It was cheap, easy and looked very different from other games!
Greetings! I’m David and I’m here to talk about some issues in developing Severed. I’ve mainly been working on designing and refining enemies for the last little while, so I thought I would give a slightly in-depth look at some of the tricky questions that come up in designing for Severed’s combat system. First, you need to know two core facts about the game:
- Combat in Severed is touch-based, so we give almost the entire screen area over to letting the player slash freely with their sword by swiping. Most enemy attacks can also be parried by the same sort of motion, if properly timed and aimed.
- The player explores by tapping to move between ‘nodes’, which could be a room, a clearing in a forest, or whatever else. There’s no movement within a node, but you can freely look around yourself. When you end up in a node with enemies in it, you can still turn to face each one, but nobody can leave until the fight is finished (your standard Thunderdome-type scenario).
The stationary player but skillful reflex-based fighting means we’re splitting the difference in a unique sort of way between the highly-abstracted combat of a classic RPG and the more actiony, hands-on feel of something like a Dark Souls, 3D Zelda or Infinity Blade. And like any novel design choice, this is exciting to work on but crops up equally-novel challenges that might not have been dealt with in any game we could have used as a reference point.
One of those challenges is how to let the player deal with fights against more than one enemy. You can’t see or parry attacks from off-screen enemies, but off-screen enemies can still attack you, interrupting your action and doing serious damage. And you can’t run away, corner or otherwise outmaneuver them.
Each enemy is a big threat requiring your attention — you need to keep tabs on them all.
To solve this problem, combat is governed by an ‘enemy manager’. Rather than just wildly attacking you in parallel, which would often be super unfair, the enemies take turns attacking, dutifully queueing up one at a time like goons in a Bruce Lee group fight. For each attack an enemy can do, we specify how much time it needs to ready and then carry it out, and schedule the attack into the Enemy Manager’s queue. That doesn’t mean the attacks are necessarily easy to deal with (they can come as fast or slow as we choose), but the big benefit is this lets us easily prevent the player being put into impossible situations. (In principle we want someone playing perfectly to be able to get out of any given fight basically unharmed.)
Each enemy also has an icon underneath it. You can tap the icon to spin and face that enemy, but it also shows their status, previewing who’s about to come up next in the queue without the player having to look right at them. The icon slowly fills in with yellow, flashes when full, then flashes red, as the enemy readies and then executes their attack — at which point the player has to be there to respond.
Spiderface, above, blocks you until its timer fills. You get your chance to hit when it attacks – if you parry it, then it becomes vulnerable to counter-attack. Also, welcome to our ridiculous internal monster-naming.
A big goal for Severed has always been to have a large variety to the enemies encountered. There’s a menagerie of disturbing creatures in this game that the player will have to learn how to deal with through trial and error. Each one has some sort of unique behaviour — but the player not only has to learn their way around it, they also have to figure out how to act based on what the enemy’s icon is doing when it’s offscreen.
For example, Spinster here charges itself up continually — and when finished, immediately does an unblockable attack. To knock it out of this cycle, you have to hit it during the charging-up part until you break through its weak point. WHO KNOWS where that is though
Some enemies protect themselves while they’re idle and can only be hit after attacking and getting parried; some can be hit while they’re idle and can’t be stopped once their attack begins; some can be hit while idle but may punish you for it, etc. So if the icon only flashes just before the attack for Spinster above, you’d never have enough time to deal with it — you should be giving it attention over the whole time it’s idle. Since we really want this kind of variety in the game, we’ve had to make sure that the way an icon behaves helps the player and doesn’t rudely surprise them. The lexicon that’s evolved out of it is, generally, that we’ll start the icon flashing when the player should pay attention (and so far in our playtests this seems to get picked up pretty quickly). So for Spinster, we now have the flashing start well before its attack would actually go off, to remind you to respond.
It’s the kind of problem barely anybody playing a game will think about, but the developers spend days pulling out their hair over. But I think we’re pretty satisfied leaving it as is and letting the information the icon gives you remain slightly incomplete. Having some info is important as an aid — but in the end, it’d be great for the players to spend most of the battle actually looking at these crazy monsters we’re animating instead??
The Enemy Manager isn’t a total solution — even with it, there are combos of enemies that would be way nastier than others (for example, three Spinsters at once, all continually needing your attention, is a nightmare compared to three Spiderfaces, who only attack in turn). So despite the Manager, enemy encounters still need to be handcrafted for fairness. Treating these varied enemies and the enemy-icon system with consistency is a tricky balance to strike, and one of the areas where I’m finding (as is often the case) a grand one-size-fits-all plan tends to break down into more fiddly special cases the further you progress. Game development!
We went to the Indie MEGABOOTH at PAX East and we brought our Severed demo with us. The response we received was amazing! We were also showing off a 4 player demo of Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition with some very special custom skins. More on that another time. For now, here’s a roundup of Severed coverage.
IGN – DrinkBox Studios’ follow-up to Guacamelee! is every bit as awesome. Here’s why.
GameSpot – 4 Games We Loved at PAX East 2015
Destructoid – Severed is full of one-handed vengeance
Polygon – Severed’s first dungeon is a compelling, artful creation
Kotaku – “Why Am I Missing An Arm?” Is An Important Question To Answer
TechnoBuffalo – You’ve got the touch
Hardcore Gamer – Peel Dem Fruits: Why Severed Matters
iDigitalTimes – DrinkBox Studios ‘Severed’ Was At PAX East And We Played It [VIDEO]
Dualshockers – Hands-On Preview: Severed – A Cut Above the Rest
GameRevolution – I only need one hand to slay all those who oppose me.
SideQuesting – Hands-on with Severed: Slice-and-Dice Fun
We’re going to try to ramp up our blogging frequency with posts from people around DrinkBox Studios working on Severed. So stay tuned!
We’ve been cooking up something special with our super cool Wii U indie (Nindie?) friends. It’s the Super Indie Connection Sale 2!
If you own one of these games on Wii U, you can get any other participating game for 60% off! This offer ends January 29th!
A rhythm-music, auto-running platformer. Players will run through fantastic environments, using brand new moves, to amazing new soundtracks as they run, jump, slide, kick, and soar toward the goal of tracking down the Nefarious Timbletot who has un-fused CommanderVideo’s reality.
An asymmetric multiplayer game about the dream of flight. Ride the wind from peak to peak. Fight for Aurora’s Gem. Fly your bird to victory in the breathtaking scenery of the Alps.
In this platform mining adventure, take the role of Rusty, a lone steambot, as he arrives at an old mining town in great need. Dig your way through the old earth, gaining riches while uncovering the ancient threat that lurks below…
Command an army of Vikings in their quest to create the ultimate BBQ sauce, lead the Aztecs in defense of the Holy Pepper and build an array of explosive Chinese toys! Build your own forces and defeat your foes using berserkers, dart blowers, giant boulders, ninja monkeys (yes, – ninja monkeys!) and many more!
A 2D puzzle platformer with action elements, where magnetism and other electromagnetic powers are the key to discovering the secrets kept in the long abandoned Tesla Tower. Gain new abilities to explore a non-linear world with more than 100 beautiful hand-drawn environments, in a steampunk-inspired vision of old Europe.
Enter a magical world inspired by traditional Mexican culture and folklore in this adventure brawler game. Juan Aguacate, an agave farmer who stumbles upon a Legendary Luchador mask, must find the strength and courage to become the Hero he’s always dreamed of being and put a stop to the evil Carlos Calaca.
We have a winner! Congrats @SnrTaco!
We’re extending the giveaway deadline until the 22nd, and are adding a 1″ Severed button to the swag bundle.
We’re giving away an actual goat, via Oxfam! You won’t get a goat, but someone will in your name.
We’re celebrating going over 10k followers by giving away a one of a kind Guacamelee swag bundle! We’re offering a Guac t-shirt, postcards, and buttons. PLUS the winner will get the luchador mask we brought to PAX in 2012!
2015 is the year of the goat in the Chinese calendar, and Guacamelee has a goat (magic goat man) in it named Uay Chivo (chivo is Spanish for goat). This contest makes total, complete sense.
A big thank you to everyone who is interested in what we do, especially those of you from the Tales from Space days! We can’t wait to share more news about Severed with you. <3
1) Find a real LIVING goat (no lamb chops, goat cheese, goat simulator screenshots, etc…)
2) Take a picture of you (your hand) giving the goat a thumbs up
3) Send the picture to @DrinkBoxStudios on Twitter with the hashtag #YearOfUayChivo
We will select one entrant at random next week, January 22th, and mail them their prize. Anyone can enter. Go find a goat now!
Btw, here’s a map for every goat in the USA. You’re on your own, rest of the world. Good luck!
tl; dr – we’re
not giving away a goat
This past Friday night will go down as a memorable moment for us at DrinkBox Studios as Guacamelee! won awards for Best Indie Game and Best Downloadable Game at the 5th annual Canadian Videogame Awards!
Guacamelee was up against a bunch of awesome Canadian-made games. We knew we had a good chance to win something but wouldn’t have been shocked if someone else’s name was called for any category we were nominated.
The wins were extra special since the ceremony was held in our hometown of Toronto for the first time ever, meaning we were able to celebrate with our local game developer peers as well as our own friends and loved ones.
It’s been over a year since our last fan-art-dedicated blog post. All art is linked to their original creators, so click on something if you like it and check out more of that artist’s work. Thanks to everyone who shared!
Hooray! We’ve launched Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition on Steam. Grab it now for 10% off, or if you already own Gold Edition, 66% off. There are also new badges, steam cards, emoticons, and backgrounds to collect/trade/sell in the Steam Marketplace. We built this city on guac and roll, indeed.
We’ve opened up the Steam Workshop, so users can once again share their unique luchador creations for others to enjoy.
One skin in particular provides a unique challenge. You see, we get a surprising amount of users telling us that Guacamelee is not difficult enough. For those users, we suggest playing the game as a completely invisible luchador.
Subscribe to the skin in the Steam Workshop:
Give it a try! Share your experience! We’re pretty sure it’s impossible to 100% the game using it. We tried to use it in the Tule Tree Tops and didn’t get very far, but still had fun:
The invisible skin is also in the Gold Edition workshop.
This is it! Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition is coming out on Steam on August 21st!
If you already own Guacamelee! Gold Edition, you’ll receive a 66% loyalty discount. That works out to just under 5$ for 2 new levels, a buttload of new enemies, and the new Intenso ability… plus a whole lot more visual upgrades, jokes, and EGG BOMBS.
See you Thursday!
Intenso + the Alebrije skin lets you 2-hit Giant Skeletons
If you retweet any part of the Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition logo we tweeted yesterday, you have a chance to win the game for free on the console of your choice (PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, or Wii U). We’ll be giving away 2 codes per logo piece; RT as many logo pieces as you like for more chances to win! We’ll be DM’ing the codes, so you can give it to a friend if you like.
Thanks for spreading the word about GuacSTCE!
Update: Gave away all 14 codes. Thanks everyone
<3 ＼( ^o)( ^ 0 ^ )(o^ )／ <3