Demo ZOE - A Drawn On Film Shmup - Now With Playable Demo! (Ver 0.14.2)

ZOE is a drawn on film style shoot 'em up with bright, colourful and unique visuals set to an old style boogie soundtrack! Reclaim your territory from the annoying animator as you shoot their irritating creations to bits and destroy their tools of vandalism.

The latest demo with all new mechanics and power up system is now available on Steam, Itch and Game Jolt
- please let me know what you think, and if you encounter any problems!

I've still got a long way to go with this and I'll be posting here with plenty of updates as the project continues, so be sure to check out my Dev logs and keep an eye out for the latest builds!


Steam -
Itch -
Game Jolt -

WiP Demo 0.14.1 Additions
  • New and improved power ups
  • The Power Up Shop
  • Dash and Pound charge mechanics
  • Apples!
  • Bananas!
  • More new music!
  • Improved hit boxes and lots of other game feel stuff

WiP Demo 0.13.2 Additions
  • Mac version
  • Online leaderboard
  • Refined / additional sound design
  • New music
  • Minor bug fixes

WiP Demo 0.13.1 Additions
  • Tutorial
  • Minor enemy tweaks

WiP Demo 0.13.0 Additions
  • Power up mechanics
  • New wave / formation design
  • Hopefully improved tutorial / guide
  • Time based score bonus
  • Enemy design tweaks
  • Player speed tweaks
  • Player damage emphasised
  • More sound (mostly placeholder)


Last edited:
Dev Log Post 1 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

At the start of the year I bought myself a copy of the latest version of Game Maker Studio and got to work on some tutorials by the likes of Shaun Spalding and Gloomy Toad on Youtube. These guys, and I'm sure others, are great at taking you through the code and explaining what's what. It's extremely daunting at first for someone like me with zero experience of coding, but concepts and thought processes are slowly sinking in now, and I can start to go off the beaten track a bit and implement ideas of my own, albeit sloppily and inefficiently.

Having followed the Gloomy Toad platformer tutorial until there were no more videos left (footage of the results above) I felt able to adapt that code into my first idea for a Shmup - a Defender style game with a Zoetrope (some of my experiments here) twist! The idea being that the player slowly builds up the Zoetrope style animation by pounding on the buttons and activating the frames, while fending off enemies, and then takes on a Boss fight at the end of the level as they accelerate to the right speed for the Zoetrope to come into effect, providing a lovely animated backdrop for all the violence.

I got the general concept of it working relatively easily (probably about three weeks of struggle that a programmer could've done in a day) - you can get the general idea in the video above, probably best to full screen it as the Zoetroipe effect isn't too clear when small. The feel and theme and context of it all was a complete mess tho, so I took a break from the coding side of things for a bit to try and nail down the visuals and come up with some sort of background and context for the game mechanics.

Hux, from the previous tutorial, made a comback for a bit, and I cooked up some silly idea in my head that he was trying to stop an invasion of his planet or something by activating a defense system that happened to work very much like a Zoetrope. Pretty stupid, but it helped me push the visuals forward a bit (and away from the confines of pixel art, which was limiting my thinking a bit I think), and I also took a bit of inspiration from Gonner, by trying to simplify and clean up the visuals. Which in turn led me to just stick in some frames of an actual Zoetrope I'd made, to see how it might look.

It was getting better, but still felt wrong and a bit forced to me. I feel like something has clicked into place now tho with the latest complete overhaul of the visuals. The aforementioned Zoetrope frame I used was from this Zoetrope I made a few years ago now, which was essentially a modern version of the drawn on film technique Norman McLaren pioneered in the 30's / 40's.

This is as far as I've got so far, but it feels like I've landed on a good style - it's fairly unique as far as games go (to my knowledge), it's nice and abstract so I don't really need to worry about bothersome story and stuff, and it fits the Zoetrope conept perfectly!

Thanks for looking!

Dev Log Post 2 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

I've been focusing on the look and feel of the game for the last couple of months, and it feels like something is starting to come together now. It feels pretty nice and responsive to control (many thanks to forum member Leandro Saccoletto for helping out with the code!), and even with the simple placeholder enemies it can be quite fun to play.

The music in the video below is ripped straight from the film "Boogie Doodle" by Norman McLaren and Albert Ammons, and is just dropped in there to try and get a feel for the vibe of the game at the moment - it'll all be replaced at some point.

My next little stint on this will be to implement some more of the game mechanics - some sort of energy bar that is depleted when you fire and dash etc, and which is replenished when you hit the buttons on the bottom - and some more interesting enemies.

Thanks for looking!
Last edited:
Dev Log Post 3 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

A fair bit has changed since the last update, both visually and behind the scenes.

The most obvious thing is the change in colour for the background I guess, which I did so that I could have more options for how the enemies look. Because the player is towards the green / blue end, it'd be a bit confusing if the enemies were similar colours, so freeing up the background from red allows me to play about with the reds for the enemies instead.

I also managed to design a simple multiplier mechanic and to tie it in with the UI at the bottom of the screen, along with the health and energy bars. I wanted it to be pretty bold so that the player can be aware of it without having to look away from the action too much. The multiplier bar increases with every enemy kill, pauses for a few seconds and then reduces until it's at zero or you make another kill - when it fills up, the multiplier goes up by one and applies it to any subsequent scoring. You can also briefly pause the bar when it's going down by popping one of the buttons in order to keep the chain going when there are no enemies around.

The visual design of the multiplier bar is based on another of Norman McLaren's films called Sychromy, where he painted on the soundtrack of the film to make the sound - totally worth a watch, it gets pretty crazy!

The buttons also now spawn particles (not actually particles, just objects) when they're popped which get sucked in by the player, refilling the energy or health bars depending on their colour. I also simplified their design a bit and abandoned the Zoetrope effect when the player dashes, as it wasn't really that visible when you're concentrating on the game, and it was dictating the length and speed of the dash as well, making it feel too out of control. I'm still going to try to implement the Zoetrope frames appearing as the buttons are popped, as in previous versions, but I'm maybe a bit more open to just abandoning that altogether if it doesn't feel right or is just too forced.

Lastly (I think), I designed an enemy wave / formation system using timelines and alarms to trigger them, and a couple of different enemy types that only spawn once there are a certain amount left in the level. I managed to figure this bit out all on my own, somehow! The enemies still need a lot of work so that there's enough variety visually and mechanically, but I've got the systems set up so I can eventually design the level properly.

Oh, and a menu (based on Shaun Spalding's tutorial) and pausing system too! And a badly done shader for pickups and damage feedback. Next time I hope to have a playable demo of some sort ready!

Thanks for looking!


Last edited:

Better Nature

Dude, this is great! Using McLaren's work as inspiration for your art style is genius.

I actually think the first version of that style (with the orange background) looks the best though. As you have refined things it looks like it's lost a bit of its personality. I'm going back and forth between the two videos and trying to figure out why I prefer the style of the older version. I think it has to do with the enemies and the "noise" at the bottom of the screen. The enemies all have animations that feel very raw and hand crafted, and the black on orange is very striking. The newer enemies are simple geometric shapes, and don't really have the same energy as the originals. The noise at the bottom of the screen pumps up the energy and adds a lot to the McLaren style feeling.

I understand why you have gone in the direction that you did, gameplay and clarity have to take precedence, but maybe as you move forward you can bring back in some of the energy that that earlier version had. Sorry if this is coming off as negative, the latest version of the game still looks great, and you can safely ignore my opinion if you disagree.

Are there any plans for a demo? I'd love to try it out.
Dude, this is great! Using McLaren's work as inspiration for your art style is genius.

I actually think the first version of that style (with the orange background) looks the best though. As you have refined things it looks like it's lost a bit of its personality. I'm going back and forth between the two videos and trying to figure out why I prefer the style of the older version. I think it has to do with the enemies and the "noise" at the bottom of the screen. The enemies all have animations that feel very raw and hand crafted, and the black on orange is very striking. The newer enemies are simple geometric shapes, and don't really have the same energy as the originals. The noise at the bottom of the screen pumps up the energy and adds a lot to the McLaren style feeling.

I understand why you have gone in the direction that you did, gameplay and clarity have to take precedence, but maybe as you move forward you can bring back in some of the energy that that earlier version had. Sorry if this is coming off as negative, the latest version of the game still looks great, and you can safely ignore my opinion if you disagree.

Are there any plans for a demo? I'd love to try it out.
Thanks very much mate, and thanks for the feedback! I do see what you mean and I totally agree - the energy has just kind of slipped as I've been focusing on the programming a bit more recently and how things need to be laid out with all the UI elements that are needed. The triangle enemies aren't really helping much either (I was toying with the idea of keeping all of the enemies as kind of cut out geometric shapes like McLaren uses in some of his other films, but the two don't really work well together), but they were kind of placeholder. It's something I'm definitely going to be thinking about more over the next period as I get back into the animation and visual design side of things - it's so hard to stay focused on any one aspect for long, but that's probably why it's so fun to work on as well!

Yeah I'm working towards a basic demo once I've got a few more enemy types done and got the shape of a level put together. I'll be keeping this thread updated fairly regularly hopefully.

Thanks again!

I designed and implemented a new enemy this week - it kind of creeps along the ground spawning shields if there are under a certain amount in the room already. The idea is to bring it in later in the level to make it a bit trickier to get to the ammo and health pickups that you obtain from the blue buttons, and to encourage the player onto the ground a bit more as that's the only way the enemy can be dealt with...
Last edited:
I haven't had much time to work on this recently, but did manage to get this new enemy pretty much done last week. It's a very basic bullet sponge type, but I'm quite happy with how it looks and reacts to damage. I'll be taking the same approach to all the other enemies I do, and revisiting the placeholders to give them more of this kind of energy...

Last edited:
I made some really simple 'popcorn' enemies for the player to just plough through, trying to up the energy in the animation even for the simple stuff. I also spent a bit more time on the enemy spawning and formation system so that they can appear around the player instead of always coming in from off screen, as I was doing before.

Last edited:


I love the art style of your game! It looks simple but vibrant. Feels full of energy.

I like that your later versions are so clean and simple.
At the same time I am thinking: it would be so cool if sometimes some crazy zoetrope background would come back (Like in your early tests).
Might be with a lot of colors and only in some crazy moments?
Just thinking out loud...

Keep up the great work!


Love the artstyle, especially the newer ones. Looks very playable too!
Would like to see it with a bit of screen shake, so we can feel the impact a bit more. But if it makes it too messy don't do it haha.
Hey, thanks guys! Yeah I've got a plan for the Zoetrope stuff that I need to test out soon, but if it doesn't work out I might just need to drop it - we'll see :) There is some screenshake in there, but it's maybe not so visible in the gifs without all the UI to give it context...
This latest enemy is a redesign of the old triangle placeholders I've been using for a while - I've tried to give it a bit more energy and personality and I think it definitely helps the overall feel of the game now that the older version is gotten rid of. Just a couple more enemies to add now and I should have enough to start forming the level properly. My composer collaborator is also starting to work on stuff in her spare time which is super exciting!

Last edited:
Another enemy in the bag, this one gives you a nice score bonus if you destroy the whole chain, or I might change it to a power up drop if I ever do power ups. I'm getting close to having a playable version available to try now (although it'll be without sound), as I've just got a couple of enemies to finish off before I have enough to construct a level.

Last edited:
Here's the latest enemy, a slow moving, fairly harmless squiggle until you kill it and it releases it's babies. This'll probably be a fairly rarely occurring enemy as the little guys are a bit aggressive, but I'm thinking of making a differently coloured variant that doesn't spawn them to add a bit more variety. Just got one more enemy to design visually now, already programmed it :D

Last edited:


Hi there,

thank you for sharing the game.
It looks and plays really nice!

I played it with a controller and keyboard and here is my feedback:

- No bugs encountered everything is working well.

- The menu is sleek and really intuitive

- Right away, after launching the game, I was looking for a "full screen" option. That would be cool to have (or did I just not see it?)

- I really like the design of the different opponents. To see more of them was the main reason to try to get further and further.

- I did not see when I was hitting a combo, except for one time when the dotted enemies crawled up this curved line and I was killing them some numbers popped up.
I think it would be cool to have a clear indicator for combos, like a changing background color or something like this. But it could also come with the sound.

- I was mainly flying around, because I could not find any advantage in walking on the ground. Might be you could give an extra ability to the player, when he is on the ground?
How would it be if the player could shoot upwards when he is on the ground? Or might be there could be enemies that you can only kill when you are on the ground?
Or some super power that you can charge up and only use on the ground?

- After dying it would be cool to see the score of this round filling the screen for a moment to see the fruit of the hard work.

- I like the keyboard controls better. The trigger setup confused me.
I think the same controls would work great for the controller. (only the two joysticks)
It would be really cool to just fly off the ground with the left joystick up and to dash down, pulling the right joystick down.
Finally, left and right on the keyboard are opposite to the controller. It would be cool to have an option to switch joysticks around to see which setup is more intuitive.

- In the air it was sometimes hard to aim at enemies when when only a small adjustment was needed. When I hit up or down very briefly, the player seems to move quit a bit.
It is not a problem of the movement speed. That is totally fine. Might be you need to fade movement speed in over the first 4 or 6 frames to allow for small movements.

- I really liked the yellow dotted enemies that seem to appear in different pattern (the one that do a mini dash). It would be cool to see more and bigger patterns of enemies that don't only fill the screen but the whole level.

- I am still hoping you add a kind of super-speed-crazy-zoetrope mode, where you are so fast that you can almost see the whole level at once. Might be as a special power-up that you have for a limited time?

The game is coming along nicely.
Keep up the great work!
Thanks very much for the feedback, I really appreciate it!

Yeah I just disabled full screen mode for some reason, I'll enable it again.

The multiplier bar at the bottom isn't really noticable , I agree, but I'm gonna hold off on changing it until I get some sound added to see if that helps. I agree with all your points - there's just the one enemy that forces you to the ground at the moment, which isn't enough - nice idea about the power ups or shooting up from the ground, definitely somethig to consider. And yeah the controls need some tweaking, especially the small adjustments to positioning.

Thanks again :D
Hi! I just uploaded an update to my WiP demo - I've added more shooting options on the ground, some changes to the multiplier visuals, a local high score board (online coming soon hopefully!) and the main change is to how the energy bar works - it used to be an ammo bar, but is now a fuel bar. I've tried to balance it so that when you're on the ground, having run out of fuel, you have more directions to shoot in (5) but you're less mobile and slightly slower, and when you're in the air you're a bit zippier but can only shoot left or right...

The plan is to add more enemies to accommodate this change (bullet patterns to force you down, more dynamic ground based enemies etc), so it might feel a bit weird at the moment, but any feedback on it would be welcome if you have the time to check it out!

Cheers :D

Last edited:


I played the demo. Got 37490 points :)
the indicator for the multipliers and "out of energy" help the gameplay a lot.
Its also cool to shoot from the ground.
Are you planning for weapon upgrades? In the last level, it got so crowded I was feeling the need for a big weapon upgrade.
I still like the keyboard configuration better, but I can't dash forward with "w" anymore. With the controller, dashing works fine.
Ah, noooo, I forgot I changed the controls for the dash because of the ground shooting! - it's on '0' on the numpad now. Sorry about that! I've got different control scheme options now, but haven't had the chance to implement them yet. Thanks for playing again - yeah I think some sort of power ups are going to be needed.

Edit - changed it to Space Bar as that seems more sensible. Control guide is updated now too.
Last edited:
Hello, just a quick update on what I've been up to :)

I've been working recently on some ideas around the whole set up of the game - player motivation, story, context etc, and these are the first couple of tests I've done relating to that.

I want to emphasise the concept that this is all playing out as an animation on film, so my idea is to have the player character getting harassed by the 'animator'. This sleeping scene is at the very start of the game and will be interrupted, once the player hits start, by a brush coming into view, poking the player awake and drawing the first few enemies that attack you. The brush will appear throughout the level occasionally as well, replacing the current version of the path enemies with a line drawn by the hand, and will be the boss at the end of the level.

The pause screen also adds to this concept, slowing down the film to a halt, along with the music/sound (oh yeah, the sound design has begun!). Any feedback on these ideas would be very welcome.

Dev Log Post 4 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

I've just uploaded a low-key update to the game (, so I thought I'd talk about what I've been up to for the past few months.

Most of my time on the project, until fairly recently, has been focused on simply getting things to work and making things look decent. I was working towards getting enough enemies designed so I could start putting together a level with a sequence of enemy waves and formations. Once I finally got there, and after some feedback from the first demo I posted here, it became apparent that the player really had no motivation or reason to shoot any of the enemies other than to just, you know, shoot all the enemies. I'm a big Shmup fan, and as such rarely enjoy or pay attention to the story in a Shmup, especially one that interrupts the shooting, but this forced me to acknowledge that of course all Shmups have a story or framing narrative of some sort. So it was time to try and figure out mine.

The first breakthrough I had, after a long struggle with ideas, came when I started working with my friend Tom Pegg on the music and sound design. The concept for the game had always been that we were watching a drawn on film animation, so when the music was put in, I thought it'd be fun to play about with a slow down effect and a camera pull out to reveal the edges of the film when the game was paused (See video in above post)...

This test reminded me something that had always kind of been at the back of my mind, which was to have the 'animator' as the main antagonist, a hand drawing in all the annoying enemies and becoming the boss at the end of the first level. I had to think about how I wanted to implement this tho, as I didn't really like the idea of just having a cut scene play out at the start of each level or something - I wanted to try to somehow convey it all through the title screen and the context of the menus leading up to the first level. So for the last couple of months I've been focusing mainly on menu design and implementation, which I really wasn't expecting to happen!

If I wanted this 'animator' to be the baddie, it made sense that we should see the player character relaxing at first before being interrupted or bothered by them, so I got to work on a title screen, and then started playing around with camera zoom levels and positions for the various menu and option screens.

I was happy that I was finally getting to grips with my camera system at least! The next task was to get the paint brush directly antagonising the character somehow - I'm not totally settled on the order of events yet, and I think it all needs to be a bit snappier, but this is as far as I am at the moment.

I still want to have some sort of transition to the first level where the brush actually paints in a couple of enemies before the level starts, and I might swap the sequencing of the brush swiping across the screen with the ink drip, so it feels a bit more threatening and leads more naturally into the painting. I really like the title music when it slows down, it feels like a real interruption to the character's nice sleepy vibe - I plan to add more sound effects for the brush moving about as well, to help sell the idea more.

This focus on the menus has really helped to start bringing the game together I think, and it's lead to some changes that were needed in the actual gameplay as well. Because the brush vandalises our character's world, it gives the player some motivation to restore it back to it's original peace and tranquility, which has helped me finally figure out one of the main mechanics in the game as well, the popping buttons. The instruction to the player at the very start is now "CLEAN THE REEL!" ( I've not settled on that language, but you get the idea), and when you ground pound onto the first button, you see the background transform to it's original colour. The percentage of the background you manage to clean up is also going to be tied in to a score multiplier at the end of each level, so there's a hopefully interesting balance to strike between maximising your score and managing your finite energy and health resources (which also come from the buttons).

In turn, this inky style in the background has lead to some of the enemies leaving behind an ink splat as they die, which can also be cleaned up by the button pops, and generally makes the level feel a lot more dynamic and interesting, I think. My latest bit of work has been to change the way the path enemies look and to introduce the animator's brush into the game proper for the first time, which has also really helped.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how things are progressing. I'm hoping to have a full on new demo done around about the end of February, hopefully including a boss fight, so please keep an eye out for that, and please let me know what you think of all this - all feedback is welcome.


Last edited:
Dev Log Post 5 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hello everyone! I've spent the last couple of months working on the first boss fight, and re-working the formation system, along with a bunch of other smaller tweaks.

Having finally figured out and nailed down the concept and context for the game (see my previous post for more detail on that), it was clear that the boss would have to be the animator's paintbrush that's antagonising the player throughout the level, but how would the battle actually play out?

I decided pretty quickly that I'd need to somehow pause the side scrolling and create some sort of arena in order to contain the fight, mainly because it seemed like it'd be a massive headache to deal with all of the scrolling and warping issues that would come up otherwise, but I also think it was the right call as it mixes up the gameplay style a bit, allowing the player to move more freely around the screen. To contextualise it, I came up with the 'Frame Trap'!

The camera pulls out to reveal the black frame boundaries which also act as walls to keep the player trapped. I was really happy with this as it solved the game design problem and added to and reinforced the context of the game world.

From here it was relatively easy - I came up with a few ideas for the kind of attacks the brush could do and set about implementing them with a spawning system that randomises the order they appear in. There's also a countdown to when the frame trap happens, so the player is able to get into a position where there are some health or energy resources to use during the fight. It's a fairly easy boss to defeat, but there's room to adapt the difficulty in the future, and I'm pretty happy with how it's turned out.

Some of the smaller tweaks I've made recently include the mini map at the bottom of the screen which indicates where health dots are and whether any of the dots have been popped or not (I plan to make this scroll with the player, so that the green indicator (the player) stays in the central position and the others move around that, as I think it'll make it much easier to read), a camera zoom out for when the brush appears throughout the level (but without stopping the side scrolling), to further emphasise to the player when it does appear (especially if it's off screen), and again, to push the context even more, a slightly different order of events in the title screen, and a small how to play guide. I'm sure there's other stuff I've forgotten.

Thanks for reading - please feel free to download the WiP demo and let me know what you think!

Last edited:
I just uploaded the latest ZOE update the other day where I've added a power up system, and made lots of other changes to the feel of it, more sound, more player hit feedback, better (hopefully) contextual tutorial stuff and guide, more brush path variety...

Here are some links if you'd like to give it a go!

Itch -
Game Jolt -

Feedback is really welcome too - here's a google form if you'd like to tell me what you think (or just comment here instead).

Dev Log Post 6 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hello! I thought I’d talk about the ZOE power up system for a bit, if you’re interested.

After the previous ZOE update I knew it still wasn’t really feeling quite right - there were a bunch of smaller things that needed fixing, like the player hit feedback (which was non-existent back then) and a few other bits and pieces, but main thing was the massive POWER UP shaped hole in the game that needed to be filled.

The first thing I did was to make some powered up bullets for Zoe to blast. The standard shot from previous versions became the first level up, so I had to give her a bit of a puny pea shooter to start the level off with. Then came the bigger and more powerful, but slightly sluggish, bullet of the 2nd level up, followed by the (possibly OP?) trio of super fast shots for the final level.

Here are some numbers, stat fans! The speed is the number of pixels the bullet travels per frame, and the fire rate is the number of frames between each shot, so the higher the number the slower the rate of fire…

I’m sure I’ll end up tweaking these numbers as development progresses to balance with the new levels and enemies etc.

The plan was always to have the power ups spawning from the chains of enemies that appear throughout the level, so I got to work on some variations for the paths that the brush draws, both in terms of visual variety and the difficulty they present to the player.

The speeds and amount of chain enemies also change from path to path to mix up the difficulty, and I tried to make the first one pretty easy so you don’t miss the first power up. I also want to add other ways for the brush to trigger the power ups, but I’ve not come up with anything yet.

For the power ups themselves, we have the aforementioned gun levels, the shield (3 orbs that spin around Zoe, giving you 3 free hits), and the points bonus (1000 x current multiplier!). They appear in a set order throughout the level, but if you’re already fully powered up you’ll get a points drop instead of the gun power up. I decided to go for some classic fruit based icons!

The final piece of the puzzle was to make sure the player was actually aware of the opportunity to grab the power up. The brush can appear at random points in the level and potentially out of view of the player, so I tried to combined this with an opportunity to strengthen the whole drawn on film theme of game. When the brush is about to appear, the camera pulls out to reveal the film strip, and the music distorts slightly as well to give you an audio cue. To hopefully ram the message home (I’m still not sure people notice it in the heat of battle!), there’s also the brush indicator that appears next to Zoe, telling you which direction to dash in to get to the brush as quickly as possible.

If you do manage to get to the brush in time you can even deal it some bonus damage that will carry over to the final boss fight!

I’m sure things will keep changing as I keep making new stuff, but I think these changes and additions have really helped the game and made it feel much more shmuppy.



Last edited:
I've added a tutorial to ZOE, needless to say it took longer than I expected it to! :D

As usual, I'd really appreciate any feedback, if you have the time to check it out. If you've played it before, it'd be really interesting to see if the tutorial works and prompts you to play any differently...


Last edited:
Hi everyone,

I've just updated ZOE, the main additions being a Mac version, and an online leaderboard. I think this is going to be the last update to the demo for a while as I consider how to take it forward (if at all), and take some time away from ZOE to work on some other game ideas (hopefully some really quick projects and prototypes).

Please check this latest version out tho, and let me know what you think!



Itch -
Game Jolt -

Version 0.13.2 update -
- A Mac Version!
- An Online Leaderboard!
- More Sounds!
- More Music!
- More Bugs Fixed
- Reduced screen shake
  • Like
Reactions: frd
Dev Log Post 7 -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hello all :D It's been a while since I've updated ZOE as I've had a little break from development to explore some other ideas, but I couldn't resist getting back into it to try and figure out how to turn it into a more fully formed game. My way back in was to have a go at designing the transition from one level to the next, thinking about it thematically and then how to actually implement it.

The theme of the game is a drawn on film animation, so I've always had the idea that each level would have a different tool of the animator tormenting the player throughout each level and serving as the end of level boss, and I had previously figured out that there would be a big brush that paints over Zoe's environment to change the colour of each level.

In the current demo build available here (it's just one level, so no transition in there), once the boss is killed the film comes to a stop and everything pauses , so that was the first thing I needed to fix to keep things moving and to actually have some sort of cutscene happening. Zoe now goes back to sleep, happy that her work is done, the camera slowly zooming in as the relaxing music starts up, and the game sort of reverts back to the title screen sequence only to be rudely interrupted again by the big brush as it splats down it's new coat of paint and shocks her into action. Then the new level boss (a knife this time) appears above her and taunts her before the first wave of yet-to-be-designed enemies attacks!

One of the ideas I was exploring during my break from ZOE was a point and click adventure which involved sorting out a cutscene system - that's not really come to anything yet, but the cutscene tutorial by Friendly Cosmonaut that I followed really helped out and I was able to apply it to this part of ZOE as well.

Of course the whole idea of transitioning the level and starting a new one threw up some unforeseen coding issues that I just hadn't even considered up until this point. I don't know if this is the right decision, but I decided to keep everything in the same room in Gamemaker, rather than transitioning to a new one for each level, so I had to figure out a system for resetting the buttons and the ink bleeds activated by the player during the previous level, and to disable the player object as the cutscene animations take place. After a lot of trial and error (I'm new to coding, remember!), it's pretty much there now and I think it's flexible enough to allow for different animations and sequences of events in between the coming new levels...

Although none of this stuff is in the current demo build, I'd still really appreciate any feedback on what is there if you get a chance to try it out.

Thanks for your interest!
Last edited:
Dev Log Post 8 -------------------------------------------------------------------------


Ok, so I've been fairly busy with ZOE this month trying to develop the power up system into something a bit more engaging. The current idea is to have the powered up weapons consume energy, so they can run out of ammo if you don't keep replenishing them, and you can level up your standard weapon separately.

I started off just trying to implement some classic weapon types, taking some of the Contra 3 guns as inspiration (apart from the laser, I hate that laser) and took on the homing missile first.

It was pretty easy to get it functioning and to have the bullets target the nearest enemy, but getting it to feel and look good was a bit of a struggle - I wanted a nice curve on the bullet trajectory so it wasn't just immediately facing and travelling in the correct direction. My initial google search led me down an overly complicated route that had me calculating angles and circles and intersections and stuff that I was struggling to implement (although it helped me finally get to grips with point_direction and lengthdir_x/y properly!), until I tried searching again and found this script which I've used with a few tweaks. It's a bit buggy and bullets can sometimes get caught in loops or fly off in random directions, but I don't really mind that as it can be balanced out by the fire rate and damage stats of the bullets, and it kind of adds to the frantic feel of it.

With that sorted I focused on the look, as I wanted the powered up weapons to feel more special and have a bit more visual impact. I thought a kind of film burn effect might work so it looks like the film is getting scorched by the powered up shots. I'm not sure that's really communicated, but I kinda like how they look now anyway... Here's the homing shot as it is currently.

Next up was the spread shot, as I thought that would be pretty straightforward, which it was for the most part. It's a simple for loop with an angle change for each bullet, but the angles needed some adjustments when the x_speed of the player was added (which I do to sort of force the trajectories to stay relative to the player when they move). It was really just a lot of trial and error (my programming style, it seems!) to get it looking and feeling good.

I wasn't really sure at this point how to implement these new power ups though. The current system will spawn a predefined power up (gun, points or shield) after a chain of enemies is destroyed, and I initially had the gun power up version of that just cycle through the different new guns so the player could wait and choose what they wanted. But I kind of wanted to expand it a bit more with other power ups so it really needed a different approach.

After a Fantasy Zone session or two, I decided to steal it's shop mechanic! Enemies now drop apples (which start shrinking and losing their value after a second or so, so you need to grab em quick for max value) and instead of spawning power ups, the enemy chains now spawn the shop, where you can buy various upgrades... I might change how that works tho, so it's not tied into a specific player action and just spawns in at certain points throughout the level.

Pretty happy with how it's shaped up and functions!

Most recently, I just finished off the heavy shot, which is totally OP at the moment but I kinda like the chaos it causes. It spawns three explosions on impact that take out enemies.

A lot of this is still up in the air and it's all totally unbalanced - prices, currency value, power up stats etc all need some serious attention and testing, not to mention the whole shape of the level now that so much has changed - so I'm not totally convinced that this is a good idea yet. I think with a bit of work it could be the way to go though, and will hopefully help with the sense of progression and even add a layer of strategy to it all.

I hope to have a new demo with all this stuff figured out in a month or so, so keep an eye out, would love to know what you think...

Thanks for reading!
Mini update!

I've known that there was something missing with ZOE for a good while now, and I wasn't really trying to figure out what it was because I just had no clue where to start. In hindsight, it's really bloody obvious it was this dash charge move.

Previously, the player would just be invincible while dashing or pounding and would move past enemies without any contact. For whatever reason, I just decided to try out a collision and hit pause on the dash this week, and it totally transforms the feel of moving about the level - there's more purpose to the dash and pound, large groups of enemies become fun to take out (they were just a bit boring to sit and shoot at before), the lines of enemies offer a nice mini challenge to try and line up and destroy, and it all feels nice and chunky.

I've tweaked some of the energy consumption variables so you're not discouraged from using it - the dash itself now consumes much less energy so you can move about without much concern, but when you collide with an enemy it depletes a bit more.

There'll be a new demo soon with all this stuff, coming to ZOE's Steam page :)



hey I absolutely love the art style and color schemes. It's a treat to the eyes. I hope your game makes it big. Best of luck!