Rhythm Quest Devlog 63 — Graphics Editing, Boring Gamedev Woes

7 min readFeb 24, 2024


I decided to explore the mod.io integration that I mentioned last month, and have decided to move forward with it, but I was getting a little overwhelmed trying to figure out exactly how I wanted to hook up all of the export/import/login flows, so I decided to table that and work on more core level editor functionality instead.

Backdrop/Tileset Selection

Up until now all of the progress screenshots I’ve shown of the custom level editor have just used the level 6–1 backdrops as a placeholder, and there was no way to change that…until now! I’ve added a “Graphics” menu where you can select between any of the level tilesets and backdrop groups that I’ve made for the game:

You might be asking whether or not it’s possible to import your own background images and graphics and the answer is a definite “I’m not going to implement that yet”. The backdrops are authored in very specific ways, using multiple parallax scrolling layers, and are also encoded in the special 8-bit red-channel-only format, with specific color limitations to work with the palette shader…even if I did implement the ability to import your own images, I feel like it would just be a huge hassle for anyone to author for the system as is. It’s just not worth it at this time.

Palette Selection

There’s also a new tool that lets you change the color palette used in each checkpoint section:

Right now you can only select from the preset palettes that I’ve already authored for each set of level backdrops. Internally it’s actually already possible to specify your own arbitrary custom color palettes, but there’s no UI for it (yet?). As with the backdrops, it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth for people to dial in individual colors, but at least this one is more feasible (just need some sort of color picker interface), so I guess maybe it could happen someday.

Panning around the level will also automatically shift the color palette to whatever section is on screen, giving you a quick way to preview the colors as they change throughout the level:

Particle Effects

Keeping with the theme of graphics-oriented editor features, I also implemented the ability to add particle effects to each checkpoint section with another new tool:

I originally designed these particle effects on a per-level basis, so I’m not actually sure they work well across different backdrops (the layering might get messed up…), but at least it’s enough for me to give this a passing grade for now.

Steamworks Refactor

While I was experimenting with some of the mod.io integration — specifically, trying to authenticate to mod.io using a Steam account — I found it impossible to make some of the Steam functionality work using the Steamworks.NET integration that I’ve been leveraging until this point. I decided to spend some time ripping that out and replacing it with the Facepunch.Steamworks library instead, which had no such issues.

Along the way I decided to revisit how I was handling Steam builds. Up until now I had been making a completely separate set of builds for Steam vs. non-Steam distribution, with the latter having all of the Steamworks functionality taken out via compile flags. I decided to change that and just have it be the exact same build for both cases. The Steam integration will now always attempt to connect with the running Steam client, but if you didn’t launch the game through Steam, that will just gracefully fail and it won’t do anything.

The main benefit of this is that I don’t have to make 3 extra builds every time I do a release (Windows/Mac/Linux Steam vs non-Steam), which is great. Functionally it’s the same except if you run the Steam version of the game outside of the Steam launcher/client, it won’t have any Steam integration. Thinking back, I don’t actually know why I didn’t do this in the first place; I feel like I’ve definitely seen this behavior in other games and it’s generally better to not have divergent executables if you can help it.

Unity Upgrade a.k.a How I spent a week fixing a platform-specific bug

If you’ve worked in gamedev for long enough you already know how this story goes…

So I noticed that on one of my Mac machines the game was totally unresponsive to input when starting up. That didn’t happen on another machine I had so eventually I traced the issue down to being introduced with the latest version of MacOS Sonoma, but only in windowed mode due to some weird change with OS window size reporting code which causes Unity to choke.

“Luckily” the issue has a fix in later versions of Unity, so I dug in and started downloading gigs upon gigs of Unity Editor + Module updates across two machines to see if it actually helped (it did!). It had been a long time since I had done a Unity update, not only because my project is pretty far along in its lifecycle, but also because I remember there was a specific bug with mouse input not working on the upper-right corner of the game window with certain Unity versions a while ago which caused me to downgrade (sigh).

Of course, updating from Unity 2021.2.14f1 to 2022.3.19f1 came with it’s own fair share of headaches. Not only did I have to install the new version of the editor, along with the support for WebGL, iOS, Android, etc builds, but I also had to update my Nintendo Switch SDK environment (queue up another big chunk of downloads). The Android build pipeline has its own set of dependencies and OF COURSE Unity 2022 requires a different version of those than Unity 2021, so go ahead and download the Android SDK/NDK/JDK =but= don’t you dare download the latest version because Unity won’t work with that! You need the specific version that Unity 2022 wants…

And of course, a major version update means I had to debug functionality changes, yay! Not only did I have to debug an issue with the audio scheduling, this also caused some of my plugins to stop compiling, such as the one I was using to bring up an OS-native file picker dialog (why is this not built-in to Unity…?). And oh, it turns out the mod.io integration that I was using doesn’t actually compile for WebGL, also for some reason the Discord plugins weren’t working correctly on OSX anymore?? Wait, why does the Discord SDK plugin have no documentation and why does it provide two conflicting Mac library files with different extensions? Wait, these two files are identical copies of each other???

Anyhow, I ended up with this task checklist over the course of that week:

  • try updating unity to resolve input bug on sonoma
  • tried updating unity but now music sync is broken
  • Test to make sure build is still functional on all platforms
  • How to port Modio to webgl: https://github.com/modio/modio-unity/compare/main...ComputerKim:modio-unity-webgl:main
  • the fuuckkk? when starting osx build, main menu animations are fast, until you go into another menu — bug with cached beat lookups
  • Lots of fixing build stuff with unity / plugins / blahhhhh
  • Mac build discord lib WOW discord is dumb
  • Downloaded new Android sdk/ndk/jdk
  • Fix ios/android/switch builds (steamworks compile)
  • More switch/android updates
  • Finally got both android and switch builds compiling
  • Fix ridiculous unity scriptablebuildpipeline issue causing builds to take hours

That last issue with Unity’s scriptable build pipeline is particularly egregious because it causes addressable content builds to take egregiously long, we’re talking 25 times longer than they should be taking otherwise (hours upon hours). It’s also nasty because it only surfaces on repeated builds (i.e. the first clean build isn’t affected). Some good soul on the Unity forums tracked down the bug in the Unity package source (literally a one line change) so I was able to just hack that fix in (because OF COURSE Unity hadn’t yet integrated the fix into the official package after 3 months). I’m sure some poor developers out there are going to be none the wiser and have this as their first experience using the addressables system and just assume that this is how life is…

…Can we just stick to publishing games via Flash like we used to?

Wishlist Rhythm Quest on Steam today at https://store.steampowered.com/app/1635640/Rhythm_Quest/