Captain’s Log 0210101.073: Old Dogs and New Tricks

Lad’s and lasses, it is time to begin again!

Downloaded the repo for the first time in four years, and I’m looking it over. At the moment I haven’t touched Unity, as the Unity version in use is really old, and if we upgrade (and I hope we upgrade!) I want that to be the decision (and problem) of the team’s code monkey.

He did not give me a time frame other than January, which has a whole month’s worth of days, so I don’t know if work on the project is going to start on the other end today, or in one month. But there’s a bunch of stuff I can do in the mean time. I’ve improved significantly as both an artist and an animator in the last 4 years. I have better, more potent tools now than I did then.

At the moment I’m just going through the art, figuring out what the heck I was doing, reorganizing it, and tidying it up. I also need to re-learn Spriter.

Krag Vargenstone is an interesting sort of a thing for me. It’s a fantastic opportunity to make friends with people who want to make un-woke games. The last time I made it, it fell at a particularly unfortuitous time of my life: I was dealing with some nasty medication side effects, and I was preparing to leave my home state to help with some drama with my in-laws. Now, I no-longer need the medication that was causing the side-effects, and I am back among my own family.

Meanwhile, in my own projects…

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Merry Christmas to you all

I’m up and the progeny is up. But the rest of the house would like to sleep, thank you very much. So I’m going to ramble a bit about what I’m up to while the offspring plays quietly with some stocking stuffers.

Hah! Just kidding. The kid ditched the stocking stuffer almost immediately for crayons and paper, because the kid is my kid.

Previously, in this space, I mentioned “rebuilding Final Fantasy using Piqha.” I did a ton of Piqha sketches to try and provide myself with six decent designs to use for the classic FF classes, and decided on these ones:

Fighter, Monk, Theif, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage. Since the white mage is supposed to be D&D cleric with the trademark information scrubbed off and any references to religion artfully removed, I cranked it all the way back: my healing class is not only a cleric, but a Christian. Similarly, while the Final Fantasy red mage went on to become its own thing, it’s fairly clear that in the first game it was a reference to the D&D ranger, so I went with one of two wilderness scout looking guys.

And hey, let’s make the wizard actually look like someone messing with dark forces, then.

Anyhow, my thought process is: if I take Final Fantasy, fix the plot holes, replace the characters with similar characters from my tool bag, and alter the plot to fit the characters, at the end of the day I’ll have something similar enough to Final Fantasy to fall into the healthy reference zone, and different enough to be its own creature.

For instance, Final Fantasy I centers on a time loop. The first guy you beat is also the final boss. Except he went back in time, and you have to go back in time to fight him. Except that has pretty much no effect on the rest of the game. It’s just sort of there.

Okay. Why not make the time travel thing present throughout? Piqha are a race of genetically engineered starship components. When they live in a fantasy setting, it’s because a ship crashed, and the little gremlins in the walls of the ship built civilization on the shipwreck. What if four piqha, Our Heroes, are on a ship that is crashing because of some kind of time vortex, they get launched into the distant future, and getting back to their own time is their whole objective?

Anyway, this year I drew pictures for Christmas for my family members, as is my custom, and because I have piqha on the brain, they’re all piqha.

They aren’t exactly concept art, but they aren’t exactly not concept art either (each piqha picture was designed with the recipient rather than the needs of my stories in mind). For example, I haven’t even decided whether mer-piqha are a thing. There’s no reason why they can’t be, but there’s no reason why they must be either. But one of my family members likes mermaids, and I have piqha on the brain, so mer-piqha it is.

But I have a celebration tomorrow with a white elephant gift exchange, so I thought, why not straight up make concept art, frame it, and hand it out? So here’s our four Heroes of Light in their spaceship:

Since I have four, I decided to name them Tsi, Em, Wye, and Kay, respectively, after the colors of printer ink.

“But what about the character classes?”

Ideally, I’d make a custom version of each class for each character. In practice, I’m going to start with reusing the same graphics for each class, but doing a recolor for the character, and if I have time in the polish phase I’ll get more fancy than that.

Of course, this raises other problems. If Em is a girl, she can’t very well be a Christian Cleric. If I want to say, “well, suppose she’s a nun, and while that’s a very different set of powers in real life, there can be overlap in game mechanics,” then what is her equivalent to a warrior monk?

I could just say, “they’re all boys; deal with it.” It would be a pretty good selling point. It might make social justice types mad enough to advertise my game. Bands of Brothers are under attack by the forces of evil, and pushing back is a noble cause.

But on the flip side, I want the four elemental fiends to be analogues for the heroes, to be “this is you in a hundred years if you turn evil”, and in Final Fantasy at least, one of the elemental fiends is definitely female.

So here is a puzzle. I do not suffer a woman to be a Christian priest, even in science fantasy, but I want one of the character’s direct analogues to be female and I want all four characters to be allowed all six classes.

I don’t have a solution yet. My best solution is probably to make Em male, and make the Kary/Marilth analogue male as well, but it’s going to be months, possibly more than a year, before I actually have to make my call. So I’m not going to stress over it. If a better solution exists, it will present itself in that time.

In the mean while, I’m going to continue developing the concept art along the current lines. After all, it’s not final art. It’s just a white elephant gift for a small party.

Captain’s Log: 0201218.073

So far, we’re up to 40 pages storyboarded, and begun on the next 2. It’s not great, but it’s constant forward momentum, which is all we need to finish the job. Well, that and the grace of God.

The focus on Genesis-to-Revelation overview of history with Christ at the center means that the Gospel of Mark is basically my go-to source. He’s got the action-packed supernatural showdown emphasis I am aiming for. But obviously, I’m pulling stuff in from Luke, and from anywhere else I find useful.

Awright. Yesterday was, in general, a good day, despite a town-trip eating half the day I got most of my chores done, four pages of storyboard AND a bunch of work on my Licensed RPG. WordPress was down, so I live-tweeted the process.

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An Adventure?

Let me show you my conspiracy corkboard for a moment:

This is not meant to be exhaustive or definitive. I’m not saying Final Fantasy is a ripoff of Dragon Quest. Nor am I saying Kings Quest is the only ancestor of Day of the Tentacle.

Rather, I’m trying to get a big picture of the flow of design of four related genres, Adventure, CRPG, JRPG, and Visual Novel, using icons or touchstones of points in that flow.

I want to make a game engine that is targeted at solving problems that every game on the bottom row has solved. I am interested in knowing how they approached them, why they made those choices (which, in turn requires me to check out what previous games influenced them), and from this divine how I would like to solve those same problems and why.

The green stars are of particular interest to me for one reason or another, though I think I’d move the one behind Torin’s Passage over to Day of the Tentacle. There are other games that hold a particular interest to me, though, that are not on this map: Pok√©mon, Penny Arcade 3: Rain Slick Precipice of Destiny, Action Adventures like Breath of the Wild, and Harvest Moon/Stardew Valley spring to mind. Also, The Magic Candle.

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What is the 8 Lives Left to Licensed RPG?

Breath of the Gameboy was at one point my dream game: a game that combines the open world and chemistry system sensibilities of Breath of the Wild with the tighter mechanics of Link’s Awakening.

Here’s a mockup someone did for Reddit.

Obviously, not 100% identical, and not using Nintendo’s precious properties or graphics. But a rough idea.

That’s a 10 year game or more, especially for one guy. So I pondered how to break it down into smaller pieces. The idea was, if I made each piece a game, that game could fund the next piece, and then the next, until the final product was finished.

My best plan was 8 Lives Left. It’s a good product plan. Just the combat system. You are a cat who has been murdered, and you decide to use your remaining 8 lives to get revenge. Like John Wick, only you are simultaneously John Wick and his dog.

These projects are not currently under development. I like them; I don’t like them enough to devote years of my life to them. I bring them up because a very sensible way to undertake a big project is to turn it into little projects. A great way to make a big game is to make part of that game into a small game.

So what’s the 8 Lives Left to my Licensed RPG?

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Methinks I should try something new.

Yeah, I think I’ve used this pose a little too obsessively lately.

Oh well. The pic of Jenny (the rabbit) was only meant to be concept art anyhow. It’ll do.

But on the bright side, I finished the promo picture for Candy Raid!

… dang it!

Hopefully, I’m done with Candy Raid for the foreseeable future. Now, I can focus on the more excellent work of finishing the Awesome Moments storyboard, all the while wishing I was making my RPG instead.

No.

RPG Menu Notes

Here’s notes from several videos, indicating stuff I want to do or try. Rather than link to each video, let alone an embed, let me shout out EngiGames and Jason Weiman.

  • I want to stick my interface in a separate scene. This is contraindicated by EngiGames for small games, but for my RPG, I think it makes sense to have it be its own thing that sits over the top of everything else going on.
    • using UnityEngine.SceneManagement;
    • if (SceneManager.GetSceneByName("UI").IsLoaded == false) SceneManager.LoadSceneAsync("UI", LoadSceneMode.Additive);
  • Consider, instead, having the menu call Don'tDestroyOnLoad() and then swapping immediately to a gameplay scene, rather than monkeying around with additive scenes, though.
  • If I don’t want to hook up events to buttons using the Unity Button delegates, I can create scripts that handle the button directly. E.g.
    • // In Start(), using UnityEngine.UI...
    • button = GetComponent<Button>();
    • button.onClick.AddListener(YourClickFunctionHere);
  • Obviously, I’ll want to be able to grab an instance of some access point to my menu from any other scene. I should be aware that just putting a reference in a public static field in Awake() is considered a Very Bad Plan. This is because it is a sloppy singleton that doesn’t do the first part of a singleton’s job — ensure that one, and only one instance of the class exists. This video details a singleton generic that will allow you to turn a Monobehavior into a proper singleton merely by inheriting from it.
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RPG Shenans…

I spent some time trying to make this…

And got about this far:

Not bad, not bad. But my brain seized up when it came time to make characters and attacks selectable. I’ve been trying to avoid a classic menu system like this:

Reason is, it’s redundant and cluttered. Why have a button for each character when you can just click on the character directly?

For some reason, though, my brain gets to the point of “Okay, now it’s time to make it possible to select a character when he’s ready,” and freezes. “I dunno how!” it complains.

If I use big ol’ screen cluttering buttons, I can let Unity handle the input entirely and worry about the game mechanics.

There’s nothing wrong with a buttony interface for a turn based RPG. Darkest Dungeon lays out a status panel along the bottom half of the widescreen, and it suits the sideways perspective, which I also intend to use for my games:

Very dark, Darkest Dungeon is.

In fact, I’d be well advised to copy the general idea. Not the exact layout, but the concept of presenting a console underneath a side-scrolling view.

Not exactly like this, either, but I’m short on time and it gets the idea across.

This allows me to make the character graphics bigger and more beautiful. If I want to include tactical formation mechanics (e.g. back row takes less damage; front row deals more damage) it feels more natural. Etcetera, etcetera.

Anyway, I got big ol’ farm chores to handle with my brother today. No time for game dev or any other task. For what’s left of November, I need to make some promo graphics for an old project, and then in December our prime focus is on Awesome Moments 1. But, each day, if I get my allotment done, I think I’m going to work on my RPG, because I can’t let go of the idea of making vidya.

Update

Here’s a layout concept more or less directly inspired by Darkest Dungeon. It differs on a couple of key points:

  1. The stats and arrangement of stats are different because the underlying mechanics are different.
  2. I don’t pack nearly as much stuff in. This is because:
    1. I don’t have as many things I’m trying to pack into that space yet, and…
    2. Even though my primary target will always be PC, I have console and mobile in mind, and I want the game to be easy to read on a tiny screen or from across the room.

I think this is better than what I’ve come up with so far, but I think I can do even better with some thought.

Let’s make it a new blog post.

To Everything, turn, turn, turn…

The contentions of this video are twofold:

  1. Choosing a theme is superior to making a resolution. This is because when presented with a fork in the road, it is easier to choose the branch in keeping with your theme than it is to force yourself to take the branch you resolved to take, whether it is there or not.
  2. Consider instead of choosing a theme for a year (or a resolution for a year) choosing a theme for a season. E.g. instead of “I will do 30 pushups a day”, prefer, “this will be the Winter of pushups!” or better yet “the winter of Health!”

I take a definite interest in self-improvement as I fall short on a number of fronts. Fortunate man I, Christ has suffered and died for my many evils. But I still want to better myself for a number of reasons. First of them is: it is good to be good. But more importantly, the better a man I am, the better it is for those I claim to love.

My habit has been making monthly goals, not yearly resolutions nor seasonal themes. And the system has been fruitful, but not as fruitful as I think is possible. I don’t know whether “seasonal themes” is the answer. Right now, I have taken ill and am preparing for sleep, and lack the mental firepower to usefully analyze it. But I have a notion it is more in tune with my natural rhythms, simply because my one-month projects always manage to expand to 3 months. And I wanted to note it down so I can look into it tomorrow, or whenever I am awake and my mind is clear.