Awesome! Love the difficulty too...crash n burn A LOT until you figure some things out...and even then, though. So far top score is 47 with the green guy.
Solid pix too. Love the dude flying at the screen when he dies.
If this is your train work, can't wait to see your stationary work...or maybe the train is key ;) Just stay on the train next time and do a few loops for next game, ha! And should be even more fun to PLAY on the train.
It's really well-done, but the difficulty is probably too unforgiving. Personal game design opinions incoming:
I'll say what I usually say to people who make difficult games. Not everyone's a teenager with lightning reflexes who gets high on Dark Souls' difficulty level. Some of us have to deal with reflexes that are either on their way to their warranty expiring, or it already has. The gamer market hits all ages these days, unlike 10-20 years ago. Some of us don't have the patience to play a game even to the point of ragequitting; it's just straight to "Meh, this dev clearly doesn't want me playing their game," and we move along.
I often compare good games to good IQ tests. With an IQ test, you have to have some incredibly simple stuff or you can only grade the intelligence of smart people. Average and below all register zero. So you have a full range of difficulties in your test and basically a person will hit a highwater mark and that's how you judge them. Same goes for games.
Good games start off so even a piss-poor player can do well for a while. I don't mean carebear level play, I just mean not straight to sudden death. It also doesn't mean you never get as hard as this game gets within ten seconds, it just means you take longer to get there, maybe 30 seconds. Meanwhile the player develops a feeling of accomplishment and most of the rage at bad RNG luck or what's perceived as mean-spirited design will recede.
It also avoids the feeling I got, which is that my high score was more luck than skill, since my games were still ranging quite randomly from 0 to 50 after I'd tried for 15 minutes to practice and get better.
I ended up going in and halving all the AI speeds + spawn chances and doubling the timers, and even then it was pretty hard, but I actually enjoyed it once I did that. I got past 100 a few times and it felt satisfying, not random, because I was fighting my skill ceiling and environmental awareness instead of the unmodifiable reaction time built into my aging nervous system.
I freaking love the visuals and sound, though. Great design, slick execution. I especially like the touch where the game has a frame like a Polaroid or a slide of your vacation or something. I really don't want to rag on the game at all. I just felt it was a shame to like the look and feel of the game so much but to dislike actually playing it.
(But, hey, maybe I'm really not your target audience, in which case this is not good advice at all. If you're targeting the Dark Souls types, then I think you're totally hitting the nail on the head and they'll probably really dig it.)
I think @Felice makes some good points and I was just wondering if either of you have played temple run on mobiles? The difficulty per try was really good as new players could play long enough to feel satisfied and good players could show off their skills and last for ages but each go felt well suited for each player. A solution if you agreed might be to make some of the many characters have different difficulty level if the difficulty is easy to change via variables in the code like felice mentioned?
Edit: super cool game by the way!
First, thanks for your opinion!
Second, I notice that the game is harder to play in the browser, probably due to a slight input lag or barely noticeable frame-rate drop or something. I doubt that this makes any difference to the point that you made, though.
Also, I did think about adding a single special character for beginners to play as a tutorial/casual mode. Will probably work this in at some point.
OK now to explain why I made the game the way it is :)
I know some people enjoy easy games, or at least a gentle difficulty curve. Some people are the opposite, and you can't please everyone. I design games by profession and I need to be mindful of the (imaginary) average person and their average needs and preferences every day. That is all fine and well, but this being a personal project, I went with my own best judgement (=personal opinion) :
The game is tiny. No new things will be introduced after you play for a while. It is just what it is, all the time. There is nothing to unlock, nothing to wait for. You see the entire game within seconds of pressing play. If the game was not challenging to some degree, it would be boring.
Now, the more you play, the better you get, and the longer it would take for the game to get challenging again, if the difficulty curve were gentle. I personally find this a bad progression of playing experience, a poor reward for investing one's time - the better you are, the bigger portion of the game becomes not challenging, not exciting.
I could have worked in a set of levels so you could restart from the level that matches your skill level, but this felt an ill fit for such a tiny game.
Instead I opted to make the game 'peak' very quickly, and then stay at that same difficulty. It's an intense challenge start to finish, and when you restart you get to that point again VERY quickly. It takes more effort to get into it, but the rewards for skill are more substantial, and sense of accomplishment more fulfilling. Of course, the big trade-off is that until you skill up, the game can be nothing but frustrating.
Also it just 'felt right' for a macho surfing game with sharks and bombs to be intense like this. Once I made the bombs ramp up real quick after the first bomb drops, it all started making sense in my head, feeling like a thing. Before that it felt like a tech demo, a toy that you can interact with, but doesn't go anywhere.
These are all of course very personal opinions, but I strongly believe in making the games you want to play.
Others' opinions are of course as valid as my own. Not all games I want to make are scary hard. I did not aim to make a game that intentionally prevents some people from enjoying it, but I wasn't trying to make a pop product either.
For context, most players seem to get 30-40. Some people enjoy this accomplishment, while some are frustrated that "they couldn't even get to 100". Player psychology is a fun topic
Also I should mention that I am by no means a teenager, or have lightning reflexes. I find the game-play is mostly about learning to 'lead' the bombs and getting the feel for the timing, while staying as far to the left a you can to be ready for the odd fast shark.
For what it's worth, I didn't assume you were a teenager, but rather that you were targeting that demographic. You are quite clearly an adult, and yes, I did assume you were an industry person as well.
I didn't play in the browser, by the way. I agree that the controls in the browser are... uh... troublesome. :)
Anyway, it sounds like perhaps I was playing the game as intended and expected, and even relatively well, since I maxed out at a score of 59 and typically got upwards of 45. I think, though, that this kind of underscores my point, since I felt I had done poorly and figured my high score was more luck than skill. I had played the game as intended, and even well, but walked away feeling embarrassed about my performance.
Like I disclaimed, though, if I'm not the player you're targeting, or more specifically, my wishes for gameplay aren't the ones you're trying to satisfy, then my advice isn't really applicable. If your goal is to make a game you enjoy, then I'm just sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong. Which I often do. :)
Ah but not at all, I do value your input on this, I wasn't being sarcastic when I thanked you for the opinion.
Ultimately it was more a matter of creative decisions rather than calculated intention. So there is no right or wrong, just different perspectives.
You certainly got me thinking. Would be interesting to have a game with a tweakable speed/difficulty setting and then poll people to what they enjoy the most.
No, this is perfect. Difficulty and all. Everyone gets stuck with their score around 32-34 to begin with, because that's where the bombs ramp up -- and breaking past that point feels totally worth it, even if there's nothing more to the game than a continual barrage after that.
You can get plenty of play restarting the same 0-30 score over and over again for practice. And you can just as easily within seconds be buried in serious difficulty stuff. It's beautiful.
Also, has anyone mentioned that's one damn beautiful title screen with an amazingly elegant rendering solution?
I bet the inclusion of a default high score would improve on the sense I had of being a miserable failure, even though it seems I was getting good scores. Setting a bar for the new player gives them an idea of how one typically might do, and a sense of accomplishment if they get that far.
Default score? I'd say add a 0 to the score text (just the text, not even a change to the underlying number) and make the default high score "300" or "350" :P
Also, I am terribly sorry but it appears I'm still a child.
I couldn't help myself. (Poor Charlie! D: He don't even surf, man!)
I found a logic bug:
initplayer sets the player.floor to horizon (which isn't set yet)
initwaves() is called for the gameplay screen.
initwaves sets horizon (but doesn't update player.floor to match)
So when drawplayer gets called, since the player is alive and isn't jumping yet,
player.y gets set to player.floor (which is still improperly set to nil)
Which causes the spr() call which renders the player to default to a y of 0.
Which causes the player to be drawn in the sky at the top of the screen, for the first frame of gameplay only.
this is the first PICO-8 game that I have played, it's pretty inspiring, the gameplay is very addictive. I'm pretty happy with my score so far of 46.
Ever just surf on a saturday, and sharks bombs and waves increase?
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