Basically since this Thursday’s B.U.G. Demo Night I started to get excited that maybe I actually made a fun thing(!), because people seem to want to play more rather than just saying “oh, that’s cute” when they play Floral Kombat. I’m excited(!!).
Before reviewing this (past) week, just to get to the schedule-y bit, I’d like to propose a NEW UPDATE SCHEDULE for this blog! I plan to update consistently on or before FRIDAYS each week, i.e. … what I meant to do when I first made this thing… so like… this is mostly me saying “Hey future you! Be accountable for stuff!” So, okay, that’s done.
The talk at WIG was super-inspirational; it was a talk about game design and involved some discussion of what goes into designing a game, which, admittedly is something I really should have, like, just already known, but hadn’t heard formally in the same way. I left feeling like🌈 I’VE LEARNED SOMETHING🌈 and so, that was good. As you’ll remember, oh Imaginary Reader, I started Floral Kombat with the notion that I generally spend too much time on cosmetics at the start of my game dev process and wanted to experiment starting with just functionality, BUT (surprise surprise) a BALANCE is required when it comes to designing a game, as I learned from the talk. Again, this is, like, totally something I should have already known. Maybe I did. I’m not sure. In any case, just hearing it was very good. In particular, I liked the way games were classified in the talk and breaking down a game into Goal(s) + Mechanic(s) + Theme(s) was helpful. Basically it was inspirational, reminded me why I go to talks, and yeah.
Also, at WIG, I was able to discuss some of the things that were challenging me with-respect-to Floral Kombat; that discussion really helped me get things to where they were on Thursday.
And on Thursday…
PEOPLE THOUGHT IT WAS FUN
The biggest game changers were: (1) male flowers now have a pollen limit and a pollen re-spawn time — when bees deplete them, the flowers release them and have to wait to recharge before they can attract/refill any more bees; and (2) players now have the ability to “Burst,” i.e. to simultaneously launch all your bees and deal pollen-damage to nearby opponents.
Making male flowers eject bees I think is what finally prevented the gameplay from localizing around the male flowers. This should have been a no-brainer, but because the male flowers eject the bees, the bees get scattered throughout the stage rather than gravitating around male flowers forever.
Bursting works a little like this:
What’s especially fun about Bursting/what I think makes it work really well is that it’s an offensive action that, by the nature of it, is more advantageous to use the less pollen you have. Because of the way cool-down timing is set up† players can get into burst fights, but if you’re in the lead, this is generally a losing battle. Also, with 3 players (as I discovered on Sunday††) Burst fights can also be risky, since they allow players uninvolved in the Bursting chaos to gather more pollen. BUT if someone’s in the lead… you can bet that player’s gonna be Bursted by everyone else.
†When you Burst, you have to wait 0.5s before you can burst, move, or attract again; when you get caught in a Burst, you lose pollen, get knocked back, and can’t burst or attract for 0.25s, though you CAN move immediately. This means that generally you can escape a Burst fight, but that, if Bursted, you can also Burst back before your opponent has a chance to get out of the way. Bursting is pretty powerful, but also pretty high risk because of that.
††I played 3-player Floral Kombat with some friends on Sunday for the first time! I know I should really have done this sooner, but… something something control ports? I should really resolve this issue though, like, there exist solutions.
I pretty much thank Bursting exclusively for making the game fun; it upped meaningful player-v-player interactions, it allows people to troll††† if they want to, and (most importantly) it made people LAUGH and SMILE when they played!
†††In most matches (yes, even some 1-v-1) there was at least one person who would exclusively or almost-exclusively Burst, just to prevent other players from winning. Like, I do want to make it so that trolls can’t bring a match to a permanent stalemate (and really it’s just an issue for 1-v-1, where one troll can really dominate), but, if that’s how people want to play, and they’re having fun, why stop them? I’d at least like to include an option or setting that can turn Trolling on or off. This could be (suggestions from Sunday playtesting) as simple as a timer on the match or a timed increment on how much pollen each bee gives you, so that the longer a match goes on, the more likely it is to end (and, of course, I’d like these to be settable by the players). Both of these are, of course, also exploitable in different ways I suppose, but I do want to do something.
Now that the game is, like, fun (oh man, that makes me feel good to say), it’s become more apparent what things I can do to make maps dynamic. Already, the 3 maps I have are vastly different.
Stage 1 has lots of open space, plenty of flowers/dodging channels, and, in general feels pretty… standard? Play was pretty simple; there was almost always a male flower ready for bees, and almost always a bee ready to be sucked.
Stage 2’s lack of boundaries (bees collide with the black walls, but not the green ones with faces on them) turned out to make Bursting to eject spent bees a pretty good method of getting them to male flowers quickly. Also, the tight/pocket-y nature of the stage made going to a flower risky, because you could get cornered pretty easily if you weren’t careful (or even if you were) and have to play a game of ring-around-the-flower to get out.
This was all totally unintentional, but I like it.
Stage 3 involved a lot of defensive/offensive play because of the large amount of time that both flowers were recharging, and all bees were spent. Play tended to rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise, and because of the scarcity of pollen, there was a lot more attempted stealing, and ownership of spent bees even became a contested thing (since a spent bee can become a full bee pretty quickly, once a flower opens up).
This was also all totally unintentional.
Now that I know how the stages work, I feel like I can do even more, and I’m also really happy that the stages managed to be this dynamic without introducing any new mechanics to the levels (which I do plan to introduce in future stages; only simple things, like slow-down terrain, rotors, oscillators, etc).
I’ve also done a few cosmetic things to try and help convey what’s going on. I’ve added numbers to show pollen percentage. I’ve made the math work out such that stuff always gives/takes away integer percentages of pollen AND such that most of the HUD is pretty easily parseable — oh yeah, the HUD is also new, or at least I haven’t mentioned it blogily, but Bees and male flowers (based off my brother’s suggestion) now have radial meters above their heads. By making the math work out such that UI is easily parseable, I mean that these radial HUD displays pretty easily visually recognizable fractions, as seen on a pie chart, like 1/4. When I first implemented Bee meters, by the way, I decided it looked cleaner/clearer to have the meters disappear when the bees were full, but, as someone pointed out at demo night, this made the full bees actually more difficult to see, so I’ve added a yellow mandorla around the full ones.
Other stuff: I had some fun with the percent displays and made them tremble the more pollen you have. Eventually, I’d also like to make the players’ heads tremble too (which I hope would foreshadow the headsplosion).
Uh uh, oh yeah, I also added a tutorial step to mention pressing X to burst, since, as was pointed out on Sunday, it really makes the game. My rule for tutorial inclusion before was only to include things necessary to play the game, but given how important Bursting is to making player-v-player interactions fun, it just makes sense to include it.
Oh, also, re: tutorials, yeah, after my big long thing about how not to be afraid of them… no one read the tutorial or even noticed it… T_T so… I made the text bigger/bolder/outlined/easier to read, and… I think it worked? Everyone after that seemed to read the tutorial just fine and to figure everything out without me saying things (except for how Bursting worked, since that wasn’t in the tutorial when most people played).
I’m not certain if everyone actually read the tutorial because they would have or just because I was there, but, either way, it was at least useful to see how confused people were after reading it, which, honestly, was not extremely, which is good.
Weeeeell… I think that’s most things. All right, cool.
Time to not be bad at things and do stuff so that I can post things on Friday, W00
Until next time,