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Almost a month since my last update! With school in session and work being… work, I’m admittedly not getting a lot done. But I did hammer down some pretty important stuff that I probably should have foreseen being a necessity a while ago.

 

Mainly, story. And character designs. You know, those things I started this game thinking I wouldn’t have to do…. well, the idea of Hysteria Star has grown in my head, and while it’s still silly and open to whatever I want to throw at it, I’d really like to have a narrative for players to follow. I don’t think this is going to add a lot more development time to the game, though, since I’ve been re-imagining how that narrative is delivered, and I think the result will be a more appealing way of delivering more story where I need it to be.

 

Before, the idea was to have some simple drawn cutscenes with slight motion play out a story at the beginning and end of each ship’s Story Mode campaign. Nothing super special, but fairly engaging. The problem with that is timing and animating visual elements in those cutscenes could be a bit of a chore seeing how I’ve set up the engine, and two cutscenes is a fairly time-consuming way of delivering almost no story at all.

 

So, the plans have changed! I have been working for a week or so on character designs and the galaxy that Hysteria Star takes place in. What I have nailed down right now is three races, two of which are warring with themselves and each other, and the third of which is almost completely wiped out but they’re all “chill, bro,” ya know. I’m spoofing some elements of various space games, keeping things lighthearted but still telling a pretty intense story about a galaxy on the brink of self-destruction. The story will be told in mostly talking-head-o-rama, (maybe more than heads) but I’m still working out how I want to do that. I’m still planning on having cutscenes where they’re needed, but these simple chats can fill in a lot of the necessary story in between (and within) levels.

 

I’ve also made some changes to how story is delivered based on what ship you use. Now, each ship has a pilot, and some ships may have the same pilot. You will actually play the game starting out as a human space soldier marine badass cooldudelady of space and meet spacepilots of the other two races to play as in the next two sections of the overarching story. The way I’m planning it, each of the three is a part of the main storyline, and each starts where the last one left off. So, starting out you have two ships to choose from and the human pilots both. The story is tied to the pilot, so you get the same story (just different level layouts) with each one, and once you beat the human’s story, you unlock a ship (one for free, and probably more that you can buy with points) piloted by the guy you met in the first part, then after his story, you get the “final” ship and pilot. So it’s a 3-part story at probably an hour per part. That’s on paper, anyway. In theory, playing through a story mode campaign in Hysteria Star should take about as long as playing through the main game of Starfox 64.

 

There is one other thing I should mention, though this isn’t related to the story. I’ve been having some technical problems with Game Maker Studio and changing resolutions. By all means the scripts I was using should have worked but it simply wouldn’t change properly. (or at all. Like, literally mathematically impossible stuff was happening. If I let it detect my monitor’s native 1080p and change the game to that it worked, but if I entered any other number to change to, INCLUDING 1080p, it failed. Despite the fact that after checking a billion times, it was literally the same numbers going through the same way) I hate to let this game be anything but my best quality, but between working with high resolutions on low-tech hardware and the functions for screen resolution zonking out on me, I’ve decided the best bet is to stick to 720p. It eliminates a LOT of headache and having to test everything and create two versions of every asset in the game, and it will also help lessen the footprint of the game on your phone’s memory card (or massive computer hard drive) a lot. It also means it’s running a lot smoother. I have the opportunity to get it running on lower-tech devices and make it flashier overall here, and it still looks great running fullscreen on my monitor.

 

So I guess you could say I’m not just lazy for laziness’ sake, but I was FORCED to be lazy.

In any case, it means a more stable game. Downscaling also helped me realize the game actually plays fairly well with ships being much larger on the screen. I’ll have to play with ship size and a lot of things to get it tuned right, but it’s looking and playing fairly good right now. The addition of story is also helping to inform some of the level designs, too. I had the mechanics figured out before, but I’m really starting to “get” the whole thing now. It’s really too bad things are going so slow lately. Earning a living, learning and making a game is never easy. I hope next time I can have more than just a wall of text to share.

 

 

PS. I mentioned in the last update a little thing called “play points”. I realize that’s complicating things too much. So, here’s how it works: you play through levels, earn your points, etc. You get bonuses for various accomplishments and you can earn achievements which will unlock ships, collectibles, cheats, etc that can be purchased in the shop. But you don’t earn a separate, arbitrary currency to purchase things you’ve unlocked. Nope, when you finish a story mode campaign (or anything that earns you points, really), your point total at the end is added to your overall point total tied to your profile. It’s those points that you can spend to use your unlockables. So, beyond leaderboard trolling, getting high scores is great for unlocking content faster. Not only do you get more achievements, opening up more items to buy, the points you earn also let you buy those faster.

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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