Main Menu & Intro

I’ve made some changes to the main menu screen already. The background colour that I had chosen was supposed to represent an old paper colour, but after placing the screen in the game I felt that it definitely had to be the same as the menu colours I’ve been using throughout. I’ve also added a flashing “press start” icon which prompts the player to bring up the actual menu, which is something that no game is complete without!

When “start” or “enter” on the keyboard is pressed, the menu box appears. I’ve actually used almost an exact clone of the pause menu for this, with a little added transparency to take away the harsh contrast in colour. Obviously, I’ve changed the options to New Game, Load Game or Quit.

I’m not currently sure about the placement of the menu, however at the moment it rests in the dead centre of the screen, and moving it around makes it seem really oddly positioned! If anything, I’ll move it slightly to the right.

If the player selects “quit”, the game will shut itself down. If the player selects “load game”, the most recent save will automatically be loaded . I didn’t really see any reason to give the player the option to load previous saves or from a list of multiple saves, as the game only really takes between 10 and 20 minutes to play. If the player has not yet started the game but selects to load, a default save will be loaded which takes the player to the beginning of the game. If the player selects “new game”, instead of being taken straight into the game like previously, the player will be shown a slideshow of still images which act as the introduction to the game. These have taken me a few days to draw, as they involve higher resolution characters instead of the smaller sprites and tiles. The point of the images is to tell a brief account of the events that occur just before the game begins, hopefully these are fairly self explanatory:

1. Hana leaves the Hanami celebrations

2. Hana goes to the Ryokan

3. Hana goes to bed

I’m not sure how finished these are, but if I change anything much it will be the last slide. The story was originally that the Ryokan’s lucky cat comes to life to tell Hana about the “Hanami crisis” (in cat noises, as cats do…) I wanted to show a cat’s shadow on the floor as the cat approaches the sleeping Hana, but didn’t manage to draw anything that accurately represented this. My other option is to draw another slide where the cat wakes Hana up, but there’s something nicely concise about having three slides! I’ll get some feedback on these and work out how much more information is needed. A lot of the game is open to interpretation as it is!

Updates and Remodels

I spent a bit of time reworking the inventory again today, to make it more efficient and informative. I felt the whole thing needed rearranging after I started adding things like keys to the game, which are held in the inventory but don’t have a set space.

I’ve replaced the section labelled “Petals” with a section labelled “Items”, which covers petals, keys and the kokeshi doll acquired at the end of the game. I was very happy with the previous petal indicator, so I’ve simply shuffled this over to the side to allow room for the new indicators:

I’ve left the spacing of the sushi indicators roughly the same, but I’ve added a number next to each icon which tells the player how many of each sushi they are carrying. This is something I haven’t done up until now because I was going to limit the player to one of each, but after watching people play I feel that was a little harsh. The player can now carry an unlimited amount of sushi!

Instead of only displaying the blossoms collected for the current level, I’ve changed the last line of the inventory to display the collected blossoms for all levels. This way, when the player gets to the last level and realises that they can’t continue without 60 blossoms, they can see which level they need to concentrate on most. Altogether, the new menu looks like this:

Except on the last level, where I’ve covered up the petal collection icon so that the player knows they don’t have to collect blossoms in this level.

To conclude the work I’ve been putting into the game’s music recently, I’ve added some new sound effects to the game with the help of SFXR and LabChirp, so the inventory now plays a lot of little blip sounds when selecting, using or cancelling items.

Boss Stage

Today I’ve been planning out and creating parts for the final level of Hanami which is essentially an extended “Boss Stage”. There are no more items to collect, simply a path to unlock to the final boss.

This morning I sketched out some ideas on how the building in this level differs from the buildings throughout the rest of the game. I’d already planned the scale of the building, which was already larger than anything else I’ve made so far. The building in level 4 is the abandoned home of the Zashiki Warashi spirit, so my main focus was on making it look run down. I scribbled over the top of my building plans to work out interesting vine and weed formations, and work out where there would be cracks and blemishes on the building.

The result makes the overall picture look a lot less messy due to the distortion of all my straight lines! In this case however I’m happy for the image to look a little rough… I haven’t really worked on the background or decided on a background colour yet, I’ve been concentrating on the foreground for now!

Inside, the building looks a lot less derelict, but it is much more empty that most of the other buildings in the game. Because there are no items to collect in this level and exploration could be pretty boring, I’m planning on having a locked door which can only be opened when a key is acquired. The key is in an upstairs room, behind a door that will only open if a certain amount of blossoms are found (as a placeholder door I’ve decided that the player should have 80 blossoms, but I’ll probably reduce this if I come to code for this part of the game). Inside the building there are three upstairs rooms. The first can be entered under all circumstances, the middle door can only be opened if the specified amount of blossoms are found and the final door is sealed.

As a teaser and to prompt the player to collect more flowers if they haven’t already, all of the upstairs rooms are part of the same space, so by entering one door you can see into all of the rooms. By entering the first door you can see that you must enter the second door to acquire the key in the third room, accessible by a hole in the top of the wall.

The locked door leads to the last area in the game, where the boss battle will commence! I’ve designed this to have a small flat stage where Za-chan runs around, and two “safe areas” either side where the player can temporarily avoid attacks. I’ve drawn up a couple of new assets for this level, including a new version of the Sakura Tree which I might now use as a background element for earlier levels. This is simply a re-vamp of one of my previous designs, where I’ve made the branches a little more curvy and reduced the size of the blossoms growing on it. It looks a lot less cluttered than my previous designs, and will hopefully fit in better one the proper background is in place.

The other two new assets are stone statues which guard the “safe areas” by dissolving attacks on collision. The first Guardian is a Tanuki statue, which is commonly seen around Japan in restaurants, temples and homes. The Tanuki is seen as a sign of good luck similar to the Maneki Neko Lucky Cat, and is generally loved for being tubby and smiley! Statues are often colourful and remind me a little of garden gnomes, like this:

My statue is a carved stone statue, and looks more like this:

The second guardian of the safe zone is a Kitsune statue, a fox which is believed to have supernatural powers and immense intelligence. Both the Tanuki and Kitsune were once believed to have shape-shifting powers, and were almost worshipped for the powers they possessed. Kitsune statues vary in style, but are usually a similar shape of a fox sat upright:

And my carved stone Kitsune statue:

Like the other screenshots of this level, there are a lot of background elements missing! Here’s what it looks like so far:

The final change I have made is to Za-chan’s attack object, which was previously a piece of sushi. I’ve changed this to a small ball of light, however I’m not currently sure whether I’ll keep this or try to think of something more relevant later.

Boss Battle

I went back to the GDD this morning and tweaked little bits of information that have “evolved” during the development of Hanami. I took a look at the list of events that I wrote right at the beginning of this project, to try to work out how to conclude the game. So far, motivations for playing the game have been about progression, so I finally needed to realise a result of the player’s hard efforts!

The best way I could think to conclude the game was to have a Boss Battle, which was something I wasn’t originally planning but feel that the player would be let down if the game ended without one final challenge. So, the final door that is opened will lead to a “battle” with the Zashiki Warashi spirit, resulting in the spirit transforming back into her Kokeshi doll form. This essentially solves the “Hanami crisis”, and the player will be able to roam the world obstacle free in order to collect the remaining blossoms. There shouldn’t be many left (about 10 or so?), but only be collecting EVERY SINGLE LAST BLOSSOM will the game truly end.

The terms “Boss” and “Battle” are strong words, but it’s the best way to describe this glorified final obstacle! I haven’t introduced any new techniques to the battle, the Zashiki Warashi spirit can be de defeated in the same way as the Deceitful Blossom, by jumping on the enemy’s head. The main difference is that this enemy has a 5 health points and a projectile attack! The battle is really based on the sort of sub-boss battles you’d fight in old Super Mario games, where jumping three times on a Koopa’s head will let you pass to the next stage. I’ll record a video to show what I mean if I get the time!

EDIT: Here you are, Boss fight footage recorded exclusively recorded for this Blog:

For this stage, I’ve created three new game assets. The first is the Za-chan object, which controls everything that the enemy does. She works with three alarms, one which instigates “attack 1”, another which instigates “attack 2” and a final alarm which determines how long she is static for when hit. She has her own health counter, which is shown by my second new asset which aligns with original HUD:

The third new asset I have (half) created is an object called obj_attack. At the moment, this object is represented by my Gunkan Sushi sprite, as I haven’t actually drawn anything to go here yet… So, when the enemy shoots her attack towards at player, she is currently shooting sushi. This has been fun to test, and I will almost be sad to see it changed! This has been the easiest to program, as it’s only job is to move steadily towards the player. If the player is hit, then the projectile is destroyed, to avoid being hit twice by the same attack.

This is by far the most complex AI controlled NPC character I’ve created so far. The character moves in relation to two objects, the player and a “block” object, which keeps the enemy within a certain space. Za-chan moves slightly slower than the player, so it is possible to catch up and jump on her head! If the player is quite far from the enemy, the enemy will move towards the player. If the player is very close to the enemy, the enemy will move away in evasion. As well as this, there is a certain distance from the player that Za-chan will simply stand still and spam the player with attacks, however this will only happen if the player is also standing completely still. This system works well enough to keep the enemy moving about, but I noticed that it was possible to defeat her too easily by trapping her in a corner. So, I’ve added a final line of code that states that the enemy must move towards the player if she gets too close to the “block” object, even if this means a collision with the player. Colliding with the enemy actually causes player damage, so this in itself acts as a sort of attack mechanism.

Za-chan’s two “attacks” are thrown when each of the first two alarms go off, and this code simply resets each one so the enemy constantly attacks at an even rate. Attack 1 throws one sushi, and attack two which is less regular throws 2 sushi!

I’ve used almost exactly the same code as the Deceitful Blossom to program what happens when Za-chan is jumped on. I’ve simply changed the squashed flower sprite to a new sprite, and ensured that during this time she can neither deal or receive damage, and she cannot move! I thought it would be appropriate to make a new sprite animation where she sits down and rubs her poorly head after having an full grown woman jump on top of it…

Once she has been defeated, I’ve also created a new “transformation” animation which turns her from spirit form to Kokeshi form. To do this, I created a cloud which passes over her to reveal the doll underneath. I’ve made this in the same style as my previous “auspicious clouds”, and drew out the animation first to make sure the swirls moved bout fluidly:

And here is the final result:

At the moment, I’ve set the battle out in the most final stage I have made, even though this is currently far from finished. The aim for the rest of this week is to finish the inside of the building and build a proper “Boss Stage” level for the battle to be held in. I’ve recorded a video of the battle so far, although I think I still need to make some tweaks to the rapidity and speed of attacks. I’ll probably have to get back onto SunVox too to create some epic Boss Battle music!

Remember Save Points?

What was going to be a relaxed weekend of casual doodling has somehow turned into a few brain-mangling hours of discovering everything that’s wrong with Game Maker’s built in save and load functions. I figured I still haven’t sketched all the characters I’ve planned in the GDD- this is something I want to do, even if some of them don’t make it into the game. The next semi-important character I’d planned was a pervy guy with a camera who will “take a snapshot” of the player and save the game (remember the camera guy in Rayman? A bit like that… I can’t find a decent screenshot online, but it looks like they’ve done the same thing in Rayman Origins which I still haven’t managed to play yet)

I was inspired to design this guy after reading about perverted Japanese guys who like to get close to women on crowded subways etc, and somehow thought “that would make a good save/load system!” Well, I drew a little design of the guy, camera at the ready, and just wasn’t sure if he was right for the tone of the game…

I even got round to making a pixel version, which I might use later on for a less important NPC if I’m stuck for time. It’s difficult to make someone look creepy in such a small space, and more difficult to make a camera that actually looks like a camera, so all round this wasn’t a huge success.

So, back to the drawing board. It seems like these days you can save most games whenever you like, which is certainly convenient. This was pretty much unheard of until the past 10 years or so- up until then you would have to wait until you reached a designated “save point” if you wanted to save your game, and these were elusive and unpredictable little objects a lot of the time. In the harshest scenarios, such as the original Resident Evil, you had to collect items in order to use a save point, so the amount of saves were extremely limited.

My plan for Hanami is to include one save point in each level, which can be used infinitely as long as the player reaches it! The game will also autosave at the beginning of each level, so if the character dies they will either return to the last save point, or the beginning of the level- whichever occurred most recently. Instead of using a character, I tried thinking about more Japanese symbolism that could be used as an emblem of a save point. You can see my ideas in the sketch above, as I’m running out of sketch book pages and I’m trying to conserve paper :S

My first idea was to use a Hanami Dango, which is a special type of mochi on a stick eaten at Hanami. This was actually a coincidental discovery for me, as they popped up in the film Tekken: Blood Vengeance which I watched recently.

I considered placing a Hanami Dango stick on a sort of pedestal to create a sort of Hanami Save Alter, and this is where I got with that. The kanji means “to save”.

I didn’t quite finish this design, as I felt it didn’t really capture what I hoped it would. I don’t like wasting cool little things like this though, so there are plenty of food outlets throughout the world of Hanami that the Dango will probably make their way into! As I’m still trying to capture an overall image of Japan, I tried to find a nice little artefact to use rather than trying to keep within the realms of the Japanese spring time. After all, a lot of traditional save points were random emblems. I mean, what was the save point from FF7 supposed to be??

I had a look on the internet to see if there was anything seriously Japanese that I had missed out, and I found this article about must-have Japanese souvenirs! It includes a lot of imagery that I have already included in the game in some way, such as Maneki Neko, Hand fans, Umbrellas (Wagasa), Lanterns, kokeshi dolls, koinobori… On this list, I rediscovered Furin bells. I thought these would be a nice point at which a player can save their progress, as their inevitably interactive and look nice too 🙂 The bell consists of a domed glass case and a single glass chime running on a rope through the centre. A tag is placed on the end, where little bits can be written (I was considering trying to get a bit of kanji onto this, but haven’t managed to in such a small space yet!) I might yet put a design onto the glass, but for now I’ve settled for a simple Furin bell design:

On contact with this new object, the player can open up a new menu which asks whether or not they would like to save their game. I originally envisaged the object hanging from a rock outcrop or something like this, although I realised from a bit of play-testing that this object is too high up ¬_¬

Changes to the Background

One thing that’s been bugging me for a while is the overpoweringly plain background, which so far has been a challenge to improve. Because Game Maker doesn’t support large images, the background must be repeated in some way and can’t consist of one specially designed image. So far I’ve created one repeating image that repeats itself across the X axis at the top of the screen, but the image cannot be repeated vertically, so for the majority of the space I’ve ended up with a solid block colour filling most of the screen.

I’ve tried taking inspiration from existing games, although a lot of the most successful backgrounds (in my opinion) are either made of large complex images specially created to fit the foreground, or they’re smaller images that can have a “proper edge” because there is no moving camera change the background view. Above is an example from Braid, which consists of a huge background which pans the extent of the room.

A Boy and his Blob has some really great foresty parallax scrolling backgrounds, and to some extent some vertical camera movement. Here the trees have been scaled to create a sense of depth throughout the background, and brighter colours have been used closer towards the foreground to reduce the emphasis of distant background features. This is something that I could really consider incorporating. A while ago I posted about some trees that I designed to be part of background imagery, but I have since removed these because I felt the design was too inconsistent with the foreground. I felt inspired to redesign these recently after watching Tekken: Blood Vengeance (of all things :S) and seeing a similar style tree in the Japanese landscapes of the film.

I realised that in order to make believable, aesthetically successful trees I would have to pad my old design out slightly, and try to represent the trees textures much better, especially leaf formations. I mocked up this new design to check how well it fit into the level design, judging by its size and shape:

Here is the finished design, with all details added:

The colours have also been dimmed slightly, because I noticed that the old design cluttered the foreground a lot more than it should have done. I only have one tree made up with this new design, but it doesn’t seem to get too repetitive when placed throughout the game. I’ve placed the design into level one for now, although I’m considering only using Cherry trees in this level and saving the Bonsai style trees for level three.

I haven’t got round to adding any “depth” to the background imagery yet, but you can see here that I’ve been playing around with difference colour combinations etc. I’ve finally got round to brightening the ambient colour overlay which activates the lights, so the level feels a lot less dark now! The new colour is “grey38” from this list of hex code colours. The colour of the sky here may or may not stay, but this is intended to be level specific, so in level two the sky will be an orangey colour.

I’ve also been working on an alternative to trees in level two to add a little more variation to the level. Instead of a thick layer of trees, I’ve been trying out a thin layer of bamboo in a similar colour scheme to the new tree designs.

These seem to look much better spaced out than bunched together, as you can see from these screenshots:

In this last image, you can see that I’ve added the same silhouette background, ambient overlay and sky colour to create a much more finished looking background, which is consistent with other levels.

Where has my Sharpie gone?

It’s taken me eleven weeks (honestly, longer than expected…) and I’ve finally misplaced my Sharpie :(. The closest thing I could find was my beginner’s fude pen, so I’ve written this week’s target in Kanji with Hiragana subtitles! Its amateurism is probably offensive to the Japanese, so for that I apologise. I’m working on it!

I’ve already started to create Hanami level 2, and actually the main structure is very much in place and I’m filling out the details. I started off by making the platforms all one block colour, which I did in the previous level several times! This time took considerably less because I wasn’t making tiles as I went a long and I knew the sorts of detail I would be adding.

For the outdoor detail, I’ve also changed things like grass and plant colour to orange, as well as all man-made structures. I’ve only used my previous tileset around the door to the previous level, to show which level the door goes to! I’ve also added some orange flowers around the door to this level.

There’s currently no lighting or background in the level, which is why it looks very plain! Although in a way, I kind of like how bright everything looks. It reminds me that I sill need to sort out the ambient colour overlay in the first level, as everything still looks really dim (I actually made it darker to see how that worked out!)

I’ve made a few additions to the tileset to give this level some unique features, but they have been minimal. My old set seems really flexible, especially when it comes to creating new platform shapes. In the screenshot below, you can see a couple of new features like the bamboo fence and square plant pots. This building is supposed to be a roof garden belonging to an ikebana specialist, hence all the plants! I makes the similarly styled buildings more interesting.

As well as continuing the development for this level, this week I’m hoping to wrap up my Game Design Document so that I can produce a nicely designed copy to go into a development folder. The graphic design style used for this will be similar to the one I use in any other physical designs, such as box art and game manual design, which are really the second dimension to the retro re-enactment project! It will probably be fairly minimalist, similar to the style I’ve used so far in my Pecha Kucha presentation and rough idea for album art for my soundtrack (hah!)

Palette Swap Tactics

Palette Swapping is a cheeky little technique used by game developers in order to recycle assets. It involves taking an asset previously made and changing its colour scheme, sometimes (but not often) giving that asset a completely different look. Using a little Photoshop magic, I’ve quickly and easily turned my pink/red tileset into an orange/yellow one!

Obviously, not everything here is usable like this! I’ve kept a lot of wood and neutral colours from my original set and combined it with some of the elements from this colourised set like roof tiles and furniture. Testing is really easy in game maker because you can swap tilesets out for new ones. To see how this looked in the game, I simply swapped out my old tileset temporarily for this one and all the tiles were already in place! Here’s how it looked at a quick glance:

The level design for “Daidai Iro” is now complete, so I’ll be constructing this in Game Maker over the next week, whilst working on some of the things that still need a little sorting out from before, including the implementation of NPC characters and with that the new petal system which I still need to make!

“Momoiro” Finishing Touches

Today has been pretty similar to yesterday. The first level Momoiro is now looking pretty finished, from now until the end of the project I’ll probably just be tweaking little bits rather than making huge changes. In the screenshot above you can see the second cave part of the level, which probably has way too many lights! So there’s something that could do with some rearranging.

Here’s a screenshot from another part of the level, which leads down to the cafe. I was previously trying to play around with things I could do with the red brick tiles and some of the shadowy overlay tiles, but in the end I’ve decided to try and keep things simple.

The part of the level which has been changed the most today is the cafe itself. To set this apart from other buildings, I’ve added outdoor table arrangements and a unique flag which reads カフエ “cafe” in katakana. I’ve also added a new table light, which shines a small circular light which at the moment is the same colour as the hanging lights. It might be a little too bright at the moment, so I might dim this later. Also, I’m trying to work out how to create a flickering effect to make it seem like candle light, but I’m not currently sure how to do this with the EasyLighting system.

Other than that, there’s not much more to do, except for adding the extra characters and working on the background imagery. I’m still happy with the silhouette at the top of the level, but the rest of the level looks very dull without anything in the background. I’ve also got to add the trees back in before I forget!

Some of the characters are more developed than others. This afternoon I started working on Kaze, a resident of Momoiro who wears a face mask and scarf due to his cold. I’ve given him a walking and climbing animation so that he can manoeuvre around his home, but haven’t programmed any movement in the engine yet.