Lysis blog

4th May 2016 [1]

All about Gravity Lander

rendered image of a spaceship approaching three colourful planets

Artist's impression

After some procrastination, my last flash game : Gravity Lander.

Fly your space-ship to collect gems or land on the green planetoid. Use the mouse to point in the desired direction and click to thrust. A planet's gravity will pull you in, so be careful.
Successful landings are a) gentle and b) upright. When landing, warnings are given on approach to the target outside tolerances, the audible alarms can be switched off independently with the buttons in the lower right. Fine-grained control of sound effects and music can be made in the settings screen. Also in settings are options for graphical effects.


The Plan

Gravity lander is a 'lander' game with a difference. Most such games represent only the final approach, and gravity is effectively a constant downwards force. In this game, you often start off in deep space - or in orbit, and gravity obeys the inverse-square law.

This was a game I'd wanted to make for some time. I'd previously made many experiments with simulated gravity, which stood me in good stead for the initial development. I soon realised that some compromises were required to make the concept into an enjoyable game. Empirical tests demonstrated that the landing target couldn't move, would generally need reduced gravitation, and other large moving masses were a liabilty to the gameplay. I accepted these constraints and soon had a playable prototype.


A small lander flies negotiates several diverse planetoids to reach its destination

Planetoids can take several styles to give graphical variety

Feedback on this prototype was mixed. Many people liked the control method, finding it intuitive, but generally found landing enormously hard. Also the graphics were too plain.
I have tried to address these comments by adding some early levels where flying and landing are gradually introduced, and spent significant effort on getting the planetary graphics right. I had a lot of fun finding textures for these, and I think they contribute a lot to the game's flavour.

A HUD was added, to provide more guidance on final approach.
I also added what I think are some very nice configuration options, and hired an artist to draw the lovely instructor.
I'm proud of how the in-game music is handled - there are several tracks, which play on 'shuffle'. You don't see that too often in online games because of the filesize implications, but I tried to manage that by loading in the tracks incrementally.

One further addition was the level select function. This is important, because noone wants to have to replay many levels to replay the one they reached last time. I think this is a reasonable compromise - there's no cost to using it except that your final score won't be as high (if you reach the end, that is).


I didn't manage to get this game sponsored, which I can't say I don't regret. In retrospect, the intro levels arn't ideal in several ways. Firstly they're not the most attractive graphically, and they delay the reveal of the game's USP. I really don't like games which take a long time to get going, so perhaps they still expect too much, too quickly from some players.

The control scheme seems to be something some players are simply unable to grasp. I've seen this for myself in playtesting, and find deeply odd. Nevertheless, some players immediately grasp it - and I have received positive comments about the controllability, so this is perhaps something to live with. People do vary enormously in experience and skill level, and this sort of game is inherently rather unforgiving to the novice.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how this game plays, looks and sounds, so I'm still proud of it.
Why don't you have a go, and let me know what you think in a comment below?


[1] Too good an opportunity to miss:

What did Obi-Wan Kenobi say to Luke Skywalker, on the Third of May?

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