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Tag Archives: Hysteria Star (Game)

It seems every update takes me longer than the last to get around to… I apologize for the tardiness, I guess it’s a good thing I’m not doing monthly updates still, though. I wouldn’t have much to show this time if that were true.

 

Honestly, there’s not much to say with this one. I haven’t gotten to work on Hysteria since spring semester kicked in, and it’s really in high gear right now so I’m really wishing I had more time lately. But I did make some progress earlier in the year.

Last update, I mentioned points and combos. Well, I’ve added them in and made a few interesting changes to the usual formula.

When you destroy an enemy, the combo counter goes up by 1 and begins to fade out over 3 seconds. Once it fades completely, the combo is reset to 0. Higher combo levels, as you might expect, multiply the points you earn, but getting hit also eliminates your combo.

Now, here’s the fun part: Destroying an enemy gives you no points. The only way to gather points is to snag the little floating whatevers the enemies drop, or the bigger floating whatevers that also give you other cool stuff when you pick them up. When you grab one, you renew your combo, just like when you destroy an enemy. You’re reset back up to 3 seconds before the combo expires, but you don’t gain combo counter levels by picking them up. Just points.

What this mechanic does is adds an extra facet to the gameplay. It’s not just something more to pay attention to, but it makes it possible to design levels without a constant stream of baddies at all times, but still giving the player the chance to keep up their combos during those dry spots. It also makes things a bit more interesting. Do you grab the points now, or wait until they’re just about off the screen and see if you can get a higher multiplier on them?

 

Another few changes I’ve made, I also mentioned in the last update. I’ve simplified player health a lot, to the point where it’s feeling much more oldschool, but in a good way. I’ve also tightened up the movement a lot. Next, I think I’ll be focusing on specials, tuning up the level start and death sequences to actually reflect how the game is supposed to play, and throwing in some graphics on-screen. I need to get some simple interfaces going so it’s not just a really cheap test level.

 

So, who’s to say when I’ll be updating again… I sure hope it’s sooner rather than later, and that I’ll have a lot more to show off. Really, though, the foundation is starting to take shape. Given some better sound design (oops.. my bad) and visual assets I think I could have something I’d actually be willing to throw out there and see what people think about it. I’m still a long way from something I’m really willing to let people play, but I still think there’s a lot of life left in Hysteria Star, and I’m moving ever closer to a Hysteria I think people might really like.

Well, here’s hoping, anyway…

Laziness, thy name is Bit

Another update, another slowness thing. I have gotten some things done but again, the game itself feels nowhere closer to completion than it was before.

 

What I have done, though.. that’s interesting, right?

Well, I’ve done some work with the menus and overall style of the game’s interface, for one. Interface tends to be something I waffle about on so it’s good to have something to play around with long before I need to implement it and realize I hate how it looks.

I kind of hate how it looks already.

 

You’ll notice I’m using two different styles here. The characters are cartoony, rather silly and not very realistic, and contrast a bit with the smooth shaded and un-lined ships. I don’t think this story could possibly be told with any less cute a style. And come on… it’s ME we’re talking about.

 

Last time I updated, the game was actually in an unplayable state, where I was working on optimizing and implementing new systems and various things that will make future work on the game much quicker and easier. Well, that’s finished and now the game is back and better than before! Still very minimal, content-wise, but I haven’t gotten to the point where I can just start churning that out.

 

I still have a lot to work with to get the gameplay tuned up. Points and combos/multipliers are not yet implemented, and I’m thinking of ways that I can simplify things down a bit. I feel player health is a bit high where it is now, and that might cause the game to get more to the hectic side of things rather than the fine-tuned precision play I’m looking for, and the movement system… both button movement and how speed upgrades work, needs heavy tweaking. I could always start throwing ships and movement patterns and craziness at it and seeing what sticks but I find it very important to stick the basic mechanics in place before moving on and focusing on content.

 

And now… for the fun of it, a glitch:

Dude... you should fix that.

I posted my last screenshot what… three updates ago? Sadly I don’t have any actual new  ones but here’s one for fun from early November. (yes, the background a lot better now. See the ship select screen thing!) A little slip-up in the repetitive fire code in the drones caused them to, instead of firing a 3-shot burst over about a third of a second, fire a shot every single step. The effect was really cool, but I think it was also cool to note while this crazy wave of doom swept over the screen, destroying all in its path, Game Maker still withstood that immense blow at 720p, not dropping in framerate.

In-game HUD will be my next priority after code tweaks, getting points/combos in , and more gameplay things that will be a big deal. I really hope I can get off my fuzzy butt and just get to it, now. I’ve been faster than ever at churning out art and it’s all lately been for non-Hysteria stuff.

 

Maybe with the new year will come a new, more productive me.

 

*apocalypse*

And everyone died. The end.

Game development is a tricky business. When you start out, the goal is to plan out as much as possible before you really dive into a major effort, because the losses can be great when you really dig into asset building and coding something that turns out to be not what you eventually wanted anyway. As the game starts to form and you can actually play it, and as you get ideas from other places, you can start to question older visions of mechanics and design, so much that you reinvent how the game is going to play.

In a sense it’s inevitable. No vision is perfect on paper AND in practice. It’s important to keep sight of a more general, overall goal such as the feelings you want to drive home, the experience you want the player to have. Any time you are thinking of adding or changing the mechanics, first consider what  you’re trying to accomplish with them, and what kind of gameplay and feel you’re likely to create with that addition. With a cohesive goal backing up every decision throughout the process, you’re much more likely to end up with a game that feels solid and well-planned, even though it’s changed greatly from what you had in mind from the beginning.

Uh, don’t let that scare you, because Hysteria Star is still a shoot-em-up. It’s still tough. And it’s coming along great. Lately I’ve had some inspiring thoughts about how to handle special attacks, money collecting for powerups, how the player earns points and what upgrades can and can’t be.

It’s gonna be a great game.

First off, the flow of the game as a whole is very important to me. There are currently 4 playable ships and I plan to have many more, most of them unlockables that you get by beating the game with other ships and on higher difficulty levels. I’ve chosen to make not only multiple separate level designs for higher and lower difficulty levels, but also entire unique campaigns for every playable ship. There will be some 10 or so level types (various backgrounds and walls, enemy types, obstacles, mechanics, etc) to make use of, and each campaign may go through them in a different order, with different layouts. Enemy and obstacle placement should be designed with that ship’s capabilities in mind. Higher difficulties could specifically target a ship’s deficiencies and force the player to adapt to new play styles. There are a lot of possibilities, and the fact that each ship has its own level set made specifically for it means that balancing all the ships against each other shouldn’t be such a big concern. (in single player, anyway. Multiplayer may run under a different set of rules.)

So, the ships themselves are very different, and that’s possibly going to change in a bigger way. The core mechanics are still the same – ships auto-fire their main weapon (in touch mode only: controller/keyboard controls have a normal shoot button) and you only control movement and the ship’s special attack. I’m opening up the possibilities for specials a bit, by making them recharge over time and making it possible to have single upgrades rather than multiple levels of upgrades for two separate factors. I still plan on having a ship or two which use specials as their main form of attack, with their main weapon being… less useful, for various reasons. Another fun factor I’m adding in is combos. I love a good combo system, and I think with the right design, I can make that fun here. You rack up combos by destroying enemy ships without letting too much time pass between kills. Getting hit or waiting too long naturally resets the combo, which as you can probably guess, multiplies the points you earn and gives you a few other benefits. You may have to let enemies stay on the screen longer to keep holding out on a combo, or even use a special to grab a quick kill when you know you won’t make it in time.

But I was thinking… what use are points, aside from something to gloat about in the leaderboards? That’s when a little inspiration struck: rather than collecting item drops from enemy ships to get money to spend on upgrades between levels… points ARE money. By racking up higher points, you give yourself more to work with in buying upgrades. You can become more powerful and perhaps earn more points because of it. This also adds an extra factor to high score-seekers, though. Since you directly spend your points on upgrades, and any upgrades you have at the end of the game are refunded for 1/2 their value, AND since you get point bonuses for certain accomplishments during a level (like 100% kills or not getting hit), anyone looking to get a good score may have some tough decisions to make. More spending might get you more points from bonuses, but if you are stingy with your spending, you could earn more in the long run for your trouble. Bonuses are also given at the very end, meaning you could get rewarded for a no upgrade run.

High scores are great and the added challenge and replay value if you’re trying to top the leaderboards is potentially through the roof… but there’s still more. As you play, you unlock stuff. New ships, crazier difficulty levels, cheats, etc. Pretty basic, right? But the unlockables need to be purchased with play points after they’re unlocked, so you can use them. And you earn play points for your achievements and how well you do overall. No, this is not a real money scheme thing, but here’s how I plan to monetize this game, if I can: The game itself is free. You can do everything that’s initially unlocked, meaning 3 or 4 ships and the standard difficulty levels, and multiplayer if available. There’s nothing stopping you from grabbing high scores and earning play points and unlockables. But, you can only use those play points when you pay to unlock the “full” game. (something like $5, I imagine) So, there is literally no difference between playing the full game and the free one, with the sole exception that unlockables are for the full game only.

Best money-making scheme ever? No, probably not. But I’m not here to make money. I’m here to make games, and the best thing I can ask for is to have people enjoy them. So if free means it gets in the hands of more people, I’m all over that. Maybe if it comes to it, I can have ads pop up in the menus and when you pause the game. But if I EVER even consider letting ads stick their noses into your gameplay like Angry Birds or something, I deserve all the hate mail I get…

So, I promised screenshots last entry, and I plan on sticking to that. A word of warning: the game really isn’t in a state I want to show. This is going to look pretty No Me Gusta. Lots of mechanics are still not added and it’s very much still in a prototype phase. It looks alright, but I’m still using a lot of prototype-y stuff, placeholder sprites and such. Lots of effects still aren’t fine-tuned to what I want them to be, and plenty more simply aren’t even there yet. But here’s Hysteria Star upscaled to 1080p:

(click for full res)

Probably the most obvious thing here (aside from the placeholder tiles that are nothing like what I plan to have in my maps) is the lighting system. For whatever reason, I decided to make all the wall objects here emit their own halo of light. You can easily see the red lighting on the player ship from the enemy fire. There isn’t much light emission from player shots with the Gatling Star here, but others shoot brighter. Explosions especially have a large effect, and tend to light up everything around them. One thing I plan on changing is the size of the light halos. It’s nothing advanced like a 2D bump/normal map sort of thing, so the key to making it more believable will be in how I handle the size and emission levels from each light source.

The background is still little more than just an upscale from my 480×800 version. It looked better at that size, but not so much at 1080p. I have plans for backgrounds and tiles, though.

(image is just a mockup, not screenshots)

Before, I planned to use more of a tileset system, just making tileable sprites and having the level generator look at which ones are on corners, top, bottom, sides, etc and place the right tiles. But tiles can get very boring and repetitive, especially considering how many 32×32 sprites would fit on a 480×800 screen. I tried doing a mixture of 32×32 and 64×64 tileable sprites, but coding that to work right would get messy in a hurry. What I chose to do instead was to go with a more “painterly” look for backgrounds and sprites. No more aliasing, no more pixel details, but a lot more depth and variety. I’m still kind of learning as I go and figuring out what works and what doesn’t, but I’m pretty happy with how it looks so far, and when I factor in lighting, I think it’s going to look great in motion.

Ship sprites have made a massive transformation with this new style, too. Shading and color depth as well as overall detail (of course) have been improved vastly. The “floating” effect on the shield was initially an accident, but I’m a big fan of how it outlines the ship better while still being disconnected from the sprite itself. It also doubles as your “health %” indicator, so it ups visibility and makes for a good, quick reference on how badly you’re dying. Color is an important factor in the overall design, but that’s something I’ll go into more later on.

Also, as a follow-up to my last update, LMMS turned out to suck also, crashing more and more often as I went until I couldn’t do anything with it. After re-remaking the Hysteria theme in some 4 separate programs, I finally finished it in an awesome program called MuLab. Unlike everything before it, MuLab has actually survived through two tunes and two WIP pieces without any glitches or problems. When I have the money to throw I’ll be getting the ultimate version of that, and I can continue with more music-making. I’ll be making a Bandcamp page for music hosting, so when I have some more solid stuff I might start putting things up there.

It’s been a short summer for me, but a lot has happened. I’m moving a lot slower than I want to in getting this from prototype to something more resembling the final game. I’ll still do my best to get more work done alongside school and work now that classes have started, so hopefully my next update WON’T be coming around in November or something.

Whatever does (or doesn’t) happen, I’ll keep you all posted! :>

It’s never an easy job. Coming up with a name that is memorable, different enough to stand out, but  still easy to say out loud is a difficult enough task on its own, but a name must be more than that. It must describe the game. It must somehow capture the essence of the game, as if to relate the experience in only a few words.

Am I doing it right?

So, my previously-Unnamed Space Game is now titled Hysteria Star. What’s in a title, though?

Hysteria Star is a game without ties to a persistent universe. Think of it like Mario. Yeah, there are some rules to that series. Eat mushrooms, stuff happens. Things have faces… Bowser flies off in a space-boat with Princess Peach’s castle and Mario can survive in the cold vacuum of space. There is no solid story, no specific “canon” to sweat over.

To that end, Hysteria Star has very little in the way of a story to tell. This is a game where you shoot and dodge, you fly through a variety of locations and run into all manner of obstacles along the way. There is no explanation for why you’re piloting a spaceship one playthrough and a flying ice cream truck the next. Just enjoy it. There’s no canon, there’s no abundance of made-up terms to describe every little thing, there’s no intricately woven tapestry of a narrative to guide you from level to level… it’s just pick up and play. Easy, Normal, Hard, pick your weapon, buy some upgrades and get on with it!

Hysteria, in a sense, describes the game in its very best state. When the lasers and bullets and explosions are flying all over the place and you’re frantically trying to avoid it all. When you come across an unexpected new set of obstacles that throw you for a loop, or a combination of mechanics you’ve run into before are thrown at you in a new way, that’s when Hysteria Star shines.

Star, as it so happens, is a giant ball of exploding junk that’s really bright. Neat! There are a lot of those here. It IS space, after all.

 

Actually, Star is a name that represents each ship playable in the game. The Stars are the hope of the galaxy, and they’re yours to control. They are also the first ships in the known universe to have the incredible technology called Credits. When one is destroyed in combat, another will fly in from seemingly nowhere to replace it, as long as the player has at least one Credit remaining.

I’m a genius, right?

The sketches above show three of the Stars playable in Hysteria Star. Initially, only a few will be available, and more will be unlocked as you progress. Each Star has its own main weapon and special ability, making them completely unique play experiences. Again with the naming thing, I haven’t nailed down the names of these just yet. From left to right:

Freedom Star

A good all-around ship, medium speed and shields. Goals in life: being average.
Spread Shot: a straightforward and predictable laser gun, upgrades add more lasers to each shot, spreading further up and down to cover a wider area.
Energy Overload: Just because the ship is average doesn’t mean the special isn’t. This attack sends out a shockwave that destroys projectiles and damages enemy ships within a circular area, causing a chain reaction in each enemy hit that sends out another, similar shockwave. The effect gets smaller with each time it chains to a new target, but a well-placed Overload can clear a room.

Phantom Star

A very unique ship which can dematerialize and move quickly, but suffers from a low shield.
Orbital Shot: Balls of plasma powered by magical Sin Waves, harder to predict than normal lasers but cover more area. Upgrades add more shots to each burst and small, invincible drone ships which spread around the Phantom Star in a sideways V formation.
Dissipation Field: This special makes the ship transparent for a few seconds, flying right through enemy bullets, ships and even walls without taking damage. Use this to break the game! Or to avoid getting demolished. While Dissipated, shots do half damage, but when the effect either wears off or is manually turned off, you get a few seconds of multiplied damage.

Baby Star

A very small, fast, very low shield ship. Despite its small size and 1-hit kills, this ship has some of the highest concentrated damage dealing capability in the game.
Gatling Shot: Starting out as a rather normal straightforward weapon like the Freedom Star’s weapon, upgrades quickly increase the rate of fire and the damage of each shot. Fully maxed out, this ship’s spray of bullets is a waterfall of pain.
Laser Gatling: This special turns the gatling bullets into piercing lasers for a short time. While active, the ship slows down and rapidly shoots lasers across the screen instantly. This special is unique in that the upgrades to the main weapon change the special’s rate of fire as well.

Going forward, it’s nice to have a name to reference. This development really has pushed the game toward a path of its own, a unique style. There’s a lot of work ahead of me but I think Hysteria Star will be a game worthy of that effort.

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