Face Lift

Updating Graphics

Made two arrow sprites for the level select screen to replace the “V” and “^” character strings that I had before.  A new arrow delay value was added to the LevelSelectScreen class, which allows me to move the arrows up and down slightly to draw attention to the arrows.  At first the arrows were moving too quickly, because I moved them one pixel for each update.  Therefore, I set the max counter value to 60, and then moved the arrow by the counter value / 10 (one pixel for each ten updates).  Created another image for the highlighted row, to get rid of the default tile sprite that I had.

Created a static method to draw shadowed text.  I did a quick search on the web to see if there was an API call or parameter that could be used to draw shadowed or outlined text, but all the solutions that I found were custom written ones.  Therefore, I just created a static method to draw the raised text, which takes the text string, color, position, and font as parameters.  I didn’t have a good place to put this, so I added it to the main game game class for now.   All of the fonts on the level select screen, game win screen, and game level screen were updated to use the new raised font method that I wrote.  Plus, it makes everything stand out much better.

 

The headers on the level select screen need to be tweaked slightly, so that the header text centers over the rank values.  I will need to see if there is a method to get the width of the text for a specified font.

The layout of the game win screen was also reworked to better place the values.  One issue I noticed was that the “NEW BEST” text was next to the category (piece, lum, time) value.  This may lead players to believe that it is a new best value instead of a new best rank.  The values are not recorded in the game, and only the player ranks are stored.  Therefore, the “NEW BEST” text was moved lower next to the rank value.  The game win screen still felt plain, so I added a variable and added logic to make the “NEW BEST” text blink from white to light green, which gives it a more arcade type feel.

Created a static method in the LevelDefintion class to return the color of a rank, which takes the rank integer value as a parameter.  This simplified some of the draw code, and I removed redundant code which calculated the color value in other places.

This definitely feels like I’m rolling downhill now.  Before, I could spend a week or two making logical fixes to the game, with little to show for it.  Now that I’m working on the graphics, I have a lot more to show in a relatively short period of time.

Pause Screen Needed

One functional change I will need to make is add a pause screen, because currently pressing back during the game will take the player back to the main menu.  I really need to disable that, and add a pause screen with just two options: resume and return to main menu.  I can probably use much of the same code from the “clear records” display, maybe even write that simple dialogue screen that I was thinking about a few days ago.

Star Rank

One problem I noticed in the game was that there is no distinction for a player if they acquired all three S ranks in one play of a level or from multiple plays of the level.  I went back and added a star marker on the game win and level select screens, showing if the player got S ranks in all three categories at once in one play of a stage.  That way the player has a way of showing that they got all three S values at once, instead of having to play through the stage multiple times to get the S rank in each category.  I just had to add another array in the player records class, which is parallel to the level complete array.  As far as saving and loading goes, I just replaced the “Y” value in the save file with an “S” if the player achieved the star rank (all three S ranks at once).

Take level 1-9 in the screenshots below for example.  The player currently has ranks S,S,B for the level.  The player completes the stage getting an S-rank in time, but a B-rank in luminosity.  The player now has S-ranks in all three categories.  However, Since the player got the time S-rank on a separate play of the stage (without getting all three S-ranks at once), the player did not get a star for that level.

 

Backgrounds

Added a transparent tile in the cells not filled with a title, to show the player which cells the cursor can occupy.  Without these transparent tiles as a guide, it is confusing to tell where the cursor can and can not be moved.

Created background images for levels 1 through 9.  The background image will change after completing every 10 stages.  The background color will also use a shade of the color of the highest level resistor for that level, re-enforcing the color value for that number.  In a way, this adds to the educational factor of the game.  Aside from having brown for level 1, this also teaches the standard ROYGBIV color spectrum model.  Created a background image cover, which is white on the sides, and gradually becomes transparent in the center.  This didn’t look right, so I used the color parameter of the draw method to change the color of this cover image as well.

 

   


Went ahead and added this background image style to the game win screen as well.  I may have to make some tweaks to make the lettering stand out better.

On the title screen, I went ahead and used the color parameter of the background image to set the shade of the scrolling image to the light green color.  Before, the background image looked faded and dull.

Setting the Bar

More Rank Generation

Spent time tonight playing through each level three or four times to get better values for the S ranks.  I want to ensure that the player can get S ranks in all three categories in one play of each stage.  For instance, I don’t want players to have to use a lot of pieces to get the S rank in time, then have to replay it again to get the S rank in pieces.  However, the player can get a better rank in any category by replaying the level, and specifically focusing on that specific category.  This means that each rank category of each stage is considered independent of the other rank categories as far as the records go.

When going for the best times, I found that the optimal strategy is having the most possible LEDs fill at the same time.  There should always be a piece filling, and the more pieces filling simultaneously the better (as long as it doesn’t impact the number of pieces used).  The LEDs that require the most distance should be completed first, filling in the shorter routes after.  It really is a bottle neck problem to solve to get the best time ranks.  Maybe its because I’ve played my own game so much, but getting the S ranks for pieces and luminosity is really simple, so the only challenge will be getting the S ranks for time.  On the other hand, if the player isn’t good at subtraction, then the luminosity scores will be difficult to obtain.

Platform Specific Exception

Noticed another difference between PC and XBox 360.  On the XBox 360, a runtime error will be generated if a try/catch statement isn’t placed around the game loading functionality to catch the System.InvalidOperationException exception.

More Level Design

Spent time creating ten more levels.  These use up to the 7 value battery.