Hey everyone, I’m posting this audio update on behalf of our new music overlord(TM) Jesse! So this is him from here:
How do we describe something in only sound?
First we close our eyes. What do see when these sounds are heard?
Music and sound help us get places emotionally that pictures alone can not. It is together that the full impact can be felt. I’ve always mixed music with the lights out. When I listen to mixes back it’s with my eyes closed. Writing a piece that reflects a sense of place for me starts with my eyes open.
The world map screen music was something I came up with based on several things. Arvind’s direction (over all temperament of the piece) , the visual mood of the screen, and the over all story of this character.
In regard to the composition and how it relates in context of the game. There are lots of choices to be made here, many bad and many good. A feeling of mystery with an underlying sense of adventure and child like exploration was also something I wanted to portray.
Music in games that is played over and over again is often loops of small sections so you always have to be thinking how to you make this interesting without being repetitive and cluing the listener in that this is in fact a loop. Typically I will try to cover at least two different melodic perspectives to induce movement and progression into small sections like this.
The basic chords started on guitar, was later moved to piano and then the strings where added. The sliding guitar melody heard throughout was added last and is supposed to represent the main character.
World Map Music!
This is the basic approach I use for each scene or screen through out the game itself. Sometimes things come quickly to me and others there is more concrete thought involved and less gut. Much like a dream is something less driven by yourself, when you are in that place of creation the feeling is that of a passenger.
I find it a little hard to describe my method to someone. I nearly I always find that other musicians and writers understand that sense of creation that is less easy to describe than it is to simply show.
This is a post by Henri, our super brilliant artist in this series of developer diaries. I’ll just step aside, and let him take center stage:
My time to post something here.
Arvind wanted a graphics-related article out of me, so I’ll empty my heart here then.
1. The untypical rpg art of the A.Typical RPG For me, the difference between an average JRPG -clearly our influence- and A.Typical RPG is that, as a comic artist by nature, my natural approach to graphics is this flowy (or shakey) lineart and bold colors. Everything is done in free form, without a locked 32×32 pixel grid, where you plant cloned trees and grass stumps. These visuals are closer to a point´n´click adventure game (those I love), with less areas to visit, but each having its own history and logic, and its own unique moment in the narrative. I’m not exactly sure which way would’ve been faster, mimicking a tile-look or throwing this in free form, but ultimately, I felt like this is something I am more comfortable with, and I can actually pull off doing 10 different settings and tons of characters like this. Its way easier to finish a gargantuan task that you´re comfortable doing, than a small task that you´re not so comfortable with, pretty much. Same I apply for any illustration that I have to work on. As in, non-game things.
2. Arvind´s sketch Leon_Kilean: so yea I’ll work out the girl´s dorm Arvind: cool Leon_Kilean: I’ll just go along what you’ve sketched. Arvind: sure thing, ask me if there’s any help you need
So that’s pretty much how it starts. We use Dropbox to share our files. Its just the right program for us, since I can just edit some graphics-file (we use .png, mostly) and it automatically updates at Arvind´s end. He comments on it, I add something. So, lets open up the girl´s dorm sketch.
I tend to add some empty space around the levels, something that Arvind doesn’t add much of, since he works purely from the code/gameplay side. For me, empty represents time for the player to walk around and discover things, arty farty nonsense areas. Sink in. But this one I wanted to keep intact, for two reasons. First being, its very closely tied to a certain gameplay-event, so I cant just add and reshape the areas without breaking that. Second, I found something interesting in the shape as it is. A Small room, a single screen, sorta claustrophobic. It serves as both a intimate space, story-wise, and a gameplay-related tense moment, which I mentioned earlier, but wont spoil any further.
The first thing I work out is the walls and the floor. Strong green for the walls, dark red on the floor. There´s a tricky part on the right top. The bathroom. Vertical walls are ok, but horizontal walls that are in the middle of the screen space are pretty tricky, since the player should be able to move both in front and behind these, and he should ALWAYS see what he is doing.
3. Trickery After about 5ish hours of work and a few cups of coffee in the bladder or out of it,
we’ve accomplished this much.
As I said, the bathroom was tricky. What I chose to do is, paint the horizontal wall you can go behind as cracked. Either it really IS broken like that, or its just for the player.. Use your imagination. The blue rugs in the bathroom are very important, since they imply that there´s a doorway/some empty space you can walk thru.
Then, the flowers I cloned, all light effects and shadings are on their own layers, props and things are on their own layers.. or in their own groups. Group folders are so cool, learn those. The cool thing with grouped layers is, you can have stuff like a master alpha channel for the whole group, and it affects all the layers inside the group. So basically, I drew the broken wall as totally opaque, with the flowers and whatever detail layers it has, and THEN added an alpha mask on the WHOLE group, the wall and its goodies, and made the GROUP transparent. Easier to edit the stuff like that. I always try to keep my files as dynamic as possible, especially important with games, since there usually are plenty of changes.
4. Overlay and the final piece
I rest for a day or two, clear my brains a bit.
And then I spend a good 3ish hours on finishing the level up.
Notice that I painted some posters on the transparent, broken wall. I didn’t have to edit any alpha channel settings, I can just add new layers into my broken wall-group and they´re automatically affected by the master alpha channel, which gives it that translucent look. No hassle, all is automatic. Sweet Photoshop, how I love you.
Oh and in case I didn’t mention, the level looks like this, in the files:
A.Typical RPG´s level graphics are actually on two planes. There´s the ground plane, and then there´s an overlay, that draws on top of the player. So I separate all the light and shading effects, and things that are on top of the player, and make an own file out of those.
5. Final words and IOTY
–Before I shoot myself. Nah kidding. But I just had such an dramatic sub-title.
Okey so I hope we’ve all learned something out of this, or if not, at least entertained ourselves for a few mins. Do keep watching/following/worshipping us, oh and feedback and comments – we love that stuff, keep it coming!
I’m Arvind – the guy who programs and designs the A.Typical RPG. A wise man once said to me, “You might want to consider jumping down from a taller building than that.” But that’s not related to what I’m about to discuss. This is a developer diary we’ll be doing in order to persuade you guys to vote for us in the Indie Overlords and Supreme rulers Indie of the year contest.
Firstly, I would like to point out that it would be great if you voted for us in the Indie of the year awards. Click the button below, then click the “Vote” button on the page. Thank you very much.
So while you would do well to see this post as a plug to win these awards, I’m also about to discuss the thing we have been teasing to our followers on twitter (hint hint). In case you didn’t get the hint, it means FOLLOW US.
One of the in-game scenarios features something like hide-and-seek. Imagine this – what is the first thing that comes in your mind when you are sneaking inside a girl’s dormitory, only to gasp in horror as the warden steps into the room? The stakes are high – you can be expelled from college, or be shamed in front of the girl you fancy! What do you think?
If your answer was along the lines of “Hmm, this situation can feature in my game.”, then we think alike.
Here’s a screenshot of the complete disco level. We tried to show you more of the disco and another level, but this guy won’t allow us.
He totally said we can show you more in the next update we’ll be posting before this week ends. The guy is *such* a charmer.
The entire team will be posting in this series. See you very soon!
And last but not the least, I am super duper pleased to announce that Jesse Gunn (StaticKinect Studios is his website) is our new audio designer. Thanks for the lots of applications we received, all of you are so awesome. He’ll be posting some sweet audio bits soon too, keep watching! That’s it from me right now, and to remind you fellows once again –
As promised on the A.Typical RPG twitter feed (which you should follow on http://twitter.com/atypicalrpg – hint hint), here’s the new update. You might also have noticed that we are looking for an audio designer – that is, if you follow us on twitter, obviously – which you should.
Glad that’s sorted. So – the battle system. We haven’t talked about it much recently, have we?
What’s so different, you ask? For starters, there’s the new layout for the battle system. By moving all the non-interactive bits to the top, we managed to create more space for the buttons, as well as avoid confusion for new players. But wait! Before you accuse me of laziness after only changing the layout after all this time, be aware that scripted events also take place inside the battles. For example, here’s this totally unexplained dialog occurring sometime during the battle :
Now that I have refuted accusations of laziness against me, I’m sure a lot of you will be thinking, “So maybe Henri is the source of laziness here.” Before you go any further, allow me to show you a sneak peek of what he has been up to:
Interesting, isn’t it? But we’ll stick to the showbiz rule of “show just enough bits to get people excited, but not too much so you don’t run into trouble with the censor brigade”. Or something like that.
Now here’s an unrelated story related to our hunt for an audio designer:
Arvind was busy preening his hair when Henri’s IM disrupted the quiet silence, like the noise after the quiet before the storm.
“What is this irritating 5 second sound loop you have coded into the game? It sounds like an ogre scratching his toenails against a blackboard the size of Mt. Doom.”, he asked.
“Oh, it’s the Official Soundtrack™ for the game made by me! Isn’t it lovely?”, I replied, after putting on a massive monocle and silk hat.
Pausing a second to ponder calling 911, Henri gently asked me if I had severe brain damage. “Judging by your taste, there might be no coming back.”, he said, gravely shaking his head.
“Well, since you are being such a bad sport about my official soundtrack™ for the game”, I scoffed, pausing to polish my teeth and monocle with my hat. “We’ll hire an expert so you can get the music to your appalling taste.”
And the rest is history.
The A.Typical RPG is looking for an audio designer/musician – a wonderful person who can come up with great music to the game to life! You can apply by emailing Arvind at arvindrajayadav [hat] gmail [ wot] com. Also include details of your previous work.
Just as you were wondering how you managed the whole 50 days without any ramblings about code and memory leaks, here are soldiers Major Update, along with Colonel Feature, to announce what Arvind and Henri have been up to recently.
Here’s Major Update :
And introducing Colonel Feature :
Any similarities to any characters, fictional or otherwise, are purely and totally co-incidental. If you say there are, we’ll just deny it until we believe it is true.
Let’s start with what these two think about some new art Henri has drawn, starting with the icons for inventory, objectives and the map. Take it away, gentlemen!
There are rumors that under certain unknown conditions, these icons glow! How in the world is that possible? Let’s ask Colonel about his opinion :
What is this mysterious looking image? Thankfully, Colonel Feature can explain it to us using his vast experience acquired in the heat of battle :
But this is not all the art Henri has drawn. Check out a part of the hostel, this time free of military presence in the image.
*WARNING – PROGRAMMING INFO DETECTED*
*MAY CAUSE SEVERE CASES OF BOREDOM AND CLUELESSNESS*
As far as the code is concerned, there have been a lot of speed and stability improvements in game. The scripting system is now complete, which allows me to quickly add new events to complete the decision tree of in-game choices. I cannot reveal much more about the decisions you make, but here’s what one of the characters in the game has to say about the progress done in programming (or it may be another in-game event – it’s a secret!) –
*PROGRAMMING INFO ENDS*
Whoa, is that a new design of dialog boxes? Hmm, it looks as if the next update will be sooner than you think. Here’s a final message from the armed forces :
It’s been almost a month since the last update. How time flies, doesn’t it? The reasons for the delay are as follows:
I somehow acquired both Jaundice and Hepatitis-A (Simultaneously! Scientific wonder!), which caused weakness and inability to program, and
The Scripting System.
While it would no doubt be fun to talk about (1), and how I suffered generally, I think an update on how (2) is shaping up would be more useful, and will receive better critical reception. Here’s how I started programming the scripting system:
A few months ago, I came up with a demo (or a “vertical slice”) for the A.Typical combat* system. I posted a few screenshots and details, which a few ModDB users criticized for causing irreparable harm to their eyes, BUT received (some) positive response for its uniqueness. Extending that system to multiple situations, however, proved a bigger challenge than what I thought. Specifically, I found out that my hacky approach to scripting was causing several bugs, glitches and inappropriate NPC behavior. Combining that system with the in-game world was also proving a pain with my earlier mentioned hacky approach, which brings us nicely to the new system.
My thought process in action.
The way the system works is simple: each event has a set of conditions needed to trigger the event, which I’ll refer to as triggers for the event. Basically, a trigger is a logical expression that must be true if the event can occur. Conditions include the player location, events that have happened before, and in some cases the object the player must interact with to trigger the event. I also maintain a huge list of all events that take place in the game, with combat-specific events having their own list. Here’s a (simplified) pictorial representation:
A few features of the system still need implementation (such as making 2 events occur simultaneously, accounting for AI behavior). I hope to get started on those soon enough *grumbles about exams*. I hope to get better soon and give you more news and updates!
* – The general all-purpose system used in a variety of situations referred to as the combat system.
P.S. Oh, and by the way, super-all-round-artist Henri has been busy with real life stuff, so I’m sorry I don’t have much art to show. However, he did come up with this work in progress photo of the world map. More awesome art is forthcoming!
Hey people! It’s Arvind this time with some sweet news to share. Now before you run away in fear of the horrible art I am about to show you, be aware that it is all going to be replaced by our awesome artist, so just see it this once and you’ll never have to see it again. Promise.
Let’s start with one feature that is quite central to the game – The World Map.
Okay, enough screaming in horror at my sheer impudence to show you this horrible picture. But once you get past the art and to the substance, you will notice that the locations on this map all have one thing in common. Come on, guess that common thing while I show you some other pictures of the development process.
Left : How the map icon looks on screen (Henri drew that), and Right : the selection effect that occurs when you select a location on the world map.
So there I am, hard at work implementing new features and toiling away in inhospitable conditions to polish the game to near perfection. For those of you who prefer using the keyboard to the new-fangled mouse and GUI stuff that is surely a fad, I’ve added full keyboard support to all the in-game interfaces. After all, nobody will be using mice after 5 years.
In the next update, we’ll show you the environments that Henri has been toiling on for the past few days. He did make the special map icon that glows when you point at it. Technology!
TECHNICAL STUFF WARNING !!
(Not suitable for the graphics-obsessed or people with allergy to code !)
Is he gone? Good, I don’t like him very much.
A lot of my programming time this past month has been spent optimizing the game engine, as it soon became apparent just how bloated the code had become in some places. Worse, I came upon a nasty memory leak that caused about a 2 MB increase in memory consumption per second. That’s pretty nasty even for a AAA 3d-enabled processor-destroying game, much less for a 2d game like we have here.
So the result was that I dived into all my code, and completely rewrote the parts I thought were poorly written (about 75% of the code), and the result is a leaner, faster game that consumes about half as much memory as previously and runs a lot faster. And best of all – no more memory leaks!
I’m currently programming a whole new level system that will enable me to quickly prototype the game events (story and battles, basically). After that, I plan to get started on the inventory and equipment system.
TECHNICAL STUFF ENDS !!
That’s it from me then, fellas. For any queries, comments, criticism, or maybe if you would like to help out in some manner, don’t hesitate to contact me!
Hello, so Arvind and I are testing a different way of posting news articles. I´ll discuss about the visual department, and he goes into coding and game-design. That way our readers will have more fun stuff to read, rather than just “here´s screenshots, wow at us.”. Eh, I hope at least. So, let´s start then, shall we?
Part 1. Leon´s stuff
Alright so as you might remember from the last news item, I jumped into Arvind´s RPG project to take care of the graphics-design. I´ve wanted to work on indie games AND 2d-graphics for soooo long, and Arvind I know from before, so this seemed like a really good project to jump on. I´ll get plenty of exercise in building a game from thin air (as opposed to modding – customizing something that already exists) and I also get to work on smaller 2d visuals, so this is pure joy for me.
The way we do this is, Arvind has the base build, and I have some sort of a messy build that I test my graphics on, and there I just change the images, paint over them, see what works and what doesn’t, and when there´s something decent enough to show, I upload it on our DropBox folder (its a ftp-like thing for sharing files) and then it goes into the actual build of the game.
Example 1.) So I grab the graphics straight off from the game´s gfx folders, then paint over them in Photoshop. Naturally, its quite a good idea to keep everything in layers, since there´s bound to be some changes after any gameplay testing.
Since I don’t have that much experience in 2d graphics in actual games, I decided to stick to a style that I’m really familiar with. Cartoony and bright. I doubt that many people know this, but I draw´n publish my own comics, so cartoony and lighthearted visuals are way closer to my heart than the grittier and horror-oriented stuff I throw into ModDB.
Example 2.) Damn its hard to align these pictures into the article.. well anyways, this picture here shows you how I design the sprites and the backgrounds. I work A.Typical RPG´s graphics first on paper, in small parts, and then I scan that stuff away and cut and paste together in Photoshop. Keeping the layers intact. I constructed the whole football field and the player character and most of the new buttons purely with this scanned image.
I’ve heard its best to leave the hero´s character sheet for the last, and first design all the other npcs, but I couldn’t resist using the sprite sheet on the hero himself. Atleast we can test the character sheets properly, since the player´s character has to be the most interactive of the bunch. I took the idea out of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, one of my all-time fave games, where Link has purple hair, fitting enough for a epic hero. Whaddaya think? Does this look good, or just stupid?
Example 3.) The purple/green hero! Also, the animation frames. I requested proper animations according to action ´n direction, so right now we´re running at 22 animation frames per character. In the football-match alone, there are 6 characters, so that counts into something like 130 images I gotta draw. But that´s how it goes.. and practice makes perfect.
OK that’s all from me then. Do leave comments on what I´ve done. Nothing´s final right now, so if you have any bright ideas, let us laugh at them hear them! Oh and I´d love to hear any tips anyone has on 2d graphics / hi-res sprite-design..
Part 2. Arvind´s stuff
Okay fellas, so that’s our super artist right there. Now, my part of the post focuses more on the gameplay, since I’m glad I don’t have to draw any more sprites (and I’m sure you guys are glad as well).
Let’s start off with how our WORK-IN-PROGRESS playground looks like now :
Big improvement, eh? A lot of my recent work has been behind the scenes – cleaning up code, adding new functionality – but the changes most visible are only a few. One of the most visible changes is :
I received a lot of mixed feedback from the UI elements last time around. A lot of the negative views were based on how the command menu kept changing locations, and often covered the character or the nearby sprites. In order to address those complaints, the command menu now stays at the top right corner of the field – so the action is never obscured in any way.
Also, in order to avoid confusion on exactly which character did the commands refer to, we included a neat little selection box that show you which character currently has focus.
Another important concern while playing the game was to give the players an idea of where they were positioned, and also the resultant position of their moves. This issue was solved by the hastily brilliantly named element, the field grid.
This grid gives you a clear idea of the location of your character, as well as the surrounding characters – and is used in every action where character position(s) are relevant. Here’s what it looks like when selecting where to move a character :
Apart from this, I have coded almost the entire battle system. We hope we can soon move from work-in-progress-rough-unfinished-stuff to some sweet real gameplay footage. What remains is animation and scripting the battle for the most A.Typical football match you have ever seen.
Expect more awesome news from me and Henri pretty soon!
A lot of complaints I have been getting about the game have been about the absolutely revolting level of art design I have subjected you to. Well, all that is about to change, for I am very pleased to announce that the A.Typical RPG has a new artist – Henri !
He has made a few mockups of what the final game will look like once he has purged my art from the galaxy. To demonstrate just how much more awesome the game looks, here’s a comparison :
Disclaimer: The image shown here is a concept image – Henri has told me he will improve the level of detail and quality of the in-game art in the following days. So while this image isn’t exactly final, you can expect the art to be even better.
P.S. You may recognize Henri from the excellent Flesh mod and the promising Visage mod. You can view his deviantart gallery here: Acherontiadomus.deviantart.com
Here’s another of his cryptic sprite designs, which consist of character concepts :