Okay, I’m into this update thing now! Once Nectira is ready to stay more active and visible in her community, I hope to have the good habit of keeping frequent updates playable (via”Early Access”), and supplemented by me sharing the new fun stuff. So now, a month or a few ahead of time, I’m jumping on this update format, at the beginning of each month.
Here’s what’s new in July:
Realm Overlay Window:
Previously, the map for each of the 10 realms was dotted with mysterious levels. The only thing that hinted at difficulty or level type was the color of the available icons. Now when Nectira is near a level area, a little window will appear, showing relevant information, like this:
Not only hives, but Celaem Vine Levels, Celaemean Gardens, and other special areas all have this info automatically provided now. More level icons have been added to correlate to all the difficulty levels.
In the process of better defining difficulties, I’ve also settled on Yarku types (“threats”) which can spawn within each level. All Yarku-spawning objects (eggs, Vine level spawns, Mobs, etc.) had to be updated to generate the correct Yarku. Lots of “behind the scenes” re-coding had to be done to get all the Yarku stuff straight again. This has tweaked the game balance a lot too, something I’m excited to toy with as I further develop the Yarku (more diversity beyond their mindless marching to come)!
Yarku Mob instances used to hold only a number of Yarku with them, and each Yarku within was completely randomized every time a mob was encountered. This had been bugging me. So now, every Yarku Mob holds not only a variable for its population, but also the variables for each Yarku within: which type of Yarku each is, the color hue of each’s fur (which determines max HP), and if each is alive (still) or not.
With all those variables available to me, and with the whole difficulty framework built into the hive levels which spawn mobs, I decided to add varieties of art to illustrate the makeup of each mob.
The strongest Yarku alive in a given mob determines the Yarku Mob’s sprite on the realm map. Feels solid!
Yarku Mobs are generated by Yarku Hives as before, but now the spawning-hive determines the types of Yarku which are in the new mob. Stronger hives can also spawn more Yarku, keeping Nectira on her toes with the gem wielding decisions, and personal upgrades.
It’s now much more exciting to pick up gems, just for the fact that Nectira now seems to appreciate the reward. “Sparkle-blast” effect to be added later.
Gem Cost is Visible
I don’t know how this one was over-sighted for so long, but you can now constantly visualize how much sap your gems will cost, from the battlefield, as well as from the gem equip screen. Since the amount of sap you possess is also visible, it’ll be easy to gauge your uses. Additionally, possessing insufficient sap will turn the cost number red, instead of yellow.
Sometimes, even as the developer, I complete a Hive or Vine level and neglect to collect my prize. Now there’s a bouncing, flashing indicator to inform/remind Nectira to grab the goods. I’ll probably make it so you can turn this feature off later (or maybe just show it in the first few levels?).
One neat little part of the introduction has Celaemus speaking to Nectira. She now listens, instead of standing blank-faced.
It’s a minor detail that turned a few seconds of my play-tests from irritating, to satisfied. And on that note…
Looking Ahead: Finding My Balance
Proactive or reactive? I wish I had a better habit of engaging this challenge more frequently.
I’ve been sort of off-balance, developing in the reactive mode, which looks like this: Play test for 30 minutes at the beginning of a week or month and fill up a page of bullet-points; things that bug me, things that are bugs, or things that would simply be nice to reiterate or improve upon (like matching sprites to dialogue art, above). I feel like this where I’ve spent a lot of time developing in the last few months; a place of critique, improve, repeat… just “reacting” to what Nectira currently is, versus how I want it to be.
On the other hand, I see that when I have a goal of something big to push towards (i.e. the introduction sequence, or a new realm, or say 3 new traps, etc.), then I can focus a month on that, and fill in any extra time that particular month may have afterwards, adding polish. I’ve decided to go about the rest of this project with a stronger-leaning towards “proactive mode”.
There are usually a ton of little things that can use improvements, but I want to actually get this game done too! I’m planning on spending a couple months on polish near the end of the Alpha builds. Releasing some updates to the game after it’s “done” isn’t out of the question either. Also, I still plan on spending about 1/4 of my time (or one week per development of each monthly update) on this category of development too, which should be plenty.
The main thing I want to see is a major milestone, or list of minor milestones, accomplished each month; which I much prefer to a list of updated or added features. Those I probably couldn’t recite if I didn’t have it logged somewhere, but there’s no denying fresh content.
All that to say, hopefully I’ll have a boss to sneak-peak next month, shortly followed by a limited Early Access. (I realize I’ve built into this happening a long time ago too… and it may be yet another 1 or 3 months, but this time I’ll be ready, as soon as the boss and surrounding story is approximately finished).
More on Nectira’s “limited” Early Access (not yet a Steam Early Access game) as we get closer.
Thanks for checking out the latest!