Jetboard Joust Devlog #86 – Bosses Defeated!

At long bloody last!!

Finally finished all the boss battles – well, I say ‘all’ but I do have an idea for a fifth but I’m not going to add that until the rest of the game is complete (if I do at all).

Looking back through my files I started this process on the 13th March, so that’s around 2.5 months of elapsed time. It used to take me that long to bang out an entire J2ME game! No wonder it’s been doing my head in. There’s been the blogging as well of course, and preparation of GIFs etc for Twitter, plus a couple of bank holidays and (unlike most indie devs) I’m determined to maintain a sensible work/life balance so I only allow myself to work on this four days a weeks (otherwise I’d go completely nutso). Still, I think that’s far too long by anyone’s standards. Ironically though, despite the fact that I’m probably at the lowest-ebb I’ve been motivation-wise throughout this ridiculous project, in these bosses I’ve completed the work I’m probably most proud of throughout.

So this last week or so I’ve mainly been tweaking the first two bosses, the Stinger and the Snapper, to make them live up to the standard of the last two. When I started this process I had no intention of creating boss fights – these were just going to be ‘normal’ enemies (only larger), but as time went on I just had to admit to myself – ‘Face it, these are boss fights and you should approach them as such’. Consequently I needed to go back to the first two and approach them with this mindset.

1. The Stinger
This battle only comprised of two stages so I felt I had to add a third stage to make it consistent with the others. I added a second stage attack whereby, once the stinger’s abdomen is destroyed, it reveals a hive that unleashes a swarm of mini-stingers to attack the player.

To create the swarming effect I have a HiveMind class that is basically an invisible sprite that either tracks the player or returns to the boss. The individual creatures always swarm around this central point in an offset eliptical motion which looks random yet somehow predictable.

I also added audio for the various attack stages and made a bunch of code changes under-the-hood to make the way things were structured consistent with the other bosses (this was my first boss so some of the code was pretty hacky as I worked out the best approach to do things).

Oh yeah, I also now have the boss’s creepy legs get shot off one at a time in the third stage for added drama!

2. The Snapper
I spent quite a long time on this one as I just wasn’t happy with the ‘rhythm’ of the gameplay in the second and third stages. The motion and attacks were too clumsy and the ‘shredder’ weapon fired in the second stage was pretty much impossible to avoid which made the whole fight feel too random.

So I completely pulled apart the AI for the movement and improved it considerably, including adding a ‘reverse’ attack which I think plays out pretty well. I also swapped the shredder weapon for limpet mines which are can be shot or avoided by the player.

In the third stage I improved the exposed ‘brain’ animation considerably and turned this into the boss’s weak point for said stage (this seemed too obvious an opportunity to pass up). I also added another attack for this stage where bubbles containing strange fossilised plankton creatures are fired from the boss’s ‘exhaust pipe’.

Finally I added audio for all the various attack stages.

3. General Testing
Then I went through all the bosses testing them against the Flamethrower and Gravity Hammer weapons as these operate rather differently from the other weapons.

The Gravity Hammer particularly is a right pain in the arse as it affects the motion of any enemy it touches, effectively taking control of an enemy for a short period of time. As I never really planned for this properly when I structured my initial code it leaves things open to some nasty bugs. Oh well, lesson learned!

I also made sure each enemy and mini-enemy has an appropriate icon on the scanner (not really happy with the stinger one – looks too much like an aerosol can), added an obvious ‘hit’ effect for when the player takes damage by touching a boss, and finally applied some explosions worthy of such giant enemies.

Thank God that process is over!

Dev Time: 6 days
Total Dev Time: approx 202 days

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