The navigation is done via the A* project, which in turn, feeds commands to the virtual pad…
Which is *not* how I did it before. Before, I just made the character walk in the direction you clicked, oblivious to any obstacles, and then the virtual pad fed commands to the “click on the ground” components.
What this means is I can reuse my old code for clicking on objects and creating dialogue, etcetera, but I’m going to need to tweak it to play nice with the completely revamped navigation system.
It should be easyish. But I’m having trouble getting started. Maybe because it should be easyish. I may push it eventually, but I spent yesterday getting the pathfinding up, usually a day off, and I only have a couple of hours before I need to clean up and head to my day job for orientation. So I’m letting go of making more progress on the game today for the moment while I get some thoughts down.
Also, I drew this last night. So let it not be said I have not made progress:
Sometimes I consider making a picture book that is just that: pictures. No words. But that is neither here nor there.
So, here’s kind of the oldest “official” art of Wren. I say kind of, because older drawings exist, but they don’t survive.
Wren was created because I needed a lone wolf wanderer to explore a setting I had just devised by extrapolating from earlier stories I had told my siblings. The last set of stories I’d worked on with a lone-wolf wanderer had starred a reformed supervillain dude, so I wanted to change things up, make it a girl with zero tragedy in her backstory.
Wren canonically is a privateer. She got a scholarship to mystic knight school because she was competent and tiny (mystic knight armor is more powerful on small people because it has to devote less energy to covering them. Kinda like tiny people being sought out as jockeys in the real world). But she dropped out of mystic knight school. Her outfit was designed in the story to be pragmatic and something you might see on a wizard/pirate. In the stories, I didn’t get too specific. Boots. Belt pouches for holding her Aether Arts (which are stored as crystals). A couple of knives forged by her crippled brother. A bucklet, which is a glove designed for wizardry.
When I got around to drawing it, I of course went the exposed navel route because I was single and lonely. I am no longer single and lonely, but there it is.
The first time I converted Wren to pixel art sprite form, this happened:
All the details make it into the sprite. But it’s too much. It’s confusing and disjointed. Her jacket looks like it could be pauldrons or, you know, Cap’n Cruch cereal boxes glued to her upper arm. It’s not clear. So the character was simplified dramatically.
This outfit was significantly better to animate. Arms and legs are separated out and easy to see. It works for the same reason Mario wearing overalls works.
In my head, this was a streamlining needed for animation and because the sprite was so small. She still canonically wears the jacket. In fact, she probably wears a full on tank top rather than just a scarf around her bosom. As you can see in the first cover I made for a potential Wren book:
She’s a privateer who operates out of an airship. Well, an airboat anyway. Very steampunky. Look, I gave her goggles! The goggles aren’t in the sprite. Too much detail, make it hard to read.
Around this time, I also got it in my head that instead of making her a pair of daggers, her brother made her bucklet, and in fact, a pair of bucklets that have a built in ability to generate crystal swords. They serve the same purpose
Anyway, in the one story I wrote, Wren acquires a shevlar harness. It’s a suit capable of generating armor. Feeling less and less justified in drawing Wren as half naked, I started drawing her with the harness on instead.
In the stories, she’s not described as half naked. She’s not trying to show off her physique or attract a mate. (In the stories, she’s not even particularly attractive. She’s a 5 or maybe a 6. Mind you, she’s a 5 or maybe a 6 in a culture that isn’t morbidly obese like ours…)
She’s just out there with a houseboat hunting monsters and pirates for bounty. Presumably, since she runs her boat alone, she spends a lot of time in warmer climes wearing nothing from the waist up but a sports bra to keep her bosom from bouncing painfully as she battens hatches and trims sails, but also presumably she puts a shirt on when it get cold out or she flies to town for supplies.
When I realized I wanted to make a Wren RPG, I defaulted to the sprite-based design, though. For two reasons: I enjoy drawing half naked women, (who doesn’t?) and again, it’s well optimized for animation.
But, slowly building up was something of a crisis of conscience. I’m not trying to appeal to the coomers. Frankly, I don’t need to: if a Wren-based RPG takes off, they’ll generate their own art without my help. Also, I wanted the design to be fundamentally true to the character.
Wren is not discount Shantae. She doesn’t exist to be shameless. She exists to be a wandering do-gooder loner. I’ve focused on her because I like drawing her and my wife wants more stories about her and she is well suited to the micro RPGs I want to make. It’s kind of a perfect storm.
Sexiness in character design is also a bit of a tricky subject for me. I grew up Baptist (don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with girls who do), but I’m not Baptist anymore. My current theology regards the old, ’80s Baptist prudery (Whoa! She’s showing navel!) as legalism worse than Rome’s, because in Rome you can actually get absolution. Indeed, we should not lust nor inflame lust, per the Sixth Commandment. But if putting sexy characters in stories is only and always violating the Sixth, then putting badass characters in stories is only and always violating the Fifth.
Add on top of this the fact that the Social Justice religion has turned to prudery that would make a Puritan blink, and I don’t want to de-sexyify Wren. I want to spit in the eye of my ideological enemies, as long as I can do so at no expense to the story.
And then, making a JRPG with navel in it is a good way to get retweeted by Mark Kern. I probably should ignore that, but can I?
Yesterday, I had to go sell jam at market, and my crisis of conscience reached a head. By the time I got home I was resolved to redesign Wren. I decided my chief guiding light would be character itself. I needed to find an outfit that was true to the character, but still optimized for animation.
I tried just making her wrap a tank top.
It didn’t feel right. I considered that Wren must spend 90% of her time on an airship, working and living by herself. I considered that Wren, often as she faces human foes, faces therians, with power levels that make the differences between humans largely irrelevant.
And I kept coming back to this sprite:
She’s got a pugilist look. Lady boxer kind of thing going.
The design works. It’s consistent. It makes sense. But does it make sense for Wren?
Let me consider the mechanics of her world. The setting is early firearms. Swords and guns and light armor are the norm. Pistols are single shot, but devastating weapons, but not much use against aether shields. However, inside towns, chaos fields are erected that repel therians and prevent the efficient use of aether arts. The average adventurer is going to favor one or two pistols, a smallsword as a sidearm, maybe a spear for genuine combat, and everything is going to be as enchanted as possible, to give him a fighting chance against wild therians.
Wren is not the average adventurer. She is a wizard in her own right, able to manipulate aether directly and to craft her own Arts. But pistols and a smallsword still kind of make sense. Pugilism kind of works anyway for her. Not as a serious tool against man and beast, but as a backbone for an energy based fighting style. Using aether to DBZ foes.
Maybe she just likes boxing.
Maybe her wizardry is optimized for use with fisticuffs because there was a boxing class in college and she took to it like a fish to water.
So, in summary:
I had a moral dilemma weighing on my mind because my character dresses too much like Shantae. I thought about it long and hard, talked it over with my wife, considered some relevant theology and…
…Decided to make her shirt two inches longer.
This may not be where the journey ends, but at the moment, this feels right. I don’t know why. It’s such a tiny change. But here we are.
Yesterday, the beta version of Aseprite 1.3 dropped for Steam users. I use Aseprite to make pixelart animations…
…and Pyxel edit to make the tiles. Pyxel Edit lets you edit a tilemap with your tiles in it that gets live-updated as you work on the tiles, allowing you to very quickly make a very functional tileset.
Now you’ll note that not everything on the screen is my tileset. I like to dedicate layers to characters and objects so I can preview how the whole thing will look together.
Well, Aseprite 1.3 added tile features. And…
… they don’t hold a candle to Pyxel Edit’s. They’re a very good start. And I like these tiles better mostly because I made them with the lessons learned from making a tileset in Pyxel. But you can’t easily flip tiles. Rearranging your tile palette changes the tile map because the tile map stores the tile indices and doesn’t change them when you monkey with your palette. Oh, and you can’t export your tileset.
I’ll repeat that. You can’t export your tileset.
You have to build the image you want to be your tileset and export that.
That’s not 100% a deal breaker. Some people would rather export an image because it is more convenient to them to have the tileset arranged a specific way.
On the other hand, Aseprite’s general pixel art tools are, for the most part, way better, and the two programs do not gracefully copy and past art to one another. There’s a huge amount of convenience in saying, “You know what, I’m tired of working on the tiles right now, I’m going to tweak that tree.
I also added a third character to the mix and discovered that Wren was too short. When compared to “normal” people in the game, she will look like a child in a bikini. Wren is not entirely human, and canonically characters do assume she’s younger than she his because of her unusual height, but it was too far. So, I fixed that.
At the end of the day I don’t know whether I’m going to stick with my current, split workflow, or switch to an all-Aseprite workflow. The pros and cons of each workflow are dancing on a razor’s edge.
So, let’s do a quick mockup on how the game might look if we use pixel art for the world, but a high definition interface:
If I’m going to put conversation on the bottom of the screen, I might want to consider pushing the world design so that the action happens higher up. The top of the screen certainly is more spacious, and a more reasonable place to put interface. If I move dialogue up there, I’ll have to change the visual metaphor for the character graphics, maybe stick the face in a box. But overall, I don’t hate the look.
I was planning on making combat menus radial, bursting out of the player when the time comes to menu, but in my mockup test, it felt right to have buttons materialize under a character’s stat bar. But I’m not decided.
I need to try it out, see what works. At this point, the next step is to give Wren a walking animation and get gameplay up and running.
I’m sad that you can arrange a palette in uneven rows in Pyxel, but not in Aseprite. Ah well.
From a business standpoint, HD art is way better than pixel art. No doubt. Customers love it more. Half the reviews you’ll get on a pixel art game boil down to “It’s not 1980 anymore, loser.”
It’s not entirely one-sided. If you are selling yourself as a retro revival, and leaning on the nostalgia button, pixel art can be a plus.
And it is more economical to produce. So, if your goal is to make a lot of games fast, or you are an indie studio, or you don’t care about sales, or you just don’t have the time or budget to do more for whatever reason, HD art may be the best corner to cut.
And this is the source of the “It’s not 1980 anymore” reviews. Gamers perceiving that they’ve gotten the budget option when they were owed the name brand.
From a personal standpoint, HD and pixel art are two different art forms, and I love them both. I want to make a hand drawn game, but I also want to make games where the hand-drawn-ness of the art doesn’t actually matter.
I mean, it matters for my bottom line. I just got an interview for a part time retail position, and I’m going to go to that interview in part because nobody buys my stuff.
But let’s eliminate the profit calculation from the equation. Profit doesn’t strongly motivate me. It would, perhaps, be better if it did. My family would be much better off. But I have tried to change this, and it will not change.
If I do not stick with it, there is no game, and if my primary calculus is profit, I will not stick with it. What then of pixel art?
Well, to me, pixel art has a drastically different connotation than HD art. HD Art is bespoke. High effort. And that means the dev team diverted resources that could have gone into making more of the game.
Pixel art says freedom, depth, and breadth to me. Breadth because you can build a bigger world out of legoes than you can simply assembling each space by hand. Depth because the game developer is more likely to let me burrow into a tile, or throw it, or set it on fire, than a pen drawing or a 3D model.
Many of my favorite franchises became hollow when they switched to HD. Once upon a time in Pokemon, you walked into a town and it had only five buildings, but each of those buildings was something. Now, in Pokemon, you walk into a town and its practically festering with architecture, but each of those structures is just a hollow plastic shell.
And because the age where pixel art is required has ended, pixel art made now has a timeless quality to it. It’s not going to be more invalidated when displays switch from 4K to 32K.
Finally, I love pixel art for the same reason I love drawing cartoons instead of drawing realistically. It speaks. It gets in, says what needs to be said with no more elaboration than is absolutely necessary. It is laconic art, therefore it is witty.
So, for context, I’m going to tell you roughly how I’m beginning to organize my life.
I keep a deck of blank, poker sized playing cards, on which I take notes. Both to-do lists, but also anything I need to remember for whatever reason.
The numbering format is WW·X | YY·Z where WW is the two digit year, X is the one digit month (A=10, B=11, C=12), YY is the two-digit day, and Z is the note. When notes follow up on each other, a series of numbers goes underneath the note ID.
At times of my choosing, I go through these notes, and rewrite them to put in my Zettelkasten. This is my permanent external memory. Cards that get copied from my journal to my Zettelkasten get cross-referenced so I can go to my monthly archive and see the context of the thought.
Well enough, but what if I need more illustration and room to write? Well, I take the comic format I developed for Bunny Trail Junction…
… and decided was too intense, and bean-ified it..
And I simply index it the same way.
So here’s a gif of the game as it sits so far:
And here are the Wren Beans I’ve collected, making this post the official stop for the Wren Valen RPG
Today’s big projects are contemplative, though I may do physical work as well. By integrating bullet journaling but on playing cards with the Zettelkasten, I have brought together a collection of lessons that have changed how I approach the question of what I should create and how, and I’m going to navel gaze about it below the fold.
Make sure the Universal Render Pipeline is installed via the Package Manager.
Create >Rendering>URP>2D Renderer
Slot the 2D Renderer into the Pipeline Asset.
Slot the Pipeline Asset into Edit>Project Settings>Graphics
Hit Edit>Render Pipeline>URP>2D Renderer>Upgrade scene or Upgrade game
Our Spriter Character is Lit. But will the lighting remain as animations switch? Well, my existing animator is designed to work not with spriter, but with Unity’s animation system, but let’s tweak it.
Awww yess baybee. I wasn’t sure it was going to work, but it works! Praise be to God!
So I can do fancy lighting shenanigans with Spriter. Theoretically, I can use my palette swapping shenanigans too, which can wait until a game is funded.
This is half the reason I ditched Spine for Spriter. Spine uses a special shader of its own in order to implement its features. But I want to be able to use Unity’s lighting and shaders. Why make an HD game if I’m not going to go all out, after all!
Got basic movement in play. Imported my action/mouse framework and got a cursor moving around on the screen as well, though that’s not in this gif.
Hilariously, even though when I took to Bullet-Journaling™ and realized I could combine techniques from Smart-Noting™, the idea to dip back into my deck and see how my current thought meshes with lessons from my past didn’t occur to me.
But last night, I started reading Not All Fairy Tales Have Happy Endings, and today I decided since I was going to consolidate my notes from that and decide how I would proceed with my Candy Raid sequel from there, I figured I might as well break out the Zettelkasten itself and see how it all worked out.
And well I did. I have learned several lessons in the past that I was ignoring. As well as several lessons I learned recently As well as several lessons I learned recently AND in the past.
Here are a handful of lessons I decided I need to be daily reminded of. Some are good advice in general, others are tailored to my specific personality and style, and are probably bad advice for people who are not very similar to me.
SAY WHY. Even to children. Even to yourself. Nobody is motivated without a WHY.
COMMIT strongly but rarely, and CUT your losses swiftly when your gut says to do so.
PROVOKE yourself to action with challenges. Race the clock. Make bets with yourself.
The correct challenge is seldom the easy one. CHOOSE the challenge with the right amount of meaning and awesomeness.
So, heck with it. I’mma make a JRPG. Not an adventure game, we’re gonna get the combat right in. And instead of tinkering with a property I’m apathetic about, I’m breaking out the Naval Navel herself, the Girl Goblin, my wife’s favorite of my past creations, Wren Valen, the Flying Privateer!
“Wait, did she magically become a redhead halfway through?”
Yes. Hollywood has decided to blackwash all the gingers, and I have decided in return to gingerwash every one of my own characters whose hair and skin color is inessential to the character. This is why John Michael Jones, who is supposed to be a bog-average boy, is a redhead instead of having brown hair.
Obviously Jump the Shark is a shark, and Sera Mermaid was already published as a blonde. Most of my characters cannot be ginger for one reason or another. But those what can, are. And Wren can.
As with all my hyper self-indulgent posts, most of my thoughts are going below the fold.
One of my deepest desires is to make a game. A game that is hand drawn. A game that looks something like this doodle:
I have, on my great big list of projects, a handful of games. An amusing element of them is there is a pattern of “Here’s this big game I want to make, and here’s this smaller game that can be a part of the big game.” 8 Lives Left is the combat system for Breath of the Gameboy. Hell, Alpha Test/Remake, a comic, is the graphics to Untitled Metroidvania.
All my internet friends are in the Church of Rome (for the most part), so when local Roman art sensation Owen Cyclops asked some questions on Twitter, I thought I might answer ’em. My official affiliation is the church of the Augsburg Confession, which is called “Lutheran” (among other churches that believe wildly different things, but are also called Lutheran), but I am a layman enthusiast and not a trained and authorized spokesman for my church, so take this with grain of salt.
I missed the granddaddy of the whole list, which I’m going to answer above the fold. The list itself, then, will be answered below the fold.
if youre christian, what convinced you to be the particular “branch” or “denomination” that you are? since ive “figured things out” ive been focusing more on my relationship with god than on this question, but im looking to take things a little further […]
I was brought up Baptist. Officially non-denominational, but as I learn more about the history of the church and its various factions, I find it was effectively Baptist. Which is the most American denomination, and I’m pretty solidly American by blood and culture, so it fits.
In college, I didn’t know what to do with my life, and so, like a moron, instead of dropping out of school before I got any debt and trying different things, I went to a non-denominational Christian school in hopes that the Holy Spirit would help sort me. While there, I got drafted into basically a local Dungeons and Dragons group that was 90% Christian. The DM was an argumentative Lutheran who would pick theological fights with my classmates.
I, myself, enjoy watching and commenting on debate, but I do not enjoy picking or defending a side. In my experience, every person on all sides of any debate has an instinct to Strawman like crazy, and I don’t see the point in talking to someone who is ideologically unable to hear the words coming out of my mouth. But sitting on the sidelines and saying, “no, I think you went too far there,” or, “oh, damn! That’s a good point,” is a useful learning technique for me.
And I learned that the Scriptures teach that Baptism saves and the bread and wine of communion are the body and blood of Christ.
At that time, I converted to the Lutheran church. I wasn’t happy about it, but they were right and I was wrong and that was that.
A few years later, though, I realized that both Rome and the Orthodox also teach this, and I hadn’t ever given them a fair shake. I began purchasing apologetics by all sides of this three-way argument.
The case between the Lutherans and the non Sola-Scriptura churches is fundamentally hard to analyze because they admit different standards of evidence. I was 70% Lutheran but 30% really undecided until very recently because of this. If a Baptist debates a Lutheran, you both have a single authority, the sacred Scriptures, to which your arguments are beholden, and you can work hard to reject the less Scriptural argument in favor of the more Scriptural argument. But when a Roman Catholic goes, “Your name is Peter and on this Rock, mic drop,” you’re in a bit of bind because by Rome’s standards of evidence, that really is a pretty good argument, but by Augsburg’s, it’s a ridiculously paltry one. When you judge which side has the better of that discussion, you are basically choosing who wins in advance.
And that’s not reason or logic. That’s raw prejudice. But the differential evidentiary standards necessitates it. All arguments between Rome and Augsburg are and, fundamentally, must be talking past each other.
All except one: Sola Scriptura itself. Since choosing the evidentiary standard effectively chooses the church, that became the topic of greatest concern to me.
(Well, not quite. If Sola Scriptura falls, I still have to pick between Rome and the East, and frankly, the East seems more likely to me, but there you are).
And that’s what I’ve been mulling over for the last couple of years. I’m now 90%/10% instead of 70%/30% on the Sola Scriptura topic. I’ve reached a point where my best option to settle it once and for all is to do a deep dive into Patristics, but I haven’t gone for that deep dive just yet. ‘Cuz Holy Cow, there’s drinking from the firehose!
A lot of stuff has come together in the last few days.
As of yesterday, KDP has approved me for a hardcover test. I’m currently uploading and tweaking files for Awesome Moments as a hardcover, which is my preferred format for that book. That is today’s “work”, though I may do other things in tinker mode.
I’m almost done with the first draft of the 3rd Jump the Shark book.
My research on ADHD for my kids’ sake has peaked, and I have become resolved to seek treatment because there are several sensible life paths I can take, where only my symptoms stop me. I am not certain, but I am leaning towards ramping up Indie games.. e.g. choosing a game I wish to make, making a fraction of it, selling that, then adding another fraction, and so on.
The conditions that allowed me to avoid a day job, or other form of gainful employment, are suddenly reaching an end. I have been given basically a year off by a combination of priorities and indecision. But that year is drawing to a close regardless of what I do.
In good news, the concept art for the new Jump book is getting rapidly more iconic.
I am not yet the creator I wish to be, but I am observably improving.
Anyway, once I get the hardcover “working”, my plan is to