Character Tag origins, multiplayer issues and overall progress

July 11th at 1:34pm

Hey! Welcome to our first written devlog.
We've decided to switch to this format since it's way more convinient. Writing a script, asking our good friend Cameron to narrate it and then editing it took way too much time that we could've been using to work on the game. Hope this is still informative and entertaining. Let's get to it!

ENEMY IMPROVEMENTS

First, we've made some tweaks to the way the enemy attack notifications work. Now the flash is a lot bigger and can also be seen offscreen so you don't get sniped from behind as easily.

 
Some attacks will now be able to pierce through your guard. Every unblockable attack will be blue color-coded, so watch out for those!

 
We didn't really like how the Sentinel turned out and based off most of your feedback, nobody did. So we decided to tweak its AI. Now they can move around the arena and they shoot much less frequently so they're no longer at the top of your priority list whenever they show up.

FLOW

We've added a variety of new specials, mostly to Red who up til now only had one.

RED

Blast Kick allows Red to raise enemies into the air, he can trigger both on the ground or airborne, a simple combo extender.

 
Power Charge is Red's strongest attack at the moment, he charges forward, dragging enemies along with him before blasting them to smithereens.

 
Nukefist is a rocket punch, come on, it doesn't need explanation!

BLUE

The End is the first level 5 special, it takes a while to charge but once it does Blue will slice through everything in her path.

CHARACTER TAG

Originally we had planned for the game to be multiplayer but as of lately we had not made any progress towards it. The pandemic certainly didn't help and our old computers weren't strong enough to stream through Parsec or Steam Share Play so we've been working on singleplayer exclusively for the past year. We were able to test it properly recently and the results were... less than ideal.

Here's an unedited small clip of us just testing and fooling around in multiplayer.

The issue is that the characters are way too self-sufficient to need any external help. Whenever we tried helping each other we ended up stepping on each other, one would knock out the enemy you're trying to combo, another one would miss a chance of continuing another combo, it is incredibly hard to pull off basic cooperation outside of hitting enemies really hard together. Not only that but due to the fast nature of the combat you'll see your friends just blinking in and out of the screen as they zip around using Chase or other high-speed mobility options.

One of the biggest issues we found is that the difference between one and two characters in terms of damage was incredible, enemies would just vaporize if you hit them together which made encounters last mere seconds, and this just with two bandmates. If all 4 were on screen we'd need to turn this into a musou to compensate.
The other way of going around it would be making enemies more spongy so they require more than one character to be defeated efficiently but this also means that there's now a requirement for players to gang up on enemies instead of styling on them because like we said before it requires far too much coordination to set up a combo between two. If we as developers had trouble with this the majority of the player base would have it even worse. Not to mention that we'd need to make an AI smart enough to pull off this behemoth of player-sync for whenever you're playing alone.
This and other issues we found made us realize how much we'd need to change the project for this to even be serviceable. It was a big hit to the morale.

Fortunately we had an alternative solution brewing for a while.
You see, when we were testing we had the numbers in the keyboard set for swapping characters, this made it easier to test things for multiple characters than restarting the game everytime. One day Andrés, the coder, was messing around with it and this happened:

 
This made us think that maybe you could control multiple characters at once, so I, the artist, decided to bind the numbers to my dpad and try to play seriously with it. It shocked me just how well it worked:

 
You could now combine all the strengths of all characters, basically quadrupling the amount of moves at your disposal at any given time. When I tried this we discarded the idea because it wouldn't fit well with our multiplayer plans but after we gave up on that this resulted on what Bob Ross would call a happy accident. By looking outside the box we realized the project had more sleeping potential than we originally thought. This reminded us of that one story of Diablo where the game was originally going to be turn-based but after some devs begged the lead programmer to try realtime combat they were so amazed by it that they went that direction and never looked back. We believe this is the evolution the project needed and that it has skyrocketed the fun value of it. For that reason and other technical ones we're not listing here, we've decided to make the game singleplayer only.

Now, just swapping character like this felt way too stiff and boring, the reason we wanted all characters on the field at once was to really drive home the idea that the band is a unified team that understands and compliments each other. As the name of the game implies, none of the characters are the protoganist by themselves, the band itself is the protagonist.
We wanted other characters to be present during the fight and not just dematerialize everytime you change, so we created a Tag System, similar to some fighting games where characters remain in the field until their actions are over, this allows you to perform simultaneous actions. You can charge a Nukefist with Red and attack with Blue, charge a The End and protect with Red, do multiple groundpounds and pretty much any combination you can think of. This change raises the skill ceiling considerably while still leaving new players to play as the character they like most without thinking too much.

This is the result so far:

 
There's still a lot to of work to do but we really like this new direction for the gameplay.
Although it has changed our plans for the close future our main goal remains the same: build a full-level vertical slice and maybe release a new funding campaign.

That's all for today, hope this new format is still enjoyable! See you next time!

Thank you so much to all our patrons for their continued support, special thanks to:

Acolyght, Hang, Jorn Verschelde, William Jackson Jr, Yoraiz0r