I live in the midwest with my wife where we spend our free time playing and developing games. We are Two Tangled Trees.
Posted by TwoTangledTrees on Oct 27th, 2013
The original intent with The Ocean Blooms was to spend just the summer on it. We were planning on keeping the game exactly how it was, but add in Mandy's art and maybe having different shaped arenas. The prototype was largely dictated by what I could program and not necessarily what I wanted to program. For instance, physics and AI seemed completely out of the question. Therefore, I had settled on a top-down perspective (no gravity) with enemies that merely bounced around the arena (no AI). However, as the project developed, so did my programming skills. This modest goal slowly grew grander in scope.
The visual aesthetic in both concept and execution was done entirely by Mandy, and ultimately changed the design of the game in significant and positive ways. Settling on an aquatic theme was the first major change. Not that the prototype had any theme at all, but it changed how I viewed the player character and how he/she should move. Early on I started adding in inertia to the player movement because stopping on a dime seemed odd under water. I probably spent more time iterating the player movement than any other component of the gameplay. Just about every time we added a new element to the game I would go back and edit and refine the player movement.
Though I am incredibly proud of all of Mandy's art in the game, there are a few things she accomplished that I still love to look at because of the amount of life they added to the game. First was the jellyfish. When I first saw the animation, I instantly felt a sense of movement and inertia. After we placed the animation in the game, the ocean came alive. Eventually, I implemented the grouping behavior of the jellyfish that Mandy had designed. With this the enemies came to life in a way I did not think we would be able to accomplish. Second was the flower animation. Even now I enjoy swimming around the game just to watch the flowers bloom. Again, Mandy used movement to add life even to the objects that I had thought of as inanimate. The games name, The Ocean Blooms, is derived from these two aspects of the game. Packing a lot of jellyfish on the screen in the second level made me think of jellyfish blooms, and the flowers literally bloom.
The third piece of art that I feel really changed the feel of the game was the animated backgrounds. From a design perspective, this was probably one of the first major challenges that we encountered. How do we give the sense that you are under water from a top-down perspective. Initially Mandy worked on creating static images.
Early static backgrounds for "The Ocean Blooms"
Seeing the quality of work Mandy was bringing help motivate me to push myself on the technical side. I decided to attempt to add some AI to the turtles. Before this they were essentially an asset swap of the jellyfish. They moved in a straight line until they hit and bounced off the walls. Feeling more confident in my programming skills, I attempted to add in behavior for the turtles to chase the player and avoid walls and other obstacles. Though it never turned out quite as good as I would have liked (they still occasionally get stuck against walls for a few seconds), I am proud that I was able to implement some basic AI into our first game. As mentioned earlier, I had originally intended to not implement any AI because it just seemed far too intimidating. But similar to how Mandy's animation breathed life into the game, I feel that the turtles AI helped to add personality to the turtles that greatly separated them from the jellyfish. It also added a whole new layer to the gameplay and strategy of the levels.
All of this came together within the first few months of working on game, and this is probably around the time that we started to really expand the scope. After getting over some initial hurdles, I think we suddenly felt confident to make decisions beyond simply what are limited skills allowed us to do. Instead, we started asking ourselves what we wanted the game to be. This excitement helped us expand the game in some great ways, but it also brought with it some stress.
The final version of TOB has six levels, three enemy types, and three environmental objects (i.e. whirlpools, water jets, darkness). However, up until about a month before finishing the game the plan was to have 15 levels, six enemy types, four environmental objects, and three scrolling boss levels that incorporated a basic story. We actually had one of the scrolling levels up and running, but it just wasn't fun. I had ideas on how we could improve this level, but it just seemed like more work than it was worth. Also, Mandy wasn't happy with the animation for the primary enemy in this level which was a large hammerhead shark. At this point we had been working on TOB for almost a year. I was starting to lose motivation to even finish the game. However, Mandy convinced me that it was really important for us to finish the game. So we decided to scrap most of the rest that we had planned and focus on finishing and touching up what we already had completed. After about one more month of hard work, we completed The Ocean Blooms. Now we just had to release it.