Coma State Eden (or CSE) is an 'auto-scrolling side view twin stick shooter' video game developed by digital artist StudioDaeera (Studio). The game's chiptune soundtrack was composed by Firespike33. Planned to be fully completed and released in 2021, the game was designed in the state machine based game engine, Pixel Game Maker MV (PGMMV). The game was created for KADOKAWA Corporation & Active Gaming Media's Pixel Game Maker MV Game Development Challenge. While CSE didn't win the challenge, it did make it to the top ten finalists out of 29 total entries (2 entries were later removed post deadline.)
The player takes control of an enigmatic spaceman named Burai, guiding him inside the dreams of humans (which play out as each stage) who've fallen victim to a rare phenomenon. The stages all follow a similar structure: Burai uses his ship to penetrate the outer layer of the dream, once inside the dream he exits the ship, the former half of the stage begins and soon progresses to a mid-boss, which must be defeated in order to continue the latter half of the stage, where a Nightmare Creature will reveal itself to Burai at the conclusion. After the stage is complete, the player will see statistics on their performance and will receive a bonus should they have cleared the stage without getting hit by anything. During the stages, enemy creatures will attempt to kill the player, they must use their weapons and abilities to keep themselves alive and obtain power ups for their weapons. The main game can be played on one of four difficulty levels. Daydream, Normal, Hard and Nightmare. While the intended experience for CSE is on Nightmare, the entire game can be completed from start to finish on any difficulty (gating no content off.) Daydream is extremely easy, intended for brand new players to the genre and for players needing a low pressure environment to become accustomed to the control scheme. On Daydream, each stage includes an extra power up capsule. If playing on Hard or Nightmare, there will be some additional enemies and some enemies and bosses will have extra behaviour. There are mid-stage checkpoints unless playing on Nightmare. As the difficulty increases, enemy movement speed and projectile speed is increased.
CSE's controls are unconventional. It takes the control scheme of a twin stick shooter concept (often associated with top down view games), and combines it with the side view action of an auto scrolling shooter. Shooting is triggered by pushing the right control stick in any of the cardinal or ordinal directions. However, unlike in twin stick shooters, the player cannot shoot in all 360 degrees. They can only face left or right. In other words, the angle the player pushes the right control stick will not only affect if they shoot to the left or right, but it will determine the weapon used when shooting. The same weapon can be shot repeatedly by holding the stick in the direction of the desired shot type.
There are three shot types to make use of: a standard weapon and two specialty weapons. Pushing the right control stick to the left or the right will use the Standard Shot: a simple and reliable horizontal Laser. Pushing it to the bottom, bottom-left or bottom-right will fire the Secondary Shot: a Dropshot, which arcs a fireball downwards that hits a second time on impact. Pushing to the top, top-left or top-right will fire the Tertiary Shot: a Boomerang, which has an upwards arc that can pass through walls and pick up items it comes into contact with, it also has a small chance to do critical damage. Burai's shot types can be leveled up from Lv.1 (to the maximum of Lv.3) by picking up the corresponding power up from an item capsule. Leveling up a shot type will increase its size and exacerbate its attributes. The Standard Shot will increase its spread and speed. The Dropshot will change its arc as well as the size of the explosion it leaves on contact. The Boomerang increases it's movement arc, vertical length and chance of dealing critical damage to enemies.
Related to Burai's weapons is another mechanic. Burai has 3 hit-points (or HP), which essentially function as lives. While any of the player's weapons are leveled up past Lv.1, their hit-points are protected by an HP shield. In this state, if the player were to take damage, all of their weapons would revert to Lv.1, but their HP shield would be consumed rather than having the damage applied directly to their HP. When selecting a difficulty before beginning a game, the player can also adjust their HP-Mode Type. By default, it's set to 3-HP Mode. In 1-HP Mode, any damage the player takes when their weapons aren't leveled up results in death. To compensate, a large score bonus is awarded for each stage cleared while 1-HP Mode is enabled.
CSE uses a unique implementation of a reflect/counter attack system. The player can press the right trigger to whip their Flash Shield at enemy projectiles, reflecting them with a damage boost. Care must be taken when doing so as it can be broken and unusable if it comes into contact with an enemy's hitbox. The Flash Shield can be used in two different ways, similar to the shield in Super Smash Brothers. Triggering the Flash Shield while the player isn't moving with the left control stick causes them to do a Neutral Shield. This covers the whole body while giving invulnerability to projectiles, but it's brief and lacks range. Triggering the Flash Shield while pushing the left control stick to move in any direction causes the player to do a Directional Shield, this pushes the shield out towards one of 8 directions (cardinals and ordinals), while the player is vulnerable. Projectiles that come into contact with the Neutral Shield will arc away from the player as they drop. Projectiles reflected this way receive a higher damage boost than when reflected directionally, but this trades more power for less accuracy as the player loses control over the reflect path.
With the left trigger, the player can make use of Burai's special ability called Lucid Mode. Causing them to fire super versions of each weapon as the visuals on screen become more dream like and colourful. The effect lasts for 20 seconds, or ends prematurely if damage is taken while under the effect of Lucid Mode. Before triggering Lucid Mode, the player must first fill up the Lucid Gauge. Done by picking up Lucid Orbs: found throughout stages, by reflecting projectiles, and have a chance of being dropped by defeated enemies. Lucid Gauge will carry over on death, but is reduced (difficulty determines amount.)
Underneath the player's score is a value called the Action Rate. Frequently performing certain actions (hitting enemies, killing enemies, grabbing goodies, reflecting projectiles) will increase the rate. The rate slowly drains and will also decrease further by having certain things happen (hitting walls with projectiles, taking damage.) While the rate is above 0, points are constantly added to the player's score.
After the contest, an update was made which added local 2 player co-op. The second player character is merely a monochromatic 'Double' of Burai, rather than a different character. While in co-op, power-ups collected by one player will also be given to the other, as long as they are alive. If a player reaches the end of stage boss fight while the other is already dead, the dead player will be given a SECOND CHANCE and spawn with 1 HP, with their weapons reverted to Lv.1, while their Flash Shield will be restored (if it was broken.) Both players share the same Lucid Gauge, meaning if any of them take damage, Lucid Mode will prematurely end for them both.
What happened to the unlucky people who fell into comas they couldn't wake up from...? A rare phenomenon that has puzzled doctors to this day. Many say it was only their poor health or genetics, but the victims claim to have seen an enigmatic spaceman who nullified the source of their coma—an age old evil he has battled time and time again...
Development of CSE started in early October of 2019, the following week after the Game Development Challenge officially began. Initially, Studio did not have a composer for the project. Later he recalled a chiptune composer he'd first spoken with months prior, Studio thought his style would suit CSE. Having showed him a rough prototype of the game's premise and a visual concept for the game's second stage, Firespike33 expressed interest in Burai's space man character desisgn and the game's concept. Eventually agreeing to collaborate on CSE with Studio.
While Studio doesn't write code, he has built up skills in game design by attempting and failing past projects in 'game maker' type softwares such as RPG Maker or Game Maker. CSE (or, originally, known as just Coma State) was one of those projects. First attempted in 2011, it was soon canned due to a lack of skills needed at the time to make his vision. He now felt those skills were more than adequate enough to make a quality game in a program like PGMMV, which he felt was more accesible to game designers who don't code. In addition, CSE was envisioned as an arcade styled game, meaning it's scope was much smaller than that of very ambitious projects such as RPGs. Making it suitable for the length of the Game Development Challenge.
For the first two months of the contest, the first few weeks were spent building the player character object and figuring out how details such as Burai's movement felt. Then he spent the next two months of development creating the visual assets for the game's opening story sequence, title screen, main menu, creating the interactive how to play screen and conceived a difficulty system for CSE. In the meantime, Firespike33 began putting together the audio palette that would make up the flavour of the game's original soundtrack. The two would often discuss music tastes (a little more often around chiptunes) and inspirations, eventually coming to the mindset that would go into the overall feel of the game.
By January of 2020, pre-production was considered done. The last four months of the contest would be used to design the game's stages. In addition to composing the original soundtrack, Firespike33 would help with some smaller visual tasks. The two would often bounce ideas and run suggestions by each-other. Chris Patten (also known as OHMACS ) was a creative consultant on the project and some of his suggestions to Studio were used for enemy designs and other visual elements.
Originally, the game was much harder. Near the contest deadline, Firespike33 convinced Studio to make a lives system due to CSE not having any mid-stage checkpoints. This is where the idea of the HP-Mode modifier came into play. For players who potentially find that Hardcore wasn't challenging enough for their skill, they can adjust additional paremeters on the difficulty screen to further increase (or decrease) the challenge. Such as the number of starting credits (from 0 to 5 credits, or infinite/Free Play) as well as the HP-Mode Type.
Reception & Game Development Challenge Results
Following the month of the contest deadline, the voting period for the Player Select Award began. Visitors would come to play the submissions, rating the entries which interested them. They would rate various criteria on a 1-5 scale (Uniqueness, Expressiveness, Fun and Completeness.) By the end of the voting period, Coma State Eden had received approximately 60 ratings. Generally the reception was positive. Players loved the arcade polish and feel. They were especially impressed with the energy of the chiptune OST, how each track fit the stage and would really grow on the listener.
- GhostDawgs, an industry programmer (Telltale Games, EA) said:
"What a great game! A perfect balance of nostalgic and new. Coma State Eden is a fun to play game that feels complete and unique; each level brings forth new challenges along with a great game loop and fantastic vfx/sfx."
- WinterDrake, developer of the indie game Paint Defense said:
"This game looks and feels amazing. In fact, this is the best itch.io game I've ever played... I could never make it past the first boss despite playing it for 20 minutes on stream... However, that 20 minutes was pure joy because of how good the game feels and looks. Everything just weeps of polish and arcade/DOS charm."
While reception for the game was strong, reactions were somewhat mixed when it came to the shooting controls. Numerous players had expressed a desire for button based shooting. Either because they thought using the control stick to shoot in set directions felt very unintuitive for them, or because they felt it was inaccurate at times. Another point of criticism was the game's difficulty. People who found the controls unintuitive were generally having a more difficult time getting used to the feel of them. There were also a few mixed reactions about the pixel art.
During (and after) the contest, Twitch streamers SlurpeeNinja, TJThrilla, Azraellxx, SmashLogic and OHMACS streamed CSE on their channels, with StudioDaeera and Firespike33 attending and participating in the chat. Viewers in the audience provided feedback and thoughts on the game, which Studio and Firespike discussed with them. Studio would Implement the feedback he thought was best.
The Game Development Challenge was guest judged by four veterans of the video game industry: Koji Igarashi (Castlevania, Symphony of the Night), Daisuke 'Pixel' Amaya (Cave Story, Kero Blaster), Takumi Naramura (La Maluna) and Rafael Grassetti (God of War series art director.) CSE was among the 10 games which made it past the preliminary judging, but ultimately didn't win any of the categories.
The soundtrack consists entirely of chiptunes composed by Firespike33, with the exception of the que used for the game over screen, which was written by StudioDaeera and is the only non-chiptune track in the OST.
Firespike felt it was important to keep the soundtrack authentic to the capabilities of the NES. Outside of adding additional channels to make the tracks more layered, no external effects were used on the pieces.
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