Version 0.2.0 released! New level layout, obstacles, and more!

Heya! It's been a while since my last update! I've received feedback on the last demo, and have been hard at work making changes to make Louny Balloony a better experience!

The first, and most obvious, change in 0.2.0 is the level layout.  The first demo was designed to focus on the control of the character, but I wanted to make changes for this new demo in order to have it feel you were actually bounding across a city skyline.  The new level introduces the water tower obstacle. Water towers can eject a stream of water from their spigots, forcing Louny to move with the torrent. Also, the new level is much more streamlined. I've removed the tutorial billboards early on in the level as they were detracting attention from other action on the screen as well as the fact that sometimes the text was too cryptic at times for players to comprehend. This also allows the player to dive right into the action without an extended tutorial segment to drag out the first few minutes of the demo.

The behavior of enemies has also been changed.  The purple-clad balloonists received a huge overhaul in terms of how they are introduced to the player.  In the first demo, they were first seen with balloons in tow and had to be fought by diving upon each of their balloons until they were all popped.  For someone new to the game, this enemy can be challenging, and multiple enemies on screen could easily overwhelm any player to a slow, frustrating death.  In the new demo, the balloonists are now introduced in a sleeping state, allowing quick players to get the jump on them before they can act.  Then the level slowly increases the difficulty by next having balloonists appear, but without initially having balloons, and then finally in the totally prepared form featured from the first demo.

Speaking of enemies, the collision detection of enemies has also been made much more reasonable compared to the first demo.  The slow moving bird enemies, for example, will no longer hurt the player, and the enemy balloonists must set up for a dive attack on Louny before they can inflict damage, and can no longer pop your balloons simply based on contact.  This ease is offset by the introduction of more bothersome but less punishing mechanics, such as flowing water that will forcefully move Louny around the stage rather than take away any balloons on contact.

In terms of controls, a huge change came near the end of development for this demo in order to make the gameplay feel satisfactory.  In the first demo, the special attack mechanic in which Louny spins through the air wildly, yet invincibly, damaging any enemies he touches was heavily featured in the level design. Originally, the player had to collect 100 feathers and press the special attack button to activate this.  After replaying this demo and early versions of the current demo, I discovered that this feature persuaded the player to collect as many feathers possible in order to obtain this special attack as often as possible, which goes against the original design of the game as a skill-driven platformer.  This has been mitigated by making the special attack obtainable only through a special powerup available in only certain areas of the game.  Likewise, the max feather count has also been reduced to 30 to avoid having to collect feathers be so important to the game.  Ironically, this change makes the gameplay much more similar to the original game jam incarnation, though I feel overall this change much more improves the flow of this demo compared to the first.

Finally, the UI has been overhauled to become much less obtrusive onscreen.  Originally, information was displayed in a thin black bar at the top of the screen. Occasionally, this bar would show warnings to the player if they were low on balloons or if their special ability was available. The problem with this though was that all the player's focus would end up on Louny vs. the HUD, and warnings would end up being ignored.  This has been resolved by having HUD elements slide in from offscreen where applicable. For example, when a player gains/loses a balloon, the balloon meter will appear from the top of the stage to denote the change, and then leave after a short period of time.

Overall, this demo feels like a stronger direction for Louny Balloony to take.  It should be an easier experience both in level difficulty as well as the player's ability to control Louny.  Speaking from the heart though, because of the last minute control changes, I expect large swaths of the design for this level to be changed again, but for the most part, I think the basic gameplay mechanics have been for the most part solidifed!

The next step for Louny is to finally flesh out the demo as a true complete "Level 1" for the game.  This will include the addition of long-awaited boss battles as well as hidden bonus challenges.

Thanks to everyone who has been following along so far! As a solo developer coupled with a full-time job, it's been incredibly challenging trying to continue to provide content on a regular basis, but I'm happy enough that progress is still being made.  My goal is to eventually have enough content developed and enough traction in terms of awareness to dedicate my working life to this project, and I feel I'm getting closer with the release of this new demo.

Follow me on for more updates and gameplay videos!

See you next update!

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Jul 04, 2020

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