Saturday, 23 July 2011

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 21

Pretty soon I'm not going to have much time to work on this game at all, so I've got to pick up the pace a bit. My initial goal was to create a prototype of a game in 30 days, and I'm still working towards that. Today's going to be a formal update on how I've been doing with lots of screenshots and stuff. Might have to break this into two parts or something, actually.

Map Changes




Remember the first train scene? Here's what I've done with it. I basically drew out some maps on paper first and tried to visualise exactly how the player was going to get to the convention, and an underground train station in a city seemed like a better fit. Barrels and other junk are placeholder sprites. The stairs at the bottom of the screen actually function like escalators - move onto one and it will move the player in the appropriate direction without triggering their movement animation.




Full long-shot of the next screen. Final thing will have cars on the roads and traffic lights at the intersection. There's a few weird bugs I need to fix up with this section also.




Next screen - "park" which turns out to be your typical RPG forest area. Notice how the trees in the top screenshot look like trees and the ones in the bottom screenshot are all glitchy. This is because RPG maker only gives me four layers to work with including the event layer - so it's definitely not easy to layer trees nicely.



Next screen, also not fixed up. This is where all the enemies start to show themselves.



Next screen, and last bit of the forest area. There's a fork in the path because of some story stuff which I haven't scripted yet.



Out of the park finally. A boss fight is set to occur here.

Game Balance
Other stuff I've been working on so far - game balance. That includes character attributes and stats, item and weapon attributes, enemy stats -- all that backend stuff in an RPG which involves numbers and crap like that.

When I first opened RPG maker, the numbers weren't really to my liking. They were fairly well balanced - but each character had a three-digit number of hit points and other attributes in the 50s. This isn't all that big of a problem, but in my opinion it's better to keep these stats simple where possible. 40 HP and 5 attack/defense/etc works just as well and is much easier for the player to keep track of.

Same goes with armor. Now, I understand that some players like to stack the special effects of a few different pieces of armor, but that's really not what this game is going to be about. So ideally I want to get rid of shields, helms and plates so that characters only equip different armor types. Then (hopefully!) I'll be able to get these armors to affect character appearance. (I realise I've been spelling armour wrong this whole time but I don't like red lines and the engine spells it as armor, so whatever)

Can't be bothered writing too much more tonight, so goals for tomorrow:
  • script events for trainRoute05, trainRoute06 involving boss and story events.
  • create a draft item/armor/weapon list
  • finish a boss character sprite

Friday, 8 July 2011

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 7-8

Day 7:
Again, today was very laid back and not too much progress was made. But I hope that if I can make little adjustments each day and every day, I’ll reach my goal in the end.
I’ve shown yesterday’s video to a few more friends now, and the feedback has been pretty damn positive overall. That’s really encouraging stuff.  Yesterday morning I was really worried that this was too niche a project; that this was an idea that only I would think was cool. So using a test audience in this way has been rather helpful.

I don’t have any screenshots today so my update’s going to be a bit boring. I started off by fixing up some of the game’s script as well as a couple of bugs. No new additions, though.
I then got to work on some of the game’s lore and backstory. Plus character design. I don’t think I have created any original characters like this in a looooong time, but I’ll save the sketches and stuff from you for now. Trust me - majority of them so far have been pretty shitty!

Goals for tomorrow:
  • Finish writing up a basic story
  • Finish my second enemy sprite
  • Work on the maps a bit more
Day 8:

Today was pretty productive, but I didn’t actually put too much new stuff into the game.
My problem at the moment is with the player character and how I’ve made some pretty contradictory design choices.

I’ve allowed the player to name the character and I continually refer to the character as “YOU” at the start of the game. But at the same time, I’ve given the character a personality and interests and even made them talk. It just shouldn’t work that way!

But I digress. I’ll figure that bit out soon. Mostly through ~dialogue choices~, which I haven’t used too much of just yet.

---

Today. Progress. I didn’t do any spriting… again. But I worked on the dialogue for characters that were in my last WIP video. Each time I wrote a few lines, I would start playing the game just to check how things were - then edit the lines. Sometimes I’d edit because they were too boring and needed more punch, other times I would simply break up the words, space them out a bit and work on the formatting so that each line was easy to read. RPG Maker doesn’t make this very easy in some cases, though.

The other thing I tried today was working on what’s commonly known as a sawtooth in level design. The saw tooth is that point in a level where something happens to prevent you from going back the way you came. It’s important in many cases that players are shown what their boundaries are. An example of a game I was playing recently which could have used more sawteeth in its level design - Half Life 2. In the beach area, you’re required to keep your buggy with you for a lot of the level since it allows you to make long jumps across large crevasses. At one point I didn’t realise I needed to shoot a wall to allow my buggy to get through, so I ended up traversing most of the level on foot. Then - half an hour later down the beach or so - I realised I needed my buggy again, and thus started a long trek back for the thing.



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This level here might not make much sense at the moment - it’s just a collection of stumps and mossy rocks. But think this way - each group of rocks or stumps represents a car in the game, within a carpark. Down the bottom is a “car” which will park into a vacant space when the player reaches a certain point on screen. This will block off their passage back to the start of the game. This would be a lot simpler with a diagram, so I apologise now for any confusion!

Goals for tomorrow:
  • edit the script and add dialogue choices. Player character should have little background story
  • add the next few map screens
  • do some goddamn sprite work like I promised for the last couple of days

Thursday, 7 July 2011

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 6



I'm quite disappointed in my lack of progress today. I'm hoping I can remedy this soon, though. Progressed alright since I started writing this. Hoping to have a playable demo of the game up in the next few days. Hopefully!

Heeeere's a link to a video of my progress, if you haven't seen it already.

I realised today that because RPG Maker allows for mp3s, it's possible for me to do voice recording for some of the lines of dialogue. I'm not sure if I'll actually end up doing this, but it's just something cool to keep in mind for later.

Some of my goals that I set yesterday included the creation of more art assets - sprite sheets for L on the map, as well as more character graphics for the battles. As cool as it is to have the L sprite finally in the game, I need to keep reminding myself not to focus on art assets alone. They just slow down development to a crawl when I'm working on them on my own.

The other thing with the spritesheets is that I can't just edit the pre-existing ones for the characters I need. I mean it's a plausible solution but a lot of effort for what it's worth - the art style of the default sprites isn't even that great to begin with.

ANYWAY. I look back and some of these blog entries and realise that I might have left some of you readers quite confused about what I'm doing with this game. Or at least, what it's meant to be about.
At this stage it's really hard to convey what's going on in my head. I might have to write up a more formal design document soon, otherwise I won't make much progress with the engine anyway because I won't have any direction.

Okay, first I'll sum up what I've already said or covered in some way:
  • Convention Quest is meant to convey the experience of being at a geek convention
  • The game follows a group of con-goers who, as part of their enjoyment of the convention, enjoy to cosplay. That is, dress up as their favourite characters
  • The gist of the story is that these conventions are overrun by unsavory types. I have yet to give these a name within the game, but they are the enemies you will encounter. They are the dark side of conventions, they are what makes it hard to attend a convention while keeping sane.
Unsavory types may include "glomping" fangirls, squealing fans, furries, elitist cosplayers, people who bring weapons, people who think they actually are anime characters, poor cosplayers and hambeasts. etc etc. It's really hard to explain these unless you've actually been to one of these conventions, but I'm hoping that the game will be able to sum them up for me.
  • The goal will be to fight through these enemies to find the root of the evil and destroy it, and hopefully bring happiness to the conventions again or some shit like that.
One thing that I haven't talked about so far which I'm hoping to implement later - different costumes for each player. Costume Quest already did this so it's not all that original. But I figured if I'm going to have a game involving cosplay then I may as well have different skins for each of the main characters. Suggestions are welcome here.

Oh right, well yesterday I said I wasn't going to do a name entry screen but I did it today anyway. And I think the game is probably better off for it. But at the same time, it's given me a couple of bugs that I'll have to iron out tomorrow. Le sigh.
Goals for tomorrow:
  • work on the next map screen after the L fight (this is hard, I'll explain why tomorrow)
  • write out more lore and player background stuff
  • Finish a second enemy asset that I started work on today.
  • Try spriting. Just a bit. (I found some nice bases on a site with a tutorial to work with)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 5



Here’s some game art that I did today. This is L from Death Note, if you couldn’t tell - be it from being unfamiliar with the material or just because my art is crap. If you go to a con you will see these guys EVERYWHERE, because it is the easiest closet cosplay to do (he’s a pretty cool character also but that’s beside the point). It seemed appropriate that I use him as a mook. He’ll probably be the first enemy that the player encounters.

The trouble I have with this guy, though, is that I want to be able to show that this is a bad cosplay somehow. I gave him the wrong hair (shape and colour is off) but it’s still really hard striking a balance between recognisable and bad. I don’t think I’ve ever had to work with this kind of challenge when creating artwork before.

There’s one other thing I’ll have to look out for later on with RPG maker, and that’s the resolution of characters in the game. RPG Maker won’t let you resize assets within the engine, and the default resolution is absolute rubbish. As in, it’s impossible to tell what’s in L’s hand if it wasn’t hard enough already, and his face is obscured a bit also.


 Otherwise, today I didn’t do much. But I did make a decision to simplify the first area of the game, and I’m thinking about taking it even further tomorrow, too.



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I don’t want to post a comparison shot, so I’ll just say that this is different to how I had things before. There’s only one set of stairs now - I didn’t want the player to be distracted by the right side of the screen. I think there are better ways to do hidden items etc than what I was doing before.
I’m going to get rid of a lot of the NPCs on this screen too - they provide a bit too much unnecessary clutter and distract the player from progressing.

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This is screen 2. You may notice my affinity for tree stumps. Nothing special, just an easy way to map out how I want paths to look before adding proper sprites and objects etc. This one’s linear, but I want the player to take a scenic journey and soak things up for a while. I might end up expanding this actually, since it scrolls off screen but doesn’t go too far. Let the music play out a bit more before the next big event.

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More tree stump love. Here’s when (hopefully) the player notices something is up. I’ve cut all the crap with the scenic route through the forest - this is a funnel used to guide the player into a mandatory battle. The tutorial fight, and first bit of story.


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Here’s L in the game. Or… “Plain-Clothed Squatter” as I’ve named him for now. As I said in the previous blog, he’s the mook of the game - the goomba. The rattata.
But yeah, that’s all for now. Unfortunate that I wasn’t able to get more done.

Goals for tomorrow:
  • give background for the main characters, then draw up concept art for each
  • edit a sprite sheet for L
  • edit the first few screens of the game and clean them up

Monday, 4 July 2011

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 4

I know these posts are fairly close together and there's a lot of reading here, but I'm trying to catch up with them since I've been posting them on a tumblr blog at the same time. Anyway -


Four days down already! This time around I have a video to do the talking for me. I’ll try to figure out how to package files properly for a playable demo by the end of this week. :D



Yeah, that’s the game so far. Today I...

1. Created the recruitment  scene for Snake. Worked out pretty easily without too many hassles at all, actually. (Snake is a placeholder name btw, it was just because the sprite in particular sort of looked like Solid Snake)

2, Figured out how to do public switches, or Control Switches as RPG Maker calls them. Before I was using private switches, called Self Switches. I still use these, but now in conjunction with public ones.

Why are they used? When using a private switch, you are only working with one event. Public switches allow you to control stuff outside of the event they’re contained in.

An example of a public switch would be when changing the dialogue of other characters after an event has occured. I make sure Snake doesn’t let you recruit him until after you have talked to Franziska (again, placeholder name).



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Here's a picture. Because bitches love pictures. This is just the editor with the first map.



3. Edited the map and tileset.
I had already done this to a larger extent with past RPG Maker projects, I just needed a quick refresher. I had to resist the temptation to go all out, though. While I’m more familiar with the art side of things, I can guarantee that this project would get no where if I focused on art alone. Maybe at a later time.

Despite this I sort of regret not having a train there for the first shot. Even if it was a crappy one. It just doesn’t really work without one. :C

4. Finished a custom battler sprite
This is the first of hopefully many cameos in the game. I wanted to capture the feeling of being at a convention and recognising a lot of characters from famous games - even if you didn’t necessarily know their names. Real fans of the games will be able to recite names with ease, though. So instead I plan on using fun, descriptive names for the characters which don’t state outright who they are.
If you’ve played the Pikmin games before, think to the item names. As the player you already recognise the items and have your own names for them, but the in-game names were quite humorous (at least, to me). The below examples are hardly the best, I mean one object was a freaking Duracell Battery, but they’ll have to do.


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That’s the sort of idea I’m going for with enemy and NPC names. But I really want to stray away from everyday adjectives and nouns. “Fat” and “Stupid”, for example. Even using the word Hambeast for certain characters - as good of a word as it is - it doesn’t feel like it fits in with the rest of the writing style I’m going for.

Oh right. Well, here’s the sprite that I managed to finish, anyway. I posted it on its own yesterday. I’m pretty happy with this art style overall, but I may need a tablet soon - drawing this out with a mouse absolutely KILLED my wrist.
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Goals for tomorrow:
  • you know what, screw the name entry screen. I’ll probably just give the main character his own name, since he speaks on his own and has a character of his own. I don’t really understand games that let you name a character after yourself, then give the character history without your consent.
  • continue to flesh out the first few areas of the game like the second screen. Add tutorial fights, more NPCs.
  • Write out a proper story. I have to be careful with this one, though - I don’t want to spend too much time doing stuff that isn’t directly involved with the engine.
  • create another enemy sprite which can actually be used and isn’t just a character cameo

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 3

Today was a little bit of a let down. After working most of the day, I had one of those moments where I somehow managed to overwrite my project file. Not cool.
So on one hand, I don’t have much to physically show for my progress today. But I’m still able to list what I’ve learned with the program.

1. Switches
Switches are used to trigger one event the first time you do something, then another different event when you do it again.

The first way I implemented this was with a hidden treasure. The first time the player clicks on a box, they get 100 Gold as a reward. The next time, they get a message like “Nothing more to be found”.



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Originally I had set these treasures up so that their event would be deleted after it was activated, but this wasn’t a good thing. If the player exited the screen and came back then the event would reset, aka INFINITE MONEYS. Also using this as a solution was bad since I couldn’t add a separate event like an error message or just alternative text.

2. Use of images and other cool stuff for speech bubbles
This was one problem I ran into early on with the prototype. When talking to NPCs, it was really hard for me to show exactly what was speech, and what was internal narration or backchat from the player character.

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So here I have a test image displayed next to my NPC’s speech. This is the most basic option - there’s also options for animated images as well as little pop-outs which show the character’s name. Aaaaand a whole heap of other stuff that I won’t go into, it was the character image and name pop-out which were the main goodies.

For the record I owe DustCollecter of rmxpunlimited.net for this script. Pretty handy stuff!

3. Scripting character movement (both player character and NPC)
One of my original goals for today was to script the opening game “cutscene”. And I was managing it pretty well until my files got lost!

Using a whole string of different event commands in conjunction with each other, I was able to script the opening cutscenes which involved specific movement of characters, pauses and dialogue. Getting it set up in the first place probably didn’t take too long overall - it was mainly the tweaking and repositioning of events to get everything *just* right which took the longest.

There was one problem I faced which I couldn’t quite figure out, though. I ended up changing the way the opening event played out because of it. When I was controlling singular characters at a time with scripts, I seemed to be able to let them keep walking until they had disappeared off-screen. When I controlled a group of characters’ movement with one script, they would stop together at the edge of the screen no matter what I did with their separate movement patterns.

4. RPG Maker XP accepts mp3 files for music, not just midi files.
I swear earlier versions of the program couldn’t do this! In any case - this poses a bit of a dilemma for me. Some of the midi files I’ve been using are actually pretty cool in terms of bass, and they fit the project a bit better. But they’re not as easy for me to edit. May have to worry about this more when I stop using placeholder music.

That’s about it for today, though - still enough to make for a fairly long blog!

Goals for tomorrow:
  • Redo the opening cutscene
  • Create some custom sprites, and/or look into alternate resources
  • Figure out how the armour system is going to work (I have ideas for this, but I’ll share them a little later)
  • Name entry screen! Still haven’t figured this out

Sunday, 3 July 2011

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 2

So, hey again. Long time no see, huh?
 
This here's is my development blog for ConQuest, a small game that I hope to be able to finish and publish in the not-too distant future. Just as a test of my skills and to try and learn how to script using a program I haven't gotten too deep into before.
 
I actually only started developing ConQuest yesterday, after thinking up the basic idea just over a week ago. I downloaded RPG Maker XP, or at least the trial, then set to work. My goal: create a decent game prototype within the 30 days that I have with the program, working little by little each day. Hopefully by the end I’ll have something I can publish for my followers to download. I’ll post bits and pieces along the way and try to document the process as extensively as I can.

Okay, so what exactly is ConQuest then? I basically had an idea of a game which summed up the atmosphere of your average geek convention. At first it started as a project showcasing all of the different people you could learn to hate at these conventions, from your typical hambeast to your hetalia fan to your Vic Mignogna fangirl and so on. But then it started feeling a bit too hateful, and I began to wonder whether I was just making a game for myself and whether anyone else would really want to play it. So I decided to show both sides of the spectrum instead.

I’ve mainly been busy figuring out the ins and outs of the program so far, so I don’t have all of the story arcs fleshed out yet. I think the initial idea was to have a game where you had to fight through a bunch of hambeasts or other such irksome con-goer before eventually getting to their queen and defeating them. So something like that, perhaps, but happier.

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Here’s a screenshot of the editor, and my first test level as it appears in the editor. Last time I used RPG maker I barely learned anything because I didn’t persevere with event creation - this was one of the first things I made sure I learned this time around.

Each of the little grey boxes above represents an event of some sort. Most are just text based - others will consist of a combination of things. Shaking the screen, making a flash, playing certain music, causing a battle to start - all that kind of stuff.

Ideally, the end game is going to have a *lot* of flavour text for players to be able to go through. The difficult part is that I want to give the game a humorous tone, and humour is one of the hardest things to achieve with videogames. I’m foreseeing a lot of script changes to get things right.

If you’ve seen the short film on youtube called College Saga? That’s the kind of tone I want to go for in terms of parody on the genre and whatnot. If you haven’t seen it, rectify your mistake as soon as possible. Watch it!

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Here’s how the battle screen looks, for those who haven’t used RPG Maker XP before. Static images of your fighters on the bottom and images of enemies up the top.

I realise it’s not too flashy, but it’s good enough for a small project like the one I’m working on here. The images here are placeholders FYI, and I don’t think I’ll be creating any enemy sprites which go this tall, either. The engine has animations for attacks which is good enough for me, though. Remember oldschool Pokemon? It’s a lot like that.

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Aaaand here’s one last screenshot for the day. Here’s hopefully how the game will start out, with you and a few buddies getting off a train out the front of the place. Placeholder art, again.

Goals for tomorrow:
  • script a “Name Entry” screen, before the player gets control
  • script a scene where the train rolls into the station and the player’s buddies run off, before the player gets control
  • finish the creation of an enemy sprite for battle
Feel free to leave feedback in replies or reblogs or in my ask box or whatever. Thanks for reading!

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