Jul 22, 2016

Suzy Cube Update: Friday July 22, 2016

#suzycube #gamedev #indiedev #madewithunity 

I didn't expect to have an update for you this week, but I do! The work I was slated to do for the Embassy had to be pushed back allowing me to get some Suzy work done.

The upcoming World 4 boss level is going to require the use of the Ground Pound power-up, which you can see Suzy wearing in the screenshot at the top of the post. The power-up has been functional since very early on in the project but it needed a bit of work to make it more than just a gimmick. I set out to tackle some planned improvements and ended up adding a few surprises as well, elevating the Ground Pound from a purely utilitarian power-up to one that's more fun to use and should allow for more creative uses from players.

Let's Switch Things Up

First things first. I knew I was going to need specialized switches that require the use of the Ground Pound to activate. The power-up allows Suzy to crash down during a jump, so I wanted to create a switch which would, visually, give the impression of needing that sort of power to be pressed.

Head banging!

My first idea for the switch was a thematic one. Why not make it look like a nail? Nails are exactly the kind of thing one might need a lot of force to drive down, right? Well, yes, but, visually, I'm not sure I... nailed it...

Did not nail it...

In practice, the wide head obscured the stem which just made it look like a grey square. Nothing about it screamed neither "nail" nor "switch". I decided, instead, to go a different route.

Don't you want to press it!?

I remade the switch as a big metal button. The shape beckons you to press it while the material tells you it's going to need some force. I'm much happier with this implementation.

From Good to Great

Before I go into the improvements I made to the Ground Pound power-up, I want to talk about the game's other power-up, the Double Jump.

Feels so good!

Why is the Double Jump such a great power-up? Because it's almost always useful. I can design around it to allow players to leverage the added mobility to find shortcuts or secret areas within levels, but this isn't necessary for the Double Jump to be useful. Only a level with exceptionally low ceilings won't benefit from the Double Jump. That's what makes it great, its usefulness doesn't need to be designed into the levels, it's intrinsic to the behaviour of the power-up itself.

Prior to this week, though, the Ground Pound was definitely not a great power-up. As originally implemented, the Ground Pound was good for three things:
  • Breaking rock blocks.
  • Killing rock enemies.
  • Activating specific switches.

You'll notice that, contrary to the Double Jump, every use of the Ground Pound, at this point, had to be deliberately placed in a level. If a level didn't specifically incorporate one of these elements then the Ground Pound would be useless in that level. I knew this needed to change. 

My first idea was to add a knockback effect to the landing so that nearby enemies could be pushed back. 

Out of my way!

A good start. I reused the animation of the skull enemies falling on their back after hitting a wall and there you have it, enemy knockback! A great first step towards making the ground pound more than a one trick pony.

As I was implementing the knockback on all the different enemy types, I noticed other hazards which could use some knockback action.


Like bombs! Which are knocked back enough to get Suzy out of harm's way, of course!

Things were shaping up, but as I looked at some of the different projectiles in the game, I realized what needed to be done.

Sorry, what?
Deflection! That's right, if a projectile is caught in Suzy's landing shockwave, it will be deflected. I added a little extra logic to" encourage awesome", so to speak. By default, the deflection happens away from Suzy's center, however, if the deflection more should more or less send the projectile back towards the shooter, then the projectile is spun perfectly around thus making it more likely something like this might happen:

Right back at you!
Also, it looks particularly cool when Suzy deflects rockets.

See you around...
I knew I had something special when, in testing it out, I knocked back a group of bad guys, including a Rusher who was charging at me while also, luckily, deflecting a seeking rocket which was actually on a second approach following an earlier deflection!

So, what has this added to the lowly Ground Pound? 
  • Knock back nearby enemies.
  • Push away bombs.
  • Deflect projectiles.
The difference with these abilities is that they apply much more widely to the game in general as opposed to relying on contrivances specifically placed in levels to take advantage of the Ground Pound. In addition, they open the door to great moments, like the one described above.

So, is the Ground Pound as great as the Double Jump now? Well, no.. c'mon, the Double Jump is awesome! But, I did manage to take what was a functional but, ultimately, gimmicky power-up and make it a good one capable of helping Suzy in a multitude of situations and with the ability to surprise and delight.

With these great changes implemented, I've got even more to look forward to with the design of Level 4-B. I've made good progress on the paper design for the level and hope to start building it soon. I don't know what timelines will look like for the next few weeks as they will largely depend on what's happening with this Embassy contract but rest assured I will keep all of you in the loop.

See you all next week!

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