Draw, Animate, Code & Play etc…

Drawing
Over the past couple of days I’ve tried to prioritise sorting out my environmental tiles, but still haven’t really come to a conclusion. I tried to test out my new idea for rocky tiles with real parts of the level design, but so far can’t seem to make them work well as they do on paper! To stop myself from ending up in a rut, I’ve discarded ALL rocky texture tiles for now and replaced them with a plain purple colour, which can easily be swapped for a textured tile when I decide what it will look like!


I made a little progress with the rock pattern around cave entrances however. I considered using straight edges around rock outcrops so that straight edges around other level features wouldn’t stand out so much, but didn’t feel this worked as well as the more natural, uneven design which is closer to my previous trace design.


I tried this design here with my previous rock texture, but decided that the rocks looked better against a more plain background. Even if I bring a heavily textured tileset back for platforms, I may stick with a plainer tile for cave walls.

Whilst trying to ignore all the complications of seamless tiles etc, I’ve diverted my attention to creating more Japanese-looking objects for the level. I’ve started by taking objects I’ve already made and adapting them to suit various instances, which is great for level continuity.


Amongst these smaller features I’ve been working on some large objects inspired by specific Japanese things, like this shrine gate:


and this bridge:


Although, the reason for the bridge’s funny shape is because it follows the shapes of my platform mask tiles. I may round this off later to make it look nicer and have the character follow the tiles rather than the shape of the bridge.

And I finally got round it pixelising the small food stand that I designed about a week ago. You probably can’t tell even if you’re Japanese, but I attempted to write ramen “らめん” in hiragana on the sign!

Without the ground texture tiles, the game definitely doesn’t look as “nice” as it did before, but the more empty spaces of the level are starting to fill up. (I haven’t built the lights in this screenshot either, which is why it looks so dark!)

Animating
In time for a proper working level prototype, I wanted to get many more character animations in. Before now, I’ve simply had one continuous running animation! I’ve only created the basics so far: running, stopping, jumping and climbing ladders.

To make the character stop you could use a single frame of the character just stood still, but I like to keep the character moving to ensure the player that the game is still running! Before now, I’ve used a breathing motion by making the character move slightly up and down, but where Hana is made of so few pixels, any rearrangement of pixels results in something far from “subtle”. I think a breathing animation is out of the question, unless I find a clever way to do this. For now, I’ve created a couple of frames that make her look fidgety when stood still, and a blink frame that flashes up irregularly.




For the jumping animation I’m currently only using one frame, although I would later like to add another to differentiate the character jumping up and coming back down.

My climbing animation is currently universal, used for climbing up and down ladders. This particular animation works best for climbing down ladders, so I may later add another one which looks more like climbing up a ladder.

Coding
The main bulk of the coding I’ve done over the past couple of days has been in the character step function, which controls the way the character moves. With all the new sprite sequences, I’ve had to customise things like image-scrolling speeds for each individual animation and can no longer rely on one over-ruling command.

I’ve split character movement into two separate “modes”-one fore running, jumping etc. and one for climbing. If the player is not on a ladder or in mid-air, the player is on_ground (this is a ready-made variable that comes with the Grandma Engine.) If the player is on_ground, the rules of horizontal movement apply, including sprite sequences and player input. If the player crosses a ladder but does not climb, ie. does not press up or down, then the rules of on_ground still apply.

if on_ground && place_meeting(x,y,obj_ladder) && !keyboard_check( key_up ) && !keyboard_check( key_down ) {
can_c = false; }

But, if the player crosses a ladder and does press up or down, can_c (short for can climb) becomes true, and the rules of ladder climbing apply. This code is pretty similar to the code I wrote before for vertical movement, but I’ve added sprite sequences and image-scrolling speeds. As you can see, I’ve applied the climbing animation twice, once for each vertical direction, so if I wanted to I could use two animations that would represent each direction.

else if (place_meeting(x,y,obj_ladder)) {

vspd = 0;
can_c = true; {

if (keyboard_check( key_up ))
vspd = -S_MAX_V /4;
sprite_index=spr_hana_climb;
image_speed=.1;

if (keyboard_check( key_down ))
vspd = S_MAX_V /4;
sprite_index=spr_hana_climb;
image_speed=.1;
}

I haven’t written much other than this, but I’ve added a few lines of code for more warp objects throughout the level. This has helped me create some clarity where caves are involved, as I have created two new rooms for caves that are joined to the main level by these warp points. Now you can see a definite distinction between the outside and inside of the cave parts!

Outside:

Inside:

Playing

Adding a lot of visual features doesn’t occur easily whilst play-testing, due to the fact that in Game Maker the platforms are made of these red-block objects that cover the background imagery. They need to do this so that I can see where I’ve put platforms! But at the same time, I can’t see if I’ve made a mistake with the imagery below. So when I’m editing tiles and want to see how they look in-game, I have to add these red blocks temporarily and delete them again afterwards. One major criticism of Game Maker is that it doesn’t allow bulk actions to be applied to all instances, so each block must be added and deleted individually, which is a looooong and tedious process. My main focus is still on visuals, but I’ll build the complete level for a play-test from volunteers next week.

This concludes my lengthy summary or the past two days!

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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.