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!

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

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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!

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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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Kickstarter Progress

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With 18 days left on our Kickstarter, we have 55 backers and nearly 60% of our goal met! But I wanted to take this opportunity to thank some great peeps who’ve supported our project from the get-go:

The Otaku Judge – one of our first backers, most constant commenter, and great reviewer-of-anime – Thanks for turning Geek Out South-West’s attention over to us, thanks for your support, and thanks just all around. What a guy!

Geek Out South-West – thank you for the tremendous shout-out! Posted just today, we already got two additional pledges within less than an hour of your post. Hats off to you, sirs!

Ross Tunney – Another fantastic project creator you can find on Kickstarter – currently has a live campaign for his awesome, anime-inspired game, Data Hacker. Thanks for the shout-outs, Ross!

And I’d love to take this moment to thank not only anyone who has backed us, but anyone who has spread the word about Legend of Lotus – even if unable to financially back us. Please help us keep this campaign going! If any of your friends A) are rich B) love retro games or C) all of the above, send them our way for our eternal gratitude.

If anyone out there has ever wanted to take part in video game creation but lacks the time, the energy, the money, the skills or the… creativity, by backing even just $1, your name will be memorialized in our credits. By playing the demo and offering feedback, or becoming a $15 backer and downloading the game through its Beta stage, you can earn a special place in our credits as a consultant.

As long as we’re talking about Kickstarter, here are some great projects currently live:

Aegis Defenders – a visually stunning pixel art game

Steam Punk & Cthulu Soundtracks – a soundtrack production group to create awesome soundscapes for tabletop gaming

 

And finally, I’d like to give a preview of a new concept we’re planning to develop once Legend of Lotus is done:

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We’re exploring 2D platformer construction using Unity – with a totally new art style. But not only will the art be completely different; the storytelling, game mechanisms/play, and goals will be completely different too.

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Without words, this game will tell the simple but moving story exploring the depths of the bond between a dog and her boy. It will be a pixel art game with puzzle mechanisms, and a simple, clear story with one goal: to get home with your boy. The above .gif is a rough design of the dog’s sprite, animated by yours truly.

Our goal to finish Legend of Lotus is January, provided the Kickstarter goes through. Production on Bound is slated to begin shortly thereafter. Wish us luck!

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:

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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:

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His primary attack:

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

A Summary of Game Progress – A tour of Genos

Justin here. Just a quick update on some game progress. Specifically, the world of Genos. Every classic RPG game world is unique, but with similar roots. The dynamic? The main character who ultimately becomes a hero, has humble beginnings. This¬†kind of classic game dynamic works, and for The Lotus War, we didn’t want to change. Why? Because that’s the kind of story that we all can fall in love with. We connect to it, envy it. An ordinary guy, who goes on to do extraordinary things. Who overcomes odds, using talents and wits.¬†What differentiates this kind of coming-of-age story in any incarnation are the details – and we’ve¬†seasoned both the plot and the world with originality.

None of this would be possible without the player¬†having a world in which to become a hero. I’ve labored some hours over all the maps in the game, constantly adding and changing things. A common complaint among RPG fans (especially towards RPG maker games) is that the maps are bland, without real detail, or seeming as though the designer didn’t put a lot of time or thought into them. I have been trying my utmost to design a world that¬†I would want to play,¬†and the world¬†I want to play can’t be bland or lazy. In any game especially RPG/Adventure games, the world should encourage you to explore and you should have fun doing it. None of this should feel tedious, or drawn out. Our world, Genos, is vast. It has a little bit of everything…

From the humble beginnings of Ren’s home town…

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To secret places with friends…

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…Exploration with your party…

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Steampunk styled cities…

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Lush forests…

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Snow-capped mountains…

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…and ancient dungeons.

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From desert wasteland to frozen tundra, The Lotus War has a little bit of everything to explore. It’s my hope you’ll have as much in discovering it as I have had in creating it.

A demo is forthcoming – so stay tuned! In this coming month, we plan to add several more updates to game progress, such as our opening credits and some game footage.

Becoming Heroes

Like many, I was a fan of the first season of¬†Heroes…. right up until its “epic” last battle with Sylar. The thing is… as you might’ve noticed… that last battle was not epic at all. As I do so many things in life, I’m going to explain this in Dragon Ball Z terms…

So we are offered a Goku in Peter: a nice guy who just wants to do good Рwho also happens to have the potential to be the most powerful humanoid in the universe. He even trains a little bit to try and sharpen his skills. Good for him! We are also offered Vegeta in the form of Sylar: maybe not a bad guy, but certainly with a great capacity of evil Рwho also happens to have powers that could come to rival the protagonists, if not quite as naturally/effortlessly, and with a head-start.

We have supporting cast: Hiro/Krillin, Glasses Guy/… I don’t know… Piccolo, Buff White Chick/Bulma, her boyfriend/Yamcha, Cheerleader/… Chi-Chi? Is Nathan Raditz? And Parkman… In any case, we have a great ensemble and many potential heroes, but none who are quite on the level of our protagonist/antagonist… so obviously when it comes down to a final, epic battle… yes, some teamwork is involved – but overall, the expectation would be that the final battle would see the two most fitting rivals converging. This is something¬†Dragon Ball Z has shown us over and over again – but that¬†Heroes took one look at and balked. Perhaps they thought it they gave us a Peter/Sylar show-down, we’d be satisfied with that and forget about the show entirely? Alas, they underestimated our extreme excitement to see such show-downs¬†over and over and over again. I mean, seriously: how many fights did Goku and Vegeta get into? And now how many actually bored you? (Well… you know… besides for the episodes-long power-ups).

That’s just one of my issues with¬†Heroes. When the moment came for Peter to live-up to the title of the show, he wussed out, and the “final battle” with Sylar amounted to a bunch of people taking a whack or two at Sylar. Now, I know that Yajirobe is the one who cut-off Vegeta’s tail, much like Hiro was the one who stabbed Sylar with a friggin katana – but removing Vegeta’s tail was far from a final blow, and it only demonstrated that the defeat of Vegeta was arduous… not just a gang of people randomly pot-shotting one (admittedly bad) guy.

This makes for an easy comparison to the final battles of video games: typically, you have a team. That team stands by you throughout each battle; you begin to think of them as a single unit with your hero. In¬†Persona 3, you can have the protagonist, Akihiko, Aigis, and Koromaru or Ken or Mitsuru or whomever. In KOTOR, you actually get to face off with Malak alone, which is awesome (and basically the hardest fight ever… or maybe just for me)… but up until then you have Bastila, Carth, Zaalbar, the ever entertaining HK-47, and T3-M4 – who basically won my entire penultimate battle against Malak single-handedly (immune to many force powers and able to heal my party when Malak fled; I hardly leveled HK-47 at all due to my insistence on playing mostly-light side). Final Fantasy always gives you your teams. But because you are controlling all members of your party in these fights, the accomplishment feels like a win for you – the player – who has trained and leveled-up and tried every tactic after death scene after death scene (my tactic when fighting Malak? Stock-up on grenades, especially shock ones/ice ones, run really far, throw a grenade, hit him a little bit, then continue to run like hell).

You feel satisfaction in those wins because it took effort, and it was challenging and utilized the sum of your training. Because it was the fruitage of one person’s struggles against a worthy adversary: yours.

So yes, in TV shows like Heroes, you do track the progress of several different characters of the arc of the series. That’s a trend continuing more and more. You don’t want writers to just drop the ball entirely by forgetting about the characters once¬†shit gets real. But you don’t want to¬†totally neuter the main character either, by rendering their efforts useless in comparison to a few slaps in the face by auxiliary characters. I think, in this case and despite my many problems with the movies itself,¬†Man of Steel¬†did well in that department: we followed a determined soldier trying to protect his country from beings vastly out-matching him… and win (sort of) – throwing back a catchy little jab at said beings, at that. Meanwhile, the ultimate, most difficult victory was still Clark’s.

For our own game, we face the same difficulty all game creators do: making boss battles feel meaningful and difficult – without being impossibly frustrating. While we’re a little limited with the Pokemon-like battle-system, acquiring skills and leveling up will vastly aid us in this quest.

Roguish Girl – A Shout Out to the Otaku Judge

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So this is what I have of the fiery, red-headed roguish, thievish NPC thus far. Excuse me that it’s technically tomorrow and I wanted to pump one out every day. Got a little side-tracked -_____-

She will be done tomorrow though!

As yesterday, further requests or ideas are welcomed.

Stamina Meter

One of the infuriating, yet totally understandable, aspects of Harvest Moon was the stamina meter. Remember in the SNES/Gameboy, especially, when you’d be busy chopping wood, clearing your field, planting crops, smashing rocks, whatever, and it just ate and ate and ate away at your stamina? And then you’d have to eat or go to the hotspring or just call it a day all together? That drove me nuts. I was on a mission, dammit! Those fields needed clearing!

Now, though, in developing our game, stamina is a feature that we’re looking into. If it bothered me so much in Harvest Moon, why is it something that I’m pushing for now? There are a couple of reasons.

With the more-open world we’re striving toward (despite the need for load screens, etc), a player could be tempted to speed through a game without ever setting up camp and getting the chance to converse with your party, have your party create items, or build relationships with either of the two girls. It’s fine for second or third play-throughs, but that type of play sort of ruins the experience of the whole game if that quick-play version is the only one the player knows. The player can just keep running and moving and lose all the other elements of the game.

Unlike KOTOR, another game with a homebase, there’s no way to force a player into the homebase as there is with KOTOR (the base is the ship, the player needs to enter the ship every time one world is finished to move on to the next).¬†The stamina meter will encourage the player to take a breather and enjoy these other aspects of the game.

But, of course, there still need to be ways to keep this feature from being an infuriatingly dull-point for the players who do just want to finish – or to assist players who traveled a little too far and are now stuck in an area with no campsite and enemies all around. So it’s likely that food, potions, and other items will assist in alleviating stamina to keep a player going through moments like those.

What do you think of a stamina meter? Have you played any games with a similar concept? Was it a help or hindrance in your enjoyment of the gameplay?

Setting Up Camp

One option I want to incorporate into The Lotus War is the ability to set-up camp. Sometimes, I find the time spent in the homebase to even be some of the most interesting moments of the game. It’s a good cool-down time to talk to the other characters and get a feel for the stories, or even enrich the one you’re playing out.

KOTOR, my obvious favorite, is a good example of this. Because your ship is the mode by which you traverse from one world (or level) to the next, it’s a necessary break you need to take to advance in the game. During this time, the player can talk to Bastila, Carth, that cat chick, that annoying girl, the hilarious kill-bot, and get them to make great and useful items for you (btw, the aforementioned kill-bot was not the little droid, though T3-M4 was an awesome asset. I would not have survived my first fight with Malak had it not been for him!)

Setting up camp really came up as an idea because I wanted to be able to trigger conversations and events with the party members – and waiting for towns or specific buildings could’ve made the events sparse. Now, because the player can choose to bypass campsites, the events may be missed – but there will still be more of them. I really hope to use it as a way to keep from having the same, repetitive conversation with the party on every occasion (because we can set up events unique to each campsite).

The system by which the player travels the map is like FF7’s – the MC’s avatar is the only one present on the map during all of the running. The party members, then, are not visible all the time and therefore cannot be talked to at a whim to further story lines. While that may be a downside in the mode we’ve chosen to represent the party/travel, the upside is an un-cluttered screen and a less ridiculous look (it does look pretty silly for the party to be running in single-file like a game of Meerca Chase (am I the only one who remembers Neopets?) or you know… Caterpillar or whatever it’s called.

Not only does the party-travel mode look silly, but it does have draw-backs in progression and conversation. For example, it will be more difficult to script new and different dialog, or progressive dialog. At best, we could randomize the conversation. At least, we’d have to program a short greeting to each of them but save the meatier conversation for certain points in the game.

Setting up camp not only allows for the progressive conversation we want, but also for the ability to have characters craft items for you/the party, which is another fun aspect in itself.

 

What do you think about games that retain a home base? (even if that base is mobile)

Learning from 5 Centimeters Per Second

I literally just came home from the bookstore after finishing¬†5 Centimeters Per Second¬†in one sitting, needing to write a blog about it. Because I had high hopes for it. I really did. The art is beautiful. The opening arc tugs at the heart-strings. It made me shed some tears, I’ll be honest.

And then I got to the end.

(This blog will include spoilers, btw)

What was disappointing about it? Why will I avoid doing in my own stories? In The Lotus War, particularly?

The most obvious would be the heartbreak of an ending. I think it was trying to tell a story of first love and moving on from that. It… it failed at that. It seemed to me it told the story of true love and lacking the courage to hold onto that. What Takaki and Akari had was something that they carried with them for literally a decade – despite romantic advances from other people, despite a lack of communication, despite any distance apart they were. I’ve had puppy love. I’ve had crushes that lasted for five years – but it was never like¬†5 Centimeters presented it. Nothing was like that… except for the love that led me to my marriage. So for them not to end up together? That was really depressing.

It seems to me that if you were trying to tell a realistic story of moving on, you would show the main character (Takaki) growing out of the stage, and maybe finding closure. None is really presented. He lost the courage to keep talking to this love of his life, then lost the courage to reunite… even when she was right there in front of him. Arguably, it wasn’t a lack of courage, as much as the reassurance that she’d grown past him and was a fine, stable adult. But if even for a brief good-bye, or meaningful contact beyond a chance glimpse – I feel even that would add depth to the ending.

Another argument is that she walked away from him, and he was willing to accept that because he recognized her need to do so. I know you can love one person for a while, then fall in love with someone else when circumstances change, and have both be true and real. True love isn’t necessarily once-in-a-lifetime, but the manga neither comments on that directly, nor really demonstrates that through Akari, as we are never really given insight into her new love. It’s a leap of faith, blind and optimistic, but feeling unrealistic. Again – it lacks closure. Even if they’d talked so that he could hear this himself, and this helped him move on (a la 500 Days of Summer), I would likely have been an ardent fan. But this brought it out of the realm of realism and into the feel of coming purely from the author’s imagination.

The part that really put the nail in coffin? The story ended with a whole chapter devoted to a minor character. Say what, now?

So during the second story arc, the manga kind of derails off of Takaki and Akari to tell the story of Kanae, a girl who pines after Takaki in high school. There’s not much to her. There’s not much to her love of Takaki… and yet, for some reason, she gets the entire last chapter. I tell you in all earnestness, I could not care less for Kanae. I flipped through that whole last chapter just to see if the narrative end of Takaki and Akari was really the end (it was).

Before that, I felt like it was a perfect manga. Great art. Touching story. Realistic characters. Heartrending moments. And then Takaki lets Akari walk right by him and he just smiles and they never talk (presumably) again. Ugh.

So what can I learn about this in telling my own narrative?

Well the ever-obvious: do not end your story boring audiences about a minor character whom you barely spent any time developing. That’s obvious.

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Worry not, readers and hopefully eventual players: Lotus War will not end with this guy.

Really, though, The Lotus War is not a love story, per say. And it’s not like FF8, where Squall ends up with Rinoa because they’re soulmates and that’s how the writers want it. The Lotus War, of course, presents two different romantic options. It’s up to the player to choose. But what I learned from 5 Centimeters is that no matter who the player ends up choosing, if either, the characters need to have a well-developed arc.

Of course I knew that, but I saw just how delicately that needs to be balanced.

Whether Ren ends up with Taya or Arinnel, the heartbreak verses the satisfaction of the ending needs to balance. (And that’s good, because I do have a particular heartbreak in mind).

A bigger lesson, though, lies for Arinnel’s arc in particular. Like Kanae, Arinnel will be introduced a little later in the story than Taya. That might give the impression that Arinnel is secondary to Taya or that she’s the other woman or not as major, or whatever. That’s not the case at all. To not let it appear that way, though, I definitely need to make sure that Arinnel, her introduction, and her overall arc are completely well-developed.

What about you guys? What kinds of lessons have you learned by reading/watching/playing other works?

Motives

A friend recently told me that he took a “Which Comic Book Villain Are You?” His result was one that he did not agree with – The Red Skull. “Me? A tyrant? I don’t want to rule anyone! …You would be Scarecrow because you can’t fight so you do that.” And I said “Look less at what they’re doing and more at why they’re doing it.”

Because of course I can’t fight. Of course he doesn’t aspire to be a tyrant. We’re not super villains. We don’t desire any of that currently. What we’d want to focus on is what would motivate a person to go from being a normal (or… you know…. psychopathic) kid and turn into a Ganondorf. Or a Big Boss. Or a Darth Malak (you expected Vader, didn’t you? WELL HAH!)

You don’t always get an incredible motive, and that’s okay too – as long as the villains are cool and you can just tell that it’s because they’re too b/a for rules (I don’t particularly remember Malak’s motives, but you know… he’s evil Sith. That’s enough!). It happens a lot in video games, I notice. Of all the RPGs I’ve played or watched be played (by my brothers or Justin or friends), I actually can’t clearly remember anyone’s motives. Ganondorf didn’t like how the Gerudo were treated, I think? Or he was just cocky? Umm… Sephiroth… thought he should conquer the planet because he’s… part alien?¬†Shuji Ikutsuki (Persona 3) wants the end of the world to come for… some… reason…

Now, I’m sure there exists people that can tell me all about these motives, but the fact is that video games are not expository by nature. They don’t take long departures from the current plot line to expound on the details of a character’s life (I mean… unless they’re by Hideo Kojima). Or at least, I really hope that they wouldn’t because you watch a movie or read a book for that kind of description. You play a video game to play. And play you shall in the Lotus War!

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It’s for that reason that Justin and I have decided to produce a comic to help expound on the motives of the main villain. A sort of prequel to flesh out the world and villain even further.

We definitely intend for the video game to be able to carry the story all on its own, with a slow-build and a piecing together of plot throughout the entire game play. But if the story piques your interest, I hope that the comic adds another level of depth and perhaps helps create a villain that is believable – one whose motive can be seen as one that would turn even a nice guy into a villain.

What are some of your favorite video game villains? What kind of motives did they have?

-D