Vision Soft Reset can now be purchased on Steam. There will be a 10% launch discount until 1/23/2019.
Great news, Vision Soft Reset is now playable from start to finish! These past few weeks I’ve been working hard on a final push to get this game finished. It’s very satisfying to finally reach this milestone. But there’s still much to do, including additional assets, design tweaks, bug fixes and more.
I previously anticipated the game taking a few more months to complete. However due to various recent events, I have no choice but to finish production a lot sooner. Unfortunately this will result in some compromises, including a few planned areas being cut from the final game. On the bright side I can confirm the game will actually be finished and released. As someone averse to releases this is a blessing in disguise.
There will be a closed beta coming soon, with a release sometime in January.
Recently a few people have asked me if Vision Soft Reset was still in development, despite the lack of updates on the game. I was actually kind of surprised people were still following it, that’s pretty awesome. Rest assured I have steadily been working on the game and will continue to do so until it’s complete.
I don’t have any excuse for the lack of updates, and I apologize. Updates are very important and are part of the responsibility of a serious game developer, and I’ll strive to do better in the future.
Here are some screenshots showing new areas, enemies and abilities. I don’t want to show too much though, gotta leave some surprises in the game right?
I also showcased the game Unity Developer Day NYC, a conference tour focused on local Unity developers. Here’s a pic from the event:
Over the past year I’ve met some awesome people, made friends with fellow devs, and got a new job at a small game development company. I’ve learned a lot, most of all that I still have a long way to go until I’d be able to make a living working on my own original projects full-time. This means that while I’m dedicated to finishing VSR, it will continue to be the hobbyist spare-time project it’s always been and be developed at a comparatively slow pace.
As such it’s hard to estimate when VSR will be done. Currently the game is about 70% complete, and I’m aiming (hoping) for a release sometime early 2019. It will be a paid release, on Itch.io and Gamejolt for sure. I’m open to releasing on other platforms as well.
VSR certainly isn’t going to set the world on fire. But I’m confident it’s going to appeal to at least a few players out there, which is pretty satisfying in its own way. Thank you all for reading!
At last, a new build is available! The big new addition is Griger’s lab, a dungeon-like area with puzzles, new enemies, new lore, and a new boss fight.
It can be downloaded here on itch.io.
It’s also available on Gamejolt.
Also instead of showing a dry gameplay video, I took some cuts and made a trailer! Exciting!
One more thing to add, I also set up a Discord for the game. I figure it’ll be a great way to talk with players and gather feedback. Discord link: https://discord.gg/gJQDQcH
Haven’t figured out a great way to summarize how development has been going. But progress is definitely being made, here’s a video showing it off. New rooms, new enemies, new sound effects, and more.
Note that there’s more programmer art and unfinished areas in general here than in my previous gameplay videos. No music either.
It’ll be a while longer before I get another public build out.
Introducing a new mechanic: the Spin Dodge. Once unlocked with a decryptor, the Spin Dodge allows Oracle to dodge in one of 8 directions. The dodge contains a reasonable amount of invincibility frames that can be used to cross obstacles without taking damage. It has obvious use in combat as a defensive move as well.
The dodge doubles as a mobility upgrade, as dodging upwards allows Oracle to reach heights she couldn’t get by jumping. Only one can be done in mid-air before touching the ground however, can’t just go flying anywhere.
While the introduction of the spin dodge was just created recently, the maneuver itself was actually implemented very early on in development. This was done so levels could be built with the spin dodge’s added mobility in mind. Early areas may be accessed before acquiring this ability, but that doesn’t mean the player won’t return to those areas after getting it. Rooms should be interesting to traverse no matter what abilities the player has at the time.
Notably absent is any kind of “stamina meter” that’s drained by the Spin Dodge. While this meter is common in games for mechanics like this, I have a personal hatred for when actions that feel like a natural extension of the player character are arbitrarily limited. Nothing feels worse than pressing a button but the player character doesn’t respond. The move is still sensibly balanced however, just without taking control away from the player. Invincibility frames do not last for the entire move, and there’s a brief period at the end where Oracle can barely move. I also made sure that repeatedly dodging in a straight line is assuredly not faster than just running. In this kind of game players will surely be searching for the fastest way to get around. If the way to do that is to dodge a lot, players will do it, despite how silly it would be. The most optimal way to play should also be the most fun.
Hi everyone. It’s been a while since the last post, and a lot of things have been added and tweaked. Not least of which is refining a large and very important new mechanic. We’ve seen how Oracle can peek a few seconds into the future with the Vision and Flashback mechanics. But her clairvoyance is not limited to this short amount of time. Vision Soft Reset also features the Chamber Flashback, a unique mechanic that not only allows us to revert time by several minutes, but also allow us to revisit different locations and scenarios created from altered timelines. This is a beefy mechanic that will force players to rethink how they approach these kinds of adventure games.
But first let’s talk about something else: game saving. A pretty standard feature in games, saving creates a record of the player’s progress that can be resumed later. Many games use automatic saves, although it’s somewhat of a tradition to have manual saves in retro-inspired adventures. But as we’ll see, this format is very deliberately chosen to integrate with Vision Soft Reset’s other mechanics.
It works how most gamers would expect. Explore further and you’ll come across more save platforms.
Each save records Oracle’s location, time, and max health (among other things). These saves are visualized in an in-game menu known as a Time Tree. Each node on the Time Tree represents a time the player saved. The horizontal position of the node represents the time the game was saved, the icon represents the location, and the dots represent the player’s health. There is also an additional node which shows the player’s current time and location.
Let’s continue the game. Here’s a good chance to showcase some new areas and obstacles made since the last update. Notably we found a health upgrade (bringing our max health to 3 hearts), and the Charge Shot decryptor (decryptors are codes that unlock features of Oracle’s suit).
We end up in a room containing some familiar looking symbols. Unfortunately, we’re also stuck. We can’t jump back up the way we came, and there doesn’t seem to be another way out. What can we do now?
Here’s where the Chamber Flashback comes in handy. By selecting a node on the Time Tree, we’re able to revert back to a previous time that we recorded at a Chamber Platform.
Observing the time in the upper right, we see that we didn’t teleport to a different location, rather we reverted to where we were a few minutes ago. It’s kinda like reloading an old save file. Well now that we’re out of that sticky situation, what else can we do?
So naturally we solve that puzzle from before and open a nearby barrier. But how did Oracle know the correct combination? She hasn’t gone into the room revealing the solution yet. As it turns out, everything from when we last saved up until we got stuck in that room never actually happened. It was all just one big vision that Oracle had. We were able to take information we found from one possible future, and apply it to problems encountered in the present. Pretty neat!
Codes are also sources of information that can be recalled through time. Remember that the Charge Shot decryptor isn’t exactly an upgrade, it’s a code that unlocks abilities that have always been a part of Oracle’s suit. Just like how we remembered the combination that unlocked the barrier, Oracle remembers the code that lets her shoot charge shots. Since we’re not using upgrades, everything resulting from a Chamber Flashback sounds pretty good, right?
Not quite. Even though we saw a vision of a health upgrade, remember that in this timeline we never actually collected it yet. Health upgrades are examples of physical items, things that don’t transfer across visions. We should probably go back and get it before continuing into the unknown. Note that if we reverted to a time after we picked up the upgrade, we wouldn’t be having this problem. We should probably save after picking it back up again (which will also record the newly opened barrier).
It’s up to the player to manage physical items when utilizing Chamber Flashbacks. It’s an evil necessary for preserving consistency with the game’s rules. It’ll take some getting used to, but smart players should have no trouble adjusting to this new style of gameplay (hint: save often). It’s not as simple as it appears though. In a later update I’ll explain how precious time is in Vision Soft Reset, and why using time to snag some upgrades instead of taking the fastest route might be a disadvantageous tradeoff.
Finally, visiting different areas after reverting to a previous save will result in branching timelines. After saving at the first platform we traveled right, but what happens when we instead go left? Each new destination is recorded as a different branch in the Time Tree. These branches are completely custom built by the player’s actions, and it’s up to them to find the best branch that gets through the game. What will your Time Tree look like?
We’ve only scratched the surface of the depth the Chamber Flashback and Time Tree mechanics bring to Vision Soft Reset. More will revealed in later updates!
It’s well known that players of a game will try to find the most optimal way to complete a challenge, even if it’s not necessarily the most entertaining way to play. As such, one of the priorities in developing VSR is to make the optimal way and the fun way the same thing. I was disappointed to find that, during a recent playtesting session during a Madison indies meetup, the game was failing to satisfy this goal.
Players weren’t using the Flashback mechanic (reverting time a few seconds) much. This is one of VSR’s three big features, so by not using it they were missing out on what makes the game special. As these players had zero experience with the game, they had yet to find the “most optimal” way to play the game, and they weren’t having much fun.
When I play VSR, I find it’s most fun to use Flashback often in short bursts. I would weave between numerous attacks, shoot some enemies, but get hit by a stray projectile. Then on instinct I would Flashback, reverting to just before getting hit, then dodge out of the way. The Flashback takes only a second, which isn’t long enough to disrupt the game’s flow, and I don’t lose any health. The tradeoff is that it costs phase, but the quicker it’s done the less phase is lost. If Flashback is done every time to “undo” any damage taken, it’s reasonable to think of phase as health, but more fluid and robust.
However this isn’t how playtesters were playing the game. They knew how to Flashback, as evidenced by them passing the tutorial and correctly using it during minor puzzle sections. But it wasn’t used in combat that often. Some players only used it when they were about to die, and others just plain didn’t think of using it. Proficiency with using Flashback is something ideally the player should learn over the course of the game, but until that happens they’re not having fun. So the question is, how can I encourage players to use Flashback more?
From the very start of development making Flashback useful has been a big priority. Oracle has such little health compared to most adventure games (2 hearts / 4 HP) to make undoing mistakes more important.
But on the other hand, there are reasons why the player would feel hesitant towards using Flashback. It runs off phase from a meter, a meter that does not automatically recharge (technically it does recharge but only in limited quantity, and it works in a somewhat obtuse way so it may be worth revamping), which gives the impression that it should be used sparingly. The Vision ability would also be temporarily disabled if phase ran low enough, which felt weird, and such I’ve removed this mechanic. I have more reasons to do this and plans regarding Vision’s constraints, but that’s an entirely different discussion.
From all this it’s clear that Flashback needs to made more appealing to the player. And the Flawless Clear is a mechanic I added to do just that.
If the player encounters an ambush and can defeat it without losing any health, they are awarded with a Flawless Clear. Note that if Oracle takes damage, but it’s undone by performing a Flashback, then they’re still eligible for the Flawless Clear. The player is rewarded by having all their phase restored. The player can also freely move when this bonus is being awarded (although this isn’t clear from the above gif), meaning the flow of the game doesn’t slow down either.
So here are two ways to approach an ambush:
- Fight → get hit → get hit some more → use Flashback only when near death → win. This results in losing health and a little bit of phase.
- Fight → get hit → use Flashback → get hit some more → use Flashback → win → Flawless Clear. This results in no health lost and no phase lost.
Scenario 1 is relatively bland, and ending an ambush with less health isn’t optimal play. Scenario 2 is more involved and interesting, getting the Flawless Clear feels good, and the player finishes in good standing. Scenario 2 is simultaneously more optimal and more fun.
This is all in theory, of course. No playtesting has been done since this mechanic was implemented, so it’s possible there’s something wrong.
With my example it seems like there aren’t as many meaningful choices to make, and the seemingly “smart” option of conserving phase is no longer a good strategy. However there are still reasons to not constantly use Flashback all the time (the phase meter is limited after all). Flawless Clear also only applies to ambushes, whereas combat is a common occurrence outside ambushes as well.
It could make the game too easy. But it’s very simple to make an easy game harder (e.g. having phase drain slightly faster)
So time will tell if this mechanic makes the Flashback mechanic more popular. Of course the player has to know this mechanic even exists in the first place; whether this needs a splash screen tutorial or if the player can quickly figure it out themselves has yet to be determined. At the very least getting a reward for playing well simply feels good, so even if Flawless Clears weren’t the change I needed they’d still be fun to have in the game anyway.
The latest gameplay video for VSR. The presentation got a complete overhaul since the last gameplay video, which is what this focuses on.
I feel that combat can very easily make a game feel repetitive and stale, which is strange because combat is usually added with the intention of giving players more to do. To circumvent this problem in Vision Soft Reset, I want to introduce a large variety of enemies that all feel distinct from each other. This includes differences in movement patterns, appearance, and even their cries upon death. By mixing different enemies together for each encounter each battle can feel like a fresh new challenge.
And here are four such enemies below, wonderfully animated by Elias Frost, VSR’s second sprite artist.
A green seal-like creature that is usually content with just flopping around. But some Sealimes are more dangerous than others, and will fling a barrage of projectiles if they feel threatened. The Vision mechanic can be used to reveal which one will strike before being in the line of fire.
A squirrel-like creature that can lob explosive acorns. They never seem to run out, but luckily they’re not very hard to avoid.
A mole-like creature that moves quickly while aimlessly slashing its claws. Magooms will occasionally burrow into the ground and surface in a different location.
A small mosquito-like creature. Not very threatening on its own, but in groups Smoseys become much more formidable.