Development Diary #22: Cally’s Trials

As we have been working on our next game, we’ve watched Cally’s Caves 3 truck slowly along on Steam to a surprising 83% positive user review average.  A few comments asked if we were going to put Cally’s Caves 1 and 2 on Steam, which led to some tough decisions.  We knew Cally’s Caves 1 would be a lot of work to get ported properly to Steam, but Cally’s Caves 2 is based on the same engine as Cally’s Caves 3, and with 6 weeks of work we were sure we could do a good job of making the game worthy of being on Steam.  These are the changes we made.

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Engine Fixes

Cally’s Caves 2 had a lot of heart, but it also had a lot of problems.  We worked extremely hard to polish those rough edges for Cally’s Caves 3.  Being that the games are based on the same basic engine, the bulk of the work to update Cally’s Caves 2 and make it better would be editing a bunch of the engine’s older code that hadn’t been updated since the release of CC3.  So the first thing we did was take a few weeks to bring over all the movement and collision system improvements from CC3 and implement them in CC2.  This addressed one of the major complaints of the iOS/Android version of the game, which was that enemies could kill Cally very fast with rapid hits.  Making the collision changes made the combat with difficult enemies more interesting by allowing Cally to actually get up close and see them, where in the original release getting that close meant instant death.

cally and lloyd

We were able to update the Android and iOS versions of Cally’s Caves 2 with the engine improvements, which wrote an article about.  You can check out the engine changes here : IOS  /  GOOGLE PLAY

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Engine Additions

In addition to the fixes with collision and physics, Cally’s Caves 3 also added a bunch of small visual touches to the gameplay.  For example, when we made Cally’s Caves 2, we hadn’t learned a good sprite flashing method.  Cally’s Caves 3 had it, as well as many other extra touches that made the game more animated, like bullet shell casings, more interesting weapon upgrade screens with stats on them, weapons that actually fire differently when their appearance changes, and more.  We brought all of these engine improvements and additions to Cally’s Caves 2 for the Steam version.  The weapons having different effects aspect took the most time, since it required re-balancing the damage levels on all of the weapons in the game.

blade bounce

Restructuring into a Roguelike

When we created the structure for Cally’s Caves 2, we faced a difficult decision regarding checkpoints in the game.  We originally wanted to make a checkpoint system like Cally’s Caves 3 has, but since the combat was so difficult, we ended up making it so Cally would respawn at the beginning of the level she was in upon death.  For the Steam release, we decided to restructure it into a more traditional roguelike structure.  If Cally dies, she goes back to town, with a few exceptions.  There are power ups, coin and xp doublers in a store in the first level before each run, and money carries over from life to life.  The player can also buy an item that lets Cally respawn once in the level she dies in, and boss and trap deaths result in a level restart.  Implementing this system also let us restructure and rebalance the item store, and add shortcut doors that can be bought after the boss of each zone is defeated.  We hope that combining a roguelike structure with the improved combat and movement mechanics will make the game the best it can be for the PC audience.


Graphics and Controller Support

Porting stuff to the PC can be daunting for a mobile developer like us, especially when you look at the Steam Hardware Survey resolution section.  Our goal with our first two Steam games has been to support as many of the most popular resolutions as possible.  For our next game we are going to employ a different strategy where everything lays itself out according to the screen size, but Cally’s Caves 2 and 3 were laid out completely by hand.  So it took some time to adjust the UI and view port sizes for the PC resolutions.

cluster bomb

We also took time to add full controller support, to make sure we got the “Full Controller Support” tag on the Steam store listing.  This included adding hold-to-fire for all weapons, a quit to desktop option, and switching the menus from a touch-based interface to a highlight object menu system.  From what we have observed on Steam, many mobile ports get poor user reviews based on their interfaces looking like phone game interfaces, or the lack of attention put into the PC specific stuff.  So we also felt it was important to add key-mapping and letting the players map their keyboard or controller to their taste.


New Title and Trailer

Once all the changes were made to the game and we had tested it thoroughly, our next thought went to creating our Steam store page and making a new Trailer for Steam.  Using an old captured footage wasn’t an option, since the game had buttons on the screen previously, so we captured a bunch of footage and set out on finding a song to go with it.  Unlike our other trailers, we wanted to use a song by someone other than us, that hadn’t appeared in a Cally’s Caves game.  A random posting of Ryan Hemsworth & UVboi’s “Gods” on twitter ended up leading to some discussions, which led to us being able to use the song in our trailer.  They were so cool to let some small indie developers like us use the song, and if you haven’t you should check out their Soundcloud pages: Ryan Hemsworth UVboi.

Finally, we decided to rebrand the game as “Cally’s Trials,” and make it clear in the game’s description that it is the updated PC edition of Cally’s Caves 2.  It felt like we had put so much into improving the game, we wanted to position it beside Cally’s Caves 3 on Steam instead of behind it.  We hope that it will be a fun challenging alternative for people that enjoy roguelike games.

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