Delayed again 24

Hello again,

Boy, was it nice to be free from school and work for a while. It was only two weeks, but it felt much longer and it was a much needed rest from obligations. The last two weeks, I have worked and will also do so the next week, before school starts again at the end of July.

 

I’d like to dedicate this post entirely to The Viking & The Ninja. As I wrote last time, I had started on a boss animation and an ending cutscene. However, I put this on hold to make a map of the village, using the program Tiled I mentioned last time here. I don’t know if I can use this program for the actual development later or not (maybe some cool, technical expert guy can answer that?), but either way it’s a good practice. Also, while making maps using the tileset, I can quickly see if the tiles I have made can be built with or not, if any of them are missing, need adjustments or if the palette needs to be updated.  Here is a WIP image of the village, with a few cow sprites as an extra meat to the bones:

 

Village2.png

The map is planned so the most important buildings are placed in the middle, close to each other. I really don’t like it when the level design forces the player to make plenty of unnecessary walks here and there. A game I personally love, but is guilty of this, is Rent A Hero. The first town, which you go to and from a lot and has many important places to visit several times, is poorly structured.  Here is a video showing it (apologies if you read this if the video is gone). You start in the bottom right corner. Closest to you is a shop you almost never visit, then further up a hospital you also almost never visit and then at the top the subway you take all the time. The important buildings are the bank and the cafeteria to the far left, and the better shop at the top-left corner (which unnecessarily has three floors, which takes even more time to traverse).  This layout forces the player to take so many long extra walks. Instead, I’d put the entrance at the middle of the bottom, then have the subway in the center of the map, like in another town. Then, I’d place the important buildings close to the center and the least important ones furthest back. But I digress.

In the village of The Viking & The Ninja, we have the shop, tavern/inn, guru and the fast travel houses in the middle.  These are the most important places, which you’ll go back to a lot. Having them close by each other prevents the player from taking long, time-wasting walks. The fountain is there as a landmark and will serve a point for gameplay too. And as I said earlier, the cows will play an important part of the game.

 

Moving on, I’d like to introduce the protagonists a bit more, and show some artwork/pixel art. First we have the viking:

 

His name is Birger and he is the prince of the Viking kingdom. Birger is in his early 20s. He is a lazy and stupid guy, whose main interest is eating junk food, which has given him the physique he earned. It also makes him slow, but his work with the axes is commendable. He is quite a joky guy, who may come off as offensive, but remains good at heart.

Viking scanned2.jpg

This is the artwork I made as a basis for his design. Originally, I planned to have a helmet on him, but dropped it because it was hard to draw and because going without it gave him more character, I think. He wears his Thor’s hammer with pride and the red cape signifies his royalty. I drew the artwork with an ink pen and some felt pens suited for manga. As you can see, I’m not very adept at drawing characters, so I’m gonna have to hire a professional to do a proper job of this later.

Viking - kopia

Here is his sprite and some animation frames. As you can see, you can walk in 8 directions. There are still many frames not drawn, for example the important attack animations!

Viking portrait - kopia.png

And this is his portrait. Highly based on the artwork seen above. It’s 48×48 pixels big, just like the portraits in Pier Solar (I used Pier Solar as a reference for graphics a lot actually). Of course, it uses the main palette, like the sprite you saw above.

 

And then we have the ninja. Her name is Jackie and she is a body guard in the Ninja Empire. Jackie is in her mid-20s. Her main hobby is training, but she also likes to party. Though physical strength isn’t her best trait, she throws kunais and moves faster than anyone. She takes her job seriously and works hard with a too great pride, something which can backlash against her every now and then.

Ninja scanned.jpg

 

Like the Birger artwork, this was drawn on paper and then scanned and touched up a bit on the computer (I really suck at that too). Interestingly, I planned to have a mask on her, but as with Birger’s helmet I dropped it to give more character. Those camel toe boots are something I saw when I searched for ninja clothing references. I thought they looked silly and special, so I decided to incorporate them into the design. The kanji on her belt means “shinobi”, which is another Japanese word for ninja. I saw it on the Revenge of Shinobi logo and also in Naruto, and thought it would fit perfect here. Other than that, the colours are distinctly different from Birger, yet still fit in within the main character palette.

 

Ninja.png

Here are the walking animations for the sprite. There isn’t much to add at the moment. I choose to have three frame animations simply because doing more than that will lead to an overwhelmingly large amount of work. I used Dungeon Explorer on Mega-CD as a reference, which also had three frame animations. There are going to be some special animations in the game which will have more frames, but very few will only have two.

 

ninja portrait - kopia.png

And here is the portrait. Same palette and size as Birger’s, of course.

That’s all about the project for this update. But in other news, I started doing QA for another team which develops Mega Drive games. Maybe I’ll talk about it in a future update, if I’m allowed to.

 

Do you want another update like this one? Drop a comment and I’ll see what I can do! I decided to reveal about 20% of the game content before the release, and there is still plenty of stuff to show. In the meantime, I’ll continue working. Hopefully I’m done tomorrow!

 

aLL THE BEST,

FUCK

 

All the best,

 

/Zebbe

Advertisements

Delayed again 23

Hello again!

 

Long time, no see (again). That’s the third “again” in this blog post so far. Oh well. School was a bit hectic the last few months, but now it’s over and the third term begins in five weeks. As I said last time, I had the Unity course, in which I made a prototype of The Viking & The Ninja.

 

I used my own graphics and stole the code from YouTube tutorials. The 2D functions of Unity are quite easy to use once you understand them. Being a very non-technical type of person, it took a lot of time for me. And scripting the proto was even harder. Most of the time went into bug fixing and compile errors. Sometimes a simple “;” was missing somewhere, and it took way too much time to figure it out. Oh well, I managed to do this:

 

  • basic movement
  • animations
  • projectile (weapon) throws
  • enemy behaviour 1: follow the player
  • enemy behaviour 2: throw weapons and moving like a crab (sorta)
  • enemy spawns from a base
  • health and damage system
  • dialogue boxes
  • scene management

My goal of the course was to learn some basic scripting, to get a brief understanding on how it works and how it is done. I’m not sure I accomplished that, as I still have tremendous difficulties writing scripts. But it’s OK, I am better in other disciplines.

You can see some of it in the videos below (captured with the 7 second limits of Gyoza).

 

After the Unity course, we had a course in SCRUM, which is a method for organizing team work. Basically, your team makes a “sprint” which is a list of tasks to do during a week. Then, during the work, you pick the most important tasks from “to do” to “doing”, then after they are done to “testing” or “done. And every day there is a stand-up, where everybody talk about what they did yesterday, what they are going to today and if they need any help. The whole thing is organized by a SCRUM master who makes sure everybody has something to do and also holds the meetings.

During this course, we did some interesting exercises. For example, in one we divided into teams. A few teams where supposed to draw something like “a few cows, flowers, the sun and a few clouds”, while other teams got a more specific task which said “2 cows with 3 brown spots on them, 5 flowers with 6 petals, the sun with 8 rays and 3 clouds”. The result was stunning. The teams which got the first task may have made quite different drawings, but at least the vision looked coherent and made sense. For the other teams, they didn’t get very far until the time was over, and the drawings looked very messy, with the flowers weirdly grouped together, cows upside down and whatnot. The whole exercise pretty much showed us this: too much direction from higher-ups just lead to messy, ineffective project management and design. Projects with less direction may not be exactly like they intended, but at least they are handled more effectively and with panache.

Another exercise we had was having three teams playing a game called Overcooked:

 

The first team played it without talking to each other and without preparing. The second team talked to each other while playing. And the third team playing it both talking to each other and also got some time to prepare before that. And the results were once again stunning. The score was first and foremost just better and better between the teams. But not only that. The first team played the game so poorly. They tried to do everything as individuals, including cooking, serving and dishwashing. Most notably, they kept running back and forth that small passage to the right. Even the second team did that, I think. The third team knew the long counter in the middle was there so you could leave dishes there, so one person could focus on cooking while another on serving etc. The point about the exercise was to show you need communication and planning during game development. And that’s why we got two weeks of pre-production for project 3, which I’ll get into in a bit. Personally, I agree planning is important, but on the other hand too many meetings proves ineffective in the long run. It needs a balance.

Then, after the project management course, pre-production of Game Project 3 began. We were instructed to make a game with these requirements in mind:

  • audience awareness – think of who we include and exclude in our design.
  • customization – give the player a meaningful choice in the game.
  • sandbox – this one is less defined, but most teams went with an open world-type of level design where the player could go anywhere he/she wanted.

We made a few prototypes. Pictured below is one those I made, “Moving Home” (pun intended). Basically, you controlled this creature and a few brownies who were living in a house on the back of the creature. And your mission was to find a new home, because your village was destroyed for some reason. The brownies could gather food, direct the creature and watch for dangers, while the creature could basically mostly move and and attack enemies. It looked like we would go with this concept, but it was dropped at the last second for another concept.

20180419_144650.jpg

 

What we went with was the concept of another game designer (we were 3 designers, 4 3D artists and 2 2D artists by the way). Basically, it was supposed to be a platformer game with a lot of flow in the level design, similar to a 3D Rayman game. There would be no enemies and instead focus on movement. The final game was called Dilán, after the protagonist, an armadillo.

 

With that settled, what we needed was a mechanic in the game which set it apart from other games. Here, I came up with the concept of magnetism and storyboarded a few gameplay mechanics.

The first one, had you change between positive and negative magnetism on your magnet, which affected objects you touched. Below, you can see how a block needed to have a negative charge to be able to attach itself to the block with a positive charge. This mechanic never went into the game.

20180504_153043.jpg

 

Next up, we have another mechanic involving blocks. The idea here is the block is too heavy to push, so the character needs to pick up electrons (or something) to get stronger so he can push the block between the platforms and then proceed. This mechanic didn’t make it into the game either.20180504_165232.jpg

 

Then comes the mechanic which actually went into the game. Here, we see a platform with a positive charge. If the player has a negative charge, then he will be attracted to the platform and cannot jump over. If he has a positive charge, the magnet will repel from the platform, which will add force to the character so he can proceed over to the next platform.

20180504_152803.jpg

As a part of one of the design pillars – flow – I storyboarded the idea that the player should able to quickly change the charge, so the character can swing between high platforms. See below.

20180504_152850.jpg

And in this video, you can see how the mechanics work in the final game. First, by pressing a button, I attract myself to the light blue pipe under the gramophone. Then, between the two wood platforms, I jump up and repel myself from the other pipe to launch into the air. I didn’t catch the gramophone because of the seven second limit of Gyazo. But that was the goal of the game, to get seven gramophones to wake up the mountain cat in the background.

 

Since game development is such an iterative process, there were many changes during these seven weeks of development. The character started as the magnet-nosed creature you saw on my storyboards, then changed into a cat and finally into an armadillo. Having an armadillo made more sense since its shell was made of metal, which is where we put the magnetism. We also changed the perspective from 3D to 2D, thank Odin for that! So much work was saved by that decision.

Except for the mechanic, my greatest contributions to the game was the level design and UI, which I worked a lot on. The game had basically one big level, where you were supposed to search for the gramophones.

 

While the game is quite simple and a bit rough around the edges, I think we did a great job considering there was a lot of absense in the team. The jury liked the mechanic, the graphics and the plot. I think all of the team got something positive words about their work. That makes me glad.

 

Now then, onto The Viking & The Ninja. While I’ve progressed a bloody lot since the last update, I still need to delay the release until tomorrow, because of how stressful school was the last weeks. But the progress consists of around 20 sprites, completely animated and 1 whole tileset. Wow! I’m currently working on a cutscene for the endings and the animation of a boss.

 

That’s all for this update!

 

Take care,

 

/Zebbe

PS. This blog post has 6 “agains” (including this one). DS

Delayed again 22

Hello again,

 

Long time, no see! Due to extensive crunching at game project 2 in school, the project has to be delayed until tomorrow. Sorry about that! I’ll try to make up for it, somehow.

logo.png

About game project 2. It was a five week project in school, consisting of one week of pre-production and four weeks of actual production. With me were three other designers, four 3D artists and two 2D artists. Our restrictions when making the game were:

  • some sort of destruction element in it.
  • no text.
  • environmental story telling.
  • a loading screen if there were loading times.
  • probably some other stuff I forgot.

Our team began discussing what kind of game we wanted to do. Most of us had different tastes, so we ended up with a “design by committee” decision. Initially, we planned to have the game take place on a foreign planet where the mission was to save it by solving puzzles. The puzzles consisted of blocks which could be moved. You’d play as a robot doing this. But later on, we scrapped most of these ideas and went for a simpler approach. The robot was scrapped because we had no animator on our team, and the gameplay got simplified to have just rotatable blocks on different axes, which the player had to move to find the exit of the levels. Most of the narrative was scrapped too, because the team was plagued by sickness during nearly the entire time span of the project. What was left was a very subtle story told by murals, which said the inhabitants of the planet had gone dormant because of the cold winter, so you had to restore spring for them to return.  The name of the game was a pun I came up with.

 

The team game design members had different roles; project manager, scripter, level designer and narrative designer. I was level designer together with another student, who was also narrative designer. I helped out with that too. I also handled testing.

 

When making levels, I started doing prototypes on paper. Then, when the scripter was done with the system, I could make block-outs in Unreal Engine. And when the graphic artists were done with their assets, those could be put into place. Initially, I planned to have nine levels, first three which had Z axis rotation, then three with Z and X axes rotation and lastly three with all three axes rotation. But due to time constraints, sickness and overscoping, I only made six levels. And three of those were cut the last week to keep the quality of the game consistent. Here you can see my progress when making the first level, and also a video with preview lighting on it.

 

PROGRESS-155x300

 

The jury who graded the game pretty much trashed it, but had some positive things to say. My levels were “fun, but got too hard too soon”. Actually they got stuck on a simple puzzle for five minutes, which others beat on their first try. The team got very bitter about the trashing, but since the jury weren’t the only ones involved in the grading, we got the highest grade. It was a mystery to us, but apparently it was because we managed to create a full game though we had so many problems in our team. We put our priorities right and cut what was needed to be cut. So yeah, that was that project. In hindsight, it was a very stressful but fun time with a great team.

 

Currently, I’m having the Unity course, which I’ll probably talk about in the next blog post, and in a few weeks game project 3 begins.

 

In other news, I made a thread on Sega-16. And also got a Twitter account.

 

About the project. I finished up that cutscene I mentioned in the last post. I’m currently working on a tileset. While commuting, I make animations of sprites. Currently, 37 sprites are done, which are less than half. I should be done with the rest by tomorrow. I have also registered my company and the name of the game at the Patent and Registration Office. I’ll talk about that in another post.

 

Take care!
/Zebbe

Delayed again 21

Hello again,

 

Sorry for the long absence. School was rather hectic in both December and January. It still is. Hope you all had a great holiday and was able to rest up and spend time with your loved ones. I sure did. Which is the reason the game is delayed until tomorrow. Sorry about that!

 

We had a very interesting course in school in December. It was about game design, and our assigment, as a group of six, was to make a board game. We could borrow art from other places. Other than that, we had to make a board, print rules and make sure all game pieces were included with the game. We had 2½ weeks on it, and only a few lectures here and there.

Our group had some problems. First, we couldn’t decide what kind of game to do. We initially tried to make a board game version of Playerunknown’s Battleground, and made a paper prototype of it. But it didn’t work. Also, around half the group was sick most of the time. So with only 1½ week left, I came up with an small scoped idea, a simple “move from beginning to end” game with pick up cards.

IMG_20171219_170334.jpg

The team, or at least what was left of it, liked it so we proceeded and we named it “Powerglass”. The setting was time travel and the gameplay centered around moving both forward and backward in time and on the board with time cards. These ranged from 6 to minus 3 and were used once per round. You also had your pick up cards which you could use for various occasions, such as preventing yourself going into a timewarp which teleport you back in time, or prevent an opponent from using a +6 time card. There were also some places on the board which triggered event cards, which could be either good or bad.

IMG_20171219_133200.jpg

On this game, I designed most of the gameplay and wrote the flavor text on the cards. I aimed to make funny cards with non-sensical events, such as viking ships with turbo engines made by Russian scientists, leather shields blocking any attack and meta humour about our school. One team mate made the board, another one made the card design (based on Magic The Gathering). We were very satisfied with the result and it seemed like the jury liked it as well. In hindsight, we should have tested the game more, because it was a bit unbalanced with too many negative time cards for example. With half the team sick, it was hard to manage that though. We have not yet been graded for the game, however. I hope we get a good grade.

IMG_20171219_133119.jpg

 

For the project, I have done a lot since last time, but am too tired to count it all. Let’s just say I finished most of the sprites and have now moved on to animations. I am also working on a cutscene which takes FOREVER! Hopefully, it is done tomorrow.

 

Take care,

 

/Zebbe

 

Delayed again 20

Hi again!

 

The project has to be delayed because school is still quite intense and also because of Cuphead. However, Yule break is coming soon, so hopefully the game can be released tomorrow.

 

About school. Since last time, I’ve had a course in level design. It was really interesting and I learnt a lot about things which seem so obvious but are important to plan carefully, such as level pacing. In the course, I wrote two analyzes on levels in Rocket Knight Adventure and Contra: Hard Corps. Maybe I’ll post them sometime if I have nothing more to show.

 

header.jpg

The main part of the level design course was to make a level in the game Skylar and Plux: Adventure on Clover Island. It’s a 3D platformer in the vein of Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie etc. It’s about a mute cat and an obnoxious bird who are to save an island of Moomin trolls from an evil TV (or something like that). Since the protagonist is a cat, this might be something for you if you’ve got the furry thing going on. Prior to the course, I bought the game on Steam and later beat it. It’s actually very enjoyable, with nice graphics and sound, fun and varied gameplay with lots of cool gimmicks and I actually liked the narrative as well. It’s not the longest game around and it could definitely be polished a bit, but it’s well worth the few pennies it demands.

 

Now, onto the level then. We were supposed to make a DLC level for the game, with a set theme, a beginning and an end. The best level of the class would be awarded to be the DLC level. I got only the “approved” grade (you can also get the grades “not approved” and “very approved” – a lame three grade system typical of this socialist swamp I’m living in), so my level definitely won’t be selected to be DLC, but whatever.

 

The level was like the rest of the game made in Unreal Engine. Unfortunately, we had some technical problems due to a bug in it, which happened because the current Unreal Engine can’t handle a game which was made in an older version. But I still managed to make a level, and also made a level design document.

 

Like most times, I decided to underscope, because if I do the opposite I will just fail hard, something I’ve learned from experience. So my idea was to just take the combat of the game and put in a new light, in this case sneaking. The base game had mostly head-on combat situations, so I wanted to explore if they could be approached differently. I made two paths on the level, one where the player could sneak up on the enemies and attack them from positions which increase the chance of defeating them, and another one which is more head-on. The former is a bit longer and slower, while the latter is quicker and more risky.

Below, you can see the sneak path in one of the areas. It uses the set-piece, a protecting watch-spot I built myself with the assets available. It’s intent is to let the player take cover behind the glass while planning out a strategy to use against the many enemies. Excuse the lighting on the photos by the way, I had some technical troubles with it and didn’t build it before grabbing the screens.

unnamed (3).png

 

Here is the head-on path on one of the most intense parts. It is actually more interesting when you take the sneak path, because then the missile launcher you see on the left will shoot the four yellow gatling gunners just to the right of the furry. And thus, the player will have the work made for him/her by that enemy.

unnamed (7).png

 

Here are the pacing charts I made for the levels. As you can see, it’s a bit higher on the head-on path.

unnamed (2).png

unnamed (1).png

And here is a map of the level. Made in M$ Paint of course. I’ll never stop using that program. NEVER!

unnamed.png

All in all, level design was a very fun course. Despite the shitty grade, I hope to specialize in this field next year and aim to work on something like it when I finish school.

 

About the project. Since the last blog post, I have made 3 monsters (all with one variation) and 1 tileset (also with a variation, linked to those three monsters, you’ll see). I’ve also taken two big new steps: I registered the trademark of the name of my upcoming company and the game. Lastly, I have spent many hours catching free to use (and some paid for) sound effects. They are samples, mainly for story events of the game, and quite plenty.

One more thing: I started reading the book Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell. It, and quite a few lectures I’ve had in school, has helped me re-design my project a bit to make it even better. Maybe I’ll mention it more in a future blog post. Anyway, I definitely recommend that book if you aim to be or already are a game designer! It gives a great understanding on what games are about.

 

Until next time, take care!

/Zebbe

Delayed again 19

Hi!

 

Unfortunately, the game has to be delayed until tomorrow because I had a QA course in school which took a lot of time. Sorry about that!

 

About that QA course. It lasted two weeks and was held by Paradox Interactive, which is a Swedish video game publisher. The game we tested was the already released DLC Bastard’s Wound for the RPG called Tyranny by the American company Obsidian. Since the game was released quite recently, the developers might make a patch with fixes of the bugs the class found. But it is not certain.

 

 

The bug report worked like this. The first week we divided into teams and in the teams we selected different tasks to focus on while we play-tested the game. Then we reported bugs to a closed reporting site of Paradox. The issues were divided into types, such as “suggestions”, “bugs”, “balancing” etc. And then divided into severity, such as “blocker”, “critical”, “minor issue” etc. Then we wrote a headline, which shortly described the bug, and then a text which described it in more detail. If possible, a list of steps to reproduce it was then also written. Lastly, we added photos, video and/or a save file which showed the bug. The QA manager would then comment on most bugs reported.

 

The second week, the team wrote a full report, giving a hard fail, soft fail, soft pass or clear pass verdict to the game. Each different part of the game got a verdict, such as quests (scripting, text etc.), areas (graphics) and performance. Our verdict landed on clear pass, because although we found many bugs, most of them belonged to the base game and not the DLC we were supposed to test. We also had a separate document where we wrote our subjective feedback on the game. And here is mine.

 

First off, I need to throw in two saving clauses. I haven’t played many western RPGs of this type. Mostly a few Gauntlet games and Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun on my beloved Mega Drive. I greatly prefer Japanese RPGs. And we really had to jump quite straight into the DLC using old saves, skipping most of the tutorials held in the beginning of the base game. This may have not been the most optimal way to learn testing, but then again it should bring some understanding to how chaotic the game development business may be, and that you may not always work on what you want to do.

Here is what I wrote for the subjective feedback part, though most of it was cut in the end:

 

I was really impressed with the amount of content the writers have provided the game. It felt overwhelming at first and like a steep uphill slope (especially combined with all the gameplay mechanics you have to learn), but once I got into the game more it grew on me. There are so many subplots and NPCs with their own backstories, all combined into a world which actually feels living. I have to admit I don’t like to be the bad guy, but I would also like to give credit for this unique story set-up. I think I would have preferred if one of the factions (Disfavored or Scarlet Chorus) was more “good” and the other one more “evil”. I realize this isn’t what the game intends to do, but to me, as it is now, I don’t feel any real motivation to side with either faction. It felt quite messy to be able to select options all the time which gave or didn’t give benefit to those factions. They all lead to the same endings anyway. Had a distinction been if you killed people left and right (which gives you advantage in battle) versus diplomacy (which gives you advantage in dialogues), the choice between factions would have been more interesting. Then again, I guess that kind of system is probably done to death in this genre I’m not too familiar with already.

  The writing of the game is detailed and rich, perhaps it even goes overboard with this sometimes. I guess the dark setting didn’t leave much room for humour, but the writers still managed to include some without making it feel unfitting. I’m thinking of the harsh insults (often with sexual overtones) shared between the various characters, giving me some good laughs.

 

The graphics

The graphics are a mixed bag. Looking at things individually, most of them look quite good. But when you put everything together in a complete context, the overall impression is far worse. The reason is there seems to be a lack of art direction and consistency in style. Starting to look at the setting, the developers have stated the world of Tyranny is progressing from the bronze age to the iron age. But the architectural technology feels way too advanced to take place at such an age. Just look at Vendrien’s Well – a massive tower with such complex shapes couldn’t possibly exist at a time where mankind was limited to the extraction of iron ore. With that said, I would prefer if a greater variety of weapons and armours existed along such architectural technology, rather than simplifying the buildings of the world to fit an iron age setting.

  Another problem of consistency is the mix of 2D and 3D art. The backgrounds seem to be pre-rendered 3D art converted to 2D tiles (I might be wrong here, if so, bare with me). And the characters look like actual 3D models. They are mostly gritty and dark, which is just fine and how it should be since it fits the setting and story. An exception worthy of mention are the hair colours of the 3D models, which often have manga style colours such as pink – it goes without saying it doesn’t belong here. The 2D art, handpainted portraits and cutscenes, don’t fit with the gritty setting at all. The portraits look like they are directly lifted from another game, being so colourful, soft and detailed. They give a bad contrast to the too simple looking 3D models. And much worse are the cutscene graphics. They are simple looking, but not in the same way as the 3D models, instead they look like cardboard cutouts. The artstyle is again different to the 3D models and the portraits, and so are the colours, which are way too vivid. Overall, the cutscene style makes it feel like they belong in a Disney movie like Mulan, not in a dark, fantasy RPG for adults.

  I would have had CG rendered cutscenes using the same type of 3D models as used in game for cutscenes (I realize that is probably not a feasible option though, as it would have been way more expensive than simple 2D images with barely any animations). For portraits, the same 3D models could have been used as well, or hand-drawn portraits more similar in style to the in-game models.

  Some thoughts on each part of the graphics (judging them individually for quality, out of context):

  • Backgrounds: These are great for the most part. Lots of detail and variation. The high resolution gives a clean look. One thing I didn’t like was a bridge, which looks really out of place. Low on detail, too bright to be in this dark area. It looks like a 2D artist drew it and slapped it in at the last minute. 
  • Animations: They are good. I really like that many NPCs are doing something and don’t just stand still. Sometimes, text describes actions NPCs are doing, but they don’t happen with animation on the 3D model. I guess I can oversee that, though it breaks the rule “play, don’t tell”. In battle, everything feels fluid and moves nicely.
  • Effects: I like the effects. Well drawn, animated and fitting their descriptions. There was an area support spell which was very clear by having an outline which showed where it gave effect. I like when graphics guide the player like that and not just show off from an aesthetic standpoint.
  • UI and icons: I had some issues in locating characters on screen when the battles were paused in the middle of spell effects. I think stronger visibility and clearer animations of icons when you hover over characters could have solved this issue.
  • Characters (in-game): They look too generic. It often feels as if there is a base model, which all others are edits of. A tattoo, a beard and the haircut is all that differs for the head, the actual face often looks the same. In dialogues, you often see the characters in full body next to the dialogue box, doing body language gestures. I would much have preferred a close-up of the face with face expressions, as face expressions tell me much more than, say, a finger pointed at me.
  • Portraits: I really like these, as they are detailed, varied, plenty and well drawn. Nice shading and lighting, great use of colour. Too bad this style doesn’t fit with the rest of the game, but that’s another issue mentioned elsewhere.
  • Cutscenes: These didn’t appeal to me at all, looking very simple, low budget and, to be frank, ugly. The use of scaling, lighting and wave effects to “simulate” animation is a cheap trick seen far too often.

 

Sound

Music

I’m sorry, but I really didn’t like the music at all. Being some mishmash of classical and ambient styles in a slow tempo with a dark and depressive feel to it, I cannot deny it suits the game, but I still got a feeling it was outsourced and just slapped onto it. I was really bored with the slow tempo and lack of melodies. The amount of themes aren’t that many either, which makes it too repetitive. I would really have liked a few more battle themes, and something more uptempo to bring a more intensive feel to the battles.

 

Voice overs

The voice actors do a decent job, all things considered. It often felt like they were overacting, but that’s OK (much better than underacting). The voice actors most often speak in a very relaxed, story telling type manner, which may not fit the plot, but I can overlook this since it can help the game feel a bit more balanced in its feel, i.e. not completely dark. The one-liners in battle are quite cheesy, but that’s OK and probably unavoidable. One thing which really annoyed me was that the voice overs get interrupted by auto-pauses in battle. 

 

Effects

I didn’t think much about them, but I think they sound fitting and “realistic” (where they can be).

 

Gameplay

This one is hard to judge because of two main reasons. First, I haven’t played more than a handful western RPGs, so knowing what to expect and not in this genre isn’t my thing. Second, since we were supposed to focus on the Bastard’s Wound DLC, we had to skip most of the base game tutorials and move ahead ASAP. This meant it took a bit of time to learn the game mechanics by experiencing them yourself and not by the game showing them to you in a set order. With these saving clauses in mind, I’ll share my thoughts on the most critical part of the game.

 

What struck me at first was the complexity of the gameplay system. There are so many features, so many things you can customize and choices you can make throughout the game. Again, it’s overwhelming. It often felt like it was overdone, as if the complexity was there for just for the sake of it. For example, I picked up countless weapons and armours during my testrun of the game. I checked the inventory and carefully compared each item with what I had equipped. But no item gave any significant benefit for being equipped instead of those I already had.

  One feature was illogical and that is reputations giving you skills in battle. For example, why would you learn how to frighten your enemies when Critically Hitting them just because you did some favors for the Unbroken? Is someone in the Unbroken teaching you this skill? I salute the effort of tying in the gameplay with the story, but things just don’t work this way. A similar issue, was a character gaining a point in Dodge after a quest dialogue was finished. It would be more logical if that happened after a battle, and that you gain Subterfuge after dialogue instead.

 

Despite the huge learning curve and these issues, I find the game impressively complete and enjoyable to play once you get the hang of it. One commendable thing is how informative the game is, and never tries to make it hard for the player to find information. A few examples are the right clickable names in dialogues and moves in battle.

  The game has great replayability thanks to the many customization options and branching plot paths (as well as the many dialogue options) available.

  After trying a few auto-pause options, I finally figured out what fit my playstyle best and started to enjoy the battles. I just wished there were more quick battles instead of just a few long ones. But I guess that would be more to the style of Japanese RPGs I play a lot.

 

The DLC succeeds in what it sets out to do. It gives the overall experience of the base game more meat on the bones, explaining what happens to people when they become refugees, bringing more back story to PCs and manages to integrate itself into the main game without feeling like an afterthought.

 

I had a lot of negative feedback to give in all areas, but a lot of it probably comes from this game not being my type of genre. Still, I really think the game is impressive for how much content and many options it gives the player. Tyranny: Bastard’s Wound has a lot of quality in all areas as well, so my subjective verdict is that it’s a good game worthy of a purchase for fans of the genre, but not newcomers to it.

 

There you have it! It was a fun course. Having had some QA done on Pier Solar prior to this, using a similar reporting system, I got into it quite fast (though not the game itself, as stated before). Perhaps I’ll end up as a QA tester when my education is done, but hopefully not, as I hope to do something more creative. Such as level design. The level design course begins on Monday!

 

About the project. Since the last update, I have made 2/3 of a boss sprite, started on a tileset, 1 enemy, 3 other sprites, updates to old sprites and tilesets which needed them and started work on the last enemies of the game. I should be done tomorrow!

 

Until then, take care!

 

/Zebbe

Delayed again 18

Hi!

Another month has passed, and the game still isn’t out. It’s because I worked on the first game project in school, and we actually finished it in two weeks! Wow! The mission was to make a multiplayer sports game which combined two sports. Me, three other designers and five graphic artists decided to mix golf with dodgeball.

I worked mostly on the UI and did some other things, like the random spawning of the powerup.

Here is the trailer:

 

The seven other teams of my and the 3D class made games based on sumo wrestling combined with archery, racing combined with spear throwing and many other crazy concepts.

 

About my project. It has to be delayed until tomorrow, because I haven’t eaten any dinner yet and it’s over 10 PM. But since the last update, I have made 7 sprites, 2 tileset variations (just a few tiles removed and some new added), 1 portrait and a pixel art version of the logo for my upcoming company. Right now, I’m working on another sprite, actually the final boss!

 

Until next time!

 

Take care!

 

/Zebbe

Delayed again 16

Hi!

Due to me marathon watching the first six seasons of Game of Thrones (and those episodes which have been released of the seventh), the game has to be delayed until tomorrow. Sorry about that! By the way, Game of Thrones is awesome, you should watch it if you don’t.

But on the plus side, I have completed three enemies and the graphics pack I was talking about. Graphic packs are a PITA to work on sometimes, but when I’m done with one of them, it feels like this:

 

Since it’s been so long since the last blog, I’ll be extra generous today and post not one, but TWO tiles from the last graphics pack (tileset). Enjoy!

 

Stick.png

Yes, it’s a wooden stick. You can find plenty of those in forests, such as those in the game. It’s made of two 16×16 pixel tiles.

 

In a few weeks, school starts. Wish me luck. But first, the game release tomorrow! Stay tuned!

 

Winter is coming!

 

Take care,

/Zebbe

Delayed again 15

Hi!

 

Due to me slacking off at vacation, the game has to be delayed until tomorrow. Sorry about that! At least the vacation ends in two days, so I have even less time to work on the game.

 

Wait – scratch that! I haven’t been slacking off. In fact, I’ve worked on the title screen for several weeks. And it is finally finished. It will be something special. Maybe not as technically impressive as the title screen of Vectorman, or as timely animated as Chuck Rock, but it will really present the game in the most uniting way possible. I’ll show you when the game is done.

Other than that, I have also worked a bit on weapon animations while riding the bus or subway train.

 

Now I need to continue doing tilesets. There aren’t very many left, just a few more than half actually, and some are variations with mostly the same tiles as others. I start all tilesets by planning what I need to have in them. Then I make the palettes. And after that I start drawing, usually editing the palettes and adding stuff needed in the tileset, as work goes on. Here are the palettes of the tileset I am about to start drawing:

Palette.png

Each row is for one of the two background layers. As you can see, the most left colour is the same pink on both rows. This is the colour for transparency, which is necessary if you want to draw tiles which aren’t 16×16 pixels of full colour. Another thing to note is that there are no greyscale or blue tones in these palettes. But that’s OK, as those colours can be found in the main sprite palette, and the Mega Drive is so great it can use any palette for either sprites or background tiles.

 

On another note, I have slowly started to plan another project. Crazy, I know, as I already have this project and am about to start school. But I couldn’t help it, as the ideas ran into my head, so I needed to type them down. For this project, I want to create a dungeon crawler set in a high fantasy world, with epic story telling and its mythology based on the Nordic one. My love for Shining in the Darkness has spurred me into this, but I assure you this project will have enough differences to stand on its own. Perhaps I’ll tell more about this in a future post. I probably will, come to think of it, after tomorrow’s release.

 

See you and take care!

/Zebbe