I'm back from my vacations, ready to start with the summer months (almost no work at the studio, lots of free time for AM2R). Before I move on with the new stuff, I want to mention a couple of things about the demo that I didn't cover before, FYI.
The general layout follows the original game, and deviates a bit in a couple of places. The revisions regarding level design were about filling some empty places with relevant content, and making the confusing pipe navigation more streamlined. The water jets were pretty much a necessity, since spiderballing up a 2-screen tall pipe is NOT fun at all.
At one point there were going to be "water fountains" outside the facility, used to reach the ceiling for a possible hidden item. But the water columns looked out of place, being in the outside. (And the code making Samus hover over the water stream was pretty messy)
Poor Arachnus, he went by 3 major revisions. He started as a clone of the Fusion one, and it was pretty boring. Then he gained most of the attacks he has now, but he was much tougher. He took damage only with bombs, so players who didn't master the Charge-Bomb technique were pretty much screwed. Then I added the spikes, and added the bounce action. I had to tone down his attacks a couple more times, since I developed most of his moves using a very generous loadout. I use different equipment presets, simulating players having found different amount of items until getting into that fight (I call them loadouts). Since I tested most of the attacks using the Varia, when the test players found Arachnus, they constantly died.
Not only that, but the only save near the place was the first save you find in the area (in the middle of the facility). After all that trouble, I find Arachnus quite enjoyable now (and challenging).
AREA 2 BREEDING GROUNDS
They were pretty much like the first area ones, but with some more tedious platforming. After testing a couple of Alpha battles with Hi-Jump, Samus bumped her head too often against the ceiling, affecting the flow of the fight (or ruining your escape attempt). So, I made that part from scratch, using a lot more vertical space. It still has some tedious platforming (Mostly on the lower right one), but it's part of the challenge.
Since they have a little more movement variety, and those parameters can be adjusted for each fight, balancing them was pretty tough and time-consuming. Their behavior, more unpredictable than before, can frustrate speedrunners at first, but they still have some exploits and patterns left.
I have to thank Kousoru for the idea. Even if I didn't use his suggested method, he did inspire me to add the footstep sounds for different floor materials. I had to cut the footstep sounds a lot, since Samus runs really fast (or at least, her footsteps triggered too frequently). The first set of sounds was a mess, they overlapped a lot. It took a few tries, but it's sounding nicely now.
Hemse was again the main bug hunter, along with Sabre and Falcool, they reported about 100 issues. Those were cataloged and prioritized into 60 issues, some of which are still not fixed. The rest of the testers gave feedback on the general player experience, and helped making Area 2 a little less cryptic. The path to the hi-jump was hidden like in the original game, and players felt really frustrated fighting the later Metroids without it.
Right now I'm adding the last set of features to the engine, like 3 save slots and a new activation method for the SpiderBall, among other things. The idea is to release an update soon, containing these improvements, so they can be enjoyed by you. The next demo update will contain almost all the basic system elements of the final game.
Also, there's been reports of several problems of the game not running correctly on Windows 8 PCs. It's a bug in DirectSound. If I manage to move the sound samples to be played back with Caster, the problem should disappear. This time I'll test the game on Win 8 machines.
After that, the rest of the game contents will be revised, since most of the engine features are working nicely, I can focus solely on completing and polishing the rest of the areas. The first 2, featured in the demo, give a nice idea of how polished and varied the rest of the game will eventually be.
I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, that you read about this "polishing" phase more than a year ago. Now you're seeing and playing the results of that work. It takes time.