Arcen Games

Games => Tidalis => Topic started by: x4000 on July 08, 2011, 09:02:26 AM

Title: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on July 08, 2011, 09:02:26 AM
Original: http://arcengames.blogspot.com/2011/07/tidalis-beta-1017-improvements-to-combo.html

This release fixes a single logic issue which some players had been running into thanks to the Steam Summer Camp achievement for Tidalis.  Essentially, if you won a game board with a combo, then it would not score that combo or give you achievements, because by definition it was waiting around half a second to score combos to make sure that they were really done.  That logic makes perfect sense during actual gameplay, but when a game over (victory or loss) is reached it can easily be assumed that the combo is definitely done!  So that's what the game now does.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 1.000 or later. When you launch the game, you'll see the notice of the update having been found if you're connected to the Internet at the time.  If you don't have 1.000 or later, you can download that here.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: TechSY730 on February 23, 2012, 04:50:14 PM
As prompted by you last blog post (http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2012/02/thoughts-on-post-10-avww-in-wake-of.html), does this mean that Tidalis is now in, for the foreseeable future, maintenance mode? Important bug-fixes only, no new content?

Which given the relative sparsity of bug reports for Tidalis (not feature suggestions, actual bugs and oversights), with only one potential desync being anything major from what I see (as of this writing), the game seems in pretty good shape stability wise.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on February 23, 2012, 05:01:07 PM
It means that, for the last year and a half, that has been the case, yes.  That was a case where we didn't particularly communicate our intents, but nobody asked or seemed to have any particular expectations.  Tidalis as a game experience is massive anyhow, for a puzzle game, and it's also something that is really rock solid on stability.  We're not really planning further patches unless something new crops up.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: TechSY730 on May 23, 2012, 05:04:36 PM
Just as a relatively crazy request.

Before you start on AI War as the primary focus again, any chance of getting a maintenance release on Tidalis? Like fix that last lurking desync, bring in some of the Unity "workarounds" you discovered during work on AVWW (like the keyboard "sticky keys" on minimize thing), and push out what is probably the last stable version of it so the fun stuff since 1.000 can be distributed to the masses?

A bit of a longshot, I know, but it would be a relatively nice gesture to show you still care about this game while not being too terribly expensive in terms of dev time (assuming that desync isn't very complicated to fix). This would take like what, a week to push out the new stable version on this site? (though admittedly much more work to get the distributors to push it out  :-\)
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on May 23, 2012, 05:06:35 PM
Desyncs tend to be pretty time consuming to find, and I'm still at a $40,000.00 loss from having made this game in the first place.  Most people that play it seem to enjoy it as it is just fine, and there's almost nobody playing it these days.  I'm thinking this would not be the best use of resources, to be frank.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: TechSY730 on May 23, 2012, 05:09:27 PM
Desyncs tend to be pretty time consuming to find, and I'm still at a $40,000.00 loss from having made this game in the first place.  Most people that play it seem to enjoy it as it is just fine, and there's almost nobody playing it these days.  I'm thinking this would not be the best use of resources, to be frank.

Yea, I figured as such. Just a thought though.

As stated before, this game is in a very good state as is now. I still like to play it from time to time.

If I do manage to find something massively flawed or bugged, I'll let you know, but given that its been like two years and no massive new bugs opened (in fact, very few bugs opened at all), I doubt I will. ;)

Thanks for your time.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on May 23, 2012, 05:10:06 PM
You bet!
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: Castruccio on May 27, 2012, 10:19:04 AM
Would you guys ever consider putting Tidalis in a Humble Bundle?  The game was critically acclaimed and is redeemable on Steam, so you'd have a strong case for inclusion.  You might be able to make some or all of your money back.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on May 29, 2012, 10:00:48 AM
Would you guys ever consider putting Tidalis in a Humble Bundle?  The game was critically acclaimed and is redeemable on Steam, so you'd have a strong case for inclusion.  You might be able to make some or all of your money back.

We would definitely consider something like that, and that's the sort of thing that could change everything -- Tidalis's big failing has been a failure to reach an audience, not to capture the audience it did find.  I can't really comment on things of this nature in advance, but let's just say that we do talk to a lot of various distributors and bundle folks and so on.  We'll see what happens, if anything, but we do keep our ear to the ground for that sort of thing!
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on March 29, 2013, 10:04:46 AM
This version is now out as the default on Steam, since it's so stable, so that people don't have to update to it.  We had to convert the game from steam2 to steam3 to get that set up, but that worked out faster and cleaner than I feared it might.

While I was at it, I also fixed the volcano theme so that the lava falls on the left actually shows up correctly. :)
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: TechSY730 on March 29, 2013, 01:34:08 PM
This version is now out as the default on Steam, since it's so stable, so that people don't have to update to it.  We had to convert the game from steam2 to steam3 to get that set up, but that worked out faster and cleaner than I feared it might.

While I was at it, I also fixed the volcano theme so that the lava falls on the left actually shows up correctly. :)

Wow, an "update"! Good to see you haven't "forgotten" about this game. :)
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: Castruccio on March 29, 2013, 05:41:05 PM
Is it bad manners to say that I think this is the second best game Arcen ever made (next to AIW)?  It's SO brilliantly done.  With the new focus on more bite-sized projects, I hope games with as much content and as many options as Tidalis has don't get overlooked. 



Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on March 29, 2013, 05:57:50 PM
Thanks for that! I'm quite proud of this one also.  This is around as bite sized as we mean, actually, by the way. This took a long time to develop because of engine work, but otherwise would have had a budget like our other upcoming games. And the scales are comparable. :)
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: LaughingThesaurus on March 29, 2013, 07:53:26 PM
This was bite-sized?
I looked at all of the content in the game and said "Gosh, it's a shame I'm actually really terrible at it, or I'd play this for ages."
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on March 29, 2013, 08:10:52 PM
It was bite-sized in terms of how long it took us to create most parts of the content.  Not the art, or the puzzles -- those did actually take a while.  But in terms of the main form of the replayable content in particular -- all the special items and so forth -- that was all just design work and some lighter coding.  It's a lot easier for us to work with pure design issues rather than having to, say, invent a new form of lighting model that works in our specific 2D implementation, or port a game to a completely new underlying engine, or come up with an entirely new way to composite images for efficiency, or design a new GUI system from the ground up, or a new multiplayer model from the ground up... etc.

This time we have all those things already, so it's just a matter of using our existing tools and focusing on making something with a lot of depth and replayability.  The idea is deep rather than wide.  Valley 2 had 200 spells and 125+ monsters.  That took aaaaages.  The amount of art required, and the amount of coding and tuning, was enormous.  Comparatively, the 20-some blocks and 20-some game modes here seem lightweight.  It's a tremendous amount of replay value, but it's not remotely so intensive for us to create.

From a programming standpoint, the reason Tidalis was so expensive for us to make was that it was our first unity game, and that involved huge amounts of overhead and months of programming.  The actual game itself was pretty lightweight.  The art was also a pretty heavy thing in terms of time cost, but we only had one artist working on it.  Versus Exodus has currently... I think six artists working on it?  The number fluctuates.  Skyward Collapse currently has 8 IIRC.

Music is something we'll still be constrained with because we only have one composer, but he's doing different workflows now that allow him to get more done in less time.  Not like double the work, but definitely more.  There's only so much you can rush inspiration, you know?  In terms of the design aspects, we're not really doing that any faster or slower than we ever have, speaking of the new games.  The design work feedback loop is just faster since there's not such big delays based on programming it in.

Basically, Arcen has really fine-tuned the machine of creating a wide variety of types of 2D games, and so we're making use of that and also passing the savings on to players.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: LaughingThesaurus on March 29, 2013, 08:50:31 PM
Ahh, I see, so by lightweight you actually meant in terms of the workload? That's just elegant, there. If you're a developer capable of adding a lot of gameplay with little work and still have it be fun, varied, and challenging, that's pretty darn elegant. All of those game modes were really what I was looking at when I referred to all of the content. I remember Tidalis being one of those games that was particularly hard to learn for me, I remember the modes and stuff, but I never got good enough to get into the campaign or puzzles. There's a point where the campaign just like locks you out of doing anything until you're like MLG level at match-3-with-a-twist.

But yeah, the thing I guess is that the gamemodes didn't have all of the complexity that monsters do. Each monster has a lot of art assets, careful tuning of animations and attacks, don't even mention fighting with balance. Game modes are much more abstract. The blocks themselves don't really attack either. They're more like rules that move around and flow with the gameplay. Or, in the case of turning on the items, basically convert the game into Super Smash Bros Brawl.

Regardless, that kind of stuff is really cool, and adding that sort of element is something that I would want to do in any game I had a part of. I'm referring to some more abstract things that change the way that the game works, like the game modes in Tidalis. I only particularly see advantages in doing that. Is there any real disadvantage to adding replay value in that way? I guess, maybe for a team that isn't as great at game design, it might end up being harder.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on March 29, 2013, 08:55:59 PM
Yep, a lot of the game modes were added near the end of the development cycle.  And easily half of the 20ish modes took me under an hour each to code.  A couple were 20 minutes or less.  Whereas a typical monster would individually take me 3-5 hours, plus the time for the artists.  Whoo, expensive!

In terms of variety by adding small tweaks and so forth, the main big one that we've found is that it is overwhelming to new players.  Players were overwhelmed by both AI War and Tidalis in terms of the number of options.  It didn't harm AI War at all because of its target audience.  But for both Skyward Collapse and Exodus, we're going more with an unlockable route -- as you play, you unlock more options which can make it more complex.  Also, Skyward Collapse in particular has some ridiculously complex things you can do if you're in to really metagaming the game systems, but these are things that would not even occur to (or be needed for) a novice player.  I love that sort of thing in particular, because it uses minimal interface options to still allow for tons of flexibility.

Anyhow, yeah -- to keep using the monsters analogy, we'd also generally with these games do more like 20 monsters instead of 125, but then make each of them way more involved and interesting.  Not that that's directly applicable to either of the games we're doing now, but that's the general metaphorical idea.

Anyway, thanks. :)  We're pretty stoked about how this is going, too, and are excited to share more soon.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: LaughingThesaurus on March 29, 2013, 09:07:07 PM
I think I would approach new players with nice presets instead. I've had some ideas for games cooked up in my mind for a while, and for people who don't like mucking around in menus, that's often a decent option. You've got the premade classes in shooters, you kind of have startup scripts in AI War, stuff like that. The optimize command in older RPGs is a good example as well. I don't think I could live without creating a great degree of options.

As far as the monster thing goes actually, were you comparing the monsters to the gamemodes? Because, just thinking really quick about Valley, you have the 20-30ish monsters in this game-- not many, for those who want visual variety after playing for 40+ hours like I have. But, you also can give each monster tons of attacks and little variations, which can make the same monster function differently if you encounter it at a different time or on a different world. Seems to be more in line with what you're talking about, like the gamemodes that interact with each other in unique ways.

Also I would totally pay for a gamemode that worked more like Meteos, because I rock at that game. Alas, it probably won't happen.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on March 29, 2013, 09:15:58 PM
In terms of presets, yeah that's another thing.  And that probably will be something we do more of.  But basically, when it comes to the first playthrough, that has to be kind of carefully guarded unless you want players picking something odd and having a terrible time.  If the option is there, some people will do it.  And possibly some reviewers.

That said, having a cheat code or similar to unlock the content if you lose your data or something isn't something I'm opposed to.  The point isn't gating players arbitrarily, it's providing a sensible progression for someone playing the first time.  If they don't want that and want to enter some sort of code to bypass it... well, that's probably a power player to begin with, and that's fine.

The main problem with even presets before a first game is that you're asking players to make decisions about mechanics they don't even understand yet.  Once they have at least a basic understanding with how the game plays, that really makes a big difference in how they approach future options.

For Skyward Collapse in particular, those games are meant to be shorter, on the order of 40ish minutes by default (though there are options for less and more).  But there are a bunch of carrots for repeated play and mastering the finer points, etc.  So that helps some with the replay thing, when it's not "play 13 hours first."
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: LaughingThesaurus on March 29, 2013, 09:38:29 PM
Cheat code is definitely a really good option... and you do bring up a good point. There are people who click the horrible buttons anyway-- I've seen it. Only example sticking out in my mind is actually with Terraria. Players opted for the "Mediumcore" setting which is certainly the middle-most option but is certainly not the way the game was meant to be played. So, I've had to steer people away from that before.

I also am thinking about Bastion as a good example of what you mentioned about "making decisions about mechanics the player doesn't understand". The game does not have difficulty settings-- it offers a few gods to invoke that make the game harder by giving enemies extra abilities. This option is only given to you several levels through the game. You do, however, get it in full immediately on a new game + or score attack mode save. That's okay, because those are unlocked after completely finishing the game. However, even when you first gain access to the shrine, you can't use any idol except the "Doubles enemy attack and movement speed" one... which is totally the easiest to understand aside from the "enemies have more health" one. So, I guess the unlockable route is the Bastion-like route, and I'm actually okay with that.
I can see how too many options is overwhelming. I generally can just look past them until I understand them, but there are people that just don't want to or decide not to (like the poor souls who start games on max difficulty). I'm already thinking of ways to incorporate that kind of idea in any of my game ideas.
...admittedly, not an easy thing to do when one of the core ideas is complete customization of what your projectile attacks do.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on March 29, 2013, 09:52:11 PM
That sounds like a pretty cool idea, though. :)

And it really depends on target audience.  The crazy complex AI War interface isn't a problem because it's aimed at grognards and grognards only.  "I am the hardest of the hardcore" is the immediate message, and that is a happy message for them, not a scary one.  It has a niche and it works.  It sounds like your RPG idea is also coming into that sort of niche.  AI War is our best-earning game, by the way, so niche does not equal bad by any stretch.

Regarding Skyward Collapse and Exodus, they both have aspects that can cater to the grognards, but also aspects that make them more surface-accessible.  That's one of our philosophical shifts here, really.  Tidalis was too far in the extreme of being casual-friendly, but it wasn't really casual-friendly (was still hardcore and overwhelming), even though it looked casual-friendly (thus turning off the hardcore puzzle fans if they didn't know what it was already).  We're really trying to hit more of the middle ground, which actually I think both of the Valley games and to some extent Shattered Haven all did.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: LaughingThesaurus on March 29, 2013, 11:09:55 PM
Ooh, how could you tell it was a bit of an RPG? :)
The plan I really had was 'there's a prebuilt class or three with loads of attacks that just get unlocked as you get stronger rather than you putting together your own as you get stronger'. That way, you could totally go the full on custom way, which is really the route it was meant to go... or could experience the game with a 'just give me stuff' button. I'd love to work on this actually, and get it going. I have ideas on implementation and everything, the problem is that there's potentially a whole lot of multiplayer focus. Without being able to handle netcode yet, it's not exactly a viable idea to go bringing in a co-op intensive game. Let's just say I am having a hard time exercising self-control over how awesome the multiplayer plan hopefully is. ;)

What I've actually noticed, is that the middle ground you're hitting almost looks like the SNES style. They're like, games that are really easy to just start playing, but really hard to master all of the little complexities. In fact, that ties back in with the ideas of unlockables. Sometimes, you didn't just start with hard mode. Zelda introduces one dungeon item at a time. Contra welcomes you to try as much as you want, but you need mastery to succeed and unlock the harder levels with cooler guns.
Tidalis basically sounds like Bejeweled; Overwhelming Edition, right? Looks and sounds so happy and fun and simple and "Wait what are streams? What do you mean THAT'S how you combo?" I can tell you for a fact that the combo system was met with that reaction in my head.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on March 30, 2013, 09:04:15 AM
Cheers. :) And yes, the NES and SNES, and to a lesser extent Atari and 80s/90s PC gaming, were my biggest childhood influences. I enjoy later stuff, but not with the childlike sense of wonder I had before.

In terms of my intuiting rpg, I'm pretty sure you said that! :) Sounds like a fun idea. Netcode is generally very hard, but if you have sufficiently few agents you could use something off the shelf like Unity 3D's built in netcode. They handle all the internals for you, but we've found that having thousands of entities is not the best thing for our particular pipeline. The way we draw graphics and handle game logic is very engine-independent by design, but that creates some bridge/adapter problems for us. If you're just going to use vanilla unity plus probably one of the 2d packages that are in the unity asset store, then you'd have an easier time.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: LaughingThesaurus on March 30, 2013, 07:30:01 PM
I actually don't remember saying RPG, so maybe I was more excited than I thought. Although, often times the easiest way to intuit something is for it to be outright said to you.
The netcode has to take into account the basic idea of 'projectiles enhance each other if they come into contact'. So, that may involve some pretty precise detection, potentially a lot of entities. I'm not actually very good with the technical side of things at all, I was hoping for a lot of enemies to bash through rather than a few very tanky ones, but the 'lots of enemies' thing is a sacrifice that can be made for the sake of making it actually work better.
This is a bit of a different topic for another day, but I wonder if games these days really can evoke that same sense of wonder. For some, probably not. It's almost as if more games are geared towards more adults rather than for 'all age audiences'... and also stick with more down to earth concepts rather than 'man in green tights only hope for seven maidens fights giant pig'. There are still magical games, but the market's in a different place.
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on March 31, 2013, 07:46:37 AM
It's entirely possible that I just heard a few details about character rolls and went "oh rpg."

Regarding the netcode and the spell reactivity, the best way I can think of to handle that is via something like the ai war netcode. Ie, you can't directly move your guy around, all you can slow point and click like diablo, and there is a tiny (subsecond) delay. You could have oodles of enemies and spell with the local gpu and CPU being you only limitation in that case. Bandwidth would only be dependent on the number of orders given by players, which would be trivial. The ai could be deterministically simulated on each client with fixed seed random number generators.

Of course I'd you wanted something more immediate than diablo, where you can directly walk around, you need more traditional-action-game netcode. That is more of a bear, to me. It's an exercise in reconciliation of constant desyncs rather than trying to stay in sync. All fps games work this way, as does any other action game where you directly move around with no sub-second hesitations.

Anyhow, yeah: as the number of agents goes up so too does the challenge of making it, but obviously I have a lot of handy proof sitting around that it can be done.

Hope that's useful. :)
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: LaughingThesaurus on March 31, 2013, 02:50:50 PM
That actually sounds like something doable. It'd almost function a bit more like Magicka, keep the keyboard open for lots of shortcuts and stuff.
AI War works by the host handling pretty much all of the calculation and the clients all are fed what happens right? Or, was that just how the AI worked?
Title: Re: Tidalis Beta 1.017: Improvements To Combo Scoring At Game Over
Post by: x4000 on March 31, 2013, 08:07:22 PM
That's just how the AI works, and that's just because it's so intensive for the higher-level functioning of the AI.  Basically, its "conscious thought."  All of the instincts and low-level decision making on both sides (what ships do when not given explicit orders by you or the AI player, etc) is handled in lock-step on each client.