Well it’s not quite what I wanted to have done but I made a good little chunk of progress this week. I mostly focused on the test enemy entity like I was planning, fixing little bugs in the pathfinding and implementing prototype animations: It’s not done, but it’s definitely coming along, and it’s kind of fun just running back and forth with the entity in testing so that’s a good sign. This next week is probably going to be mostly about improving the prototype animations: I’m very dissatisfied with one of the two turning animations I created for this entity, and I think all of the idle animations could do with a little more motion, so I’m going to add some breathing and twitching to bring the entity to life. Not only should this make the entity seem much more lifelike, it will provide a stronger contrast with the unnaturally still idle pose of the player character.
I mean, everything that’s outstanding about the main character is only so in contrast to other characters. She’s supposed to be tall, but that’s reflected as much or more by the scale of other characters and the background as it is by her animations. And, by the same token, she’s supposed to be stoic and patient, which will only be reflected if other characters are notably less so. If I wasn’t concerned about this contrast I think most of the animations for these guys would be fine, but if I’m going to communicate info about the player character non-verbally I really do need to utilize every available channel of information. So that’s what I’ll be working on this week.
Something that’s been occurring to me frequently recently is that these test enemies are actually absurdly sophisticated for a standard enemy in a 2d platformer. When I compare them against the early enemies in a game like Castlevania, the difference is really apparent. In a raw design sense, I don’t know if it’s a good use of my time to put this much effort into one of the first enemies you encounter in the game, even if you do encounter different versions of them pretty much throughout. Compared to skeletons that shuffle back and forth and occasionally toss a bone, it seems a bit overwhelming to have to cope with enemies that are aware of you and if they see you will try to hunt you down near the beginning of the game. Yet, in non-2d-platformers, in FPS games and the like, sophisticated enemy behavior like that is common even early on, so maybe it won’t be a problem.
I do feel a bit jealous, though, of games where the theming makes it easy to make the early enemies things like little crawling spiky aliens or shuffling skeletons, things with very simple movement patterns where it doesn’t seem stupid or absurd for them to be so simple. When something looks like a person, we have certain expectations for how it behaves. Or maybe those expectations are just my problem, my ambition, making things difficult for me.
Well, whatever. I can always make their behavior simpler later if it turns out to be necessary: In the meanwhile, if these more complex behaviors do work, they’ll provide an experience quite a bit different than most other platformers. Seems worth a try to me – at least, it does now that I’ve already put in like 90% of the work.