Beckon the Hellspawn - by LokiStriker
Survive against hordes of relentless creatures by using your arcane powers to defeat them. Gather their essence and use it to increase your magical prowess! Use the beacons lure them and defeat them, but be warned, the more time passes, the stronger they get. Your mission? Survive until "It" arrives. When "it" arrives, destroy it.
This game supports touchscreen and mouse (as press/click and drag) as well as directional input. (This includes WASD) Confirmation requires you to press "Tap on the Screen", "Left Click" or pressing of the "X" key or button. Additionally, one may access options within the "Pause Menu" by pressing the "Enter" key or by pressing the "Menu" button (On android this button is a small rectangle). In there you'll find a option to turn off the music, or just have drums available when playing the game.
As you kill enemies within the game, you will be granted experience to upgrade your skills. Each of the five weapons can be leveled up (or upgraded linearly) a total of twelve times. Three of the characters have a unique variant of a weapon, which allows them to be played in a transformative way!
Note: When playing, you may only have have three weapons at any give point, so choose wisely!
Lure and Destroy!
Until "It" arrives, you will kill hordes of hellspawn while avoiding their attacks. The more time passes, bigger and bigger waves will come after you. Eventually, stronger units will spawn! If you are brave and daring, you can choose to beckon more of them, approaching their "beacons". After a short time, the beacons will spawn a small wave and permanently increase the difficulty of enemies. This may be risky, but remember: "The more you kill, the stronger you'll get!"
The following is a long written form of a development log, akin to a post-mortem. If you are interested in this type of content, read to your heart's content:
- Still a dreamer
This game has it's start, as my last project, as a more ambitious project: A robot in the desert killing demons (I kept this part), protecting a mining operation for gathering resources. Killing enemies would make them drop overclocks and mods to equip your character. Even manual shooting with the mouse. Very cool (and I still want to do something like it), but life happened, and I also had my own personals struggles that made me unable to keep working on it. Returning to it, I saw that I was trying to do something cool, but not made for pico8, not in the way I wanted to. So once more, I did like last time!
- The old lives in the new
Function after function, I copied core code to a new pico8 file. My main character couldn't be a robot no more, and the location a desert no more, too close to the original idea. I say this because If I did so, I could always think "This idea was way cooler, and this is but a basic version of it". I don't like such thoughts.
Then came a through: "I was making a shmup about a wizard that I never finished huh? What If I use that guy...?" And so the core of the idea was founded: "A wizard kills demons with spells" Now I have something to go from!
Two games didn't make it, so this one could.
- Design, in the times of Pico
I took the style of that shmup game, who was applying the restrictions of the NES (animated sprites only have 4 colors, and transparency is one of them) I went with outlines because I knew contrast to see enemies on the screen would be very important. By this very point, I made everything related to the player be the color blue/white, and likewise, the enemies would be red/yellow. Simple, but this visual language goes a long way when allowing the player to look an image and quickly distinguish where is danger.
There was another issue found when playing the game. Pico8 has a 128x128 canvas. My player is always at the center of the screen. Enemies spawn around you, but if they spawn to the cardinal directions, the player has less time to see them coming at them, compared to if they come from the diagonals. Considering this, I made my enemies be weighted to spawn on the diagonals more than the directional. This way, the player has more time to see them, this also has some strategy elements to it, which is another point towards mastery of play for my game.
- The dangers of a self-imposed grind
As I'm reaching a point where most of the content of the game is defined, I start to slow down, and I note of this slowdown, as this is the killer of my projects. I'm not having it, so I decided to "go ham".
It worked... but I almost burnt out. Quite in fact, I am burnt out of this game, the last 20% of development was a serious grind. Thankfully, I'm not burnt from making things, but looking at this game still stresses me some. The results are there and I'm so happy the game is out, but it was at a cost I'll consider more seriously later on.
- Ending thoughts
This is my second published game, and I feel proud that it is. There is a great lot in here that too a lot of iterations, I finally touched the token limit and danced on the line for the last 10% to 5% of development, still adding core features to the game at the token limit. An interesting dance, and a very teaching experience. This game has a lot of passion behind it, and many short slept days. I look forward to looking at this game fondly. Till then, I think I'm good for now.
Once again, a thank you to the Lazy Devs Discord Server! Still as inspiring and invigorating as when I first joined. Thank you all for the kind words towards my game as I posted each update, they really helped on those unavoidable difficulty days of development. A thank as well to "Epicheezeness", for providing me invaluable input, helpful design and necessary early playtesting, as well as a seeming endless supply of support and encouragement.
Music once more: All the SFX contribute to the song being played, playing different notes of the scale, that help reinforce the theme or disrupt it when necessary. The player hurt is a sharp 4th, which is really disruptive, as it should be for that event.
Another note is that the "AHHH!" the player does, while developing used to say "HERE!", my classic debug message. I decided to keep it as such, but change the message so it fits more. This scream in text then leads me to do the SFX which then leads me to do screen shake (which its just UI shake!) which then leads me to do the light radius wavering when low health. Funny how a debug message lead to so much juice!
@joealarson : I think the Purifier, and the Flame Cloak weapon it starts with, are very powerful in this game. It's due to the way the enemies block each other's movement. ( @LokiStriker, please don't get me wrong here - I'm very impressed with how you got so many enemies to all move around and respond to each other.) With the arcane edge or magic bolt, the player ends up moving around, creating a triangular formation of enemies chasing them. This limits the total XP they can earn per second, and some of those XP end up inconveniently far away.
Meanwhile, with a levelled-up Flame Cloak (plus Astral Orbit if you want maximum damage, as @Ahai64 notes), you can sit in one place while enemies move in from all sides.
Playing with the aimed weapons, the highest level I've reached by the time the boss appears is about 25, and I've never defeated the boss. Playing with the Flame Cloak, I usually get to level 45.
As currently implemented, this is a good game of learning how its systems work. But it feels like optimal play, once discovered, involves a lot of standing in one place. So possibly the weapon damage levels could be adjusted.
@Cowirrie I agree that certian upgrades kinda break the game and fail to incentivize you to move around. But that's also kinda why I love it. I mean I hate that my lizard brain is so engaged by "GAZE UPON THE DESTRUCTION YOU HAVE WROUGHT!" but I can't deny that after a few upgrades of the flame cloak and Astral Orbit and I end up in the middle of a grinder of death, I smile.
I do find the moonchild to be one of the most interesting builds. It's Astral Orbit's center being outside it's body, it make an effect like having a rotating chainsaw that you're just waiting to get aligned to plow through enemies. However, it's easy for enemies to get around, and, like you said, you can't win with them. Or at least it's harder to win with them.
But balancing this would be very difficult. Maybe instead of decreasing the damage area weapons do, decrease the XP you get from damage weapons. Or maybe the arcane edge can pull experience back to you. Or both.
@joealarson By design, both Moonkin and Possesed are the hardest. This is intentional. I think of them as extra unlocked characters from "The Binding of Issac", they are a different nature of challenge. But, by this measure, the also have the highest DPS on paper, as Moonkin has a permanent higher tick-rate (5 hits per second vs 4 hits per second). Same with Possesed, "+Speed" upgrades dont make the blade go further, like in other characters, but rather, they make the hits per second higher. But achieving maximum DPS with them is where the challenge lies.
@Cowirrie There is a certain degree of self-countermeasure that I built into the game. When I design games, Im always inspired by games that push the players to experience scarcity and hardship. Games that make you take tough decisions. Games that, through their mechanics, force you to use the little you have and make the most of it.
That doesn't sound like a good "Survivors-like". The Flame Cloak + Astral Orbit combo was always strong, even in early testing. Its by design. As joealarson points, there is a joy of feeling like the epicenter of destruction as you see the numbers past by you. That combo lives in that space.
While, it does make for a pretty binary choice when starting to get a groove for what is a good weapon and what its not, the player that seeks a higher challenge can look for the 4th and 5th characters and can find both a change of gameplay pace and an additional challenge: Beat the game by mainly using that characters weapon. Players who find themselves at that point may be apprehensive to using Flame Cloak and Astral Orbit at the same time, as they might see too strong, and that is fine, its the players journey through the game.
That being said, I may have reached the token limit (like literally 8192/8192), but I may look into cart-loading so I can separate menu and game, possibly adding more content. With that a balance rework will be necessary.
I like the game where it is now, and while the game may be too easy for some, the little playtesting I had with friends, showed me that good players did good, and medium to not so frequent players of the genre did struggle some. In my eyes, that means that, for a pico8-scale game, the balance was on the right path. (But I will add hard-mode, take my word, I will LUL)
Excellent! as addictive as original!
Music works really well.
I played "moonkin" (? the one with the static sword) and indeed, totally OP - I barely moved the whole game and reached the (first?) boss after about 5 minutes!
Quite impressed by perf even without spatial partitioning.
Token wise, there is certainly some room for improvement (inline var decls, inline functions...) but nothing major.
@freds72 The 4th character ("The Possesed") has the sword that doesn't return (but something else happens if you move into it...)
Im really glad I managed to squeeze as much performace as I could, hopefully when I return to this, I can take it to greater heights (Ive learned about keys and values, and I think taking the weapons to tables will allow for less tokens spent doing the level up logic)
So this version definitely can have improvements, but hopefully if I can do it better, Ill be transformative. Thank you!
@DÁRYNSON IFrames are "Invincibility Frames", or amount of time that you are invincible after being hit. Usually this is so you don't just soak up damage every time you get hit and have a moment to escape or kill the offending enemy.
I decided to try a game with no movement. I just held still, ignored the doom markers, chose the purifier, upgraded the cloak and radius as fast as I could, increasing my XP radius as well so I wasn't leaving anything on the ground. I also picked up the comet shot, which ended up being valuable at the end.
As the end approached, I also increased the iframes and armor a bit so I could tank the boss' attacks, though in the end I won with more than 50 hit points, so I might have overdid it. Also, as the boss appeared, I noticed the comet shots weren't hitting him, but the very next upgrade was to increase its range, and that did it. In the end I won without taking a step.
@DÁRYNSON As mention, IFRAMES translate to Invulnerability Frames, which are a number of frames the player, when hit, is invulnerable to damage. With this in context, +IFRAMES increases the time the player cant be damage after getting hit. Now, with some changes Im making I could maybe explain better what IFRAMES are to the player when they level up.
@joealarson Well, while Im not completely against the staying still strat, I am against it for the first 60 to 120 seconds and for the boss phase specially... Hmmm, Ill consider it for further balance. Also this:
A bit of a teaser of what I working on.
Still working on the details, but you can expect more of this project once I update it.
Really fun Survivors-like game. I like how each character has its own unique version of the starting weapon. Makes the characters a lot more interesting. The graphics are really nice, I love all the little animations and the shockwaves on some of the attacks are so satisfying. Great music too. :)
Love this game. I finally beat it with every character.
It's like an easier version of "Buns", which happens to be my favorite Pico-8 game.
Love being able to just become a Demon Blender and mow everything down. There's something to be said for being able to just become death itself. I love it. Great job!
I am gonna try to beat the game with every character
I only banned the combo of flame cloak + astral orbit cause its too braindead
purifier is the first one done, got flame cloak and arcane edge to max upgrade and then bought a bunch of armor and speed so the boss was pretty simple
flame cloak on this character is ridiculous, you can kill enemies just as easily as purifier and timing movement with falling star made it easy to access beacons as well
thoughts on other characters rn
an astral orbit apprentice run seems pretty easy and is probably the one I go for next. I used flame cloak on stormcaller cause when I tried astral orbit sometimes enemies would slip through and hit you before the next star came, and flame cloak didn't have any chance of that happening, but I think astral orbit damage is better for the boss and magic bolt is way better at hitting things that get into the dead zone than stormcaller's falling star
possessed and moonkin are way harder. possessed is super difficult to control without throwing yourself into enemies and your upgrades have to be on point since he really wants a lot of things (high level arcane edge, hp / iframes for survivability, xp rad to not have to move towards enemies and be helpless, and high level magic bolt / flame cloak to have some other defense) plus speed upgrades are actually bad since he'll run right past his weapon, making him too slow for the yellow enemies. I think he's totally worth trying though cause you can just shred enemies and he appears to have the highest boss damage as well, plus when he's next to his weapon it's basically a shield which is great for activating beacons
moonkin is also really hard because of the way she (i think she's a girl? maybe wrong) has to run away from everyone since she doesn't always have the damage in front of her, and she is just as upgrade intensive as possessed. her boss damage also really sucks since you can't access it most of the time and honestly she's probably the hardest character because of that, but she easily has the highest damage on the enemies and is my most tested character. most weapons don't work with her, I only really see a magic bolt run happening cause falling star sucks for defense, arcane edge is too slow, and flame cloak doesn't work when you're running as much as she is
this game is really really fun and I'm having a great time, the only thing I think should be changed is a buff to boss damage because as it stands flame cloak or astral barrage + armor upgrades make the boss a joke, and those are already probably the two best weapons in the game
I would be very interested to know what strategies people used for The Moonkin and if there was an intended strategy. I found it a lot harder (and longer) to beat compared to the other characters. My eventual winning strategy:
good point of this game is there's many type of character so you can play this long time, bad thing is upgrades are doesn't help to beat this game at all, increasing damage and attack radius was only useful upgrade to me and it's rare
i focused only on main weapon usually, purifier was only one character who able to beat this game and demon has too much health, main reason of why boss is hard, it's i don't have oppurtunity to deal damage long, there's too many hordes inturrupting attack the boss and usually player doesn't have enough firepower ()
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