After several updates, bug fixes, and feedback, Darkhouse has become a much better game than it was when I first released it back in June. A lot of things were added/changed since then (you can view the full changelog here), and now I think I’m happy with Darkhouse. So I’m going to stop developing it from here and move on to my next game, though I’ll still go back and fix any new bugs if they appear. I also thought I’d talk about some of the things that I learned and things that I couldn’t figure out while I was developing Darkhouse, and explain my thought process with them, for anyone who’s interested. It might be kind of a rant, but there may be some insight here.
A common suggestion I had seen was to add customizable controls so players could configure them to suit them best, but I couldn’t figure out how to code that into the game. In Stencyl (which is the program I used to make Darkhouse), there’s a menu where you configure the controls for your game by assigning keys to them, and then doing code based on “if control was pressed/released,” and I never figured out how to set them up to be customizable for the player. You can still choose between two control schemes (one for WASD keys and one for arrow keys).
Another big issue in Darkhouse is the quality of the graphics. Besides the old sprites and tilesets that made things hard to see (they were improved in an update), the pixels are also a little blurry. When I started making Darkhouse, I chose to use a 640x480 resolution, but I scaled up the graphics at 1.5x. I was trying to increase the size of the pixels to get that pixel-graphic look, but it made the graphics slightly blurry instead of sharp and clear. Messing with the settings in Stencyl, I can get the pixels to have hard edges and remove the antialiasing, but since the game is scaled to 1.5x instead of 2x or 3x, it would expand only some of the pixels to the right size to fit the screen, and some pixels would end up being larger than others. It was too late to set the game to be a different resolution or scale, because everything was already coded to that size, so I left the antialiasing on.
There’s also a mechanic in the game that isn’t really a bug, but I just wasn’t sure what to do with it. The collision between the player and an enemy is set to be a solid collision, causing them to bump into each other, instead of a sensor that would make them pass through each other. I don’t know if the sensor would have worked better, because with solid collisions you can stand on enemies for a short time, including flying enemies, and they can push you around a little (I did add a sensor collision while the player has invincibility frames after taking damage, and also ghosts are sensors at all times, so they’re not affected much). I think what I currently have in the game works the best, but sometimes something weird might happen.
I wanted to add achievements to the game so the player could be rewarded for completing certain challenges and reaching milestones, and the Newgrounds medal system worked great for that. It also allowed me and everyone else to see who got the medals. But browsers had been slowly removing support for Flash, and soon after I added medals, Google Chrome shut down flash by default. I knew Flash was ending soon anyway, so I changed Darkhouse to be an HTML5 game (which I had been struggling with for a while but eventually figured out). However, the medals stopped working, and I never could figure out how to fix them. I didn't want to remove them either, because some people have already unlocked a few, and I didn't want to take away their points. I instead added the achievements in the game itself to replace the medals, though now they aren’t public anymore.
Music and Sound Quality
HTML5 Darkhouse had a lot of problems with crashing at first, and I honestly have no idea how they got fixed. I must have changed something while I was working on Darkhouse at some point. But one issue that still exists now is that the music and sound effects sound muffled if you’re playing in Google Chrome. From what I understand, it has to do with Chrome, and not Stencyl or a bug the game might have. The sound is fine in other browsers, though, but I also find the game runs better in Chrome. So I guess you can just choose what works best for you in that case.
Difficulty and Game Modes
During the development of Darkhouse, I was also trying to figure out what to do with the difficulty. I have always intended it to be extremely difficult, like those old arcade games such as Pac-Man and Galaga, and at first I had it set up just like an arcade game, where a game over forced you to start over from the very beginning. But a lot of people were having trouble with that system, and at first I wasn’t sure how to help people improve their skills. I tried adding separate minigames for practice, but later I decided to add new difficulty modes that would keep your checkpoints like a normal game, with hard mode being the original arcade mode. After that, there was no reason for the minigames to exist, and I decided to remove them. Now, you can retry a level as many times as you need to without being kicked back to the start, and once you clear a level you’ve cleared it for good. In hindsight, it probably would have been a good idea to just start with easy, normal, and hard mode.
I hope what I just said made sense, but overall I learned a lot while making Darkhouse (and maybe you learned something from this post as well), and I'll try to use what I've learned to further improve my games for the future. This was my very first video game, and I think it did really well. It has some of my first animations, first music, first code, first everything. I had always wanted to make video games, and I’m really glad I was able to design and create one, especially one that people seemed to enjoy (as challenging as it is). If you’ve played it, then thank you, and if you haven’t, then thank you anyway for reading this far (and maybe go give Darkhouse a try as well).
I still have no idea if anyone has beaten the game yet, but at this point I’m not going to hide the ending anymore. If you want to see it for yourself, then I still believe you can go and beat Darkhouse. But I’ve uploaded a gameplay video of the entire game to Youtube here, so you can watch it as a guide or just to see what happens (it’s 55 minutes long, though, and not the best quality either). I’ve also released a lot of stuff regarding the end of Darkhouse, including artwork of things like the final boss, and the soundtrack as well. If you didn’t already know, I have a Google website here where I keep everything organised, and you can find information there about Darkhouse, it’s soundtrack, changelog, and some artwork, as well as my previous posts and some links.
So thank you for playing, and thank you for reading. I’ve already started coming up with ideas for my next game. It will probably look something like this:
Also I exist in these places sometimes…