Hanami Idea Explosion!

I guess this is a little like brainstorming, only it’s more of an explosion of words. I can’t think of a better name for it, especially one that sounds as exciting!
I got this idea from Gabriel Verdon at the beginning of his Devlog for The Archer. He begins development with a quick introduction to the concepts behind the game, and his objectives for the finished result. As a quick introduction to the characters and settings for the game, he takes a simple statement and pulls apart separate words to explain further details. With the ideas I’ve got at the moment, I guess my opening statement would be:

A lone girl travels empty streets collecting cherry blossoms.

To make the statement a little more specific, I thought I would expand it to:

A long girl travels through the empty streets of Japan collecting Cherry Blossom after Hanami.


It’s still quite a vague overview, but I’ve left room for improvement ^_^.

Notes:

-Hanami- Gameplay is based around environmental obstacles. The player must find blossoms in hard-to-find or hard-to-reach locations, although I’m not sure yet whether this will be with the aid of special abilities or if the challenges will be fairly similar the whole way through. This will ultimately depend on what I manage to program.

-Feel of the game- There will be a conflicting sense of both loneliness and serenity throughout, achieved through lack of player communication and a peaceful setting.

-Symbols- Japanese written characters (Kanji) will appear throughout, as well as traditional Japanese symbolism such as the Sakura blossoms themselves, which are an ephemeral symbol of mortality.

-Music- I would like the music to sound like a typical “game soundtrack” (repetitive, electronic, catchy yet annoying.) But I also want to base it one traditional Japanese tunes, to help the game feel authentic. Throughout the project I will be listening to a lot of Gackt and Nobuo Uematsu for inspiration, but no changes there really!

-Movie Influences- Studio Ghibli’s so-called “Blue Sky, Green Grass” films- Laputa, Porco Rosso, Kiki’s Delivery Service… but also My Neighbours the Yamadas for a little insight into Japanese life, and anime like Angel’s Egg and Cat Soup for the sense of journeying through strange, lonely worlds (these second films also add a sense of darkness, which is something I’m currently toying with.)

-Game Influences- The Archer for its incredible use of Game Maker and beautiful concept and asset artwork, Ninja Senki for its Japanese themes and simple graphical style which create a great example of everything a platformer should be, and Nevermore 3 for its representations of isolation and loneliness in a beautiful world.

-One thing I really want to get across is problems with communication in a foreign place, and a lack of understanding of signs and symbols. I want there to be minimal dialogue throughout the game AT BEST, the player will have to rely on their own interpretation of symbols, imagery and gestures in order to get through the game. Some will be more complex than others!

-Verdon goes into a lot of details on his post about the inventory system, and how it acts as a means of providing higher-resolution details of items and characters which don’t appear very detailed in the actual game. This is definitely something I will consider! There will be items and pick-ups to help the character along, however I’m not sure what these will be yet.

EMP Countdown Day 4: 4 Days…

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve been writing about these games and wondering if the info I’ve provided will actually be beneficial to my EMP. Obviously, each one of these provides me with an accumulative drive which I need to kick-start this project, and I can learn from each one even if I haven’t made it obvious whilst showcasing them. Over the past four days I’ve been ploughing through Gabriel Verdon’s Devlog on TIGcourse (currently on page 44) and taking pages of notes on the direction of development and the stages he went through, stealing many of his production images to help me with my own. I’m hoping that somewhere between concentrating on these other great games I will end up with a resulting brilliant and solid idea of my own, which is something I’m unfortunately lacking. And the project start is looming…

I think how these games will really help me will be evident when it comes to applying the useful stuff to my own creation. It’s easy to look at how other developers are using sprite sizes and resolutions for example, as well as art direction and the implementation of Game Maker functions in the case of GM made games. So I will probably be constantly referring back to this list during my own development, or that’s the plan.

Today, something slightly different. So far, I’ve looked at a lot of home-made side-scrollers from some really inspirational guys, however Fez by Polytron inspires me in its hugeness and uniqueness.

I’m pretty sure I referred back to this all the time during the specialist project, as this is another game currently in development and its nice to be able to watch it grow. The main reason I like Fez is its art style, a unique application of pixel art into a world of squares and straight lines (even the clouds are made of blocks).

Like Sword & Sworcery EP, Fez adds to the pixel style with anti-aliased shapes and lighting, evident mainly in the gradient across the sky. In his TIGsource devlog, Gabriel Verdon admits to using similar shading techniques in The Archer, especially to add a sense of depth to platforms. What’s mostly interesting about this game is that it is actually 3D, with only 2 dimensions ever appearing on screen at once unless the view is being rotated. It’s the first time something like this has ever really been attempted, which has resulted in an unexpectedly long development time. It would appear through the complex nature of the game that it probably uses large textures rather than tilesets, although tiles appear to have been used on some of the textures as homage to the old games which have inspired its pixel artiness. The main character Gomez also never rotates and always appears in 2D, so it’s probably that he has been animated using frame-based animation, as well as many other animations throughout the game.

The style of imagery works so well in Fez because it is consistent. All object have been made to look very square, and small colour-ranges have been applied to any one scene. Here, the colour scheme uses many bright blues and greens, but in more hostile areas darker colours have been applied. It would seem that commitment to the style entirely is key to gaining recognition.

Links for Fez:
Fez on the Polytron website
Fez on Vimeo
Fez on Indie DB
Creator Phil Fish talks about Fez on Gamasutra

EDIT: I’ve also just discovered that a TIGsource devlog exists for Fez, and I am now more than excited to go through those 145 pages…

EMP Countdown Day 2

The Archer Gabriel Verdon

This is another persistent source of inspiration for me for several reasons. For a start, the game is currently in development and it just keeps getting better. The reason I can make comments like this is because the creator of the game, Gabriel Verdon, has been keeping a constant online development log since the very beginning. Even if the game turned out to be awful, this 77 page backlog of development is a pretty good tool for someone like me who is still working on finding the perfect game design structure. As a bonus, the game is being made in Yoyo Game Maker 8.0, so most of the development is really relevant to me. As well as a constant update on how things are going, Verdon has found the time to produce several devlog videos which really show how the game is coming along…

From these videos, you can see the full scale of this project. The game must really push the limits of the software in terms of graphics, although I believe the physics are fairly basic for the most part. The development log for The Archer introduced me to a Game Maker document called the Grandma Engine, which works as a 2D platformer engine within Game Maker. The document comes with a simple range of assets and physics, ready for the developer to add graphics and music etc. This is great for non-coders, but has been made in a way that the settings can easily be tampered with to make slight changes.

These images show really early development of The Archer, using the provided assets from the Grandma Engine and a custom playable character. Later, custom graphics are added to the level design and the solid black blocks are set to invisible. So although I really like where this game is heading in terms of inventive gameplay and a lovely pixel-art visual style, what makes this really inspirational to me is its devlog and again, for providing a showcase of software capabilities and possibilities. It looks likely that I will implement something like the Grandma Engine into my next project, especially if it takes the form of a side-scrolling platformer.

Links for The Archer:
The Archer Official Website
The Archer on Indie DB
Online Development Blog on Tigsource
Gabriel Verdon’s Blog