Lost Cave Devlog #21 - A Lot of Nerfing

So, like I said last week, the general consensus on Lost Caves from the beta testers was that, while the exploration and treasure collection were a strength, the harsh and punishing difficulty was its biggest weakness. Like I also said last week, accessibility is something important to me, and I want to make sure anyone can enjoy it, and that the game’s flow and progression feels appropriate to players. After I got the feedback I needed, and after watching gameplay recordings that some of the testers sent me, I went about making any necessary fixes.

One thing I did was add checkpoints to level 2. Level 2 is a large level, but I did not think it was large enough that checkpoints were required. Level 2 is pretty much a large pit with areas to the side that you go to to find treasure. At the bottom of the pit is a spring that takes you to the top where the exit door is. With how easy to access that spring is, I didn’t think I needed checkpoints, but one of my testers said he struggled quite a bit in level 2, so I decided to add three checkpoints in different points in the level. I also decided to be a bit more generous with the checkpoints in general and sprinkled them around levels 2 and 3, and the gauntlet level, so that stretches between them weren’t too long, and death wasn’t too punishing as a result.

Three altars that are in the red rectangles have been added to level 2.

Now, checkpoints are all fine and dandy, but do you know what’s even more important? Making it obvious that something is a checkpoint and can be interacted with. One of my testers didn’t even know that the altars that were sprinkled around served that purpose, and one of the testers, who did actually did activate one, didn’t know it was a checkpoint until he respawned there. With that in mind, I may need to make it more clear what they are. Right now, I do have it so that a save icon pops up on the bottom right whenever the game is saved, so that may be an indication of what the altar does, and I also made it so the blue notch you hit that slides to the other side is now in the shape of an arrow, which should hopefully prompt the player to whack it with their pickaxe. I honestly thought that making it blue would make it clear that it was interactable, since most intractable objects are blue, or have blue on them. It seems that simply making the notch blue is not enough, so I hope that making it an arrow shape is enough. Heck, if it still isn’t enough to make it clear, I may put a sign there that sort of hints as to what it does. A cool idea as well would be, and I thought of this just now while writing this devlog, is that there could be a treasure next to the altar that’s in the shape of a floppy disk, since that’s the universal save icon now. I will likely not do that though.

Currently it doesn't spin in-game, but I do like the animation I made.

Checkpoint with the normal blue notch.

Checkpoint with the arrow-shaped notch.

In general, there was a lot of balancing and such in the levels. Certain hazards now do less damage, and I got rid of some rather punishing traps. I also heavily revamped the wayward rollers, which roll into a ball and chase you unless they bump into a wall. They’re hard to avoid, so testers suggested being able to pogo on them, and also to be able to punt them away with your pickaxe. I have implemented both of those, and I think it makes the rollers a lot more bearable.

Heart vases have also been made much more frequent, and I also made the odds of them dropping hearts to be higher so that the amount of hearts you get for each type of vase seems roughly consistent. I also have it so that, when enemies get defeated, they have a higher chance of dropping hearts if you’re low on health, and the lower you are, the higher the chance. With all of these changes I’m making, I hope the game doesn’t go from too hard to too easy…

A chest with a bunch of heart vases around it.

Beginning work has also been done on the game’s trailer. It’s in the very early stages of development, and I should probably start making a storyboard so I have my ideas on paper and can record what I need to. I almost wanna get back into using Adobe After Effects, since Final Cut Pro can only do so much for what I need, but it’s been so long since I’ve used After Effects (four years roughly) that I’ll be spending so much time re-learning everything I think. I’ll be trying to spend more time on that though this week most likely. I sent out an updated build to some of the beta testers, and also sent a build to a new beta tester. I’ll be looking forward to hearing what they have to say now that the game has been nerfed I think to a considerable degree…

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