Weekend Catch Up!

Tying up some loose ends…

New Characters
Here are rough designs for three more characters, all with specific roles (should they make it into the game!) I’ve tried to create one unique character for each of the game’s levels, as well as recurring characters who will appear throughout restoring health and saving the game.

The idea for the purpose of Most of the characters is that they will give Hana a flower petal, which can be combined with other petals to create one flower. Five characters in each level will give Hana a petal each, which will then make a whole. I really hope I can get this to work, otherwise they will simple have to give her a whole flower that they have found (to make it easier on my lack of coding knowledge).


Left: a guy who wears a face mask to protect himself from germs, or possibly to protect others from himself. Apparently, the lovely Japanese people wear a mask when they are ill to protect others from catching the bug.

Middle: a resident of the “pink” village- the game’s first level. He is based on Tsukimi from 51 Japanese Characters, and prefers watching the moon (“tsuki”) to the flowers. He sits high up in the mountains at the end of the level.

Right: I think this guy will appear in the next level. He is found in a hot spring, hence the lack of clothing!

Old Characters
While I’ve been working mainly on level design, I’ve also been doing character pixel-art for the characters I created a while ago.

Priesty


Monky


Panda


Sleepy


I’ll give each of these characters walking and fidgety animations so that they can move. They’re all a very similar size and shape so that I can apply similar animations to all of them.

Level Developments
I’ve started jotting down ideas for the next level I’m going to create, which revolves around Japanese forest rather than the current emphasis on mountains. The colours scheme is orange, so I have a new Kanji to work with! There isn’t so much a structure as individual features at the moment.

Weekend Update #3

Some More Character Designs subject to change and/or disposal


These characters are complete rip-offs of a few of the characters from 51 Japanese Characters, so are subject to name and feature changes in the future to avoid being a total copy-cat. While most of the inhabitants of the places in Hanami are effected by the so-called Hanami Crisis, I’ve picked out a few personality types who could have avoided the crisis in various ways. These characters will play very minor roles in the game, they will appear at most once per level, and simply hand over a blossom they have found, or something similar. Everyone’s doing their bit to help!
Left Character: avoided the crisis because he is a monk. Protected by spiritual powers etc.
Middle Character: avoided the crisis because he was stuck inside a Panda costume.
Right Character: avoided the crisis because he fell asleep under a table in a cafe. Details on the “crisis” are still a little vague, so I don’t know how this would have helped him, but it did. Kirainet, the predecessor to A Geek In Japan, has dedicated plenty of its Blog-space to photos of people sleeping everywhere and everywhere in Japan, it seems perfectly acceptable to just fall asleep where ever you’re standing.


I’ll be converting these characters to pixel form soon!

Character Animations
I’ve been plodding along with walking animations for the last week, but found I was taking leaps and bounds this weekend! I scanned through as many TIGsource Forum threads as I could a couple of evenings ago to find good examples of walking cycles that were a similar size and shape to my character sprites. Ultimately, I could only find things vaguely similar enough to help, but while this didn’t provide a pure reference, I was glad to see that I was on to something original. My current cycle too has a few frames which are similar to others I found, but I had to tween using my own initiative for most of the process. Here is my current Hana sprite:

I gave it a go applying this same animation to Za-chan, although it wasn’t always clear how to go because she wears a long dress and you can’t see most of her legs! I will probably tweak this if I have to use it in the game. At the moment, it’s more of a practice in applying one animation to varying sprites:

For the rest of my character animations, I will hopefully be roping in some volunteers to perform for me so that I have photo-references of people doing various actions. Finding examples of various walk-cycles wasn’t necessarily a difficult task, but unfortunately I’m going to need more than that…

Level Design
I’m currently still set on using the Kanji basis for my level design. Over the weekend I just had to grab a pen and piece of paper and get down all my thoughts on the level, what it should consist of and how it should look. It’s slightly more decipherable than previous attempts, although some of the designs cross-over quite confusingly! I tried to draw out the entire level in the bottom half of the page:

According to Peter McClory’s level design technique, the next step would be to draw this out to scale on squared paper. However, I decided to use Photoshop instead, so that the level was easier to edit! Once it’s done I’ll print and trace it as if it were drawn on squared paper. The design currently lacks detail and is not finished, but it’s given my a huge insight into the scaling of the level, which in places in completely different to how I imagined it. Here is a rough idea of the level so far:

My Plan for the rest of the week now is definitely to get this mocked up and playable in Game Maker, possibly before tracing in the details. I still haven’t settled for any particular character physics within the Grandma Engine, so I will have to make sure that the character feels natural to handle whilst working their way around this specific level. Once the layout is finalised, I’ll fill in some detail, but this is a secondary objective to getting a playable level right now.

Some thoughts on sound…
I started to play around with a piece of music creation software called PXTone. It’s a development from Daisuke Amaya, creator of Cave Story, and it sounds as though he uses this himself to make the music for his games. It’s default instruments are all very synthy, but you can combine classic chip-tune instruments with midi-sounding instruments to create something generally retro sounding, yet something original. There are a vast amount of starting instruments, which makes this program easier to get started with than other chiptune software I’ve previously used where you must create your own instruments :S So far I’ve just had a play around to see if it would be appropriate for this project, although I’m still not sure what my music source will be yet. Original music would be a huge bonus, so this is definitely on the list.

Weekend Update #1

1. Started Reading A Geek In Japan
I originally figured I’d read this from cover to cover so that I didn’t miss anything, but decided to stop this sequence after about page 12 to look at the pictures throughout the book! Then, as my focus this weekend has been on character design, I stopped at the section titled “Japan Today” which details the daily lives of typical Japanese people.

The section opens with an explanation of the many meanings of the word Otaku, which is commonly used throughout the world to refer to someone who is “a fan of Japanese Culture”, especially those who love manga and anime. However, in Japan it is used to describe someone who is obsessed with a certain hobby, sometimes to the point of shutting themselves away from the world to spend more time doing the things they love. I don’t think introducing yourself as Otaku in Japan would go down too well!

2. Wrote the Game Design Document First Draft
This is still in a vague state, but the gaps are starting to get filled in. I’ve worked on the game story a little, as well as the setting and game characters. I will hopefully be splitting the game into four short levels, which each represent a different aspect of rural Japan. I’ve also imagined up about 10 NPC characters, who will make brief appearances in the game (time-permitting). The characters are based on character types from A Geek In Japan and the personality stereotypes from 51 Japanese Characters. I’ve got a fairly good backstory drafted up, although this may change depending on the events that occur in the game:

Hana is an arts university graduate who became depressed by the state of the economy and the lack of employment opportunities for young people. She has always been indecisive and a little unmotivated, and is confused about where to take her life after uni. She spends a year working and saving every last penny to fund a trip to Asia, in an attempt to discover what she wants from life and who she wants to be.
Hana starts he travels in Japan, where she stays in various hostels and cheap hotels. She enjoys the atmosphere of Japan and decides that she might stay a little longer and look for work. While she still has money to spare, she decides to spend early spring in a small mountain village where she can enjoy the rural country-side before travelling to the city to seek employment. She arrives at a time when the local residents are outside, enjoying the falling cherry blossoms. The owner of the hostel tells her that the custom is called “Hanami”. Hana spends a day outside, taking photographs and enjoying the pleasant sights, but goes back to the hostel early as she feels a little uncomfortable with spending long nights out in new places. She is woken up the next morning by the owner’s concerned cat, who has taken a liking to her. She tries to find the hostel’s owner, but seems to be on her own. She takes a look outside and finds that there is no one about at all. The cherry blossoms have just started to fall…

3. Continued Playing With Tiles
I haven’t made any more original tiles, instead I’ve been stealing tiles from screenshots of other people’s games and rearranging them to test their flexibility. This has especially helped me to consider things like diagonal tiles which only take up half the space, and what I’m going to refer to as “floating tiles”, which are partly transparent and add small details or effects to the tiles below. Out of respect for the original artists, I’m not going to post up any of my rearranged images without permission, but I will say that I’ve had a lot of fun doing this!

Tileset example from The Archer

4. Continued Character Development
I’m starting to understand my main character Hana a little better now, so I’ve been using the weekend to just casually scribble down trait updates. It’s somehow easier to create characters based on Japanese stereotypes than Western ones, as I know that stereotypes don’t really exist!

At first, I tried to base the character on a stereotypical Western Otaku/Nerd/Girl Gamer, but just couldn’t find a perfect representation. As a protagonist, Hana doesn’t excel in bad-ass-ness, but she’s not a fragile little flower either (no pun intended). The baseball T is there to show that she has a tom-boy side, and I’ve tried to avoid anything which be better suited to a Japanese character (like long socks!)

5. I went to the farmer’s market for the first time, but that’s irrelevant…

Early Character Development


Getting the character right is one thing I want to get sorted before starting to work on the visual feel of everything else in the game. I think it’s really important that the character fits into the world, but that world is also in tune with the character. Working on the character first also means that I can start to make sprite animations for early prototypes with placeholder level design. It will help give an early impression of the game without having to work out loads of individual tiles for background imagery!

I began trying to design a character a while ago, but for the most part ended up sketching slight variations of the same thing, and it wasn’t working well or progressing. I mentioned already that I originally wanted to make the character a portrayal of a Japanese character, and found a site called 51 Japanese Characters which really helped. The site creates these “characters” based on Japanese personality stereotypes, for example your first thought of a Japanese woman may be a woman in a kimono and sandals.

Your first thought of a Japanese man might even be a ninja.

My original inspiration for the game character came from the Kawaii (cute) character. Thinking about David Perry’s explanation of Game Cliches, I thought the harmless, cute little girl in pink would make a good protagonist, as she looks as though she can do no wrong. Kawaii is almost completely unique to Japan, and therefore would have been good representation of a Japanese personality.

Before I really knew what the game was going to be about, my character designs reflected this personality in a very cute, happy way. I started to develop a chibi-esque cartoon style, which was very simple to draw and provided enough detail to get the character across. As the principles of the game started to develop, my realisations of the character also evolved to be a lot less smiley and cute.


I started to develop this idea further, but never really finished.
Developments in character design led me to realise however that the main character should be a foreigner, a representation of someone like me who dreams of going to Japan. For a fleeting moment, I though maybe I should base the character on myself. In a way, this would be ideal. I know myself very well, and probably be able to portray my personality quite accurately! The character would be a bit of a nerd, enjoying the geeky side of Japanese culture like anime and videogames, and definitely have a natural anti-social nature. While I’ll probably be using some of these ideas, the main character won’t be completely me, and here’s why:

Me= grumpy, dull, unmotivated, spiteful, boring. No one would want to play that game!
Before, I concentrated on tying together a personality from Japanese personality stereotypes. Instead my character will represent a Western, nerd, gamer grrl stereotype. It’s the type of person who would love to go to Japan, and I could probably still think up an accurate portrayal of her. As for a name, I’m currently rolling with Hannah or Hana, as it’s a fairly popular Western name, but also mean flower in Japanese (hence, HANA-mi).
As it would be cruel for the character to be completely alone, here I gave her a cat to keep her company. Perhaps I’ll add a twist that reveals the cat to be a super-villain.