Weekly update #4 – Say hi to “Panda Hell”, fixing bugs, and the burnout itch

Last week was all about fixing core bugs, polish roughness, add art and start to plan a soft launch ( maybe using itch.io refinery, which I recently discovered),which more or less accomplished, but as I have limited time to work on this I couldn’t advance as much as I wanted.

However I spent 70% of the time trying to re-build the player’s movement logic and behavior. I struggled for hours to make it work properly as was quite tricky to put together the 2D planes where the action happens, the 3D camera, the mouse pointer related to the player screen versus its representation in the scene, as well as make the player look at that point each time the mouse moves.

I tried several approaches but all of them were failing at one point or another. This made me take some days off the project completely, and after coming back with a fresh head I could find and resolve the issue I was stuck at within 11 minutes, which made me think a bit about over-committing free time to side-projects, burnout and such (more below).

Development and launch plan:

Is this realistic? I honestly have no idea, is my first game and my first serious attempt at programming, so I divided it in two columns: Plan and Reality, which I hope will not diverge too much as time goes.

The game will be ready for Beta when I’m happy with the current prototype, there are no major bugs, and is playable by a scoped audience. Once the Alpha is released and I start to get feedback via refinery, feedback Saturdays and other folks that want to try the game I’ll be working on polishing the game for a possible larger launch on Steam.

The dates are just set this way in order to keep the scope of the project within 2018, and approximately 6 months of active part-time development.

Finding a name: Panda Hell

Why panda hell? After a few weeks of development, this needs a name that is not “Unity 2D top down shooter”. Recently I discovered that there’s a sub-genre named bullet-hell, that’s more or less what I have in mind for this project. The only boss I scripted so far into the prototype is a giant space panda, as well as one of the characters that you’ll kill a lot: Cute pixel pandas exploding into gross blood splatters. Sounds appealing? So there you go: Panda Hell.

Panda creation process started from the penguin character sprite
Original penguin character creation process

Fixing bugs and polishing roughness:

– Re-built the movement from zero, now the controls are tight, the player does not slide, uses ASWD for moving and rotates on mouse direction and you click to shoot. Making the mouse fit the top down 2D coordinates on the screen was hell and basically took 70% of the time this week.

– Added randomness to the basic enemies, each of them moves at different speed within a range. Also they have two modes now, follow and wander, depending at what distance the player is from them.

– Worked on a spawn helper, which I’ll use to add consistency through enemy (and other game objects) spawn based on level, difficulty and other variables.

The burnout itch:

Spending all your free time working on a side project is not healthy, not when you’re already working a full-time job involving a computer and a screen, as the side project gradually becomes another job on its own. The last 3 weeks (since started the game) I dedicated 2-4 hours daily and my days off almost completely, which is a bad decision to keep consistency long term.

Consistency is super important, every time you get a result in life is because you’ve been consistent. But there’s a dark side to this, that’s overworking and burnout. – Tim Ruswick

Mental fatigue is real and you must take proper time off to rest, otherwise long term consistency will derail and you will drop the project entirely. Consistency does not mean doing something every single day, but to keep moving forward.

Next steps:

Make the game funnier. How? I plan to implement several things to make it a bit more than just kill these enemies and get score, for example:

  • Enemy patrols
  • Destructible terrain
  • One-way barriers
  • Enemies that shoot back
  • New secondary weapon

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