Ninety-five percent of Floodgate’s planning stage is done. All that’s left is to smooth out a few gameplay ideas and one of the endings. After that’s done (tomorrow), I’ll devote myself to developing a playable alpha, and I probably won’t post until then.

After Floodgate, I plan to make games using the following concepts:

Naomi’s Story: a side-scrolling steampunk fantasy RPG with active combat, stealth, and a character-driven story about a young assassin. Includes a moral choice system based on the concept of gray vs. gray.

Lexus Program: a pseudo-superhero game influenced by Infamous and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Story-driven, more gray vs. gray moral choice.

Dubstep Hero (working title): a sci-fi bullet-hell shooter where enemy ships exploding, bullets flying, and quick movements all produce dubstep sounds. The soundtrack will be made by the player in-game. This is a very rough concept for now, and it may undergo major changes in design.

Floodgate 2 (working title): only a spiritual sequel, following the behind-the-scenes heroes of Floodgate. Play as rescue workers and save people. Of all the concepts listed here, this is the least likely to be made.

Bards and Killers (working title): direct sequel to Naomi’s Story. Contains singing and playing instruments as mechanics, though I’m still brainstorming ways to make them fun, unique, and sensible (for example, I won’t make the player plug in an electric piano or plastic guitar).

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And now, I will go work on Floodgate.

I spent the whole day today getting accustomed to GML, and when I ventured into sprite work, I realized that I was working way too small. A 50×30 sprite may work for a game that doesn’t need to pay any attention to subtlety, but for what I want to express using Ivy’s body language alone, I’ll have to double the sprite size. Yeah, any good developer could have told me that, and yes, this is my first time doing sprite work of this level. It’s a great learning experience, though.

While a 100×50 sprite will still be too small for accurate facial expressions, I can use gestures a bit better now. I may update with more sprites (and possibly animations) tomorrow depending on how much I can get done.

Admittedly, I didn’t do as much as I could have today. But I’m a little more familiar with the engine I’m working in and I’ve got a really basic sprite. It might be bigger in the final game, but I’ll see how this plays for now.

Original.

Larger, for clarity.

I need to put more thought into her design. Initially, I made her dress blue, symbolic of calm and of water, and she’s got white accessories–symbolic of purity. Yes, I want those, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing something important (aside from her shoes).

I did independent studies in design for quite some time, but never approached it the correct way, and now that’s coming back to bite me. Now, as expected, I need help. Are there any pixel artists out there willing to give me some tips? I’d greatly appreciate all the help I can get.

Floodgate will start off easy and get harder, like most other games. Difficulty curves are a given in games. Initially, I was considering doing something like Cave Story, where you could get the best possible ending by beating an extremely difficult level. But then I looked back at Floodgate’s concept. Ivy isn’t a hero. She’s not entrusted with saving a race or ending a war. She doesn’t even fight in the course of her game.

I’m still conflicted about it, somehow. Should Ivy have an opportunity for absolute redemption? One of the things I’m trying to portray here is a child’s helplessness in an unstable marriage, but does that mean I should cut down any chance Ivy has of resolving her own insecurity and cowardice? No. Ideally, in the best ending, Ivy should face her fears head-on. With that comes a great challenge.

To best accomplish this challenge, Ivy will save a life. Not just hers. In a hurricane and flood, there are obviously going to be people and animals left behind. How heroic would it be for Ivy to free a man trapped in a crashed car, or let a dog out of a submerging house? When I think about it, it seems that things like this would do well scattered throughout the game–not isolated in a final, heroic sequence. Of course, saving someone or something else would require precious time and wouldn’t just be a no-brainer “save everyone” thing.

What reward would Ivy get from saving people? If the player chooses to sacrifice time, s/he should be rewarded reasonably. At this point, I’d like recommendations. I have a few ideas, but I need to playtest them before settling on anything, and I’m just getting comfortable with GML–so playtests won’t come for awhile.

If Ivy saves people throughout the game, however, it would seem that the “face your problems” theme is eliminated, as Ivy is solving others’ problems for them. Well, not all problems are solvable alone. Needing help ties in well with the helplessness I’m trying to portray.

What happens in the end, then? What would Ivy’s redeeming moment be if she saves people throughout the course of the game? It would have to be something that will almost surely kill her, but that will save someone else. Then the player would get the chance to get the best ending by being totally awesome. Even if the players can’t achieve that ending, a heroic sacrifice isn’t too bad an ending. That said, taking the chance should be an option as well. The player could just ignore the situation and continue on, getting one of the better endings.

There’s a lot I need to playtest, but I need suggestions. I have yet to see a great game made by one person without some degree of feedback.

Is there any reason for there to be a graphic user interface or menu system in Floodgate? I could have a health bar and an energy bar, but ultimately, could they do anything that the gameplay couldn’t? In place of a health bar dropping, Ivy could limp or walk slower or hold her ribs or whatever else was injured. Red could eat away at the corners of the screen, or black, depending on the type of injury. Would that not be better than a couple of bars?

And now for menus. This, I may actually have to include, but even if I do, it wouldn’t be a traditional menu. I’ve seen a thing before where the “menu” was simply a cinematic and some music with the option to start the game, and I’m considering something like that in case I use a menu at all. Of course, there has to be a place you can turn on and off the content filter. A simple menu with story exposition in the background may be ideal, but I’ll try out a few things.

What would you recommend for a menu or GUI? I want Floodgate to be as immersive as a 2D game can be, so I’m looking for something subtle or, at least, something that won’t break the flow of the game.

I’ve been devoting most of my time on this project to perfecting the story, character, and themes, but a reader noted in my second post that I wasn’t considering gameplay much–and he was right. I need to fix that.

I’m always open to input, but especially so here. Please suggest gameplay features you think would fit the game. I’m looking for things that would retain the serious tone of the game while still making it fun enough to be considered a game.

My initial ideas are as follows:

- As a hurricane is in progress, things are going to be flying around. Therefore, dodging and blocking mechanics are imperative.

- The player is driven forward by a flood. It’s mild at first, but once the “tutorial section” is completed, the floodgate breaks and a time limit is set.

- Catching flying items. Ivy can potentially catch the lid of a trash can and use it to defend herself as long as the makeshift shield remains intact.

- Running. In the beginning of the game, Ivy injures her ankles and can’t run for very long. Therefore, timing and conserving Ivy’s energy and health is necessary.

I’m also tossing around the idea of Ivy needing something to shield her from the cold (and have different endings, both good and bad, considering how much cold and rain she was exposed to during the game). A hypothermia system? I’d need to playtest a few things.

So, suggestions? I’m open to anything at this point. In fact, forget about matching the game’s tone. The best stories include the whole gamut of emotions. Of course, you can only go so far, but my point still stands: open to everything.

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