Hey, its been a while, is there an update incoming or can I get to know what is happening?
Dreams of D4RK - Fragment Edition
A downloadable game for Windows and macOS
Dreams of D4RK
A brutally challenging action game.
Plagued by nightmares . . . draw your sword to finally clear your head
YOU DESERVE TO SUFFER
Deflect any attack with perfect timing
YOU DESERVE HATRED
This version of the game represents my submission to the Fragment Jam! The game is unfinished, but I'd still love any feedback you have. I plan to continue development of this game after the jam.
YOU DESERVE LONELINESS
Thank you in advance for playing my game. It means the world to me.
I'LL WATCH YOU DIE OVER AND OVER AGAIN
If you want updates to the game's development, feel free to follow me on twitter:
If you enjoyed the soundtrack and you want to hear more, check out my soundcloud:
I WANT TO HEAR YOU SCREAM
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Sorry for the wall of text.
For the positives: I think you have a great basic gameplay and aesthetic to build from, and I really enjoyed the music, especially how sections faded in and out in response to oncoming waves of enemies.
For some more nitpicky critiques: I didn't like the control scheme. I usually find games use Z and X instead of Q and W, with the up arrow also being able to jump. There was also one screen where you had to jump across a set of platforms while being shot at by ...lightning? (even though it looked like fire underneath?). I felt that was bit too much: it was the first platforming section, but we also had to deal with the parry that we just learned about, so it was pretty overloading. And the screenshake got a bit intense at times, especially when attacking / being attacked by more than one enemy at a time. I'd suggest toning it down a bit, plus adding an option to eliminate it altogether as an accessibility feature.
I think your game falls into the same traps that a lot of game jam games do: a really good core gameplay, but a way too intense difficulty curve with an overemphasis on the gimmick - in this case, having to rely on the parry far too quickly and too heavily. I've always felt the best way to introduce a complicated mechanic like that is "this is how it's done, it'll make your life easier, but it won't be mandatory outside of very specific situations for a few hours". With such a short development time, that few hours became 20 minutes and I just could not get into the groove of the game.
I think Stellar Sky Games had a lot of good ideas, like delaying when the attack registers to allow the player to parry ON the beat instead of just before, and including an assist mode was a good idea, and that the hi-hats were too prominent, and the waves were inconsistent in their length, and when multiple projectiles came at you you could only parry one of them and get hit by the rest.
For reference, I gave up on the sniper boss fight. I was going to quit in the first phase, but I found the assist options, gave myself more health and a longer parry time, but gave up on the second phase.
I guess I just didn't have enough of an investment in the game to really keep going. There was no story, no intrigue, no interesting visuals or set pieces to entice me to continue on, just the gameplay, which was good in short intervals but not enough to sustain me. I think some more obvious narrative elements, whether that means abstract imagery (if we have a visual reference, we can more easily see our progress) or a persistent voiceover (have you played Bastion? Because I think that kind of narrator would fit the gameplay well.) If it's more symbolic, then maybe the vertical falling and horizontal running sections could have some kind of deeper meaning? Falling into a pit of despair versus running from your problems? I dunno... You could also pad out the game with more platforming sections to get the player more acclimatized to your game.
You mentioned it being difficult to tell which 'weapon' to use. I think that could be done in a few different ways: enemies weak to the sword are small and have squishy, organic shapes, while bigger and more inorganic enemies need to be parried. You can also make the ghosts semi-transparent or dithered to show they're non-corporeal and you NEED to parry their attacks. Individual health bars could also show the relative damage of each attack, but that would probably distract from the visual design too much.
Hope all this useful, I'd be interested in seeing more of this game.
Thanks so much for playing! Sorry for the insanely late response. Glad you liked the music transitions and the basic gameplay.
For controls, I'm planning on letting people rebind the controls, but that's in the works for the future. I'll keep the default controls in mind and see if other people have similar feedback on Z/X vs Q/W and whatnot. Controller support is also enabled in this build.
Allowing people to control the screenshake is definitely on the list of accessibility options, thanks for letting me know it was a little intense.
Haha sorry that the lightning platforming section felt like a bit much. I wanted a non-combat section where you're forced to parry lightning to let the player know "oh I can parry ANYTHING". That said, I sort of forgot that it's also the first platforming section. I like the idea of breaking the flow of combat a little with more platforming/less-intense sections, so I'll keep that in mind and try that out as I continue.
I agree the difficulty curve is a little intense, definitely still a work in progress so I'll keep tuning and refining that part. As for the parry being a gimmick: I actually want the core gameplay to revolve entirely around the reflect/parry, so that's the main reason why it's so hammered in at the beginning.
That said, it needs to feel fair, and I think it feels really bad to miss a parry by a tiny bit, which is what probably happens to most people on their first time through. I think delaying the attack to allow the player to parry on the beat is a good way to make the parry feel a little easier. Perhaps lengthening the window as well could work.
Glad you made it to the sniper (and glad you found the assist modes useful!). The second phase is definitely a little insane, especially for a first boss. If I can come up with an elegant way to nerf it, I probably will. The sniper is the last thing in the current build right now, so you've seen everything I have to show you for now.
As for the lack of story: The story is in progress! I've written a lot of the story already, but I'm still looking for elegant ways to introduce it to the player. I think it'll help a lot with breaking up the flow of combat, but it's still in the works. I'm trying to iron out gameplay before I invest too much in the story.
As for 'which weapon to use', I like your suggestions. I think the core of your suggestion is to make it visually clear that an attack is unavoidable (MUST be parried), vs which enemies / attacks can just be fought conventionally.
One design I've been thinking about is to allow for 3 levels/degrees of player skill expression:
Level 1 player skill is just attack enemies, and run away / dodge enemy attacks (low risk, keep yourself out of harms way, low reward).
Level 2 is attack enemies, and parry attacks when they attack (put yourself in harms way, high risk, get rewarded by parrying enemies which deals tons of damage / stuns depending on the enemy).
Level 3 is parry attacks WHILE you yourself attack the enemy (put yourself in harms way and time parries while also attacking for maximum reward).
I think the issue right now is some enemies REQUIRE you to be experienced enough to use level 2 skill expression, which is kind of unfair for new players who are just getting used to the parry. I think the solution to this is to keep unavoidable attacks (things that MUST be parried) to an absolute minimum early and make them very visually distinct from other attacks. I also want to emphasize to the player that parrying is the MOST EFFECTIVE way to play. I still need to iterate on this though, so thank you for your suggestions.
Thanks again for playing, and thank you for the wall of text!
I just played the new version and there are some good things and some bad things.
The new music feels very off and the drums dont sound like they belong with the dark nature of the game. You could try out to use a plucksynth or a piano for it instead, try out a lot of stuff! You could maybe take a look at the music from celest to get some inspiration.
The wave style is very frustrating, espaccially in the later levels where I fell like I get the win stolen from me, because when I prepared to land the last hits on an enemy and I did it feelt amazing. But then another wave killed me on the spot and it totally catched me offguard andfeelt really bad. The wavedesign also makes the fights a lot longer and makes it more frustrating when you die.
In a lot of fights I didnt find the way to actually fight the enemy. Think of it this way: You can fight the enemy in two ways: by deflecting their attacks or to attack them head on. Most fights seem to favourise the first one. BUT even when using the deflect the deflect would almost never work because of two things: the enemy/enemies shot more than one shot at a time and the timing window is so short or the attack wouldnt be telegrafed precisely enough. What i mean with that is that i could know there were an attack coming, but i could never tell exactly enough to time the deflect. And even if I instead chose to just use the sword instead I would get completely overwhelmed with attacks and shot into pieces. So, in short: make the fights more clear on what weapon to use.
And just a little thing. The screen doesnt get completely blacked out when you die (there is two "stripes" at the top and at the bottom that doesnt turn black) and there is no deathanimation of the character. My screensize is 1940*1080 if you wondered.
A saving system is much needed.
So now to the good things!
I like that the game goes sideways as well as downwards. It was getting a bit tiring to just fall and fall and fall. Those points when you are walking sideways could be a point of rest and to give the game some better pacing instead of being so intense all the time.
I really like the new enemies, they have such great animations you cant help but admiring them (even if it is the thirteenth time they kill you). ALSO i couldnt help but notice you have stolen some of the designs from jignons ascent. *wink wink*
The way the hidden boss is hidden gives the game more replayability because you get to know how to destroy such walls later in the game.
The assist mode really helps out. But i think that it is a bit intruding on the experience. You could take a look at the Gamemakers toolkit video "Celestes assist mode".
But from what ive seen, the game is really getting somewhere!
Really well done!
Edit: Im not at all sorry for writing such a long comment, meheheheh
Wow thanks so much for trying the new version and for writing all of this up! (I apologize in advance for the wall of text I'm about to respond with).
The wave fights: Thanks for this feedback, I think I needed to hear this. Looking back I think the wave style is a tiny bit lazy on my part: I want to test the player with a certain set of enemies in different configurations, and waves seemed like a good way to do that, but in retrospect I think the best fights in the game are the unique ones that are only 1 or 2 waves total, followed by a non-combat section (like the first and last parts of dream 3). I think it helps keep the game more fresh and varied, so I'll definitely look to find better ways of testing the player instead of just spamming multiple waves.
On combat options (reflect vs attack): Before I give my rationale, I want to say that I totally hear you on it being a little unclear what "weapon" to use for a given fight. I think the wave-fights / design of having tons of enemies on screen is a bit to blame for that (too many enemies onscreen = tough to judge what tools to use). That said, I think one of the best parts of the game is being able to deflect while attacking, so managing all the threats on the screen at once while hitting something was something my friends said was really satisfying.
My philosophy for attacks and reflect timings: There are two types of attacks: Projectiles (the reflect timing is dictated on visually judging where the projectile is relative to you), and "double-cue" attacks (reflect timing is denoted by two visual or audio cues followed by an attack, i.e the laser, the explosions, etc). My intention was that these two would hopefully be able to tell the player when to reflect, but again I totally feel you in that it can be unclear sometimes. Making these cues more telegraphed is definitely a good idea, thanks again for mentioning this. I'm wondering if there's a world where I can make the reflect window a little more generous without trivializing the encounters.
The music: Sorry you didn't like the new music! Myself and my playtesters actually really like the new music, so I think it's just a personal preference thing (I've played Celeste and the music is incredible in that game, but I don't think that style would suit this game). That said, I'm willing to agree to disagree here, thanks for giving feedback on it anyway! There's always more tweaking I can do.
New content: Glad you liked the new enemies and secret boss! Also, holy crap I don't think I know many people (who don't know me in-person) that have played Jingnon's Ascent! (Also shhhhh don't tell anyone I'm reusing assets haha)
Misc: (Screen fade bug) good catch! I think I just didn't scale the black panel on the screen fully. I can fix that pretty easily. (Save/load functionality) Ahhhh this is coming, sorry I've been prioritizing a lot of other stuff. The "dream select" menu is a temporary workaround for the lack of save/load, but it's definitely coming soon.
The assist modes: Yeah these are tough to get right, I'm pretty new to assist modes and they're always a little scary to implement. I've seen GMTK's video on Celeste's assist modes, which is where I got some of the ideas from, but I'm still on the market for more options for players. Which assist modes did you find yourself using? Also, if you don't mind me asking, what about them felt intrusive? Was it the fact that they were kind of "in your face" as soon as you press pause? (If so, that's only temporary). I'm planning on putting them behind a bunch of dialogs like Celeste (so that the player understands that the game was NOT balanced around them).
Thanks again for playing! You have no idea how much I appreciate detailed writeups like yours,. It's really tough to get honest feedback from people, so thanks so much!
I just replayed the game and tried to reflect a bit on why I felt the way i felt so you could get some reasoning around what i said.
I figured the laser would need some better telegraphing(idk how to properly spell telegraphing) because i could not see the connection with the explosions at first. Thats why the timing was so damn hard to get when trying to deflect the lasers. But when i read about the double cue and looked for it in the laser i could see it. But because the laser were so busy with other effects i couldnt see the cue. So either you could lower the amount of the other effects around it or increase the opacity of the "pulse" effect.
Also when i hear a double pulse, i immideatly figure to press when the next puls would come and i think a lot of others do as well. The problem is that you have to tap BEFORE the pulse actually comes. Even though the brain wants you to tap on the beat you have to tap before the beat, it goes against instinct. So maybe you could make the pulse attacks (laser and explosion) actually do damage a few frames after the "imaginary beat". A terrible explanation, but imma roll with it.
The hitboxes of a lot of the bullets is bigger than the actual object, at least it feels so when you play. You can generally make the hitboxes of bullets in "bullet hell style games" smaller than the actual object. Just a tip, but i recomend to try it out and playtest it. It will feel easier and a bit less punishing.
I think the reason why I disliked the new music is because it is so sudden. The hihat just comes outof nowhere straigt into your face and its pretty loud, wich is not helping, generally the new song is so much more intense. So it would be nice with a transition song between dream 2 and 3.
On the assistmodes it sounds good.
A debug mode would be really nice to have where you can see the dream your at, the level of the dream and go back and fourth between levels with a buttonpress. (bonuspoints if it is activated by simply writing "debug" on the keyboard ; ) ) that would make
the hitbox is off so all the characters is floating.
To get to the secret you have to move the ball thing trough the floor and it just looks like a bug.
Thats all i had time to write because the gmtk game jam is starting soon, ill write more when its done : )
Thanks for the response. I actually think the point you bring up with tapping reflect BEFORE vs ON the beat for the "double-cue" attacks is really really huge, and something I never fully realized until you mentioned it. I think if I delay the attack by just a microsecond after the double-cue, it would feel really good because then you could press reflect ON the beat which definitely feels more natural.
On the music: ahh the hihats, yeah I feel you on how jarring it is. I have another version of the track on my pc without the intro hihats because that was the one thing I was on the fence about.
Thanks again for the rest of the feedback. Also, I guess I'll probably see you out there on the GMTK jam cause I'm doing it too haha! Good luck in the jam!
The music is so perfect for the setting with the eary synths and the melody. The difficulty curve might be a bit too steep so I got a bit after the deflect. This would totaly be something I would like to see as a full game.
As it is a really brutal and difficult game, it would need a lot more playtesting from others and something more to keep you going when you get stuck on a level.
But I just really love the concept and the style.
Thanks so much for playing! Glad you liked the music! I worked really hard on it, so it's great to know that it fits well.
I agree, I definitely need to tune the difficulty curve; I've been getting playtesting feedback from my friends as well as people online to help with this, thanks for giving it a try! Out of curiosity, how far were you able to get?
I'm toying around with the idea of "assist modes" for people that want to still enjoy the game but find the difficulty a little unapproachable. I definitely intend for players to die a good amount (I like the idea of someone perfecting their approach to a stage before they're able to succeed), but as a dev it can be so tough to get the difficulty right (since I test it on myself so much, I can never balance it around myself haha).
Thanks again for giving it a go!
I think it might be better to have a assist mode for those who really need it and instead have main levels and hard levels. The main levels are basicly the story levels you have to play and the hard levels are bonus levels that you can play if you want to, but you have to complete maybe a specific task to get them.
Just so you now, I got to dream three.
Then when you get the deflect, it feels a bit useless. It has a very short room for error(you have to activate it excactly at the right time or you will take damage) and when you have a lot of enemies against you at the same time it just becomes easier to attack them head on and take some damage. So a way to fix it and at the same time balance it would be to increase the time the deflect is activated and then have a longer recharge. But check with others and see what they think.
Thanks a ton for the feedback! Having bonus levels with more challenges is a cool idea, and it's something i'll definitely consider. I have a big document where I've been collecting all the feedback, so I'll digest all of this and make a final decision. I've also been considering widening the reflect timing window, so if others feel the same way I can definitely take a look at that.
I really love this concept and the animations are gorgeous, but it's definitely as brutal as you say it is. I quit pretty early on due mostly what I felt was to a lack of mobility and a bit due to the encounter and wave design. Still, an awesome concept that I look forward to revisiting after a post-jam update :)
Hey! Thanks so much for playing! Sorry about the brutality of it haha. I think the early level is a little overtuned based on how little mobility/defensive options you have.
Right after the part where you quit, you get a really important defensive ability that's supposed to address some chaotic wave design. I'm planning on tuning stuff a little bit more based on feedback, so I'll let you know when a new build comes out!!
Thanks again for giving it a try!