Five Petals

A couple of the new tracks I’ve been working on are sounding pretty close to being finished, although at the moment there is a definite drop in quality from the first track. The “bamboo” track I’ve been trying to make has been taking the longest to finish, as it’s the most different. I’ve also started working on the boss theme, which has been fun. For this piece of music, I’m ignoring most of the rules I’ve read about pentatonic scales and traditional Japanese percussion, and simply tried to keep the themes running through the instruments I’m using and the way I’m using them. The Boss Theme is a little homage to Final Fantasy in a lot of ways, as I’ve taken inspiration from multiple Final Fantasy battle themes for the intro and from the Shinra theme from FFVII for the main drum rhythm.


As the pieces are coming together, I’ve made myself a system in Game Maker to describe which background music to play in which room. Instead of stating the music that should be playing in every single individual room (as I have done for other things…) I’ve started the music playing in each main part of the level, and simply made sure it keeps playing even if buildings and caves are entered. To do this, I’ve made a basic script which is called when the player enters the main stage of each level called soundInit:


This states that if the music is not already playing, the music should play on a continual loop. This script also sets the global variable music from true to false, meaning that the music cannot be changed. When the player leaves the level, I’ve reset the variable to true so that a new piece of music can be played after the previous one has stopped! When this script is called in the level’s creation code, both of the arguments are defined. For example, in the first level the arguments are defined as:

The other thing I’ve been working on today is the game’s petal system. I came up with this idea before I had any idea how to program it, so I’ve left it out until now. I’ve learned a lot from making the game’s menus and inventory systems, and this is basically an addition to the inventory system I’ve made so far. The idea is that each of the game’s characters gives you a petal that they have found, and five petals makes a whole blossom, which is added to the game score. I’ve had a space in the inventory for this for ages, which I’ve recently revamped to make it nicer:


To test the system, I started using the Priest character, as he was the first character I made. I’ve renamed him Bura-san in the GDD. I’ve created two different variables that depict whether or not the character can give the player a petal, shown either as flower_give = true or flower_give = false. If the character’s petal hasn’t yet been added to the itemList DS list, then flower_give is true.


When the player talks to the character by pressing the X button, this activates the petal given by the character and changes the variable to false:


The petal given appears at the top of the screen, and can be seen in the petals section of the inventory.



I’ve created three new global variables called “petalscore” 1, 2 and 3 – one for each level that the player can receive petals. When a petal is received, the petalscore value will increase by one depending on which room the player is in.


This is then drawn into the inventory, so the player will only be able to see their petal progress for the level they are currently in. When the petalscore reaches 5, one blossom will be added to that level’s gamescore, so in order for the player to collect all 30 blossoms, they will also have to collect all five petals in each level. However, the system still needs a lot of work, as my NPC characters currently don’t do very much. Ultimately, I would like to slow the whole process down so that when each character is spoken to, an animation plays where the character takes out a petal and holds it until the player takes it. This way the whole system seems a lot more obvious, as at the moment a petal simply pops up at the top of the screen without any explanation. I’m still working on the AI for most of my current characters too. Bura-san doesn’t move about, so he was easy to try out the system on. “Kaze” who I’ve renamed “Kyo” constantly moves away from the character, but currently gets stuck to walls…


The Panda character that I recently put in runs about frantically, but again sometimes seems to get stuck on uneven terrain. I like this character because there is no way of catching up with him, you have to chance running into him and pressing X at the right moment!

My latest character is called Koto, and is the game’s instrumentalist. She appears in the first three levels, and sits by her koto playing each level’s music. This character was originally going to be male and called Camui after the Japanese singer Camui Gackt, but when I checked on the internet for a character basis it seemed that koto players were generally women. I found a lot of images of koto players dressed in traditional Japanese kimonos, so my koto player is also dressed very traditionally.


And in her pixel form:


All of these characters are placed in all three levels, but I’m hoping to create one unique character for each level to make up for the fifth petal.

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Weekend Update #2

Just a recap of the goals for the week just gone:

Continue to create and gather any conceptual work including a Game Design Document (GDD). Experiment with the Grandma Engine in order to configure it for the game. Research software add-ons and extensions which will be useful.

So…how am I doing?
I’ve managed to write and maintain my GDD pretty successfully, but “conceptual work” is currently mainly limited to character designs. Over the coming week I’ll hopefully work up a good amount of level & item designs to being some game assets, as well as continuing to work on the in-game characters. I’ve experimented with the engine to a degree, however I still haven’t worked out things like my physics settings which must be arranged soon before I start any real level design! I don’t want to design any immense jumps only to have a character who can’t reach them… As for add-ons, I’ve previously researched things like lighting engines and sound dlls, which will come in useful, however I can’t say this for sure yet! I’ll have to re-schedule this research for next week.

So what have I been doing?
Whilst avoiding doing any really ambitious game development, I’ve been working on a few more character designs. I started off by thinking about a template for male in-game characters, as so far my character-cast is looking very feminine…

The guy on the left is my “generic man” character. He probably won’t appear in the game, but is the “standard model” for all male characters to be made to (The kanji symbol means “man”). After drawing him, he got me thinking about Japanese hairstyles. In photos, you can probably tell Japanese guys from Western guys just from the tops of their hair. Japanese styles tend to be longer and frame the face, whereas the normal Western man tends to avoid this, probably because it looks quite feminine. The epitome of androgynous hairstyles is demonstrated by Japanese pop/rock-star Gackt, who inspired the hairstyle in the top right. But as well as long, straight styles, I’ve noticed that Japanese males pull off spiky styles really well! This is either the symptom or the cause of many spiky-haired anime characters, famously including Akira Toriyama’s Goku from the Dragon Ball series. However, the first example of epic spiky hair that popped into mind was Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII. Although not a real person, there is no match in the competition for awesome spiky hair.

From this short study on hairstyles, I moved onto my first male character…who has no hair. His working title name is Kannushi, based on the name of Japanese Shinto Priests. I’ve tried to write an extremely brief bio on all my characters in the GDD, mainly explaining why they didn’t suffer the same fate as the village locals (although details of this incident are a little hazy at best. I’m thinking of changing my original idea…) For my final GDD I’m hoping to write up a bit more on the characters, including useless information like favourite food etc.

Kannushi:
a Shinto priest who was immune to the curse, and prompts Hana on her journey.

He’s dressed in a traditional Kariginu, with traditional hat and ceremonial wand at the ready. Although he acts as Hana’s main guide throughout the game, I want him to be a silent and mysterious character, who appears and vanishes without warning. On top of this, one of my objectives is to create indecipherable dialogue between all characters, as Western and Eastern characters naturally have language restraints…


The second character I started to work on was a Maneki Neko or Lucky Cat character. I think I originally said that Hana would have a pet cat, as I didn’t want her to be entirely alone. I realised this was silly, as you probably wouldn’t take your cat on this sort of “holiday”. So the cat’s ownership has changed. Maneki Neko now belongs to the owner of the hostel which Hana temporarily stays at. Another mysterious character, at the very start of the game Maneki Neko resembles a Lucky Cat figurine. It isn’t until the “Hanami Crisis” that the cat jumps to action and leads Hana to Kannushi. Whilst not saving the villagers, Maneki Neko enjoys snoozing and dreaming of fish.

As well as this, I’ve done a little bit of graphics development, just trying to figure out how to make tiles that work. I haven’t really started any official research into Japanese buildings, but just from the research I’ve been doing so far I’m starting to get a feel for them! I made this small little Photoshop mock-up of a Japanese hostel room strictly using tiles only. It doesn’t work as a room as it has no access and no space for movement, but it only uses repeated tiles so I’ve made minor progress here.

It has however brought to my attention more proportion issues. These bunk-beds for example are 64 pixels long, which is 4x as long as my character sprites, so this little tester probably wouldn’t be suitable for a game asset.

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.