Published: January 12, 2024
It'll probably be good if I can try to write my devlogs more concisely so they don't feel like such a chore to post...let's just get right into it.
Let's start with the most interesting news first: while playing around with the level editor I realized that it felt really awkward to chart certain styles/sections of songs because of the lack of 16th note rhythms in Rhythm Quest. All of my obstacles (minus speed zones) are done at the granularity of half-beats (8th notes), which has been fine so far since I've been able to tailor all of my music to it, but a lot of the music out in the wild features other sorts of rhythmic patterns.
I don't want to go wild with facilitating =all= possible rhythms; I feel like Rhythm Quest chart design is good when it's constrained, just like DDR charts are at their best when they capture the "flow" of a song rather than trying to stepchart e-ve-ry in-di-vidual syll-able in the vo-cal ly-rics. But I decided to try adding in a new variant of the multihit ghost enemies:
These go at dotted 8th notes, so exactly twice as fast as the regular purple ghost enemies. They're not only colored differently but have a little orb accent to distinguish them visually. Right now these are the only obstacles that are allowed to be offset at this granularity. You can, of course, mix these in with other obstacles if you'd like to be extra devilish, but I don't plan on doing so very often. I think if your chart makes frequent use of 16th-note granularity it might be a sign that you should chart it as double the tempo.
I haven't yet decided if or how these new ghosts should be incorporated into the main Rhythm Quest levels, but if I do include them they'll show up in World 6. It might actually be nice to do so as it would give players something else to learn besides the triplet speed zones, which might get old after a while if all 5 of the World 6 levels are primarily about them. Hah! See, it's actually not a bad thing that I've been putting off the rest of World 6 for so long...;P
You'll also notice from the above gif that I've added a debug toolbar with shortcuts that you can use while testing your levels to quickly jump between checkpoints and toggle autoplay. Basically the same tools that I've been using all along to develop my own levels, except as first-class UI elements instead of hidden developer-only shortcuts :)
The beatgrid markers break up the otherwise-continuous slopes in levels, and therefore, the camera followed suit, panning smoothly across the slope but the pausing for a brief moment at each flat beatgrid marker:
I didn't want to change the design of the beatgrid markers, but I'm trying a change where I instead modify the camera plotting so that it ignores them and instead acts as if the slope is continuous all the way through. This makes the camera scrolling smoother, with the downside that the player character's y-position on the screen doesn't stay centered for that brief moment.
It's a subtle change, but I think (?) I like this new version better. The little camera "bumps" were honestly something that I just got used to a very very long time ago and didn't think very much of...I think I'll have to play some levels here and there and see if the new version bothers me at all.
Last time around I showed off the custom level browser, which featured the ability to drill into subfolders of the root custom level directory:
I've tweaked this so that folders (and nested subfolders) are all shown in the same singular display instead of jumping to a new set of buttons. I use indentations and arrows (like in a Windows Explorer view) for this, and animate the indented buttons as they appear and disappear:
Back in the editor UI, I've added a new section to the music loading menu where you can specify a section of the song to use as a preview clip when browsing custom levels.
Thankfully I was able to reuse the same audio display component that I already made, and just add some new handles to it, but this wasn't really a trivial task; there's a lot of subtle things that need to happen to make this editor feel good, such as automatically scrolling when you drag past the end of the window, automatically clamping the preview clip length (right now it's a minimum of 1 second and a maximum of 20 seconds), etc.
I've gone back and forth a few times on exactly what the format of levels should look like and what different file types to use, as well as how music, levels, banner images, and such should be encoded. Initially I imagined the preview audio as simply being played as a segment of the original song, but I've decided to change that and instead I export the preview as a separate .ogg vorbis-encoded audio file -- this makes it easier to stream directly from disk. In implementing this, I had to look for a way to export that segment of audio data and vorbis-encode it. Surely there must be a nice, cross-platform, performant C# library that does exactly that, right? Unfortunately, the answer this time was "not quite", so I had to do some wrangling to get what I wanted, but it's working now...
As always, there's still like infinity more things to work on. I have to add the new dotted eighth note ghost enemies to the level stats displays, I have to come up with a new UI for importing levels from zipped archives, and of course there's artist verification flows and Steam Workshop integration. I do want to give a shoutout to Rhythm Doctor as I've been referencing their level editor and custom level browser regularly to compare how they handle things. It's nice being able to look at an example of how a different team solved the same problems, just to have a jumping-off point.
I'm not going to lie, I was feeling a bit burnt out on Rhythm Quest in past weeks. Something about the mountain of work that seems to be ahead of me as I tackle this whole custom level endeavor (this is why I didn't do it in the first place...), but also just the fact that another year went by and I didn't finish my game (understandably so, but still...). I know there are a lot of expectations and external desires about Rhythm Quest and I've felt them weigh heavily on me at times...but I think it's unhealthy for me to give them too much space in my head, it's best if I just focus on finding the "fun" in development and try to minimize the pressure that I feel. Fortunately, I seem to have been able to do that in more recent days!