Sky’s Isles Devblog #1 – Moving and Ballooning

Hey! As I mentioned in my last post, I’m starting work on a new game for a contest: Sky’s Isles. This week was mostly about getting the main controls in place. As the game is a platformer (something I haven’t done before), I learnt a lot, and in this devblog I’ll be talking about that.

Lessons

 Friction is Annoying

Realistically, you will always take some time to start, and some time to stop. In games though, that becomes annoying when trying to react quickly. Originally, the character took a moderate time to start and stop moving (just like in Life’s Impetus), but… it sucked. It works in LI since little precision is needed, but in this case I just kept falling off platforms. You can get used to it after a while, but it tends to feel unpredictable, which is not good at all.

Solid Platforms are Annoying

There are many games where platforms are not truly “solid”. You can stand on them but you can pass through them when jumping, or fall through them too. What I learned while testing the controls is that these types of platforms can be really necessary in certain types of games like mine. The thing with solid platforms is that they severely limit the paths the player can take. This isn’t that noticeable in games where you have to transverse levels horizontally, but in the case of games like Sky’s Isles where the focus is vertical movement it becomes crucial to prevent levels from being too restricted. This picture shows what I mean:

si1_movementdirections

If there’s solid platforms, the player is restricted to movement marked by the red arrows. If the platforms are not solid, the player can move anywhere he/she wants. Obviously, you can always design a game around solid platforms and still have it feel right, and either way you’ll still want to be using solid platforms control the flow of the level, but most of the time, these “soft” platforms feel pretty good.

 Make direction changes quick (but not too quick)

If you want to change directions, you first have to stop, turn, and then start again, right? Takes too long. As I was talking about in the first point, being realistic doesn’t really cut it in most cases. But even if quick responses are important, going to the other extreme feels wrong too. I messed around with instant turning-around, but it felt weird. In the end, a small but quick break before switching to the other direction feels best. This applies to in-air movement too. In-air movement is limited, but it feels better when it’s easier to change directions than to accelerate in the direction you jumped in.

si1_hardturns

Sometimes, slow and heavy feels good

The other movement scheme I worked on (but was less finicky about) was the controls for the hot air balloon. I can’t say I had any objective for balloon controls besides making it feel good (there won’t be much precision involved), and I managed to nail the feel I wanted by making it heavy and slow. Having less responsive controls might sound completely negative, but if done right for the right thing it can feel pretty nice. It needs some fine tuning, but taking a hot air balloon ride is pretty relaxing for now.

 

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