New Stage Screenshots!

We’re doing our best to release an extra level for our Keen Demo as soon as possible. We already have a lot of bug fixes and graphical improvements, but we REALLY want to show people some more playable content.

What we’ve been tentatively dubbing “the prison stage”, or even “level 5” is going to add two new mechanics: pushing blocks and destroying blocks. The level, set in a private prison facility to where Kim was taken after being captured on Level 4 (the factory) also debuts the sentry bot — a very strong robot that will only activate when it sees Kim. The overall tone of this level is a bit darker, but still ironic, as most of the game’s art.

Pushable blocks allow for more complex accessibility puzzles, as well as Sokoban-like segments. When combined to breakable blocks, pushable blocks can form locks that can only be opened from one side.

Global Game Jam 2017 – SUPER RAD LASER

I know the whole point of a Global Game Jam is to try working with new people and yatta yatta, but we, at Cat Nigiri, are so morbidly codependent we had to work together. Team was Me (Caio, Game Designer), Juliane (Music), Frango (Art), ex-Cat Nigiri Marcello (Game Designer) and Estevão (awesome programmer at Hoplon).

We came up with this hyper-80ies sort-of-shooter called SUPER RAD LASER, about a laser beam, set in a super rad universe. The theme for this year’s GGJ was “waves”, so a light beam made sense. Player controls the amplitude and the frequency of the beam, and shoots a pulse to damage enemies.

Aside from the futuristic skyline, all art and animation was made entirely by Frango during the jam. He is  THAT fast. The music, by Juliane, reminds me a lot of Giorgio Moroder’s work. In fact, the game was supposed to be about Giorgio Moroder shooting stuff — we’d call him “Giorgio Marauder”, but we went for a more abstract approach later on.

Game design-wise, the game is somewhat broken as of now, as it has a clear dominant strategy. We — that was basically Marcello at that point — were able to mitigate that though level design, but some key features were still missing at the end of the jam, making balancing this game a tricky task.

The game was coded in Unity 5, and we plan to release a better-balanced, low-bug version soon.

Download it HERE!

Why Keen has a Flexible Campaign on Indiegogo?

Flexible campaigns are often used when a project is live. It generates additional revenue to help developers shape up the experiences.

Simply put: We’ll deliver Keen no matter what. The Flexible Campaign simply allows us to create more –– with your insights.

Back Keen on Indiegogo!

BACK KEEN ON INDIEGOGO HERE!

Our backers, players and fans will get to play the game with its core mechanics no matter if we reach the goal. We opened the crowdfunding campaign to allow players to get more involved with the project, and to be able to participate in a special way. This means that every penny we get goes directly into the creation of additional content. The more we gather, the more fun we’ll be able to create.

This will make the game ––much–– better in three major ways:

  1. We’ll be able to get more people in the team to launch the game faster with much more quality;
  2. The input and participation from the community would create unique tailor-made experiences;
  3. More levels and more gameplay with additional and creative content.

To back up this compromise, we have solid playable builds, such as the Pre-Alpha and the Alpha versions you can play for free. Backers will get to play closed Beta versions as we build up the levels.

Help us create something great. Back Keen up!

thanks

New Logo, New Skates

A couple months ago (a couple dozen months, to be precise), during last year’s GDC, we found out that, although Keen’s gameplay was near spot-on, some other aspects of the game could be improved. Game Connection — a huge matchmaking event for developers and publishers — made us see lots of people from all around the globe give their impressions on Keen. Some Japanese players said it looked too Chinese. Chinese players felt the game was too Japanese. A couple industry hotshots found the game’s setting somewhat unappealing, and the protagonist a bit generic.

Off we went, back to Brazil, to fix most of these issues. The key changes, so far, are:

1- Not Japan, not China, not Asia. Keen overall aesthetics was always evidently influenced by Asian tropes, but, unlike Star Wars, our depiction of Asia was overly stereotypical, if not a bit sloppy; we were mixing lots of nations, as if Pelé dancing some Tango in Caracas was a good example of the Peruvian culture. We got rid of overly obvious references and re-imagined Keen’s universe as a brand new place, using Asia as a guideline, rather than copying/pasting cliches.

2- Kim was dull. Swords are awesome, but swords are also ridiculously overused. We switched Kim’s mighty blade to a Naginata — a weapon more associated with female warriors. Plus, we finally gave her some skates, to go with her rad, roller-derby-esque “Tony The Tiger” attitude. It also makes a whole lot of sense, as she’s the only character sliding instead of walking tile by tile (plus, it introduces a new VIDEO GAME LOGIC question: who skates on grass?)

3- Logo had nothing to do with the rest of the game. Ok, it was a neat logo, but it was totally off; had different finishing, with a big katana sword that could be seen NOWHERE throughout the game. It also had crappy legibility when small, relied too much on colors, and some people read it “Kccn.” The new one has more of that cutey “sticker look” we use everywhere else in the game.

Check out Keen’s modifications and tell us your impressions! Demo version can be downloaded here and here.

Money can be donated here!!! We need that. Badly.

Gameplay controls are finally awesome!

Fine-tuning the controls for the core gameplay took quite some time, but the game is finally behaving the way we needed. Keen is a turn-based game, meaning you can only play after the opponent makes his move — the opponent being the CPU-controlled creeps. There are a lot of great turn-based dungeon games, as it really fits the genre nicely, but Keen was begging to be something else. The whole ninja sword-slashing thing, along with her quick sliding moves implied a sense of speed that had nothing in common with the choppy gameplay normally found in turn-based titles. Kim controls needed to be responsive and fast-paced LIKE A NINJA; it needed to feel real-time, even if it wasn’t.

We had essentially two major in-game situations: a) Kim is moving around alone in the room, and b) there are enemies in the same room as Kim. In situation A, the game was already flowing rather fast from the get go. We just made Kim speed huger, and implemented an “input list”, to Commander Keen command Kim to move even if the keystroke happened before the end of the turn. What this input list does is basically stitch turns together, should the player input commands faster than the turns take to end. Easy Peasy. Situation B was a lot more complicated because the enemy had to be perceived moving, otherwise the player would not know what just happened and would deem our game garbage. For the sake of legibility, enemies were only moving after Kim’s turn ended, which was forcing the player to wait for their move regardless of input list and movement speed. No player wants to have his/her input denied for a couple hundred milliseconds on every turn, as that makes the pace of the game appear dragged, like playing Sonic on a very laggy emulator. We could’ve said “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” but the player has no obligation to understand why sometimes our game controls differenly than others. This kind of inconsistency can ruin the experience for a lot of people (myself included), so we had to ensure the game would have snappy controls regardless of the complexity of the turn. The solution was to move every enemy simultaneously with Kim, so that all turns would be roughly the same duration. If the player commands Kim to move but there’s an enemy still finishing his animation, the game will finish all enemy animations abruptly (no worries, nobody notices it!). In case of combat, all enemies will wait until the attack animation ends. During the attack animation, player controls are mute. This worked pretty well because battle animations are really short in this game, and watching the combat is actually important to help players understand what happened. Plus, a lot of action games deliberately halt controls just to make a stylish slow-mo stunt (see Batman: Arkham series).

You’ll see all that!
…in a couple months.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Shaping Keen: Part 3 – A Bit on the Story

Like with the gameplay, Keen’s general concept took a while to be settled (and we’re still never too sure about it). As I said a couple posts ago, the dashing moves and slashing attacks of our character got us flirting with the idea of making it about a ninja. That was further endorsed by Nando’s admiration (more like fanaticism) for feudal Japan. I’m not saying the game actually takes place in real Japan (or in the past), as the world of Keen is all made up; we just wanted to have a well-established aesthetic to our hero that could convey the values of respect, dedication, hard work, honor, and all that Hollywood ever implied to medieval Japan. It is a trope, I know, but we’re using it mildly, like George Lucas did with the samurai in Star Wars.

Another thing we quickly decided was that our hero would be a girl named Kim (now THAT’s an intended pun!). There’s not much to say about why she’s a girl — we just felt like it — but a lot to say about how to make a female character that wouldn’t perpetuate gender stereotypes, which is a subject for a whole post on gender representation in Keen.

Finally, the setting. Keen is a clash of the Eden-like village where our heroine has always lived, with the corrupting power of a highly industrialized, techno-megalopolis, represented by the evil Chikara Corporation. All enemies are either robots produced by Chikara, or people brainwashed by it. Everything practical comes from the City, whereas all things mystical are from the village. This rather satirical take on globalization was probably infused in my head after watching a bit of Koyaanisqatsi/Powaqqatsi/Naqoyqatsi/Baraka with Frango. Again, Keen setting should become a post of its own.

Speaking of Frango, now that’s a nice guy to have around your projects. Frango is Keen’s Art guy, but he surely does a lot more than that. He also was responsible from taking Keen from this (left) to this (right):

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