Nanok, Defender of Earth

2009, August 17th 8:24 AM

Here we go again! Download installer here, or download ZIP version here.

The original Experimental Gameplay Project has started up again and I've decided to follow it. This month's theme is "Bare Minimum".

You may notice that the main character is a bear.

Get it? Get it?

Besides the obvious pun, I also applied the theme to the game mechanics themselves. Once again I'm mucking about with difficulty mechanics (I really need to stop this) and once again I've tried a new tactic (at least I'm making progress.)

At the beginning of the game you're given the option to buy upgrades. Depending on how many upgrades you end the game with, you get a better ending – the goal is to finish the game with the bare minimum of upgrades. (On your bear. Get it?) I've explicitly said "hey here is your ending, here is how you go about getting a better one" in as many places as I could. In general, people seem to be figuring it out – at least, when they put any thought into the game. A few people seem to be taking the tactic of clicking wildly, ignoring the dialog, and them complaining that they didn't get the game. I'm not sure there's much I can do about this.

What Worked

I made a level editor before starting this game. Oh man. Made everything so much easier. As part of the level editor I also put together a UI framework, which also proved invaluable – I used it for pretty much all the non-game UI to get stuff done vastly faster than I otherwise would have.

I tried a new method of doing art – sketching on paper, scanning in, and tracing the lines, then doing fills from there. It worked a whole lot better. My paper art is crummy, but it's not as awful as my non-paper art. I also ordered a small tablet, so we'll see whether that works even better for next time. I deeply love the picture I came up with for the Ringmaster.

I do have a vague, unnerving feeling that Nanok and No Such Thing exist in the same universe. They just have a similar feeling. And I'm pretty sure the Ringmaster is a major figure in that universe. He may be revisited.

The game's fun. I actually enjoy leaping around and shooting things. I'm not sure anyone besides me has beat it on the hardest mode, so, y'know, go and try it. Tell me how hard it is.

What Didn't Work

I'm starting to push my knowledge of OpenGL rendering. That's good, because I'm learning. That's bad, because I spent probably a day or two just mucking with obscure OpenGL issues and trying to make it run acceptably fast.

While the new method of doing art does produce better and more interesting art, it's also a lot slower. I'm not sure what the tradeoff here is. Part of me thinks I should have ground out some cheap art and then done something better late, but every minute I spend working on art that I eventually replace is a minute I've effectively wasted. Not ideal. Making a game that looks and plays appropriately is really important for analyzing the gameplay value, just because of how critical graphics are, but I feel like I'm missing the balance point rather badly.

I should have put a little more work into the editor. I got it ready for this project thinking "hmm, I also want a few more features, but I probably won't need them immediately." Natch, needed 'em immediately. I spent some time working around them and some time implementing them – more things that cut into my limited time budget.

I'm not sure if I didn't prioritize well, or if I just picked up something too ambitious, or if I just got screwed by SNAFU. For the first time, I was not able to make the game I wanted to. I wanted more detail in the world, I wanted more detail in the spaceship. I did not want the player to end up walking around in a world of purple blocks. That was not my goal. And yet, here we are – purple blocks. Ugh.

I still want parallax (seriously, goddamn, I wanted that *last* game) and I also want some basic music. I don't even know where to start with the latter part.

The Bottom Line

With No Such Thing and Fluffytown I was a lot more focused than with Nanok. I need to regain that focus – when I'm making the game, the most important thing is to finish the game. Putzing around with tools and with new techniques is something that should be done before and after the week, not during the week. I fucked that up.

I'm spending way too much time with this single game mechanic and I need to go into something more interesting. I've got a few possible ideas for next game – I'll see what the game theme for next month is, then see if that inspires anything.

On top of that I think I know enough to make a longer-form game now. It's still going to be short, but it'll be a little more thorough and a little more flavorful. Yes, it will be a sidescroller. Yes, I really like sidescrollers.

Nanok is fun, but it could have been better. Still, I'm eagerly awaiting people's reactions.

And yes, this game does have some slight resemblance to Iji.

  • Pretzle

    2009, August 17th 11:32 PM

    I found this game to be a lot of fun, more so than the previous one!

    It was challenging on the hardest difficulty, while very easy on the easiest – with a good level of variation in between.

    My favourite aspect was that upgrading jump really changed the paths available to you. So much so that going back and completing the game with fewer (or more, if you wanted something easier) was actually a change of where you went and what you did.

  • Mudskipper

    2009, August 18th 12:28 AM

    This game is awesome!! Although, I haven't made it past the first boss-type fella yet lol…
    Grats on some cool work!

  • afrotiki

    2009, August 18th 2:03 AM


  • DApea

    2009, August 18th 3:18 PM

    I was technically victorious :)

  • Duck

    2009, August 18th 9:12 PM

    Hahahah FANTASTIC.
    I loved that little game :D

  • Erik

    2009, August 19th 2:24 AM

    Loved it, I actually found it in the change log for questhelper. I played it through once being "technically victorious," Then gave myself the jump upgrades only and got "Mildly Abashed, but Badass." Keep putting them out, and I'll keep loving them.

  • Takarii

    2009, August 19th 8:27 PM

    I finally succeeded in clawing the boss to death. Also, I like the 'sword jumpers'.

  • Tangaroa

    2009, August 20th 5:38 PM

    The theme here could be seen as "make the game easier in exchange for a worse ending" or "play in a harder mode for a better ending". I see it as similar to Fluffytown where you could make the game harder for yourself by choosing not to kill anything, but this time changing the game physics which opens or closes potential passages towards beating the game. I am also reminded of Bioshock's Little Sisters again.

    The concept would work better if you could see the items you saved at the end. Without that reward (although caviar and steak is a nice reward), there is little incentive not to max out your powers.

    The ninja enemy is imaginative. I didn't expect space aliens to have magical ninjas in their invading army, but why not?

    Non-gameplay bug: The program freezes after pressing "assault the mothership' on the third runthrough.

    "Tell me how hard it is" — Hard mode is impossible until you figure out the right path and then it's easy. The green guys can be beaten by just holding down C, the red guys can be avoided (although they do a great job of blocking off a passage unless you are powerful), and the blue guys can be avoided at your slowest. Upgrades, of course, make it easier.

    Takarii > me for clawing a boss to death. I just went around them.

  • WolfKrad

    2009, August 21st 12:55 PM

    Just completed it on the hardest difficulty.

    It helped when I noticed the green guys rarely hurt you if you kept jumping while passing them. Felt a bit wrong in a way, like I was exploiting a bug, but I just had to get the best ending :)

    The hardest part of the most difficult method was figuring out the proper route. I even went back to playing with max upgrades just to figure that out. Then I realised the bottom boss (which I hadn't even encountered before trying the game without upgrades), was impossible to get past without the jump upgrades. So I went back a bit, and noticed that the only conceivable way of getting to the end was through I couple of jumps I originally thought were impossible without upgrades. After some practice they turned out to be possible after all and I could complete the game.

    So what's the next game? Nanok, Defender of the Moon? ;)

    Oh, btw, the game crashed a couple of times. Clicked 'OK' in the crash dialog, so you should've gotten the reports.

  • Zorba

    2009, August 21st 2:50 PM

    Thanks for the commentary, everyone :)

    I had trouble with the green guys – I think the AI I came up with them is kind of neat, but didn't end up working out. Their interaction with the swipe attack is just boring – either you win, or they win, and there's not a lot either of you can do about it besides pray.

    I did consider showing items that you had left, but my meager artistic skills were already stretched past the limit. Maybe in some future game I'll do that.

    I *think* I've fixed the crash bugs (finally). Thanks to everyone who submitted reports, those are very useful. 1.2 is available now if you want to play it with less crashing ;)

  • Anonymous

    2009, August 26th 4:30 PM

    Yeah, the best ending was kind of a let-down for the amount of work it took to get there. If I were to play it again, I'd get the gun upgrades just because it's more fun to shoot than to claw.

    I also worked out the jump timing for killing the blue guys with claws. But seeing as there is no bonus for guys killed, it was just better to walk past them to get to the end.

  • vazor

    2009, September 25th 9:04 PM

    For me it was more fun to claw than shoot. Any game lets you shoot, but in Nanok you can claw!

    I can definitely see the Iji influence, but you do it justice. I had fun and it made me stick around til the end (end here being Excelsior!). Great work!

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