Psycho Cyclist Devblog 1

I’ve come up with a plan, now it’s time to get to work! The first game I’ll be working on is Psycho Cyclist:

After years of biking to work, you’ve slowly been driven mad by people constantly walking on the bike path. You can’t take it anymore… With your trusty road bike, some duct tape, and some tools you found in your shed you’ll teach them to walk on the sidewalk, once and for all!

Psycho Cyclist is a side scrolling game where you try to clear all of the bike paths in the city by running over pedestrians (aka ‘walkers’) and taking their money to upgrade your run of the mill road bike into the ultimate walker killing machine. I’ll be releasing it on Newgrounds, Kongregate, and possibly a few other sites.

I came up with the idea for this game while reading Game Design Workshop by Tracy Fullerton. There was an exercise to come up with a few game ideas based on activities in everyday life. One of those activities was my daily commute to work on my bike. People walking on the bike path are a pretty annoying, so I came up with the idea of a game where you go insane and go on a bicycle rampage on a walker infested bike path.

I’ve only just started working on it, but I’ve already made some good progress on both the design and the code.

Iterating on the Design

My first version of the game design had three attacks: scream, swear, and flip off. Each one would have different effects on different walkers. For example, flipping someone off might make them try to attack you, while screaming at them might scare them off the bike path or make them fall down.

Before I even wrote any code, I had a feeling that this wouldn’t be much fun. I wanted to have different levels with different walkers, and keeping track of which attacks do what would be almost impossible for the player.

Conveying how many walkers would be effected by the attacks would also be very difficult. If some attacks cause walkers to attack you, there would need to be a way for the player to control which ones they hit by making it affect a cone or circle shaped area. That area would have to be either invisible, which would be confusing, or visible, which would look rather ugly.

I decided instead to have just one scream attack that affects the entire screen. Not only is it simpler to implement, but it’s much easier for the player to understand and use effectively, and effecting the entire screen is more fun than just a small area.

The game will be split up into multiple levels with different walkers. Some walkers, like cops for example, will damage you if you run into them unless you scream at them first. Screaming will have a short cooldown and will also scatter most walkers, making them harder to hit, so it’ll need to be used carefully.

Killing walkers will give the player cash they can use to buy upgrades at the end of the level. I might replace ‘cash’ with something that suits the theme a bit better but it will do for now. Levels won’t be repeatable so players will have to be as efficient as possible during each level to get the most cash.

Getting to Work

Since I have the design ready, or at least a good initial version of it, I’ve started prototyping the game in Unity. I’ve chosen to go with Unity to build some skills with it, and because it is supported on the sites I want to publish the game on. I am a bit concerned that some people won’t play it if it isn’t supported by their browser, but if that turns out to be a problem I’ll use another engine for my next game.

This prototype will eventually become the finished game, but for now I’ll be iterating on the design and not spending a lot of time focusing on coding. I can always rewrite things later if they become a problem.

Psycho Cyclist is still very basic looking, I’ve only got some quick and dirty placeholder art in at the moment:

Psycho Cyclist Early Screenshot
Psycho Cyclist in its current state. It works, but has no real art assets.

Walkers spawn, you can run them over, scream at them to make them run or fall down, your speed automatically increases when you aren’t hitting things, and drops a little bit when you hit walkers.

Right now, my goal is to get a prototype out as quickly as possible so I can start getting feedback and iterating on the design. I already got a bit of useful feedback during a mini game jam with some friends. They mentioned it’s more fun to kill the walkers rather than dodge around them. As a result, I shifted from my initial design where the goal was to dodge most of them, to hitting as many as possible instead.

My first task will be getting a basic menu set up with one level so I can test the game without having to arbitrarily decide when to stop. After that I want to implement a simple upgrade system so running over walkers will actually have a purpose. Once that’s done, I’ll show it around a bit, get feedback, and refine the design further.

As I develop the game I always want to be stopping every so often to get feedback to ensure I’m not sinking time into something that isn’t fun. Be sure to check back for future devlogs as I’ll be posting prototypes along with them!

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