About Me

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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.

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.