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Æther: The Infinite Library - Playable Demo
Forum Index - Important - SMW Central Creativity Convention: Summer 2019 - Æther: The Infinite Library - Playable Demo
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After a few C3s without too much in the way of content, I bring you this playable demo of Aether!

Download it right here


You may have seen approximations of the playable map, but here's pretty much everything in its glory. The hack is intended to have a Metroid structure, but also divided into levels. Backboard Bay here is merely the 1st of several.
For the time being, you are simply expected to make it over to the rightmost exit and reach the castle near the bottom corner of the world. If you really want a challenge, you can find four Dragon Coins (vanilla Dragon Coins, at the moment) across the world without dying or leaving the level at any of its exits. This will allow you access to a certain secret door in the end of this level.


This is where the brunt of the hack takes place, but don't be afraid to explore the overworld. You can access certain portions of map only by leaving this level in certain areas (keep an eye out on arrows in the level map shown here and in the game)
Check out the full map here, if you wish!


A large amount of Backboard Bay is water, if the name is anything to go by.


This pleasant fellow is a Schwagre, which are plentiful. They dump Pilcrows at you, which are liable to explode.
At least they're having fun on the way down, I guess.


Some bodies of water are rougher than others, but Eszett is a natural swimmer.


There's a fairly complex cave structure that runs through a lot of the islands.


The caves also have water, yes.


This little guy catches some hands.


There's some old machinery lying around, which happens to make traversal a little easier / more tetanus-y


Eszett's heavy-duty courier bag lets her carry items without needing to hold it in her hands.
It's pretty handy, I would say.
It might be good to know that you can find shops that let you carry special items that you would normally never be able to hold, too.


Backboard Bay also features vivid coral reefs in its waters. It's not just sand, I swear!


Though the reefs are also home to a few things, like this Diacrit, that would put a lethal end to her journey to the end of the Demo.

Super-duper special thanks to Falconpunch, Meirdent, Corrosive, tcdw, GreenHammerBro, TheBiob, and MarioFanGamer (tentative list) for their help.
Supreme Dupreme Special Thanks to Maarfy, who has basically been the backbone of the entire project!

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Currently working on Æther: The Infinite Library!

Other Submissions of mine:
SNES Controller Graphics
Whoa! I thought that was a random collage of screenshots before I clicked it. It's pretty mind-blowing that it's actually a cohesive map of your game world. Not sure if any hack has ever tried to pull Metroidvania off to this extent - certainly not as well as you did, from the looks of it.

Gonna give this a try for sure!

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Wowzers, I seriously can't wait to get my hands on the demo. I added it to the backlog of demos I want to play during this C3. I'll try giving you a proper review whenever I played your beautiful piece right there.

Solely judging from the screenshot right now though, I'm startled by the mere size of this 'level' and how connected everything seems to be.
// Layout by Maxo
I gave it a go, and it was indeed pretty impressive! Here's some unordered raw thoughts if you don't mind.

Quote
- I like the envelope-themed title screen.
- that overworld, man.
- the item unbagging animation is such a nice touch!
- the tutorial levels aren't final, are they? It's a little hard to learn about long jumps in a one-screen level with a screen exit.
- while the pseudo-3D foreground is cool, it feels weird for the player to be walking along the top edge of it instead of the center. (at least with the rock foreground?)
- the enormous knockback of the wall climb keeps throwing me off. (I keep wanting to press the jump button when I reach the top of a ledge to jump onto it but get thrown back instead.)
- wow, those line guides look super neat!
- the up/down button vertical scrolling seems a little abrupt?
- awesome job on the tree graphics - bark and roots are hard to draw, but these look great.
- so the level spots on the overworld are different entry points to the one huge map?

Also, wow, that world is mind-bogglingly huge. I haven't nearly seen all of it. Personally I think after playing this that Metroidvania doesn't come easy to SMW, but you're determined to pull it off and you're definitely on the right track in my book.

Good luck continuing this project! Looking forward to more of it some time.

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That map had been pretty lonely, so you can get a bunch of screenshots, too!

If I'm putting in a new post, I'd like to take the opportunity to ask for some suggestions.
You see, Maarfy's brilliant bag system lets the player keep not just power ups, but any held item, some platforms, and even really strange stuff like keyholes. But it also has the potential for behaviors - imagine being able to purchase an item from a shop that can switch the ON/OFF state, or something.
I, and hopefully he, wouldn't mind any suggestions on something else that could be used that our imaginations are just too puny to even possibly fathom.

Also, enjoy your C3 or something, will you?

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Currently working on Æther: The Infinite Library!

Other Submissions of mine:
SNES Controller Graphics
You made these graphics?

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Give thanks to RPG hacker for working on Asar.
Alright so I just got finished strolling through that Demo a bit. I most likely did not see everything, but I don't have much time and wanted to still have enough to give you my thoughts.
So yeah overall a really really good thing you have going on here. I cannot say anything about the graphics that I haven't said already (except for one thing but I'll get to that later). I never play Metroidvanias so having a map this large was really intimidating to me. I think a bit more visually interesting areas would be nice. To be clear I don't mean your graphics are boring, they are the opposite. But I think having some little landmarks marked on the map would be both neat and helpful. The controls are interesting. Definetly a thing I gotta get used to but I don't see that being a problem in the full game. The ability to both climb on walls and backgrounds is a really great opportunity to expand the level's vertically and you seem to be pulling that off incredibly well. Eszett's design is gorgeous and she has a lot of animation frames that are really pleasant to look at. My only real complaint about her sprite could be that at times her hair seems to more resemble a lion-mane then actual human hair?? It's hard to describe but something about it just feels off to me.

If you don't mind, I actually went ahead and made a small quick mockup of how I would go about drawing her hair:

(reference) Left = original sprite / Right = my edit

So yeah that about sums up my thoughts on your hack. I'm curious how story-heavy the hack will be because you seem to be building a really interesting world there. I'm definetly looking forward to more information on the hack!
// Layout by Maxo
I saw that world map a few times before. It sure is gorgeous, but gorgeous is also that level you're showing in those screens. I'm going to try this out for sure, and maybe give some feedback if I can.
This is one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The graphics are awesome and the changed mechanics make for a different style of play. The ability to scale any walls and backgrounds at will is something I've only seen once in a game before and it really helps encourage exploration, making me think a lot more about my movement abilities and how they interact with the level design. I had fun wandering around finding collectibles in this demo. This is easily the boldest project I've seen yet.

There are only two things I can complain about: I feel there should be a short delay (like in classic Sonic) when the player tries panning the camera, as it's easy to get disoriented when doing short crouches or grabbing onto walls for brief moments, and that sliding down into the water here leaves you unable to swim out.
First of all, a big shoutout at FPzero and his buddy for their look-see over the thread. Really appreciate that you were fond of the project so far!

Also, I'll comment on some comments.

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Originally posted by WhiteYoshiEgg
- the tutorial levels aren't final, are they? It's a little hard to learn about long jumps in a one-screen level with a screen exit.

It wasn't a very good tutorial, was it? My original plan was to attach a tutorial to the end of the title screen demo. You'd warp into a minilevel that gave you all of the info you needed, and then you'd leave with this. As it is now, I kind of shoved those in there just to have something that acknowledged the new controls' existence. The biggest goal was to get BBB in a presentable condition.

Originally posted by WhiteYoshiEgg
- the enormous knockback of the wall climb keeps throwing me off. (I keep wanting to press the jump button when I reach the top of a ledge to jump onto it but get thrown back instead.)

There are a few things I want to change involving the Wall Climb routine, namely with regards to animations (like separate sprites for moving up and down), but it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to have a leap upwards while holding up. I'm limited to what I can get from people who know what they're doing when I ask them very nicely, though.

Originally posted by WhiteYoshiEgg
- so the level spots on the overworld are different entry points to the one huge map?

Yup! The original plan was for regular check points, but the limited exits didn't gel very well with a Metroid-like structure. This way I could get as many exits as I pleased, although it comes with the side effects of having several different levels per map, instead of one single level. That complicates things a little.

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Originally posted by GreenHammerBro
You made these graphics?

Anything that's not vanilla was drawn by my hand. Cheers for the Relative Warp blocks, by the way - that went a huge way in justifying the Metroid structure to begin with!

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Originally posted by Tob
But I think having some little landmarks marked on the map would be both neat and helpful.

That's sensible. The maps were another casualty of the rush to get things finished - the main plan is to have much more elaborate designs that look a lot less abstract - since they're pure display with no actual gameplay attached to them, it would make perfect sense to utilize every single fg/bg graphical slots there are to make it work.
I'd also like actual, unique land marks dotted in the world too, but that might be trickier since there aren't as many free graphics.

Originally posted by Tob
My only real complaint about [Eszett] could be that at times her hair seems to more resemble a lion-mane then actual human hair??

(reference)

You know, it's not half bad. I'll see how good it works at different angles.

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Originally posted by kyasarintsu
I feel there should be a short delay (like in classic Sonic) when the player tries panning the camera, as it's easy to get disoriented when doing short crouches or grabbing onto walls for brief moments

I'll have to bring that up with Blind Devil. The patch is great for the most part, but it can be a bother like you said.

Originally posted by kyasarintsu
and that sliding down into the water [in the first sublevel] leaves you unable to swim out.

Not a great thing to miss when playtesting, especially if that little bit of water is supposed to be a basic introduction to the new water physics.

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Currently working on Æther: The Infinite Library!

Other Submissions of mine:
SNES Controller Graphics
I actually wanted to pointed this out earlier. What happened here?

That aside the aesthetics and music choice is very nice. Good work with the graphics. Don't really have any complaints other than the same thing other user's mentioned. The experience, since I'm unfamiliar with metroidvania, is interesting to say the least.
there's definitely some roughness around the edges of this demo (which are clearly the result of it being a WIP) but I super dig how all of this is looking, it has a very personal and unique flavor that's got me intrigued. Good luck to your efforts on this!
Wow, this looks pretty amazing! Quite impressive that it is structured like a metroidvania, I don't believe I've seen that in a SMW hack before#tb{:>}

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>Mark danced crazy!
Backloggery
This is really looking to be awesome so far, and metroidvanias are my jam! I've seen you show off progress before, but could never think of anything to say at the moment agh.

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I have to say, this looks quite amazing. Lots of work went into this and I wish I could say more but I haven't had the chance to play this yet but well done on the screenshots and progress you've made! #smw{:TUP:}

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Yo, more replies for youse guys

Originally posted by Brozilla
I actually wanted to pointed this out earlier. What happened here?


That's something that I overlooked before release - I construct levels out of placeholder graphics, and the way that they're laid out allows me to replace them with actual level graphics more or less intact. They come with "hard" tiles (terrains, slopes, stuff you generally can't walk through) and "soft" tiles (the things you can climb on, the little extra bits of terrain you can walk through). I forgot to draw up some soft tiles to replace that for that particular tileset, so now you get that ugly slab of dirt. Oops.

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Originally posted by Mellonpizza
there's definitely some roughness around the edges of this demo (which are clearly the result of it being a WIP) but I super dig how all of this is looking, it has a very personal and unique flavor that's got me intrigued. Good luck to your efforts on this!


Thank you very much! For as rough at it is now, it's considerably cleaner than it was even a week ago.
Hopefully I can make something unique that also still works as a game in its own right, because going too far past the Mario mold can have some consequences.

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Originally posted by Hat Kid
Quite impressive that it is structured like a metroidvania, I don't believe I've seen that in a SMW hack before#tb{:>}

I think there's been a few - at the very least, the exploration tag has a sample of them. But I don't feel that any hack has done it quite right just yet. Not even myself with this hack, at the moment. It needs some amount of work first.

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Originally posted by Meirdent
This is really looking to be awesome so far, and metroidvanias are my jam! I've seen you show off progress before, but could never think of anything to say at the moment agh.


I guess there's only so much to say in between major tilesets - this hack only has six at the moment, which is a bit puny compared to the ~20 sublevels they populate, and especially compared to what I hoping to reach by the first demo I made, but eh.
Things are a bit hectic for moderating post C3, but once things die down a little, I'd like to get back to you on Operation Drown out the music when you go underwater and makes this really cool effect like what the heck lemme do that again

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Originally posted by Scrydan
I have to say, this looks quite amazing. Lots of work went into this and I wish I could say more but I haven't had the chance to play this yet but well done on the screenshots and progress you've made! #smw{:TUP:}


I'd love to hear what you have to say when you get the chance to play - it doesn't need to be in this thread, either!

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I'd also like to post a couple of videos of the demo that people have made:

Levelengine's brief playthrough to the end, and
ThePat's goofy funtime video for bab

Levelengine's playthrough is a bit enlightening, because it just goes to show that I can't really expect people to always do the exact right thing that will give them the directions they need if they otherwise have the option to skip it. A bit of a conundrum, no? Also a bit humbling that my 'clever' design choices backfired at some points.
My goal for next C3 is to have another playable demo that generally solidifies the real meat and bones of the game - it would include NPCs and a general sense of plot instead of being flung onto an island with some vague goalpost to reach. Hopefully then things can be properly drilled into players' heads.

--------------------

Currently working on Æther: The Infinite Library!

Other Submissions of mine:
SNES Controller Graphics
Come a long way from Paramount Omnibus, haven't we?


My but this has gotten some polish in the short time since I've tested the proto-demo. You can guess at most of what I have to say - still looks great, still plays great, still sounds great. My experience with the proper demo was as follows (if anyone reading this hasn't played the demo yet, don't open this and go try it!):



That I was willing to do all that should attest to the quality of the experience, even in "just the first demo" state. All in all my thoughts are still as they were:
  • One of the biggest reasons I'm regularly willing to help this hack along is that we seem to share some similar design philosophies. Eszett in general just moves well and makes it fun to explore - her movement is tweaked all over, but it still retains that glorious SMW responsive crispness without just being different for the sake of being different. There's a lot of room for fairly technical movement, as well - say, a long jump cancelled into a spin jump cancelled into a regular jump allowing one to leap a great distance but still grab a wall.
  • The U-turn jump and ducking long jump fit in better than I expected them to. The long jump was the less useful of the two and often got me into trouble when I used it, but it was still fun to fling myself down a hill or off a ledge at great speed.
  • Speaking of hills, there are a ton of slopes everywhere. It's a double-edged sword; on the one hand it enables tricky slide kills and momentum tricks, but on the other it can cause jump-foiling slips, and makes the ducking long jump unusable. More of a note to keep in mind than anything I'd be concerned about, at least at the moment.
  • It remains to be seen how you develop the lives system and all that, but I'm not sure how I feel about the premise of death pits in a Metroidvania. It's not heresy or anything, but it wears at the player's trust and slows down gameplay as big holes must be carefully checked out for platforms and transition fields instead of just jumping on down.
  • The audio was all fine. Sound effects worked and the music all fit. The song that seemed most out of place was the Final Fantasy track used for the star power, but that's minor.
  • I think you made the right decision to leave in the vanilla backgrounds for now.

Two things though, also kind of spoilers:


This sand above me isn't real - annoying, but surmountable.


This sand below me isn't real as well - and it cost me a promising All Coins run.


Originally posted by Deeke
My goal for next C3 is to have another playable demo that generally solidifies the real meat and bones of the game - it would include NPCs and a general sense of plot instead of being flung onto an island with some vague goalpost to reach.

Oooh, what a convenient segue. So, I've hassled you enough about the gameplay* by this point, so now I have to hassle you about the plot - what's all going on here? Who is Eszett? Why is she here, and why do we care? Small questions, but powerful ones - note that "I don't fully know yet" and/or "I don't care to share just yet" are perfectly acceptable responses. Surely a game centered about a library has quite a story to tell?

Totally unrelated, but are there any particular Metroids or 'Vanias inspiring your creation?

* I have not hassled you enough about the gameplay.


Originally posted by Deeke
Supreme Dupreme Special Thanks to Maarfy, who has basically been the backbone of the entire project!

You're quite welcome! I must have coded and scrapped a dozen full hacks worth of ASM by now - it's a real thrill to see some of this stuff given proper life for a change. Keep on fighting the good fight!
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Forum Index - Important - SMW Central Creativity Convention: Summer 2019 - Æther: The Infinite Library - Playable Demo

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