Project Update and Axel’s Facelift

Wow! Thanks to kind internet folks such as yourselves, our Kickstarter has just about met its 2nd stretch goal of $3000!

kickstarter progress

We’ve also updated two of our nearest stretch goal tiers to contain some more exciting incentives:

new stretchgoals

Help us meet these new goals while there’s time left! We’re down to the last 4 hours!

I have felt for a long time that as my competency with MangaStudio and the Wacom tablet have improved, some of the older characters have required a facelift of sorts. The biggest offender? Axel.

Check him out now!

Axel-NormalAxel-Normal

I cleaned up the line art, and this time knew to “Export in Dimensions” rather than in pixels – creating smoother colors truer to how they were originally blended. Expect similar updates to Adin and Arinnel too ūüôā

And as always, thanks a ton for the support! I know many of our readers have donated – if you could reblog this, you will gain an extra day of eternal gratitude! ūüėČ

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Attack of the Ogres

Enemies are needed just as much as heroes. Unfortunately, the resources for enemy battlers are rather limited – at least for the monsters. I’m therefore making my own battlers based on resources provided by RPG Maker:

$BigMonster2

To make this sprite blend more with our battlers, I changed the center to a 3/4 view, and added an outline as seen on our other battlers.

I then animated it, but manipulating its parts, slightly.

His low-health state:

ogre

His primary attack:

ogre2

Expect to see more soon, as well as possibly our demo coming up soon.

A Summary of Game Progress – Characters and Portraits

This blog exists because of our RPG Maker VX Ace Project, The Lotus War, but besides for posting some images of recent artwork, the game itself has kind of taken a backseat in the blog. Not because work has halted, but because so much has been covered in past posts. For example, older posts might’ve covered product reviews or character introductions – you might notice, though, that the products that we use in game creation are limited, and the main cast has pretty much been introduced. Similarly, custom scripts that we’ve utilized have been addressed in past posts, as well as some of the custom tilesets that will appear. But with a goal of having a demo available by next month¬†(we’ll see how that goes), perhaps it’s time to recap some of our development progress. Today, I’ll start with something already familiar: the art. Expect, though, to see samples of cut scenes, the opening credits, and new views of our map coming soon.

Of course, we have the main cast fully assembled. You may remember from earlier posts that the artwork hasn’t always been up to snuff. Fortunately, with practice, I was able to create a team of which I’m proud:

wpid-1149067_588924531160537_1382445057_n.pngTaya-BlushArinnel-Normal

Axel-NormalAuhn-Normal elf guy normalbron

 

We also have several of the secondary cast fleshed out:

Axel3-NormalAnders-NormalSteff-NormalKai2-Normal

 

And you might notice that the armor is a little more unified these days – although still varying from character to character. This was done to give it more of a military feel.

Some of the major bosses were also completed:

Galen-NormalshaneThe Bird-NormalThe Chief - Normal

 

Battlers have also been important, which we’ve been fortunate enough to obtain for customization through Holder:

ren-battler auhn-battler kai-battler galen-attack bron-battler taya-shot

 

This is all a big deal to me because it has truly come a long way. Some past examples were rough:

wpid-hero-template.png kai jealousimagewpid-taya.png

 

taya-old-shotwpid-arinnel.pngwpid-portrait_taya.png

In the past, you might notice, the characters looked a bit flat.There was little dimension due to my lack of comfort with MangaStudio. My skill has vastly improved – and I also discovered new nifty tricks (the most revolutionary being “export in dimensions” rather than “export in pixels” – for Photoshop, it makes such a huge difference!). I’ve also grown in comfort using Photoshop, and discovered a nifty tool in GraphicsGale for pixel art. Not to mention my ability with the Wacom Bamboo Splash has increased dramatically.

In addition to that, I’ve created what will become the basis of at least part of the opening cinematic:

opening 1

Of course, given that the characters are my area and I’ve been updating the blog since month 3 or so, any frequent readers are well aware of the advancements in this area. For a game development blog, the greater interest might light in world creation, coding, scripting, and the like. Fortunately, J also has some great progress to report. Unfortunately, we’re spreading this recap out so that each aspect of our game has a moment to shine.

Check back soon for progress in our game music, our opening credits, our opening “cinematic,” and out in-game cut scenes. All of this will hopefully be leading up to a playable demo some time¬†in August.

And please, feel free to leave feedback. Feedback is what we need to fulfill our ultimate goal: creating a great game.

Syncing Up Character Portraits and Sprites

Populating The Lotus War‘s world has been a priority of late. While I have several characters on the back burner already, they didn’t have corresponding sprites. J, conversely, had the opposite problem: he filled several maps¬†with NPC sprites for which there were not yet portraits. So I went ahead and created characters based on the sprites, then made sprites based on the characters. Admittedly, one was a bit easier than the other: creating the sprites first, then basing the portraits on them. But with the limits on RPG Maker’s templates, that left the sprites/portraits done that way rather uninspired.

RPG Maker doesn’t even have ponytails as an option for hairstyles, for example. Not to mention rest of the costumes: there are probably about 15 or so that fit into various categories of warrior, shaman (or wiseman, or something), villager, and then a few modern ones (suits and school uniforms, mostly). I can edit these well enough on Photoshop or GraphicsGale, but I think if I were to make the sprites first, I probably wouldn’t have a mind for editing them as much before drawing new portraits.

Fortunately (and unfortunately) the little 16-bit, 2D sprites that games like ours utilize aren’t of the greatest, most explicit detail. You look at the characters and get the general idea of, ok, this one is a red-headed girl, in an ab-baring yellow top, but I don’t think you would expect to see detail at that level. In fact, if you add a scarf to your character, RPG Maker may not, by default, add that to the sprite. There are, then, a lot of little things that a designer could conceivably get away with… adding buttons, certain cuts of clothing, high collars, low collars, etc. etc. But some of the really basic things, such as color, seem to inherent to a character not to change. For example:

 

Those are the basic hair colors that RPG Maker offers, give or take. And yet, on Otaku Judge’s request, I’ve drawn a fiery red-headed rogue – not a bratty pink-haired one:

roguish girl

Not to mention my random warrior chick:

Scully-Normal

Exactly which shade above would do either of these two characters justice?

Even one of our stars, Arinnel, has pink hair… but it’s too fair a color to use RPG Maker’s red with. So does that mean that I should stick to the 6 or so shades offered by the game? Or should I just do a bit of a bait and switch to make my job easier? It’s not like it’s unprecedented, even in professional games:

It’s a little hard to see, but notice how the character’s talking to a dude that seems to have blue-ish gray hair, but the dialogue portrait shows him with tannish blond.

But hair is not all:

billy

I drew this guy a while ago before really thinking about his sprite. Not only was orange¬†not available for his vest, but in RPG Maker, he wouldn’t even¬†have a vest. It would’ve been a jacket. So I made some simple modifications:

liam

Yet even that’s not perfect. If you look closely, his collar in the sprite sheet hangs low and is orange. In the portrait, it is gray and upright.

But all in all, I do wonder: how closely do sprites and portraits need to align? What do you think?

Introducing a New Elf Party Member – Jeth or Jerr?

elf guy normal

Jerr-Normal

Both are faces you’re familiar with from previous blog posts, But recently, we’ve felt the need to incorporate another elf into the party. This one will be another herbalist, like Arinnel – but while her forte will be in healing potions, his will lie in attack potions.

I was all set to go with the top one, whom we’re currently calling Jeth. He has a little smirk that gives him the appearance of swag, confidence and general cool guy-ness. However, to get him battle-ready, I’d probably want to alter his clothes a little bit (although Arinnel is decidedly unarmored). That’s when Jerr caught my eye.

While not quite armored, he does seem a bit more ready-to-go. This character, though, would be a quieter, more subdued young man. Stoic – aloof, even. He’d probably be of little words, though of strong opinion.

We’re not yet sure¬†what we want from this specific character. We do know that he will be in love with Arinnel, and is very dedicated to duty. He will either fight with a bow or a staff.

What do you think? Jeth or Jerr? Another archer, or should I give one of Holder’s staff-fighters a sex change?

Updating Taya’s Battler

As you may or may not remember, Taya’s battler started as a dude from Holder named Van.

comparison2

The thing is, it has made her look a little… manly… even though I’ve attempted to girlify him with boobs and thinner legs.

Recently, though, Holder has introduced yet new archer battlers! Males AND females included! I’ve wasted no time fixing up a new, more feminine Taya archer.

taya-paige

Now compare the past archer and the new one:

taya-old-shot

taya-shot

I also like this wooden bow better, which is a huge plus. But she’s now leggier and with more feminine poses, which is great. Also, now that I myself am better at editing the battlers, I was able to render it much smoother.

Anyways, another shout out and huge thanks to Holder for these great battlers. As you probably could guess, I’ll have to utilize them yet again for a new Axel battler.

 

*EDIT* I’m a complete moron. I closed the document and clicked “DO NOT SAVE” because I’m an idiot and thought that it was asking about the animated bit – not the complete character sheet. Now I only have half of my process from like 60 individual little characters. I’m done >____<

Impressions of GraphicsGale

Because I’ve, of late, been dealing with sprites more than ever, I’ve begun seeking a better way to sprite. Photoshop, as obvious from its name, really is more focused on photo editing rather than image creation, and GIMP follows suit with that. Manga Studio, of which I’m a fan, is not really in a bitmap format, making it less than ideal for pixel art. After some further research, though, I have found a cool, free program, GraphicsGale.

As mentioned yesterday, I have sneaking suspicion that some of the functions of GraphicsGale probably are more intuitive for people who are used to using Japanese computers – not that I’ve ever used one, so I could be way off. But the functions make a lot of sense… they’re just not what I’m used to expecting from computer applications.

Left-click functions normally. It’s the A-button of the PC world. It’s used to select and utilize the selection’s primary functions. But rather than right-click operate like B-button, with its own functions (normally, a drop-menu), right-click in GraphicsGale serves as a secondary function to whatever tool you’ve selected. For example, you left-click to select the Selection Lasso, you lasso the part of the image you need to operate on, it’s selected and all is good… but rather than right-click to select separate functions like “Transform” or “Rotate,” you’d right-click to operate the Selection’s Lasso’s secondary function — deselect.

All of the tools work like that. Select the pen tool by left-clicking, operate its primary function (to fill pixels) by left-click… operate its secondary function (to select the fill color) by right-clicking. In some ways, this is more convenient, and I can image that if I were using a stylus with a left-and-right click function right on it, it’d be even more convenient (instead, I have to use my left hand to click the various buttons on my laptop). In other ways, and probably because I’m so used to the normal functions of a western PC, it’s less. Instead of the nifty drop-menu, I now have to navigate to the various functions on the tool bar.

Some of the tools work more conveniently. The Square Selector is great, displaying guidelines to show the edges of your selection. There’s even a magnified viewer on the left-hand side that offers somewhat of a pixel-view.

screen shot1

Other tools, such as Rotate (really, that’s the only one I can think of) operate with less ease.

screen shot2

My issue with Photoshop and GIMP, however, is resolved. While rotating/stretching/skewing images or selections isn’t perfect, it’s much closer. The colors don’t break-up and blur, and a clear outline of, say, my battler’s arm is still present.

GraphicsGale rendering after rotation:

screen shot3

Photoshop rendering of rotated arm:

screen shot4

One issue I had with GIMP is, however, present here too: layers seem to work more like sequential separate images rather than components of one image as in Photoshop and Manga Studio. This may be due to GraphicGale’s purpose of creating sprites and pixel art, rather than editing.

Overall I like this program for spriting, though I would never give up my beloved Manga Studio for portrait creation, nor does it replace other facets of Photoshop’s abilities, especially in the area of image editing. Although, like GIMP, adjustment is necessary on my part, the differences don’t feel like mere superficial distinguishing points; if a tool functions differently, it doesn’t feel as though it functions differently from Photoshop¬†just to be different than Photoshop, but because the difference actually serves a purpose. It’s more of a balanced switch-out than a contrived annoyance.

Is anyone else working on Sprites? What kind of creation application have you tried?

My First Self-Choreographed Attack

Because Holder currently doesn’t have a melee fighter, I’ve been working on changing the fighter known as Erik¬†from an ax-fighter into a fist-fighter. Check out his mean right cross:

galen-attack

I admit, I’ve been working on just this battler for days. Literally days. It didn’t even take me that long to give Taya a sex-change. That was easy… put some boobs on hi– ehemmm… —¬†her¬†and bam-o. Hot archer chick. Observe:

comparison2

But taking out the weapon, and now replacing the actual attack movements with ones inspired by boxing has been more of a process.

Luckily, I found a new program called GraphicsGale, which is absolutely great for pixel art. As you can expect, it is different than the other programs I’ve tried – Photoshop, GIMP, Manga Studio, etc. Some of the differences I even feel may even be regional, as it was developed in Japan and a lot of the functions are probably more intuitive to people who’ve been using Japanese computers. But that review is for a different day.

The Fist has finally gotten his first attack. Now I need to find out another… damn….

First Impressions of Gimp

Today I thought I’d try out Gimp to continue with my manipulations of The Fist. So far, it’s not my favorite program, but I have not yet reached a verdict on whether I like it and will continue to use it.

It almost feels to me that Gimp IS Photoshop… just with a few, almost superficial differences to make sure we know it’s different. Its hot-keys, for example, are different. The way the layers seems to work is different, too… which is probably what I find most frustrating. It doesn’t seem that adding a new layer is really used to edit the image below it, as much as it’s just kind of a new image on top of it.

Another annoyance is with my Wacom tablet. In both Manga Studio and Photoshop, holding the stylus’ key and pulling the tip up or down on the tablet allows me to navigate the canvas, up, down or side-to-side. Gimp, on the other hand, only allows me to navigate vertically in this way – even if there is room to scroll horizontally – and my directional keys don’t seem to help in that regard, either.

I also like that in Photoshop and Manga Studio, I can use one tool to freely transform my selection or layer, whether it be to change its dimensions, rotate, or cut and move. Gimp doesn’t offer that same multi-purpose tool, instead making me select the various tools for each specific function – if there is a free transform tool, I haven’t found it yet.

Another small issue is that I can’t simply save something as a .png, but have to export it instead. Small difference, but an added hurtle, however small, nonetheless.

The problem that I had with Photoshop – that if I rotate or scale a selection, it blurs the pixels and changes colors – is still present in Gimp, rendering it about as good for pixel art as Photoshop. It is not, so far, like Manga Studio, with obvious strengths in other areas of computer drawing that would motivate me to learn the new interface to use it; it feels as though I’d have to put in all the effort to get used to Gimp’s interface but with little reward as the end result seems, for my purposes, to be the same.

Any handy tips for Gimp or secret benefits I haven’t touched on yet? Has anyone tried GraphicsGale? – I recently saw a blurb about it online for pixel art and it looks promising.

The Fist – Battler

The Fist (seen previously, but slightly updated below) is going to be part of a crew of henchmen for the main bad guy, mid-level bosses.

Galen-Normal

A shout out to our friend, whom we also like to call Muscle Milk, The Fist fights with his hands. The only problem is that Holder doesn’t have any animated battlers that don’t have a weapon, and I’m not what you’d call great at pixel art. Still… I’m trying!

galen-battler

This guy is based off of Holder’s Eric actor, the axe-wielder below:

comparison

So far, I have his idle stance (above) and his block stance, but no attacks yet. I’m a little nervous about how I’ll do it >____< Idle and block has been pretty simple to modify so far, as it’s pretty much just a matter of change colors, moderate reshaping of the figure, and taking out the weapon. I’m a little afraid that I’ll have to construct attacks all on my own… and I’ve never done animation even on this level before.

Gimp has been suggested to me for pixel art a couple of times, now. I can definitely see Photoshop’s short-comings regarding sprite generation. For example, if I select the sprite’s arm and try to change its orientation, even if while selected the arm looks clear and fine, it gets distorted after setting it in place – I think because Photoshop tries to blend changes in with the rest of the picture. I’m not sure if that’s a problem I’ll have with Gimp or not. History shows that I can be hesitant to experiment (almost didn’t try Manga Studio, which I now love). Let’s see how I feel about Gimp in the coming weeks.

Has anyone else tried Gimp for spriting? How do you like it? Any other programs to recommend?