Updates and new game specs

Finally, my downtime spent on adjusting game docs and plot charts will finally pay off! I will soon be ready to code the demo, and art assets will be under way next. In this post, I will outline more details about the game, including a better summary and a final title: Astral Knights GAIDEN! How exciting! I’m usually terrible with titles, but as more of the planning stages were completed, it became easier for something to click in.

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Rough chapter cover sketch that was never used.

 

Last time, I had a basic summary and the general art direction for the game. For the most part, that still remains true, with some adjustments and additions:

  • up to 34 character units available in the game (combination of playable and support)
  • up to 18 playable classes
  • no permadeath (units can be revived)
  • 30 main chapters planned, spanning 3 arcs (books)
  • painterly art style (i.e. Vanillaware) chosen as dominant look, but will feature watercolors instead. Some parts of the game may even adopt a pencil or cell-shaded feel, depending on the scenario.
  • square grid will be utilized

(Keep in mind these specs are for the full version of the game and subject to change. Obviously the demo will have fewer and limited features.)

The largest change compared to my last big post was the game’s summary. I knew I wanted the story to have a comedic edge, but then I also began thinking of the crazy situations and interactions from my past D&D and Pathfinder campaigns as well. How much fun I had participating in them, and how spontaneous everything felt. This game definitely has become a project that does not take itself too seriously, and I hope when the demo is done, players will have as much fun as I did making it!

ceres_overworld

First draft of the overworld map. Many names and locations will be scrapped or changed.

Two best friends have finally fulfilled their dream of becoming Royal Knights to the Queen, when suddenly hoards of undead start causing havoc all over the land! It’s now up to charismatic Dorian (who can’t seem to get that “carry-the-one” math concept) and sharp-witted Gwendolyn (who really is the brains behind the party) to get down to the bottom of things. Just their luck, the only help they seem to get are from a variety of colorful and eccentric band of misfits brave (and possibly insane) enough to get the job done. Will this flying circus be taken seriously and become… the ASTRAL KNIGHTS?

I would love to advertise token catchphrases and b.s. marketing lines, like “this game is nothing like you’ve ever played!”, but at this point I’m more like “you know what, I just want to make something that I would like to play, and maybe other people might like to play too”. It puts less stress on myself from setting the bar too high on my expectations for the reception of the game, but still keeps me motivated to really see this project to the end.

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Concept sketches of the main character, Gwendolyn, and her dragon, Bryndis.

As you can see, I started on concept art for the project, using my past art for the characters from a book I wrote in high school. Many have heavy changes, and of course there are newcomers or characters I made after the fact but never got to use in its universe.

I also am up to selecting the musical style for the game’s soundtrack, which was even more of a question mark than the art style. A few friends who have been collaborating with me for ideas have been very helpful in this step, and I also have a few contacts who have done soundtracks for indie games in the past.

I really appreciate the support I got for the visual novel and I apologize that the project has been folded into this one instead. Those who expressed interest are still more than welcome to be on board for this one when the time comes for it. Otherwise, to make things easier I will most likely reach out to those contacts instead. Feel free to inquire anyway!

Thank you and Happy Easter!

Switching gears (aka Help I’ve Fallen Into Excel Spreadsheets and I Can’t Get Up!)

Now that October is drawing to its exciting close to a busy month, I can sit down and explain some exciting progress going on in between work and play. Earlier last month you may have recalled me mentioning my first convention panel at New York Comic-Con 2015, and the review about it can be seen at my Etsy blog. That aside, I’ve been busy being good friends with Microsoft Excel and typing up numerous spreadsheets (with more on the way! My head hurts from all this math but it will be worth the work!). Why, you ask?

Well, it’s not for my visual novel. Actually, that project has now folded into its sister project, and together the two will finally see their revamped adaptations into video game form! Many, many years ago (11 to be exact), I had a webcomic. It was around characters my friends and I created, doing random stuff, and maybe only had a total readership of 10 fans but it was fun while it lasted. Towards the end we decided to take our fun into fantasy RPG form, and while its novel is a disaster, it was a way for us to develop worlds and characters. Looking back now, it is a guilty read. It’s so bad that it’s good! You may have seen some of my art for it on my deviantArt way back.

As I was working more on the visual novel, things just did not make sense, and as I was fitting pieces back into this other story, the more I wanted to return to this other world and really put some TLC in it. So here we are now, a strategy RPG to be built in Unity2D! Since a ton of past material already was provided in the books, it was only a matter of updating the characters and available classes the player can use, and the rest of the mechanics fell into place. Much of the story is intact, but just some things polished and tightened up. Yes, the game will have an official name soon too! I’m in the process of weeding through possible titles to see what is best (and hasn’t been claimed yet so it will pop up easier on a Google search).

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Concept sketch of the original intro from 2008.

“In the land of Ceres, the kingdom is on the brink of disaster from relentless waves of undead monsters, led by a mysterious man and his group of bandits. A young girl named Gwendolyn steps up as a new commander, driven to take back her country – but she’ll soon learn that not everything is as it seems. Travel the land, encounter a variety of colorful characters and heroes, and discover the secrets of Ceres.”

I’ll have a jazzier description in the future, don’t worry. Gameplay will be similar to Fire Emblem and Chrono Trigger, with RPG roots akin with Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. The mechanics will be simplified so even beginner players in the genre can get into it easily, which will leave room for lots of customizations for your characters. Despite the serious undertones to the story, there will be a lot of humor thrown in too, especially as your party really is just a bunch of misfits trying to do their part. So aside from strategy there is emphasis of teamwork within your crew. (Which any leader knows goes hand-in-hand in any project or mission.)

Development-wise, I aim to have a demo level completed within the next couple of months. I’m still pondering if I do want voiceovers or not, or just have them for the intro sequence. As of art direction, I keep going back to more of a painterly, lineless look, which Vanillaware is famous for (as seen in Odin Sphere, GrimGrimoire). This new project’s look may not be as sharp and glossy, but I want this game to have as much whimsy as the characters in it. Retro pixel art has been done so much that it’s almost become old again, and anything too cell-shaded would be too harsh on the eyes, considering a lot of information will be laid out on the grid. That aside, the artwork will be the same as previously planned.

Despite Odin Sphere nearing almost 10 years old now, thanks to its mechanics, story, and art style, it hasn’t aged a day.

Outside of upcoming game progress, I’ve noticed lately that my blog post on Construct2 vs. Ren’py is getting pageviews again, and now that I’ve worked enough in Corona and Marmalade, I think it’s time I start on my next Developers Cagematch entry on that. I’m happy a lot of people have found the other post so useful! It means a lot to me.

Until then, have a Happy Halloween and brush your teeth after eating all that candy!

Sprites in motion

I have not been able to continue much spritesheets the past few weeks, due to starting a new job earlier this month. I love it so far but adjusting to a new schedule has prevented my gamedev progress otherwise. Soon you’ll see more updates again though! That’ll make the kids happy.

In the mean time, I do have news regarding Project: Mittens. We’re now working on an iOS-only port, and moving away from HTML5 for our demo. As a result, the demo will be released in March 2015 rather than this upcoming Thanksgiving.

Here’s one of the attacking sprites I worked on so far, enlarged. Due to the grids we’re using, the weapon sprites will animate next to the characters similar to old-school RPGs like the early Final Fantasies (so not to distort anything).

The other main kittens and enemies, minus the boss and the wizard, also have completed spritesheets.

The other main kittens and enemies, minus the boss and the wizard, also have completed spritesheets.

As of Prison Escape, it has a touch D-pad now! The jumps I put in were bugging things up and preventing progress, so now the player can avoid obstacles by moving up and down instead. If people prefer jumps as well, or only jumps, during playtesting, I will add them back in and get them to work nicer. Thanks to the D-pad though I can continue adding more enemies and obstacles to increase the game’s difficulty.

Fun Times with Weapons and Art Style Changes

(Note: this post is picture-heavy but that is probably a good thing for you! Less of my rambling to skim through!)

This month has been filled with exciting news! Some of which I couldn’t announce yet, and an important one regarding my gamedev progress will be released some time next week. (You’ll see what I mean but until then I thank you for your patience.)

I’ve been busy churning out more sprites for Project: Mittens, so here’s a glimpse of our concept weapon art. Some of the items shown didn’t make it to the demo unfortunately.

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Shown are the possible weapons for the wizard and engineer classes.

The gun is probably my favorite one, since I usually don’t draw guns, so it was fun looking up antique/steampunk-looking ones. Perhaps in the full game it will?

Ninja and Monk's possible weapons.

Ninja and Monk’s possible weapons.

I also finally have an update regarding my visual novel (Which Shall Remain Nameless apparently because I’m horrible with titles). Aside from gamedev I had a major art block regarding my drawings for the past few months, and just felt that even things I sketched out just didn’t seem right no matter how much I worked on them. So I took a break to focus on more things like sprites and coding.

Earlier this week I realized I could try mixing two styles I had done in the past, one which was more anime-like and had done for several years, the other more recent as of this year. So last night I went back and did a sketch of one of the VN’s characters, Catherine. She seems to be a popular “model” for me, must be the hair and the fact that she hides one eye so symmetry isn’t so much of an issue? Not that I have a problem with symmetry anyway.

While the sketch took longer than my normal ones, it was worth ironing out, and I am very satisfied with the result. I hope you are too! Here’s a comparison of my progression so you can see what I mean.

An example of my older works in the style I mentioned. (She's actually from the same world that the VN is set but that's for another day.)

An example of my older works in the style I mentioned. (She’s actually from the same universe that the VN is set but that’s for another day.)

Original sample avatar.

Original sample avatar.

2nd version of sample avatar.

2nd version of sample avatar.

Concept sketch for avatar style as of last night.

Concept sketch for new avatar style as of last night.

So far it seems the hybrid of the two works best, and I’ve had some good feedback from others already! The progression seems slight but little details make a big difference, and the more I can work with the hybrid style, the more art you’ll see more of soon!

As of coloring, while I do more of a watercolor-like technique these days, I also plan to test it out with more of a graphical look too. I normally don’t do the latter though, as I generally don’t do harsh lineart (and that looks best with that type of stuff), but I’d like to hear opinions anyway!

Wait…barfing unicorns?!

I’ll get to that in a bit. It’s not as gross as it sounds, trust me!

I wanted to wait for more updates and fixes to be done with my projects so I could condense it into a larger post like here. First on the agenda, I finally got my bullets working properly in Prison Escape!

I like how the more gifs I do of this game, the more Sullivan looks like he has to run to the bathroom.

As you can see, the bullets now regenerate upon leaving the screen or colliding with Sullivan. However, I’ve been meaning to update his collisions so they’re more precise, and now is finally the time since the randomizing of the bullets will help see this more visually. Unlike the ugly green box from last, he now has 3 neat skinnier boxes, which now just have to be tested (aka math).

“But what about the particles?”, you’re wondering. Yes, they were a lot of fun, but I plan to make little explosions when the bullets hit Sullivan so you know if you got hit or not. For now they’re turned off, though coincidentally, making them move around was what helped me figure out how to regen the bullets, so thanks particles!

As of barfing unicorns and particles, here’s the mini-app I ended up compiling on a whim from my last update. I obviously had too much fun with the whole thing.

Hmmm is that were rainbows come from?

So far, the point is that when you tap the screen, rainbow splatters go everywhere. Surprisingly enough, Marmalade also registers multitouch with the license I have, so I learned something nifty that day! (To be honest I’m not even sure if Corona does the same thing for the same type of license I used to have but I never got around to experiment.) Other silly features the game would eventually have, should I ever want to continue it even for my own amusement, would be randomized techno upon touch, other variants of splatters, and accessories for the lovable unicorn here (hats and other clothes). People like customization! (Just nod your head and go with it.)

For something a bit more serious though, I do have an important announcement regarding Project: Mittens, the top-down adventure game with fantasy cats I have also been collaborating with a few people. An audio designer is now on board, and the date for the full working demo has been changed to Thanksgiving rather than September 30th due to conflicting schedules. The current playable demo is still live though, so if you didn’t get to check it out yet, you can still do that. (Please do!) A few bugs and errors were fixed thanks to our prototyping results, so it works even smoother than it did before!

Currently the playable demo only has the Engineer available, and no enemies.

While the newer workable demo is in the works, I will be supplying more sprite/sheets, so except some more previews of that to come in the next few weeks!

A word on Project: Mittens and others

Two announcements! First off, I can finally release artwork and a demo based on the 2D RPG game I was working on with a colleague, Project: Mittens. Link opens to the demo we have so far, and a more finalized version will be out at September 30th.

Starting classes you can choose from, at left to right and top to bottom: Ninja, Wizard, Monk, and Engineer.

 

Example of one of the enemies you’ll be fighting, a rat. Armor coming soon!

 

In the mean time, a working demo is almost finalized for The Chair: Prison Break, based off of the successfully funded graphic-novel-to-indie-movie Kickstarter. Surprisingly enough, I got collisions working, and some obstacles and projectiles are now moving across the screen! (Will have a better gif at the end of the week to demonstrate this.)

Of all things though, the next hurdle became showing the player how many lives they have left! Arrays didn’t work, and when I used spritesheets instead, Marmalade decided to run out of memory and crash the game for the night. I’ll have to come up with a backup solution for the time being, but it’s a method I’m not fond of using for the final release unless nothing else works.

The demo is due by the weekend, so my next update will have all of the goodness I can show for, as the game wraps up quickly. I’m excited to finish up this amazing project, it’s taught me well on the ins and outs of Lua, and while some parts can still be frustrating, it’s becoming to make more sense to me. I’ve even looked at my code now and realized how much more efficient I can make it for the final release.

So with that, Project Mittens, and This Game Is Not A Dating Sim being wrapped up for demos soon, it’s fun seeing everything come together in one big package. For so long everything I’ve done or helped with has been under development that it felt like there was no end in sight. Good to see some great feedback out of it!

 

Speaking of, two Let’s Players reviewed my game for Insanity Jam #2! One was brought on by Lone Roach Studios and was quite extensive and amusing to watch! I didn’t even notice I had a few grammatical errors in the dialogue, so I appreciate him going out of his way to really provide good feedback with his LP!

The 2nd is Jupiter Hadley, who did a brief LP for all of the submitted games. I recommend watching through all of them (many on there I liked myself), but if you wanna jump to just mine, it’s towards the end. A great shoutout no less!

Currently, the game is still tied for first place for the jam with a whopping 8 out of 10! I kindly ask you again to spread the word, and play and vote if you hadn’t yet. You have until August 11th! (I was misinformed last time, you have an extra day!) Thank you, and good luck everyone!