Thursday, October 6, 2011

Zelda SoDak is Gold

After two years of work, Zelda SoDak is finally complete. Technically it took two years but theoretically it only took 6-7 months. As you know if you read my previous posts, work was going very well and all the levels were complete by Christmas 2009 except for the final one, which was completed by February the following year.

At the end of February, I started a new job at Eagle Creek in Pierre, SD, making databases with Siebel for large companies. This set me back because it limited the amount of time I had to properly test everything. Since I wanted others to do the testing for me, though, I didn't mind this. However, as the months went by, no one was giving feedback so I ended up testing the game by myself. I didn't test as often as I should have. Some reasons are explained in the Postmortem, which can be found on my website.

Every time I played through the game I found things that needed to be changed. This post is going to go over some of those things just so you can get an idea of what's been going on:

- Technical
o Cave/Dungeon entrances weren't working
o Tiles weren't places properly (Bomb a rock and a grey tile appeared meaning the door hadn't been placed)
o Sound effects weren't working (special markers hadn’t been placed)
o There was a version of the Gohma I had in the game that wasn’t beatable unless you had Golden Arrows. They aren’t in the game so neither is the Gohma.

- Aesthetics
o This was a big one. As you can see in the original map, this area was wide open (black squares represent the section you can see on the television). There are Moblins in here you can just walk past and not have to fight. It didn't make for much fun. So I added in more rocks to not only make it harder to get through but also to make it look better. There are a couple of other areas that have a similar problem when playing but they didn't really bug me and it looks good on the map so I left it.

o Enemies got added/removed in different locations.
o A tree was added in front of the entrance to see the Old Woman to force the player to get the candle beforehand.
o The color of water was different from one tile to the next on the same square.
o Two warp zones were too close to each other which didn't make sense gameplay-wise so one of them and Level 7 swapped places.

- Editor Shortcomings
o There’s a checkmark in the editor you can select to make enemies reappear on certain game squares. This didn’t work so I had to make it so that on every square the enemies always reappeared. This was the only way to get multiple Zoras on the screen at the same time constantly among other things.
o In the original game, there were rooms in dungeons that were completely black. In order to advance you had to get the candle to be able to see. As you can tell from the screenshot, it doesn’t always work. If you were to use a moveable block, the tile that appears underneath it would be visible. Blocks are visible. Traps are visible. Sometimes the darkness doesn’t even take affect until you are leaving the room. In certain cases it works fine or good enough but in examples like this it just wasn’t worth it.
o A whistle you obtain to kill Digdoggers is also able to clear a lake and reveal a staircase. The lake’s disappearance animation doesn’t work in Zelda Classic so I didn’t bother even using it.
o Enemies wouldn't reappear when they should, including bosses you hadn't beaten. You could hit a boss a couple of times (or if there were multiple bosses in the room kill just one) and if you then died, when you returned to the boss room all bosses were destroyed. Not much of a challenge. This was fixed by the ‘Enemies Always Reappear’ checkmark and if you killed the boss they stayed dead.
o Enemies would disappear when they shouldn't – the Red and Blue Bubbles in particular. If a Red Bubble hits you, you can't use your sword and have to find a Blue Bubble to undo the paralysis. For some odd reason, Blue Bubbles would decide to take a break and disappear randomly, leaving you swordless. I ended up taking out these two enemies and putting in temporary paralysis Bubbles instead. (One area still has them and since I activated the ‘Enemies Always Reappear’ checkmark it seems to work fine – hopefully.)

There were some other things that got fixed but these were the major ones. There is still an exploit that is in the game I found at the 11th hour (pretty much literally). I decided to keep it in for a couple of reasons:
- First and foremost, it won’t break the game.
- If you’ve played the original Zelda before, chances are you won’t think about doing it – I didn’t until last minute.
- It will make the game a little bit easier but not enough to warrant taking it out. If anything, people might find it helpful if they deem the game too challenging.

With that, Zelda SoDak is officially complete, finally. It’s been a long run and the one thing I’ve learned is the benefit of having others playtest for you. Hopefully that will happen in future games. Head over to the Portfolio section of my website to read the Postmortem and download the game.


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