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  1. Building Block Heroes - Secret Rocket Base After making their way through the depths of the Oceantide Channel, the Building Block Heroes find themselves at the Secret Rocket Base! Description The Secret Rocket Base is a well-hidden military installation that houses a space-faring rocket that the Building Block Heroes will need to commandeer in order to attack Rupert's Moon Base directly. The Secret Base is probably the most difficult area in the game if time limits are enabled due to the barriers the players encounter. The barriers in this case are literal, as the new type of block encountered in this area are called Barrier Blocks. Barrier blocks are more durable than regular blocks, requiring three blocks or breakers of the same colour to be detonated next to them before being destroyed. The enemies in this area are relatively benign and just patrol back and forth like enemies in earlier areas. However, the enemies in the Secret Base are much bigger than other enemies, which forms a problem in and of itself. The boss of the Secret Base is Rupert himself! Or, rather, Rupert taking potshots at the heroes from a gun turret. Rupert will follow the heroes around with a targeting reticle, taking aim until firing a shot that obliterates all the blocks around him or her. It does help to have a friend for this battle, as Rupert can only target one hero at a time. However, he does fire more frequently when there are multiple targets for him to take aim at. Design The Secret Base was a huge pain to design. The colour scheme for this area wasn't immediately obvious, and it was difficult to think of one that would be unique. Specifically, I was having trouble figuring out how to make the mechanical parts stand out among the rocks. The breakthrough came when I decided to turn the rocks into a brown/tan colour, which immediately solved the problem of making the area look unique. This itself lead to the design of the rocket because it opened up the possibility of a more cartoony and colourful rocket rather than the plain, grey mechanical one I envisioned at first. I'm a big fan of Tintin comics, and while I was designing the rocket I was reminded of the one that Tintin took to go to the moon (which itself was inspired by the appearance of the infamous V2 rocket designed by the Germans in WW2). I figured I could use a similar checkerboard pattern for my rocket. I knew I wanted a gun-based boss to fit with the military theme of the area. Originally, the boss was a regular Mechafolk boss, like in the other areas. However, as I was designing the boss, I decided to throw Rupert inside it to add a dash of colour to the boss. The music was inspired by early Command and Conquer games, with their industrial funk tracks that took a military/industrial setting and made it catchy rather than being serious or sober like one might expect. For this I started off with the electric guitar hook and added a fast, upbeat percussion track. Thankfully, military settings tend to lend themselves quite well to brass melodies, which at this point were starting to become something of a hallmark of my music. The melody, then, was an absolute cinch to compose once I had the background hook nailed down. Let me know what you think! The game is on sale this week on Steam: Building Block Heroes on Steam
  2. Building Block Heroes Released! After six months of full-time development, Building Block Heroes is released on Steam! Price is set at $9.99 but is currently enjoying a 20% launch discount. Building Block Heroes on Steam Building Block Heroes is a puzzle block platformer in which you use coloured blocks to build pathways around each level in order to free the Jollyfolk from their cages. Simultaneously control both building blocks and heroes, with a friend or by yourself, in this colourful romp through a cartoony and exotic hand-painted world. Explore different lands, use special powers, and combat various enemies as you construct the means to save the Jollyfolk! A True Puzzle Platformer Game Use falling blocks to build your own platforms and pathways around each level. Build your own stairways and bridges to navigate around obstacles and pits! Use blocks to avoid enemies that try to stop you from reaching the Jollyfolk. Each area in the game introduces a new challenge - from moving platforms to irresistible ocean currents that sweep you away, no two areas are alike! Characters Four unique characters, each with their own unique abilities! Destroy blocks to build up your power meter. Dash across gaps as Heatwave, conjure blocks of ice as Ice Queen, soar through the air as Airhead, or smash through blocks as Dirtbag! Bosses A puzzle game with boss fights! Bosses will do everything in their power to smash your colourful creations. Build your way to reach each boss's weak point as they launch powerful attacks to stop you. This game is not turn-based - bosses aren't going to simply stand there and let you work your way towards them! Avoid attacks while you build! Feel free to let me know what you think! I'll be checking in all week for feedback and the like. Thank you all for the support! If you want to see the game in action, here's another Let's Play video. Big thanks to Firebird Gaming:
  3. Hi all, It's the weekend before release, so I thought I'd show off another Let's Play! This one is a rather in-depth look at the secondary game mode of Building Block Heroes, Connect Mode. Thanks to PalicoPadge for taking the time to do this! Let me know what you think! Feel free to check out the store page if you're interested: Building Block Heroes on Steam
  4. Building Block Heroes - Oceantide Channel After the bright neon lights of the Mechafolk Capital City, the Building Block Heroes find themselves forced to cross the Oceantide Channel in order to reach the Top Secret....er, nothing. Crossing the Channel requires going under the sea, through a twisting maze of colourful coral. The Oceantide Channel marks the return of environmental obstacles. In this area of the game, every level will contain a giant stalk of seaweed slowly waving back and forth in the background. After a while, the seaweed will speed up, which serves as a warning that a powerful ocean current is on its way. Once the current arrives, the Building Block Heroes will be swept to the left of the screen, unable to resist the onrush. Hopefully, they'll have something to brace themselves against until the current passes through! The enemies in this area act similarly to their counterparts in the city, except that they move in a random pattern rather than moving consistently. The boss of the Oceantide Channel holds the distinction of being the only one in the game that isn't attacked directly. After all, the Building Block Heroes are simply trying to get into the Top Secret...nothing. Fighting the boss directly would be a distraction! As the heroes make their way to the door, the boss swims back and forth dropping breakers. This can make the boss very easy or very difficult depending on how you build your way to the door's weak point. Design The Oceantide Channel was a fun area to design, because coral doesn't necessarily follow any kind of patterns or rules with regard to shape or colour. This meant I could draw random shapes with different colours and still use them as part of the environment art. The seaweed was kind of tough to design. I had to make a decision as to whether or not it would appear on top of or below the blocks. In the end, I chose to have it appear underneath the blocks. Although this can affect the player's ability to tell when the wave is coming through, having the seaweed on top of the blocks prevents the user from seeing what he or she is building underneath, which in turn interferes with the core gameplay of the game itself. I compensated by making the seaweed quite large, to lower the chances of covering it up entirely. This boss, like the one before it, required me to animate a turn. However, because his turn is faster, I didn't need to draw as many frames. His relatively simple shape also made it quite easy to animate the turn. Turn animation notwithstanding, this boss was a cinch to draw, because neither the boss itself nor the door required any real animation. I originally envisioned an area that would take place above the water, on a sailboat. The ocean currents would instead have been wind currents, indicated by the movement of sails in the background. This was going to require a pirate-shanty style background theme. However, the appeal of drawing coral was too strong, and I redesigned the area to take place underwater. This necessitated a shift away from a pirate theme to a more mellow and mysterious sounding theme. I started off with a slow violin intro punctuated by piano hooks, to capture the feel of descending into the deep. I then added flutes because, to me, they sound melancholy. The trick was deciding the pace of the flute melody. Originally, the track remained quite slow, but I found that it began to sound tedious about halfway through. For this reason I added a soft percussion track and sped up the melody once it kicks in. This, in turn, helped me come up with the final brass flourish at the end of the track. Let me know what you think! Feel free to check out the store page and wishlist if you're interested! Steam Page
  5. Building Block Heroes - Real Gameplay Video! I was very fortunate this week to have someone volunteer to try out my game. If you were curious as to how the game worked, this is your chance to check it out in action! Very special thank you to The Hen House for their first impressions! Let me know what you think! You can also check out the Steam page for more info: http://store.steampowered.com/app/695560/Building_Block_Heroes/
  6. Building Block Heroes - Mechafolk Capital City Once they leave the Mechafolk Factory, the Building Block Heroes find themselves among the bright neon lights of the Mechafolk Capital City. In this article I talk about the area itself and some of the design decisions that went into it. Description The Mechafolk Capital City is a flashy metropolis whose multi-coloured neon lights assault the senses. For those of you that have played the original Sonic the Hedgehog game, you might recall the Starlight Zone, which essentially provided a respite from the difficulty of the zones before and after it. I went for something similar in the Capital City area of Building Block Heroes. There are no new gameplay hooks for this particular area - instead, I just got a bit creative with the level designs and tried to make the music easy to sit back and listen to (more on this later). To emphasize the city theme, I created a few levels that are reminiscent of city skylines. They aren't even that difficult, they just look kind of neat. The enemies move diagonally, which makes them a bit less predictable than previous airborne enemies, but otherwise aren't terribly difficult to deal with. The boss, unfortunately, doesn't follow the same mellow, laid-back vibe of the rest of the area. The boss of the Mechafolk Capital is a jet-shaped Mechafolk who doesn't like to sit still for long. This boss flies back and forth across the screen at regular intervals, smashing any blocks in his path. He zooms back and forth frequently enough to prevent the player from simply camping on one side of the screen and running to his weak spot, so the Building Block Heroes need to get a bit more creative in their approach. Design Because the Capital City doesn't introduce any new gameplay elements, I had to increase the saturation and contrast of the colours used in order to distract the player. For this reason, the lights of the buildings use neon colours that might hurt the eyes if you stare at them for too long. The boss was probably the most difficult to draw, because I had to animate his turn. This required me to carefully draw all of his features at the proper angles, which forced me to make sense of the sketch below. Needless to say, it took me a while to get it done. I deliberately wanted the music of the Capital City area to be relaxing and reminiscent of a piano bar or jazz bar, so I used a mellow piano hook and a catchy bass line to set the tone. For the percussion I used a TR-808 beat to give the whole thing an almost 80's-style vibe, since the pink and purple reminded me of a vapourwave aesthetic. I then topped off the song with a jazzy saxophone theme to punctuate the relaxing nature of the background music. Let me know what you think! Feel free to follow me on social media as well if you're interested! Twitter Instagram SoundCloud The Steam store page is also up, so feel free to check it out and wishlist the game if you find it interesting: Steam Store Page Thanks for reading!
  7. Building Block Heroes - Dealing with Controller Support for Multiplayer I'm currently in the polishing stage of Building Block Heroes, and just a few weeks out from release. Since I've spent the last couple of weeks talking about the game itself, I figured I'd switch gears a bit and talk about some of the challenges I ran into during this crucial, final stage of development while making sure controller support worked. Control Schemes I knew going into the development of Building Block Heroes that I wanted to encourage people to play with friends in local multiplayer, while still making it fun in singleplayer. This meant that I had to make it easy and convenient for players to be able to include their friends when they played the game. To facilitate this, I deliberately designed the game such that it would be possible for a second player to jump in or out at any time - think old-school arcade games with their "Here Comes a New Challenger!" notifications. I originally envisioned three control schemes - the keyboard, and up to two controllers. This meant that multiplayer was only possible if there was a controller present. In today's PC gaming landscape, this isn't too much of a deal since most gamers seem to have a controller of some sort. However, as I was designing the default key mapping for the keyboard controls, I realized two things: The default layout assumes the player using the keyboard wants to use both hands. Forcing people to own/bring a controller for multiplayer isn't particularly conducive to casual gaming or gaming on the go with a laptop. To mitigate this, I designed a second control scheme for the keyboard which makes use of the number pad. This allows a second player on the same keyboard, while providing an alternate one-handed control scheme for people who enjoy gaming with a drink in their hand or something. What does this have to do with controller support? Because having a second control scheme for the keyboard dictated how I decided to handle the issue of controller disconnection for the second player. Handling it for player one was simple - just revert to the keyboard (or keyboard 2 if player two is using the keyboard already) if you disconnect player one's controller. Player two, however, required a lot more thought. Bad Timing Out of curiosity one day I decided to see what would happen if I decided to arbitrarily disconnect the controller while selecting characters. To my horror, absolutely nothing happened - the character selection screen became unresponsive, with no way to back out or otherwise recover from the screen other than reconnecting the controller. "Okay," I thought, "I suppose the user can recover from it if he or she reconnects the controller." But then I thought, "What if the user doesn't? What if the person using the controller OWNS the controller and decides to pack up and go home?" I suspect prevention of permanent unresponsive states is why arcade fighting games have a timer on the character selection screen. However, I didn't feel like forcing the remaining player to wait for 30 seconds or whatever to get back to the game if the other player takes his or her controller and goes away. Originally, I simply made the second player disappear and had the game revert to singleplayer mode when the controller was disconnected. When I added the second keyboard layout, unfortunately, I then had to consider the possibility that the second player might have disconnected the controller without actually wanting to stop playing. Most games will offer the user a chance to confirm any action that will change the status quo of the game ie. saving or loading, or returning to the main menu. I figured I could use the same approach when determining whether or not to nuke player two when his or her controller is disconnected. When player two's controller is disconnected, the game brings up a popup asking if player two wants to leave. If the Yes button is pressed, the original solution of simply removing player two takes effect. If the No Button is pressed, then the control of player two reverts to whichever keyboard control scheme is currently unused. Hop On, Hop Off The issue of what to do when a controller is disconnected becomes more pronounced during actual gameplay. My original solution was simple - add a second player when the controller is connected, and remove it when the controller is disconnected. However, adding the Keyboard 2 control scheme again scuttles this solution, since it doesn't take into account the possibility of the controller being disconnected even if player two wishes to keep playing nor does it address the issue of which character to assign to player two. To handle controller disconnects and reconnects during gameplay, I added an event handler that causes the same confirmation popups as before to appear asynchronously. That is, when a controller is plugged in at anytime during a singleplayer session, the game immediately pauses and the user is asked whether or not to add a second player. If Yes is selected, then the new controller is assigned to player two and the game returns to the player select screen. Otherwise, the controller simply becomes a new control scheme option in the Settings screen. If two players are active and the controller for player two is disconnected at any point during gameplay, the same solution as the player select screen applies - choosing not to remove the second player reverts player two's control scheme to the unused keyboard option. The last thing to consider with regard to having a second player jump in and out of the game actually had nothing to do with the controller support. I needed to provide a mechanism for enabling or disabling player two without having to rely on the controller connection event, in case players wanted to jump in using the keyboard. For this option, I simply created a "None" control scheme which player two is set to in singleplayer. Setting it to anything else prompts a confirmation popup asking the user whether or not to add a second player. Selecting Yes brings the game to the player select screen with player two's control scheme set to whatever is selected, while selecting No reverts the control scheme of player two to "None". Last Thoughts This article might not have been as fun to read as the ones talking about the game's areas, but I figured others who are at the same stage of development I am might find some use in reading about some of the design decisions I made when considering controller support. The process I went through can essentially be distilled into a couple of key questions: "How does the player decide to use a controller?" "How easy is it for a player to include a friend in their gaming session?" "How does the game add or remove a second player?" "What happens when you plug in the controller without warning on a certain screen?" "What happens when you unplug the controller without warning on a certain screen?" I hope this helps others consider how to handle controller support and/or multiplayer in their own games! Feel free to follow me on social media if you enjoyed the read: Twitter Instagram SoundCloud The Steam store page is also up, so feel free to check it out and wishlist the game if you find it interesting: Buidling Block Heroes on Steam Thanks for reading!
  8. Building Block Heroes - Mechafolk Factory Now we're starting to get into the heart of Mechafolk territory! In this week's feature I discuss the birthplace of all Mechafolk, the Mechafolk Factory. Description The Mechafolk Factory is a large-scale industrial zone from which all Mechafolk are assembled. The Building Block Heroes find themselves winding around large conveyor belts and cranes, taking care not to slip on the patches of oil on the ground. The Mechafolk Factory introduces moving blocks, which have a nasty tendency to ruin everything the Building Block Heroes have built. Moving platforms display one to three green arrows on them, which denote how many spaces they will move and in which direction. After a certain amount of time, the glowing arrows turn from green to red. Once the blocks are "armed", the player is given the chance to place the block currently under his or her control, providing an opportunity to prepare for the sudden movement of the level. The blocks were originally supposed to move immediately, but for gameplay purposes it was deemed to unfair to the players to have everything suddenly shift without warning. Thankfully, the Mechafolk Factory employs a streamlined shipping process that sends out completed Mechafolk as soon as they are finished, meaning that there are no enemies in any of the Mechafolk Factory's levels. The only one present is the area's boss, which launches attacks based on colour rather than simply smashing things. This boss likes to wind himself up before he attacks. As the screw on his head gradually twists upward, the screw body turns into whatever colour will be targeted next. Eventually, the screw drops and destroys all on-screen blocks of the same colour. This can be especially painful if the Building Block Heroes have been relying too much on a single colour to work their way around the level. Design Like the Mistypeak Mountains before it, the colour scheme of this area was one that had to be chosen carefully. A mechanical factory necessitated lots of grey, so I added hints of blue, green, and purple in order to mix things up a bit. Still, I didn't want a single colour to dominate too much, so I added copper piping for contrast. As a general rule, I try to have the boss sprites match the overall colour scheme of whatever area they reside in. However, because this boss attacks based on colour, I deviated from that rule to include all four colours of block into its sprite. This gave me an excuse to throw in some yellow gas tanks into the scene, because then there would be some precedent for them rather than having them stick out for no reason. The resulting thumbnail thus contains an enormous amount of contrast while still feeling mechanical. The background music was meant to sound kind of industrial and workman-like, so I started off by composing a strong bass line, complete with a fast-paced percussion track. Once it came time to compose the melody, I chose to rely on heavy brass coupled with saxophones and honky-tonk pianos. This gave the track a funky-sounding blue-collar vibe, which I felt captured the feeling of "men at work". Let me know what you think! The levels in the Mechafolk Factory were very fun to build and test, although people playing the game might hate me for it. Feel free to follow me on social media as well if you're interested! Twitter Instagram SoundCloud
  9. Building Block Heroes - Icygale Glacier It's that time of week again, and this week I describe the fourth area of Building Block Heroes, Icygale Glacier! Featuring the most annoying enemy in the game! Description Icygale Glacier is a twisting cavern of ice and snow flanked by stalactites and colourful crystals. Unlike the previous two areas, Icygale Glacier does not introduce any new blocks. Rather, the main hazard in Icygale Glacier is the fact that the ice makes everything slippery! The Building Block Heroes slide around as they run through the levels, meaning that pits become even more dangerous! Of course, this means that pits are everywhere in the levels that comprise Icygale Glacier. Icygale Glacier is the one area in the game whose enemies actually launch attacks. The enemies here have an annoying tendency to shoot icicles from the top of their heads, which eliminates the block above them and causes the rest to come tumbling down. The effect definitely adds up when there are multiple enemies on the screen, and can throw a wrench in the player's plans as they painstakingly build platforms. As if the pits in the glacier weren't annoying enough, the fourth boss in the game tries to make them worse! As the Building Block Heroes make their way towards him, this boss likes to hammer on the sides of the glacier, causing enormous icicles to come crashing down. These icicles are conveniently located over pits and between them, making it even more treacherous to traverse them! Design In this area, white and light blue definitely dominate the colour scheme. This automatically gives Icygale Glacier a unique feeling compared to other areas in the game. The trick was to design the area without letting it become too monotonous to look at. For this reason, I added colourful crystals around the scene. They match nicely with the stalactites and icicles, and add a dash of colour to an otherwise mostly white/light blue motif. Just for fun, I added a snowman! The carrot adds a dash of colour, and it was fun to paint! The thumbnail really highlights how the white/light blue colour scheme dominates everything. Thankfully, the coloured bits still stand out! The music intentionally evokes a wintery-sounding theme. I noticed that both Christmas music and other snow/ice levels in games tend to make use of jingle bells and xylophones quite a bit for percussion. Best of all, they also make copious use of french horns! Once I nailed the percussion beat down, it wasn't too hard to conjure up a melody. I went for a jolly sounding theme (complete with tubas!) to keep in line with the Christmas-style feeling. Let me know what you think! In my opinion, Icygale Glacier is up there with Freshleaf Forest as the most eye-catching and appealing area in the game. I hope you guys enjoy it! Feel free to follow me on social media as well if you're interested! Twitter Instagram SoundCloud
  10. Building Block Heroes - Mistypeak Mountains Continuing the series of articles detailing the different areas in my game, I'm going to talk about the third area - Mistypeak Mountains. Mistypeak Mountains comprises a network of mountain passes perpetually shrouded in a dense fog. However, the Building Block Heroes aren't nearly stupid enough to stumble around in such thick fog, so they take the action above the cloud line, into the gentle light of the rising sun. The gameplay feature introduced in the Mistypeak Mountains appears in the form of Gem blocks, which are essentially Breaker blocks in their natural, unrefined state. They destroy any chain of same-coloured blocks that touch them, so the player must be wary of where their blocks are placed. This destructive effect carries over to blocks that fall in their vicinity, so you must be extra vigilant in order to prevent multiple chains of blocks from being wiped out instantly. Naturally, Gem blocks have been placed everywhere in the Mistypeak Mountains - the gentle hand-holding of Jollyville is a long way away at this point. Mistypeak Mountains is where the enemies really start to get annoying. The first enemy walks around like the others the player has seen up to this point. However, it now possesses the ability to jump onto blocks and jump down from them, meaning that its route becomes far less predictable! The second enemy is more consistent, which would be fine if it didn't soar through the air and get in the way even before the player had a chance to decide where to place his or her block! The third boss in the game is a giant humanoid Mechafolk boss with a nasty penchant for tossing enormous boulders towards the player. There are multiple trajectories that this boss throws rocks at, all of which are intended to be as annoying as possible by targeting the areas immediately behind each barrier in the level, as well as the area in front of the boss itself. The attacks occur in two phases. First the boss catches a rock that falls from the ceiling, then he throws it. While the rock is being held aloft, the boss is invulnerable - it is only in the short gap after the rock is thrown that the player will have access to the boss's weak point. Design With Mistypeak Mountains, I had to be very careful not to use too much grey or blue lest the background become an eyesore to the player. This is why I decided to design the background with a sunrise. It allowed the foreground to stand out a lot from the background, as well as adding a burst of colour onto the scene. This is also why I added the cliff in the middle of the scene, to add a dash of green to the mix. However, mountains are generally comprised of rocks, which don't tend to be too brightly coloured. I got around this by making the rocks less saturated versions of cool colours like blue, green, and purple. This way they still retain some of the blandness of typical rocks while avoiding too much monotony in the colour scheme of the area. Even in the map, which isn't able to make use of a rising sun as a backdrop, minor shifts in hue make all the difference! Judging from the thumbnail of the background, the use of purple definitely makes Mistypeak Mountains stand out. The orange and purple of the sky are unique to the area, and add a lot of character to a potentially boring area. For the music, the percussion is meant to evoke a sort of caveman-type feeling, so I made copious use of bongo drums. At the same time, the music was never meant to be ominous or dark - the players aren't travelling inside the mountains or caverns, just over them. Instead, I tried to capture the feeling of a sunrise by using rising violin themes and lots of french horns. I found that by using several french horns playing deeper notes, I was able to create a triumphant-sounding melody, which I felt fit the sunrise motif. I feel I was able to take a potentially boring area in the game and make the most of it with Mistypeak Mountains. Let me know if you agree or not! I'm always open to feedback. Feel free to follow me on social media as well if you're interested! Twitter Instagram
  11. Hi all, No real news at the moment, I just put together a short gameplay trailer showing off some of the co-op gameplay in Building Block Heroes and wanted to show it off right away! Let me know what you think! All feedback is always welcome. Some people have mentioned that the gameplay looks a bit slow. This was a deliberate choice to make it clear how the gameplay functioned. Rest assured, during actual gameplay things move much faster, especially during boss battles and the newly-implemented Time Attack mode! Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram as well if you're interested! Twitter Instagram
  12. Building Block Heroes - Freshleaf Forest Following on from last week's feature on Jollyville, I'm going to talk about the second area in the game, Freshleaf Forest. Description Freshleaf Forest is a dense and dark place with colourful flora and gigantic trees that cover the entire area in shade. I generally try to introduce some new gameplay feature with each new area, and in Freshleaf Forest players will encounter Leaf blocks. The player characters will fall straight through leaf blocks, but coloured blocks will not. It thus becomes necessary to place blocks on top of the Leaf blocks in order to traverse them. Naturally, this lends itself well to levels with bottomless pits in them. There is no damage, nor are there lives, in this game, so falling through the ground only results in being sent back to the start of the level. Nevertheless, it can set the player back a bit if they fall through when near the end of a level. Tread carefully! The enemies in Freshleaf Forest are a bit more of an obstacle than those in Jollyville, but aren't too tough to deal with. The first moves back and forth like the enemies in Jollyville, but takes up two spaces rather than one. The second enemy in Freshleaf Forest moves vertically in the air, providing a different kind of obstacle for the player. At the end of Freshleaf Forest, players encounter the second boss in the game, a giant mechanical spider that shoots legs out in six different directions while its front legs dangle uselessly in front of it. It's your job to work your way up to his glowing weak point even as he flings his long limbs at you. Having a friend to fight alongside you here is useful, as you will be able to attack from two sides. Design Freshleaf Forest was inspired by similar jungle scenes in Rayman and The Lion King. I noticed that they made use of crazy and unrealistic colours for plants in these scenes, and wanted to incorporate the same variety in colour so as to break up the monotony of having green everywhere. Nevertheless, Freshleaf Forest does consist primarily of green. It was my job as the artist, therefore, to ensure that I used different shades of green to prevent everything from looking the same. I mentioned in a previous article that warm tones work well with highlights, and cool tones work with shadow. The concept is demonstrated well here. Notice that foreground elements and leaves near the top of the screen - thus near the sun/primary light source - tend to consist of warmer and yellower shades of green, while foliage further in the background or closer to the ground tend to make use of more bluish hues of green. Judging from the thumbnail of the background, it is plain to see that green and turquoise are the colours that really stand out. This deliberate association with green helps set Freshleaf Forest apart from the other areas in the game and give it its own "character". It is also important to note that, despite the overwhelming focus on green, it doesn't feel too monotonous or repetitive due to the mixture of different hues of green, as well as the smattering of colourful foliage along the ground. For the music, I wanted to capture a jungle vibe, so I began by composing a percussion track consisting of conga drums and maracas. Once I had that nailed down I threw in some extra "percussion" using a bass to add in a "creepy-crawly" feel. From that point, coming up with a main melody to match the beat was relatively easy. Like the percussion, I made use of "ethnic" sounding instruments to make the track feel more exotic. At the end, there was still something missing. It was my goal to give the players the feeling of traversing through a dark jungle while still encapsulating the cartoony look of the game. To emphasize the silliness, I added a string section to the percussion track, to include some of the same "bounciness" that Jollyville's music possessed. Every area introduces its own challenges, and things will only get more challenging from Freshleaf Forest onward. I hope this was an interesting read!
  13. Building Block Heroes - Jollyville I've been posting a lot about the thought process of Building Block Heroes in recent weeks, so for this week's update I thought I'd talk a bit about the first area in the game, Jollyville. Description As the name suggests, Jollyville is the town from which the Jollyfolk have been abducted by the neighbouring Mechafolk. It's a pleasant and bright place, a simple town for simple folk. Jollyville is the starting area of the game, and as such is meant to be fairly non-threatening. There are no real obstacles or challenges placed in the player's path beyond the basic gameplay of using blocks to save the caged Jollyfolk. It features several tutorial levels unlocked gradually in order to ease the player into becoming more familiar with the core game mechanics. The first tutorial, in particular, is a bit longer and changes depending on the game modes and options. Eventually, enemies are introduced. Enemies - with one exception - generally just walk around and get in the way rather than actively undermining the players. The enemies in Jollyville are about as simple as it gets - they just move back and forth, turning around once they reach the edge of a platform. Finally, the concept of bosses is introduced in the final tutorial level of Jollyville. Bosses in this game aren't attacked directly. In keeping with the theme of the game, the players need to use blocks to reach the glowing blue killswitch located on the boss itself. The boss of Jollyville is a fire-breathing dragon-type Mechafolk who mostly just stands in one place and shoots fireballs at the player's blocks. The first boss is meant to be rather simple, given that it is the first that the players face. The fireball itself is two blocks high and travels in a horizontal path across the screen. That's it! Players shouldn't have too much trouble with him. Design Jollyville was inspired by Disney villages and starting villages of other games, so I tried to focus on bright, welcoming colours. I also made the town "zany" by exaggerating the proportions of the buildings and getting a bit creative with the tree designs. Generally, I tried to enforce a consistent colour scheme for each area to give them more "character", but Jollyville is the exception. If there is an overall colour palette I suppose it would be the light green and sky blue of the grass and sky respectively, but ultimately I took the opposite approach and tried to incorporate as many colours as possible by injecting colours in places where I felt there was too much green. Jollyville's "character", then, is its lack thereof, in keeping with its status as a standard intro town. I like to judge the overall feel of an area by how it looks as a thumbnail, and a simple glance at Jollyville's thumbnail shows that no one colour really stands out. Rather, the colours used are relatively basic and varied. The music for Jollyville was inspired by bright and jolly platformer games like Super Mario World or Klonoa. I wanted it to sound "bouncy", which is a difficult feeling to quantify. Jollyville's musical theme, therefore, started off as a simple "bouncy" percussion theme before I added the melody. The melody itself goes up and down, bouncing from high to low and back again, in keeping with my goal of composing a track that players felt like skipping to. I plan to talk about the areas in the game one at a time in detail, and Jollyville was just the first. I hope this was an interesting read!
  14. Building Block Heroes - Teaser Trailer Finished the teaser trailer for Building Block Heroes! I'll be discussing the different areas in the game in detail soon, but for now I've put together a teaser trailer showing off multiple aspects of gameplay. The video below shows off some of the gameplay elements unique to each area of the game, as well as a sneak peek at a few of the bosses you'll encounter. Let me know what you think! Those of you who have been following both this game and my previous game World Boxing Manager know that I'm always receptive to feedback. Hope you enjoy!
  15. Building Block Heroes - Characters I've spent the last few features talking about what lead up to Building Block Heroes, but not much talking about the game itself. So for this feature, I discuss the characters in the game, their abilities, and how I designed them. Since there are four block colours in the game, the four-colour motif appears repeatedly in the game. The character selection is no exception to this rule, and I designed the characters to represent the four elements, which themselves are represented by the four flavours of block in this game. Heatwave Heatwave is the leader of the Building Block Heroes and represents the element of Fire, as well as the colour Red. I designed this character to come across as dynamic and flashy, kind of like fire itself. For this reason I gave him spiked red hair and popped his collar to make him appear more flamboyant and cocky, kind of like a 50's-era biker or something. The popped collar was actually a challenge when it came time to animating Heatwave's run animation, however. Although the characters don't have limbs, I still animated their bodies rotating as they run. Not doing this made their run animations more awkward and stiff (with the exception of Dirtbag, which will be detailed below). The popped collar made it somewhat awkward when drawing Heatwave's body from different angles. Heatwave's ability allows him to dash horizontally across gaps. He can dash across a gap one block wide from a standing position, and two blocks wide if the player is walking in the direction he dashes in. Ice Queen Ice Queen is the token female teammate and represents both the element of Water and the colour Blue. To emphasize her uniqueness among the Building Block Heroes, I gave her a cute dress and made her walk animation more dainty than the others. Ice Queen is probably the most difficult character for me to draw because her features are less exaggerated than the others. Apparently this is a common thing among artists - difficulty drawing the opposite gender. The main difficulty was getting the shape of her head right without making her look masculine. I tried to enlarge her forehead and emphasize the roundness of her cheeks in order to prevent this problem. Ice Queen possesses the ability to create blocks of ice out of nowhere. These blocks act like normal blocks, but are "colourless" - they can be destroyed by any colour of breaker or any chain of blocks. This must be kept in mind when making use of her ability. Airhead Airhead is the quiet one in the group and generally doesn't think too much about anything other than flying through the air. Naturally, he represents the element of Air, which is depicted by the colour Yellow because Blue was already taken. I designed him to look like a typical surfer dude, but gave him a winged helmet to emphasize his affinity with air and flight. If you look closely, the wings flap when activating Airhead's ability. Airhead's ability allows him to soar through the air and overcome taller obstacles than normal. Depending on how long the player holds the ability button down, Airhead can leap over barries two or three blocks high. Dirtbag Dirtbag is the oldest of the Building Block Heroes and is the comic relief of the group. He represents the element of Earth and the colour Green. He was meant to look like a jolly old man, so I gave him bushy hair and a neckbeard. His rotund body and comic relief role made it a bit easier to animate him, because it made it possible to exaggerate everything he does. Dirtbag bounces a lot more than the others when he runs, and his body doesn't rotate in the same way because he basically hops around rather than running normally. His jump and fall animation were also simpler, because he just drops rather than trying to land on his feet the way his teammates do - Dirtbag doesn't give a damn. Dirtbag's ability allows him to destroy blocks underneath him if he's standing still, or blocks to the side depending on which direction the player is holding. This allows the player to access paths that might normally have been blocked (no pun intended). Long story short, the designs of the Building Block Heroes are meant to complement each other. The individual abilities of the characters reflect this concept. Heatwave moves horizontally, Airhead move vertically; Ice Queen creates blocks, Dirtbag destroys them. Push and pull. This is to encourage teamwork when playing with two players, and experimentation when playing alone. I hope this article has been an interesting read! As always, feel free to let me know your thoughts.
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