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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! Thank you for the support and feedback! I've been working hard over the last week to make necessary improvements and fixes. This culminated with the first game update, which went live last Friday!
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You can look at the changelog to see what was updated.
I didn't particularly want to have moments of invincibility/invulnerability in the game. Mostly because I didn't want to reduce the brutality of the game by using it. However, the majority of player feedback talked about how unfair things can be when dying after spawning or ejecting without a chance to do anything about it. I've become quite blind to this sort of thing in testing, but I started looking for it after seeing the feedback. I found that the need for it after spawning varies from level to level, but there are many situations where I was killed immediately after ejecting from an enemy. This was not fun and I realised that adding invulnerability would greatly improve the quality of gameplay. There are now brief periods of invulnerability after both spawning and ejecting from an enemy, represented by the flashing blue colour. It might need to last longer but I'm trying out a shorter period of invincibility for now.
In response to player feedback at launch, and my own desire to improve performance, I focused heavily on optimisation last week. The biggest area to tackle was reducing the impact of the graphics. I couldn't do too much for the low quality setting in this regard, apart from disabling more lights. However, the medium and high settings both have a layer of sprites in the background. This layer is made up of large panels of normal mapped sprites just to add a bit of interest to the dark background, which I wrote about in a previous post. This was exceedingly bad for performance because each sprite has to be rendered as many times as there are lights affecting it, and there can be a lot of lights.
I tried placing the panel sprites within a single quad using a shader and a colour pixel 'map' I made for placement positions, but I couldn't get it working. The only solution was to turn the square of individual sprites into an image, but this would take ages if I did it in Photoshop as I have to place both the colour and normal maps of the panel sprites in the same places. Then I remembered my old custom level editor and realised I could use the image rendering script from it. With that, I was able to place the panels in the same way as normal and render out both green colour and normal map images. That's it, now the background is made up of a single quad mesh. The performance toll from graphics was nearly halved by making this change. Excellent stuff!
I've also made another significant change to the structure of physics objects and creatures. I read an interesting article on the Unity blog and decided to give the manager system describe within it a go. All physics objects scripts are now managed by a single manager script and all creature scripts are managed by another manager script. I'll be honest, it did not make a massive difference but it did improve things slightly. I saw more of an improvement by optimising the way physics object check for collision, but it was an interesting test nonetheless.
While making the update and looking at player feedback, I started thinking about the effectiveness of the mutagen upgrades. After each boss, there is a room containing 3 mutagen upgrades. Players can only choose one, and when testing I always choose the dash cooldown upgrade at the end of tutorial. This was a mistake on my part. I recently tried testing the game with the other dash upgrades found there and found the difficulty increased dramatically without the shorter cooldown. This means that giving the player a choice of upgrades, while great for replay-ability, might actually be hindering some player experiences.
So I plan to take the choice away, giving players only one mutagen after each boss. However, I still want players to be able to get the other mutagen upgrades that are currently implemented. I already had an idea for this, which would have been for mutagens not found in the choice rooms. Mutagen upgrade machines will be found within levels but are only usable after a certain wave of enemies. This should add a new fun but optional element of challenge to the game! Nevertheless, I do like the element of choice regarding the upgrades. To keep this a part of the upgrade system, I plan to limit the number of mutagens the player can have active at once. This means I will be making a menu system for them, perhaps something inspired by the charm system in Hollow Knight. We shall soon see how this develops!
To finish up, I'll tell you what I'll be focusing on over the next week:
- Finishing up the 'Reactor K' region and the Kragon boss is a high priority.
- Improving the mutagen upgrade system will take time to get right but is something I want to start on.
- I am also still working on optimisation as a priority.
I hope you enjoyed today's post! Thanks for reading!
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I'm the game developer for Squillamorph! I'll post here on the devlog as often as I can.
I'm currently looking at an Early Access release very soon. Stay tuned for updates!