Hey everyone! As I mentioned in the last post, the week just gone was my last week in the UCA incubator studio. It has been a great experience and the support from it has greatly helped the development of Squillamorph.
(Enjoy this GIF of some Flop Sharks running around the current menu screen!)
Connor, Sarah and I applied for the incubator a little over a year ago. At the time, Squillamorph looked very different in its prototype form. I was slightly concerned we wouldn't get a place due to the scope of the project, but luckily we were successful and got a spot! We were able to start working in the studio in September but I started work on the new version of Squillamorph at the end of August. Over our time in the incubator, we received much encouragement from those around us, which greatly motivated us! We were also given lots of support in the form of industry speakers and legal advisers. The incubator has been a fantastic platform to kick-start Squillamorph and I would recommend it to anyone who has an opportunity like it.
Nevertheless, Squillamorph's time in the incubator was not without problems. Over the course of the year, we had to scope the scale of the game down multiple times due to time constraints. This was most likely due to the lack of initial planning. At the beginning, we failed to set out a proper plan or vision to follow, which had several repercussions. We managed to address them as time went on. However, things might have been much easier for us if we had just planned everything properly from the beginning. Therefore, my advice to anyone doing a project like this is to set everything out at the start and take into consideration changes that may occur.
I have learned a huge amount from my time in the incubator studio and while Connor and Sarah are no longer working on the game, they also enjoyed the incubator experience. A big thanks to Andy Bossom (UCA Games Arts course leader & incubator studio director) for setting it up! Also, a big thanks to all the other tutors on the course for their support! Without the incubator, Squillamorph wouldn't be where it is today.
Onto the content updates! This is something that has been requested by play-testers for ages. There have been too many unfair situations where the player is killed right after ejecting from a creature. The solution, in the majority of these scenarios, is to stun creatures on ejection. Creatures will now be stunned when the player ejects from them. When ejecting from a fuse, the machine you deposit points into, enemies in the immediate area will be stunned. I am still balancing the fuse stun and I am not yet sure whether the player should be able to infest a stunned enemy. Nonetheless, I think that both changes will improve player experience.
Something else I've been meaning to address for a while is the far background of levels. Until now, the far background has been a random but tiled pattern. I am now experimenting with different ways of making it more interesting without making things too messy. What you see in the GIF is a background that uses some altered versions of the immediate background assets, which have also been darkened, to created a panelled surface over the existing tiles. I am not too keen on this method as it is slow to put together and a bit gap-filled/messy. The next method I am going to try out will be large tiling panels. These will take longer to make but should reduce the time it takes to put together backgrounds in the long run. The challenge is making something simple and interesting while also looking like the structure of a massive facility. We'll see how far I get with this in the next post!
Another change to mention is one that you can't see. I've decided to remove support for depth of field from the sprite shader. I originally made this change to allow for blurred backgrounds in the future. However, this caused a few problems that I was willing to deal with until now. I couldn't use sprite sorting layers to order sprites, which made it much more tedious to place sprites in the world. It also created an issue where the normal maps of sprites further back would show through foreground layers. The only solution to this was to move the sprites further back in 3D space, which wouldn't be an issue if it didn't affect the lighting so much. In the end, I didn't see the point of going through this just to allow for depth of field blurring later down the line. So now things are a bit easier again, yay!
I hope you enjoyed this update and the brief description of my time in the incubator. If you have any questions about it, feel free to leave a comment or message me on the Squillamorph twitter. Thanks for reading!
I'm the game developer for Squillamorph! I'll post here on the devlog as often as I can.