Dev Diary #15: The Design Phase

IMG_21102014_172951When we came to the decision to make Cally’s Caves 3, we knew that we would have to radically rethink many of the gameplay mechanics that were in Cally’s Caves 1 and 2.  One of the biggest benefits of creating a direct sequel is that it gives us an opportunity to do things differently.  We are proud of our first two games, but it’s always helpful to take a step back and try to evaluate what you’ve created from a different perspective.  Then, we can use our experience making the first two games to make Cally’s Caves 3 bigger, and much better.  This Dev Diary will outline many of the design decisions we made during the planning phase of Cally’s Caves 3 development.

Bigger, but not Always


Cally’s Caves 1 and 2 were made of art assets that were mostly 32×32 pixels.  We managed to get away with it by zooming in a little bit on the assets, so they appear larger on an iOS screen that 32×32 pixels.  While we are happy to keep going in that direction, we know that we want to have some enemies or bosses that are quite large on the screen.  This presents a unique challenge, as some of the boss sprites are so big, they won’t fit on the in-game screen.  To account for this (and maintain the large size), we decided to implement a better boss introduction mechanic.  When the player first sees a boss, the game camera focuses solely on the boss object, to highlight the size of the sprite, and make sure players get a good look at the boss before the fight kicks in.  

The overall size of the game is another area that we put a lot of thought into during our design phase.  Cally’s Caves 2 had 110 levels, and we felt like the length of the game was on point.  We did feel like we could have done more with the individual levels design-wise, so instead of saying “this time we have 220 levels,” we decided to go with approximately the same amount of levels but focus a lot more on the level design itself.

New Game Plus

Instead of giving players 220 levels, we are going with 110.  This doesn’t mean we aren’t adding more replay value to the game, however, as we are adding a new game plus mode to extend the length of Cally’s Caves 3.  New Game Plus mode essentially reboots the game, while Cally keeps her levels/gear/progress.  During the initial run through the game, all the weapon levels are capped at 10, however once New Game Plus mode is unlocked, another tier of weapon levels/appearances opens up.  Once the weapon Cally is using hits 20, the player must find the final, god-tier form of the weapon hidden somewhere in New Game Plus mode.  We also don’t want to make New Game Plus play the same as the regular game, so we are introducing 8 new enemy types and a new weapon class in New Game Plus mode as well.

Pet System and New Store


Cally’s Caves 3 is going to introduce 2 new important characters in the Cally universe: Rupert and Bera.  Rupert is Herbert’s son, who has been mistreated and ignored by his father for most of his life.  He decides to help Cally on her journey, and runs the in-game store.  From Rupert’s store, Cally can buy character upgrades, consumable items, and weapons modifications.  We decided to go with this plan instead of doing our store in the pause menu again, as having an in-game store is a great opportunity to add character to the game and flesh out the world.

Bera is Cally’s pet, and an orphan left behind by Mama Bear in Cally’s Caves 2.  Cally feels bad for vanquishing Bera’s Mom, and befriends the little cub shortly into her journey.  Having a pet gives us a chance to add personality and quirkiness to the game, while giving us some interesting mechanics to work with as well.  Bera can hunt for coins, fight enemies, and pick up items for Cally.  Bera also has upgrades available at Rupert’s store, and can be dismissed at any time if the player doesn’t want her around.

New Powerups/Abilities

cally find screen

We wanted to make our combat system deeper by adding some new mechanics to play around with.  In Cally’s Caves 3, Cally will find all of the character upgrades hidden throughout the levels.  A few of the new powerup mechanics include the dodge roll, the charge shot, and the power shield.  The dodge roll allows Cally to perform a somersault and avoid damage.  Players can activate the dodge roll by swiping up on the on-screen direction controls.  While Cally is rolling, she can’t be hurt.  We also wanted to add variety to the weapon firing, in the form of the charge shot powerup.  “Charge Shot” in Cally’s Caves 3 means that the projectile shot from a charged weapon is much bigger and causes more damage to enemies.  Cally’s Caves 3 being a mobile game, we couldn’t exactly add in another button to dedicate solely to the charge shot.  So we decided to have the charge shot work on a cool down meter, and the next shot after the meter is full is automatically charged.  Finally, we decided to add a “Power Shield” ugprade, which is a screen-clearing energy wave that is unleashed when Cally has only 1 heart left.  This ability will save Cally from death if she is being rush attacked by a melee enemy, however it works on a cool down as well, and it takes a lot longer to build up than the charge shot.  Again, the Power Shield is activated when Cally hits one HP, so there’s no need for an on-screen button to manually activate it.  These 3 new power ups (among many more) radically change the moment-to-moment gameplay in Cally’s Caves 3, and we hope it will give the player a greater sense of empowerment.

Destructible/Changing Environments

zone 8

One of our favorite activities in games is destroying environmental objects, no matter how big or small.  We have wanted to implement destructible environments since Cally’s Caves 1, however we never got a chance to prioritize it.  Cally’s Caves 3 presents us with an opportunity to change that, however, and we plan on doing it in a big way.  We’ve introduced a set of “decorations” for each level, to add to the visual impact and variety of the levels.  Seeing as how we were adding in all these environmental objects, we decided it was a great opportunity to make some of them destructible, with loot hidden inside.  These objects can only be destroyed by Cally’s sword attack, and will drop coins and consumable items when destroyed.  We’ve also added moving platforms – which aren’t a revolutionary idea – but add more variety and give us a chance to make our levels more varied.  There is also a slight parallax scroll on the level backgrounds, and environmental effects such as rain, snow, and fog.  All of these small effects combine together to make the levels feel like they are more “alive” than ever before.

Make Everything Better


These are just a few of the notable design decisions we made during the design phase for Cally’s Caves 3, which took place in July and August of 2014.  Everything needs to be bigger, better, more polished and more fun.  As the weeks go on, we will post in more depth about some of the other changes we’ve made, including changes to our tile set system, physics engine, game world, level design, art choices, music, and more.  We hope you stay tuned and thanks for reading and supporting our efforts in video game development!

We are 4 and a half months into development of Cally’s Caves 3.

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