Hammer revamp!

Hello explorers!

We are full-steam into the development of a Release Candidate build. Given our feedback from the beta tests (thanks from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who helped!), we re-prioritized our backlog with a few features we want to work on before releasing the game.

One of my favorite moments as a game designer is finding a satisfying solution to multiple problems that was right under your nose, and greatly improves the experience. So today, we’d like to talk about one of the changes we made, which is a revamp of one of the first abilities you get in Raider Kid: the Hammer!

Hammer issues

The hammer is one of the core mechanics of the game, and has uses in exploration and combat. Having been inspired by Zelda's sword spin, it does double damage but requires you to charge after a standard attack - the whip - before being unleashed. It is also used for breaking blocks to reveal hidden passages.

When watching the playtests, we were surprised to see that players were barely using it, besides when it was required for exploration. This was particularly bad for combat, because this made boss fights longer (and harder) than they should. Upon interviewing the testers, we found out two causes:

  • Most of the players hadn't even realized it was actually stronger than the whip, even after having finished the game.
  • They didn’t feel the hammer felt useful in combat, as its reach is very low, on top of the fact you have to charge it.

Therefore, we decided to attack this problem in two simultaneous fronts: 1) Re-designing the mechanic to make it more useful and satisfying; and 2) Creating more opportunities for the player to discover its properties and incorporate it into their playstyle.

Mechanic overhaul

To address the hammer's lack of range, we changed it from a single swing to a spin attack that sends your character forward at high speed for a short time.

Since we don't want players to overlap enemy hitboxes, the hammer attack also has a knockback on the player if they hit something and don't destroy it. This also helped make the attack feel much stronger.

Being a nod to slower, highly condensed exploration Game Boy titles like Link's Awakening, Raider Kid is not focused on mobility (it ain't no Celeste), but we thought this was an opportunity to make the core mechanics a bit more satisfying and give players more locomotion options (which might be welcome for speedrunners).

First, we experimented allowing players to jump mid-air while performing a hammer attack. This felt fun to master as an advanced technique, as now you could stay in the air indefinitely by alternating between hammering and jumping, but that felt a bit too “hacky” for our minimalistic design principles, so we ended up cutting it off.

We ended up limiting it to allow players to jump once during the attack, which made it useful enough against aerial enemies and also extended your horizontal jump length a bit. This surprisingly didn't create any problematic sequence breaks, so we were excited to keep it in without needing any major level design adjustments (although one boss fight needed some changes).

Another nice touch is that we added the possibility to duck during the charged attack to quickly slide while crouched. This is inspired by Wario Land 2, which is the other big influence for Raider Kid, and adds an option to go through narrow tunnels a bit quicker, while keeping the charming crawl animation for most part.

Discoverability & Incorporation

As the great majority of the enemies in the game have 1 HP, there weren't a lot of opportunities to find out that the hammer did more than 1 HP worth of damage. So we did a few things to make this math more noticeable, and condition the player to use the hammer regularly:

  • Increased the enemy knockback for attacks that do more than 1 damage, so they feel distinctly more satisfying, even if the enemy has 1 HP;
  • Added more 2 HP enemies right after the hammer is introduced;
  • Created new enemies with moving shields, which also have plenty of HP. Players can approach them in different ways, by either aiming regular attacks at unprotected spots, or hammering the shields first to remove them. The intention is that, since the shields move, players can accidentally hammer an unprotected spot and witness the damage difference, even if they wouldn’t otherwise try using the hammer to deal direct damage.

Late Game Changes

The late game also included a hammer upgrade that made it even stronger compared to the whip - we have decided to take this out of the game, as it led to an even further performance gap between players who used the hammer to their advantage and players who didn't. Removing this upgrade changed quite a bit of the late game level design, but we believe this change was for the best :)

We will also test moving the Dowsing Pendulum to become a late-game item instead of being introduced in the first areas. As much as I like how it works, we thought we didn't have enough space in the map to properly pace its introduction alongside the rest of the core equipment while properly teaching it (this is the downside of making a game in which the world design is meant to fit in a grid of 15x13 rooms).

Next Steps

With that, only a few more major features remain in our backlog:

  • (New) Hammer rework
  • (New) Adjustments to make puzzle solutions and certain goals clear
  • (New) Additional accessibility options (including button remapping, whose viability we will start investigating soon)
  • (New) Customizable border
  • Steam Achievements
  • Credits Sequence
  • Bug fixes

(Items marked as “New” are the ones that we added after the Beta tests)

Most of those tasks are very small compared to all the work we've already put in the game, so we are still aiming for a 2023 release. As we want to focus on finishing the game as soon as possible, we will only update the demo with the final mechanics and level design when we are close to releasing the final game.

Cheers and until next time!

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The new animation feels really nice.


Sounds like a great work!