What is Squillamorph?
Please consider getting Squillamorph on Steam and leaving a review. It is in Early Access and still very early in development but the more feedback I get now, the more enjoyable the final game will be!
Join the official Squillamorph Discord: Squillamorph Discord Server
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.
Hello everyone, it's that time again! On the 25th of August, it was 2 years since I started working on the release version of the game! In this post, I will cover the last year of my development on the game. If you want to read about the first year of development, you can do so in this post.
This post contains a number of GIFs and they will take some time to load.
Some of the images may not display (showing the text "Picture" instead of the GIF). I apologise for this but sometimes it happens.
One Year Ago - August 2019
One year ago, I was getting ready to launch the game in Early Access. I had the tutorial and first region or the game at a playable point. I had just started working on the next region and the Kobold enemy. I had also experimented with a new flying enemy. I was starting to get excited but I was also hesitant. I didn't feel the game was ready to launch when I had initially planned to. This led to me delaying the launch until November so that I could work on a few more features.
New Mechanics - September 2019
After working on the Kobold's and the Kragon boss, I started to implement an ability system. At the end of each region of the game, you could unlock one of three abilities, called Mutagens. You could not unlock more than one, to make the decision more pivotal and add replay-ability. This worked well in the demo I took to EGX in October. Players enjoyed combining different Mutagens to come up with different combat strategies. I also added a secret piece of lore in the form of a holographic animation, which nobody ended up discovering. To be fair, it wasn't very obvious!
EGX - October 2019
Since EGX Rezzed in April of 2019, I had improved the game based on the feedback I received there. Now, I was taking the game to EGX, once again thanks to the University for the Creative Arts. Needless to say I was nervous about it, would the public still like the game after the changes and improvements I had made? Well, they did and it was great! I thoroughly enjoyed the event. Many players were interested in the game and I received a bunch of feedback. My motivation to launch the game into Early Access got a massive boost from EGX and I put all my effort into finalising a version to release.
Early Access Launch - November 2019
The time had come. At last I felt happy with the state of the game. On the 17th of November, I made the game available to the public on Steam in Early Access. I was extremely excited and in a great mood. I spoke to various players on the Discord server as they bought and played the game. Unfortunately, almost everyone that messaged me was having issues with the game. Be it a bug or performance issues, I began to panic. Of course, there were some positive responses from players who didn't find any issues, which was good to hear. The days after the launch were a mad rush to optimise the game and fix the bugs. I managed to fix most of the problems, but the performance was still bad.
Looking back at the launch, I handled it rather poorly. I barely marketed the game, didn't do enough testing with external players before launch, and basically rushed into everything. Needless to say, I made a lot of mistakes but learnt a lot.
Santa Hats & Optimisations - December 2019
A huge focus during the month after launch was optimisation. I had many players reporting poor performance and I made it a top priority to fix this. I managed to make some major improvements during this month, and still found time to add some seasonal features like the Santa hats. I felt much better about the game after getting an update out for the Steam Winter Sale. Despite getting some new players from the sale, I also saw an increase in refunds. This was when I started to realise something about the game that I would come to accept in February.
I'd quickly like to mention that I have no issues with players refunding the game. If you end up getting performance issues, or genuinely don't enjoy the game, please feel free to refund it! However, if you do, please give a reason and be detailed if you can. It is very helpful to know what issues you had and what needs improving!
Visual Improvements - January 2020
After working so long on optimisations, I took some time to work on the visuals. This was a very fun month with lots of aesthetic upgrades for the game. I focused quite heavily on ambient and damage effects. To be honest, I felt the game had reached a new graphical milestone. I was much happier with how things looked and the atmosphere/mood of the game was clearer.
Evaluation & Change - Febuary 2020
Oh boy, this month was an interesting one. It was at this time that I accepted the state of the game and realised I could no longer work on it as much as I had been. Then the game got its first negative review on Steam, which was an eye opener for me. I know you shouldn't take one piece of negative feedback as the majority opinion but this one really hit me, and it was a good thing. The review was fairly constructive and pointed out the aspects they found bad. In it, the phrase "fundamentally unfun" was used to describe the gameplay loop. To get a better idea of what this player meant, I played through the entire Early Access version of the game. I had not played the full game from start to finish in weeks. After doing this, I realised they were right. I had been so engrossed in my vision for the game that I had forgotten to look at it from a player's point of view.
I spent the rest of the month rethinking the game and changing a few aspects. I didn't want to change the overall feel of the game, so I only partially altered the gameplay loop. I thought things were beginning to improve after these changes, and personally enjoyed playing the game. Unfortunately, everything in my life suddenly came to a head at this point.
Taking A Break - March 2020
I won't go into much detail about it, but I took a break from everything during this month. I took the time to think and sort myself out. I made some pretty big decisions and ended my break on a positive note. So, back to Squillamorph!
Reworking - April to May 2020
During my break, I had another realisation. The slight overhaul I had been working on before wasn't going to cut it. Squillamorph needed a total overhaul before it could be fundamentally fun. Core mechanics could stay, but the gameplay needed to change. Combat should become snappier and have more depth (I'll admit that this still isn't quite there yet but progress has been made!). Controls should be more responsive and various mechanics needed simplifying. I also decided to change and expand the world/level structure. To go with that change, I decided that the story would become more prominent. Most importantly of all, I ditched the whole 'kill enemies to get points to open doors' loop. With all of these ideas, I was excited to work on the game again!
The Big Update - June 2020
After months of no game updates, I finally had one ready. All of the changes I had made had reached a playable point. A new world, new boss, new mechanics, it was all new and exciting! I put the update out and waited for the inevitable performance problems and bug reports, but none came. I was not surprised at the lack of response as I had accepted this back in February. Playing through the update myself, I thought of a few things that needed improving and got to it.
Progress - July 2020
This month was about improving on the last update. I worked on a lot of different aspects, including level scenery and a new tutorial. On top of that, I began putting a new enemy into the game. Although I did not have a level for it to fit into, I did get it mostly functioning but not to the point of including it in the next update. Once all these improvements were completed, I put out another update.
Current State - August 2020
I am currently working on the game exclusively at weekends. I'm fairly certain the game is not going to be completed by next year, which was my original goal. Updates may also become less frequent. Nonetheless, many important changes and improvements are being made. For instance, the mutagen upgrade system is beginning to make a return! However, this requires another thing to be implemented; non player characters are coming together at last. I've also been hard at work on enemies. New enemies are coming and an old enemy is returning! The old enemy is the Kobold creature, which hasn't been in the game since the rework update. I am currently updating it to work with the newer gameplay systems.
What does the future of Squillamorph look like? Well, I now have an updated development plan/road-map that I'm working to. This should make it easier for me to confirm dates of upcoming updates. As for content, the next update will add some 'experimental' levels that will allow players to test new features and enemies not in the main game yet. There may also be an NPC to discover. Needless to say, I am excited for what the future will bring!
I hope you enjoyed this look back at the second year of the development of Squillamorph! Onto the next year!
Please consider getting Squillamorph on Steam and giving it a go. It is still early in development but the more feedback I get now, the more enjoyable the final game will be!
Join the official Squillamorph Discord server here:
- Discord Server
Follow Squillamorph on:
Hello everyone! I have updated the game with most of the changes I discussed in the last post. I have labelled this update with 'rework' because the game has been largely changed. I've worked hard to improve the game so I hope you enjoy it! As always, if you have any feedback about the update, I would love to hear it!
If you would like to see the changes, you can view them here:
Please consider getting Squillamorph on Steam and leaving a review. It is still early in development but the more feedback I get now, the more enjoyable the final game will be!
Join the official Squillamorph Discord server here:
- Discord Server
Follow Squillamorph on:
I'm the game developer for Squillamorph! I'll post here on the devlog as often as I can.