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July Demo Release!




Hello!

I'm excited to announce I've released a new demo of Starless Umbra.

New Features

An additional 90 minutes of gameplay with minigames, dungeons, additional story content, and a village segment to complete the vertical slice.

Gamepad and couch co-op support. Play with a friend! I have no idea if this is fun.

Smarter AI! Players won't just stand in poison and take damage anymore. As an aside, this added some really interesting emergent behavior. Enemies might move out of the poison, but if you use knockbacks you can bully them back in for a deadly combo.

More interfaces. Shops/Item Trading, settings screens, and tweaks to the existing menu screens to keep things as friendly as possible.

A Note on Bugfixing and Polish

I did spend several weeks tidying up the existing content, but I've gotten to a point where there's diminishing returns. I'd like to think this is more polished than the last demo, but there's still tons I can do here. I don't want to let this detract too much from adding new content, so for now this feels like a good checkpoint. If you encounter any issues or have any suggestions I'll certainly document them.

Challenging Myself

It's no secret games like Xenoblade Chronicles and FF7:Remake shaped SU's battle system. With that comes the challenge of balancing a myriad of systems I hadn't really considered with traditional turn-based gameplay. I deliberately do not have healing items to stockpile. Instead, you heal between battles. This came with great difficulty (hah) as tweaking enemies to make gameplay challenging is an ongoing, tedious process.

Additionally, cooldown management is a big part of enemy encounters (cooldown state and status effects persist between battles) so I'm designing in this gray area for me where I don't want this to be purely action-based (I love my stats) but then there is some dexterity involved so you're not just spamming skills and standing in place. That said, difficulty is subjective. I wanted battles to be engaging/challenging but it could be frustrating to some players. I made jumping back into the game pretty quick, with an option to drop down the enemy stats if you find yourself dying repeatedly.

Anyway, I'd love to know what you think. Please enjoy the demo!

Posts

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dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2754
Thanks for giving it a whirl! Tons of excellent suggestions and feedback across the board. I do appreciate you taking the time to give it another play. It means a ton.

All of these are either addressed or have been dumped on the respective bug/polish boards. Agreed, I think the battle system just needs a little oomph to make it feel less mindless. It's hard because at its core I do want it to be more about stats over twitch reflexes, so hopefully with more stuff to do in battle and character customization this will feel more rewarding.
Finally got around to playing the demo, some notes:

-Nice you fixed the subpixel camera stuff, feels much smoother now

-Super super nitpicking here, I noticed this in another game actually, but sometimes the character faces another direction when you let go of the arrow keys. Basically you hold down two keys and let go of one and in the span of a frame the character turns to the one you didn't let go. Easy fix is to detect when the player is pressing diagonal and if they let go of one of the keys then don't change the character direction based on the input for a few frames. It's something you don't notice in console games because the dpad typically presses both at once. But uhhh not the end of the world or anything just something polish related that makes it less janky looking.

-This also applies to the movement as well, when you let go diagonally sometimes the character moves in the direction you last held if your fingers go off one after the other in a short amount of time. It's super pendantic but everytime I stop from moving I can feel something "not right" and you do that a lot in the game!

-Beautiful key bindings menu, I was just working on one for my own game and they're tough to make.

-For some reason I thought the tutorial was teaching me to spam leap, I didn't realize the top attack was just out of range.

-I don't remember quite what you changed but the pacing seems really smoothed out compared to what I remember, great job.

-The trap, I keep wanting to use it but the enemy keeps attacking amalia, or is ranged etc. It appears at an odd place when I keep expecting it to appear infront of the player. I keep missing with it much use for it early on yet it's tempting to use it between the rotation.

-I gravitate towards illari because the mashing seems more fun but Amalia's optimization is to I guess is to run away and use leap to do damage without taking as much? Also I guess it's easier to read the dialogue while fighting as illari, it'll be problematic down the line I think when the battles start to become more and more strategic and the players just like the entire time. But I really really really like the realtime convos.

-Didn't notice the augments at first, only realized it when characters started learning it. Seems weird to access augments by pressing select in skills.

-Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh theres augments for each skill, I was only looking at the starting ones

-Didn't know you could loot enemies til inside the first dungeon. Could use a sparkle, remember RPG players are like cats.

-You can bypass the teleport trigger by hugging the walls

-Some reason I missed the tutorial or explanation that characters wont move when near so you solve the step puzzle. It's dumb of me because I played this game before! But idk, maybe a character being condescendingly going "Hey you gonna move through that door or not?" over and over might help. I kept thinking I needed something OUTSIDE the room, but none of the puzzles really do that of course.


-My first instinct was to solve the bridge puzzle by using the push block to block the lasers. Silly me didn't realize I had to use the block to get the other character in. But I think it speaks to people potentially getting wires crosses if you put puzzles back to back. Also it's possible to get stuck if you attempt the bridge puzzle prematurely and put it against the 2nd laser.


-Boss fight was pretty easy I just spammed like every other fight. I recall having a problem with the boss last demo but I think the game still need some kind of "tactic" or trick to learn. There seems to be oppurtunities like knocking enemies out of poison pools so you can do your full melee/range rotation but idk it doesn't seem that nesscary. There's no "if you stand on the pool you'll have a bad time" being enforced. I get the appeal of the mmo style combat but it just needs that one extra thing where you're paying attention to the terrain or the placement of the enemies and mechanics coming together. Maybe it'll get better? But it'd be nice to get a taste of it sooner.

-OK another nitpick, Clydan's sprite looks a bit offcenter when he turns in his first cutscene

-I like the clouds and darkness in this game but it's weird that the characters arent illuminated all the time in Clydan's first cutscene.

-Got stuck in this house due to loading an autosave

-Mini game was kind of overwhelming with the multi-tasking. Feel like a simple clean all the dirty with a broom would have been enough as a first minigame then you could expand it later with more tasks in a later scenario. I get that it's replayable for a completionist to try and score points but idk feels weird to have almost 3 mini-games bundled in one like that. Also the tutorial felt kind of weird? Like I was doing the tasks ahead of the tutorial prompts at times or waiting for a prompt, felt out of sync.

-Thinking back on augments I kind of don't know which ones to pick when there's more than 2 to get, again the battles lack enough tactics to make me gravitate towards the utility aspect of aughements. For instance crush adds a stumble status, not sure what that entails I guess it means they can't move? Then you have toxic which adds a dot floor i guess but it's hard to know what the exact trade offs are.

-Generally the maps feel kind of big, something about the character sizes and how they relate to the world feels odd, it made sense in the wide open battle areas but in the town it just feels a little too spacious in spots (especially interiors). It's probably also to do with the resolution/widescreen but yeah not a huge deal breaker or anything but it's one of those things like diagonal movement that feels "off"

-tile overlay error here

-Camera with Clydan's intro fight is a bit too low, really weird

-Using the backstab aug it's hard to know where the enemies are facing with their small sprites and cluttered to gether. Maybe the targeting reticle could show their facing more clearly? I think FF14 does this. Though idk even with this idea it might fall victime to too much clutter still, I find in general a lot of the action to sometimes happen in just a tiny spot.

-2nd minecraft puzzle ramps up the amount of interactables a little too much, not that it was hard but it feels overwhelming.

-3rd minecart in the 2nd minecart puzzle where you push a minecraft in a corner tile and push it again is strange doesn't feel intended.

-I unlocked Combo! But I didn't really get a chance to read who it was for and what skill it was under. Feel like it'd be easier if there was a (NEW!) thing over the skill or maybe just an easier way in general to glance what new augments were unlocked.

-Moved into mining cart just as it clicked in. fortunately switching characters lets me get unstuck!

-Again the 3rd mine cart puzzle adds a bunch more stuff but I feel like my brain isn't doing anything other than keeping track of stuff off screen. It takes long to do something so simple and it kills the pace. FEel like these puzzles would be better if you added twists rather than just more tracks/mining carts. The first cart puzzle had a timing element to it and that was more enjoyable than the rest because it was simple.

-Mining cart action minigame is okay but I feel like it just needs some Coyote Time just to ease the timing of it. It doesn't feel that satisfying to land the jumps either, it's missing something.

-When healing I keep thinking to use confirm to select the target, I get why its the same button because the confirm is also a face button but idk how you'd solve this other than an alternate control option

-finally noticed the ! for backstab... I think that's what it is?

-after going through a lot of battles they feel really ... spammy. After realizing how to know when to backstab theres at least "something to do" between rotation but it's definately missing something.

-top of the train: switching characters right after jumping across a gap causes the other character to phase through and not do the jump across.

-dead characters ontop of the scenery

-badass train transition to the outside

-actually died for once on the train top boss, but wish there was a way to skip cutscenes when retrying

-no idea why im dying in this fight, I'm at full health most of the time?

-wish I could revive characters, you're pretty much screwed if one person dies

-I actually don't understand how the bombs work, at first I thought you have to avoid them? but I notice them blowing up the train sometimes? Not very clear. I realize I have no idea how to switch targets up to this point so I had to check options.

-wish there was a way to save before the boss too, I changed my augments to try something different for the fight. oh wait retry saves your settings weird.

-OK so the bombs DO need to be attacked. My first instinct was to just avoid them. Not sure if I'm right though, i have no feedback other than I think it didn't explode til later?

-Boss keeps doing something i have no clue how to avoid

-Beat the fight by spamming gale and keeping my distance i guess, didn't feel good to finally win (AI was being weird and somethings hanging out in a corner). I felt like there was something there to the bombs and is when the battles finally picked up and felt like there was something to it. But it was confusing to know what was happening and very little feedback if my destroy the bomb theory was correct.

-I try not to suggest things and only list symptoms. I think it'd be more simple if the bombs just exploded with a red circle radius and you just had to avoid them while taking on the boss. OR targeting different things needs more onboarding, there should have been some mechanic foreshadowing like an invincible enemy that can only be hit if another enemy is killed. etc. + I guess just knowing that I had to target the bombs in the first place... I didn't get what the yellow bars even meant. I definately think target priority and/or proximity avoiding is the key to giving these battles slightly more depth.

-So the scene with Illari and his whole betrayal and him being silent to foreshadow that he isn't a hostage anymore. I feel like the faceset having a permant smirk ruins the scene. Same with Amalia pondering. Probably down the pipeline but the portraits need expression changes (even if simple edits).


This is the best rpgmaker game not made in rpgmaker IMO (I mean I haven't played Crosscode yet lol). The pacing feels like going down a slide made out of butter. For most of the game I didn't feel a stiffness that I normally get from older RPGs in terms of flow. The battles sorta did drag a bit towards the end but overall I enjoyed a lot of it. I think you really have something here if you can address the issues with the battle system. I know you're probably busy on the later content but just letting you know the earlier stuff is really solid.
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2754
author=KingArthur
Seeing this is still going strong is a great trip down memory lane and back to the present!

Also, I'll have to take a look at Heroes of Umbra sometime. Didn't realize you'd gotten a game out on Steam, nor that it was good ol' DHM.

Slowly but surely! Glad to find you're also still around, KA. :)

Heroes of Umbra is an ode to the MMOs we used to play during the LG days, most notably Maplestory and RO. If you give it a whirl let me know what you think. Hope you enjoy it!
KingArthur
( ̄▽ ̄)ノ De-facto operator of the unofficial RMN IRC channel.
1217
Seeing this is still going strong is a great trip down memory lane and back to the present!

Also, I'll have to take a look at Heroes of Umbra sometime. Didn't realize you'd gotten a game out on Steam, nor that it was good ol' DHM.
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2754
Beep boop, another minor hotfix, 0.1.3 which addresses a couple of issues:

  • Reworked damage formula a bit, net effect is early enemies are much easier as you get used to game controls and so on.
  • Fixed a few multiplayer-specific crashes, controlled players are no longer collidable during combat (haha)
  • The game no longer instantly-crashes if a PS4 controller is plugged in. (Lol oops!!!) -- Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is another beast


Huge, huge shoutout to riggy2k3/DZ for the awesome multiplayer playthru and patience with the bugs. (catch the VOD while it's around and give 'em a follow!)
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2754
I've released 0.1.2 with a couple bugfixes/changes.

  • Poison tiles no longer stack, the skill is about 30% slower for more time to react
  • Spells in general are faster, most notably heal
  • Reset item resets switches too
  • Remove Illari's booty from the window after the cleaning segment completes
  • Enemies are in general 20% weaker across the board
  • Add settings to the ingame menu, with a new window skin picker
  • Demon chests, which are a surprise!

Yo, Just trying to pay the video kindness forward back to you dhm. Sorry for the kiddo interruptions. I know you'll understand.

dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2754
Excited to hear what you guys think, thank you!

author=dreadpirate
Hey DHM, I get this right after the first cut scene. Right after they kill the rabbits, before a map change or anything.

Thanks for reporting this, looks like a controller input thing. I've updated the download with a fix. It should now show the version (0.1.1 at the time of this post) on the top right of the title screen too.
So excited to try this out, at last!

___________________________________________
############################################################################################
ERROR in
action number 1
of Step Event0
for object o_player:

DoSub :1: undefined value
at gml_Object_o_player_Step_0
############################################################################################
gml_Object_o_player_Step_0 (line -1)


Hey DHM, I get this right after the first cut scene. Right after they kill the rabbits, before a map change or anything.
double post edit, dude ive never gotten double posts before ever what is happening.
Dope, can't wait to try it out when I get time.
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