Nothing is better than laying out a plan, and then executing it to near perfection. Before this mini-vacation started, I said I wanted to finish this one new sequence. Or, at least get damn near close. And well, I did just that. Level design, intro cutscene, dialogue, plot checks, stages, etc. I got all of it done. The best part is how the sem-finished product is: Pretty close to what I initially envisioned.
Now, I say semi-finished, because there are of course lots of polish related things I have to do. Things such as making sure everyone is looking at the right person at the right time, using the right staged cameras, typos, and more.
Oh, and just because that is how shit goes, I came up with a slight variation on how I want the scene to start, so... yeah, unfortunately, that means a little more work. It's a real short cutscene, and once I find the animations I need, it shouldn't take that long at all.
So tomorrow, I'll finished a little polish, and then continue on with the cutscenes. After I watch the scene a few more times, I should feel good about it, and be ready to send the lines off to John.
And folks, today concludes music from Capercaillie... Unless I discover more of their albums and find more tracks I like. Anyway, enjoy!
5/25/13 -Saturday: SO FAR, SO GOOD!
With regards to my plans for this little mini vacation, so far, so good. I just put my head down, and have gotten a decent amount of work done.
I started off with some level design on Friday, finishing the main foundation of this new level. As I had said before, this is an extension of an existing interior level, so I already knew the style I wanted with the structures/props. I'm sure I'll all other things later, to give the level a little more of a unique look, but I'm happy with what I have at the moment.
After the level was finished, I added the custom music. Now, I usually come up with ideas from listening to music, but this time, things were a little backward. I had to actually search for music that would fit with this idea I came up with. It took a few days, but I found something that I think is perfect.
Next, I started working on the intro cutscene. As usual, it has to be in sync with the music, and more specically, has to last exactly 70 seconds. At this point, I have finished the first 30 seconds, and will knock out the other 40 seconds tomorrow, as I know exactly what I want.
Once the intro cutscene is done, I'll start work on the stage, and then integrate the dialog I wrote last week. I'll add plot variables where needed, get that working, and hopefully, have it ready for John.
Today's song from Capercaillie is the song that got me hooked on them. It just popped up on my Secret Garden radio station on iHeartRadio, and bam, I'm a fan! Enjoy!
5/23/13 -Thurday: AND SO BEGINS A POTENTIALLY FRUITFUL PERIOD...
So for the next week or so, I may have to go into the office only once. Today, as usual, I worked from home. Tomorrow is a half day because of Memorial Day weekend, so I always work from home those days, as the commute would last longer than the day :) Then of course, I have the weekend. Then, Memorial Day. Then, as usual, I work from home on Tuesday. Go in Wednesday. Work from home Thursday. Then, I have my Mother's retirement party on Friday, so I'll be staying home that day. Then the weekend again. You get the picture!
Because of all of the saved time, and well, good feelings of not having to be on a train, I hope to take advantage of this situation, and try to knock out this new sequence I started earlier in the week. It's rare that I get this much time, and I sure as hell don't want it to go to waste.
In terms of what I got done today, well, it was a lot. I more or less finished the huge branching dialogue that I started a few days ago. The reason I say more or less is because it's just the dialogue that is done (and of course, subject to change). I haven't added all the conditional plot checks yet. The next step would be to do that, but I'm going to change course a bit, and try to knock out the room the sequence will take place in. It will be an extension of an existing group of interior rooms, which means it will have the same style and such. In short, it should be easy to finish.
Then, I'll add in all the actors, create the intro cutscene, then the stage that will be used for the dialogue. Once that is done, I can play it out to make sure it looks the way I envision it. Then of course, I'll have to do like 10+ tests, mixing around all the potential plot variables, just to make sure the right nodes are used. Only after that is done can I send the lines to John Erath for recording.
In theory, this is not a lot of work, so I am going to try to stay as focused as possible. *crosses fingers*
Now, this is the Capercaillie song I tried to embed a few months ago, but didn't have rights. Not sure what has changed, but I'm glad it did. Probably one of my favorite songs from this particular album. Enjoy!
5/21/13 -Tuesday: POSSIBLY LARGEST, MOST BRANCHED CONVO IN ROSE OF ETERNITY HISTORY?
A week ago, I talked about feature creep, and more specifically, how I wanted to get another sequence into the game before finishing things up. It could have been a monster, but really, it's sort of an isolated section that can be slotted into the existing game without much effort. So from a development standpoint, I'm just working on the sequence itself, and then will integrate it into the main game later on.
I could have started with level design, but since it's the middle of the week, I figured I would start with the dialogue. And man, as I'm writing this, I'm realizing it's going to be a beast (sorry John!). From a total line perspective, there's just a lot in there. From an implementation point of view, much of it is branches, depending on things you had done earlier in the game, so you won't get to hear everything.
I think it's pretty well documented over the years that while I'm definitely all for gameplay experiences that are more tailored to how you play your game, as an independent developer that is going for quality over quanity, it keeps me up at night thinking about spending so much time creating content that someone may not ever see. However, it is what it is, so I've just got to roll with it. Can't live in the past.
So yeah, I have a lot of dialogue to write, lots of plot flags to check, and lots of braches to... branch :) I believe the end result will be the first time that players in any Rose of Eternity game will feel as if people were really paying attention to what they were doing and saying. Not to say it didn't happen in The Coming & Cry The Beloved, I'm just taking it to the next level here.
I continue to add things to the Facebook Page. This time, I added a new album which has a collection of some of the best screenshots from this current game. Also, you may even catch the "working" name of this current game. It's not set in stone, but it's damn close, especially since a lot of dialogue has been recorded referencing it.
Personally, I'm liking how the page is turning out, but the real solidification of all of my work will be the videos. Not the older videos from my older games, but from this game. I can't promise when, or what I have in store, but it's been perculating in my head for the past few years. Even if it's a huge waste of time, it's something I've always wanted to do, so fuck it, I'll do it. If it works, great. If not, well, I'll have stuff to put on my resume.
5/19/13 -Sunday: AND THAT, FOLKS, IS WHY I TEST THIS GAME SO MUCH...
So, for anyone who has read the last few journal updates, you know I've been working on splitting up journal entries into multiple plot files, so I can get that brumb crumb effect for quests that have multiple steps in them. It's especially good when one when of those steps themselves could have 2 or more outcomes. The work has been tedious, annoying even, but I more or less finished it off at the end of the week. However, because of laptop overheating issues, I decided I would actually test it in game on my desktop.
Well, even before I did that, I did test it on my laptop, but that was just a simple functional test, where I would explicitly set all the plot values when entering an area, and make sure that things looked good. A cosmetic check, really. The big test would be actually playing the game, because these journal entries aren't just journal updates, there is logic underneath that is performed when a particular plot value is set.
And thus began a pretty frustrating few hours, finding and fixing bug after bug with things. In some instances, I hadn't set the new plot objects to reference new plot core scripts, so the underneath logic was never called. In some instances, a plot value that was supposed to be set in a conversation wasn't firing, for all sorts of various reasons.
I was able to get through most of the issues, but it wasn't how I expected to spend my development time on the weekend. Meh, what can you do. All a part of the process, the process I hope to be coming to a close soon :)
Oh, and thank you to everyone who has visited our new Facebook Page, liked it, and made comments. I have since added 2 more photo albums, one for The Coming, one for Cry The Beloved. I obviously don't have many likes that the moment, part of that I'm sure is due to the fact that not everyone uses facebook, the other reason being, well, I haven't started the marketing blitz. But, when that does happen, I want the page to be in tip top shape. I should have some videos up soon, mostly the ones from the YouTube Page.
The best part will come when I start uploading content from this game, including screenshots and movies. But anyway, to those few peole who have visited the page, thanks!
So as I'm sure you're all aware, feature creep is something all game designers have to deal with. Hell, it's sometimes the cause of delays in games *cough* *cough*. Sometimes, it gets left on the cutting room floor, but either way you look at it, there's always something else you'd like to get in your games.
Now, I've had this particular thought of something I wanted to do for a while. However, something that is painfully clear to me is the fact that since this entire game is voiced, I can't just expect folks who recorded their lines 2 years ago to pop back in and do some more. Hell, I think even major publishers go through this when attempting to release DLC/expansions.
Luckily for me, 2 of the characters that absolutely have to speak are both voiced by John Erath, and he has agreed to wipe the dust of the mic and give it a go again. Okay, it hasn't been that long... Hell, he just sent me a line the other day. Regardless, it feels good having that assurance that I can go ahead and write the scene, knowing I won't have to compromise things.
I won't start working on the scene until I'm done putting together alpha 3.1, but once I do, it shouldn't be that much work. I just need a single interior level, some cutscenes, a bunch of dialogue, and some new custom music (which I'm still evaluating). Oh, and I'd like to use some new animations, so I'll have to mess around with that Animation Events tool in the editor as well. The hardest (i.e. most time consuming) part will be the dialogue. This particular scene will use a lot of choices you've made in the game up to that point as a basis for how things play out.
As for work I'm doing now, it's still the journal stuff... I have to admit, I thought I would have been able to knock it out by now, but it just keeps going on and on. Very boring stuff... Ah well...
Here's another one of my favorite tracks from Capercaillie. Enjoy!
5/11/13 -Sunday: ROSE OF ETERNITY FACEBOOK PAGE IS LIVE...
Well, after much procrasination on my part, I have finally begun the process of revamping the Rose of Eternity Facebook page.Although, the funny thing is, this page has actually existed for like 2 years.
Back in early 2011, a fan created a page for it, threw up some images of the Garden of Roses, put a link to the trailer for The Coming, and that was that. I was honored, but had no part in it.
Fast forward 2 years, and now, with the release coming up, I'm going into full marketing mode, meaning I want to put out as much content/info about the game as possible. Sure, I could do it here on this blog, but for short little blurbs, the facebook page would be best. Also, since I don't have a comment system, it would be nice to actually interact with any fans... if they're out there, that is :)
So I contacted the original owner of the page, asked for admin rights, and well, here we are. At the moment, I have just added some wallpapers Oli did for me, as well as nearly all the concept art done by her and other artists that have worked on this project throughout the years. As time goes on, I'll start putting official screenshots of the game, as well as videos. Ah, videos. Those will be fun to make, and I can't wait to get it started. In short, for all media related things, the page will be a nice supplement to this blog.
So, if you have a facebook account, and have been looking forward to this game, why not drop by the page and "like" it, or even just write something. Positive, negative, neutral, doesn't matter to me. Any way I can communicate with the people who will be playing this game is good in my book.
Not sure if I posed this Capercaillie video or not. I feel like you tube used to block it, but as I was able to start posting these other videos from them, I decided to give this a whirl. So if it's a dupe, sorry! Enjoy!
5/7/13 -Tuesday: WELL, I CAN FINALLY PUT THAT BUG BEHIND ME... I HOPE...
So that big bug I've been talking about the past few days, where the party members weren't receiving their Last Resortswhen they hit level 3 and level 5, has been fixed... I think...
Just for clarity... I assume everyone reading this knows that Dragon Age shows you all abilities you can receive in the game upfront, and what it takes to unlock them. This makes sense, because there are lines of spells/talents, and you need to unlock a particular one before getting the next, and you sure as hell wouldn't want to unlock an entire line of spells, only to find out that the last in the line was something you don't care for. So that makes sense. But Rose of Eternity has absolutely nothing to do with Dragon Age, except it's using the same engine.
Certain abilities in this game you don't receive my simply selecting it from the ability sheet, rather, you get it at pre-determined spots in the game. I don't know, call it an event based ability or something. *Shrug* For instance, in The Coming, Aramusdoesn't learn Illuminate until an hour or so into the game after Cloponenchants his sword in South Shinkara Forest after a particular boss fight. Likewise, Last Resorts aren't seleced via an ability sheet, rather, they are automatically gained when you reach a pre-determined level (e.g. level 3, level 5, etc.).
Anyway, the core of the bug was that the event to add the Last Resort wasn't firing properly, and so when the player went into the ability sheet to assign other abilities, they could end up spending a point on the aforementioned Last Resort. The solution, while a little hacky, is like so:
Make it so that you can't see future Last Resorts. It should have been like this from the start, not sure why I didn't do this.
Have the heartbeat of party members constantly checking their level (every second), and if they have reached a particular level, and don't have the Last Resort, unlock it. This will effectively give them the ability with a second of leveling up.
I have sort of known the solution would come to this, but I tried to come up with alternative for many months, to no avail. So hacked solution #36 it is :)
5/4/13 -Saturday: YOU KNOW WHAT THIS TOOLSET NEEDS?
You know what this toolset needs? Dynamic face morph setting. I mean, all I need is the ability to set a face morph, with some function like:
SetFaceMorph(object oTarget, string sFaceMorph);
Hell, with just that function, I'll do all the other work. Say for instance, members in the Boundary Wardens. I could have a group of say, 40 face morphs that I have marked for them. Then, when each member is spawned in game, I would randomly choose from that pool of morphs, bada bing, bada boom, now everyone has different faces. Oh well, a man can dream, right?
At the moment, either everyone has the same face, or they have helmets (sneaky, I know!). A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.
To that end... I do need many, many custom face morphs made, and if anyone is particularly skilled in this, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and make sure it includes the term, Rose of Eternity in the subject line so it gets filtered to the right folder. Besides just being able to create face morphs, it would be nice if they could look at a picture of someone, and translate that to the game. In particular, I need a face for her:
I tried to do it, to no avail. In fact, my wife walked by and asked what in the hell I was doing. I told her, and she told me to get someone who knew what they were doing :)
Here's another great track from that same Capercillie album. Enjoy!
5/3/13 -Friday: ANOTHER PLAYTHROUGH IN THE BOOKS...
Well, I've finally finished the latest playthrough, and while there were definitely more bugs/task/improvements in act 2 - act 3 (understandably so), I was able to knock out a large amount of them on the train. I'll leave the bigger ones (like why the HELL the player isn't getting their Last Resortat level 3) for the weekend.
The main highlight for me tonight was the fact that it took me 7 hours to finish it. Looking back at the gameplay length of The Coming, I have it listed at 6-8 hours, which in retrosepct, seems a little...off... I should remember how long it is, and when I play it back through my head, I don't come up with 6-8 hours :( Then again, I remember someone saying that they spent 10 hours playing it... Guess it depends on the person.
I am 100% confident there is more content in this game than in The Coming, which is what I ultimately wanted. So maybe it will take people even longer than 7 hours. *Shrug* At any rate, now that I'm a pro (ha!) at using the toolset, my next games could definitely be longer, just like what happened with Cry The Beloved, which was estimated at 9-12 hours.
The only other thing of note was some VO integration. A...lot...of...VO... There were already many lines, and then I got multiple takes of each line (which I absolutely LOVE getting... more choice is better!). This audition was done by RP Singh's friend, so I wanted to make sure to get it integrated, recorded, and sent back to them for review as soon as possible. The only thing I had to do was add a little "silence" to the end of each line, so they weren't spoken back-to-back-to-back in quick succession. Besides that, as usual, the quality is spot on. I never have to do any noise removal, or anything like that with anything I get from him. Then again, this is what he does, so of course he has good equipment.
Tomorrow, I'm going to take a look at the aforementioned bigger bugs from the playthrough, and hopefully, I'll come up with quick solutions.
Today's song is from Capercaillie again. The instant I heard this song for the first time, I was immediately hooked. In fact, a few weeks ago, when I said I was listening to a song that sparked a huge brainstorming session, it was this one. I won't spoil the results of the session, but you may be able to figure it out if you listen closely. Anyway, enjoy!
5/2/13 -Thursday: BUSINESS AS USUAL...
STATE OF THE UNION
This past month has really been business as usual, and all the things I said I wanted to do in last months' "State of the Union", I have done, and then some.
I spent a good amount of time polishing the final set piece of the game, which included an absurd amount of playtesting. That was almost a week's of work in itself. In the end, I'm glad I did it, because it was well overdue.
Another thing I put a lot of time into (and still am!) is fleshing out the journal entries, and making the flow... flow better :) It's something really minor, but it makes a huge difference seeing it in game. Plus, I need to remember that not all people who play the game will know it as intimately (that sounds weird) as me.
Let's see... what else... Oh right, I celebrated 14 years of Rose of Eternity, which was a very nice stroll down memory lane for myself for a few days. I even took advantage of it, and snuck a little brainstorming in. What came of that brainstorming? A new Unison Ability, this one, however, involving 3 people!
Probably the most important thing I've done is the latest playthrough. While the prelude, and first act were pretty rock solid (makes sense, I've been developing that half for damn near 4 years!), I started to run into some little snags in act 2, mostly having to do with combat difficulty. Well, it didn't help that when the player reached level 3, they didn't automatically earn their first Last Resort(horrible, horrible bug that has been lingering for close to a year). Then, to make matter worse, for some reason, the BOB Pointsof a particular party member got wiped at some point in the game. I have a shit ton of saves, so I'll sift through them and try to see when it happened.
Anyway, even with these minor issues, you would think that at least putting the game on easy would make it passable. Fuck no, apparently. I had to go to extreme lengths just to get past one fight on easy mode, just so I didn't have to spend another 4 hours getting to that part again. Lesson learned... Before the next playthrough, I'll parachute test some of these battles beforehand. Sigh...
Besides those above issues, everything else has been pretty good. I ended the night about 20 minutes into act 3, and expect to finish it either tomorrow night, or Saturday morning. In the meantime, I have a bunch of notes I've taken (which have somehow increased exponentially since starting act 2!), things I can fix on my laptop on my way to/from work.
As for this upcoming month, well, I'd like to fix all of these issues I've noted, do a speed run playthrough (screw the dialogue and cutscenes), then cut an ALPHA and send that son of a bitch out to folks. I also have a lot of VO from RP Singh's friend, which I still need to fully integrate into the game, so I can see if she got the part she is going for. Weird enough, VO is the smallest of my issues, as most of it is already done. In fact, when I do get to one of the 4-5 conversations left in the game without, it's jarring as hell.
Okay, enough babbling. Back to work.
P.S. I'd really like to say one last thing. Thinking about it, the game has never felt more complete than it does right now. Shocking, I know, that the longer development goes on, the more complete a game gets :) But you get my point... It's at the point where I wouldn't have huge reservations about sharing it with others, which will start with this ALPHA....
Today's music comes from the group, Capercaillie. Spotify alerted me to this album a few weeks ago, and I've found some nice gems, including this track. In particular, the final parts seem like they could be playing at a small town's festival or something. *Starts to brainstorm* :) Enjoy!
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