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    Nathaniel3W
  Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:12 pm
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Yeah, I've learned a TON in the year since the failed Kickstarter. One of the big lessons is that custom music by a real composer makes a BIG difference in the trailer. And you have to have a decent screen recording to begin with... Assuming that the Kickstarter is a success, I'm going to need to blog about the difference between this one and the last one.

And I guess it's about time for me to plug this:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/16 ... nese-style

The Kickstarter is up! And the Kickstarter video has a different (and better too, if you can believe that) version of the song. You should go check it out if only for that.

Thanks everyone for the help you've given me, especially with the pixel art pointers. Let's hope this time goes better.

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    Nathaniel3W
  Wed Sep 28, 2016 3:17 pm
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Edit: Oh yeah, and the Kickstarter was successful too. I'm spending that down for every spritesheet and minute of music. Still not pocketing anything for my own work on the project. Hopefully I can finish the game sometime and maybe I'll even sell a few copies.

New video showing smart sprite layering, changing layer order depending on faching, choosing the right hairstyle to go with the helmet, and more sprite variety in general.



And I guess it's been a while since I've posted here. I don't think I've mentioned Kevin's recording to finish off his master's program.



So there it is. Still under development, and maybe I'll be able to finish it some day.

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    Jason
  Wed Sep 28, 2016 7:37 pm
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That song is really fucking good, if that's how the soundtrack is gonna' be, colour me interested!

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    Nathaniel3W
  Wed Sep 28, 2016 8:59 pm
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Jason wrote:
That song is really fucking good, if that's how the soundtrack is gonna' be, colour me interested!


Yeah, I know! I still can't believe how lucky I was that Kevin came across Himeko Sutori. He saw it after the failed Kickstarter, but he could see its potential. He always wanted to write music for a game like Final Fantasy Tactics and offered to compose the music if I was going to keep working on it.

He's going to keep composing more music, and he recently sent me a work in progress for the next song that's going into the game.

Unfortunately though, this will probably be the only song we get to have an orchestra record. It costs about $15,000 to book an orchestra, a recording studio, and all of the engineers for a single day. And that's for European orchestras when America has a strong dollar. Recording here in the US could cost twice as much.

So for now we're looking at synthesized music for the rest of the soundtrack. This might be overly optimistic, but if initial sales of Himeko Sutori end up being really good, then I have no problem with updating everyone to version 1.1 with a studio-recorded soundtrack.

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    Nathaniel3W
  Sun Oct 30, 2016 4:25 am
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Here is the October update video, showing some combat starring a randomly generated army:



I have most of the major sprites done, but I still need to make lots and lots of weapon sprite sheets. The game is mostly feature-complete, but I haven't started on actually building the main campaign yet. All in all though, I'd have to say I think it's coming along pretty well.

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    Nathaniel3W
  Sat Nov 26, 2016 12:00 am
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This month's update: Manual squad placement, automatic equipment optimization.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Wed Dec 28, 2016 10:11 am
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December update: menu sounds, equipment stats on mouseover, and shopkeepers.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Tue Jan 31, 2017 8:44 am
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January 2017 update: world map and a bunch of other stuff.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Sat Feb 25, 2017 8:34 pm
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February 2017 update: world map with huge enemy armies and you can see each individual character. Combat, music, and plotting the course from here.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Fri Mar 31, 2017 11:54 am
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March 2017 update: new character portraits, level-up cards, random loot, combat sound effects, and graphical improvements.


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    Necrile
  Fri Mar 31, 2017 4:01 pm
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Aside from being what looks to be a phenomenal game, I'd like to say thank you for continuing to be an inspiration for my own project. Good to see success stories like this, and I'll be sure to do a Let's Play when the full game releases :)


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    Nathaniel3W
  Fri Mar 31, 2017 4:36 pm
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Thanks Necrile. That means a lot. A couple weeks ago I took a serious beating on Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/JRPG/comments/ ... ame_got_a/), and it feels good to be back among people who have seen the progress. I started off a few years ago knowing practically nothing about any of this. And I'm glad that I can show people what can be done if you stick with it. I'm looking forward to finishing this game for you.

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    Nathaniel3W
  Sun Apr 30, 2017 4:32 pm
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And here is the latest update, showing off crafting, livelier combat, and some naked fairies:


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    Nathaniel3W
  Wed May 31, 2017 8:03 am
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Here is this month's video update showing off the alpha test campaign:

There we have some interactive NPCs, transitions from town to world map and back, combat, level-ups, new equipment, new music, new combat map, new enemies, and some new bugs. Such is gamedev.

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    Xilef
  Wed May 31, 2017 1:51 pm
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That town looks amazing. I particularly like the way the road looks, but I'm not so keen about it blending into the surrounding soft terrain. I'm very impressed, it looks like you're really getting a good look out of your chosen style.

I'm still rather distracted by your world-aligned sprites, the surrounding ambient shadows improves them loads by adding depth and the lower camera angle in the town helps. Have you tried a lower camera angle during the battles to see how that looks?


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    Nathaniel3W
  Wed May 31, 2017 3:44 pm
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Thanks for the feedback! Let me try the roads with more defined borders and we'll see how it looks.

Yeah, the sprites have been and maybe always will be a challenge. I'll keep working on it though. Maybe I can still improve it. I too like the SSAO. It adds some depth to the sprites like shadows did, but some people said that actual shadows just looked odd. I can try lowering the camera angle some more, but of course that increases the likelihood that the camera will clip into things. The world map camera changes its angle based on zoom. I think the battle camera works the same way. But I'll go work on that and see if I can get the camera angle to look better.

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    Nathaniel3W
  Sat Sep 30, 2017 6:42 am
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I'm working on a playable test campaign right now. It's going really well so far. I have a few more bugs to fix and I'd like to add some more content. But now that I have all of the building blocks in place, I think I can add content much faster.

Image

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    Nathaniel3W
  Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:06 am
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So the lower camera angle works better for the sprites, which have more of a side-on perspective. But then the camera has a tendency to collide into buildings and stuff. Everything is a trade-off I guess. I think the variable camera angle works well in exploration mode and the world map. I still need to implement it in the battle camera.

I think the battle maps could use some god-ray effects. And at night, maybe I should put in some fireflies. And of course the ground could always use a little more variation.

UE3 doesn't do true isometric camera modes, and I haven't figured out a way to draw screen-aligned sprites properly occluded by objects on the screen. I had been trying to simulate the effect with distant cameras and narrow fields of view. But with the distant camera, I saw a lot of z-fighting and other issues. However, I recently figured out how to adjust the precise-depth distance dynamically, which lets me use the precise depth much more efficiently. Maybe I should try moving the camera out even farther now that I don't have to worry about z-fighting, and that could improve the off-putting semi-world-aligned sprites.

I have some curb meshes that I could place as a boundary around the paving stones. I think it looked pretty good, but manually placing curbs is time-consuming and mind-numbing. That's one of those tasks that I think if I had a big team, I would have someone work on placing them programatically.

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    Nathaniel3W
  Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:06 am
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The latest iteration of Sunrise Falls, the starting town:
Image

When you first meet him, the girls' father is too busy to talk to you. But if you listen in on him and his guest, you'll get some information on what's going on in the world.
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Your first task involves checking out some things around town. This will get you familiar with the controls and will provide some plot exposition.
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Everyone has told you to stay away from the city's world gate, but what you do is up to you.
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You should be able to win your first battle, but if you're not careful you can lose your dog and fairy companions this early in the game.
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After the battle, the shopkeeper gives you thanks, supplies, and a tip for playing the game.
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I still need to add some NPCs to the tavern. This is where you'll recruit a few more party members before heading out of town.
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    ZenVirZan
  Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:44 pm
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i feel like the textures should be low res and nearest neighbour
or at least perhaps for the buildings, they look a bit too hd compared to the cast

i think artistic cohesion is more important than quality from a gameplay experience point of view

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    Nathaniel3W
  Sun Jan 28, 2018 2:37 pm
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Thanks for the suggestion. I'll give that a try and we'll see how it looks.

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    Nathaniel3W
  Thu May 31, 2018 7:43 am
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Emissive masks on character sprites
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I wanted to introduce magical weapons and give them some sort of visual indicator that they aren't just regular weapons. The weapons already had textures for RGB and opacity. Adding a glow mask should have required adding another texture, which I didn't want to do. So instead I messed with how the material interprets the alpha channel, which now serves double duty as both the opacity mask and the emissive mask. The glow itself is very simple: a tiling cloud texture at different scales, one panning up-left and the other panning up-right, multiplied together, used as the alpha to interpolate between two colors.

Reassembling my sprite material (which is basically a lot of textures layered in different orders depending on camera direction and character direction) in order to layer the glow mask properly ended up being a large undertaking. But I think the effect turned out nicely.

New pumpkinhead character
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An RPG just feels like it needs more enemies than I currently have. These pumpkinhead guys start with the Strawman character class and can unlock the Scarecrow class. They use scythes and sickles, deal high damage, and have low defense. All of their speech consists of lines from the Hollow Men by T. S. Eliot. The poem itself is a little unsettling. Having a scarecrow recite relevant lines from it during combat is even more unsettling.

New fire and lighting effects
Image
Himeko Sutori's fire used to consist of flipbooks from a purchased asset pack. I'm replacing most or all instances of those fires with procedural fire, which looks a lot better IMHO. I made a jagged shape with a yellow-orange-red color ramp in After Effects. I multiply that by a panning yellow-black-red noise pattern. And then I pan a different noise pattern and add it to the texture coordinates, and I get a beautiful shimmering, flickering, dancing fire.

I had been avoiding dynamic lights for a long time due to performance concerns, but eventually I reached a point where I just could not achieve the desired effect without them. I tried out some dynamic lights and realized that in my target hardware requirements, a couple of dynamic lights here and there won't hurt performance.

New town
Image
I've realized that I really prefer the aesthetics of a fixed camera position. Whether fixed to world space, or fixed relative to the character, I like the way it looks and I like the simplified level design. So in large open areas like the world map, I'll allow camera movement. And during combat I'll allow camera movement. But just about anywhere else, I think I'm going to keep a fixed camera. The fixed camera works really well in places like this town. This level just wouldn't work with a spinning camera.

This new town served several purposes for me. It let me try out a new camera mode. It also changes the pacing of the first chapter and gives me a place to introduce crafting stations.

And of course I had to add crafting materials and recipes, which was really time-consuming, but not as interesting as any of this other stuff.

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    Nathaniel3W
  Wed Jul 25, 2018 7:58 pm
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Desert stuff done in July:

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Still a lot to do. Sometimes I think I'll never finish it. But I am making progress at least--progress towards completion I hope.

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    Xilef
  Thu Jul 26, 2018 12:58 am
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Holy heck your environments are looking absolutely outstanding here. I'm very impressed.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Mon Jul 30, 2018 5:54 pm
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Thanks Xilef! That's definitely encouraging to hear.

I've been working on another desert town. The domes were kind of fun to make. I made a lot of use of Photoshop's polar coordinates filter to wrap a tiling texture around a circle. The resolution is actually pretty high, but they're blurry because of the camera's depth of field, which is centered roughly on where the player character is.

Image
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    Nathaniel3W
  Thu Aug 30, 2018 3:05 pm
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New trailer showing off some of the new content:

https://youtu.be/qV2Pr1JHaUk



Last trailer was 9 months ago, so I figured it was time for an update.

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    Nathaniel3W
  Mon Oct 29, 2018 5:01 pm
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I tried out a new development philosophy this month. Instead of trying to deliver small, highly polished sections of the game, I tried blocking out a large section of the game with the intention to go back and add more detail later. Here's some of what I did in October.

When we last saw our heroes, they were on the other side of this portal.
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Out of the portal, they must trek through the Shadowlands again.
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Their immediate destination is South Point Crossing.
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Through the World Gate at South Point Crossing, you're in an entirely new environment.
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This is the world map, quite a different place from the desert map.
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Eventually you'll get to the Icy Reach. From here you'll launch your assault on the Scholars of Candle and Sword.
Image

And for fun, here's some of the higher-tier equipment I've been working on. It's fun getting into new, more fantastical designs, instead of the plainer, more realistic lower-tier stuff I had been working on before.
Image

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    Xilef
  Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:10 pm
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Nathaniel3W wrote:
I tried out a new development philosophy this month. Instead of trying to deliver small, highly polished sections of the game, I tried blocking out a large section of the game with the intention to go back and add more detail later.
This is a muuuuuch better philosophy and it's what pretty much ever game that was ever delivered "on time" did. I tend to point to the idea of "make the beginning and the end first then fill in the middle" - what this means is fill in the middle and then go over and polish it up later on.

Pretty much all AAA 3D games block out the world in some kind of "orange" map or similar and get the event triggers there and the enemy placement and such before handing off to an art team to go ahead and work their magic on the thing. The mindset of people using RPG Maker I've found has traditionally been "build the game linearly" which involves spending hours cramming crap into the first map the player sees until it's left with a 7 tile walk-able area filled with busy visual features that only get appreciated once; it's much smarter to get everything "done" and then apply detail afterwards.

After writing all that, as usual I'm going to say; what you've got looks really fantastic. There's a couple things that are off, but they're minor technicalities. You've got great environments.


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    Nathaniel3W
  Tue Oct 30, 2018 7:01 am
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Thanks Xilef. It's reassuring to hear from a veteran developer that I'm taking the right approach. And thanks for the compliments. It means a lot to me. Remember those suggestions for improvement though. In a couple of months I'm going to revisit all these areas and make some changes.

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    Nathaniel3W
  Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:45 am
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More screenshots from the new areas. I'm almost done adding new regions. Next I need to fill in the detail to what I've already made.

We left our heroes in the Icy Reach. This month I added building interiors to the city.
Image

This is the library at the Icy Reach. There's a nifty camera animation that follows your character as you go up and down the stairs. The floors also appear and disappear as you go up and down.
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When you're done in the Icy Reach, it's time to go through the next world gate.
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And once again you're in the Shadowlands.
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The Shadowlands are more dangerous than ever.
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At Utakawa Gate Outpost you can return to Yamatai lands.
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Past Utakawa Gate, you're in Utakawa, in the Yamatai Islands. These Japanese building meshes were really annoying to fix and import into the game. I spent way too much time on that.
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This is the Yamatai world map.
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The last regions, not shown here, are the Northern Shores, Candle and Sword Keep, and the Crypt of the Weeping God. And a few towns. In addition to that I need to add a bunch of battle maps, enemy encounters, NPCs, and other things to populate the empty cities and world maps. After that I'll go and script the story cutscenes to give some context to why you're going to these places and killing the people you find there.

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