Update: I decided to open up the game for free again for now -- feel free to try it on the play page. The latest blog post brought in a lot of helpful feedback, and one of the big takeaways is that the semi-temporary graphics there now are turning off a lot of people. So I'll likely bring on an artist at some point and reconsider the Early Access thing again when that's in better shape.

The dev process was kinda prototype -> gameplay -> playtesting -> graphics (in progress), so the gameplay's a lot farther along than the rest.

Infinitroid

Development Story So Far

Experimental projects In early 2015, after some experimental freeware game projects, I decided to try my hand at a commercial game, one I could finish in a year (ha).

I had started my previous games with little to no forethought, often realizing later that the ideas weren't worth all the effort I was putting in. So I promised myself I'd do some careful planning this time around, and pick an idea I'd still care about many months in. I plunged into my ever-growing list of game ideas, looking to fish out the most promising nuggets.

After a long process I ended up with the rudiments of Infinitroid: a game that played like the classic 2D Metroids, with powerups opening up previously-inaccessible areas, but randomly-generated, ala Binding of Isaac and Spelunky, and with player-designable weapons inspired by electronic circuits and music synthesizers.

So far it's been a one-man project; I've done the programming, art, sound, and game design on it. My strong suit is definitely programming, the rest of it (most would agree) is adequate but not amazing. My dad contributed some background art. About 50-60% of my time throughout the year goes towards the game, the rest is paid work for my web development / programming clients.

Modular weapon synthesizer & confusinator

One of the biggest evolutions thus far has been the weapon system; inspired by modular music synthesizers, the original design ended up baffling nearly everyone who tried it. It had an editable network of parts, connected by signal wires (blue) and projectile tubes (yellow), with which you could create essentially electronic circuits to power your weapons. I wouldn't be surprised if it was Turing-complete:

In its favor, flexibility: you could make weapons that were firing by default and only stopped when you held the trigger key, or that toggled on and off with each trigger press. Or weapons that rotated round-robin between a bunch of shot types.

But the problem: needless complexity. I found that in-game you don't actually care about most of those esoteric possibilities. You don't need a weapon that fires faster, weaker shots when you hold the secondary trigger, or that calculates pi.

So, I started whittling the UI down to the kind of weapons that were most useful in-game, while trying to sacrifice as little creative potential as possible. The wire-based system helped explore some interesting possibilities, so perhaps it was useful as a prototyping effort--but I might have gotten there in a lot less time if I'd done more of it on paper.

A web build, and ongoing usability surgery

By early 2016, I was experimenting with Emscripten and asm.js, and got a web version working in my spare time. Initially it was just for fun, but it pretty quickly became useful for sharing the game with playtesters--my engine was well-optimized on the native side, so even the 2-3x slower javascript/browser build could generally maintain a good framerate.

The game was still pretty rough and I didn't want to inflict it on my friends too much, so I reached out to some playtesters on fiverr.com who were really helpful in finding sticking points and helping me sand off the sharp edges (thanks especially to fristoker on that front). A lot of things I couldn't have even guessed were blocking people from understanding and getting into the game.

I learned a huge amount about how much work and iteration it takes to make something easy to use and intuitive; when you see great products out in the world you sometimes get the feeling they were conceived and implemented in one straight shot; since going through all this feedback and iteration I've grown a new appreciation for how much it takes to make things “just work”.

So, progress continues; I've got hundreds if not thousands of potential ideas for the game (including many good ones from players) most of which will probably never see the light of day. But, I'm looking forward to taking a shot at the best of them, and making this game as great as I can make it.

If you want to follow Infinitroid's progress, check out the blog; there's an email-subscribe feature that functions as a sort of mailing list, with new game builds and behind-the-scenes stuff. And as always, feedback and ideas are appreciated--feel free to email me, or get involved with feature ideas / bug reports on the forum.

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