Post news RSS Designing the darkness in Olvand's new caves

This week, I tell you about the problems I had when adding darkness to caves, and also about their solutions.

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Hi everyone! Last week, I told you how I unexpectely started to enjoy the upcoming main feature in Olvand, caves, once I started tweaking various characteristics. This week, I want to zoom in on two of the most important tweaks I made: adding lights and dynamic healthbars.

Lighting up caves for your convenience
After all trouble I have gone through to add the new lighting system to the game, I am of course constantly on the look-out for opportunities to use it. Caves seemed like a perfect opportunity; I thought it was just a matter of setting 'darkness' to True, and be done with it. It worked when mining underground, so why wouldn't it work here as well?

Things turned out to be a little more complicated than that, as there are two main differences between mining and exploring caves. Firstly, in caves, the spaces you have to light up are a lot larger. When mining, one or two fires are mostly enough to be able to see the whole room; in caves, this is rarely the case. Secondly, you are mostly standing still when mining; when you create a fire, you can use it until it dies out. When exploring, on the other hand, you only use your fire briefly to get an idea of the environment, and then you move on.

In practice, this meant that 80% of what you were doing while exploring was shooting fire, only so you could see where you were. It annoyed me immediately. This meant that there should be at least some natural sources of light. What should that be? Campfires? Torches? Glowing crystals? To start with, I picked something in between glowing crystals and torches:


The sphere slowly moves up and down to give caves a bit of a magical, mysterious vibe. What I particularly liked about this choice is that am I free to change the color of the light. Right now, they are always red (the color of danger), but I have plans to make them blue at the beginning at the cave, and then slowly make them more red as you get closer the end of the cave.

Only healthbars when you hit them
Adding darkness gave me another problem as well: healthbars were initially rendered behind the lighting layer, which meant you could only see the healthbar of an enemy when the enemy was in a lit-up area. This is is how that looks:


Seems fair, I originally thought, until I actually started playing with it. It turns out that, most of the time, you're shooting at an enemy you can barely see, which means that you also can barely see its healthbar. This in turn means that you get little to no feedback whether you have actually hit your goal or not. In the past, I would have thought this adds some mystery to the game and makes players curious, [but as I've learned while designing the fishing mechanic] the opposite actually happens: if you get no feedback about what you're doing, and your actions are possibly a waste of time, you quickly lose interest. Trying to kill a monster is only fun when you can see that you're actually getting closer to your goal.

Alright, let's render these healthbars above the lighting layer then. But that would mean that, when you enter a darker area, there are floating healthbars everywhere, giving away the monster's positions immediately. I finally opted for a solution I've seen elsewhere (although I don't remember exactly where): only show a healthbar when it's not 100% full. This way, you can only see the healthbars of the monsters you were already fighting, and thus already knew the position of. On top of that, when you shoot randomly in the dark, this functionality now doubles as feedback that you've actually hit something!

Next up: discovering whether other people actually respond to this as I intended. I have a real-life playtesting sessions with two friends planned this Sunday; I'm curious!

If you want more development, see [twitter] or [facebook]. If you want to be a tester, you can subscribe on [olvand.com].

Comments
Twillypop
Twillypop

Nice progress Wosesel. Natural lights in caves will be a plus and the solution to the healthbars is also welcome. Thanks for working hard man ;)

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Woseseltops Author
Woseseltops

And thank you for nice reply :)

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