Monthly Update 7

(Note: Originally posted here)

Welcome, Sleepyheads! 👋 I’m only addressing the Sleepyheads with this update because this is our first private update that is only visible for backers [Editor’s Note: we will be making public these previously private backer-only posts in a regular cadence alongside the new backer-only posts on Kickstarter]. In case you missed me mentioning it before, I’m changing these monthly dev updates to be private so that I can better save cool updates being announced publicly in a more controlled fashion throughout the year. Although I’d love to make everything public to everyone, premiering things more strategically will help with marketing (bleh 😒) and that’s something I need to really be considerate of as we head towards launch.

One quick announcement ICYMI in our Discord: I’m going to be closing the special tiers in our Pledge Manager. Once I do this, you’ll no longer be able to upgrade your reward tiers or place new pre-orders beyond the standard Sleepwalker tier. This is to get prepped to start collecting info from all the backers at these special tiers so that I can get going on implementing all those fun rewards. Also I should mention that you may encounter a problem if you do try to upgrade your pledge on pledge manager, so if you do please DM me on Discord or email me at [dave at diesoft.games] and I’ll be happy to help.

Get Wishlistin’ 📃

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So of course our big announcement this month I already shared in the last non-monthly update, but we just launched our 🎉 Steam Store page 🎉 this week. That means you can wishlist the game (which if you’re reading this might seem silly since you have a copy coming to you, but it greatly helps out) or send it to your friends that you think might enjoy the game. The more of you Sleepyheads helping spread the word about our Steam page, the more the Steam algorithm will keep recommending the game internally. And if you’re reading this, you’ve already done so much to help get this game made, but this is another way to make a huge difference. 🙌

Pre-Alpha Demo for Content Creators 💾

I want to give a special shout-out to the Sleepwalkers and Guardians that have taken advantage of their “💾 Early Builds Access” reward and provided feedback on the state of things. Maybe it’s just some encouragement, maybe it’s sharing with me a bug you spotted, or even some suggestions for improvements. Y’all have really helped a lot to get things into a state that I was much happier sharing the build with select content creators to help get the word out about our Steam page launch. These content creators were playing this same build y’all helped polish and it seems to have been very well received both by the streamers and their viewers.

Many of you probably recall that we did something similar with a build for the Kickstarter launch, so I thought I’d go over some of the major things that changed since that build to give you an idea of what’s new:

  • The biggest major change is that this demo build has moved from using a baked-in Unity scene (simply loading in all of the content that was in the demo all at once), and is now using the Slumberland JSON data that I’m authoring in NemoMaker and allows a vast, seamless world that loads in around the player as they move through it. This doesn’t make for a big, noticeable change for the players of the demo, but was a requirement to grow into the scale we need for the full game. I’m really happy we managed this with only one major bug popping up because of it.

There has been tons of polish, so I’ll just rattle off a few of my favs:

  • Not only can you now pet the cat, but you can also pet the boss! This isn’t something I had even anticipated, but it’s one of the nice things that happens when you create a small feature and find new/fun ways to use it.
  • Nemo’s ducking, spinning, and hand-over-hand movement while dangling are all new features which have little-or-no functional impact but just help sell the animations of the world.
  • I think most or all of the SFX in the old build were pulled from a sound library, so most SFX in the current build are drastically improved thanks to Jonathan Baken working on them.
  • Huge improvements to the Rocktopus fight (Oblivion eyes, difficulty tweaks, tentacles retracting, hit pause, visual hit effect, etc. etc.)

Major features are now accessible:

  • The map is fully functioning (though missing some of the icons that will appear within the map). You’ve got your standard Metroidvania map which is a grid of screen-sized chunks forming rooms which are added to the map as you get to them, and filled in as you visit each chunk.
  • Both Pajamas and Little Buddies are now working. There are still lots of PJs and Buddies to make, but the features are working as intended and you can find one Little Buddy and three PJs in the current build.
  • The status page is fully functioning. You can see which Toys/PJs/Little Buddies you have available and get notes about how they work, as well as see Notes on Nemo’s standard abilities and the Health/Moon Meter/Candy HUD.
  • You can now rescue your first Guardian and dispel Oblivion from the Dreamswept Plains. This will be a recurring behavior in most zones, so I’m super excited to show how this works as part of the demo/introduction to the game.
  • The serialization to disk is much better as well, and despite a minor bug when walking keys into doors instead of throwing them, everything has been auto-saving as expected with no hiccups that I’ve spotted.

Lots of new content:

  • The Gumdrop Gardens tileset is in a really good place now.
  • This is the first time everyone is seeing the finalized Mushroom Marsh biome.
  • New tracks for the different zones, the bedroom, the title screen, and the Rocktopus fight.
  • A larger portion of Dreamswept Plains to explore, and just generally a better sell on the idea of how exploration/shortcuts/back-tracking will tend to be a part of the gameplay.

So while there are still some features either missing or in need of some polish, the heart of the gameplay mechanics are in there, so it’s quite a change from that early build where it was me trying my best to approximate what it might look like in the future by hinting at features.

Catch up on the VODs 📺

I tried to hop into as many of the streams as I could, and if not, catch the VOD afterwards, so I’ve compiled a list of all the content creators that I’m aware of that shared this early build with their viewers. And while I don’t want to play favorites too much, there were a few I just have to give shout-outs to.

imgNemo and Rocktopus fan-art from Fezudu

Fezudu played the demo for his viewers and then went on to draw some fan-art on stream that is absolutely amazing. Thank you so much! 🙌 (I should note that’s not an English language stream, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it anyways)

I had a great time in Shambling Undead’s stream, and it was so very encouraging seeing someone spot and appreciate all the hard work that goes into all the little details, right down to letting the menu activation sound effect play out before exiting the application 😄

And of course it was really fun to watch Peter Berkman play on the Anamanaguchi stream, as this was his first time playing this build and hearing his music playing in-game. 🎶🎧🎶

And if you aren’t super into livestreams and want an edited down playthrough video, I thoroughly enjoyed Henitto’s playthrough YouTube video.

But that’s just a couple of so many videos and VODs all of which were a total blast, so here’s an unordered list of all the VODs I’m aware of. If I missed you, please let me know!

Thank you so much to every one of you! 🙌 Also quick shout out to IGC, the Indie Game Collective, who are responsible for getting our game in front of many of these content creators.

Spoilers Abound ❗🙈❗

Beyond this point, I’ll be posting some stuff I’ve been working on that could be considered spoilers, so if you’re not into that sort of thing, feel free to head on out now. This is generally how I’ll be handling spoilerable material in monthly updates from now on. I’ll have a point of no return like this, clearly indicating that you can expect spoilers ahead.

That being said, this month’s updates are not the most spoilery. You can of course see lots of new content by watching any of the stream VODs I linked above, but I have been doing some work greyboxing some ideas for enemies and gimmicks for use in new areas of Slumberland.

One of the things I know I’m going to want in the Mushroom Marsh, is some bouncy mushrooms. Bouncy platforms are such a staple for platformers, the trick is getting them just right. Here’s what I’m testing out now:

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While my physics system has restitution, and we could simply just simply make a platform fully bouncy that way, that approach is too realistic and isn’t predictable for the player (bounce height is determined by your incoming velocity). So instead this platform will just bounce whatever hits it up to a target height. If that thing can jump or pogo (eg. the player) doing so will cause the bounce to be even higher.

You can see here, it’s not very realistic that as soon as the player steps over the bouncy platform, they bounce up, but it’s certainly more fun I think.

And here’s another idea, this one intended for the Gumdrop Gardens and inspired by Donkey Kong Country 2’s honey. These sticky blocks will immobilize anyone touching them and you’ll need to press jump or down + jump to jump or release from it. This is a fun way to introduce a player to the idea of wall climbing before giving them the Monster Claw.

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I’m fairly sure it will be fun sticking to and jumping from the sides, but having this allows me to explore whether or not they’d be fun as a floor surface to potentially get stuck on and require hopping to advance along it.

I’ve also been exploring new enemy behaviors. The classic Metroidvania style enemy is of course Metroid’s Geemer, which simply follows along a surface.

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That’s a good start, but where in the game would this kind of enemy be most interesting, and can it be made even more fun to engage with if I add additional behaviors?

And here’s something we haven’t seen in the game yet, but I’ve been excited to get in here to try out: projectile-firing enemies. This one is a very simple design inspired by Mario’s Bullet Bills.

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This could lead to some fun with pogo sticking off of projectiles, or attacking them before they hit Nemo, or simply jumping over or ducking under them. I even have a few different types of projectiles available to test out such as a rolling ball style projectile.

There are a few other things I recently put into NemoMaker to test out, and I’ll be putting in lots more soon so I can start planning out all of the enemies and gimmicks in each zone of Slumberland, but I just wanted to show a bit about what that process looks like now.

That’s it for now! 👋

I know normally I’d get into what I want to work on next, but this one is fairly long already, so I’ll leave it as a surprise for the next update. Once again, thank you so much to the content creators and everyone else that shared Little Nemo’s Steam page and helped to get the word out for the launch of our wishlist campaign. If we’re lucky, next month there will be worthwhile wishlist stats to share.

Until then, Sleepyheads!

-Dave