We’ve been hard at work on the upcoming version 4 of Frogatto, which is what we intend to release on Steam. We’ve got a few things which are variously in the works, or mostly complete:
– One of the big goals in this release is to get a professional level of polish on our bosses. We’re trying to stamp out as many of the “trivial exploits” you can use to ‘cheap out’ a boss and take it down much more easily than intended. We want the bosses to fairly telegraph their moves (no random, sudden motions that aren’t predictable), but we also want the bosses to be very, very challenging. This is a really difficult balance to achieve, and it’s very time-consuming work, which is why we’ve neglected it in previous releases in favor of building out other content. There’s a reason many traditional 16-bit games had a few employees dedicated solely to writing the bosses for a given game.
– Related to this, we’ve added two new act bosses (on the same scale as Milgram) in the forest section. I’m not going to spoil them in this post, other than to say that I’m quite proud of what I’ve done.
– Frogatto now has two different paths to take through the forest. Each route route features new enemies, and also has some new and unusual platforming puzzles in it, very different from the rest of the game.
– The forest now has a town in it, called Tempo Village. You should visit it sometime, I hear it’s nice there this time of year.
– We’re trying to make monster encounters more interesting. Right now, if the player is intent on just progressing forward in the game, a lot of our monsters really aren’t very interesting. They’re similar to designs in many other games, but because Frogatto (the character) is incredibly agile and fast compared to most platforming characters, Frogatto can get past these by just jumping over them (unlike, say, Simon Belmont). It’s frustrating; we’re committed to having a really fluid, agile character, because the stiffness of many traditional game characters has always been something that bugged us. We also want to do this because we feel like it’s an obvious point-of-improvement that’s unfairly neglected; a cop-out a lot of existing games make, and an obvious point for us to innovate on – but the reason it isn’t done is exactly what vexes us: if we want to have a really agile character, we have to work much harder to make sufficiently interesting enemies. We can’t just make a goomba clone (which a surprising number of castlevania enemies were), and call it a day.
I describe “sufficiently interesting” as an enemy that arrests the player’s forward progress, and forces the player to confront the monster and either dispatch it or carefully dodge it before proceeding – something that demands the player’s attention. The guiding principle here is a classic quote by legendary game designer Sid Meier: “A great game is a series of interesting choices. (emphasis mine)” – the biggest problem we have is that jumping over an enemy, if it’s always the default fallback, isn’t an interesting choice. Choices have to be novel.
We’re doing a mix here of adding entirely new enemy types, and making the existing enemies more interesting. Quite a few existing enemies are perfectly serviceable designs, but in their existing usage, have been placed in fairly uninteresting situations. For example, a spiked, indestructible enemy is an entirely different beast when filling the breadth of a small tunnel, or when sitting on a small pedestal; as opposed to when sitting on top of flat, open ground. By not being able to move around it, you’re forced to strategize – to stop and think. Solving puzzles like that is what makes games fun; it’s the basic reward mechanism. It’s taken a while to understand this deeply enough to apply it to our own work, but our hope is that Frogatto will come out of this much more fun than it has been in the past.
– Related to this, we’ve built out a full damage-type and creature-type interaction system (similar to Pokémon and quite a few RPGs). Different kinds of damage do different things to different kinds of creatures. Part of this is that there are now secret areas in the game which you’ll only be able to access with a certain kind of damage to break through obstructions – usually a type of damage you won’t get until much later. We’ve worked these into the grab-and-spit mechanic, as well: you can grab objects, and “infuse” them with an elemental attack when you next spit them out.
Hopefully this will all add up to make Frogatto a heck of a lot better for the next release.