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.

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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.

Updating Taya’s Battler

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

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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 >____<

Re-Drawn

We’ve been away for a while, but that doesn’t meant that work on the game has ceased (it does mean that we’ve joined a gym, though -___-). I’ve mentioned before that I thought that some of our early characters needed a re-working. The first to receive such treatment was our own MC Ren, if you recall.

Player1-Normalwpid-1149067_588924531160537_1382445057_n.png

 

I mean, he’s just immensely better – though I tried to keep the spirit of him the same. But my experience with MangaStudio and my greater practice drawing certainly helped.

Taya was similarly redesigned.

wpid-taya.png Taya-Normal

 

And we won’t even get into Arinnel.

The next candidates, though, were certainly Axel and Kai. Let’s take a look at them as you currently know them:

Axel-Normal kai normal

 

Now, even between the two of them you can start to notice a difference of quality. I don’t think I had a standard pen nib size selected yet, so Axel’s lines are a lot thicker than Kai’s. I didn’t have the color blend too down as well when I drew Axel. I overall just wasn’t as practiced – though I gotta say, that’s a killer scarf that Kai is sporting.

A few other things is that I did really individualize each character’s clothing. But I thought more about it, and as soldiers in a military organization, there needs to be some continuity.

Anders-Normal

 

I mean, Rinnek’s armor is somewhat similar to Ren’s, and Anders’ is a pretty standard style I intend to use as a template for future designs.

In addition to that, when I first built my idea of this game while talking to Justin, I had in mind that many of the humans would be from the desert, so would have darker complexions (see Taya and Rinnek). While Kai could be from the cold mountainy areas, so a pale complexion makes sense, Axel was supposed to be from the same desert town. He didn’t really fit that aesthetic, though. You see, Justin started creating sprites before I was drawing these characters, and, being blond himself and having grown up around a lot of blonds, he just started – without really thinking about it – inserting a bunch of blondies. Probably also because that would make Ren stand out all the more. So anyways, after some thought and conversation, we agreed to try and have more definite looks for each regional group.

I thus bring to you, the revised Kai and Axel:

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Granted, you can still see a bit of a line-size difference, but these are not official, resized and edited copies yet. In fact, the new Axel has not even been completed highlighted/shaded yet (only his skin thus far), but I think a more unified work among the soldiers is a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, there will be armored humans, not part of the military, that may have different armor styles, including leather armor (which we’ve decided to reserve for elves or non-military humans).

danielle justinian

For example, mine and Justin’s little cameo avatars are part of a little human civilization on the outskirts of Genos, and have split from the main human government. Therefore, they, while still fighters, do not fight for the government and are therefore not issued solider’s armor.

What do you think of the New Axel and Kai? How do you like Axel’s rather complete re-design? How do you feel about trying to have more of a standard in armor?

 

My Oldest Crush

Picard-Normal

 

Not my longest-dating crush, but if I had an old-man crush, it would totally be Sir Patrick Stewart – the knight behind Jean-Luc Picard AND Charles Xavier. Here it is before I change him up a bit so as not to “steal his likeness.” Below are a couple of other recent projects:

Riker-Normal

troi

 

Shading and Highlighting

elf kid

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Shading and highlighting not only adds depth and fullness to an illustration, but it makes it feel overall more complete.

The first image, flat and lifeless, would be a really boring one to include into our game as a finished product. Even though the second one is admittedly not my best work, and the coloring simplistic with fewer details, it’s much less noticeable when the fabrics, hair and skin all seem toned.

Photoshop offers dodge and burn tools (and actually, I believe Manga Studio does, too), but I have found the product inferior to manually mixing colors with Manga Studio’s color blend. A rendering using the first image of this post, edited with Photoshop’s dodge and burn is below:

elf-kid

Admittedly, using the dodge and burn tools were much faster than color blending, but what it offers is less control. When, for example, it lightens or darkens the colors too much in contrast to the surrounding color, perhaps due to too strong of a stroke, the differences are off-puttingly stark. I would try reducing that by using blur (or is it smudge?) – but blur ends up making everything look overall less defined.

While it’s true that color blend would do the same thing if I were operating only on a single layer (pull the outline into the blend of colors), there’s still the issue of tone control. Dodge/burn will default the change to its pre-determined settings within the color on which it’s working. But if I want to add some warmth to the character’s skin tone, for instance as I did above, I can choose to blend in a color with a little more red.

I did, however, like the subtle touch that it brought to the hair.

Have you guys tried dodge/burn for shading and highlighting? How did you like the tools?

The Bird

The Bird-Normal

 

One of the magic-using bosses that you may encounter, he is called the Bird for obvious reasons. After hyping the dangers of magic so much, we wanted to introduce mutations to the magic-users. This guy’s are obvious, though not really detrimental. I wanted him to look like X-Men’s Beak, but Justin thought it was too ugly.

To be fair, that’s pretty ugly – but it would’ve highlighted the dangers more than seeming more like “Look! You get cool powers like wings and flight!”

What do you think?

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:

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Photoshop rendering of rotated arm:

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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:

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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.