Thursday, August 6, 2009

Legend of Iya history so far...

OK, since I never elaborated on what Legend of Iya is, or given you any idea of what happened in the development so far, I might as well do it now.

The original Legend of Iya or LOI was an episodic game I did back in middle school for ZX Spectrum. It was written in basic, and was essentially the training ground for my art and programming skills. All in all – five episodes were created, all slightly varying in gameplay mechanics, though rarely straying from the established formula of being sort of platformer-adventure games.

Fast-forward five years – in the year 2000 I was collaborating with an indie group – S+F on several Visual Basic game projects. All that was required from me was art, and I had little say in how the games were put together. As one of our projects was winding down in a stir of inspiration I have in one night created a tileset and the characters sprites for a remake of one of the Legend of Iya chapters. The next day I approached the programmer/creative director guy about, perhaps remaking my game as a quick, contained one-month mini-project. My proposal was met with apathy. As I couldn’t program to save my life at that point – I had no choice but to shelve the graphics and begrudgingly continue to work on projects that were not mine.

One day, after listening to me bitch about being unable to program worth of shit, a friend has let it slip about GameMaker. I was initially skeptical – after all, I tried other “game-making” packages before, and they were all, as a rule completely terrible. Either they were incomplete, or so limited, building a game in them was simply not worth the time, as the final result would’ve been sub-par at best.

As with everyone’s first attempts at GM programming, my first project was to modify the platformer tutorial. For that I used the Legend of Iya graphics I had sitting on my harddrive for almost a year now. In less than a day I have concocted a platformer game that was significantly more advanced than anything I was expecting from my S+F programmers. Over the next month, the new LOI took shape, but as I explored GM, the new-found freedom has driven the project further and further away from being simply a remake of a single chapter of the old game.

One day I decided to forfeit the one-single-huge-room design I have been using up until that point in favor of a Metroidvania layout – with smaller interconnected rooms and scripted RPG-like events. That day marked the end of the first LOI remake.

The next two years I spent expanding the game into a much larger, more diverse world, with many more zones, enemies, puzzles, boss fights and NPCs. Some scripting was implemented at key points, playing out simple in-game cutscenes An elaborate front end and, albeit unfinished intro were added. An inventory and equipment systems were implemented.

This was the furthest LOI has ever progressed, but then a weird thing happened. Around Halloween I took a month off working on the LOI project to create a small sideproject – Maziac. The game turned out quite decently, and was finished in a record time. After playing it, however, I noticed that it wasn’t particularly fun. I went back to Iya… and began to notice the same thing – the gameplay was just dull.

Disillusioned, I scrapped the project that was probably close to 70% done, but if finished would’ve been only mediocre.

However, it didn’t stop there. As my art skills have steadily improved over the years, I decided to redo Iya’s animation, making it as smooth as I could by inserting in-between cycles for transitioning from any cycle into another. LOI mark 3 was born. This time I tried to make the gameplay as fast, dynamic and real physics based as I could. The graphics, partially recycled and edited from later areas of previous LOI game were made more and more elaborate, and this time around actually used some semblance of color theory. The project went on for almost a year, by the end of which I had a fairly impressive physics playground finished.

And then I met a programmer. He wanted to port my game to then-more-popular-than-hotcakes GBA. To do that, he wanted to simply auto-resize the sprites to about 2/3 their current size, and color-reduce them to 16 color – which to anyone who ever did pixel-art will sound like a travesty. Despising the idea of simply auto-adjusting my pixel art, I decided to do a manual pixel pass over the reduced graphics, and discovered that it would probably take me less time and produce better results to just redraw everything from scratch… so LOI mark 4 was born.

And that’s the one you see in the screenshots... or at least that's the game that was born of my intention to develop for Gameboy Advance. GBA has since died, and even the NDS is now on its last leg, so this is a now, yet again, a mostly PC game.

The game was started with more or less a clear plan - first for me, and actually has a finalized story, of which I don’t want to divulge any detail, other than to say that it starts out as a standard Wizard of Oz-like scenario of a girl getting whisked away to a mysterious and possibly magical land.

Currently, Legend of Iya is an exploration platformer with melee combat and ranged “magic” attacks. The game features a world structure similar to games like Super Metroid and the recent Castlevanias – a lot of smaller rooms strung together to form an enormous labyrinthine world with themed areas. Some areas can only be accessed after acquiring a certain ability – be it a running wall-smash, ground-slide, double-jump, or “the ultimate doorknob” power.

In addition to utilizing tons of full-frame animation, the game also features Phaeton Engine – a custom animation system to allow modularly animated bosses and environmental objects, allowing for enormous, yet well-animated boss enemies.

The plot will be delivered via non-intrusive environmental storytelling and (maybe) soliloquized voiceover of the protagonist.

In the end I hope to deliver a game with at least 5-8 hours of non-recycled gameplay content, plus some cool extras.

Weather or not the game will be free is still undecided.

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's been a while, but work on LoI continued all this time, though even slower than usual, as I had some freelancing work to rob me of even the tiniest bit of free time... and then there is Red Faction Guerrilla. I never thought I could have so much fun destroying things - it's like I'm a little kid again - spending hours to build robots out of Legos, just to bombard them with AAA batteries...But I digress: )
Over the last weekend I added some background elements to the first puzzlette of the game - the one with the turning wheel.

...Oh, the turning wheel - I hope it wouldn't become the bane of my existence as it right now has all makings of one.
Among other things - I added another enemy - a Moai head that pops out of the ground and shoots fire, and can only be destroyed with a rolling smash. I gave the thing a very nice and elaborate breaking cycle, but unfortunately almost nobody will ever see it, as at the moment of impact a lot of dust and sparks are spawned, covering most of the animation... oh, well.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I've been somewhat burned out as of late.

Even my commute has become slightly less productive lately, as I've just been so damn tired. However, this didn't stop me from adding more room data and beginning to code puzzle elements in.
In addition to large set-piece puzzles every now and then I decided to pepper the game with less complex, but somewhat interesting tasks throughout. First such task I planned to implement was the balancing platforms - two platforms suspended on chains, and a crank to turn left or right to move one platform up while the other moves down and vice versa... Implementing this took me surprisingly little time, so I decided to kick it up a notch - remove the crank, replacing it with a giant rusty wheel connected to the platform chain. Grabbing and hanging off of knobs along the the circumference of the wheel turns it in that direction, lowering and raising platforms. Not only does this make the whole system more realistic, but it provides for a possibility of very cool set-piece graphics (of ancient rusty machinery)
On the graphical front I have continued rehashing one of my existing tilesets adding more elements to it. A new parallax background for another area of Sanctuary Woods has been preliminary pixeled, but needs to be detailed out. It currently looks like this.

I have been slowly adding more flashy effects for things getting hit. Now when a hit connects with certain enemies, not only there is a fountain of animated sparks, but also a cloud of dust - this adds a lot to the robustness of the game's look... or something: ) Began drawing other hit-connection effects drawing inspiration from Street Fighter 3.

As I mentioned in my previous post - I began working on the game's starting area - a modern city, but honestly haven't made it far enough into drawing it to even show it here. Maybe the next time I update.

Fixed a few annoying glitches in the ledge-grab routine, which apparently I originally hacked in. Also - floating enemies no longer become invincible when uppercutted.
There is still an annoying glitch in moving along with horizontally-moving platforms - I need to fix that pronto, as this will be key to some puzzles.

Anyway - so many things to work on... so little time - and even less energy to do it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The work goes on...

And the work on Legend of Iya continues at a leisurely pace…Ever since I bought myself a netbook computer I have been using my daily commute to keep adding stuff to the game. The shaky, unpleasantly brightly lit, uncomfortable environment of the train isn’t great for pixeling, the work I do is mostly map, code and Phaeton animation-related.

Speaking of maps – I guess it’s too late now, but I realized that Game Maker’s built-in map editor is total crap, and for my next project I’m building my own: )

On the animation front I have added one fluff cycle - a wobbling-on-the-edge animation if you send Iya sliding off a platform - it's pretty, but will rarely be seen. I have also started to expand the aerial pummel animation, which was previously nothing but a single lightning-fast punch repeated endlessly. It is now more along the lines of an all out Naruto-esque string of fist, knee and leg attacks - hopefully this will make the aerial juggling look more fun. Oh, and I began to correct the wall-pushing animation, as previously Iya lost about 25% of her size when pushing against things.

I finally added the third tileset - the first Catacomb location. It is currently rather rudimentary and is lacking ladders or any kind of ornamental flare or creepy necropolis parts (that I have planned for it), but with its cold gray walls and slightly iridescent background it adds a cool contrast to the game's other overly green areas. So far I only have one area-specific enemy for the catacombs - an indestructible floating eyeball that serves to impede vertical progress. The parallax layers for this set aren't finished yet.

The first Phaeton monster in my game - GunGanesh - a mid-boss is beatable, but as of right now lacks a clear boss pattern and the emphasis of his boss-ness. I am yet to add some more animation for him as well as come up with a clear pattern for the fight - something I need to play a lot of Noitu Love 2 and Legend of Princess for... although - his "home" screen isn't done yet, and I want to do something really cool with him.

My next logical step in development should probably be doing the opening area of the game - a modern city, so I can finally release a demo of LOI... let's see how that turns out.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Phaeton! Now with 100% more ZOOM!

And so.. without actually explaining anything about my game I'm making an entry about the tools I am developing along with it... How totally moronic of me, but it's 2 AM and I have a crunch-filled work-day tomorrow - so, suck it up, all things will be explained in time.

Have you ever played a 2D Konami or Treasure game, like Contra Hard Corps or Gunstar Heroes and gawked in awe at those huge bosses that visibly consist of independently moving modules? I know I did, and still do whenever one of those modular monstrosities shows up in any game (except maybe for recent Castlevanias, where the modular bosses looked mighty cheep and sloppy). Phaeton is an editor I wrote to allow me to insert such creatures into my own game. It ended up being a rather complex animation program consisting of three stages - a module import stage, where you load a bitmap with all of your creature's body parts on it, a frame generation stage, where you arrange the imported modules into animation frames, and lastly - an animation stage, where you order the pre-created frames into animations. The editor then saves a file that describes the animation in an easy-to-parse text format, that combined with a module bitmap comprises all the ingredients needed for the creation of in-game modular beasties.

This is how Phaeton animation looks.

Tonight I have finally added a zoom in/out feature to all three stages of the editor. This addition was prompted by the fact that I am working on my netbook with a 10" screen for about 4 hours a day...

Oh, hell - since I have nobody to tell this...

I hate the idea of blogging - I really do, especially when it serves no real purpose other than attention-whoring. News-blogging - I can understand and relate to, but putting up what equates to your personal diary for all the world to see - it's douchy and pretentious... All that said - it's exactly what I'm doing now, despicable as it might be.

For a while now I have been making a game. "A while" in this case means almost a decade, and even longer if you count the 8-bit incarnations from my childhood. Now, before you say anything - it wasn't the same game all along, and the game has gone through at least 4 complete resets since its initial PC build back in 2001, but one element remains unchanged at its core - the protagonist, or more precisely the protagonist's name -Iya. Her age has changed over the years, currently hovering at about 12 years old. Her appearance went from a rather simplistic, poorly animated "chibi" figure, to what now is an almost properly proportioned and well-animated human child. Her personality and attitude also went all across the board from insipidly heroic, to sad, to bratty, to the current mix of determination and wonder, leaving any outside observer to conclude that I have absolutely no freaking idea of where the hell am I going with this. And that observer would've been right, or at least he would be up until the last reset of the project which happened three years ago - in 2006.

Now the game is finally shaping up, and though it is still far from completion, I want to keep a log of what is happening on the project - a log that can be read by anyone out there.

So, whatever: )

This is what at the moment passes for the title screen

This is what at the moment passes for the title screen