Rhythm Storm

Rhythm Storm

 This topic has been pinned, so it's probably important
Radiangames  [developer] Jun 6, 2023 @ 8:02am
A lot has changed with the Beta demo (0.200 and later) compared to the Alpha demo (0.112 and prior), so here's a quick summary and then more details:

- Twin-stick shooting is now available by default (still auto-fires, but you can override it)
- A fifth vehicle (Ballistic) is now available
- The Encore system has been renamed (Blueprints) and improved
- Re-rolls are now slot-specific, and you can use 3 (or 6) per upgrade selection
- The options menu has been reorganized into 3 tabs, better help info added
- Difficulty Select now has its own screen, and there are 3 difficulty levels
- The player has 2 shield layers by default instead of 1, and the HUD shows them clearly
- Blocks drop 1 of 4 powerup types (3 new powerups) and have new spawning rules
- Abilities have been renamed to Minor Powers, and use a small amount of energy
- Minor Powers have changed, particularly Overdrive and Sprint
- The bright-flashing beat lines/rings have been removed
- Some upgrades have been removed, and some new ones added
- Enemy spawning patterns have changed, are customized and emphasized more
- Fewer enemy types are used, a new shielded enemy has been added
- Zooming is now longer a control, and the game slowly zooms out based on the song
- The visuals/particles have been optimized, and the game runs at 60FPS on SteamDeck (with proper settings)

Twin-stick Controls
There's a new option in-game called "Auto-Aim". The "Default" setting means it aims and fires by default, but using the Right Stick--or pressing MMB to toggle mouse aim--overrides that and fires in the direction you're aiming. There are two other options, "Always" means you cannot use the Right Stick to aim, while "Never" means it always uses the Right Stick (if you don't aim, the ship still fires in the direction you're moving).

Fifth Vehicle Added
The new vehicle is the "Ballistic". It has no body weapons, but the turret fires faster and weapons do more damage. It comes with the new Hunter Power by default, which fires a swarm of powerful homing projectiles (while still allowing normal fire). These projectiles damage shielded enemies, and the turret will auto-aim at enemies while firing a weapon/power that damages them. [The logic/unlocking of vehicles has also slightly changed.]

Blueprint System
The Encore system was renamed to Blueprints, to make it more clear what they do, and the UI for the system was changed. I experimented with removing the real-time selection of upgrades, but it just felt like something was missing, and the current upgrade-powerup spawning system felt better than anything else I tried. So both options are still available, blueprints are more obvious before starting a run, and you can now back out (or start early) while creating a blueprint. In the final version of the game, you will be able to save as many blueprints per vehicle as you want.

Re-Roll Changes
Related to Blueprints, Re-Rolls have been changed because they were a bit confusing before. Now you always have 3 Re-Rolls per upgrade (6 if you use the Static Modifier), and they only affect one column at a time. So they are now consistent between Blueprints and in-game upgrade selection, and the re-roll UI has been improved as well.

Options Menu Improvements
The options menu was over-crowded, so it's now split into 3 tabs: General + Screen, Visuals, and Controls + Info. A couple minor options were removed since they were no longer relevant, while a couple new ones were added (Overdraw and Retro FX). There's some basic gameplay info/tips shown on the Controls + Info tab. You can change tabs by clicking on them, or use RB/LB or PgUp/PgDn.

Difficulty and Select Screen
Difficulty select now gets a separate screen. Normal now gives the player 4 helpful modifiers by default (including an extra shield layer), while Pro provides none, and elite has 4 hostile modifiers. The speed of movement is also slightly affected by difficulty, and there are a couple other minor tweaks under the hood. The overall speed of the game also starts a bit slower than previously.

Player Shield and HUD
The player now has two shield layers by default instead of one (3 on Normal), and the HUD shows the number of shield layers more clearly. The bottom half HUD has been revised to be more centralized and to make energy more obvious. The player-attached mini-HUD was also revised to match the main HUD, and the brightness of the upgrade progress bar is less overwhelming.

Powerup Block Changes
The blocks that drop powerups had a number of changes. Instead of dropping "Energy Bombs" (which the shielded Destroyers still drop), there are now 4 power-up types that can drop from a block (see the next item). Powerup blocks used to spawn every other wave. Now they spawn more randomly (about 50% of the time for each new wave), with a new upgrade that increases their frequency. They also can now be destroyed by running into them, and the Shocker Power now damages them as well.

4 Powerup Types
There are now 4 powerup types that can be dropped from a block. The first is the Invincible powerup. It's essentially the same as before, but always the wandering version, and it no longer affects your shields. Instead, there's an explicit Shield powerup that restores a shield layer, and gives you 10 energy. If your shields are at max, you get 25 energy instead. The Shield powerup teleports to a new location every 10-15 seconds. The other powerups are new: The Lancer powerup gives you Lancer ammo (fires piercing shield-damaging rounds every quarter-beat). The Gigablast triggers a large multi-step explosion with that are beat-synced.

Abilities -> Minor Powers
Abilities have renamed to Minor Powers, and they now use a small amount of energy. They will still function with 0 energy left, just not as well. The main reason for this change is that it lets me make them a bit more unique and powerful. None of them deal damage directly (aside from Trail but that's unchanged), but they can affect firing or movement in more ways because they are more limited by energy. I think it was also a bit confusing to have both Abilities and Powers, whereas Minor/Major is a better distinction.

Minor Power Changes
The Minor Powers all received some tweaks: Overdrive no longer slows you down (unless you have 0 energy), and it also fires a bit faster overall. Sprint no longer forces you to fire in a certain direction, but the physics/controls are similar to before. Dash no longer stops you from firing.

Beat Lines Removed
Besides making the game visually overwhelming with both bright flashes and extra particles, the beat lines' impact on gameplay (destroying enemies/stunning the player) was not exactly making the game more fun and didn't make a whole lot of sense. I also wanted to emphasize enemy spawning more, and the beat lines were occupying the same role in terms of music-synced events.

Upgrade Removals and Additions
Because of the other changes, some upgrades and modifiers were removed, while new ones were added. The most noteworthy one is the new static modifier: Faulty Shields. That modifier makes enemy shields no longer stop normal shots. Instead though, the larger shielded enemies reflect some shots back at the player. Overall the game difficulty doesn't change much with the modifier enabled, but it makes Major Powers far more optional.

Enemy Spawning Changes
There were a lot of code changes relating to this, particularly with how enemy spawns are defined in relation to songs. There's a lot finer control over when and how enemies spawn, and when they do spawn, it's a more significant event (brighter, more particles, etc). While it's not shown in the beta demo, creating alternate song versions (with different spawning/enemies/syncing/etc) is a lot easier now, and creating data for new songs is a much better experience.

Enemy Type Changes
There were too many enemy types that worked similarly, and a lot of enemies are kinda similar-looking too, so I reduced the enemy types used in the demo. It doesn't have a significant effect on the moment-to-moment gameplay, but makes it easier for the player to learn/recognized the various types and how to deal with them. Most of the now-unused enemy types will return in future versions of the game with changes, though one type was changed significantly to be featured in the beta demo (the small shielded enemy that first appears on wave 10 is essentially a new enemy type).

Camera Zooming Changes
Being able to zoom the camera was not really adding anything to the game, and conflicted with adding twin-stick aiming, so it was removed. Instead, the songs now define the zoom level at the start/end (there are a couple other minor factors).

Optimization and Steam Deck Settings
The particles and grid system were optimized a bit, and some settings are now automatically set the first time you play the game on Steam Deck. If you have previously played on Steam Deck, the recommended settings on the Options->Visuals tab: Anti-Aliasing -> 2x, Particles -> 1 - Some, and Grid -> 1-Low.

Other Changes
The UI was style was changed slightly, especially buttons. The main color scheme (world 1) was revised to be a little more saturated. Enemies are knocked back way less by the player losing a shield layer. Enemy death sounds are much louder, and enemy deaths are no longer beat-synced. Removed Trailer Bonus for now, but it will return at a later date. UI for multiple menus was changed/improved a bit, and wording on some stuff changed. [There were more changes/fixes that I'm sure I missed.]

After being away from Rhythm Storm for a while, I played it again and found some parts less enjoyable than I had previously. Comparing the alpha demo to much older versions, I wrote down all the potential things to change and got to work on them. I tried a lot of different versions/variations of things that either ended up not changing or changed just a little. For a while enemies didn't sync to the music while moving, and for multiple days upgrading was synced to certain waves (when blueprints were required).

There are so many potential versions of this game, and it's been difficult trying to figure out which one is the "best". I think this beta demo is better than the alpha demo in many ways, but there's certainly a debate to be had on certain things that changed. At the same time, if you briefly played the alpha demo a while ago, then you play the beta demo and have to look at the list above to see what changed, I also won't be surprised.

I will make minor tweaks/fixes to beta demo if needed, but I'm not expecting there to be many updates of it (the alpha demo had over a dozen versions/updates). A final demo with more content will be coming this fall, but I don't expect to change anything about the current design unless it's needed for the full game. The big things that might be in the final demo: the start of the second song, a boss fight, a 6th vehicle, new weapons, the catalog, and the ability to have multiple blueprints per vehicle. Can't say for sure right now which of those will be in the final demo, but all of them will be in the full game (and a lot more).

This is far more words than I intended to write about this update, but hopefully it gives some insight into the development process. That's all for now. - Luke
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Foxhack Jun 6, 2023 @ 10:25pm 
The game runs way smoother for me now. I didn't play it enough before to notice the changes you've made, but that vanishing graphics bug I got in the past hasn't happened again.
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