Our Sky [underrepresented devs compo]

Hi!

I am a transgender woman and like some of my friends, I deal with things like homelessness, dysphoria and suicide. That isn't depressing, however, it's just a thing I deal with.

Our Sky is mental health positivity game about dealing with anxiety and exploring different possible ways to get around it. I am looking to submit this project for the underrepresented devs puzzle game grant that @TheFuntastic mentioned. Mortician's Tale's death positivity is a big inspiration for this game.

There are only 4 tutorial puzzles in right now, I will be adding the first test of an explorable island next as well as 2 more power ups/braids to find.
CONTROLS: WASD.

UPDATES:
-Fixed a bug, made it more obvious what to do when you get the first power up.
-F1 now takes you to editor mode instead of middle mouse button.

All advice and critique is very much appreciated! Thanks! ^_^
windows
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Comments

  • Interesting game. I will admit I didn't understand entirely what was happening all the time. Is that intentional? It seems like it might be intentional, somewhat similar to Starseed Pilgrim.

    Minor suggestion: also allow up/down/left/right to control the player, and add a keyboard control like Z or U to undo.

    It seems nicely polished in terms of graphics, and I am quite intrigued to play more and investigate how the mechanics work and how they interact.

    Is there anything specific you're looking for feedback on?
    Thanked by 2Elyaradine Asriele
  • edited
    Thanks so much for playing.
    I will admit I didn't understand entirely what was happening all the time. Is that intentional?
    Except if you were referring to the speech bubble at the start of the game, then no, that is me not communicating clearly enough at this point.



    I am approaching the design of this game through three steps.
    1-Creating a model of anxiety.
    2-Creating the actual puzzle mechanics that try to replicate that model.
    3-Creating a world visually in which the player wants to explore that model.

    None of this is sure to work in any way, but it's worth a shot.




    So what is happening visually (step 3) in this world is that the character fell into this planet along with debris from space, which is now the floating islands. She is walking up the sides of the floating islands looking for artifacts that she ties to her hair. These artifacts give her different abilities to deal with the shadows that are hunting her down. She is also an extra-dimensional being and so she sometimes snaps between dimensions, like when she gets an artifact and remembers how to use it as the artifact briefly takes her to a dimension more familiar to her. I feel some of this can be made clearer with better visuals (such as that you are walking up the side of a floating island), however step 1 and 2 are far more important right now.

    A metaphor for how I prioritize the steps:
    There cannot be a forest without solid soil, but I also need to start planting the trees a bit to
    understand how the soil should work.





    Is there anything specific you're looking for feedback on?
    Thanks, the next update will explore the puzzle mechanics more thoroughly and so feedback on what does and doesn't work puzzle mechanics wise will help a ton.
    If you have any suggestions as to how I can make what is happening in the game visually clearer with the current graphics and time limitation, that would be super cool!

    Minor suggestion: also allow up/down/left/right to control the player, and add a keyboard control like Z or U to undo.
    Thanks. Changed it to R and keypad 0, since you will regularly be using your right hand for the mouse.
  • edited
    Ok cool, that sheds a lot more light on things. At the moment there seems like there's a lot going on, but it's not all communicated to the player. I totally get the desire to want to explain that all in-game without text (have you seen how Hyper Light Drifter does it? really good!), but at the moment it's getting in the way of testing a bit, because I'm a bit lost, so it's tough to give feedback on the underlying systems.

    What I'd be keen to see would be a description of the system mechanics, how you see them working from a functional perspective. Just in written text. I know this might not appear in the game, but it would help visualize how the systems could interact and be communicated to the player.

    For example, it seems like it has a core mechanic of moving over tiles that crack and then fall away, so you have to be careful about the path you take. But then there can also be tiles that you need to visit before the exit? I just assumed that though, the game didn't really teach that to me. Maybe if you had the exit right by the start, but you can't go into it, but then there's this other interesting tile and when you go over that the exit lights up again? That seems like that would more effectively teach how the mechanic works. If that's your core mechanic, do you play with it and explore the space around it? For example, having a tile that doesn't crack and fall away. Or maybe a way to "un-crack" tiles or grow more of them or something? Just some thoughts (these might not all fit with your vision).

    Then another mechanic I can see is the dark moving silhouette. I'm not sure if it's good or bad or ambiguous? For now it seems like I need to avoid it, but I'm not sure what its movement pattern is. That's not clear to me. If there's a system to how it moves and you communicate that to the player, then they can plan ahead a bit :)

    At the end (I think it's the end) there's a time where you move into another dimension. But then it seems like you're stuck there? Also there a bug where you can move backwards (south) and end up in the other dimension but no-man's land.
    Asriele said:
    Thanks. Changed it to R and keypad 0, since you will regularly be using your right hand for the mouse.
    Oh? What will the mouse be used for? At the moment it seems like it's just used for undo, which felt a bit weird TBH.

    Did you update the game? Maybe make that more explicit in your posts so people that are playing know there's a new version and can give new feedback :)

    BTW, I forgot to say, but I think it's awesome that you're making a game for that grant. This is the sort of puzzle game I love making, so I'm always keen to see others making similar things and potentially getting paid to do it! :D

    EDIT: Oh I tried to download it again and it looks like some things are different. I totally didn't get that the mouse did anything before. That seems interesting. Is it possible to finish the last level? Undo seems to be broken when you go past the boundaries between the two dimensions. What is that thing that pops up when you undo? Is undo limited? Why?
    Thanked by 1Asriele
  • edited
    BTW, I forgot to say, but I think it's awesome that you're making a game for that grant. This is the sort of puzzle game I love making, so I'm always keen to see others making similar things and potentially getting paid to do it! :D
    Thanks! It's really exciting talking with you (I am a bit of a fan), Jetstream is really cool, I love how organic it is.
    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Is it possible to finish the last level?
    So the first artifact (there is only one in the tutorial levels) gives you the ability to move tiles around. Early this morning I made an update to better indicate that with a line going from the character to the mouse and then having a tile be highlighted when the mouse is over it. I am not sure how far you got.
    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
    I totally get the desire to want to explain that all in-game without text (have you seen how Hyper Light Drifter does it? really good!)
    I will look at that thanks!
    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________




    What I'd be keen to see would be a description of the system mechanics
    There are three main mechanics.
    1-moving the tiles
    2-moving the character
    3-moving the shadows, which you need to avoid.

    1-TILES
    You can only move tiles which are attached to the player character and what is attached to the player character only updates when you move.
    image

    2-PLAYER
    Moving the player affects the tiles and shadows.

    2-SHADOWS
    Anxiety is almost always something that blocks you from moving on or doing what you would like to do. So the game represents that as a puzzle - how do I get past anxiety/the shadows. The game then introduces artifacts/abilities that you find through exploration of the islands which provides you with new tools to get past the shadows/anxiety.
    image
    but I'm not sure what its movement pattern is.
    The first two shadows move in a square the last one in a line, but there is a third movement (not in the tutorial levels), but I am still figuring out the implications of it.
    image

    So the game actually showed which tile the shadow would be moving to next by highlighting it
    red, but I removed it since it made the encounter feel less scary. In retrospect that was a silly move. The idea was that our reaction to anxiety is often so automatic that it doesn't even feel like its possible to even think of getting past it. In the first puzzle the shadow moves towards you directly and it seems like its impossible to get past but then you move forward one tile directly at it and you see the shadow moving to the left and you get past. That may all be too subtle to bother with though. Which is fine since I will be replying on the artifacts to do the main communication of dealing with anxiety.

    image
    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________




    But then there can also be tiles that you need to visit before the exit?

    What is that thing that pops up when you undo? Is undo limited? Why?
    I had a button that you had to press to make the exit work but I replaced it with those diamond tiles. Since I thought collecting things would be better and has the same result of getting the player to take a detour before going for the exit. The diamonds are your limited undo's and I know this is a terrible design decision, since the game already provides the challenge of solving puzzles so death should not be an extra one. I am keeping that in mind as I try something, which I will show in the next update. If it doesn't work out I will totally make undo's unlimited. I am also thinking of having the diamonds not just be your life and undo's but also a resource for something else.
    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________


    Also there a bug where you can move backwards (south) and end up in the other dimension but no-man's land.
    Totally forgot to make that you cant move back at that point.
    Maybe make that more explicit in your posts so people that are playing know there's a new version and can give new feedback :)
    Yeah, saying update on the first post is not clear, thanks!


    Thanked by 1francoisvn
  • This game sounds really interesting! I am definitely keen to try it out when I get a moment. I will try to give some feedback as soon as I can :)
    Thanked by 1Asriele
  • @Asriele Fascinating game concept.

    Some recommendations:

    1) Don't rush to new mechanics. First cement the initial ones and give context. i.e. Who are you and why are you here etc.
    2) Why do you need to move from A to B.
    3) Concepts like avoiding the shadow figures... it might be useful to cement that mechanic across 3-5 levels before you introduce new mechanics like the moving of tiles or the undoing movement mechanic.
    4) Who are the sahdows
    5) Why do you need to find artifacts and why tie them into your hair. It is an intriguing concept, but needs clarification.

    I sense there is a larger universe and story at play and I would love to read/see more of that while I am solving its puzzles.

    Loving it so far and am eager to see how this unfolds.
    Thanked by 2Asriele francoisvn
  • Sorry taking a while to have a look again, life got in the way!
    Asriele said:

    Thanks! It's really exciting talking with you (I am a bit of a fan), Jetstream is really cool, I love how organic it is.
    Oh wow, I'm flattered, Thanks! Probably good to bear in mind that Jetstream is made by a small team, so that certainly helps :)


    I didn't realise that you could use that ability outside of the alternative dimension view! I got much further now, to an area where it seemed like it stopped (there wasn't a teleport thing like previous levels).

    One thing that's a tad bit jarring and caught me: at the beginning it feels like the game communicates to me that the controls are arrow keys. Then after a while it shows me that the mouse is also a vital control element. That felt a bit surprising. Not sure if there's a good way to communicate that earlier without spoiling the surprise of the new ability?
    Asriele said:

    There are three main mechanics.
    1-moving the tiles
    2-moving the character
    3-moving the shadows, which you need to avoid.
    I think that's a solid set of mechanics to work with. I think you left out the mechanic that tiles fall away after moving over them twice. My gut feeling is that there's a fairly deep set of interaction to explore there. Some design questions that come to mind (to help you guide the design as you go):

    - What if some tiles don't fall away?
    - What if there are some tiles you can't move with your ability?
    - What if some tiles move around automatically?
    - What if some tiles are bigger than a single 1x1 cell?
    - What if there are walls that you can't move on or move with your ability?
    - What if you have more than one shadow?
    Asriele said:
    but I'm not sure what its movement pattern is.
    The first two shadows move in a square the last one in a line, but there is a third movement (not in the tutorial levels), but I am still figuring out the implications of it.
    image

    So the game actually showed which tile the shadow would be moving to next by highlighting it
    red, but I removed it since it made the encounter feel less scary. In retrospect that was a silly move. The idea was that our reaction to anxiety is often so automatic that it doesn't even feel like its possible to even think of getting past it. In the first puzzle the shadow moves towards you directly and it seems like its impossible to get past but then you move forward one tile directly at it and you see the shadow moving to the left and you get past. That may all be too subtle to bother with though. Which is fine since I will be replying on the artifacts to do the main communication of dealing with anxiety.

    image
    I'm still not quite sure what the shadow's movement pattern is after playing and reading that (could just be me tho!). I think the pattern is something like: it'll move in the same dimension (x or y) as you, generally towards you if it can (although it might possibly continue in the same direction a bit longer sometimes), and it must move (which is useful to get around it). I think the idea of showing where it'll go is a good idea, but I can also see how that might detract from your aesthetic. Maybe you can make it a subtle thing, like the direction the shadow is looking is the direction it'll move next?
    Asriele said:
    But then there can also be tiles that you need to visit before the exit?

    What is that thing that pops up when you undo? Is undo limited? Why?
    I had a button that you had to press to make the exit work but I replaced it with those diamond tiles. Since I thought collecting things would be better and has the same result of getting the player to take a detour before going for the exit. The diamonds are your limited undo's and I know this is a terrible design decision, since the game already provides the challenge of solving puzzles so death should not be an extra one. I am keeping that in mind as I try something, which I will show in the next update. If it doesn't work out I will totally make undo's unlimited. I am also thinking of having the diamonds not just be your life and undo's but also a resource for something else.
    I like the idea of the diamonds unlocking the exit. I'm not a fan of limited undo's tho. I'm open to being wrong, but my general rule is that you should have unlimited undo moves (as long as you don't have randomness, which you don't). Unlimited undo moves tend to make the game a safer place to explore. At the moment I feel a bit anxious about trying a move in case it doesn't work. I realise that it kinda the aesthetic you're going for tho, so it's a tough decision.


    At the moment you're introducing new mechanics quite quickly. For example, you introduce the mouse ability before I figure out how the shadows move. In other words, each mechanic could probably be explored in a bit more depth (more comprehensively). Coupled with limited undo moves, this means I don't have a chance to understand how to play before moving on.


    Keen to see your next update!
    Thanked by 1Asriele
  • edited
    New Version
    Today is the last day before submission.
    image


    Thanks @francoisvn and @konman for the feedback!
    Balancing proper tutorials, mechanics and variant puzzles for the different mechanics has been/is tricky for this vertical slice. So my focus now is just figuring out what final changes need to be made.



  • Interesting update! That new platforming mechanic is quite unexpected and definitely a departure from what I was expecting! (not a bad thing)

    Firstly, there were some technical control issues that made it a bit difficult to play. I wasn't always sure if there was some sort of rule about where I could play blocks or not, or whether sometimes my input just wasn't working properly. That could just be my setup though? (I'm playing on Linux via Wine). There did also seem to be some bugs with undoing, where I got into an unsolvable state.

    Ignoring any potential tech issues, this build of the game throws a lot at you without really explaining it all. At the start it's a platformer, but it doesn't tell you how to move (or where/why you should be moving). When you get to the first "puzzle room" (is that what it is?) then it has 2 new mechanics there (one from an older build, but it's new here), which means new players might not be sure how to proceed.

    This build feels a bit like 2 different games that are a bit disjoint. I'm not saying that these couldn't be massaged into each other to feel like a single game (I think they can), but right now it feels like you have the platforming game, with the ability to change your environment and some ladder-like blocks, and then the grid-based game from earlier builds.

    That said, the new platforming mechanic give you a much better sense of climbing and "going upwards." The new ability to change your environment at your whim does feel like it's a bit powerful to be introduced this early tho. When I got the ability to move tiles this time around it felt a bit underwhelming because I can already materialize them out of nothing. If there was a limit on this power it might make a lot of sense (if there is already that wasn't obvious to me).

    Sorry my post is so negative, it's not intended to be! it feels like you're rapidly building on this so it's expected that things might be a bit rough around the edges, so feel free to ignore my comments that aren't applicable to the direction you want to take your design in. Best of luck with the application!
    Thanked by 1Asriele
  • Firstly, there were some technical control issues that made it a bit difficult to play.
    Its a bug I was trying to build a work around for.

    Thanks, I wanted to talk about these things but decided to remain silent and rather get raw feedback. Yes the game is disjointed since this kind of moving around is an exploration where maybe the puzzles are all about building your way around by using the combination of platforming and vertical path building. However its a new exploration so I have yet to really explore what it could mean. Based on your feedback I think I am going to fall back on the previous mechanic set and only use that as the demo.
    it feels like you're rapidly building on this so it's expected that things might be a bit rough around the edges
    Yeah it feels like there are different places to dig and I am just making sure I am digging for puzzles at the right spot before dedicating to a long term digging for the game is all, but I am getting clearer on what works and doesn't work. I feel like while the platforming aspect feels interesting it detracts from the original structure of the game. All movement around the islands can be done with the vertical puzzles and I already know there are things to explore in that direction.
    Sorry my post is so negative
    Not at all I was expecting this response, thank you for your feedback. :)
  • Looks promising! <3
    Thanked by 1Asriele
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