<font size="5">Ideas for Improvements</font>
Thanks for all the detailed feedback so far! I'll make a summary of the improvements you guys have recommended, and thoughts I have for tweaking the game further, and I'd love to hear back from you on them. Also, go ahead and make more suggestions of your own if you have them!
Here you go:
<img src="http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/darkstorne/OmegaForest2.png" border="0" />
Looking better? I'll add a gif at the bottom of this post switching between the old and the new <img src="smileys/smiley1.gif" border="0" align="middle" /> I boosted the foreground contrast a little, and lowered the contrast of the backgrounds while pushing them further towards a blue hue. Is there anything else I should do to tweak the colours? I'm also thinking of blurring the mountains a little, but as Crowtongue mentioned the detail probably helps them - especially the big mountain. So I'm not sure about that.
Clearly, the issue with having a detailed wolf is that everything else looks stark in comparison. I have swaying ferns in the version you're playing, but I've now added back in (I removed it for potential performance boosts) swaying thorns. I'm now thinking of adding more life and movement to the scene through:
1) Flocks of birds - should be easy to do, flying across the backgrounds <img src="smileys/smiley1.gif" border="0" align="middle" />
2) More mists - rolling across the forest in the distance, not just along the base of the mountains.
3) More leaves - blowing through the air, like in the above screenshot. I can have these at various places in the level, it's easy to do, so it's a no-brainer really.
4) Critters in the forest - I could have birds flitting through the trees, squirrels scurrying up trunks, and fish in the pools. I'm not sure how much work these will be, since foreground work requires a lot more detail, and animations are by FAR the most time-consuming aspect of this game. Please let me know which ideas you like most, and if you have suggestions of your own for adding more environmental life. Perhaps plant life? That could add to the colour variety as well.
These tie into environmental life as well, since giving them more animations will not just help make them feel more alive, but give an illusion of better AI as well.
I definitely want to add spiders that shoot web, as Crowtongue suggested, and I'm thinking of making them trap the wolf instead of damage him. Spiders are there as more of a nuisance than a real threat. Being trapped could lead to the player having to mash the movement keys to escape - faster presses lead to a faster escape. And if you don't escape, the spider will walk up to you and bite you! Or a boar or stag will trample you if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time <img src="smileys/smiley17.gif" border="0" align="middle" />
As for the Stag, he definitely needs some more animations, and I'll try to make him charge you down some more. The issue here is that he takes a lot of work to animate well (I'm still not happy with the current animations for him) so I could easily spend an entire day just adding one more animation to his repertoire. I think it's worth it though. I've been tempted for a long time to give him a harem (group of females) that will run away from the wolf when he approaches. It would look wonderful and add to that environmental life factor, but man... the work involved for something that's essentially just a pleasant visual moment is pretty extreme <img src="smileys/smiley17.gif" border="0" align="middle" /> Let me know what you think though. It might be worth it.
For the boar, I want him to do something when you're on a low ledge and he's right below you. Maybe smash into the ledge and knock you down? I think that can be done, and it's a short and simple animation to introduce.
None of you mentioned the medals, so I'm guessing they aren't prominent enough <img src="smileys/smiley17.gif" border="0" align="middle" /> I really want to make these a centerpiece, since they should place an emphasis on points over time. Those points can be scored for various actions (including fast times, if you want to focus on that) and allow for different playstyles to be rewarded in their own way. So using fire loads will likely award you a medal for killing enemies with fire many times, and a medal for killing one of each enemy. You're also accumulating points for every enemy you kill during gameplay. Conversely, you can get medals for not dying, not taking any damage, and even for not killing any enemies, so evasive playstyles are rewarded just as much. Speed awards time bonus medals, and there are medals for strategic playstyles - rooting three enemies at once, getting one enemy to kill another (try making a boar or stag charge down a spider! To make this easier, I'll allow all spiders to drop down from their ledges) etc.
If you can think of other cool ideas for medal rewards, please let me know! I'm going to add as many as I can. I want it to be fun trying to get a new high score, by experimenting with various elements and playstyles.
PixelPerfick mentioned that he enjoys this game the most when he's zipping around on the branches, so I'm thinking about speeding the game up a bit. I've been worried for a while that the pace feels a little sluggish, but no-one else mentioned it. Do you think faster running, jumping, and falling speeds would be a good idea? Or do you like the current pace?
Gif comparison of background alterations:
<img src="http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc212/darkstorne/OmegaForest-1.gif" border="0" />
If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to fire them away, no matter how scathing they might be! I'm determined to make the best game I possibly can (though being a one-man band who sucks at programming imposes quite a few restrictions there <img src="smileys/smiley17.gif" border="0" align="middle" />), and your feedback will only help me evolve Omega into something better.
So far I've altered the background colours and, most importantly, thanks to the help of MrMiller I've implemented the Controls option in the Options menu - so it's now possible to play with the current arrow keys setup, the arrow keys with space as the jump button, or WASD movement with the arrow keys for abilities (my preferred method). I'll wait for some more feedback and make some more improvements before uploading a new version.
Thanks so much for your time <img src="smileys/smiley12.gif" border="0" align="middle" />
And thanks again to MrMiller for the Controls additions, and most of all to Tulamide: without him, my wolf would have no music to run along to, and I would still be stuck trying to work out how to handle angle detection <img src="smileys/smiley17.gif" border="0" align="middle" />
THANK YOU, TULAMIDE! (I know you're there!)