Miracle Springs: “Finished” Build

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It’s not dialogue, but the last week did bring a little feature that makes Miracle Springs seem nicer: animation. I figured out how to do it, and made it so that the player and animals cycle between a few frames as they walk.

Like most things I’ve added, it was both frustratingly difficult and surprisingly easy. It basically came down to learning how to deal with spritesheets, since without that, animating anything is… doable, but painful. Let’s just say I hit a couple of bumps, and I was ready to give up at times (Shelby can tell you how agitated I can be). But I think that’s just what happens when you’ve been working at one thing for this long.

Overall, I wouldn’t say that I fully accomplished all my goals for Miracle Springs, but I got through most of the ones that were important–and doable for me. I have indeed learned a lot, like menus, time systems, saving, and of course this animation thing. Most of those things would be useful for nearly any game project worth playing, so I’m one step closer to knowing how to make something, erm, goodish.

Even though it’s not really a lot of fun, the final build of Miracle Springs is up to download and play. I hope you do try it and let me know what you think, if that’s not too much to ask.

What’s in store for November? Well, instead of a full game project like the last two, I want to run with a few smaller ideas that I’ve had in the last month. I’ll explain each one in my weekly updates once I’ve finished them, so stay tuned for that. As always, thanks for being here!

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2 Years 

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Today, Shelby and I celebrated two years together. Technically the date is the 31st, but we thought it would be better to celebrate on a Saturday than a Monday. We dressed up a bit and went to Red Lobster, then came home and watched movies together. The weekend isn’t over either, but I personally think it’s been amazing already.

Here’s to lots more wonderful years together. 

Throwback Thursday: Plot and Character 3

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On Thursdays, I’m going to post a previous article from my blogging past. This week’s post was originally titled “Plot and Character: The Goal” and appeared on Obscure Authors Alliance in February of 2013.

Welcome back to the Plot and Character series! We started by looking at what character arc is, then moved on to how the character’s flaw plays into it. Still, even characters that have something horribly wrong with them, though interesting, cannot just make for a story on their own. There must be things that these characters do. Perhaps even more importantly, there must be something that your character wants to do.

Goals, Kuma

Thanks, Taupy.

Besides being about as obscure as we are, that little bear pretty much hit the nail on the head for today’s topic. Just as the flaw makes an internal obstacle that goes with the more visible challenges, the goal lives in both realms as well. Quite often, the thing we’re going after isn’t what would really be best for us. Characters never realize this until near the end. This is why, in so many romances, the character spends so much time almost ending up with the wrong person, when the audience knows the other person would be so much better.

In other contexts, this can represent taking the easy way out. Wouldn’t it be so much easier for the hero if he could save the world without confronting the villain? Or if there was a way to win without going through all the training? Characters are stubborn, and they want things their way. The conflict comes in when they ultimately have to choose: have things their way in the end, or actually get the thing that they most desire on the inside?

The things that characters do are all tied to these goals. Whether it’s a tangible goal (get revenge for my loved one’s death) or an internal one (find someone that accepts me), they affect everything the characters do. Protagonists want to get what they want, and, for their own, equally good reasons, antagonists want them to not get what they want.

One other thing I want to point out: external goals might change during the story, as the character learns more about the situation. In fact, they usually will. Early on the character might just want to find out about something, and later he or she will want to do something about it. But on the inside, the goals don’t change. That thing that the character really needs in his or her heart will always be there, right up until the climax. That’s when your hero earns whatever it is, and finally claims that goal in the end. That’s your ending.

Now I’ve talked about both the flaw and the goal. These two things both stem from inside your character, but it seems like they oppose each other, doesn’t it? If you noticed that, then you’re well on your way to understanding internal conflict.

At this point, I’ve covered the major aspects of this idea in the Plot and Character series. It’s not that there isn’t more to say, but I think that it’ll be a while before I have the experience to say it. So, for now, this is the end of this series. I hope you all enjoyed it.

Miracle Springs: Now with Animals! 

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miraclesprings1The promise has been fulfilled, just barely.

As of today, the player of Miracle Springs can buy cows or chickens, and place feed in their boxes to get eggs and milk that appears the next day. The animals themselves don’t really do anything else except wander around the stable area, but that’s okay for now, I think.

The other thing was watering plants. It wasn’t too hard and seems minor, but it makes crops more than set and forget. I thought about adding obstacles like the weeds and rocks from old games that the player clears to reveal the soil, but it’s pretty much the same programming-wise as plowing and watering. Unfortunately, we’re too close to the deadline, so making this really fun or polished is not high on the list. I would rather do things that challenge me.

That being the case, I want to at least try to create an NPC character that has a little bit of dialogue (and possibly can accept gifts). I’m not sure if that will be a huge problem to get done in the last week of the month, but I won’t lose anything by trying. I got this far even though this month has been completely nuts, so my hopes are high.

Throwback Thursday: Plot and Character 2

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On Thursdays, I’m going to post a previous article from my blogging past. This week’s post was originally titled “Plot and Character: The Flaw” and appeared on Obscure Authors Alliance in February of 2013.

Last time, I suggested that character arc is half the battle when it comes to story. In it, I briefly mentioned that all characters should have a flaw to overcome. This week I’m going to focus on that some more.

What makes for a good flaw? Anything that will stop your character from getting past all the obstacles and accomplishing his or her goal. As long as the character fails to overcome the flaw, winning is impossible. For example, in my current work, the protagonist Rasuke has the idea in his head that it’s just a cutthroat world where everyone is only out for their own interests. He thinks other people only act nice when they need something from him, and he can’t trust anyone at all.

The flaw will always be there. In the beginning of your story, it might not give your character much trouble, because he or she knows how to work around it. It’s later, when things really begin, that the flaw will begin to show its ugly face. Going back to my own example, Rasuke has been going through the motions without letting anyone in. When he finds himself close to a crime scene, though, his mistrust turns into paranoia, causing him to run away from home. And even when he gets out into the world, he refuses to make friends. That stops him from ever really thriving.

Your character usually spends the middle of  the story just like this, shooting himself/herself in the foot. The problem is going to keep snowballing until nobody can ignore it. If you have a villain, that antagonist is going to take notice and start playing on your character’s weakness. There’s no way around it: as long as that flaw is there, the character will never be able to win.

It’s around the halfway point that the character might start to become aware of the flaw. He or she might even start trying to overcome it, even with a little success. But it’ll still persist, and so will the outside force that the character has to face. That’s a great way to build a lot of tension–by ramping up the conflict both inside and out. And eventually, the character is going to snap.

There are several names for the three-quarters mark of the story. I like to call it the crisis. This is the point where the character’s flaw is at its very peak, ruining his or her life completely and making victory all but unthinkable. After the crisis, the character takes some time to reflect and truly understand what he or she has been doing wrong. This empowers your hero to finally win. (Other theories put these events leading up to the three-fourths point, making the important spot the beginning of that comeback. You don’t have to be exact, though, so it’s not that different.)

Finally, at the climax of your story, the flaw is gone. In fact, the climax is where the character shows off, in the most intense way possible, that his or her flaw has been conquered. The villain has been counting on that weakness to be there, and without it, the evil plan falls apart. That is the main reason that good wins: because the hero has grown.

You can think of all these stories as metaphors for having an “intervention” for someone, if you want. Hopefully, though, your story is a bit more exciting than that!

Well, there you have it. I’ve just explained, from start to finish, what character arc really is. Next week, I’ll delve into more aspects of character that are also essential to crafting a great story.

Happy Birthday, Shelby 

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It’s my fiancé’s birthday today. We celebrated quite a bit yesterday, and it’s been a very busy weekend in general, so we’re staying in after work. I’ve done what I could to help make it a good weekend, so here’s hoping she enjoys our afternoon. She deserves it! 

Miracle Springs: Slow and Steady

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My art skills have not improved. Sorry if you’re disappointed.

This week has been busy, and at times, exhausting. I kind of figured this month would be like that, which is one reason I picked this style of game. It’s relatively easy because it has some of the same frameworks as CaveBlade, but doesn’t need nearly as much in the way of level design. It’s more of a playground for the mechanics.

As with last week, the result is that I’m taking it slow, adding new features one at a time. The player now has an inventory. They can store items or buy and sell them at a shop, which adds a little more purpose to harvesting crops. In addition, the game now keeps track of how many days have passed, and ends after a certain number.

What’s really cool is that I learned how to save data. I didn’t want to get too complicated with it right now, so basically, the game saves everything when one day ends and the next begins. It will automatically load that data the next time you open the window, and there’s a simple key press to delete everything. That’s all!

I’m hoping to add in some animations and a new title screen, but my main priority for this week is to get animals working. Fans of Harvest Moon know that growing crops is only half the battle–you also have to raise and take care of animals. I have some ideas on how those will work, so hopefully we’ll see some nice cows and chickens when we come back in a week’s time.

One last thing. I decided I’m not putting up builds every week. It takes extra time to get the game to a place where it’s presentable to people, time that I can use to program more new things. Plus, this won’t ruin the excitement (as if there was hype for these projects) before you play the full game. But really, do you even want to play the half-featured work in progress of a new developer? Probably not. So let’s spend the time where it really matters. I’ll see you next week.