Welcome to the Holey Suit Game Dev Blog – every week (or so) I will post updates on my current project: Holey Suit, to the escape pod! Holey Suit is an upcoming physics based space survival action game, which I’ve just released in pre-alpha on itch.io for free! Towards the end of the post, I’ll share some tricks to help your itch.io page stand out – check it out! Previous posts in this series can also be found here, there and there!
Last week I finally got round implementing unlockables. The goal of the game is rather basic: reach the pod. I hope the base player can achieve this within a few games, once getting the hang of the controls. Therefore, I needed something to boost replayability a bit and provide goals to the player. This is where unlocks come in!
The more the player plays the game, the more weapons and characters he will unlock. Some achievements are trickier than others to achieve, in order to appeal to hardcore gamers. Want to unlock the Botanist? (character inspired from the Martian of course!) Go 5K in a single game without dying! Want to play as a Ship System Engineer? (another sci-fi reference, guess from which game!) Kill 25 aliens in a single game!
Unlocks also help diversifying gameplay, via the different characters that can be unlocked. Each character will have a unique play style, which is actually devilishly easy to code once the game is in place! By tweaking the game variables (more aliens, less crates etc) I found it is really simple to make various iterations in the game. The fact all these core variables aren’t hard coded and set as global variables helps of course! So some characters will be more action focused, some promote more stealth, all a few clicks and numkey presses away. Simples!
Splash Art & colour boost
I finally got round to work on the art a bit. My intention was to have a splash screen that catches the eye on itch.io or other app store, as well as serve for branding. Since I have been working on and off on Holey suit for 3 months now, it deserves a picture on the website. I wanted the art to look vibrant and draw attention (anything to help your itch.io page stand out!). Which I think I achieved!
The splash screen was done using Art Rage, a great little drawing app on tablets & PC. A bit fiddly at first, it took me a bit of time to get use to the tool. It emulates paintaing with well, real paint, so my first few attempts were a blotchy mess! Once I got the hang of it though, it turned out quite powerful, and more importantly: I was able to create new assets quickly to the drawing.
A Game Manual!?
I have also re-worked the itch.io page a tat, prior to hitting the release button. At first my intention was for the page to be a complete and thorough manual for the game. Looking at other pages though, this is far too heavy handed. Most players probably don’t want to scroll 4 or 5 paragraphs down to get to the download button. I decided instead to streamline the page and use the art slider above for the page title & game thumbnail. Bright colours are hopefully bound to catch the eye!
Since I already had content for the game instructions, assets & enemies, I decided to turn this into a PDF manual instead. As a teenager, I was a sucker for games manual. Yes, back then it was a thing publishers had to ship in the box with the game! It’s therefore a bit of a tribute to the games I used to play. I think it looks pretty cool too.
Tweaking the Itch.io page
Another little trick for indie devs out there: it is possible to contact itch.io support and ask for custom CSS to be enabled. This gives you that extra little edge, and can help your itch.io page stand out! You can check my page here; the changes I made were minimal but really help tweaking the overall layout. Here’s the code:
.Screenshot is there to ensure the screenshots have a bit of padding. I think it looks better when they are note touching the side of the middle column. The middle column is also something I dislike in the default itch.io page look. It blocks the background and the only choice you have is change its colour. All that little #inner_column addition does is make the column translucent – text is still easy to read, but the background image is still visible behind it!
There’s a lot more that can be done, but I personally happy with the output for now. You can check other parameters that can be changed easily by opening the page with “view page source” in chrome. One warning I received from itch.io support when they enabled CSS: they regularly change page layouts and parameter names, so basically don’t go crazy or your page could end up looking a mess from one day to the next!
Another thing to be aware of: some players look for the latest games to be published. Itch.io shows when a game was published to make this easy. Big fat warning: that date is not the date you made the page public. This date just shows when the page was initially created in draft mode!
Basically, if you plan on riding the novelty wave and get attention from youtubers fishing for new release, just create a new page when you publish your game. For your draft if you plan to create one, have another placeholder page for this.
The long road ahead
So I have also finally pushed the release button and made the itch.io page public. What is next? Well, indie game dev as a hobby is a unlimited source of work as usual! The game is now in pre-alpha, and there’s much to do with it. I also need to focus on PR and make players aware the game even exists! Obviously the little note ahead about itch.io showing the draft page creation date didn’t help.
In the next dev blog, hopefully I’ll have made some progress to share on the music & sound FX. It’s really hard to do everything solo, my head hurts from wearing all these hats… Endless fun! In the meantime, stay tuned!!!
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