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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.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Features and Portraits

Robin asked about the features that I've cut from Twice Upon a Hero. It's a somewhat lengthy list, thus another blog post was in order. I also want to take a moment to post the ideas that I decided to keep, so the two can be compared.

Ideas/Features that were cut:
1) Tournament
 Originally, at the beginning of chapter 3, Alistair and co. find themselves as prisoners in a pirate town. They are forced to compete in a tournament, gladiator-style. That particular tournament is rigged and basically a long quest chain rather than an actual tournament. Several people liked the idea of competing, however, and I'd planned to make a real tournament (prizes and all) for it later in the game.
However, outside Alistair's ultimate weapon, there was nothing significant to be gained from the tournament. It was a completely optional section of the game that would have involved heavy eventing, balancing and testing. With a lot of time and feedback, I probably would have managed to make it interesting enough for the player. In the end, however, I decided it was not worth delaying the game completion for.

2) Field Skills
This was probably the toughest feature to cut, as I love the idea of using skills to interact with the environment. Originally, I was going to use field skills for things like reaching chests on high ledges, opening up shortcuts between areas or skipping certain puzzles. Two problems arose. The first was that having field skills sometimes forced the player to have a specific party members with them. Those party members may not have been as useful in the rest of the area (i.e. battles). To make things easier, I also planned on having key items that accomplished the same skills as the characters.
The second problem was that these skill places involved creating custom character poses, as well as creating somewhat elaborate movement and effect mini cut-scenes. Given how much graphical and eventing work already has to be done, I did not want to add even more.
So, I removed the idea of field skills, but kept the special key items. The environment will still play a role, but the player has more freedom with the party make-up.

3) Crafting System
The crafting system was predominantly done for upgrading equipment and for creating some potions via alchemy. Sam is an alchemist, so it made sense story-wise to give him a laboratory. However, Sam doesn't join until a little later in the game- by which point the player has received a ton of potions and money that can be spent on potions, on top of having characters that can heal. After working out the equipment and the items for the database, I realized that there really isn't a big number of items that would need to be crafted.
Instead, there will be side-quests that upgrade equipment or reward the player with consumables.

4) Party Camp
Specific spots on the map would allow the player to teleport to a camp where the party members are. You could talk to party members and give them gifts - basically, a way to further the idea of relationships.
Player can do the same thing in the base, however, as well as in towns where the party is split up. So, the party camp idea was removed for redundancy.

5) Trade Market
I had the neat idea to have trade markets instead of regular shop. The player would basically trade certain items (ex. random monster loot) for useful consumables or even equipment upgrades. While it's a fun idea, my major concerns were that it would either not be used or that the player would feel like they have to grind to get certain items.
I've gone back to regular shops, where the player can choose when and how to spend money. I will still have at least one side quests that will have the player trading items, but it will be optional.

6) Extra Languages/Currency
There are actually several different cultures in Caeta, so I wanted to add a touch of realism by giving them various languages and currencies. It would have been something akin to the Al Bhed language in Final Fantasy - over time, the text would be translated as the player gets dictionaries, etc. The currencies would operate via currency exchange. The player would go to the bank in a new area and exchange their money for the local currency - with some variation for the exchange rate, etc. The local merchants would only sell items if the player had enough of the local currency.
Although the idea was very fun, it would become a hassle to have to switch currency on various continents (especially in quests that carry over several areas). Given the nature of the plot, the player would have also occasionally found themselves with money they can't spend.
The language required a script that I was not able to make work. I thought about doing it via eventing, but the event would have been complicated and I'm not sure that the player would have enjoyed the idea enough to justify spending extra time on it. Instead, there will be other languages peppered in the regular chatter and a translator will be provided for areas that do not speak the party's language.

7) Training Dojos
Nic's skills revolved around animals and animal forms. Originally, the plan was to have her visit various dojos around the world where masters would teach her animal forms- mainly via a puzzle section and a boss battle.
The problem with this idea is that Nic was the only character that had to train like this, and that these dojos were entirely optional. The rest of the party learned through levels or through equipment. I was worried that having a completely different way to acquire skills would be too much work for some players and that they'd end up not using Nic - which is definitely not something I'd want to see.
Instead, Nic is going to be learning all skills the same way others do, and the dojo idea is getting tossed into a different project.

Ideas/Features that were kept:
1) Party Relationship System
I kept it because it allows for more characterization, for a more individual play-through (and possibly adds a touch of replayability) and because it's the simplest way to create multiple endings. It's also one feature that was consistently praised and enjoyed by players.

2) Home Base/Lab
In the later half of the game, this becomes the major quest hub. Most of the quests that further the story will start and end there. It will also be the place to change party members, talk to party members (and give them gifts), upgrade equipment and shop. I'm hoping to have it be an evolving place that is decorated over time.

3) CTN (teleport system)
There is a long quest chain involved in unlocking and maintaining this system, but it will allow the player to quickly get from one place to another - and it will be usable from virtually anywhere. Since I don't have a conventional world map, it's an excellent way to avoid having to run through maps multiple times to get somewhere.

4) Artifact Museum
Completely optional area where the player can display treasures, trophies and other artifacts. The main purpose of the museum will be to have all historical and religious tidbits in one place. Though I'm planning to add a lot of information via NPC dialogue and bookshelves, I wanted to have a central place where the player can learn more about the world and past events. Time permitting, I may also have a kind of video-viewer that shows past cutscenes.

And, lastly, several of you wanted to see the party portraits. Here we are:
(From left to right: Cordelia, Claudia, Penelope and Nic)
(From left to right: Alistair, Sam, Ian and Ruben)

And there you have it! Phew, thanks for reading this giant wall of text.


  1. I has a question - mainly because I love love LOVE character development!

    Does the party relationship system only effect what ending you get, or do other things occur depending on ally affection?

    I wanted to do something similar (I blame you Dragon Age), but I'm not sure what I could do that wouldn't mess with the canon a bit. I thought that if you raise affection in Ghost Shards, it may open side quests dealing with the characters to learn more about them AND gain uber awesome stuff/abilities.

    That's all! ...For now. >>

    1. So far, I have it affecting:
      - The ending
      - Several key cutscenes (think of it like the "date" scene in FF7)
      - Which party members are available during a particular sequence in the plot
      - Availability of certain side quests
      - How much backstory you get to see for each character
      - Whether you can get their ultimate weapon/armor/etc.

      I thought about tying it to the battle skills, as well, but I still need to figure out which skills will be given and when. The skills would have to be strong enough to justify extra time spent on the relationship, but not so strong that they break the game.

  2. I'm sure that all the features that were cut won't hurt anyone ;) and I totally understand removing them all(Especially the field skills and extra language/currency system O_O I would never have been able to do that!!)I also like the artifact museum idea especially the video viewer idea and I'm really happy you kept the CTN system as that was pretty interesting and unique for me :D

    And the portraits are VERY well done :3 I'm anticipating this more with every progress report ^.^

    Best of luck further :)

    1. Thank you!

      It's really hard getting rid of any idea, especially since they're all very fun and interesting. But a game can't have everything and still be done in a reasonable amount of time. XD

  3. Back when me, Volrath and Artbane were actively working on Legacy we were having trouble deciding on how to implement field skills with a cast bigger than the party size.

    We considered substitute key items as well.

    1. The more I think about it, the more I conclude it's really fully feasible only if you have a small/static party, or if you have a way of warning the player they'll need party member XYZ before they get into the area.

      The key items is the perfect substitute for me. It's coded in Ace already, so I don't have to fiddle with extra scripts. And it's pretty easy to use. :D

  4. Replies
    1. Sam is a very interesting character. I can't reveal too much, for fear of spoiling things. But he is an absolute blast to write dialogue and plot points for. I think people will really enjoy him - I know I do.

  5. Those portraits look great! Cordelia got some new clothes didn't she? I'm interested in the party members we haven't met in game. Specially Sam and Ian ('cause they look pretty :P)

    Also, a big wow at those features! Glad you kept the relationship system and the base. These really help with character development.

    1. Yep, Cordelia got a different outfit! Well, actually, everyone pretty much got a different outfit. But it's fun and different, I think.

      I'm so glad I reworked the plot so you get to meet Sam, Ian, Ruben and Nic earlier. You didn't even get to meet them until the last two chapters before, and that's just not enough time to do them justice.

      The features ... Well, it's perfect proof at how overly ambitious the project was, even after being reworked. I'm more and more convinced that switching to Ace was the right decision. I think the project is going to be so much better for it.

  6. Yay for updates :) Super excited to see how this pans out, I have full faith in you making an incredibly awesome game!

    Also love love LOVE the party portraits! They look amazing.

    1. Thank you, I really appreciate your comment.

      The more I look at the portraits, the more I'm convinced that I made the right decision to switch over to the new looks. :)

  7. New to your blog I love the game idea ^.^ Keep up the great work :D Could you by chance give any tips on how to make the Portraits like that you did amazing ^.^

    1. Hello! :D

      I'm certainly not a whiz at portraits like some very talented people out there (check out Jalen, Scinaya and Venere's links on the right-hand side of the blog), but I do manage to create some neat portraits here and there.

      For things that are edited, it's basically just splicing together bits and pieces in Photoshop. Layers help tremendously.

      For things that are completely custom ... Lots of trial and error. I draw, zoom out, compare to RTP and then fix things that seem off. It helps to look at RTP as a guide in terms of how things are shaded.

    2. Awesome thanks for the tips ^.^ [This is Roxzis just forgot my password] ^.^ but I will check them out as well :D

  8. Wait...
    Alistar's short?!(If those bust up's are their actual height)

    1. Hehe, no. Alistair's the only male bust that's cropped. The rest of them need to be resized so they're about the same size. XD