Polishing Phase

Few months passed and 2 new maps were finished, local achievement system implemented (more about that in the next post) and additional polishing was done all around the game. Game is getting close to its final release but there is still a lot of work to be done. Today I will be talking about the polishing process, how I approach it and what is the idea behind it.

BEFORE vs AFTER – shadows added, grass color scheme adjusted, pond & river changed and more.

Reasoning

Some might argue that additional polishing of the maps is not really necessary at this point. Maps are alright, nothing really strikes out as bad visually or from the level design, so why should I do it? I could save weeks and months if I would just concentrate on the remaining features and bug hunting. What one needs to consider here is that early content was done five years ago, 5 years! I have improved my skills in pixel art and next to that I had plenty of time to see what works in the game, what doesn’t, what needs adjustments etc. Most importantly, I have grown as a game developer and I can not release a game to the people knowing I could do better, even if I can put only few additional weeks into improvements.

Idea 

However, if you are a game developer, you are surely well aware of the development hell – constant changes, updates and never-ending polishing. I know that best since I’ve already rewritten the whole engine 3 times, redrawn all the tilesets twice, abandoned multiple maps, written many ideas for mechanics and maps that will never see the light of the day and more. Since I’m determined to release the game soon, I came out with quite a clever plan – prepare milestones for each polishing phase. This means I assign few days to the polishing of content A and that’s all the polishing that content will get. If I can’t make it through all the tasks, I put them in the backlog and continue with the next milestone B. That way I don’t lose the way yet every piece of the game gets additional polishing. Of course, I may do some more polishing when the game is complete but that is extra.

OLD dialog GUI: too crowded, too many colors, no transitions

NEW dialog: transitions, more minimalist, displayed on full width giving more space to text

Workflow

Every polishing phase / milestone looks like that:

  1. Play through the content that will get polished (it can be also only menu navigation)
  2. Write down all the possible tasks along the way
  3. If tasks are bigger, break them down to smaller pieces (eg. improve Spider behavior -> Improve following path, add jump mechanics…)
  4. Go through the list and pick the task that has higher priority (if I don’t feel like working, I pick something that feels the most pleasant at the time)
  5. I always make sure to revisit improved parts regularly just to make sure the improvement works

That way I grow list of stuff that needs improvements, replay content multiple times to catch possible bugs and even if motivational level is not on top I still allow myself to pick lesser task over the priorities. No stress, just fun smile

Profile selection BEFORE

Profile selection AFTER

What is getting polished (roughly)

  1. Maps
    • Adding more secrets
    • Balancing (pickups, enemies, light orbs…)
    • Placing new particles
    • Adding more details (small rocks & dust, spider nets, bones, chains, crumbled walls…)
    • Managing lights (adding, moving & removing)
    • Fixing dialogs
    • Making additional parts of the map
    • Redesigning puzzles
  2. Art
    • Adding new pieces so I can add more interesting details to the maps
    • Redrawing old pieces
    • Changing colours so the scheme works better (eg. some floor tiles had strong contrast which didn’t work well when player walked over)
    • Redrawing menu parts
  3. Menus
    • Menus are quite outdated so I’m reworking all of them including map finished screen
    • Adjusting fonts
    • Adjusting text colors (selected menu option is now gold for example instead of lighter blue)
    • Adding an option to change settings from game directly instead of going back to the main menu
  4. Map selection – “overworld”
    • The whole overworld is being redesigned (bigger tiles)
    • Since there are additional map nodes now (short history sequence maps) I’m doing new connections
    • When returning to the overworld, once you finish a map, there will be a more rewarding sequence
    • GUI improvements
  5. Code
    • Code polishing which results in safer code
    • Enemy behavior improvements
    • Bug fixing
    • Improvements of tools so I can do the polishing faster and safer
    • Various polishing like smoother transitions & movements
    • … it’s code, there’s plenty of things to do with it smile
  6. Systems (involving code, art…)
    • Dialog System (easier to work with, better looking, more dynamic)
    • Sound System (easier for Zdravko (composer) to import and edit sound settings)
    • …stuff like that

These are just a few points and I could write a lot of details about each of them. You can always hit me up on Twitter if you want to talk about anything. I really try to focus on the most outdated stuff I have done for the game early at the start of the development.

Map Selection – BEFORE vs AFTER: player is standing on the same map node in both cases.


I’m developing the game for 6 years now and even after looking at every piece of the game for so long I can still say the polishing I’m applying now improves the game dramatically. Even if you played the latest version of the Courier of the Crypts that is currently available in Early Access phase, you will still notice amazing improvements once the final release of the game is out. Please note that I still have some content to do, but I like to mix things up so I do a piece of new content like new map and then I do some polishing. This makes the development more fun.

Final thought – I can really smile now playing through the game at this stage and I’m getting more and more comfortable to say “Yep, this is ready for the final release”. I can’t even believe I’m saying this but it’s true. smile

Next week I’ll be writing about the local achievement system and the unlockable development journal that I have implemented just recently, so stay tuned!


Courier of the Crypts game has its own Twitter account now – 100% game content! Follow it for the latest news ;)