Progress Report – New Ship and Stuff

October 4, 2013 by Terry

Retrobooster is coming along nicely, and I am now deep into level refinement based on tester feedback. There has been plenty of subjective feedback coming in, but there isn’t enough objective data yet. Objective data comes in the form of files that record things like where players die, how many tokens they collect, and how long it takes to complete each level. More of this type of data would be very useful for tuning the difficulty of each level and the overall game. Subjective comments from testers, on the other hand, have elucidated which parts of the game are the most frustrating or confusing.

This video shows some of the recent visual changes that have been taking place. Note the new player ship model and the new in-game interface design.

Nobody ever liked the previous ship model, myself included. But it was always a first draft. The new ship is faceted instead of rounded, which sets it apart from the alien ships. It still has a plausible arrangement of rocket engines that look as if they could actually be propelling it. The addition of some nav lights (similar to what you would find on any aircraft from Earth) makes it appear much more man-made and provides some contrast to help show its shape and movement. Let me know what you think of the new design in the comments.

The in-game interface was outdated as well. The main problem was that the text was too hard to read on small laptop screens or when playing split-screen multiplayer. The old interface was packed into the upper left corner of the screen, but enlarging it would have made it much too big for one corner. Now the different parts of the interface are spread around the screen, and the graphics have been enhanced.

The star field backgrounds got an overhaul as well. The old star field texture was sourced from photographs, which resulted in some very splotchy stars. The new texture was hand drawn in Gimp such that it would work well with the star field shader. The new stars are much more round (not splotchy), and the shader has been updated to make them twinkle a little.

Levels 1 and 2 just got heavily modified to try to clear up some player confusion. Many players do not know what to do with the humans running around on the ground and do not realize their ship’s laser pointer can be used to distinguish foreground objects from background objects. I’ll probably change all the levels that have their exits open up when you rescue all the humans. I still like that mechanic, but it confuses people and will probably work better on a smaller scale. For example, there will be individual rooms that work that way instead of entire levels.

Anyway, that’s about all that is going on with Retrobooster. Some milestones driving all this work are preparation to submit Retrobooster to IGF, the next playable demo update, and the next full game update for testers. A couple days ago I received an invitation to use the Humble Store widget for sales, so I plan to take advantage of that and start taking pre-orders pretty soon. That will probably happen shortly after the IGF submission, which is due October 19.

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