Quarter in Review: Winter 2017

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Okay, that title sounds really formal and corporate, but I want to at least try this kind of format out for the year. Why not? Let’s at least see how it went so far. 

Early in January, I realized my attempts at using Unity were not working. Game development quickly turned over to RPG Maker, and I designed and got working on a prototype for Dungeon University. 

It wasn’t easy. Quite often, just cleaning the house or even resting took priority. Bugs tended to stop me in my tracks. In the end, the prototype isn’t really a small playable game like I’d hoped, but it does show that I can get the main pieces working together. I also discovered aspects of the game that I didn’t see before, like the wonders of a small scale.

Meanwhile, Shelby has found herself a distraction from wedding planning: she now sells LipSense products. I don’t honestly know a lot about it, but it looks like she’s about to start making some real money now that she’s all set up. I’m really proud of her for all this.

And, of course, there’s that outline for The Demon’s Guardian that I mentioned. That’s just a big step toward the next few months, which I’ll have to cover in another post since this one is basically long enough already.

Overall, it’s actually been really productive. In the short term, I kept getting frustrated about not doing more, but I guess it turned out pretty well after all.

Okay, friends. What have you been up to so far this year? 

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Breaking News! 

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Today, RPG Maker MV went on sale. A few minutes ago, I learned that I will be getting a little overtime at work. Coincidence? I think not. So, MV is now in my Steam library. 

Where does this leave the prototype/demo I was working on? Well, it basically has all the features I wanted. I could add some enemies and program in the conversations, but that’s just busywork.

The point of a prototype is to make sure the overall design works and is worth pursuing. Well, it works, and my gut says this game will be fun. Why put a lot more effort into a version that I was only going to show to a few people anyway? It’s time to call this one quits and get learning for the real deal.

Starting tomorrow, this proto-demo is officially finished, which means it’s time to work more on The Demon’s Guardian instead. (For the game dev side, I’ll mainly be practicing first.) So, stay tuned for that! 

Out of Order 

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Pair Bursts are now officially up and working, though some may need adjusting in the future. It took a weekend of coming back to it over and over to get it right, but I did it. 

Now, though, I’ve discovered a problem. It is possible to switch your party members’ positions during battle, but it turns out that it makes everything, well, wonky. I have a couple of suspicions about the cause, so it’ll either be a very easy fix or the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far.

If I do have to gut the character switching, though, it won’t be all bad. Frankly, the system I had to use is ugly and weird to use. I didn’t necessarily want to change it, though, because this is a prototype, and it technically works.

Well, on we go. 

A Delay

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Truthfully I’m not sure if I ever actually said that I wanted to release the Dungeon University prototype in April. But that was the plan. Either way, I don’t think I can make that window. Maybe May is more like it? Well, now you know.

Little Pieces

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Another day off, a little more getting done. Not much to say on The Demon’s Guardian, since it’s just a basic planning phase for now. As you might expect, I’m still way more focused on Dungeon University.

Actually, though, it’s mostly cleaning up. I discovered a bug where the partners wouldn’t update, fixed it, then set out to just make everything look nicer. I also got rid of the “skill study” system from before, since it won’t be used anymore.

The real bulk of the work right now is actually in a much more familiar domain: writing. The game needs a little bit of intro just to make sense, although this version probably won’t have actual story beyond that. But how can I show off the support conversations without actual conversations? So, I decided that I’m going to include at least the first two or three scenes of each pair. That amounts to 18 short scripts that I have to write, followed by the fun of inputting them to the game system.

It’s kind of weird, really. I’ve been programming all this time, and now suddenly I’m back to something that feels way more… design-y. I haven’t decided on what enemies would be best for this, or exactly what special skills each character (or pair) should have. From here on out, I have a lot of content-based decisions to make, and quite a bit of busywork to get it into the game. Maybe it’s good that some of the hard parts are done?

Progress!

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From left to right, Sam, Ziziere, Mikard, and Chromia. Oh, and a slime in the background.

So today I finally had a day off where I wasn’t busy or sick or anything. It’s very much been a good thing, because I was worried that I could never catch up to my goals in time. Lo and behold, a productive day!

Dungeon University has been the main focus. As mentioned before, I set it up so that the pairs give each other major bonuses, including special “Pair Burst” attacks. Basically, each pair has a set of points (which don’t have a meter yet because it’s tricky), and either character can use those points to trigger a really powerful skill unique to that pairing. Surprisingly, a system like this wasn’t really out there in the wild yet, so I had to use some cleverness to hack together a solution. Suffice to say, I’ve got a way so that one of those attacks, at least, works!

My other time was used to take notes on The Third Face. I’ve been rereading it for a couple of weeks, and now it was time to put down the thoughts and details that I noticed. You’d be surprised at how much I managed to forget! It’s a good thing I found it, though, because there are probably enough loose ends here to fill another whole book, even if I didn’t introduce much new stuff. But I do have new stuff to introduce, so that’s why there are two more books, not to mention the fact that entries tend to get longer as a series goes on. Hopefully this means that The Demon’s Guardian will be relatively easy to write, once I get down to it.

Overall, I am probably being really optimistic right now on both fronts, but for a guy that’s always worried about doing well enough and whether I’ll ever finish, that is a really good thing. Now let’s hope that my house and wedding plans are as cooperative!

The Breakthrough of Less

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When I decided to make a smaller version of Dungeon University, I knew every aspect had to be smaller and simpler. I thought it would take away from my game’s depth. But in at least one way, it’ll actually be better.

One change was to stop work on two planned characters, to end up with 4 instead of 6. Turns out, there’s a funny thing about 4. Remember how each one gets paired up with another for bonuses and scenes? Now, if you determine who is paired with the first character, only two are left, so they’re necessarily paired up.

This means that there are only 3 meaningful combinations for this system with 4 characters! (6 party members makes for more like 45 combinations – or is it 90? I’m not much good with this area of math.)  

That opens up a lot of doors. I can design each of the 3 combinations to be very different from the others, so players can organize for different strengths in different situations. If the player could switch during battle, it would make for a core feature that makes combat more interesting.

I would never have stumbled on an idea like this – which could make my game truly fun to play – if I wasn’t working on this small prototype. It begs the question, should I ever scale it up at all? Or am I already getting to the sweet spot? We’ll see!