About Me

My photo
I am a gamer, an artist and a hobbyist video game designer. When I'm not doodling one resource or another, I love to read books, make paper crafts (cards) and bake yummy goodies.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Checking in #2

Our move-in date is this Wednesday (Nov. 30th). The internet should hopefully be set up on December 7th, so I should be back online shortly after that date.

I hope to have a proper update mid-december. I'm not sure if it will be a play-able demo, but it will be more than a couple sentences.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Checking in

It's been quite a while since my last update and life has been keeping me pretty busy.

As I may have mentioned, my computer's video card just stopped working one morning. Thanks to a very kind friend, I was able to replace it with a much better card for free, but I still spent a couple of weeks waiting for it to be delivered by the postal office. I have an on-board video card, but it was so bad that it pretty much only let me open text-only websites and run a couple of programs (no Photoshop and no VX, for instance). Now that the new video card is in, I can actually do visual things. Yay!

I've also mentioned that I'd be moving to a new house. Now that was (and still is!) a hassle. There were issues with financing, then a lot of waiting. We found this house in August, and we're only going to be able to close and move in the next couple of weeks. I've practically been living out of boxes for the past month and I cannot wait to be done with the whole lot.

Lastly, the house we're living in right now has been listed. So far, we've has multiple viewings per day. For those of you not familiar with this process, a viewing is when potential buyers and their agents come to look at the house and see if they're interested in purchasing it. During the viewing, the home occupants aren't allowed to be at home - which means that any time someone wants to view the house, everyone has to leave for an hour. Combine that with multiple viewings per day, and I'm practically only around here to eat, clean and sleep.

I haven't been able to work on any project for a few weeks now, but I've been working out a lot of kinks and plot-related details on paper. You should see the size of my game dev binder!

I will try to pop in every now and then to write how I'm doing. The next few weeks are going to be very busy (holidays + moving), so I apologize in advance if i seem like I've dropped off the face of the earth.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Something Different

At the beginning of the month, Emmy started running a free-for-all contest. I wasn't originally going to join. I've found that focusing on a single project gives you the best chance of completing it, and I've stayed exclusively with TUAH for the past year (and then some). But I've had this idea for a short game pop into my brain several times and the contest runs for an entire month.

So, I've squirreled away a few free moments and started on a short entry game. Because of my impending move, I don't know whether I will be able to finish it before the contest deadline, but I do plan on completing the whole game this year.

The project will be an adventure game with a few puzzles and a fun synthesis/crafting element. The rest of the detail will remain a secret until I can produce a playable demo. If any of you anticipate some free time in the coming weeks and are interested in being a beta-tester, please let me know!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Week 13: Home Stretch

The past couple of days have been spent packing and mountains upon mountains of paperwork. I had originally planned to pack up my computer early as a way to avoid distraction, but it feels really nice to sit down at the end of the day and just relax with a game or some other creative endeavor.

So, let's start the update with a screenshot:
This is the new and improved Sparrowight Academy entrance. Still a bit of a WIP, thus possibly subject to a few cosmetic changes.
I love Inquisitor's tileset, but it's radically different from the VX RTP style. So, Flora's architectural masterpiece has been redesigned to look a bit more magical and charming (hopefully, anyway!). A new "outside" section was also added.

The last of the maps to revamp will be the inside of the academy. The change here will probably be the most radical, as I will be adding new areas that will be accessible during chapter 3 and onward. There are a few very fun side quests that take place at the academy. I hope you'll enjoy them!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 12: Screenshots Galore!

This past week was mostly occupied with more boring databasing and some light eventing. Or, rather, fixing up the events and script calls that changed now that I've upgraded to a new version of the quest log script. It's a lot of work, but it's pretty boring to blog about.

So, this week's update will be a screenshot galore, and by that, I mean a series of screenshots of the revamped chapter 1 and pure eye-candy.

We'll begin with a random screenshot of the shop in Burgunda Port:

Chuckle and laugh, but the titles are suspiciously close to actual titles of romance books my college roommate used to read.

Here are two outside areas in Summervale (which is completely revamped now, btw!):
Insert some witty comment here. The only thing that comes to my mind when I look at these is "Yay, nature!".

Next up is a screenshot of the restaurant in Summervale:
I wouldn't mind eating in a place like this. I still need to put some delicious food on a few tables, however. I notice now that some of them look suspiciously bare.

Last, but not least, a home in Summervale:
Now this should give a much better idea of the kind of profession the owner of the home has. It was a little ambiguous before, but I hope it's coming across more clearly now.

And that's the gist of it, folks! I'm probably going to be moving a week from now (fingers crossed!), so I may miss a weekly update. However, the good news is - once my move is done, you can look forward to the updated release of chapters 1 and 2 as well as some new content. I've picked a tentative date for a release and I'm working on building a schedule around that.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Week 11: Database

I hate databasing. I hate it with a passion sometimes and I wish I could just hire someone to do all the database-related stuff for me. I probably would actually do it if it didn't take just as long to explain what I want done as it takes doing it.

There are a couple of reasons I hate databasing. The first (and biggest) reason is that it brings out my slightly OCD-ish tendencies. A good example of this would be the item list. Most people would just add items as they need them to the already existing list. It's a little messy, but you do get a drop-down list when you manipulate items. I actually have to go in and organize those items. First by type (potions, status effects, keys, quest items) and then by potency (weak potion before strong). I'm sure there's a rational reason for it somewhere. I mean, it might save me a couple seconds of browsing through a random item list.

But the real reason is that it makes me uncomfortable and a little stressed. I actually squirm in my seat a little. And it's, really, like having a fly in the room. You know that it can't technically break anything, bite you or otherwise hurt you. But the incessant buzzing is enough to drive a person absolutely bonkers!

The other reason why I hate databasing is that it's, in reality, extremely productive, but I've got absolutely nothing to show for it. I guess I could, technically, show a screenshot of the database, but who wants to look at that without their eyes glazing over?!?

So, that's my week in a nutshell. Super productive (yes, I really mean that!) and a huge step closer to releasing a new build of the game. But nothing to show for it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Week 10: Commissions

I haven't made a whole lot of progress this week. A part of it was due to allergies (curse you pollen in the air!), but the biggest part is that I'm working on a paid commission. Since it's exclusive, I can't show you any screenshots, but it's pokemon-ish styled and pixel-based. It's actually a lot of fun!

I did find a teeny bit of free time between errands to whip up another re-vamped map:
Fiore, Flower shop in Summervale
There are only 3 maps left that need an overhaul in Summervale and that should put all the graphics up to date. 

After the maps are done, I'm going to play through them again to make sure that I've fixed up all the bugs and issues all you patient players have brought up. Then it's off to polishing new content! Hopefully, I will be able to release everything before my move (which is now slated sometime in October).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Week 9: Screenshots and Shops

Let's begin this week's update with a screenshot:
New and improved Burgunda Port (outer)

Redoing Burgunda Port was actually pretty fun. Most of the layout has been kept, but there are a few subtle changes that allowed integration into the revamped world maps and some events I was planning for the future. For example, the building you see at the bottom is a church, and visiting churches is an important part of Penelope's development.

Originally, the way you got extra skills, powerful spells or character upgrades was to be done via dojos. Quests and fights were to give you tokens that you traded in for experience and skills. When I got to eventing the dojos, I realized that it would take a lot of work (and a lot of trouble!) to figure out appropriate costs. If the cost was too low, the player could grind their way into overpowering characters or pick the wrong skills and be forced to grind or start over.

Instead, you get your skills through weapon upgrades and side-quests. Since the battle system allows you to switch your equipment on the fly, I'm no longer worried about the player going into the fight with the wrong set of skills/equipment. This, in turn, should allow for more strategy and easier battle balancing.

New magic store (Burgunda Port)

Doesn't it look like a proper magic store now?

Speaking of stores, I wanted to share what my plans are for shopping in TUAH. As you may have noticed, there isn't a place to spend any money right now. There are two reasons for this:
1) Alistair and the party wouldn't need much of what you'd see in stores. Most stores tend to sell items that are very useful to the average Joe, but they wouldn't be useful in a pinch and they would end up only cluttering the party's bags. For example, a crystal sold in a magic store could be pretty useful in warding off mosquitoes, but it won't protect you from a giant dragon that's bent on making you his midnight snack.
2) There's no consistent way to make money yet. Having a shop filled with great items you can't afford would be just a tease and it may encourage some to spend a lot of needless time grinding.

But I am planning on having ways to make and spend money. As it was already asked on a forum, I'm going to re-post what I said here:
- Certain merchants will barter for their quality wares. Some of them may, for example, trade your health potions and some gold for mana potions. Others will trade tools and recipes for exotic and rare goods. For example, someone may part with their apple pie recipe for a fancy flower vase. Some of these rarities will come from side quests, too.
- You will have the opportunity to hire a blacksmith, a seamstress, an alchemist and a scholar. The crafters will turn raw materials into finished goods and will be able to create special equipment/items. The scholar will research materials and their properties for you as well as tell you where to get them. You won't have to pay any of them, but they may occasionally require you to do a side-quest before they can resume their duties.
- A casino will allow you to spend and/or make money. You will also be able to trade in casino chips for various prizes or open up new side-quests.
- There will be repeatable side-quests that will generate steady money. I'm hoping to integrate several different possibilities: hunting monsters, playing mini-games, delivering items or gathering base resources.
- You will be able to invest in certain things like town development, financing education and scientific discoveries.
- Lastly, in certain shops, you will be able to purchase gifts for your party members. The party member will need to be with you, and there will usually be a little cutscene. They may also display it in their room or occasionally bring it up in conversation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Week 8: Finishing Re-vamps

Summervale is another of the early towns - back before I had a virtual ton of resources to use and no understanding of how painted tiles style worked. In my mind, Summervale has always been a forest town. Away from prying eyes, it's the perfect example of man trying to tame nature. It's also a fortress town, surrounded by tall walls that would protect from animals and human invaders alike.

One of the things that always bothered me about the early version of Summervale is how perfectly fake it looked. Sure, a small part of that was due to the fact that a large portion of it was mapped in editor and thus kept the square shape. But the bigger part was the fact that it was just too linear and clean. The trees had that artificial quality of "planted for curb appeal" look that wasn't a part of the concept.

So, I've mostly finished redoing Summervale and I'm much more pleased with the results:
It's still a work in progress and there will, undoubtedly, be some more changes. But the town now has a slightly country flair with just enough old European influence to be really charming. Another thing that will be added to the map is more NPCs wandering around as well as some animals (butterflies, for instance!). 

Other things I finished last week:
- Burgunda Port has been completely finished, both outside and inside. After having redone the outside of the town, some of the inner maps no longer matched.
- I've made the Burgunda Port shops (general store and magic store) more like actual shops. There are now shelves and tables displaying merchandise, and Miki's competitor is actually looking at rope.
- I've slightly enlarged Alistair's home. Don't worry, it's still an illustration of Alistair's bachelor life. But he now has a sink, a study desk and a lovely window with a view of the outside.
- I fiddled with the quests a bit. Since a couple of you mentioned wanting to have a quest record, I've restructured the "completed" section of the quest log. Quests will no longer disappear from the log when they've been completed.
- I've added a couple of new NPCs in Burgunda Port. This is mainly due to the fact that Burgunda Port is supposed to have a church (that I never got around to mapping before). You will be able to see the church now, but you won't access it right away. Once you return to Burgunda Port, Penelope will be able to visit the church and learn an important field skill.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Week 7: Polishing old content

I've spent most of past week fiddling around with some of the older content. As a few of you had kindly pointed out, there was starting to be a big disparity between the early chapter 1 and the latest content I've shared. I've already mentioned that a very large part of this was due to the fact that I have a lot more resources available now. But some of it also has to do with my understanding and level of comfort with the VX style.

The biggest thing that's changed in the later screenshots vs the early ones is the palette. When I started TUAH, I had jumped into it straight from using RMXP. Not only did I find that VX had a completely different style (painted vs pixel), but the palette was very different. XP favored less saturation and range in value.

I've grown to love the rich and saturated colors of VX and you can certainly see that in the later screenshots. But those first ones? Not so much. It also didn't help that I relied a lot on Mack's tiles. They're less saturated than the RTP and end up giving the map a more faded look. It's very useful when going for that sort of atmosphere, but it starts to stick out when it's beside the RTP.

So, I've gone back and changed some of the tiles around. It really helped that I was using lots of layers. It took almost no time at all and I think it makes a huge difference in making the game more cohesive. I will eventually go back and change Burgunda Port, Summervale and Sparrowight Academy as well, but I will try not to delay releasing the new chapter just for that.

Other than that, I've done some error fixing and script customization. A couple of you mentioned that you'd like to have a record of completed quests and I really like that idea. I had already planned to do that with the main quests - since they're almost like a record of the events that happened. I'll be spending a day or two doing the same thing with the side quests as well.

I'm also pondering doing an open beta here on the blog. I know there are at least 4 people willing to beta for me and I'm super grateful. But maybe errors and feedback would go faster with an open beta?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Week 6.5: World Maps done!

I've finally finished the world map system - in game, as well!

It's a pretty simple system. When you interact with one of the crystals in CTN, a picture is displayed showing the location of the teleport crystal. A text accompanies the picture and you are asked if you wish to teleport there.

As you may remember, there are only two locations you can access when you first come across CTN. Thanks to your helpful and crafty nature, Kara will allow you to work with her to open up all the crystal locations. Once a location has been opened, it will remain open throughout the game. This will (hopefully) allow for less linearity and more exploration.

Opening all the locations will also yield some pretty exceptional rewards. So, those of you who like ultimate armor sets may want to make sure you activate all the crystals *hint hint*.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Week 6: Music and Answers

Joerao has been on a roll! He has already composed 8 fantastic pieces that I can't wait to share with you. They add so much to the atmosphere that it's tough to imagine the maps without them. A big thank you to Joerao, if I haven't said it enough.

I've gotten a few e-mails/pm's from you guys, asking a few interesting questions! Since they're generating some great discussion, I wanted to share them with everyone.

Q) Is Twice Upon a Hero a sequel to another game? Where can I download the first game?
A) TUAH is a first game, though it has a very heavy back story. I could probably make an entire game out of the past events with Azazel and it would be a classic (though perhaps cliche) fantasy game. I've been toying with the idea of making a prequel after TUAH is done. It will depend on general interest, though.

Q) Do you have any side projects?
A) Nope. I've found that working on one project at a time helps me keep focused and working even when I'm not feeling particularly inspired. I do have a notebook full of ideas for projects that's constantly getting filled up. After TUAH is finished, I think the most difficult part will be to decide which idea to work on next.

Q) Why is this chapter going so slowly?
A) Real life gets in the way, I'm afraid. I'm currently in the process of buying a house and moving. If things go as planned, life will be back to normal within 3 months and I'll be able to devote more time to TUAH.

Q) How do you keep focused on just one project?
A) I keep a to-do list. Small goals that are easier to achieve give a sense of accomplishment that inspires me to do more. Things like making a map, figuring out a puzzle or finishing a section of the database are great motivators. Comments are also a tremendous boost to my inspiration. Just knowing that there are people out there that want to see the story completed makes me want to complete it that much more.

Q) Do you listen to music when you're working?
A) Yep! It drowns out the background noise that makes it easier to focus and it can also give me a good sense of the direction things are going. I frequently listen to music I'll be using in the game while mapping. It puts me in the right mind frame and makes it easier to invoke a particular atmosphere or emotion.

Q) Who's your favorite character?
A) That's a tough one. I like them all for very different reasons and it's really fun to let their personalities shine through dialogue and action. If I had to pick one, I'd probably pick Nic (whom you haven't met just yet!) or Alistair.

Q) Did you base your characters on real people? What character are you most like?
A) I probably did initially base parts of the characters on someone I know, just because it's easier to work with a frame of reference in mind. However, they've all grown and they're not so similar to their references anymore.
I've tried to stray from injecting my own personality into the game too much, so there isn't a single character I'm like. A mix of Penelope and Claudia might come close.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Week 5.5: Early Chapter 1

Back when I first started working on Twice Upon a Hero, there were very few custom tiles available. My choices revolved around RTP, Mack and adapting some RMXP resources to the VX style (which can be harder than it sounds, mind you). At the time, my spriting was purely pixel and the painted style VX RTP uses seemed too intimidating.

Now that I feel comfortable with the painted style and, more importantly, now that I have some experience under my belt, I'm planning to recreate some of those early maps:

One of the big risks with doing graphical overhauls and remapping is that the developer goes into an endless circle of trying to keep all graphics up to date. As excited as I am about having updated maps, it will be a while before these maps are implemented. So far, I've only created the house you see above and it will stay that way until chapter 3 is released. Despite shiny new graphics, I don't think many players will want to play the same content over and over.

I'm also going to be looking at the gameplay a bit. One of the criticisms I've received is that there isn't a whole lot to explore or many places where the player can interact with the environment. As I'd like to have a well-rounded game, I am probably going to add extra rooms, areas and puzzles. Eventually, I'm also going to add more commentary from the party about various objects on the map. It's a good way to build the world, plus it's just interesting to hear odd tidbits about various things.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Week 5: More Mapping

This week has mostly been about mapping. After finishing one of the outside maps for Oakwood, I've moved onto mapping the interiors. The screenshot you see above is of the local pie shop, which also happens to stock some of the bare necessities tourists and locals might need when the store is closed.

Oakwood is the first city that doesn't have an inn. Instead, you will be able to rest and restore your HP/MP by buying and eating a dish. Besides recovering one or all characters, some dishes may have benefits like increasing parameters or adding points to the relationship gauge. I'm hoping to add several food shops throughout the world and have them be a fun side feature. 

I've also sketched out several side quests for Oakwood, two of which should be very interesting:
1) Judge a cooking contest - most of which will involve getting information and making choices. Your actions and choices will affect what prize you win and which side-quests will become available in the future.
2) Sheep herding - get loose sheep into the corral. I hope I can get the coding right on this one. It works fine in my head, but it may be tricky to implement.

Lastly, all scripts have been optimized and configured. This means that from this point on, save files should be transferable between release versions (hooray!). I will still include progress saves and I'm also going to work on reducing the overall file size. I'm currently at 384mb, a third of which is audio files. There will be a separate download for the audio files.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Week 4: Back on Track

Starting with a screenshot of Oakwood. It's a Western-inspired town that will be a quest hub for one of the islands of Geldion. I would like to eventually add a mini-game, but I really want to actually make it work. I've had issues with several puzzles now, so I'm working extra hard on debugging them all. I admit, I have a new-found respect for those puzzle whizzes who add a million and one puzzle to their games.

I've been absent lately, mainly due to the fact that we're buying a house (my first!) and it's a very complex process. I've been pretty much away from the computer every day and left with almost no free time for the past couple of weeks. Thankfully, we're now at a small lull and I have the time to get TUAH back on track.

I have a very exciting bit of news to share. Joerao, the composer who created the Par Tillian theme, has agreed to create some custom music for the project. He has already composed two new pieces, one of which is the theme to Oakwood (in screenshot). The second piece is an ambient swamp theme that I'm itching to use.

Other than that, I want to say that I really appreciate your patience! I'm still as committed to TUAH as ever and looking forward to sharing more content with you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Week 3

Starting off with another teaser screen of the world map. This time, it's a more familiar location - Par Tillian. I've added some names to the map, making it easier to remember the layout of the locations.

Done this week:
- World maps are done!
- Started on Venusi Castle. It looks gorgeous, but it's a pain to map.
- Finished some random NPC chatter.
- Poked at couple of battles.
- Finished script for events of chapter 3. It's a long one.

To do:
- Stop procrastinating and actually get that database done.
- Finish mapping Venusi Castle + at least get started on the inside maps.
- Find time to breathe.

- Nothing has really changed since last week, save for the personal life stuff. I'm in the process of looking for a new house - an actual normal house where we can have room to walk and breathe. It's a very consuming process and it's piled on top of other very stressful life things, so it's been taking a lot of my attention.
- I didn't forget about the casino, smithy and item shops in game. There's this really awesome chain of quests that unlocks each, but we haven't really gotten there yet plot-wise. I think I will have to hint at it a bit, though.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Week 2

There's your sneak peak at the brand new world map. This particular tiny section is from Vega, the continent where we start the adventure. The way the travel system will work is via choices and pictures. I've tried to make something that's both fun and visually pleasing. I've yet to implement it ingame, however, which may turn out to be a bigger mountain of work than I thought.

Onto this week's progress!

Done this week:
- Finished Andras and Ahden world maps, and it was no easy feat! They're both pretty massive continents with a lot of locations. By comparison, Maia and Geldion are pretty tiny and shouldn't take more than a day to finish.
- Mapped one of the resting/waiting areas of the arena.
- Unsuccessfully attempted to add another puzzle to chapter 2, then scrapped the idea altogether.
- Fiddled with audio and switched some MP3s to an .ogg format so they'll take a lot less space.
- Figured out what makes the download size of the project so huge.

To do next week:
- Maia and Geldion maps.
- Start eventing cutscenes for Chapter 3 (yes, I'm that far behind).
- Finish up database.

- After a very long look at the size of the project, I've figured out where some of the size is coming from. Parallax maps take a bit of space, sure, and I've got 410 battlers for the 410 database enemies. But the biggest bulk of the size is from the animations folder. I haven't finished the database for skills yet, but the custom animations I've included so far have bloated the size of the project by 90mb. It's not that I have a whole lot of them, but it seems that quite a few of them are 5-8mb in size. So, as much as I like custom animations, a lot of them are going to have to go. I'll save a little room for the super special effects, but the rest of it will be using smaller and simpler animations.
- I'd been balancing skills and battles via arbitrary numbers, but it's tough to guess how much players will level, especially since I'm opening up areas where they can grind. So, I've taken another look at the battle system and changed some skills to work via percentages instead. The other advantage of this is that it will make each battle just as challenging as the next and give me more room to script interesting bosses.
- I'm leaning in favor of releasing a partial chapter to get some feedback. It's going in a slightly different direction than the rest of the game has been so far. There's more complexity, so I'm very interested in seeing what everyone thinks.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On progress

When I was working on chapter 2, I had gotten into the habit of posting weekly updates with lists of things I'd done that week. That accountability made me very motivated to work on TUAH. I dropped that as I started working on chapter 3, mainly due to the fact that my free time was much more limited and it takes a while to write blog entries. I figured it would be better if I spent that time actually working on TUAH. Looking back at how much I got done over the past few weeks, however, makes me realize that it didn't help. So, I've decided to dedicate a few hours each week to writing up progress entries. They may not be the most fascinating things to read, but they may give you a bit of insight into my development process.

Done this week:
- World maps for E. Andras and Vega are done.
- Finished half of the villager facesets.
- Finished writing down main objectives for Valhalm.
- Finished sprite for I*'s mom
- Finished sprite for M.

To do next week:
- Finish world maps for W. Andras, Ahden, Geldion and Maia
- Event travel map system
- Implement objectives for Valhelm
- Script side quests

- I've changed the CTN a bit so it's more visual. It is now going to show a "world map" and have you select your location. Thanks to the new design, you will have a much better idea of how different locations relate to each other.
- After chapter 1, I cut out a lot of the locations that won't be used in the project. TUAH was initially a much bigger story and too ambitious of a project. The world map, however, still reflects those old locations. With the new travel system, the maps have been updated to better reflect the current story.
- Thanks to all you faithful and thorough players, I've managed to fix a lot of minor bugs and annoyances. The sometimes-buggy puzzle in Gullad Mts, room 1, has been redesigned. It was fairly frustrating as some people encountered issues while others didn't.
- There isn't a whole lot of complexity to the dungeons in chapters 1 and 2. This is intentional, as a part of my audience is casual or new-to-RPGs players. But I would like chapters 3 and on to have more elaborate and complex dungeons. As such, I will be spending more time designing dungeon areas and implementing puzzles.
- I'm thinking of recruiting someone to help with the database work and setting up different enemies/boss fights. I've got good ideas on how I'd like the fights to go, but it's an extremely time-consuming process and I'd hate to delay releasing chapter 3 more than I already am.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Progress Update: Week I-lost-count

I am very tired, but I haven't updated the blog for a while and I didn't want anyone thinking that TUAH is on a hiatus. I've really had very little free time due to work and other miscellaneous errands, so I've spent all of it doing work on chapter 3.

Here are some things I've done so far:
- Finalized the design for one of the party members you meet in chapter 3. He's gone through a lot of changes, and I'm looking forward to sharing the process once you've met him.
- Fixed up some face sets. I noticed that certain faces had a much lower quality than the RTP - mainly stray pixels.
- Did the dreaded database work and animation setting for some of the skills that haven't been encountered yet.
- Started coding the main and side quests.

There's still a lot of work to do, but I'm slowly getting there. I'm also contemplating releasing just a partial chapter, as its length is probably more than chapter 1 and 2 combined. I'll keep you updated on  the decision!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Progress Update: Weekly Screenshot

Let's begin with eye-candy:
Screenshot of the appropriately-named Pirate Cove. Oh, what fun it will be to prance around with pirates!

The area in the screenshot and the area immediately connected to it is what I'm working on right now. The NPCs have been designed and added, the main quest and side quests are ready to be plugged in, but the mapping itself is inching toward completion at a snail's pace - which frustrates me to no end. In terms of design, it's one of my favorite locations. It has a unique look and I'm hoping to find an equally unique song to go along with it. But the actual mapping has just been excruciatingly slow.

Mapping is usually my favorite part of game creating. I enjoy placing every little detail and making up little stories around different bits and pieces. Occasionally, I will stop mapping to create an NPC with quirky dialogue or add a side quest. More often than not, however, I'll just map until the maps are completely done.

Yet this Pirate Cove ... This fun and quirky place has left me feeling so frustrated! I'm excited by the side quests, tickled by the characters and NPCs and working hard on introducing much needed features (relationship expert, for instance, that will tell you about the party member relationships and offer some not-so-legal relationship-altering potions) and looking forward to letting you explore every nook and cranny. I just have to actually make those nooks and crannies worth exploring. Which they're not right now. Definitely not! {imagine me shaking my head here and muttering some gibberish, here}

Let's shift gears to something more positive. The story!

There's a rare moment writers encounter every now and then that's like a writing epiphany. You'll be plodding along, writing or thinking, when the metaphorical gates of inspiration flood open and you just get it. That perfect scene, line of dialogue or motivation. It clicks on every possible level, and all you can do is tell yourself: "Now, that's good. That's really, really good."

I had a moment like that last night with TUAH's plot. It's not about anything major, since the story has already been written and decided. But it is a glorious plot point that ties many things together in a neat little package. It's so good, in fact, that it's still giving me chills thinking about it. I am at the edge of my seat, wanting to share it, but I will let you discover it as you play.

I will, however, take a moment to laugh the masterful laugh and utter the phrase "You have no idea what you're in for, ladies and gentlemen. The fun is just beginning."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Character Evolution

I've just finished changing the appearance and back story of Ian, one of the party members you'll come across in Chapter 3. It struck me how different the characters have turned out from their initial concepts. So, just for kicks, here are the early concepts for the main cast you've encountered so far (I will post other characters after they become a part of the plot):

Early Alistair:
Originally, Alistair was a loud-mouthed, washed-out "hero" who spent his days drinking booze and trying to charm all the ladies. He was a pervert and completely unlikable. The introduction scene has Alistair very bitterly spilling the story of his life to a bartender and a couple of patrons. One of the patrons is an old sage who grew bored of living atop his lonely mountain. He messes around with fate and practically throws Alistair into adventure again. Alistair's motivation becomes equal parts thirst for revenge and a huge desire to be famous again. He was completely dependent on his companions: in fact, there were a couple of quests that had to do with finding ways to avoid taverns and other places that could get Alistair drunk. Since the initial concept for TUAH was to create a shallow comedy, this worked very well.
But, as the plot began to evolve into something deeper, Alistair's image didn't fit in quite so well. He was too reckless and brash to carry the audience through some of the more subtle thematic content. He evolved into someone more sensitive and clever. His reasonable and dependable nature might seem boring in comparison, but it propelled character and plot development into something much more meaningful. Because of this change, the plot twists and the ending pack a bigger emotional punch - one that I hope you will enjoy.

Early Cordelia:
Cordelia began as an apprentice warrior who kicks Alistair's butt in combat, and is then forced to follow him as a way to make amends. She had a fiery temper and spent way too much time styling her hair. She would constantly berate Alistair and force him to do side quests. Alistair drooled over her, in a completely inappropriate way (since she's 16 and he's 32). There was never going to be any romance between the two, since Cordelia finds Alistair completely disgusting and vile.
But Cordelia's back story was extremely flimsy, and her reason for joining and staying with a perverted Alistair seemed ridiculous after a while. She evolved into a much more gentle and subdued character. She eventually turned into the seemingly cliche naive girl who idolizes an older man and follows him around like a love-sick puppy. There's a lot more to Cordelia, however, and you catch glimpses of it in chapter 3.

Early Penelope:
Early Penelope was as cliche as cliche can get. She was a female, nun, healer, and had that gentle/nurturing personality that made her almost too sweet. Her early dialogue consisted mostly of "oh my!" and trying to find ways to assert herself. She was the only one who could cast healing spells, which made it so she had to be present for virtually every major area - unless I wanted to frustrate the players by making them heal through potions only. There wasn't anything really wrong about Penelope, other than she was completely boring! The rest of the female cast was strong and independent, which overshadowed her.
Penelope evolved into a more of a paladin type - very lawful and stoic. This created a fantastic contrast to the cast members who see laws as just suggestions. It also gave the possibility for internal conflict and growth.

Early Claudia:
Claudia probably changed the most out of everyone, starting with the name. In my early notes, she was named "Theresa". She was a warrior princess, a la Xena, and she joins the party because her father orders her to (after some random quest). Personality-wise, she was similar to the current Penelope. Very lawful, very mature and strong. She first started to evolve when I changed her reasons for joining Alistair's party. Rather than being ordered, she joins as an act of rebellion toward her father (who forbade her from leaving the castle). That small, rebellious streak really took off and started to shape her personality more and more. Soon, she became the fiery, sarcastic, anarchistic self. This personality suited her role and "feel" perfectly, but the background didn't. I wanted to keep her in a sheltered environment, but it was impossible to do so in an organized castle-type place. As I worked on some of the mage lore for Caeta, it seemed like that would be the perfect background for Claudia. Her role changed to that of a mage, and so did her looks. She still kept her purple/pink hair, however.

Friday, April 22, 2011

No updates for a few days

I was planning on writing up another update, but I just had a rough morning. Late last night, my aunt lost her fight with cancer.

She was an extraordinary woman, who remained strong through a lifetime of illness (arthritis). Mom remembers how she'd be in the hospital and still making arrangements so her family would be taken care of. She always put others first. She was a teacher and she touched the lives of many people.

What I'll miss the most is her birthday cards. Every year, without fail, she would send a card depicting flowers. Inside would be beautifully-worded messages and well-wishes. Reading them makes me feel loved and cherished.

She will be missed and I need a few days to get my composure (and good spirits) back. Thanks for understanding.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Revamp Released

Well, revamp has been released!
You can download it here.

I tried to get it as bug-free as possible, and my 2 beta-testers didn't see any issues. So, I hope it goes smoothly!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nearly Ready!

The revamp of chapters 1 & 2 is 99.99% done. Everything has been evented, switched up and changed. I just have to test-play it a couple of times and make sure everything's running as it's supposed to. Since two of the cosmetic changes were a new message system and a new font, I've had to format the dialogue again. I think I've got it right and there aren't things like cut-off text or the namebox code being messed up.

So, I'm setting the formal release date for tomorrow evening. I'm excited to share it, as there's quite a bit of new content - despite it not being any different story-wise. The biggest change will be the battles. Having played through them, I don't find them too difficult, but I do wonder if the players will agree. One thing that makes me very happy is that status effects like poison and stat buffing/de-buffing are huge parts of the strategy. Poison hurts. A lot. Two of the characters can remove it with spells, and poison-removing items are around. But it's one of those things you'll want to have taken care of immediately. Likewise for self-buffs. They make the difference between an attack taking a quarter of one's health and taking off 1%.

Where am I in chapter 3? Since I've revamped the puzzle in the mines, I took a critical look at the puzzles slated for chapter 3 and realized they may be a bit lacking. So, I've been redesigning some areas and some puzzles. Thankfully, I hadn't finished mapping a whole lot and I won't have to take a few extra weeks to fix that.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's update! I hope there will be a few reviews :3

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Weekly Screenshot

I bring you two screenshots from chapters 1 and 2 this week. I'm nearing the completion of the update, so you should be seeing a new download within a couple of days now.

This is the revamped CTN (Crystal Transit Network). It's a happy medley of technology and mysticism. The computers and wiring inside the walls creates several types of energy waves, which are amplified by the crystals. Each crystal has a microchip with specific coordinates embedded inside it, allowing the physical displacement (aka. teleportation) of individuals and groups.

The second screenshot is the revamped sewers. It was pointed out to me that the sewers were kind of bare and basic when compared to the rest of the mapping. So, using a few tidbits from the steampunk tileset, I've redone the general look! The puzzle (not much of one, I know) is still the same.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chapter 3: Locations

I wanted to share a few of the locations you will get to visit in chapter 3 - without spoiling the plot.

Arena & Tournament Grounds-
I know some players really dig battles, and I'm working on a challenge or two. But a lot of my ideas might be too difficult for a novice player. So, I thought I could include these ideas/fights in a tournament setting. The rewards will be upgrades to equipment, items and opening some side-quests. Since each character has an "ultimate" equipment set, at least one of them will only be achievable through winning tournaments.
The first tournament is plot-based, and will therefore be pretty easy. It should, however, introduce tournament rules (subject to change, I'm still working them all out):
- You can only wear the equipment provided by the tournament officials.
- You can only use items provided by the tournament officials.
- You are recovered to full after each battle, but you can only take a break/save at certain ranks (roughly every 3 battles or so).
- You can talk to your party members during breaks, giving you an opportunity to raise some relationship points.
- If you win, you get to keep all the equipment and left-over items, as well as automatically qualify for future tournaments.

Continent of Geldion-
Once you visit Geldion, you will be introduced to the political atmosphere of the world (Caeta). When Azazel and his armies entered Caeta, Geldion was the closest continent and so it suffered the heaviest damage. As a result, the continent is virtually barren and unsuitable for growing crop or keeping livestock. The survivors and refugees who returned to Geldion had to rely on their ingenuity and understanding of machines.
In the present, the nation of Geldion is known as the technological maven of the world. I'll be using the steampunk tiles I collaborated with Celianna on (and I'm very excited about this!). In terms of side quests, there will be several bounty-hunter type quests from the tavern boards, some basic fetch quests and there might also be a riddle or two.

It's the capital of Ahden, a very lavish and rich town. It has several museums and libraries as well as a big palace. I'm both excited about this town and slightly nervous, because getting just the right look might require a lot of custom spriting.

That's it for today's update! I'm still working on polishing chapters 1&2, but I've had a few graphic request that have eaten up a lot of time. I'm not giving a deadline, but I'm hoping to have more to updated by Saturday morning.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chapter 1&2 update: Battles (and weekly screenshot)

It turns out that the updated chapters 1 and 2 were not ready for release on Friday, after all. I can't entirely say I'm surprised, as I've had some trouble estimating just how long certain portions will take (sorry about that, people! I always underestimate how long testing and debugging takes). The database is well underway. The classes, skills and equipment is for the most part done. I've finished the animations for half of the characters, another 4 and some global skills left to go! I'm very grateful that Timmah has released so many wonderful animations, as they've really helped make the skills look unique.

Most of the damage/healing calculations and buff/debuff states are done. I've actually reworked the character-specific buffs/debuffs to target more than one stat, playing into the elemental affinities of their magical attacks. There's still a lot of testing left to do, however, especially when it comes to balancing enemies. One of the features I'm including is that the enemies have levels that are based on the average party level. So, you can expect each fight to be at least mildly challenging. However, I also don't want anyone to turn the game off in frustration, so there will be a couple options for lost fights. First is to retry - because let's face it, sometimes it's just bad luck! The second is to avoid the fight altogether. In this case, the enemy will disappear, but the party will lose half its gold.

The random enemies will either be visible on the screen, or require some sort of action - like the rats in the Bethlam Tower, where you had to shake the barricade to make them appear. There will be a few "trap" type encounters as well, where you trigger battles by stepping on particular tiles, but they will limited to certain areas. My goal is to provide plenty of battles for those of you who enjoy battles, but not force them on the players who would rather not fight. I should also mention that all states will be cleared after the battle (including death) and all characters will be healed to 50% of their health and mana. So, those moments when you're on your last potion and still have half a dungeon to go should be rare.

I'm also pondering the notion of adding a few more exploration areas to chapter 1 and 2. The forest path to Summervale, for example, is very linear and short. When I was developing the area, I had a much bigger set of maps in mind, but I shrunk it down for convenience. You would, of course, get to explore those areas when you went back to Summervale (chapter 3). But would you rather see them right away?

Now, as promised, here's a screenshot of a map in Chapter 3:

Where could Alistair be now? And what awaits him in this cave? Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Databasing Woes

Fiddling with the database is my least-favorite thing to do. I don't mind the calculation, balancing and notetags too much, though it does get tiring after a while. No, the biggest reason why I hate it is because it brings out that OCD part of me that has to have everything uber-organized. I can't just add more entries and keep the special equipment at the bottom of the database. Oh, no, I've got to have it labeled, organized by type and rank, and with precise and witty descriptions.

There wasn't anything particularly bad about the database before, you see, but after having switched to Melody, I had to remake the skills and the states. And they looked so pretty that I then had to remake the weapons. And the armor. And it looks like I'm going to be redoing the objects, too. I can't have 3/4 of the database clear and one big item-y mess!

Does this put me behind on the release? Well, a little bit. It does involve going back through all of the events and changing out items being handed out as well as the loot messages. Thankfully, Melody text scripts allow me to easily write the icon + item name in the message, so it's just a matter of switching a couple of numbers.

I may pull an all-nighter, dear readers, but I still aim for Friday release of updated Chapters 1&2. Sunday, I will be updating with a teaser screenshot of Chapter 3.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Weekly Progress: Twice Upon a Hero

Despite having a pretty busy week (spring cleaning is no joke!), I got a considerable amount of work done for Twice Upon a Hero.

I bit the bullet and integrated Yanfly Battle Engine Melody, along with several smaller scripts that helped create a few unique skills and states. I'm still setting up all the character skills, and the enemy skills are far from being finalized. Things are well on their way, however. Alistair, Cordelia and Penelope's skills are done. I'm finishing up Claudia's skills and I have a basic outline for the other characters. It's just a matter of setting up some animations (thanks to Timmah for gorgeous particle work, and IceDragon for awesome icons) and fiddling with the cost/damage ratios.

Melody also came with a simple message system that allowed for some features I've been wanting to use: basic text formatting (italics, bold text, ability to change fonts), a way to add icons in text and a name box. I've loved the namebox idea ever since I first started using Ccoa's UMS back in RMXP. It's a great feature that identifies the speaker without taking up a whole line of text. Of course, the downside to this great message system is that I've had to go through hundreds of messages to change the code.

I've also fixed a couple of small bugs that all you faithful players caught - one being a missing switch that gave you access to the sewers. Now, you can only explore it if you've accepted a side quest.

Thanks to Modern Algebra, I've created a few tutorials that should help newer players. They're completely optional, but they do give some useful items if you can sit through them. I'm finishing up a basic battle tutorial, as well. It's not too complicated to create, though it still takes time and lots of play-testing.

Other things I finished:
- Fixed up one of Closet's facesets because it was a tad messy and didn't fit in the quality of the rest of the faces.
- Sprited an original windowskin. As much as I liked the old one, I wanted something that was a little cleaner and simpler.
- Changed the font to something a little bigger and more readable.
- Also mapped one of the first areas of chapter 3. I'll post some screenies when I'm a little further along mapping that chapter.

I'm hoping to release the updated version of chapter 1+2 by the end of the week.