Re-Scoping Cosmogelica

Note: I first discussed what I'll be discussing here with my wonderful Discord community, who were all really receptive, so I'm hoping that everyone else is receptive too.

A couple weeks ago I read this news article about "the missing middle game." In the article, they discuss about how modern games are encouraged to be more and more, bigger and bigger, and how this has been creeping into the indie space. So many people are encouraged to make big spectacular games, but it doesn't really need to be that way.  (It also mentions about how DOOM was John Romero's 90th game.)

I've been thinking about it, especially this last week since I've been prototyping something small just messing around, that Cosmogelica has strayed far from what it was originally going to bed. It was, at first, just gonna be a simple arcade game inspired by Space Invaders and Galaga, where you fight formations of enemies until you lose, and I intended to only spend a few months on it. However, I have a bit of a problem with scope creep I'm coming to realize, which I think everyone knows given how large the Shield Cat demo was when it really did not need to be.

So, I think it's time to reign in Cosmogelica's development scope some and bring it back to be closer to my original vision. For that to happen though, some changes have to be made, and I need to course correct to make a clear path to the future. I have a much better idea in mind now, but I have to make changes, and this includes going back on some stuff I said might be in the game before. I have already updated the Roadmap to reflect these changes, but I'll be detailing them below in dedicated sections.

No Story Mode, At Least For Now

The main purpose of Story Mode was for me to try to put structure around the game I'm making, because it's been kinda a mess. For the bulk of development, I've been feeling like I'm just putting a bunch of elements in a big pot, mixing them up, and hoping something good comes out. To that end, I wanted to do a story mode. The original intention was to have linear pre-set stages that are like a traditional shmup. However, I quickly realized that in doing that I was just making two games, and I don't really want to make two games, because that'll take longer.

Next, I was gonna make it so that Story Mode was comprised of several preset stages, but otherwise the content of those stages was like randomized mode. To that end, I was gonna have many different types of stages. However, I've come to realize that I don't really like the idea of just stages being decoration and nothing more. Will there be a story mode? Maybe in the future, if the game sells and I add more to it, and end up with more stages. 

New Stage Structure

What I want to do instead of just having a bunch of stages that amount to nothing more than pretty backgrounds, is just have an assortment of 5-7 main stage "themes" with two parts. For example, we can have the Ocean Stage, where act 1 is over the water, and act 2 is under the water. With this stage structure and more focus on making each stage unique, this means I can focus on making enemies and bosses specifically for these stages. For example, the ocean stage could have many water type enemies and other things unique to that stage, and then the boss could be some kind of octopus or something.

This shift in structure brings about something I hadn't considered before: A challenge to shmup players in particular. A lot of shmup players like to play the game over and over to learn the various enemy placements, but what if you didn't have that? You could go into a stage and know what enemies will be there, what patterns they have, and what the boss will be like, but it's not clear to you when each element is gonna come into play. Therefore, you have to keep on your toes and stay reactive, learning the enemy behaviors and potential patterns rather than finding the pattern of the whole stage. If shmups are like a dance, this is like a dance but a chaotic one.

This will also make it easier for me to look at each stage like a "place," which has always been the intention, and to design enemies for that place. I can also surprise players by throwing in enemies from other stages once in a while, just to keep them on their toes. Or, they could go "oh this is the ocean stage, the boss is gonna be the octopus" but instead, there's a chance a different boss is there sometimes.

Overall, I would just like to have a handful of stages and fill in what goes in those stages. This is why I said there would be no Story Mode, at least for now. If, when the game comes out, it does well and I add more themed stages with their own enemies and bosses, I could eventually add it. However, for now I'd like to focus on the arcade elements I was originally going for.

Less Weapons/Specials/Etc

If you saw the list of powerups before, I had a lot of different ideas on there. However, most of them are crossed out now. I'd rather just focus on a handful of weapons people will actually use, rather than a bunch of weapons where most people don't use most of them and everyone just uses the wave or spread anyways. I did implement the Flamethrower, and I might implement the Laser, but that's gonna be about it. Basically, I want to keep the pool of game elements small and focus more on making each one unique, rather than casting a wide net and hoping I catch something fun.

No More Side Modes

I also had a list of potential side modes or minigames that I was gonna include with the game.  Aside from the Solitaire game, which will be in the next update, I don't plan on adding any more, so I took them off the Roadmap completely. If you were excited for Cosmogelica's Big Minigame collection, well, maybe in the future I'll do some kind of minigame collection heh

The End of Formations

This is one I've already been testing out, which is more contiguous phases. Instead of having a wave of enemies, you move forward, new wave of enemies, and rinse and repeat, it's instead just a progression forward through the stage with continually appearing enemies until you get to the end. Instead of saying "Phase 3," there's a meter at the top which indicates how far you've gotten in the stage. I previewed this in my Discord, and people said that the progression was much, much better.

With enemies appearing in this way, it opens up new ways for me to set up enemy arrangement and also paves the way for me to make background enemies like turrets that appear on the stage itself, which I couldn't really do before with the way the stage progressed. I know this takes it further away from the classic arcade games I mentioned and more into traditional shmup territory, but it just feels better overall to play, and I feel I can do a lot more with this concept.

A Return To Form (aka tl;dr)

My overall goal with these changes is to make a game that's more focused and has more care put into each element, but that can still offer fun and surprise. I want the joy of the game to come from playing it over and over, learning all the enemies and their moves, and learning how to adapt to any situation the game can throw at you. I keep feeling like I'm just throwing more and more into a pot to try to get a game out of it, but I need to cut that out and find the path to release. This game has already taken much longer than it shoulda, and I realize that now. So, I'm gonna focus on a handful of things to make a crafted but surprising game that people of all skill levels can enjoy.


I hope that people who were excited about some of the stuff I'm axing here aren't disappointed, but I've been thinking about it for a while now and I think it really is the best for the game overall, and people I've talked to seem to agree. I think I'd rather have a game out there that doesn't have everything it coulda had, than a game that has a lot of stuff but never gets done, and I think everyone else (especially the people who already paid for it (thank you!!)) wants that too.

This game has been incredibly tricky to work on, and almost got canceled at one point way back when it was still using the color remaps, fixed pixel grid, and other stuff. However, I feel like I'm growing considerably as a game designer, and this experience will help me greatly in the future. As I mentioned, I've been prototyping something else, but I'm not gonna show that for a while. I want to give that one time to bake and figure out what it's gonna be before I show it to everyone, which is what I feel like I shoulda done with Cosmogelica, before putting it out there and saying "This is what it's gonna be." However, I still feel like I can make a quite fun game here that many people will enjoy, so I will continue working to bring you that game.

Thank you for reading all this, if indeed you did! I'm hoping to have the next update out sooner rather than later, but I've been working on a bunch of different stuff. As mentioned, I have the new flamethrower, but I also put a new type of gel and have been working on adding some slight horizontal movement and parallax which I feel opens up the game a lot more. Unfortunately, the changes I've been making to the game the past few weeks means that there's many unfinished elements on full display, so it'll be a while more before the next playable update. I appreciate everyone's patience, as October had some really bad stuff go on IRL that also set me back some, but I will keep on trucking and work hard to make the best version of Cosmogelica I can make, without letting it get out of hand.

See you soon!

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Sounds reasonable, and I very much agree that "Done is better than perfect".  I look forward to playing the updates. Thanks for the info!


Yea, I think that's the most important thing, is that "done is better than perfect"

I can always add to it after release, Cosmogelica is pretty open ended in that department where I can just add more stages later if I want and/or it does well