No Closure. Not Yet.


The game will have fully reached beta stage by the end of this week, and I hope to start recording a final playthrough video and shorter “trailer” video that can be shown on the internet/at the critique in a couple of weeks time. I apologise for the lack of videos I’ve posted towards the end of the project, but I’ve had yet more problems with codec compatibility with the Vcap dll I had been using for a while. I’ve got time now, so I’m going to sort out the problem once and for all.

Things are gradually getting crossed of my to do list, and I’m trying to do things in an order of priority. Today I drew up that last two “slides” for the game’s perfect ending, so there’s now very little that I actually need to make or add. These final images don’t really provide closure, because I think if the player has struggled through finding every single blossom throughout the game then the last thing they’ll want is a simple “…and everyone lived happily ever after.” The intention was that the player gets this from the regular ending.


This time, Hana returns to the shrine where she placed the Kokeshi doll only to find that the doll and the cherry blossoms are missing. This could lead to two opposite conclusions- either the mischievous spirit has escaped and will continue to wreak havoc, or she has gone away and left the world to get on with life without disturbance. I haven’t really placed any clues as to which one it is, I think the player can decide this for themselves.


The next slide could be the decider, however. This shows Zashiki Warashi next to the Maneki Neko. I personally intended this image to look as though the spirit has given into her childish nature and taken on the more playful characteristics of a child, but again this is up to the player to decide. It’s a good or bad ending, but either way, the game ends here and there is nothing more to do.

I’ve also been busy finishing a full-scale mock-up prototype of my packaging design, which I’m happy to say works very well. For the mock-up, I’ve used thin black cardboard for the case, which I’ve painstakingly measured and cut by hand to make sure all the dimensions add up. The manual is printed onto glossy photo paper, which is a bit thick for its purpose but gives it a nice shiny finish! I’ve only printed the cover for now, which actually ended up going a little wrong as I forgot to print the logo onto the back. In the photos I’ve used the manual cover for the box cover, which just means you get the words “instruction manual” on the front of the box. I printed the disc art onto normal printer paper and stuck it onto the CD with paper glue!



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Second Half of Weekend Update #6

I’ve slotted in time for two extra slides that will appear during the credits of the game, which I have written up this weekend and will appear after the boss fight. These depict the events that happen after the Zashiki Warashi is defeated and the kokeshi doll is acquired, although I’ve specifically made sure that these images don’t nicely wrap up the game, as I’m saving this for the “perfect ending”.


The first slide shows Hana placing the kokeshi doll in a small shrine, along with a bowl full of the collected cherry blossoms. This is saying “crisis averted”, I tried to make this image simple and peaceful as though you know everything is all right.


The final slide is just there as an ender, and shows the most frequent characters back celebrating Hanami along with Hana who now holds a Hanami Dango (although this is quite difficult to see, as it seems to merge with Kyo’s face quite well!)

After the credits, the player is taken straight back to the beginning of the game for the new game plus, where they keep all the items they’ve obtained but get to go back through the levels and try to find every single last cherry blossom. If they do, nothing currently happens, as I haven’t drawn up a “perfect ending” yet! This is one of the last things I have to do before the game is ready for beta testing, as well as a few other little things like a game icon and loading screen.

End of Week Wrap Up & 1/2 of Weekend Update #6

Towards the end of this week I’ve been concentrating my efforts on the Professional Development unit and have tried to fix little bits of the game and add art in between writing sessions. I’ve kept a list of the little things I’ve managed to get done, and some of the things that were on my original to-do list that haven’t made it yet…

What I did do:

  • Made music for the opening slideshow (though not completely happy with the result)
  • Made a “press button” prompt when the opening slides can be changed
  • Sorted out the double-jump sound so that it ONLY plays when double jumping. It had been found to play when on ladders…
  • Fixed the retro X-press thing that was going on when trying to obtain sushi (for some reason you would gain sushi for the amount of times that X had previously been pressed. Not sure why or how but it works properly now.)
  • Added a sushi-get sound when acquiring sushi from Hiru
  • Fixed some anomalies in the arrangement of tiles in certain levels
  • Removed some pointless and annoying invisible walls. I can’t remember why I even put them there in the first place.
  • Re-placed one instance of Ji-sama and one instance of Kigurumi where they seemed to get stuck on the scenery or tried to walk no thin air. Neither of these worked especially well.
  • Changed the layering of the onsen hot springs in level three so that they are in front of the player
  • Added a door unlocking sound to the final door in level four
  • Added a confirmation sound when saving
  • Sorted out a problem with a serious framerate drop during the final boss fight. This happened a lot previously where I’d jammed unnecessary commands into instances’ step events, and this was basically the same problem.

What I couldn’t do/haven’t done yet:

  • Sort out a petal-giving animation, which plays when the player talks to a character with a petal. I’ve made a couple of animations, but can’t seem to get the timing right in the code.
  • Make Ji-sama disappearing after talking to him. I’ve programmed a conversation with Ji-sama to restore all of the player’s health, but I want this to be a one time only thing and for him to disappear in a cloud of smoke afterwards, however at the moment only the first frame of the animation plays for a while then he returns to normal. I may just have to write in the code to only allow healing once.
  • Improve transition between different background music. I just can’t figure out a way to make a nice cross-fade or anything. Game Maker just isn’t equipped for good music handling.
  • Figure out how to solve the final loading issue…I’m now pretty sure that loading the game works fine, except that on a fresh load none of the sounds of background music loads. This has something to do with the files being external resources, but I’m not sure how to fix the problem yet.

New Art & Concepts

I’ve been working on some new promotional art because frankly, I want something that represents the game other than pixel art. While pixel art has its benefits, like being very easy to edit and achieve great accuracy, it’s also very restrictive. This new image started off as a fineliner drawing which I scanned with the contrast setting up really high, and ultimately I’m not 100% happy with the way the line art has turned out. But this can be very easily fixed, I’ve just got to work out how! Please let me know if you-mr/mrs/miss reader-have any tips!

For now I’ve blocked in some really simply colour and added some dodgy Photoshop effects, despite the fact that I hate overusing these. In this case it doesn’t seem so bad though. I felt that the drop shadow was totally necessary to add some depth to the image.


I’ve also gone on to use this as part of my first box-art concept, “wrapping up” the game’s physical designs. I discovered an online company called weEco” that make lovely eco-friendly media packaging. One of their products is called the WowWallet with Die Cut Window, which is a cardboard sleeve with a window on the front which allows you to see the inlay, and a slot for a disc in the back panel. I really liked this idea, as it promotes the inlay as well as the CD itself. As I’ve put a lot of emphasis on the important of the game manual for Hanami, I decided it would be appropriate to use the inlay cover as box art in a similar way. Actually, I would use the back of the manual, which would be the same as the front minus the line that says “instruction manual”! So, from the front you would see something like this- a cardboard case with a window to the inlay inside:


The inside would consist of another window, allowing the user to see the front of the game manual. On the opposite side is a slot for the disc. My initial idea for the CD art is to use my new promo art. This stands out really well in contrast to all the other dark colours.

Compact Disc Digital Mock Up:

Inner Sleeve Digital Mock Up:

As for stock, I think a thick, matte black cardboard would work really nicely for the outer sleeve. The inlay would probably similar to any CD inlay, the kind of paper that your fingerprints show on too easily ๐Ÿ˜› For now this is staying in its conceptual stage, I’m not planning to print anything for a good while…

World Debut: The Hanami Game Design Document

This GDD began life as a humble OpenOffice Writer document, and has been abused constantly throughout the project. As a reward for all the help it’s been to me I’ve given the whole thing a makeover and transformed it into this hybrid Game Design Document/Post Game Documentation. The new document groups together the initial plans for the game with a look back on how everything turned out, so it’s been pretty interesting to make. It pretty much summarises everything on this blog!

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For a close look you can find a PDF version here.

Destructions

You may or may not have picked up on the fact that my amended timeplan jumps from week 15 to week 17. Unfortunately the dates are right, so I haven’t gained any time. It’s all just typos. They told me I would need basic maths to survive in the real world…


Luckily it seems, the deadline for the project is NOT the 9th of May like expected but some time around the 15th, giving me a hugely important extra few days than expected. I won’t write another new timeplan to accommodate for this extra time, instead it will just be an extension of my last week. The plan for this week is to “wrap up any physical designs”. As it happens, the manual is incredibly near completion so I’m going to start work on casing design and potentially some further and more refined character designs that could be classed as “promotional art.” There are just a few minor tweaks that may have to be made before finalising the manual, and I’ll probably wait until the end of the project to make any changes, just in case. Here is the manual as it stands:

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I’ve now started work on a designed version of the original Game Design Document, so I will be revealing this to the world for the first time very soon (like tomorrow.) Other than everything I’ve listed already, I’ve spent a bit of time sitting down and thinking “right, what else does the game need?” I still haven’t finished the ending, so that will be the first and most essential game element to work on. Other than that, here’s a list of some other things I’ve thought of:

1. “Flower Give”
I’ve implemented this flower give system where talking to NPCs places petals in your inventory. So far, I haven’t figured out a way to only place the flower after a “flower give” animation has played, so it actually looks like the character is giving you a petal. This is the least polished part of the game so far, and while it works, it seems to me like a half-assed attempt.

2. “Shadow” NPCs
Hanami is all about a group of people inflicted by a sort of “curse”, however the only other characters in the game at the moment are those who haven’t been affected. I’ve explained this so far as “those who are affected have drifted off to another realm…” or some such excuse, but if I have time I think it would be nice to place semi-transparent silhouette people around the levels, representing the people who have been taken away. They will probably be seen sleeping or standing around saying “help!” or something. If I try this and it makes sense, then I’m putting it in.

3. New Game Plus


I’ve recently finished playing Fez (I went on about this game ALOT at the beginning of the project. It FINALLY came out last weekend) and the game bears some uncanny similarities to Hanami. This was probably my subconscious copying ideas that I thought were good, although I couldn’t have known everything before the game came out! In Fez you must collect a certain amount of cube pieces to complete the game. You can easily finish the game without finding every single collectable item, but once you’ve finished it the first time you can start the game again with all your progress saved from your first playthrough. This is nothing new to the world of gaming. The first “New Game Plus” I encountered was in Chrono Trigger, which came out in 1995. But I thought it would be nice to do something similar at the end of Hanami. You only need 60 blossoms out of a possible 90 to complete the game, so why not let the player go back and try to get the ones they’ve missed? Acquiring all 90 blossoms can result in an alternative ending. I assume Fez does this too, but I wouldn’t know as I haven’t got there yet…

Game Manual Design Development

I’ve started off designing the manual with the front cover, because it seemed like a good place to start. I wanted this to be similar to the opening screen of the game, so I started off by making a higher resolution version of the game’s logo. I tested out various ways that I could make the Hanko stamp in Illustrator, using various line styles and shapes.


Hanko stamps seem to come mainly in either square, circle or oval, although on some sites I’ve found rectangular ones. The problem with using Hiragana instead of the more appropriate Kanji is that it needs some sort of alignment to make sense, otherwise I would rearrange the letters to make a formation that best fit any of these shapes! For this reason, I felt that a rectangle would be best. I tested each shape out with the title, and definitely felt that rectangle suited best.


To accompany the logo, I’ve also been working on a background image for the pages of the manual. This pattern is based on the auspicious cloud patterns I researched earlier for cloud design. I used the pen tool in illustrator to create this outline first:


I’ve then adapted this in Photoshop. I’ve created two variations- one for the cover and a more subtle version to be used on the other pages of the manual. The more subtle variation uses a white version of this outline with a very pale purple background. This is the same colour as the menus and the title screen in the game.


The version I’ve made for the front cover is slightly more elaborate. I’ve used darker colours to closely resemble the game’s title screen, and I’ve merged the line colour with the background colour. I originally planned to place the logo in the first third of the grid, but after a little rearranging and testing I realised it actually had much more impact in the centre. I don’t want to add anything more to the cover now, so it makes sense to sit in the centre of the page.


I’ve started filling in the first few pages of the manual, but haven’t finished any single page yet. The contents page is looking the most finished right now, as there wasn’t much to put in it in the first place! I’m working on little bits like the number tabs on the side of the page which resemble the style of the game’s GUI to keep the document consistent with the game.


One addition I’ve made since I wrote up the original contents is a “travel guide” in the back, which contains a table of Hiragana and a few Japanese phrases that the player can look out for in the game, although not everything will be included. If the player really wanted to, they could use the Hiragana table and run the romaji through a translator to see what comes up. This could turn up some pretty good results. As a test, I ran one of the phrases I’ve used through Google Translate and ended up with this:


I have it under good authority that the phrase I typed, “onaka ga suite imasen”, means “I am not hungry”, although obviously this doesn’t translate well literally!

Print Document Formatting etc

I’m going to plan the game’s instruction manual as though it were going to be printed and physically distributed, although at the moment it seems most likely that the game won’t have a physical form for a while. The finished result of this project will probably be a beta version at best, as I would quite like to carry on refining and changing things after the May deadline. Still, there’s no reason why a digitally distributed version of the game can’t come with a PDF version of the instruction manual.

Initial Idea
The shape and size of the document will be a square measuring 120×120 mm. Why? Firstly, because there are not such things as cubes and secondly, because this is the size and shape of a CD inlay. While PC games tend to come in DVD sized cases, my personal opinion is that this wastes a lot of space/plastic/paper/everything. And they take up a lot more room than CDs, honestly I’m not sure why the cases have to be so big. In my opinion, Sony have always managed to make good use of casing space. Playstation 1 games for example came in what were essentially bulked up CD cases, also with 120x120mm inlays. And you could pack a lot into those inlays. I seem to remember the Tekken 3 inlay coming in about 5 languages and was almost as thick as the case itself.


Image from Ebay.

Playsation 2 games were the size of DVD cases, but had space above the disk to store your PS2 memory card. Playstation 3 cases are less tall than DVD cases and waste considerably less material by simply chopping the top off. Compact is good. Ultimately, as I’m a fan of nice eco stuff, I would like to design a cardboard sleeve for the game rather than a plastic case. I recently discovered a limited edition version of a Stemage’s latest album on Bandcamp, which comes in an “eco-wallet” with bunch of other paper goodies. There’s something seemingly special about getting a disk in a cardboard case, if the stock is nice. They make plastic cases seem like tack.

Limited Edition Zero Over Zero by Stemage

Initial Design

When I design for print, I like to start by setting up a grid in InDesign which I can use a template for design. I set up the new document like this (I add grids and guide later…):


I’ve chosen to use a 3×3 grid for this document. I tend to use odd numbers of rows and columns when I need to centre a lot of the content. Based on some of the content I’ve already made for the game, such as the intro slides, I’d say this is going to be fairly important. I want to try to continue the style where possible. On my master pages, I’ve also marked the centre of the page, and where each quarter of the page sits. I’ve also marked three elements that will exist on most pages- title, running title and page number. To plan other content, I’ve printed this template to draw over:

I’ve planned the first couple of pages as an example of planning from here on… The first page is the front cover, which will include the game’s logo (which I’ve decided will also run vertically as opposed to horizontally across the page), and a subtitle which will read something like “instruction manual”, also running vertically.


The second page is a double page spread. On the first side I’ll put some game info and the game’s system requirements (which I’m currently in the process of working out) and the second page will be a table of contents. I’m marked on this design where the title, running titles and page numbers will be. I’ve kept all of this at the top of the page, to reduce clutter or odd little bits elsewhere.


Back in InDesign, this currently looks like this (using placeholder text). I’m not sure yet whether to move the running titles into the centre rather than on the edges, but I’ll work this out when there’ more content in the document.


From here I’ve been able to work out paragraph styles for the titles, running titles, page numbers and body, which should be pretty much everything covered. All copy throughout the document will use Dejavu Sans ExtaLight, unless it’s part of an image or under some other special circumstance. Titles are in point size 12, as the page size itself is very small. I did a print text using a larger point size and it seems anything larger just dominates the page!


There are a few things you must always remember when designing for print, which I’ve reminded myself of in my notebook just in case. All images must be in CMYK at 300 dpi, which I know I’m going to forget at some point as I’ve been designing graphics for screen for so long now! Background and large images have to take into account the document’s 3mm bleed. All text must align to the baseline grid (which I haven’t shown, but I’ve set this up to the leading size of the body text.) And the grid is king.

A Few NPC Updates

I’ve been busy making sure all my NPCs work well now that they can speak and things. I’ve added a new sprite animation for my frantically running panda character, so that he will actually stop and talk when the player chooses to interact with him, instead of continuing to run about. I’ve tried to make it look like he’s breathing heavily from all the running!


After the conversation is over, he continues running about. I’ve also placed Ji-sama into the first level, who is one of the two characters in this level who don’t give away any petals and are actually pretty pointless. If you happen to understand Japanese, he actually asks the question “have you found 5 petals?”


The final character I’ve placed in level one is a character called Renaldo. I originally based this character on Tsukimi from 51 Japanese Characters. Tsukimi is the act of moon watching– “tsuki” means moon and “mi” means watch. When it came to think up an original name for the character, I decided his name should be an homage to Renaldo Moon from Ghibli’s The Cat Returns (simply because his name has “moon” in it!). I recently decided that because Renaldo isn’t a particularly Japanese name, this character should be another English speaking character, who has also been thrown into this strange world and is just as confused. Renaldo however isn’t much of a man of action, and would rather watch and wait instead of rise against the strange problems occurring. I’ve placed him near the end of the first level, where the landscape is elevated and he can get a good view of what’s going on around him. Before you approach this character, he faces away, passively watching the world…


When you come within a certain distance of him, he will turn around. I’ve used the same font I’ve used for the menu when he speaks, so that he actually speaks in English, although he’s pretty useless in the end. The # symbol in strings of text represent a drop in the line, to make sure all the text fits neatly into the text box:



While Renaldo faces forwards, I’ve animated him to have a little smoke while he casually stands and watches. He’s just that cool.


I’ve been writing each character’s lines in an OpenOffice Writer document and pasting them into Game Maker as this way its easier to see what the text looks like in its proper Japanese form! And I can keep track of the English and Japanese romaji versions of what each character is saying, here’s a glimpse of the “script” so far… Please forgive typos and formatting errors as I put this together pretty quickly and well, you’re reading my Blog so you probably know how useless I am at typing and more importantly checking what I’ve written!

Wakarimasen…

I’ve been pretty unhappy with my old dialogue system for a while for two main reasons. The first is that it didn’t actually work very well. The best I could manage was a square to appear as the player passed by a non-playable character which contained the character’s “dialogue”, as I didn’t manage to figure out how to stop the player so that a proper dialogue situation could be initiated. The second reason I wasn’t happy with the system was that it was potentially detrimental to the game itself because it was fairly resource heavy.

The idea was to use a system where the player could get the gist of what NPCs had to say, but without the NPC using words. The reason for this is for the player to get the feel of language barriers faced by people in foreign countries. You can talk all you want, but it’s mostly gestures that will allow communication between two languages. This is why I had decided to use images instead of strings of text. A similar but less vague system is used in Machinarium. In this game developed by a Czech team, images and short move clips are used in speech/thought bubbles to depict dialogue. I’d imagine this was one of the keys to the game’s success abroad, because a minimal amount of translation would have been involved to export the game!



To make a system like this in game maker requires a lot of resources. I’d already made two simple “text box” objects that could be used universally throughout, but the content would have to unique for every instance. This requires a different sprite for each talking character, and some with several sub-images if the images scroll or are animated. This also takes a lot of my time as I was drawing new images for every time a character spoke! So I’d already decided that I would change the way this works, in the interest of my time and the performance and size of the game!

To help me really refine the system and create something that actually worked well, I went to the Game Maker Community forums and found a downloadable example similar to the one in this video.


The basics for a decent system are all here, including stopping the character when dialogue is initiated, scrolling text that progresses as if the character is talking and NPC interactions. I managed to adapt the code to create a very similar yet customised system so that when the player chooses to interact with a character, dialogue is initiated inside a text box and the player must sit through everything the character has to say before they can move on. I tested the system with a basic white text box and black text to make sure it ran smoothly.


The first thing I did after checking everything through was create a new larger text box sprite to replace the abominable white square I had made. I’ve made sure the box keeps the themes of the GUI and to make it similar to the previous text box, however I’ve flipped it over so that it always sits below the character who is talking. This way, it shouldn’t ever cover up anything important on the screen.



The next thing to change was the language. I figured instead of presenting the player with decipherable images, it would be even more convoluted to present them with a written language that they couldn’t understand. This is the real deal, as if they were really in a foreign country where everything that the people said was simply a jumble of sounds (or in this case letters!) The first complication with trying to achieve this is that it’s not easy to display the Japanese alphabet(s) in Game Maker. Although Windows comes equipped with fonts designed for displaying Japanese characters, Game Maker doesn’t seem to recognise the characters as letters. In the editor, the “unknown” box appears as a substitute, which is translated in the game as a series of question marks…


So I’ve had to think of a clever way around this. Instead of using the Japanese character glyphs from romanised typefaces, I’ve found this font which displays roman letters as Japanese characters. It’s actually a replica of the typeface used in the original GameBoy versions of the Pokemon games, which comes with English, katakana and hiragana versions. Unfortunately the letters don’t seem to be in any logical order, so I’ve had to spend some time working out which qwerty key results in which Hiragana character! For example:

& = ใฏ “ha”
% = ใช “na”
0 = ใฟ “mi”

So if I wanted to write “Hanami is Great”, I would do so like this:

English: Hanami is great
Japanese Romaji: hanami wa sugoi desu
Japanese Hiragana: ใฏใชใฟใฏใ™ใ”ใ„ใงใ™
PokeFont: &%0 & 5c* d5

I’ve written some VERY basic lines of dialogue for each character, which I’m pretty confident in translating without too much worry. With the system I’m using, each character can have three lines of dialogue which are scrolled through by pressing X on the keyboard or A on the controller. The strings for the first character are written like this:


But in-game, they appear like this:


This is Bura-san saying hello! I will still need some indicators of the objectives of the game somewhere, however I’m considering using things like sign-posts instead of direction from non-playable characters. As I’ve mentioned before, in the first conversation with Bura-san the Zashiki Warashi character is also introduced. This currently involves the screen being covered with an overlay of the large Za-chan image I made before, so the game being set fairly well from the beginning now.


By the way “wakarimasen” means “I don’t understand”, which I thought would be an appropriate blog title ๐Ÿ˜›