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Thread: 23: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

  1. #1

    Default 23: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies



    28 SEPTEMBER

    This is it: the greatest Roguelike/Minesweeper hybrid that will ever exist in the universe ever ever. The gaming experience that will melt your brains from the inside out. The holy grail of fun. Maybe this is all an exaggeration, but either way ... welcome to Onslaught of the Electric Zombies!



    Hordes of digital, undead nasties have infected your computer, and it's up to you to upload your personality, kick some ass and take back what's yours. Get as high a score as possible by exploring, fighting enemies and pulling off super-duper hacker feats that lesser mortals would tremble at the mere mention of. Then brag about it to your friends.

    Get version 1.01 now (3.7 MB). Zombies are a proud bunch, so one day they decided that they simply couldn't do without a cool online score system for posterity's sake. That, and people who score well in games tend to have big, juicy brains. Yummy!

    Thanks to everybody who provided their feedback and suggestions during development, especially over the last weekend. The game wouldn't be the way it is today if it wasn't for you. No, really: it sounds cheesy, but imagine what would've happened if I'd been allowed to create the game with all of my own crappy ideas intact? You'd probably still have something like version 0.1, and that wasn't really too great at all.

    Go you! b^_^b

    I can be contacted at rodain.joubert@devmag.org.za

    --------------------------------------

    HALL OF HACKERS:
    (Disclaimer: the online submission system is reasonably secure AFAIK, but we all know that stuff happens. Resist that devilish temptation to hack: it's a small game and not really worth the effort, so let's all just have fun instead. :3 If you DO find an exploit, tell me about it.)

    SHORT GAME LEADERBOARD:
    Current leader is: The Extremist - 64756 (Updated 12 Oct)
    Full list

    LONG GAME LEADERBOARD:
    Current leader is: Brackard - 205764 (Updated 05 Oct)
    Full list

    Service provided by:


    --------------------------------------

    MARKETING STUFFS

    Above all else, Onslaught of the Electric Zombies was built to prove a point. For a competition. And since Comp 23 is all about marketing, I'm going to update this post with my marketing efforts and press coverage. And stuff.


    MEDIA OUTLETS:

    Mah blog - contains a lot of random travel writing, but is being thematically extended to focus more on game dev. And, of course, the current Electric Zombies project.

    Mah Twitter - more of a general Twitter account, but it's gonna be focused on game development. Which, of course, means news updates about Electric Zombies.

    Facebook fan page - Enjoy the game? Become a fan, cmaaaan. You just hafta click one button.


    PRESS COVERAGE:

    IndieGames - "... the classic Windows game ..." (quote taken horribly out of context to make me sound good. Wheee!)

    IndieGames Part 2 - "The short mode is eight levels long, while a long game is twice that number." (Man, I'm ****ty at choosing pullquotes. But Tim *did* call it "awesome")

    Technabob - "For a zombiefied Minesweeper style game, I might just be willing to venture into the land of the Internet." (that says an astounding amount: the Internet is a pretty screwed up place)

    Gamasutra weekly indie roundup - okay, this one's cheating. It's just a roundup including the aforementioned IndieGames review, but, well, it's a "best of", so I'm touting it.
    Last edited by Nandrew; 12-10-2009 at 01:41 PM.

  2. #2
    Game.Dev Moderator
    and bettar-rar game developer than Wea-sel
    dislekcia's Avatar
    Gamertag: dislekcia

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    Game crashed for me on lvl 5. I'd just clicked a square that I was certain was going to be empty, it did the "pressed" animation and then crashed without revealing. I had the Defender in my only item slot, 1 level of tracking and 1 level of movement. Tile clicked was all the way on the right side of the board, 3 or 4 tiles down.

    I'm going to play more of the game tomorrow when I'm not dying of a headache, but one thought I can't get out of my head is this: Why not provide people with an initial level up point right when they start and recommend they put it in tracking, that way people will be more familiar with the game from the start (without the numbers it's rather frustrating at first) but then more advanced players can try different "builds" with that initial skill point where they don't go tracking from the get go. Just an idea...

    Also the green text on green BG is hard to read on my laptop screen.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    STOP PRESS! I've righteously found and squashed the cause of the game hang.

    I'm uploading an updated version right at this moment, should be up in a few minutes.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    Right, the new version is up, and fortunately there weren't too many downloads just yet. So I should be in the clear for that one. <_< Thanks for feedback, d.

    I like the idea of recommending a level of tracking from the start, actually ... while I've not found it to be strictly the *best* skill, it's definitely the most accessible for beginners.

    Oh, and I'm going to fiddle about with the colours later. The game's going to get a reskinning soon if I snag a reasonably artsy type, and I'll be paying more attention to contrast and typeface and the like. ;)

  5. #5

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    Love the game's core play! The way items and zombies interact is especially interesting, forcing you to change your strategy all the time, leading to a different game path every time you play, and this amidst the idea of hunting them down with the tracking info.

    Some issues (I apologise if I sound like a whining dummy; take from it what you will).

    Initially I didn't get it at all - did I have to kill the enemies? How? (I thought maybe you had to do something special to not get damage). It also seemed like I was just clicking away without any purpose. Also, choosing when to leave a level was initially confusing; I expected the system to "let me go" to the next level, and played, well, until all the squares have been clicked (I actually thought maybe the "next level" button was a "test" feature to allow testers (like us) to see what other levels are like).

    Of course, how it all works became apparent after playing awhile; think you might just explain or show it better.

    The effect of some zombies was also a bit hard to understand.

    The snipers, for example. When do they actually shoot? It takes 20 turns for them to load, but when do they start loading? I thought it was at the beginning of the level, but am sure I took more than 20 turns the one time. The other time it took me totally off-guard.

    The Marauders introduce a very interesting play mechanic (it almost inverts the game), but it was also not clear initially how to handle them (of course, you should *kill* them, but as I explained - how to kill a zombie was not so clear).

    I also could not figure out how the poison works. At one stage, I saw 3 numbers flying; was the third related to poison?

    The Zombie King's warning about you not having enough energy to kill him and survive sounded like a shallow taunt, so of course I tried to kill him a few times... and I couldn't see how much energy I was actually loosing to see whether I am right. Perhaps this is intentional, but if it *is* possible to kill him, you might consider giving the player some hint as to what amount of energy he actually needs (even if it is after he kills you - for next time!)

    Also, [and now this is really just impression + opinion advice, easily I could be wrong here], the mid-levels seem to be somewhat randomised. You might want to "filter" your randomisation a bit - at one stage I got two sniper levels in a row, which is not quite as exciting as getting a new level every time. I can also imagine that getting two Marauder levels in a row might be problematic.

    A dramatic warning when energy is low would also be helpful; I often did not notice when my energy was being depleted.

    I also missed the text messages at the bottom, and got the impression that I also missed some dialogs (perhaps by accidentally dismissing them; perhaps by some interface bug), but I can't be sure.

    I also think the grading at the end ("hacker") could be put in some context. I got that rating every time, so I don't know whether it is good or bad. (I.e, is it "noob", ..., "hacker", or "hacker", ..., "devil hacker"). There is much more incentive to play again when you know if you do better, you will become a "super hacker" or whatever.

    Another thing that bothered my a little is the 30% penalty if you die. I would prefer a retirement bonus instead (to be honest, I never actually retired [always trying to kill the king], so maybe it is there). It makes it easier to "analyse your risk" if you are aiming for some specific score... but this is really just my personal preference.

    One thing to watch out for: the game allows for a degenerate strategy, something like randomly clicking "probably safe" cells in certain levels, quickly skipping the "difficult" levels, and then retiring. With this you can get a score of almost 4000 (even if you die in the last level) without really playing (and enjoying) it.

    Finally, because it is so much fun, the game feels awfully short. (I can see making a longer game can present some problems of its own - for example, then saving progress, etc. becomes an issue).

    Oh yes - and I would love a cheat for no imps getting into the game!


    Look forward to the next version,

    ht
    Last edited by herman.tulleken; 18-08-2009 at 11:51 AM.

  6. #6
    Simba Chippit rawrs with flavour.
    Master of Ceremonies.
    Chippit's Avatar
    Gamertag: ChippitSA Steam ID: Chippit Wii Code: 3663 1338 9892 3944

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    I agree with a lot of Herman's points here. I particularly found that the game was unclear in the beginning (understanding that this is a prototype, I dismissed this issue as something to be handled with a tutorial of sorts - it probably helped that I'd played Gearsweeper too), as well as the issue with missing some dialogs at the bottom. Many of them seem to progress immediately and on their own, seemingly due to multiple things happening at the same time.

    As for the zombie king, the first time I defeated him was actually with that power that lets you kill enemies you've completely surrounded for free (which I adored from Gearsweeper too!). It felt like a bit of a cheap victory for that, though, but he certainly is not invulnerable. :P

    On the note of poison, it appears that it deals damage to you at the end of every turn, and, similar to how the marauder levels work, their damage is affected by your defence ability, so it often takes multiple 'doses' to actually begin to injure you. I think, to make effects like this easier to see, the health change popups should be staggered, and not appear all at once.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    Thanks! The feedback has been generous, and you guys will be happy to know that I've already fixed most of the problems you've mentioned: the next version should be out in a few days.

    Step-by-step address:

    Quote Originally Posted by herman.tulleken View Post
    Initially I didn't get it at all - did I have to kill the enemies? How? (I thought maybe you had to do something special to not get damage). It also seemed like I was just clicking away without any purpose. Also, choosing when to leave a level was initially confusing; I expected the system to "let me go" to the next level, and played, well, until all the squares have been clicked (I actually thought maybe the "next level" button was a "test" feature to allow testers (like us) to see what other levels are like).
    Those problems have been somewhat addressed. Firstly, there is now a rudimentary tutorial system that enlightens the player through dialog. About 50% of these messages mention at some point: "By the way, you really should just go ahead and fight them thar enemies". ;) From the feedback I've received from, like, everyone, this seems to be the point that needs stressing the most.

    I've also shaken up the level progression system somewhat. Now, there's a few "level exit" blocks scattered across each grid. You have to uncover at least one before you're allowed to progress. This feels a lot better than the old system, which was definitely prone to unsatisfactory skipping.

    Quote Originally Posted by herman.tulleken View Post
    The snipers, for example. When do they actually shoot? It takes 20 turns for them to load, but when do they start loading? I thought it was at the beginning of the level, but am sure I took more than 20 turns the one time. The other time it took me totally off-guard.

    The Marauders introduce a very interesting play mechanic (it almost inverts the game), but it was also not clear initially how to handle them (of course, you should *kill* them, but as I explained - how to kill a zombie was not so clear).
    You were confused about the snipers because they were BROKEN. :P I've added it as a known issue to the list in the first post. Snipers currently don't do damage and don't give you score -- this will be fixed with the next upload.

    Marauders may be a bit unclear, yeah ... I'm hoping that the tutorial will prepare players for regular enemies, and that they'll be able to infer the marauder's purpose somewhat. This is actually the primary issue that I'm wrestling with at the moment: giving the player adequate information versus the thrill of players discovering things for themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by herman.tulleken View Post
    I also could not figure out how the poison works. At one stage, I saw 3 numbers flying; was the third related to poison?
    Yep. This is actually another issue that I'm struggling with: I'm trying to convey turn-by-turn information to the player while not overwhelming them. Sometimes a lot of stuff just happens at once, you know? For the meantime, I think I'll just merge poison and regular damage effects so that there's not a third number weighing you down.

    Quote Originally Posted by herman.tulleken View Post
    The Zombie King's warning about you not having enough energy to kill him and survive sounded like a shallow taunt, so of course I tried to kill him a few times... and I couldn't see how much energy I was actually loosing to see whether I am right. Perhaps this is intentional, but if it *is* possible to kill him, you might consider giving the player some hint as to what amount of energy he actually needs (even if it is after he kills you - for next time!)
    I think that, in the death dialog, I'll tell players exactly how much damage they were dealt. I like the idea of players educating themselves through a *little bit* of trial and error (therefore becoming better at the game), and I think this is fair as long as I make death itself a learning experience. I believe good Roguelikes do deadly education rather well. :P

    Quote Originally Posted by herman.tulleken View Post
    Also, [and now this is really just impression + opinion advice, easily I could be wrong here], the mid-levels seem to be somewhat randomised. You might want to "filter" your randomisation a bit - at one stage I got two sniper levels in a row, which is not quite as exciting as getting a new level every time. I can also imagine that getting two Marauder levels in a row might be problematic.
    Yeah, that was another bug. I think it's squashed now: all random levels inside a given play session *should* be unique.

    Quote Originally Posted by herman.tulleken View Post
    A dramatic warning when energy is low would also be helpful; I often did not notice when my energy was being depleted.

    I also missed the text messages at the bottom, and got the impression that I also missed some dialogs (perhaps by accidentally dismissing them; perhaps by some interface bug), but I can't be sure.
    Done. Beeps and flashes and everything. :) I've also added warnings or timers to certain dangerous events such as the zombie bomb and sniper levels.

    The messages at the bottom aren't terribly important: they usually only deal with common game events ("you uncovered an enemy, there is danger nearby, etc"). If you've been accidentally dismissing dialog boxes, however, then that's a cause for concern. I'll try sort something out to reduce that possibility.

    Quote Originally Posted by herman.tulleken View Post
    I also think the grading at the end ("hacker") could be put in some context. I got that rating every time, so I don't know whether it is good or bad. (I.e, is it "noob", ..., "hacker", or "hacker", ..., "devil hacker"). There is much more incentive to play again when you know if you do better, you will become a "super hacker" or whatever.

    Another thing that bothered my a little is the 30% penalty if you die. I would prefer a retirement bonus instead (to be honest, I never actually retired [always trying to kill the king], so maybe it is there). It makes it easier to "analyse your risk" if you are aiming for some specific score... but this is really just my personal preference.
    Eh, the first point is a proto thing. :P Actually, you can never get a rating other than "hacker" because I haven't programmed it to say anything EXCEPT "hacker" yet! I'll try get a proper ratings system (and a rudimentary high score table) into the next version, since score is kinda important in this game.

    I really like the retirement bonus suggestion, actually. I think it has a nicer psychological effect on the player: rather than getting a "penalty for dying", you get a "reward for living". Nice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chippit
    As for the zombie king, the first time I defeated him was actually with that power that lets you kill enemies you've completely surrounded for free (which I adored from Gearsweeper too!). It felt like a bit of a cheap victory for that, though, but he certainly is not invulnerable. :P
    Hoo boy, everybody's interested in the zombie king. :P

    The zombie king is something of a glass cannon: he's incredibly tough to defeat, but if you strike him in the right situation, he crumbles. This may be a controversial decision, and I worry about the "hollow victory" that Chippit reports, but I'm moulding this boss character after the Yellow Kawangi in Weird Worlds who, similarly, are very intimidating and almost impossible to defeat unless you happen to have a fortuitous game run, in which case there's several ways to defeat them very, very easily.

    I justify this decision because I want a boss battle that the player CAN'T just win every time ... making victory (and the massive score bonus) all the more sweeter on the occasions when it is possible. :)

    For the spoilerific record, the zombie king deals 100 base damage. Keep that in mind when you try to fight him. ;)



    Also, I know that the current game sessions feel short, and again I'm following the Weird Worlds approach to this problem: once I feel that I've got a respectable 8-level system up and running, I'm going to give the player the option of playing short (8-level), medium (16-level), and long (24-level) play sessions. Each length has its own scoreboard, so it'll be simple player preference regarding how long they want to be in the game, and how much they want to develop their character.

    This has been planned from the start: it just hasn't been implemented yet. ;)


    ...

    And yeah, wow again! Thanks for the extensive feedback, this is all being jotted into my design doccie for consideration and to-do. :)

  8. #8

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    Quote Originally Posted by Nandrew View Post
    You were confused about the snipers because they were BROKEN. :P I've added it as a known issue to the list in the first post.
    Oops... (I saw it, but then read later that you fixed something, and thought it was that. Re-reading properly, I see it was not...)

    Quote Originally Posted by herman.tulleken View Post
    I also could not figure out how the poison works.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nandrew View Post
    Yep. This is actually another issue that I'm struggling with: I'm trying to convey turn-by-turn information to the player while not overwhelming them. Sometimes a lot of stuff just happens at once, you know?
    If this was a character game (I mean, where the player had a visible character), you could make a poisoned character green, and green damage would easily be linked to it. Perhaps you can still use this device somehow, perhaps tinting the board green, or something like that. (Even if you keep the coupling with normal damage, something like this could still help explain what is going on. It will also make it more striking when the effect stops).

    (I think this "enough" vs. "overload" problem is very common in game design. It is sometimes helpful to think of a solution on a board game - it is such a reduced "interface", that any solution is usually non-obvious, so it's helpful to get out of a thinking-rut.)

    I look forward to see the changes you describe in action!

  9. #9

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    I think, then, that I'm going to just lump in poison damage with any other damage that takes place (so just a single damage indicator per turn), and use green sheen to show you that part of that damage is poison. Thanks for the brain bounce. :)

  10. #10

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    A new version is up, with a whole whack of improvements and even some core changes to the gameplay. Be sure to snap it up and provide me with:

    (A) your feedback
    (B) your top score. :)

    Credit goes to Nathan Pożarycki for the new art, since he has officially become my drawering-wizard-thing for the duration of this project. I'll try get him to come around and say hi, but feel free to leave your comments and suggestions for him in the meantime.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    I do have a complaint about Quarantine; if the zombie is on the edge of the map it can't be completely surrounded by explored tiles and you can't use the item on it. Surely, if I've checked all available surrounding tiles it should work?

  12. #12

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    Nope. Quarantine is a pretty awesome item as it is. I forbid abusing its divine power any more than necessary.

    8 tiles only. And maybe dessert.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    on my first try:

    For a start, you died before retiring.
    You recovered 529 clean sectors.
    You went toe-to-toe with 32 electric minions.
    You also recovered 7 system artifacts, for better or worse

    Your final score is 10765 points.
    It would be nice to have totals to compare to. 529 clean sectors versus? how many artifacts did I miss? Is there a bonus for finding all the artifacts, for better or worse?

    It should also say what level you died on so you can screen shot an share...

  14. #14

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    One of my friends swung this over to me yesterday:



    How is this screenshot awesome? Let me count the ways:

    (1) It's really flattering to see a player this enthusiastic about the game even at such a tentative stage in its development. I have somebody officially hooked! \:D/

    (2) Barring my own personal high score (which kinda doesn't count), he's got the best end-game that I've seen from anybody so far.

    (3) He's included Han Solo. Playing a guitar.

    This piece of flagrant self-indulgence brought to you by Unicorns(TM). It's also an excuse to thank everybody else for the feedback that they've provided so far -- most of it has been over Gtalk, but I totally officially recognise your efforts and support and stuff. :3

  15. #15
    Game.Dev Moderator
    and bettar-rar game developer than Wea-sel
    dislekcia's Avatar
    Gamertag: dislekcia

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    OMW! That's awesome :)

    How friggin motivating is that picture of Han rocking out? Damn.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    This means you totally got to have an easter egg graphic that displays when you beat the top score.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    Finally managed to play the updated version. I like the improvements you've made. Especially the exit blocks (in certain levels they provide a lot of tension [like when you have 10 energy in a Marauder level!]). Art is also pretty cool, especially background.

    Overall, the tutorial and extra info (timers, etc.) makes everything a lot clearer now, I think (but of course I cannot speak for a newcomer anymore).

    Small things:
    • Perhaps you can include a poison explanation in the tutorial.
    • Interfacewise, the dialogs at the very beginning would look nicer in the game's look-and-feel.
    • At times the long text attached to the cursor was a bit distracting (although impossible to miss!)
    • Would be nice if the final screen explicitly says "You killed the Zombie King" (!!)


    (And what about screaming zombie sound effects? And recorded Aaaahs! and such that plays when you press the button with that name :-)

    (PS - my score is still in the administrator range)

    ht

  18. #18

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    Quote Originally Posted by herman.tulleken View Post
    Finally managed to play the updated version. I like the improvements you've made. Especially the exit blocks (in certain levels they provide a lot of tension [like when you have 10 energy in a Marauder level!]). Art is also pretty cool, especially background.

    Overall, the tutorial and extra info (timers, etc.) makes everything a lot clearer now, I think (but of course I cannot speak for a newcomer anymore).

    Small things:
    • Perhaps you can include a poison explanation in the tutorial.
    • Interfacewise, the dialogs at the very beginning would look nicer in the game's look-and-feel.
    • At times the long text attached to the cursor was a bit distracting (although impossible to miss!)
    • Would be nice if the final screen explicitly says "You killed the Zombie King" (!!)


    (And what about screaming zombie sound effects? And recorded Aaaahs! and such that plays when you press the button with that name :-)

    (PS - my score is still in the administrator range)

    ht
    Haha, awesome! I'm glad you like the exit block idea: goodness knows that I've literally escaped from a marauder level with a single health point before.

    - The poison example is a bit of a tricky point. I'm actually going to be implementing quite a lot of different enemies with some rather exotic attack types, and I really need something like poison effects to be quite clear *without* subjecting the player to a tutorial dialog when it happens. Because if I do it for that sort of enemy, I have to do it for a bunch of other effects, and I want to minimise the very stark gameplay interruptions that these messages are already creating.

    - The GM default dialogs at the beginning are a blight upon mankind and my game, and I hope to remove every last one of their miserable kind from existence. :P I'll be working on a title screen / menu interface for the next version: I'm kinda tired of having to answer the same questions during every play session, so it's time to streamline that.

    - Are you talking about the long text at the beginning of the tutorial which attaches itself to your mouse for the first few moves? Yeah, it's been designed to be impossible to miss. :P I hope that it doesn't interfere *too* much, though: once the player has made about five moves, I remove that text and just let them get on with playing confidently because the tut message *can* get bloody annoying. And, of course, there's the option to not receive tutorial messages at all. ;)

    - I really like the idea of more detailed feedback at the end of a game scenario, and Fengol's mentioned certain things he'd like to see from the end-game screen as well. Major game events (such as the defeat of the king) are definitely promising ideas. :)

    - The sound effects I'm still a bit iffy on. I've decided to explore a new avenue with this game's audio and have thus far made my entire SFX library consist of "retro"-themed effects to fit in with the idea of waltzing through a computer. What I *could* try do is see if I can synth screams and the like, but I'm reluctant to do full-quality sounds that could break the theme. This does bring up a good point though: how do people feel about the retro sound theme? I want to revise and develop it further, and will hopefully be backing it with an appropriate music track in a later release.


    Thanks for the continued feedback, folks!

  19. #19

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    surely if you mix in a lot of static into the screams and noises it'll be sufficiently 8-bit? Maybe watch the recent wolfenstein restrospective on gametrailers to hear what initial speech sounded like on the Apple II

  20. #20

    Default Re: Onslaught of the Electric Zombies

    I could do that, yeah. Though I suspect that I'll have to be a lot more careful than just adding static and noise. Will probably look up some readings on the matter.

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