Hello, dear reader! My week 4 game, The Legend of Trykon, is finally in the books -- better late than never! I had to delay the release of this game by quite a bit due to some other urgent deadlines I had to meet.
As far as the actual game -- this was truly a dream game of mine for many years. I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I've enjoyed creating it! Before I get to the game link, I wanted to remind you that I plan on releasing all of these articles and games for free because I want everyone to be able to read this content and play the games. Having said that, if you would like to support the One Game a Week project, I'd really appreciate it. When you go to play the game (link below), you can play it for free, but there's a button below the game that says "Support This Game" which gives you the option to make a small donation. If you've got a few dollars to contribute toward the creation of these games and articles, I'd be very grateful for that. Thank you very much to anyone who is able to support the project!
Here is the game link for my week 4 game: The Legend of Trykon!
I've made it available to play right in the browser via WebGL -- you should be able to just click the button that says "Run Game", and once that's loaded you can play right away.
I'll also issue a SPOILER ALERT!! for the rest of this article! I'll be talking about The Legend of Trykon content in the rest of the article, so if you want to play the game before reading any of that material, go play it now before you read on! Game Link right here!
Adjustments to my release schedule
As I mentioned in my One Game a Week preview article, I'm working on some other projects in tandem with One Game a Week -- unfortunately, near the end of week 4, I had an important deadline that required a lot more of my attention than I anticipated. I had to drop my One Game a Week work for a couple of weeks to get caught up on that other work. It was such a hectic time that I literally could not find the few hours I needed to finish up this blog and release my nearly-complete game -- but finally, today, I found that time.
So with that context in mind, my apologies for the delay in releasing my week 4 game!
I'm feeling pretty burnt out after this most recent crunch time on my other projects -- so for that reason, I'm going to take one more week away from OGAW to just rest up and relax a little bit. This is an industry known for overwork, and I want to make sure that I'm clear and upfront about when I need a break and take that time when I feel like I need it. March has been a crazy month, and I definitely need a bit of recuperation before I get started on my week 5 game.
So for anyone following along -- I'll be starting my week 5 game on Monday, April 1st -- no April Fool's joke intended!
Okay! Having reset those expectations -- let's take a look at The Legend of Trykon and see what went right and what went wrong.
Dungeon layout is compelling and challenging
I ended up being really satisfied with the eventual layout of the dungeon. I think the final product is complicated enough that it actually presents a challenge to the player. I would have loved a few more days to expand on the layout a bit more or do some more work decorating the hallways -- the dungeon ended up looking a little barren by the time all the rooms were in place. One of the points brought up when my partner playtested the game is that each time you exit a staircase, the landing area and subsequent hallways look a bit too similar -- and I definitely agree. Some differently-styled floor tiles or some standout decorations to help you orient yourself would have made the world more fun to explore.
I think as it stands, it's hard to navigate some of the dungeon in a bad way -- it's not good design to have something be hard to explore because it all looks the same. Instead, a more interesting challenge would be to have each area look more unique, so that a player could make a deliberate choice about which area to explore. That way, when they get stuck or hit a dead end, it's more attributable to their choice rather than a design flaw. Nonetheless, even though some areas are a bit nondescript, I'm pretty satisfied with the overall level I ended up with.
I also feel like I have a much better understanding the process and amount of work that goes into taking a sketch on paper and actually implementing it into a fully working, fully realized in-game dungeon. I sketched out the basic layout on the bottom half of a single piece of paper -- the sketch did not look particularly complex or imposing, but I thought that it might be a good starting point. Once I had a few rooms actually created inside Unity, I realized that seeing the level from the zoomed-in perspective of the actual in-game character made the whole place seem a lot more complicated to navigate. So there's definitely some factor to account for between the complexity of a sketch versus the actual complexity of a level once you see it in-game, and that factor is larger than I had previously assumed. I guess that realization should help me design more accurately-scoped levels in the future.
I also took a bit of time to integrate a fun little surprise near the end of the dungeon -- I don't want to spoil it, but I'm quite proud of it! I think it's a fun little change of pace and a reward for people who successfully get all the way to the end.
Title screen is totally awesome
I feel like right off the bat, anyone starting up The Legend of Trykon gets a shot of excitement from the epic intro music and some of the sweeping camera animations I used.
I leveraged a pack I bought a few months ago from the always-wonderful Meshtint Studio. I'd hoped at one point to create a nice overworld for either The Marker Game or The Legend of Trykon -- I didn't quite have time to implement that functionality, but I did leverage this gorgeous artwork for the title screen. The artwork is from their Toon Environment Pack. I used slightly modified versions of that landscape geometry to make the intro sequence. Even though the entire game takes place within the snake dungeon, I think it really conveys the sense of adventure and exploration I want the player to feel when they play this game -- and I hope it also gives a sense of the larger world that could be created for this game at some point in the future.
The one hangup I had putting together the title screen was that I actually had a lot of problems getting the lighting to work correctly in the WebGL build. It worked perfectly within the Unity editor, but for some reason the entire opening scene would go dark whenever I created a WebGL build. I did a bit of research on this and found several suggestions for what kind of tweaks to the lighting settings might be needed for this particular build. I tried adjusting a few settings which made things a bit better, and then adjusted some other settings which made things worse. It turned out that the culprit was having checked "Realtime Global Illumination" in the lighting configuration for that scene (which can be found at Window > Lighting > Settings). I guess this must be disabled on WebGL builds to help keep them more lightweight.
So these are definitely some of the elements of the game that I feel went right. There were some other aspects of the game that did not go as well.
Movement is hard to control
One of the aspects of The Legend of Trykon that ended up being kind of frustrating was the main character's movement. I had gotten some feedback that the movement in my week 1 game, Curious Castle, was a bit difficult to control. I tried to make the movement feel a bit more deliberate in this game, but most of my adjustments actually ended up making things worse. I didn't have a lot of time to spend tweaking this, so I had to revert to a control scheme which is kind of similar to what I used in Curious Castle.
Much like my struggles creating platformers in Unity, I've often struggled to find an easy-to-use, definitively-best set of 3D open-space movement controls. This might be the kind of thing that I invest some time in really trying to work on for a later project -- but if anyone has a good recommendation for this, please let me know in the comments or reach out on Twitter -- my handle is @creamerkylec. I'd really appreciate a solution for this so I didn't have to worry about having smooth, easy to control characters.
Enemies are too dumb and the combat is too basic
I didn't have a ton of time to edit the code for the enemy AI -- I basically wanted to get something basic into the game, and then worry about refining the AI later. The extent of my AI logic is to essentially move back and forth along a vertical or horizontal line, and in some cases, alternate between the two. It would have been a lot better to have some rooms where the snakes or bats knew your location and tried to move toward you, or something like that -- but I ended up having to de-prioritize the enemy AI for this game. Perhaps in some future game, building a more robust enemy AI will be a bigger focus and I can back-port some of those features to The Legend of Trykon.
In addition to the overly-simplistic AI, I think the combat does not feel satisfying either. The movement of the sword is a bit hard to track visually, and you cannot easily tell if you sword swing contacted the enemy correctly. There are a few obvious effects which can help make the sword swing look and feel better -- for example, having some sort of visual "swish" trail showing the sword's movement path, or having a small burst of particles at the exact point the sword contacted the enemy or other object. I again had to try and scope things down so I didn't have a chance to implement these effects.
I have to say, I was surprised at how "off" the game feels without these things. I thought of these effects in my mind as a nice bonus, but not something that would be required -- but I think that as players, we're so used to having this kind of feedback, we really notice its absence. This was a good lesson for me -- having good visual feedback for the mechanics the player uses to interact with the game world can really affect the game feel in a bit way, so next time I think I will try and make these a bigger priority.
Missing some nice-to-have pieces of user feedback
Along the same lines as some of the visual effects I wanted to have for the combat, there are some other "nice-to-have" visual effects that I though were non-essential -- but I think the game would have been greatly enhanced by their presence.
For example, there are several instances in the game where the player's progress is blocked by a giant pit. To overcome this obstacle, the player needs to press a button on the floor somewhere in the dungeon to cause red floor tiles to create a bridge across the pit. In some cases, the switch is within view of the red blocks as they appear -- so it is easy for the player to see what result they're causing by pressing the button.
In other cases, though, the button is farther away from the blocks, and there is only the sound of the red blocks falling into place -- no visual feedback. Ideally, you'd like to have that visual feedback, but I just didn't have time for it. I know this is probably confusing, and some day I'd like to include this kind of nice feedback.
I'd also like to add a bit of juiciness to things like the statue pushes -- maybe an on-screen indicator of when you're in position to move the block, as well as a pushing animation for our character when moving the blocks. All of these things fell out of scope for this project, and I think the overall feel of the game would improve a lot with some of these little nice-to-have tweaks. Alas -- perhaps I'll include these sometime later this year.
Week 4 wrap-up
And that's all I have to say for now about The Legend of Trykon! It was a lot of fun to finally create my own 3D Zelda game, even if I had to be extremely sparse with the actual mechanics I put in the game.
Thanks so much for following along. I'll be taking the next week off to recuperate from a very draining few weeks, so I will be back on Monday, April 1st with the kickoff article for week 5!
Thanks so much for following along, and I'm looking forward to some rest before getting back to work next week!