What is Squillamorph?
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Below is the development log for Squillamorph. It is GIF heavy and it might take a while to load them all.
Hello everyone, it's been a while.
As of the 25th of August 2021, it has been 3 years since I started working on the full version of Squillamorph! As such, I thought it a good time to update you on the state of the game. This post will not be the standard yearly mega post but it will cover the progress I've made since the last game update, which was a long while ago. Thank you for your patience with me, regarding the game. I've had much less time to work on the game this year and thus have been unable to justify making any dev-log posts. I have also been unable to get any more updates released for the game. I apologise greatly for this, but I don't want to release another update until I have a decent chunk of new content for you all to enjoy. I cannot promise when the next update will be ready, but it should be a big one.
Despite the various improvements I had made, I still hadn't managed to nail the fun factor I was looking for in gameplay. The game was too grindy, too repetitive, and I was losing sight of the original vision for the game. I revisited the game's design document to remind myself of the vision and adjust it if necessary. This resulted in me deciding to rework some aspects of the game, which I believe will be for the better. The game world is being restructured, the player mechanics are being simplified and altered, the enemies are being improved, and the game loop is becoming less repetitive.
So, onto the first of the improvements I'm implementing.
I want the game's world to feel like one cohesive place where everything makes sense and fits. I would like it so that players can explore, understand, and learn to navigate without the need for a map. The world in the current early access version, although small, is a bit nonsensical in its layout.
I have spent a long time redesigning the world. I planned it out several times, cut things out, added things in, and eventually found a structure I like. I may yet tweak it, but I am much happier with the structure of it now. This redesign means the old levels won't be used and I have to make new ones, which will take time. However, this time I have a much clearer idea of the content in levels which is helping greatly with building them.
The player's main mechanics are perhaps the main factor when it comes to making the game fun. During my rethink, I realised that there were so many barriers preventing the player from utilising the main mechanic of the game: infesting enemies. Collecting essence required the player to get dangerously close to enemies to hit them and then collect essence that sprouted from them. Once they had enough essence, they had to accurately dash at an enemy. In theory, it sounded to me like it could create a good skill barrier. But in practice, it was too confusing and difficult and thus not fun.
The obvious solution is to reduce the complexity of this mechanic. I've now made it so that all you have to do to infest an enemy is attack it while in the parasite form. This is made more 'complex' by increasing the number of hits required to infest. From testing so far, I am liking the new method. Using the mechanic feels more satisfying now. However, whether a player enjoyed the old infesting process or not, the resulting enemy possession was not exactly rewarding. A short limit on the time you could control an enemy for made it frustrating to use the mechanic. I have now removed this limit. To balance the power this unlimited infest time brings, enemies will no longer regenerate their health upon being infested.
The other major change to the player is in regards to the dash ability and the mutagen upgrades. When redesigning the world, I found that the player's dash mechanic made it quite hard to create a gradual progression curve, especially as it is no longer required for the infest mechanic. Allowing the player to obtain the ability later in the game should allow for more interesting backtracking and a more gradual difficulty curve. In regards to the mutagen upgrade system, I have removed any priority it had at this time last year because it isn't integral to creating a more solid game experience. Nevertheless, I am not getting rid of it because it does create more variety in gameplay. I will talk more about the ideas I have for the system when the time comes to reimplement it.
Lastly, I am also contemplating the removal of the ability to destroy enemies when using the longer eject mechanic. It is a bit of a janky and confusing mechanic and so far, it is not entirely relevant to the new gameplay. However, I need some more time to think on this one so it shall remain for the time being.
I've thought a lot about the enemies in the game and I'm still working on it. One of the things I want to do is make the enemies feel a bit less like cannon fodder for the player. Some should still feel a little bit fodder-like due to their nature but the rest should feel more impactful.
One of the major things I've already changed is how the player controls enemies. They were a little bit too sluggish for my liking, which led to situations where it felt like it was the game's fault that the player wasn't doing well. This should never be the case. So I have made them more responsive to player input, but kept enough weight to feel like you are a parasite controlling them from within.
Another aspect of the enemies I am beginning to change is their attack patterns. Imminent attacks will be clearer to identify. This is something I tried to do a long time ago but executed it poorly using large exclamation points. Now enemies have a more subtle attack charge up particle effect that makes incoming attacks much clearer. This is the first change, but I'd like enemies to have a few types of attack. For example, the Flop Shark just bites but I would like it to have a claw swipe or something similar in addition, just to make it a bit more interesting. Another change to the sharks is the change of three consecutive bite attacks to one. Having three felt a little unfair if you'd managed to dodge the first only to be hit by the second and/or third. A single bite also feels a little more impactful now.
Optimisations / Bug Fixes
At long last, I believe I have solved a major issue. I was looking to simplify the code regarding the tails of the Flop Shark enemy. I came up with a solution and went to test it at different framerates to ensure I hadn't messed up the physics anywhere. This revealed an old bug I had not resolved, the horrible glitching physics bug that stretches creatures out into spaghetti at low framerate. However, the tail did not become spaghetti like everything else. This led me to discover that a core piece of my physics object code maths, which repositioned the object if it breached certain conditions, was incorrectly applied to objects. It overcompensated the position correction hugely at lower framerates and thus created the spaghetti as it endlessly adjusted itself. So, I fixed the code and now the bug should be gone, even at the lowest of framerates! Yay!
I want to keep you all up to date with progress, but putting together these posts takes up time that I would rather put towards working on the game. My solution to this is still in the planning phase but I like the idea of it. I am thinking about documenting progress via live-streams. For those who don't know, I live-stream art on Twitch every weekday and have been thinking about doing some level design or pixel art on certain days. I would likely tie progress updates into these streams. Be sure to follow me to stay up to date with when these might happen at twitch.tv/jamesbbarrow
In regards to Early Access updates, I cannot say when the next one will be ready. There is still a lot to do before I have the game back to the same amount of content as is in the current EA version, and I would like to have more than that done for the next update. Regardless, I hope you find the next update brings much higher quality gameplay.
I hope you are excited for the things I've discussed in this post! Thanks for reading, and thank you again for your patience.
I'm the game developer for Squillamorph! I'll post here on the devlog as often as I can.