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The Vacuum- Sept 2016

Ched80 Blog

So I am still working on the missions, the core code is there so you can select a mission, complete it (or not) and get rewarded for doing so (or not), but ther are two types of mission I haven't completed yet: planetry landing and ship raiding.

I'm not totally sure what I want to do for the ship raiding yet so I thought I'd make a start on the planetry landing. So I've spent the past few weeks building up a proto-type for the planetry landing mechanic, which I'm implementing as a sort of 2D physics platformer as shown below.

I apologise for the graphics - they're place holder stuff while I flush out the code. I also need to work on the procedural generation of the building placement as they really shouldn't float in the air like that.

Anyway, this should look a bit better next time. There are still lots of bits missing - for example you can happily bounce of the surface at the moment and there's no limit on the fuel and oxygen yet either. The missions using this mechanics will be things like recue a person from the surface, destroy a facility, deploy tracking station. However, I'd like the player to explore the surface for themselves too - to gain experience and random rewards, but that'll be something for a later build.

Originally i was going to leave out planetry landings until i had at least a working version I wanted to release, but the more I play the current version, the more I feel landing makes your feel more connected to the universe.

So this week, there hasn't been much additional content added or tweaked this week. I've mainly been polishing and debugging the game ready for release on August 14th. I had foolishly believed the game was ready on Monday so I created all the packages and started work on generating all the footage for the new trailer only to find an embarrassing number of bugs. That'll teach me!

One thing to mention is that I got the Android version running on my tablet. Here's a short video of it running. As you'll see the normal mapping shadows run well and I'm very happy with the frame rate.

Trapped in the Sky - Weekly update - Android - Indie DB

I had some feedback from a fellow developer which have helped me a lot so I'll share them here:

"Looking at the latest video, the game currently contains a lot of walking around looting rooms. It seems quite repetitive to me and might not encourage multiple replays. One way to change this would be to have most of the cells open, and contain fewer loot-able objects. Instead increase the likelihood that the player find something when objects are looted."

I agree each play-through will be similar, essentially each one has the same objective: find the escape pod and repair it. I am confident the hack system and the crime type add enough variety to change how you play through each run. One thing I am considering is to unlock all the crimes from the start, rather than unlocking them by completing a run. This would instantly give the player 5 different abilities to play through the game with and could encourage more play throughs when the player is still new to the game.

I'm reluctant to change the looting system as I actually think it works quite well as you get further in the game. I play with an intensive looting bias, but you don't have to play it this way, there is nothing stopping the player searching through the map to find a more useful section.

"Also, having an AI or two walking around in each area makes the game more intense. Now the player can see and avoid them. Have them stay away from rooms that connects to other areas to ensure that the player can travel around without too much trouble."

I totally agree with this and I've already increased the number of A.I. generated in each map.

"I don't know if you are already planning to change this. Some walls are colored black, although I would assume that the character is able to see at least part of them since they are close and in the same room. This looks a bit weird to me. Showing them to the player would make the game a little less black without spoiling anything."

This is on my beta-four list already. I felt the wall and object visibility code needed a complete re-think before I attempted to fix it. I have a few ideas, but I want to roll them around my head before I start messing with the code.

"Your 2nd death in the video shows the AI killing the player from outside of the screen. This isn't exactly fair to the player in my opinion. In most top down games like these the AI cannot detect the player until they are quite close, unless the player uses a weapon. You could also add in a sneak walk to allow the player to move even closer without detection."

Stealth was an element of the game I had already implemented. I just hadn't balanced it until now so the A.I. was "hearing" the player from the other side of the map. The stealth system still needs tweaking and I'm planning on introducing a stealth suit 'hack' and crime into the next beta to expand on this system.

I've also adjusted when NPCs shoot the player. Previously the sprite just had to be on screen, even by a pixel, but now I've adjusted it so the enemy has to be further onto the screen until firing.

Before I go, just the usual cheeky reminder that beta two is currently available for free via Beta three will be available here from Friday 14th August.

Following the pointers from a fellow developer I added a visual aid for the sounds generated by the NPCs. The effect works pretty well and does tip the balance of the game more in the player's favour. It also helps fill out the black void that is most of the screen so it's a double wammy! So thanks!

Anyway here's a summary of the rest of this week's work:

Added the visual 'echo' to show the NPC's location as explained above. I have a feeling this will over-power the player later in the game so i may need to adjust how it works as the player gets stronger. Anyway a video will help and I'll post one tomorrow.

Added the alternative crafting mechanic. So far I've only added four working craft combinations. Clearly I'll be implementing more, but these four help me test out how it all works. I'm not going to reveal what I've added as the point is that these are little gems that you'll need to discover off you own back

Added blood pools to where already-dead bodies are. This does nothing except make it all look a bit nicer.

Adjusted the shadow shader again. This time altering the alpha threshold for sprites drawn to the screen. This was because the visual 'echo' was producing some horrible effects.

Adjusted the A.I. so that the guards target other inmates.

Adjusted how the movement is handled on the 360 controller, moving it from the d-pad to the left analogue stick. This is because I want to use the d-pad for crafting and hacking.

So I'm basically in the polishing phase for this beta now and I've already started drawing up my list for the next one The main feature to tackle is the Android platform version as this has boring technical problems to solve. But I'm sure it'll all be solved next week

Before I go, just the usual cheeky reminder that beta two is currently available for free via

So this week was another good week of development, focused mainly on adding the next explorable section - the bridge and medical wing.

Here's a summary:

Added the bridge and medical section and eight items (beds, plants, sinks, hobs, etc.) to furnish it out with. This section is a little different from the previous sections in that you can't access the whole section, you can only access the bridge from the right doors and the medical wing from the left. Introducing this has required a bit of a change to the A.I. so that they don't try and target players on the 'wrong' half of the map, but other than that, it works quite well and forces the player to keep more sections fully operational and it acts as a dead end forcing the players to take alternative routes through the map.

Added the 'omni tool' hack which fully repairs a whole section. Which may sound too powerful, but the hack is expensive to produce requiring at least 5 items so I think it's got the right balance. That and the fact that not all the hacks will be available to the player so the omni tool won't be available in each play-through.

Added the Robbery crime which enables you to unlock any door without a key or lock-pick. To unlock this crime you need to have escaped the craft and unlocked 100 doors using lock-picks (cumulatively, not just in a single session).

Adjusted the blur shader to be faster and actually produce a nicer blurred shadow effect. I originally picked a number of points in the x and y axes away from the target pixel, covered these points into an angle around the player and tested to see if it was in shadow or not. It was quite intensive and although my dedicated GPU could handle it, my integrated GPU struggled and the resulting blurring for both set ups wasn't anything to write home about. This modification, performs the in-shadow test directly on the angle and the result is a much smoother, consistent blurring effect with improved performance. So I'm chuffed!

Adjusted the oozing blood from recently shot NPCs to ooze in a time based system, rather than a frame based system so that the blood oozes at the same rate on all set ups.

Adjusted normal maps for the galley tables and added gun-racks, cooker and sink to crew quarters section.

Fixed the cargo-bay doors from being open allowing the player to wander off the map.

Fixed cargo-bay section from causing A.I. pathfinding crash.

Fixed user data not loading correctly, so now all player settings and stats are recorded properly.

So I'm definitely near the end of this beta cycle now and August 14th looks like the date I will be releasing it. Just a few more features to add, which I'm hoping to complete next week.

Here's a loooooong vid of how it all currently looks - I apologise for how long it is, that's mainly because I die so many times. I am so bad I am at my own game!

Trapped in the Sky - beta three preview - Indie DB

Before I go, just the usual cheeky reminder that beta two is currently available for whatever you wish to pay for it via

I think I'm just over half of the way through all the features I want to add to the next beta. The majority of the hacks are implemented, the new NPCs are there, what's left is the basic crafting and the new explorable section. Both will take considerable time.

Here's a summary of how I got on this week:

Added 'Laser Rifle' hack. Basically a laser rifle, but uses power cells as ammo instead of bullets. As part of this I added a neat laser line that is drawn on screen.

Added Wood and Stone footstep sounds. This wasn't a planned feature, but I was getting annoyed with the metallic foot fall sounds when the player was walking on wood or stone.

Added 'Flame thrower' hack. This is what you can imagine it is. It uses fuel as ammo instead of bullets and spews out a stream of fire. I'm not 100% happy with the decal implementation for this yet, but the fundamental mechanics are in and working.

Added 'EnviroSuit' hack. This allows player to access failed sections and repair them. This has an added benefit that if the escape pods section fails, the games does not end as the suit grants the player to still repair the escape pod.

Added 'Smuggling' crime. This boosts the items found when looting. This can be used in combination with the field scanner hack to get even more loot per search.

Added a new NPC type - "Spider bot" which patrols the craft armed with a laser rifle. Being part of the ships defence systems, the bot can detect the player better than the guards.

Adjusted how Weapons are handled so that they can accommodate multiple ammo types. This was in before, but I had implemented a rather clumsy way of doing it. Now I list the applicable ammo types in the weapon definition file and the code handles the rest. The makes adding new ammo types easier in the future.

Adjusted the Armour mechanic. This now blocks all damage until it is destroyed, rather than reduce the damage by a set %. The condition of the armour is shown together with the player's health bar.

Adjusted Warning text to be semi-transparent. This is so it is less obtrusive when exploring the sections.

Fixed a bug where doors would still open even if the play's key had broken or had ran out of lock-picks.

So I'm on track for an August release of Beta three. I am a bit worried the game is too hard. I find it very difficult to get very far as I have tried to make it punishingly hard, but I have also tried to make it fair (i.e. the A.I. shouldn't cheat, they don't have infinite ammo for example).

A slight change to the usual cheeky reminder about beta two. It is still available via but now you can pay whatever you want for it. Take it for free if you like.

Feedback, as usual, is always appreciated.

This week was another week of development making my way through the features for the next beta.

Here's a summary:

I spent half of this week re-working the NPC logic. I did have this big mass of code that was handling all the NPC decisions and animations and it was getting a bit messy and I wasn't really happy with how the NPCs behaved in the game anyway. So I went back to my note pad and sketched out the logic I wanted the NpCs to follow. Here's a cleaner version.

The sketch helped a lot and I was able to re-write the code fairly quickly. Was took the time was checking and debugging all the weird behaviours this logic brought to the table. And while it's not 100% complete yet, I am much happier with it.

Added a new NPC type - "Guards" while at the moment behave the same as in mates, they will be adjusted before the beta goes out so that they are always armed, are tougher to beat and can track the player better. For these reasons, there will be clearly fewer guards in each play through.

Adjusted the Robbery and Smuggler Crime images to make them look better. I'm thinking of unlocking the Robbery crime if you complete the gamewithout using any lock picks and unlocking the smuggler crime if you complete the game while carrying over 100 items.

Adjusted the normal maps for the flooring in the crew quarters to be more subtle.

Added showers and Gun racks to the crew's quarters.

Adjusted the player's text when a section fails for the second time so that it is more clear that the failed section cannot be accessed any more.

Fixed NPCs walking through the top row of walls in the cells section.

Fixed the game showing the next section before the level has began.

So while there was less progress this week, improving NPC behaviour was key to the next beta and I'm more happy with how that's working now.

Here's a quick vid of how it all looks

Trapped in the Sky - beta 3 rogress - Indie DB

I also took advantage of the Game Dev Humble Bundle this week. While I already had AGKv2 and Game Guru the amount of assets provided with the bundle was worth together with a few nice tools.

Before I go, just the usual cheeky reminder that beta two is currently available via for $0.99.

This week was spent back in the development seat and I've made better progress than I thought I would. I did have thoughts of getting the Android version properly working and pushing it out to Google Play, but I'd spent the previous week dealing with publishing and marketing so I fancied a week back in the code.

Here's a summary:

Added breakable keys. Basically what it says on the tin. Keys randomly break meaning you need to seek out a new on or use lock picks again.

Added a text prompt when you hover over a collected hack. This describes the benefit of the hack and if you don't have the correct ingredients yet, it tells you what you need.

Added five new hacks:
Skill Tonic - gives you perfect shooting accuracy for 90 seconds.
Auto Shotgun - is kinda obvious as it's a hybrid of a shot gun and an automatic rifle.
Electro Handgun - deals additional electric damage, but can also be used to shoot doors open.
Field Scanner - increases the number of items you find by one.
Exploding Bullets - bullets that do double the damage.

Adjusted the Murder Crime image to make it look better.

Adjusted the Game Over screen to show the moment of death, rather than the Moon's surface.

Adjusted the map screen to make it more clear, by high-lighting only the floor and the section that the player is in.

Adjusted the camera wobble to a time based system as the effect was almost non-existent on higher end PCs.

Adjusted the way Hacks are discovered so that they are limited to one per section. Meaning you won't have the same hacks available to you in each play through.

Adjusted Floor and Section numbering to start from 1 to make it more logical.

Fixed player collision with dead NPCs.

Fixed gun ammo text disappearing when new items were found.

So over all I'm pretty chuffed with the progress this week. Hopefully more of the same next week!

Before I go, just the usual cheeky reminder that beta two is currently available via for $0.99.

This week was spent holidaying with the family so development progress was zero, but I'll be back in the saddle from Monday.

So in between trips to the zoo and walks around the park I've mainly been planning what's going to go into beta three. This is what I've drawn up:

As I've mentioned previously, the hacks are going to be expanded and these are the first 10 I'll be adding:
Automatic shotgun hack
Electro Handgun hack (add electric shock damage)
Enviroshield hack (allows you to access failed sections)
Exploding bullets hack
Field Scanner hack (increases loot yield)
Flame gun hack (my personal favourite)
Lazer Rifle hack
Omni tool hack (reduces the number of items needed for repairing)
Skill Tonic hack (perfect shooting accuracy)

The Armour mechanic will be adjusted so that it degrades with damage taken.

The A.I. will be improved, to add actions such as running away.

Some objects will be breakable, such as keys and guns.

The Experimental Crafting mechanic will be added.

Two unlockable crimes will be added:
Robbery Crime
Smuggling crime

Three NPCs will be added:
Guard NPC
Robot NPC
Megabot NPC

The bridge section will be added. The bridge will be a unique section and will contain the medical bay.

I'm also attempting to add an end game animation, but given my art skills this may not get added.

I'm aiming for beta three to be completed by mid August and when it does I'll be increasing the selling price. So just a cheeky reminder that beta two is currently available via for $0.99.

This week I had a little trip to Toulouse in France and back for work this week so I was able to get a few hours on this again during the flight and the second beta is ready for deployment. I just need to package the various platform versions and host them.

So this past week was spent polishing the game and bug fixing. Although the 360 controller features have not been fully added into this next beta (I'm still thinking of how to implement the hacking part using the controller), the annoying snap at the four quadrants has been solved. It was actually embarrassingly easy. AGK, by default, sets the dead zone for the analogue sticks to 0.15, so now I just force the dead zone to 0.0 for a much smoother motion.

I also added a simple pre-damage sound so that it sounds like a part of the ship has exploded just before the alarm sounds. I think it adds a bit to the atmosphere.

I also slightly adjusted how player collision is done so that collision with non-occluding objects works as I wasn't happy with the fact you could walk over chairs and tables.

Still no feedback from Desura, so I'm now looked a as a hosting platform and any others I can find.

Anyway, after the beta are up I'll create a little video re-capping all the new features and post it up.

I had a little trip to Norway and back for work this week so I was able to get a few hours on this during the flight.

The hacking mechanic is now fully implemented for two hacks - Vile Bullets and Bullet Lotion. The 3rd beta will have a lot more, I just wanted the core mechanic working for the 2nd beta.

The final aspect of the 2nd beta is the crew quarters section. Which is already running in the game, but many object are missing from it so the level currently feels sparse and disappointing. With this being the crew's area I want a lot more stuff to be around, and that means creating a lot more media, something which is taking me longer than I thought.

But I'm still on track for the next beta to be out before the end of the month. Next week I am focusing on this final section as well as removing any silly bugs I find. Then I'll package the three platform versions up and put together a short video shows what's been added since beta one.

Still no feedback from Desura, but giving that their parent company has filed for bankruptcy I have a feeling Desura may not be taking on any new games.

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