AURO Update for April 2013
As the lead designer on this project, the thing that has been taking up 90% of my time in the last few months has been the abilities – balancing, testing, and redesigning them. Really, since the beginning, this has been a huge task, but we want to have them finished this month. Specifically, we’ve set a date for “gameplay lockdown” on April 20th – 8 days from the time of this writing. I happen to feel really good about where we are at the moment, though, so I think we can do that.
Before I get into the game designey stuff, though, but still on the topic of “stuff taking a really long time to do”, how about we take a look at some of what Blake, our lead artist, has been working on.
New AURO Artwork!
To the left and above, you can see the portrait for the Foxy Mama. She will come onto the screen and taunt poor Auro while she throws rocks at him. In those situations, you’d see her on the top right, where you normally see your tutor, Quillsh.
Speaking of Quillsh, in the opening and ending cutscenes of the game, you’ll actually see the Quillsh sprite from time to time, animating and flapping around and yelling at you. Here’s his sprite, all finished up!
I know we go on about it a lot, but it really is true that animating this kind of pixel art takes a really long time. What’s nice with AURO, though, is that we only have to do one animation per character. This means we can make each animation really stylish and fun, without having to worry about creating it from 6 different directions or explicitly getting across some specific mechanical function.
One more piece of art – the Cellar tileset. After looking at the Dungeon tileset for so long, it’s going to be great to get this new tilset into the game soon. I think we have 3 more tilesets to go, which is actually the biggest chunk of the remaining art workload. Click to enlarge!
Right now, at the time of this writing, Blake is working on the AURO Title screen / promotional illustration. It shows Auro being all heroic in front of a fish-eye lens panorama of various characters from the game. So far, I think it’s like the best work Blake has done yet, and I can’t wait to show it off.
Back to Game Design!
A lot of people might be confused about why it has taken so long to balance and design the abilities in this game, given that there’s so few of them – 9, in total (not counting scroll abilities, which actually, I think we only have 2 or 3 of at the moment for a reason I’ll get into).
It’s funny actually, to go through the list of Dinofarmgames.com posts about AURO. So many of them are just all about these abilities. I mean, I’ve never worked on something so hard in all my life.
And it’s not just me, either. Blake is always really helpful to me in being a sounding board for ideas, as well as coming up with some awesome ideas of his own. And then on top of that, we’ve had the beta testers for almost a year now, and they are super helpful. They’ve been with me over at the forums struggling away to come up with some abilities that not only are exciting to use, but also simple, and balanced.
The fact of the matter is that designing content for AURO is really, really hard, because it’s such a simple game in terms of its core rules, and because of the lack of output randomness (stuff like dice rolls and other things that get between your decision and its effects). And actually, designing content for this system is hard, by design.
It’s dramatically harder to design these abilities, for example, than it was to design abilities for 100 Rogues. 100 Rogues has tons of randomness and other kinds of noise, and for that reason, it’s pretty hard to go wrong when adding new content. It’s very forgiving, let’s put it that way.
But the downside to a system like that is that there’s a lot of noise, downtime, useless junk, power imbalances, etc. It’s simply not a very tight experience. Don’t get me wrong – I still love 100 Rogues. With that said, though, I think it’s much harder for a new player to learn, and also much quicker to “solve” than AURO will be.
Anyway, long story short, these abilities are tough to design. But we’re getting there. Right now I am sitting on a set of 9 abilities that I really like, and I think most of our testers really like. That brings me to my next section.
Like I said, we have established a deadline for gameplay changes to hit on the 20th of this month. After looking through the list of AURO posts, I see that we’ve said “we’re entering a phase of getting the game finished now” about 12 different times, going back as far as July of last year. So, I will formally do you a favor and not say that.
Which also brings me to the issue of a release date. I already mentioned last month that the May 1 deadline wasn’t looking so good. It is definitely true that we are not making that deadline. However, we have increased the tempo of our work schedules recently, because we need this game to be out soon much more than you readers do, believe it or not!
So, I’m not going to give a release date right now but we’re shooting for June or July. Certainly the game must be out by August, since we might be doing something special around that time that we’d like the game to be out for (more news on that later).
Anyway, that’s probably enough rambling for now. Things are going well, and we appreciate your patience. As always, please feel free to visit us on the forums and the chat, where intense debates about the abilities are taking place every day.