[Project] Semblance (previously, Squeeze Me)


  • The parralax is AWESOME!!!!!
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    Hey yo!

    Here's a playable update!


    Lots of new art implemented, and now there's an overworld system. It'll be used for more narrative purposes eventually, but for now it's just there for accessing puzzles you strugglled with.


    Feedback is always welcome

    1. How did you find the art?
    2. Was the art difficult to read in places - where?
    3. Did you find the overworld useful at all?
    4. Anything you really want to say but don't want to hurt our feelings? Say it!

  • So many GIFs! procedural meshes! Downloading the play test now! Super impressed by the Art style.
    Thanked by 2SUGBOERIE Bensonance
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    An update!

    Basically a vertical slice of the game (more or less).

    Play if you want! Feedback is always welcome.

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  • @Bensonance @SUGBOERIE

    Hey guys, I tried to give your game a play so that I could attempt some constructive feedback.

    I ran into some sort of bug that didn't allow me to progress beyond the first screen. This bug happened in three resolutions (1680x1050, 1440x900, 1440x900 Windowed and 1280x800 Windowed).

    When I press Enter, the game starts with the character coming from underground, moves up into the air and then lands on the ground. When I try to move they are stuck in place, I can't move in any direction and when I try to move backwards the level restarts. When the level restarts the character is underground and cannot move either. When I press backwards it continues to reset with the character underground.


    While I couldn't play the game as I intended I was trying to be thorough and picked up on a few nitpicky things:
    - The logo on the start screen is slightly pixelated
    - The logo animation movement on the start page causes it to move slightly off screen (not sure if this is intended)
    - The black hole on the tree and the vines in the background are slightly pixelated. I only picked it up because everything else is very crisp.

    I hope those nitpicky things aren't annoying. I really would like to play the game and see how it has progressed since I got to play it at EGE.
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  • Hey @blacksheepZA!

    Weird bug, don't think I've seen that before. Were you perhaps trying to play with WASD?

    Wouldn't touch those as they're mostly debug inputs. Arrow keys should work fine. Also try these builds instead:


    If it still happens, let us know and we'll try pinpoint that weird bug :)
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    Hey @Bensonance

    You were right, I was using WASD controls. I didn't even think to try the arrow keys! My bad!

    Going to give it a play through and give some feedback in a little bit :)

    Edit: I want to play it through a bit more and have a proper thing before giving feedback. Will give proper feedback tomorrow :)
    Thanked by 1Bensonance
  • edited
    So I like platformers, both puzzle and dexterity types. This is the first time I have attempted at giving in-depth feedback and it is given with the best of intentions. Please take it with a pinch of salt.

    Ok, I have given it some thought and here is my feedback.

    Hodge podge list of feedback
    - Pixelated assets as mentioned before

    - In the beginning area;
    - if you move the character back to where it spawns then it falls down into a hidden hole (Where he jumps out from)
    - if you jump dash to the right you get stuck partially inside of the wall and have to reset using "a"
    -the ledge above the tunnel confused me as I wanted to jump up there but there seemed little point to it and the
    camera doesn't pan enough to show that there is a wall there.

    - After heading through the tunnel you can go behind the wall

    - I know this is probably helluva complicated to do but when you deform some areas it isn't a smooth deformation which is distracting breaks immersion.
    Another small thing is that there is a very slight deformation gap under the player when they move which can become distracting.

    - While exploring the deformable world, I discovered that you can bypass the first barrier (See pictures):
    At the first puzzle head to the right-hand side
    Wall climb up the right wall all the way to the top and move to the right
    You will fall down and have bypassed the first barrier

    - The particle effect on the level preview is cool but the soft/blurry edges seem at odds with the crisp style of the game

    - In terms of pacing, it seems a bit strange that you start with the ability to dash but then on the first level it is taken away from you.

    - When I played through the first level I collected all three orbs but when I left the level it showed that I had not collected the first one. So I went back to collect it and it was a bit jarring because dash had been taken away from me again. Also when I reentered the first tree I started at the first checkpoint instead of the beginning of the level.

    - When you enter the first level I assume the first little bit is to get the player used to the controls?
    Since this is not an action platformer I feel like these sections might be unnecessary. I would understand if the game was similar to Meatboy or N++ because the player would need time to understand movement and the rules for the world.
    I also think that because you can do most of the levels in any order you want, it is quite hard to get a sense of being taught the different abilities or mechanics. I didn't have any issue picking up the mechanics but I am unsure if this is because of my experience with platform games or because you ninja'd it into my head.

    - When you deform the ground in front of the tree it is cut off. Perhaps extending the sprite downwards or adding something like roots would be cool? Unfortunately, because of how the world can be deformed everywhere you guys are going to have to be super careful to make sure that there are no gaps behind the sprites.
    Similar thing here:

    - The camera movement can get a bit clunky at times which is frustrating. When I died from the spikes I spawned off camera and there were times that the camera didn't follow the character until it was well off screen. I found this article a while ago and it is absolutely fascinating! If you haven't seen it before you may find it useful! http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/ItayKeren/20150511/243083/Scroll_Back_The_Theory_and_Practice_of_Cameras_in_SideScrollers.php

    - When trying to deform my way under the first barrier I got stuck and had to reset the level. I also managed to "enter" the ground and could move passed the barrier but I was still stuck in the ground:

    - This part of the game (image below) is probably the bane of my existence. It was very finicky and slight missteps would cause the walls to reset which meant you had to redo everything from the start. The puzzle is cool and it was fun to figure out but executing the solution drove me mad. The only reason I stuck with it was because I wanted to complete the whole demo to give this feedback. I remember having similar issues at EGE to the point that you skipped the puzzle for me.

    - The cracks in this breakable barriers are not very readable and at first glance, they may be considered as a similar obstacle as the spikes (one to be avoided)

    - When moving against an unmoveable object, would you be able to deform the player so it shows that you are squishing up against it?

    - An aesthetic suggestion, when the trees are hardened maybe they could be shown as more angular like the spikes or have that similar reflection/shine that is on the barrier.

    - On another aesthetic note, may I ask the context of the beams that reset your shape? How do they relate to the crystalised land or spikes? Just curious :)

    - One thing that threw me a bit was that the character sizzles when it hits the spikes. It doesn't make sense to me because it sounds like it has hit acid instead of being impaled. Other than that the sound in the game is really great! I like the variation and the sfx suit the character really well :).

    - I really love the juice in this game, it feels really good and squishy. The animations are also great! The feedback cues are awesome :)

    - I enjoy the movement; dashing and the deformations feel really satisfying.

    - I like the fact that you can do the puzzles in any order and that you can just go back to the 'broken' trees once you have gone to the end of the level. It gives it more of an exploration feel instead of a linear path like most platformers

    Overall I would say that I am still intrigued by this game, I was definitely drawn in and had fun while playing it (Other than that one EVIL puzzle). I look forward to seeing more deformations and the puzzles they bring about :)
    I am really interested in seeing how the game progresses going forward. You mention that this is a vertical slice, do you still intend on adding more mechanics? Or at this point are you just looking to add more content/levels? How much further do you plan on going before it is a final version?

    Are you planning on adding more story elements into the game? Or are you going to leave it quite mysterious?

    I hope this helped. It is really cool to see the progress you guys have made from the first versions until now! Keep it up :D
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    Thanked by 1francoisvn
  • I've been meaning to give Semblance a thorough exploration for some time now. Hopefully this is useful.
    I think I got to the end. The last door wouldn't open, maybe I missed an orb?
    I basically played through and made a list of the things I discovered, I'm sure a lot of it is old news so please dont hate me if I mention a bunch of stuff you already know :)

    * Dash jumping into the wall on the left at the start of the game would reliably freeze the character in place.

    * I assume that you know about this but there are quite a few areas where you can get out of bounds. This one that was the most fun to figure out:
    Its like its own little puzzle, totally deserving of a secret area :D

    * Sometimes I wasn't sure if I completed the puzzle with a bug or not. For example, occasionally when squashed flat the lasers wouldn't un-flatten me, instead they just made a really pretty bubbling sound (omg so pretty), other times they would. Seemingly at random. Another example is where the puzzle actually doesn't require the elements advertised:

    * I managed to get into the thin area in the above gif while tall, and my controls inverted.

    * Wall jumping sometimes resets the wall, similarly you can sometimes indent walls when dashing upwards.

    * I discovered some sleepy sideways plants. Until I slid over them, and then they would pop upright and pretend it never happened (but I saw them).

    * If you jump into a level by mistake, (which is really easy). You can find yourself without a quick way out.

    * In the over-world its difficult to know where to go to open the next door. Some kind of progress feedback would make a big difference. In general I found it quite difficult to orient myself. I cant help but feel like there are few notable landmarks. I also didn't really know where I was going, or why. Thats not to say that it should have some grand meaning necessarily, but some overarching context would be nice.

    Overall I had a bunch of fun. The character totally reminds me of Rayman (not sure why, something to do with the stretch in the animation?).
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    Thanked by 1Bensonance
  • @blacksheepZA Thanks for playing and giving such detailed feedback! It's like we have a QA department :P

    You found some great ways around the level. We know about a bunch of them- they're kinda hard to stop sometimes :P.

    The pacing is definitely off with that first section yeah - especially with the dashing.
    I didn't have any issue picking up the mechanics but I am unsure if this is because of my experience with platform games or because you ninja'd it into my head.
    We've spent a ton of time iterating on the order of the puzzles and levels to teach the players mechanics. So I definitely think we're more in the "ninja'd it into my head" category :P. Most people who play at this point get a pretty solid understanding of the mechanics. Allowing the players the opportunity to complete those 3 middle levels in any order was a bit of a risk, but we designed the levels so the mechanics and teaching are all isolated. Level 2: character changing shape; Level 3: character deforming world; Level 3: wall jumping. Only in Level 4 do you combine all that teaching.
    Unfortunately, because of how the world can be deformed everywhere you guys are going to have to be super careful to make sure that there are no gaps behind the sprites.
    We kinda just leave this problem for now because it's so tricky to solve. We have some tech where the object sticks to the ground when it's deformed, but it's not quite working yet.
    On another aesthetic note, may I ask the context of the beams that reset your shape?
    It's kinda a weak theming, but basically these machines emit those beams as part of the process of absorbing the soft material. The story of game the is that the hard material needs to live off the soft material. So the reset beam basically just forms part of that industrial process of feeding off the soft material. Need to iterate on the theming though :),
    do you still intend on adding more mechanics? Or at this point are you just looking to add more content/levels? How much further do you plan on going before it is a final version?
    Yup we'll add a bunch of level elements and levels :). We're aiming for a couple hours of content, but we're more interested in the timeline of release that the actual content really.
    Are you planning on adding more story elements into the game? Or are you going to leave it quite mysterious?
    Yeah we'll probably add more story content, but generally it'll feel quite mysterious, I think. A lot of the story is happening through the backgrounds. It's a hard way to tell a story, but we think it's elegant.

    @Ross Thanks for playing!

    There's a bug with the reset beam that we haven't been able to replicate where they sometimes don't reset you. They should always reset you though :)
    In the over-world its difficult to know where to go to open the next door. Some kind of progress feedback would make a big difference. In general I found it quite difficult to orient myself. I cant help but feel like there are few notable landmarks. I also didn't really know where I was going, or why. Thats not to say that it should have some grand meaning necessarily, but some overarching context would be nice.
    Thanks for this! The overworld is definitely the most confusing design thing we're working on - kinda feels like we're doing it blind. Defintely think there should be some progress feedback, but we haven't quite figured out what yet.
    Thanked by 1Ross
  • Contouring Story

    Thought I’d share some gifs of my journey to get the character to contour along the deformable surface.

    Before didn’t feel good and was buggy so you just ended up jumping through deformations.


    Started with just recasting from all the floor vertices finding the collision point and just setting it there.


    Then it was just offsetting the rest of the verts based on the floor vests


    Basic scenarios were working. Then steep slopes were problematic, you increase the ray length then he shape extended way too far down the slope. So, i would rotated the player and raycast down based on the surface normal.


    That sucked because if the corners couldn’t find a position then you’d just snap to the rectangle.

    So far this was just visual the collider was still a rectangle and that was impractical because at steep slopes where the collider was and visually was way too off.

    I took drastic measures and decided to change the collider as I contour. What happens here is that I have an initial raycast down to find the highest surface point (yellow circle). That’s the anchor point. Then I iterate from the point raycasting at negative the normal of the last point. Basically the idea is that the surface shouldn’t be that drastically different.


    Movement was slick, collider was changing, performance not too. A few of the gifs show some experiments into how I was going to angle the sides based on the surfaces.

    That was the next challenge. I went with if the normals of the surface of the sides were similar then I’d just choose one normal and rotate the verts based on that side. Otherwise to try and get the top verts to curve based on having both sides different was too complicated for what it would add.




    Started adding the eyes. Funny process, loved this bug.


    The system is far from perfect. The biggest thing for me was trying to shoe horn around all the other systems built into the character like the animation system, collision system, etc. It’s a raycasting masterpiece. LOL. :’D


    I think I’m going to go back to the drawing board with some of the things I’ve learnt and build the character from the ground up.

    If you’ve got any ideas, thoughts, anything. If you have good articles on collision detection, platformer movement, physics, anything you think I should read. Please let me know.

    The journey was just BUGS ON BUGS ON BUGS. Some are funny.


  • Awesome! I love reading problem-solving posts like that.
    Thanked by 1SUGBOERIE
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    Nice journey, what happens if you just take the closest ground vertex for each of the player bottom ones? Sorry for the simplistic question, you have probably thought this through a hundred times. It's just that ray-casting appears a bit over top.

    I haven't done much animated 2d though, just an idea.
  • Awesome! I love reading problem-solving posts like that.
    Siick. Gonna do more of them.

    @critic How would you find the closest vertex?

    I only know how to use raycasts to find the closest ground point. Plus with raycasts I get more information about the surface, particularly the normal.


    the red rays find the closest point. Which has the yellow circle around it. The I travel along the surface doing the blue raycasts to find the next position for the relevant vert. I do this because I can make sure the shape remains the same "width". Otherwise you'll notice the red ray casts extend further down the slope than the last vert actually should be. Hope that answers your question.
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  • SUGBOERIE said:

    @critic How would you find the closest vertex?

    ... anyway, keep up the good work.

  • Awesome work! This is really something I haven't seen before! Keep on working and I am sure you will end up having a very successful game! Good luck!
    Thanked by 1SUGBOERIE
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    @critic: I think the problem here is knowing what to compare your Vector3.Distance against. Like, you'd have to loop through each of the vertices at the bottom of your character, and loop through every vertex in meshes that are within some radius for each character vert, right? That's a crap load of looping. Or is there a faster way? Am I missing something?

    I believe performing the calculations for doing raycasts is similar, but a lot more efficient (with whatever optimizations the PhysX folks put in that forces requirements like having convex collision meshes with max vert counts).

    @Sugboerie: Not sure if you're still working on the eyes, but I imagine they'd have a max distance away from the body, where if they're too far away, their positions snaps to the max distance?
  • Depends on the setup @Elyaradine, for instance you could index the ground collider vertices by position or you could ensure that the ground is split into reasonable chunks, that should make loops negligible. Just seems that should be a lot less circumstantial than rays in such a dynamic setting.
  • @Elyaradine Stole the word right out of my mouth.

    @critic Also true. I know the indicies of my outline verts. So, looping through wouldn't be the hardest and reduce the number of checks. But What happens when the character is in between two verts? Anyway, there's many ways to skin a cat and I'm sure there's another way to achieve the same outcome.
    @Sugboerie: Not sure if you're still working on the eyes, but I imagine they'd have a max distance away from the body, where if they're too far away, their positions snaps to the max distance?
    They need revisiting. They still jiggle way too much. Snapping the eyes would break the way the spring function works. It would be something like damping the spring velocity when it's going to over shoot outside the body.

    Thanked by 1critic
  • Are you using Unity spring joints or your own one? I ask because Unity's joints appear to have a maxDistance that you can set, in case you're not aware of it.

    Anyway, while I think it's fair to want eyes that are a little big jiggly (for the organic feel), I think if you do revisit the eyes, you'd get more value out of adding blinks (definitely), and glancing at nearby points of interest/objectives (maybe, not sure if that'd be annoying, or if it feels like it's taking power away from the player and creating a disconnect). (I'd refer you to this: https://realtimevfx.com/uploads/default/original/2X/b/b94f6526d3f8dd8cafc1b852bbd0bb5842fb34ac.gif.)
  • @Elyaradine No. Using this guy's numeric springing function for literally EVERYTHING. :P

    The point's you've mentioned are definitely things we are going to try do. Especially blinking. Will give Squish a lot more character. I like the idea of them looking around, could be used for hints to puzzles.
  • Brief look, seems the algorithm doesn't rely on previous frame data: only current position and velocity, and spring damper properties. So then I imagine you should be able to clamp the max distance after the algorithm runs, or run it in LateUpdate? You might have to clamp velocity too...
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    Hey all, we have an updated build for you all. Same mechanics, but polished up with draft music/sound.


    You can grab it over on Itch.io, with this here secret link.
  • @Elyaradine Yup. That's right. Will definitely be doing something like that when I get back to the eyes.
  • Backgrounds are looking so pretty...
  • Aw man, I absolutely love the look of this. I'm downloading now but from everything posted it gives me a real ori and the blind forest feeling. Do you guys have a connected world like that or is it level based? Guess it's silly of me to ask this since I'll play it tomorrow anyway.

    When do you guys plan to take this to market? :)
  • @IceCliff thanks for the comparison :). It's more of a puzzle game than Ori :).

    It's not a metroidvania like Ori, but you can go back and forth between levels.

    Looking at releasing in mid 2017
  • Some neat little news.

    1. Over on Alpha Beta Gamer, we were named their 'Most fun Gameplay Mechanic' for 2016, which is pretty neat!

    2. We got covered by some random Japenese site too - which Boxer has been on before.
  • Wow, supercool man! congrats..
    Thanked by 1Bensonance
  • What I played was difficult but somewhat satisfying. Much better, atleast, than the prototype linked in the original post. Much to be done technically and aesthetically. But it's not bad, make sure you finish it.
  • @joshken Thanks!

    Out of interest, which parts did you find difficult?
    Thanked by 1Elyaradine
  • @Bensonance

    This was the hardest to get:
  • Oh I just wanted to give you guys a bit of a follow up, my girlfriend and I were stuck waiting around for an hour and I had my laptop. Your game was the only game I had on my laptop so I let her try it out. She absolutely loved it, and she barely plays any games. So really great job with that. I think that's normally the greatest feat of any game, managing to impress someone who may not be a typical gamer.
    Thanked by 2Bensonance typhvs
  • @IceCliff thanks for the great story! :)

    We really designed and tested the game to be accessible to casual players, and we've seen that people appreciate that :).

    We're still figuring out how to target that audience better. Mobile maybe, but that's a technical barrier. Also thinking about Nintendo platforms
    Thanked by 1IceCliff
  • We've been having a lot of fun figuring out gameplay with elements anchored to deformable platforms.

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  • image
    Looks tricky.
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    Hey all!

    Don't post much stuff here directly anymore :). But here's a blog post about what we've been up to in January.

    Also, if you have time, we'd love your help! We got into a game expo in the US that we can't quite talk about yet (it rhymes with 'hacks'). But we're testing a rough demo to exhibit, and it would be great if you could playtest it and give us feedback :). It a pretty rough mechanics-only build of the game, so excuse any bugs and the general ugliness. First pass dressed scenes are looking like this now:


    There's some more new screenshots on our presskit.

    Windows Build

    If I'm gonna see you at the Joburg meetup, don't play - would want to see you play in person :P

    - Could you time your playthrough - how long did it take you? :)
    - Did you understand all the mechanics?
    - Do you think this shows the best side of the game? Would you want to play more?

    Thanks <3
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  • (Hmm, I posted this last night, but apparently I didn't click hard enough. Yay for the forum remembering my draft though!)

    This is feeling really nice!

    To answer your questions:

    - Could you time your playthrough - how long did it take you? :)
    It took me about 40 minutes to get to the stuck box point in my last point. But I'm going to guess that at least half of that was because I did something silly and had to close and reopen the whole game again.

    - Did you understand all the mechanics?
    Mostly. But not the resetting of lines (more on that below).

    - Do you think this shows the best side of the game? Would you want to play more?
    Not having a quick reset button makes it pretty frustrating while learning the mechanics. I think it would be a funner (more fun?) experience if it had that and I was able to mess around without worrying about breaking things.

    And then some random thoughts in no specific order:

    - It's definitely lacking some catchy music, but I guess that isn't a concern for a game conference

    - Right near the beginning I got stuck multiple times in the corners

    - The resolution options don't let me select my native resolution, so I have to play it stretched or windowed.

    - Exit screen has no replay button. And the game has no replay or reset button. That meant that every time I got stuck or made a mistake I had to close the game and start again.

    - The tree effects are really cool, as is the character

    - Making edges like in the pic below makes the character freak out a bit when moving over them

    - Going back through tree, and then back to it again reset the whole game?

    - The wall jumping tower in the first level seemed a bit of a big leap in concepts for a new player. There was explanation how to dash, but then no real indication of how you would do the tower. That being said, I figured out how that mechanic works, so maybe that is on purpose.

    - There needs to be some sort of reset without losing progress. I often got the platforms into unrecoverable situations and had to close the game to get them back.
    For example, what do I do once I get to this point?

    - I couldn't work out what makes platforms reset, except maybe that it will happen only when I didn't want it to. For example, in the bit where there is a vertical blue light thing alongside a tower wall, I kept of hitting it on the right side by mistake and it resetting. Does the light make it that the left side is immune to that?
    It seems like hitting a platform on the left or right resets it, but sometimes they have no sides because they're flush with something else.
    Overall, this confused me.

    - In some cases the camera should pan sooner. The character went offscreen at one point before it panned.

    - When making a shape like this, I couldn't walk past the blue line. I needed to jump over it.

    - I got stuck in this little box, and I wasn't able to figure out how to get out :(

    Your dressed up scene is looking really good - as are the pictures on Twitter. Are you planning on getting that into this build for the conference?

    Thanked by 1critic
  • Hey @Roguecode, thanks for playing! :)

    - We have some catchy music for sure! And it'll be in the demo :)

    Sorry you struggled with the resetting platforms :). It works if you bump the side of the platform, perpendicular to how it's dented it'll reset. Also, if you in the opposite direction a platform is dented , it'll reset. This is easy to teach in theory, I just need to be able to have preexisting deformations :).

    What part about that wall jumping tower seemed like a big leap? Did it take you a while to figure out you could dent the walls horizontally? Or did the denting up of the that platform below take a while? Or did it generally take you a while to master the wall jump? :)

    Yeah that last bug is something we'll get to asap - the resetting platforms + player interacting can go a bit awry :)
  • - perpendicular to how it's dented it'll reset
    - opposite direction a platform is dented , it'll reset

    Ah, those both make sense, thanks!
    Last thing I don't know then is how I would go about resetting things like http://makegamessa.com/uploads/FileUpload/f6/c480be03d015b765e645cc8b1ccaa9.jpg ?

    I think it was a bit of a leap possibly because it was two new concepts both at once, before I had really had time to explore the platform warping mechanic at all. So splitting those up, or having a platform you need to make higher first could help. But really, I could be the only one that didn't instantly get that.
    Most of the time completing that tower was me doing the Prince of Persia thing, because it is a bit tricky on my tiny laptop keyboard. Once I saw that the first horizontal dash into the wall worked though, at least I knew 100% that I could get up that way.
  • @roguecode Some platforms are basically impossible to reset because of how they're positioned :/. Definitely something I'm gonna need to be careful of when designing levels :).

    Thanks for unpacking that :).

    It's definitely tricky to balance the conceptual leaps in a puzzle demo, because you want to try get stuff across so quickly :). Maybe it's just as simple as swapping the two last puzzles in level 1 around :).

    I've generally been trying to make puzzles more complex, because most of them in the game used to be 1-2 step solutions, which isn't very challenging at all, although most people still enjoyed it.

    Thanks again for playing :)
  • Came across this little gem, thought it might interest you, they seem to be using terrain deformation as a gameplay mechanic.

  • Hey all!

    We have a micro teaser trailer now:

    Plus a cool website: http://semblance-game.com/


    We have no idea what we're doing, so please help us figure that out by RTing our tweet about the trailer :P.
    Thanked by 1SUGBOERIE
  • @critic Yeah we saw it - it's pretty cool, and the design is much more elegant. They have a very restricted deforming world mechanic though, so at least we're pushing that a bit further :).
    Thanked by 1critic
  • Came across a writeup of the coolest games at Pax East and Semblance was included. Rubbing with some BIG shoulders in this article!

  • @EvanGreenwood yeah we were pretty dazzled to be included among that list of games :).

    Everyone can play the demo we used at PAX if they'd like.

    Hopefully we'll have a few more articles/mentions from press who played the game this week :)
    Thanked by 1kidult
  • We're slowing getting back into it!

    Gamasutra wrote about the game at PAX East, saying " I can safely describe its mature form as an impressively thoughtful aesthetic delight"

    Attack of the Fanboy enjoyed it too: "Semblance has a lot of promise as a 2D puzzle-platformer"

    All this press from PAX East has been so great! Been really motivating, and feels like we might be able to ship and sell more than 100 copies now :)

    Also, we're playing around with a new laser element - it's fun!

  • That new puzzle mechanic looks like it builds on the world deforming in a really clever way!

    Do you do this ever with solid objects? Like a tree sticking out the ground that when leaning over can help solve a puzzle?

    Also, it's not clear from the placeholder visuals at the moment which end of the death beam is attached.

    btw. I know this is a bit late to be saying this. But I have some concerns about the colour scheme that's been chosen. Purples and greens are I feel generally associated with poison and pestilence, and while Invader Zim did pull that off with incorporating some Tim Burton creepy charm, Invader Zim was always the bad guy and the version of earth he inhabited was a very pessimistic portrayal of earth.


    While it's possible you're heading in that direction, it doesn't seem that way to me, and it doesn't seem to me that you're getting anything out of coding the world as "spooky". I think "magical" makes sense as a way to code the world, but I think you've ended up with "spooky" (particularly with the combination of blank white eyes on a purple character).

    I think an aesthetic like that of artist Joey Chou makes more sense here:


    I think, to some extent, there's some aesthetic you can draw from Loco Roco as well. If you want to show the decay/hardening of the world those bits could be more negative feeling (like making the colours less saturated or colder or more poisonous), but a Loco Roco feeling for the bits that are meant to be alive and fun makes some sense (because it feels whimsical and childlike, but at the same time has a very refined colour palette, with stark blacks and whites that make it childlike only in an art gallery kind of sense) :


    Hohokum is another game with a colour palette that is playful/magical, but as arty as it is childlike:


    I don't know if this is coming WAY too late to do anything about this. Sorry if that is the case.

    If you do think you can adjust from here, the artist in South Africa that might be worth consulting is Matt Torode:

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    @EvanGreenwood thanks so much for the feedback! :) <3

    We don't right now, use that anchoring mechanic with hard stuff, but it's something I had thought about before - would be cool :).

    Oh yeah the death beam thing will definitely have an end to communicate which end it starts from :).

    You make some eloquent points, and your reference is lovely. We definitely have been using Loco Roco and Hohokum as reference for ages.

    I hear you on the purple's/greens. The use of green for poison/death is purposeful of course - all green in the game is the infection of material. I see your point about the purples being associated with poison, but I think dressed levels feel a lot more soft and inviting, rather than dangerous, because a lot more pink is used


    I think we are probably trying to hit a 'spooky' atmosphere, although for me it was always trying to be more 'mysterious', but that can be the same thing, I guess. Were you firstly saying you don't think we're hitting spooky? And secondly that even if we were, it wouldn't be valuable to the overall game? This feels like the basis of your crit, so if you could unpack that a bit more, it would be lovely :)

    I think we're trying for a minimalist mysterious feeling, but I don't think we're there yet. We also want the levels to feel alive and friendly as much as possible - very Hohokum and Loco Roco. We have put a lot of that off for later months, because we're viewing it as polish. The animations/behaviours of the NPC's, the way the world reacts to your; little background occurrences. :)

    Theming/art coherences are definitely not my strongest points as a designer, so I appreciate your thoughts. I think the atmosphere we're going for is still untested, and being iterated on. Honestly, the mysterious atmosphere/feeling is very much a device used to motivate players to curiously continue with the game. :) Some players might need motivation on top of the gameplay challenge to keep playing, some players might only be interested in that story/atmosphere. This mysterious method is also how we're trying to implement the very minor story: in bits and pieces that the player collects as they venture around the world. At it's most inelegant, it will be little cave murals:


    As you said, I think it's probably too late for us to transition now anyway. We're very much committed to finishing timeously on this project, rather than iterating endlessly - we can't afford it anyway. That means we do have to make some unfortunate decisions to commit to creative choices. :)

    We have had good press response about the art style and feeling too, though. Many of them mentioned the art style and feeling as a strong core part of the game. I think it's dangerous to just base decisions on the art just based on this, but it's at least an indicator that we might be able to get away with our own haphazard creative direction on the art. :D

    OH! And I guess it's also important to point out we're doing the terribly cliched platformer thing of different area types with different color palettes/feels. These have their own problems, but we're not completely committed to this color palette.

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  • These kinds of decisions are always a gamble, and I don't think there's an easy way to predict how a decision over art style is going to play out, and of course my opinion is just one data point.

    I'm glad to hear that you've been receiving some encouraging feedback about the art style, especially as you say you're committed to it :)

    ...And of course, with the polish you're leaving to the end, there's the chance that the reasons for my concerns (if they are valid concerns at all) will be alleviated.

    That said, here would be my more detailed (hopefully better unpacked) explanation:

    Purple and Green are both occasionally poisonous colours, green a bit more commonly, though of course it depends on context (a field of grass can look healthy, a green pool of water poisonous). Purple is a particularly unnatural colour (being the colour that as far as I am aware is least found in nature). Purple often conveys mystery and beauty, it's used in games for magic effects very often, but it doesn't convey health or wholesomeness (as it is particularly unatural). Your use of purple is mostly quite dark and heavy, so I wouldn't say it feels like you're hitting "beauty" here as an association (like violet-hued flowers might elicit). The point I'm getting at is purple terrain doesn't contrast the green in terms of the green being corruption and the purple being healthy.

    These are of course largely cultural associations confined to English language video games and animation, I can't speak for other cultures, though there is likely some bleed with regard to these associations.

    The connotation of "spooky" (that I mentioned) is in part this colour choice, that of choosing magical/venomous colours, and also the large glowing blank orbs for eyes on the characters. While the forms are softer (with rounded shapes) it otherwise feels like it draws from Invader Zim and the cute-gothic elements of Tim Burton's cinematic style.

    So the question then would be, if someone sees the art and expects gothic elements or spooky elements, will they be rewarded.

    And, if someone isn't a fan of gothic or spooky elements, are they the sort of person who won't enjoy the game anyway?

    ie. Does the intersection of spooky signifiers and your game experience overlap nicely?

    You'd know this better than me, but from what I've seen the game is primarily focused on platforming puzzles without a lot of entertainment there for players expecting spooky elements.

    Again, this is just one point of data. I know from speaking with those in the Free Lives office that others don't consider it as likely to be a problem (and the I mean "likely" in the strictest sense, as this is very much in the realm of instincts and probabilities).

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