Between Scylla and Charybdis Developer Diaries, November and December 2013


Today I put some of Lux’s painted background and foreground layers into the game in order to test out an idea that I had about parallax scrolling. It turned out well, and adds a great sense of motion to the game, but it’s only implemented preliminarily for now while I figure out how it should really work, if at all. It’s obviously not uncommon for me to add things and love them, only to later loathe them when I've uncovered their flaws.

I also started working on polar bears today, and they're already swatting at the turtle. Tomorrow I'm going to make them walk around on the bergs, then I'm almost ready to present a video of the ice level.

Game Maker corrupted my BSAC project when saving it the other day, but I was able to recover from a backup that was several days old. Luckily, I hadn’t worked on BSAC for several days, so it was pretty painless outside of the initial panic phase where you hope that your backup has been working correctly.

The new background layers add a great sense of depth and motion. If you look closely, you can see a subtle parallax effect tied to the turtle's location.


I actually made both polar bears and birds today, and I've still got some more steam left in me. I've implemented them both in a preliminary way without going too far with my atrocious programmer assets, but they serve their purpose for now. Birds seek the turtle, and divebomb it, while polar bears patrol icebergs and swat at the turtle if they come too near.

Lux delivered me a breakable ice sheet today, but I'm not eager to load 17 little shards into Game Maker. I'll probably do it when I'm tired. It’s dumb work. Also, the sheet isn’t quite convex, so I'm going to have to triangulate some concavity in order to get a decent collision shape.

Next I'm going to work on a chase camera that clamps just off the edge of the screen, this will allow the parallax scrolling effect to result from actual camera movements, rather than just movements of the player character, which is how I got it working yesterday. I have an image in my head of keeping the player roughly within the single screen play area with a rubber band sort of effect accompanied by a slightly laggy chase camera that is otherwise centered over the eye of the whirlpool until the player leaves a particular radius. You'll see. I think it’s going to be a huge improvement to the game feel.


I broke the new ice sheets, made the chase camera, and tied it in with the parallax scrolling effect. I'm not totally thrilled with any of it. The camera is probably cool, but it somehow doesn’t feel as good as the parallax scrolling without the camera movement. I think it has something to do with the fact that you notice it less when the camera is moving, and it becomes less of a flashy effect and more of a subtlety. Also, the camera clamps hard at the boundary of the play area, which doesn’t feel very good, but I have some ideas about how to soften it. Still, this game was always conceived of as a single screen, to focus energy on the whirlpool, and a movable camera in what is otherwise a very constrained play area feels foreign to me. I'll have to re-evaluate it tomorrow when the mind is fresh. I think I can make it work, and in fact might have to, in order to push this game as far as it needs to be pushed.

A new ice sheet floats in from the left, plays its cracking animation, and breaks into many pieces.


The past week was spent building the soundscape for the game. I'm using REAPER to chop up free samples, and subsequently arrange and effect them to sound the way I want. I suppose it would be typical to use something like FMOD Studio to mix and arrange in 3D space, but I hope I won’t need to go that far.

Most tracks are effected by a low pass filter and mixed in mono, to achieve an underwater sound. I did some research into underwater soundscapes, but mostly I watched a clip of a live action mermaid drama for girls, and a few clips from Waterworld.

My droney underwater ambience is made of bubbles, drainpipes, splashes, and whale song at the moment. I randomly trigger seagull sounds during the game, very quietly, to subconsciously cement the oceanic feelings. The turtle makes watery sounds when it flaps its fins, and a more bubbly sound is triggered for the boost, in accordance with the visual effect:

The boost sound effect for the turtle is made of bubbles and splashing.

The eye of the whirlpool is being used as an audio emitter to pump out a super distorted roaring sound of destruction, in 3D space. The turtle is currently used as the audio listener, so that the sound of the whirlpool moves around the player as they play in real life. To make the whirlpool sound, I sped up some bubbles, granulated and pitched them, then mixed them with a loop of underwater thunder. Finally, I hit it all with a low-pass filter:

A sample of the roar of the whirlpool. It is attenuated by the distance of the eye from the turtle.


Updates are likely to remain sparse until the end of January, when I'm expecting an influx of art from Lux. I'm mostly stalled on gameplay development until then, but I'll be continuing to work on audio in the meantime. Today, I made a sound for the frosting of the turtle’s shell, and also the cracking of the ice sheets.

The cracking sheet effect is made of 4 layers of cracking ice samples, eq'd and rearranged:

This cracking ice sheet sound effect is pieced together and then effected to blend with the overall mix.

I eq'd this public-domain sample of freezing ice to blend with the underwater soundscape, and then chopped, timestretched, and rearranged it in order to achieve a smoother rhythm. I plan to pause and unpause the sample, as frost is applied or not, to achieve a seemingly unique sound every time the effect is triggered. This is possible due to the noisy nature of the sound, and also due to the continuous way in which frost is applied, as opposed to discretely in a stepwise manner, which would perhaps be better suited to a triggering of individual effects for each specific step. I may experiment with reversing or pitch shifting the sound to indicate defrosting:

A sample to accompany the frosting of the turtle's shell.


Today I mixed sound effects for the weather phenomena of the tsunami level: thunder/lightning, rain, electric puddles, tornados. I also created a variation on the cracking ice sheet effect. Since there can be many sheets cracking at once, this is a cheap way to promote the suspension of disbelief.

The sound effects for the storm are sampled from a recording of an actual storm, chopped, eq'd, and sometimes loopified:

I added a high pitched sin wave to the eq'd thunder samples. This is to simulate the temporary tinnitus that could be induced by very loud sounds, like a flashbang.
This is part of a rain loop I composed from samples of the same storm recording used for the thunder effects.

I also created several loops to coincide with the presence of “electric puddles” on screen, the lethal effect of electricity in the proximity of a lightning strike, from these recordings of a Jacob’s Ladder:

This electric sound will be looped with the visible after-effect of lightning on the water.

See you next year.

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