, 2019 10:22 am 


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Ah, cheers, thanks for the feedback. I agree with most of it - definitely going to change up the level length once there's more levels done and I can get a feel for the flow of it all as a whole.

Maybe a brief extension of the invincibility after the dash would solve that issue - I was aware of it but wasn't sure how annoying it would be.

I'm working on some new enemies for future levels and have been trying to come up with some more interesting stuff, we'll see how it goes.

I think I dialled back the blur slightly a while ago, but it's not changing at all in game, it's just a static mask.

Thanks again!


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 Post subject: Re: ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2019 11:14 am 


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Dev Log Post 3 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

A fair bit has changed since the last update, both visually and behind the scenes.

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The most obvious thing is the change in colour for the background I guess, which I did so that I could have more options for how the enemies look. Because the player is towards the green / blue end, it’d be a bit confusing if the enemies were similar colours, so freeing up the background from red allows me to play about with the reds for the enemies instead.

I also managed to design a simple multiplier mechanic and to tie it in with the UI at the bottom of the screen, along with the health and energy bars. I wanted it to be pretty bold so that the player can be aware of it without having to look away from the action too much. The multiplier bar increases with every enemy kill, pauses for a few seconds and then reduces until it’s at zero or you make another kill - when it fills up, the multiplier goes up by one and applies it to any subsequent scoring. You can also briefly pause the bar when it’s going down by popping one of the buttons in order to keep the chain going when there are no enemies around.

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The visual design of the multiplier bar is based on another of Norman McLaren’s films called Sychromy, where he painted on the soundtrack of the film to make the sound - it's totally worth a watch, it gets pretty crazy!

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The buttons also now spawn particles when they’re popped which get sucked in by the player, refilling the energy or health bars depending on their colour. I also simplified their design a bit and abandoned the Zoetrope effect when the player dashes, as it wasn’t really that visible when you’re concentrating on the game, and it was dictating the length and speed of the dash as well, making it feel too out of control. I’m still going to try to implement the Zoetrope frames appearing as the buttons are popped, as in previous versions, but I’m maybe a bit more open to just abandoning that altogether if it doesn’t feel right or is just too forced.

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Lastly (I think), I designed an enemy wave / formation system and a couple of different enemy types that only spawn once there are a certain amount left in the level. I managed to figure this bit out all on my own, somehow! The enemies still need a lot of work so that there’s enough variety visually and mechanically, but I’ve got the systems set up so I can eventually design the level properly.

Oh, and a menu and pausing system too! And a badly done shader for pickups and damage feedback. Next time I hope to have a playable demo of some sort ready!

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 Post subject: Re: ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2019 11:24 am 


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Dev Log Post 4 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Up until recently I’ve been using placeholder imagery for the enemies and haven’t really put much thought into their designs, either visually or mechanically. I’ve been avoiding getting to grips with how to properly control the animations and how they all interact with each other and the player.

So I decided to get stuck in a couple of months ago with this ‘Shield Spawner’ idea. I wanted something that would encourage the player to land on the ground a bit more often, so this enemy can only be killed from that position. It also spawns shields that make it harder to access the power-ups contained in the blue dots.

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This enemy was an effort to bring a bit more life to the animation, as at this point I was just dealing with simple triangle enemies which were kind of sucking the energy out of the visual style. So this simple bullet sponge type is bigger than the others and just sits minding it’s own business until you assault it. I think the explosion needs a bit of work, and maybe the spawn animation, but I’m happy with it otherwise.

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These are some really simple ‘popcorn’ enemies for the player to just plough through, but again I was going for more energy in the animation. I also spent a bit of time on the enemy spawning and formation system so that they can appear around the player instead of always coming in from off screen, as I was doing before.

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These squiggles replace the simple triangles I was using before for the horizontally moving enemies. I tried to inject a bit more energy into them and I think they’re working much better now - I really like how there’s a bit of a reaction to the player if they’re shot or if you get too close.

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These enemies will appear throughout the level and give you a nice score bonus if you destroy the whole chain, or I might change it to a power up drop if I ever do power ups. I'm not really happy with the whole context of this idea, seems a bit random and maybe needs a rethink.

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This one is a slow moving, fairly harmless squiggle until you kill it and it releases it's babies! This'll probably be a fairly rarely occurring enemy as the little guys are a bit aggressive, but I'm thinking of making a differently coloured variant that doesn't spawn them to add a bit more variety.

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These guys move up and down, and I've done a variation that go left and right - they can form quite nice patterns in different, more dense formations and are a bit trickier to shoot when they dodge about.

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 Post subject: Re: ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup
PostPosted: Thu Jan 02, 2020 12:26 pm 


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Dev Log Post 5 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Most of my time on the project, until fairly recently, has been focused on simply getting things to work and making things look decent. I was working towards getting enough enemies designed so I could start putting together a level with a sequence of enemy waves and formations. Once I finally got there, and after some feedback from the first demo, it became apparent that the player really had no motivation or reason to shoot any of the enemies other than to just, you know, shoot all the enemies. I’m a big Shmup fan, and as such rarely enjoy or pay attention to any stories, especially ones that interrupt the shooting, but this forced me to acknowledge that of course all Shmups need a story or framing narrative of some sort. So it was time to try and figure out mine.

The first breakthrough I had, after a long struggle with ideas, came when I started working with my friend Tom Pegg on the music and sound design. The concept for the game had always been that we were watching a drawn on film animation, so when the music was put in, I thought it’d be fun to play about with a slow down effect and a camera pull out to reveal the edges of the film when the game was paused…

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This test reminded me of something that had always kind of been at the back of my mind, which was to have the ‘animator’ as the main antagonist, a hand drawing in all the annoying enemies and becoming the boss at the end of the first level. I had to think about how I wanted to implement this tho, as I didn’t really like the idea of just having a cut scene play out at the start of each level - I wanted to try to somehow convey it all through the title screen and the context of the menus leading up to the first level. So for the last couple of months I’ve been focusing mainly on menu design and implementation, which I really wasn’t expecting to happen!

If I wanted this ‘animator’ to be the baddie, it made sense that we should see the player character relaxing at first before being interrupted or bothered by them, so I got to work on a title screen, and then started playing around with camera zoom levels and positions for the various menu and option screens.

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I was happy that I was finally getting to grips with my camera system at least! The next task was to get the paint brush directly antagonising the character somehow - I’m not totally settled on the order of events here, and I think it all needs to be a bit snappier, but this is as far as I am at the moment.

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I still want to have some sort of transition to the first level where the brush actually paints in a couple of enemies before it starts, and I might swap the sequencing of the brush swiping across the screen with the ink drip, so it feels a bit more threatening and leads more naturally into the painting. I really like the title music when it slows down, it feels like a real interruption to the character’s nice sleepy vibe, and I plan to add more sound effects for the brush moving about as well, to help sell the idea more.

This focus on the menus has really helped to bring the game together I think, and it’s lead to some changes that were needed in the actual gameplay as well. Because the brush vandalises our character’s world, it gives the player some motivation to restore it back to it’s original peace and tranquility, which has helped me finally figure out one of the main mechanics in the game as well - the popping buttons. The instruction to the player at the very start now is “CLEAN THE REEL!” ( I’ve not settled on that language, but you get the idea), and when you ground pound onto the first button, you see the background transform to it’s original colour. The percentage of the background you manage to clean up is also going to be tied in to a score multiplier at the end of each level, so there’s hopefully an interesting balance to strike between maximising your score and managing your finite energy and health resources (which also come from the buttons).

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In turn, this inky style in the background has lead to some of the enemies leaving behind an ink splat as they die, which can also be cleaned up by the button pops, and generally makes the level feel a lot more dynamic and interesting, I think. My latest bit of work has been to change the way the path enemies look and to introduce the animator’s brush into the game proper for the first time…

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Overall, I’m pretty happy with how things are progressing, and pretty surprised that focusing this much on the menus would help so much. I’m hoping to have a full on new demo done by around about the end of February, hopefully including a boss fight, so please keep an eye out for that, and please let me know what you think of all this - all feedback is welcome.

Cheers,
Graeme


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 Post subject: Re: ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup
PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2020 2:28 pm 


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Dev Log Post 6 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

I’ve spent the last couple of months working on the first boss fight, and re-working the formation system, along with a bunch of other smaller tweaks.

Having finally figured out and nailed down the concept and context for the game (see my previous post for more detail on that), it was clear that the boss would have to be the animator’s paintbrush that’s antagonising the player throughout the level, but how would the battle actually play out?

I decided pretty quickly that I’d need to somehow pause the side scrolling and create some sort of arena in order to contain the fight, mainly because it seemed like it’d be a massive headache to deal with all of the scrolling and warping issues that would come up otherwise, but I also think it was the right call as it mixes up the gameplay style a bit, allowing the player to move more freely around the screen. To contextualise it, I came up with the ‘Frame Trap’!

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The camera pulls out to reveal the black frame boundaries which also act as walls to keep the player trapped. I was really happy with this as it solved the game design problem and added to and reinforced the context of the game world.

From here it was relatively easy - I came up with a few ideas for the kind of attacks the brush could do and set about implementing them with a spawning system that randomises the order they appear in. There’s also a countdown to when the frame trap happens, so the player is able to get into a position where there are some health or energy resources to use during the fight. It’s a fairly easy boss to defeat, but there’s room to adapt the difficulty in the future, and I’m pretty happy with how it’s turned out.

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Some of the smaller tweaks I’ve made recently include the mini map at the bottom of the screen which indicates where health dots are and whether any of the dots have been popped or not (I plan to make this scroll with the player, so that the green indicator (the player) stays in the central position and the others move around that, as I think it’ll make it much easier to read), a camera zoom out for when the brush appears throughout the level (but without stopping the side scrolling), to further emphasise to the player when it does appear (especially if it’s off screen), and again, to push the context even more, a slightly different order of events in the title screen, and a small how to play guide. I’m sure there’s other stuff I’ve forgotten.

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Thanks for reading - please feel free to download the WiP demo and let me know what you think! https://retchy.itch.io/zoe

Cheers!
Graeme


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