18 March 2016

Becoming Northerly

Last Update: Mar 2016
Whats all this about? Becoming Northerly is our 7DRL 2016 entry with Flend. A game where you kill wild animals and strange monsters to collect their pelts to trade them for hot coffee... of course they aren't real animals as we are against animal cruelty so we have actors inside them who die instead.

play here (browser based) - the game works best in a high resolution screen such as 1920x1080 in case you fail to see the whole game at a single time, try zooming out using your browser view settings. 

EDIT - the list of 7DRL 2016 entries and their reviews can be found here. To my surprise, Becoming Northerly made it to the first 10 (which means we either bribed the reviewers or they reviewed the wrong game.) Also dont forget to check out our entries from the previous years TraumaRL and RoyaleRL

This years entry was called called Becoming Northerly as it involves a chap who climbs a mountain (see where the north comes in) but apparently Flend was looking upside down to the screen while coding the game as the chap can only move southwards while climbing. Nice... But no worries as years of ascii art gaming gives 7DRL players the imaginative edge so hopefully they will image it as a game where the chap skis down a mountain instead of climbing it or a scrolling shooter with a spaceship theme. Whatever.

What's the story? Why is he climbing the mountain? Why are there strange creatures such as trolls and blue skinned lions with antlers found loitering around the mountain? This year we lack answers to such questions unlike our entries from the previous years, where each had a theme, some attitude and a bit of story (well ok TraumaRL had a pretty cool story while RoyaleRL had tons of action and attitude.)

So... What does Becoming Northerly have?  It's a fun little browser game which strangely resembles a vertical scrolling shooter where you move south, south-east or south-west. Monsters attack various squares around them, so you try to approach each monster from a different angle, trying not to end up in their attack space. Each kill gives you pelts which you can spend them at shops to increase your stats which will aim you in reaching your ultimate goal. Killing the final boss, which turns out to be a half naked guy with a crown.

I was pretty late to join this years 7DRL. I spoke to flend on friday and had pretty much a day or so to squeeze everything. (well, half of saturday and half of sunday to be precise.) Chatting with Flend revealed it was to be a game where you move single direction. "It has to be mountain" I thought as nothing else in this world required me to move single direction or simple because I wanted to draw a mountain. Guess I was done with all the knights, potions, swords, robots and laser guns so I went for a path less travelled. I had this vision of a snowy mountain, an adventurer with a pickaxe and a hungry bear trying to eat the guy. I had no idea how or what the items, enemies or anything else was gonna look. just a guy, a pickaxe and a bear. This quickly turned into a pitfall as I had a hard time converting generic rogue-like-ish items into our snow theme in half a day. But when you only have a day left in a 7 day challenge you dont really have time to derail once a path is chosen.

After consecutive shots of chocolate bars from the nostrils, my brain started to work. Dungeons have have apples and chicken drumsticks for food so swap the generic food with small rabbits that could be found more naturally in a mountain. Animals dont carry gold. only slimes, dragons and undead do so gold must be renamed to pelt for the animals to drop. Mountaineers dont carry swords and spears so it must be regular gear, pickaxe, ski pole, pocket knife, bowie knife, and other gadgets crafted of animal bones. Just as I started to get my hopes up I noticed I was spending too much on it and there wasnt enough time to experiment or fit the items into 24x24 tiles. Alas, things got forced into a mixed bag with pickaxes, bear claws, swords and wooden shields... sad.

Some useless general info about the art assets and limitations:
- A total of 120 tiles / sprites / assets were drawn including unused stuff and numbers etc.
- 22 enemy monsters were drawn and 14 of these were repaint with simple modifications.
- More or less a single day to work on assets.
- 24x24 tile limit.
- 3 layers per image only (meaning no fancy tricks or dynamic effects)
- no animations

gameplay is mostly smooth, fast paced and easy to play due to 3 button controls where you only decide what direction to move, attacks are automatic (melee when you land on enemies, or shoot ranged when someone enters your sight, activate bombs, pickup or buy items when you step on them.) Sometimes it feels bit too cramped (specially if you come across areas filled with too many enemies and stone walls as you keep bumping on walls which push you to idle tiles or ice slides which force move you to other destinations. Such moves take a while to realize what just happened or even worse you may simply find yourself in a death trap if you act careless. You can check the last tile you have stepped by following your footprints. Alas this doesnt work as well as I had planned as the hero is placed too near the top of the screen, leaving only a single footstep to track your moves.

Explosions feel pretty fun. Something catchy about the fireball image or the bloody corpses it leaves. I guess there should have been many more bombs scattered all around the place. In fact the game could have been about stepping on the right tile to use the right items such as bombs, shotguns, and other stuff that hit enemies in short range pattern clusters.)

Combo kills could have been pretty cool too. Like the more kills you chain the more points you earn or something like that. This would have given the player a goal when rushing through clusters of enemies like a diabetic kid rushes through sweets or something.

Anyway, its actually fun to dodge enemy patterns or dive into a clusters of enemies to reach the items stuffed in the middle of deadly enemies. I'm still surprised how it resembles a turn based vertical shooter and how it can be played without requiring much attention when you have nothing better to do in life. Ok, now go play again.