Scarred By Heaven

11-05-24 -- Spirit Stasis and Other New Attacks

Hello! It's been a while!

It's been a sort of stressful past few weeks for me, but I've managed to stay productive despite it all. For the most part, I've been working on additions and changes to the game's combat--implementing some new player abilities, new enemy types, new arenas, and making a variety of minor tweaks to the difficulty, enemy AI, and core mechanics.

I never thought I'd be saying this, but it's been surprisingly relaxing to be coding again, compared to all of the writing and art. I think there's a really fun 'experimental' aspect to coding SBH's combat, where I can often add things without being entirely sure how they'll interact with the physics and other mechanics, and can then discover all of the potential fun interactions first-hand by just screwing around.

New Attacks and Abilities

The most exciting new addition to the game (to me at least) has been a handful of new early game special attacks and ability upgrades for Saki. The most significant of these are:

These are all shown off in this video:

It's been very fun to finally expand Saki's moveset after playing with only the starting attacks for so long. Stasis in particular has been something I've been excited to implement ever since I came up with the concept for Saki's power. I've always thought 'time-stop' mechanics in action games are really cool when used as a combo tool, and I think the sheer absurdity of it makes this a perfect fit for SBH.

These are only a few of many upgrades I have planned. Admittedly, most of my ideas for them start as those naïve "that would be really cool" thoughts, and the hard part is making sure they can actually work as combat mechanics, and keeping them balanced in relation to the rest of the player's moveset. Generally, I'd like for all special attacks and abilities the player can unlock to have their own niches, and all remain useful throughout the entire course of the game's story, so I'll need to keep my fantasies in check to avoid bloating the move list...!

Minor Additions, System Changes and Updating the Combat Demo

In addition to the new moves, I've also made a lot of tweaks and small additions to the player's abilities, enemy AI, and combat overall, mostly with the intent to make the game more beginner-friendly. Having thought on it for a few months now, I feel like the combat demo--mostly the 'post-game' fights available--might be a little too brutal and throw players into the 'deep end', without much game knowledge and against enemies that too aggressive. I feel like this highlighted some issues with the 'early game' combat overall, so I wanted to alter some things.

A lot of the changes are too small to bother detailing at the moment, but I think overall, they add up to be pretty significant, so I'll likely be creating an updated version of the 2-24 Demo in the near future, and write a full list of changes alongside it's release.

Some of the larger new additions, however, include:

- Dodges can now be directly chained into attacks, with a larger input window for attacks during dodges. There is also now a small boost of momentum given to attacks performed immediately after a dodge to aid in using dodges during combos, and a small audio-visual effect given when chaining a dodge into an attack. I'm hoping these additions combine to make it more clear that using dodges during combos is a major, intended mechanic, and to also make it easier and more fun to do so.

- There is now a small 'pushback' on the player when heavy attack-ing enemies into walls at close range, to make them match the rebound of the enemy they're attacking. This is to help maintain clarity by avoiding the player overlapping with the enemy too much as they try to combo them, and to give a more natural 'weight' to the enemies you're hitting.

(Forgive the weird compressed audio in the video--DaVinci Resolve seems to hate rendering SBH's sound effects for some reason.)

- Weaker enemies now have a visual indicator of 'Stagger Immunity'--the state where they can't be hit out of their attack animations by the player's heavy attacks. The game has always worked on a system where weak enemies can have their attack wind-ups interrupted by heavy attacks, but not twice in a row, meaning the next attack performed immediately after they're interrupted can't be. It still works on this system, but there's now a symbol given to enemies in this state to increase clarity. I've been considering adding something like this for a while, but was hesitant it might make things even more visually cluttered. In practice, however, I think this change is definitely for the better.

- 'Test runs' are now available from the upgrade menu, allowing you to freely try out new attacks and abilities before spending the XP to buy them. I think this is just a nice feature to have.

New Portraits and New Enemy Designs

In the last few weeks, I've also finished making Yuri, Livio and Friday's new portraits, to accompany Saki's.

It took a lot of work, but I'm overall very happy with how these portraits came out, and I'll be getting around to replacing the old ones both in-game and in the screenshots around the site.

I'm sure many artists can relate, but it feels a little ridiculous how hard it can be to draw my own characters in a way that feels 'right', considering I've been working with them for a few years now. (I must have spent at least an hour on Livio's eyes alone...!)

As a small bonus, I've also been working on designing some new enemy types: two human, and two Phantom. They're mostly unfinished at the moment, but I do have some initial sprite mock-ups for them.

I think that's everything for this post. My next goal will be getting the updated version of the combat demo out, which shouldn't take too long (hopefully). After that, I think I'll begin work on the game's second boss fight, develop the overworld map a little more, and continue the full story script for chapters 4 and 5.

Thanks for reading!

- Topaz

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