Soul Dier Development Progress (Mid-July to Mid-Sept)
We have been a bit less active on social media after the release of our demo version 4.0. That is because we have been really busy working on both business and administrative stuff as well as creating more contents for our the game! We have decided to write an progress to highlight of some of the work we have done recently in a more organized format.
If you still have not played our demo, be sure to check it out! It is a completely free demo consisting of the first half of chapter 1. We would love to hear your feedback on it.
We Are on Steam Now!
We have finally published our Steam page! After spending a lot of time filling in forms and waiting for letters, we finally got our business registered, got a bank account and are able create our Steam page. To be honest, it feels kind of incredible to see our game on Steam after being PC gamers for years! We still have a long way till release though, so be sure check out our newly published Steam page and Wishlist us to get notified of any important news!
Levels and Contents
Following the release of Demo 4.0, the main focus of our work is centered around the second half of chapter 1, which directly follows from the story at the end of the demo. Curtain and his teammates have uncovered a secret entrance into the underground city. They are now infiltrating deep into this highly secured city, currently occupied by the evil Sinkers, in an attempt to rescue the city's founder.
Most of the scenes, enemies, and level design of have actually already been implemented quite a long time ago. However, with the experience we have gained working on the many versions of our demo, we have found a need to work on a lot of elements in order for them to match our new design philosophy. We ended up redesigning most of the ability of the enemies and levels in the underground, along with adding some polish to both the gameplay and visuals of the area.
One important aspect of our enemy design is that they should require some strategic response from the player. The spy enemy's new sticky electric bomb skill is one simple demonstration of this philosophy. The electric bomb will stick to a player character and discharge after the character's turn finished. It will then paralyze nearby player characters. Thus, the player will need to be careful with their positioning to minimize the disruption.
We have also spent a lot of effort reworking many of the level design and mechanics in the underground city. Of all the levels we worked on, the one that changed the most from our original design is probably the rooftop level. Keen followers may recall a rooftop level involving breakable wooden bridges, but that design had always felt a bit lacking even though we think the concept could be cool.
We have now expanded on the idea and remade the level such that almost all of the floor may be demolished by the enemies! We are pretty satisfied with how this new levels both plays and looks.
Graphics and Presentation
One important change we have made to our graphics is changing our tone mapping from Filmic to ACES Fitted. Overall we think that it make the color look more vibrant, and it gives emissive materials a whitish glowing incandescent effect.
With us implementing (or reimplementing) so much new contents, we also needed to create quite a few new visual effects for the new player and enemies abilities involved. One notable new thing we made is a custom made trail system. Previously we used a free plugin for Godot to make the trails of our bullets and visual effects. But it have always felt a bit difficult to make our desired effect with it. The system we made have adjustable parameters that are better fit for our need, and we can also add smoothing and interpolation to prevent the low-poly look when there is low framerate or high speed movement. More importantly, it can be previewed directly in the Godot Editor, so it is much easier to work with.
One other thing we are experimenting with is the ability for characters to speak with dialogue boxes during a battle. This way, we might be able to provide more characterization to our characters and enemies by providing more opportunity for them to speak under different situations, or we could provide some tutorials and guidance in a more dynamic and fun way. We are still a bit concerned that the dialogues might feel a bit obstructive and block player's view of useful information, so this feature probably still need some more rethinking.
The loading time for our game have always been a bit concerning, so we have been looking for ways to improve on that. Recently we have a made a big overhaul on how we load resources. Resources here refers to objects that are not a part of the scene, but have to be spawned into the game during the course of gameplay. For example: bullets or a grenade and its explosion visual effect. Loading these resources from the disk in the middle of gameplay would not be ideal, since loading and shader compilation would cause notable slowdown.
Previously we would always load and force shader compilation for all resources before loading into the first battle to ensure there will be no lag during gameplay. This was acceptable for our demo, since most of the resource are reused across all the levels. But as we develop more and more levels, this have became a more significant burden to our load time. Loading visual effects that will only be used in chapter 2 levels when a player only want to play a chapter 1 level would be quite wasteful.
This is why we have developed a new system to mark potentially required resources in a efficient way for the levels. This way, when the player chooses to play a level, the game only loads the resources that will be used in that level.
|Loading Time||First time loading on a device||Subsequent loading|
(Shader cached on disk)
We did some testing with our new system. The result is about 25 - 20% time reduction to fully load into a battle for the first time. This gap will probably become much larger as we continue add more resource for later levels. The loading speed is still not earth-shattering fast, but at least it is a step in the right direction.
Last but not least, we have also been making myriad of bug fixes (and more myriads of bugs, of course) alongside with minor quality of life improvements. For the sake of brevity, I won't be listing them here.
We are currently working on some final touch on few of the levels in chapter 1. After that, we will finally be able to officially move on to chapter 2. We do already have some of the models and levels implemented for chapter 2, but like before, they have gone through some redesign. This means that we still have a lot of work ahead of us.
We have also have been busy preparing for a Kickstarter campaign for the past few months, so please look forward to that. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter for more updates about our game and wishlist us on our Steam page!
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