No Closure. Not Yet.


The game will have fully reached beta stage by the end of this week, and I hope to start recording a final playthrough video and shorter “trailer” video that can be shown on the internet/at the critique in a couple of weeks time. I apologise for the lack of videos I’ve posted towards the end of the project, but I’ve had yet more problems with codec compatibility with the Vcap dll I had been using for a while. I’ve got time now, so I’m going to sort out the problem once and for all.

Things are gradually getting crossed of my to do list, and I’m trying to do things in an order of priority. Today I drew up that last two “slides” for the game’s perfect ending, so there’s now very little that I actually need to make or add. These final images don’t really provide closure, because I think if the player has struggled through finding every single blossom throughout the game then the last thing they’ll want is a simple “…and everyone lived happily ever after.” The intention was that the player gets this from the regular ending.


This time, Hana returns to the shrine where she placed the Kokeshi doll only to find that the doll and the cherry blossoms are missing. This could lead to two opposite conclusions- either the mischievous spirit has escaped and will continue to wreak havoc, or she has gone away and left the world to get on with life without disturbance. I haven’t really placed any clues as to which one it is, I think the player can decide this for themselves.


The next slide could be the decider, however. This shows Zashiki Warashi next to the Maneki Neko. I personally intended this image to look as though the spirit has given into her childish nature and taken on the more playful characteristics of a child, but again this is up to the player to decide. It’s a good or bad ending, but either way, the game ends here and there is nothing more to do.

I’ve also been busy finishing a full-scale mock-up prototype of my packaging design, which I’m happy to say works very well. For the mock-up, I’ve used thin black cardboard for the case, which I’ve painstakingly measured and cut by hand to make sure all the dimensions add up. The manual is printed onto glossy photo paper, which is a bit thick for its purpose but gives it a nice shiny finish! I’ve only printed the cover for now, which actually ended up going a little wrong as I forgot to print the logo onto the back. In the photos I’ve used the manual cover for the box cover, which just means you get the words “instruction manual” on the front of the box. I printed the disc art onto normal printer paper and stuck it onto the CD with paper glue!



New Art & Concepts

I’ve been working on some new promotional art because frankly, I want something that represents the game other than pixel art. While pixel art has its benefits, like being very easy to edit and achieve great accuracy, it’s also very restrictive. This new image started off as a fineliner drawing which I scanned with the contrast setting up really high, and ultimately I’m not 100% happy with the way the line art has turned out. But this can be very easily fixed, I’ve just got to work out how! Please let me know if you-mr/mrs/miss reader-have any tips!

For now I’ve blocked in some really simply colour and added some dodgy Photoshop effects, despite the fact that I hate overusing these. In this case it doesn’t seem so bad though. I felt that the drop shadow was totally necessary to add some depth to the image.


I’ve also gone on to use this as part of my first box-art concept, “wrapping up” the game’s physical designs. I discovered an online company called weEco” that make lovely eco-friendly media packaging. One of their products is called the WowWallet with Die Cut Window, which is a cardboard sleeve with a window on the front which allows you to see the inlay, and a slot for a disc in the back panel. I really liked this idea, as it promotes the inlay as well as the CD itself. As I’ve put a lot of emphasis on the important of the game manual for Hanami, I decided it would be appropriate to use the inlay cover as box art in a similar way. Actually, I would use the back of the manual, which would be the same as the front minus the line that says “instruction manual”! So, from the front you would see something like this- a cardboard case with a window to the inlay inside:


The inside would consist of another window, allowing the user to see the front of the game manual. On the opposite side is a slot for the disc. My initial idea for the CD art is to use my new promo art. This stands out really well in contrast to all the other dark colours.

Compact Disc Digital Mock Up:

Inner Sleeve Digital Mock Up:

As for stock, I think a thick, matte black cardboard would work really nicely for the outer sleeve. The inlay would probably similar to any CD inlay, the kind of paper that your fingerprints show on too easily 😛 For now this is staying in its conceptual stage, I’m not planning to print anything for a good while…

Destructions

You may or may not have picked up on the fact that my amended timeplan jumps from week 15 to week 17. Unfortunately the dates are right, so I haven’t gained any time. It’s all just typos. They told me I would need basic maths to survive in the real world…


Luckily it seems, the deadline for the project is NOT the 9th of May like expected but some time around the 15th, giving me a hugely important extra few days than expected. I won’t write another new timeplan to accommodate for this extra time, instead it will just be an extension of my last week. The plan for this week is to “wrap up any physical designs”. As it happens, the manual is incredibly near completion so I’m going to start work on casing design and potentially some further and more refined character designs that could be classed as “promotional art.” There are just a few minor tweaks that may have to be made before finalising the manual, and I’ll probably wait until the end of the project to make any changes, just in case. Here is the manual as it stands:

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I’ve now started work on a designed version of the original Game Design Document, so I will be revealing this to the world for the first time very soon (like tomorrow.) Other than everything I’ve listed already, I’ve spent a bit of time sitting down and thinking “right, what else does the game need?” I still haven’t finished the ending, so that will be the first and most essential game element to work on. Other than that, here’s a list of some other things I’ve thought of:

1. “Flower Give”
I’ve implemented this flower give system where talking to NPCs places petals in your inventory. So far, I haven’t figured out a way to only place the flower after a “flower give” animation has played, so it actually looks like the character is giving you a petal. This is the least polished part of the game so far, and while it works, it seems to me like a half-assed attempt.

2. “Shadow” NPCs
Hanami is all about a group of people inflicted by a sort of “curse”, however the only other characters in the game at the moment are those who haven’t been affected. I’ve explained this so far as “those who are affected have drifted off to another realm…” or some such excuse, but if I have time I think it would be nice to place semi-transparent silhouette people around the levels, representing the people who have been taken away. They will probably be seen sleeping or standing around saying “help!” or something. If I try this and it makes sense, then I’m putting it in.

3. New Game Plus


I’ve recently finished playing Fez (I went on about this game ALOT at the beginning of the project. It FINALLY came out last weekend) and the game bears some uncanny similarities to Hanami. This was probably my subconscious copying ideas that I thought were good, although I couldn’t have known everything before the game came out! In Fez you must collect a certain amount of cube pieces to complete the game. You can easily finish the game without finding every single collectable item, but once you’ve finished it the first time you can start the game again with all your progress saved from your first playthrough. This is nothing new to the world of gaming. The first “New Game Plus” I encountered was in Chrono Trigger, which came out in 1995. But I thought it would be nice to do something similar at the end of Hanami. You only need 60 blossoms out of a possible 90 to complete the game, so why not let the player go back and try to get the ones they’ve missed? Acquiring all 90 blossoms can result in an alternative ending. I assume Fez does this too, but I wouldn’t know as I haven’t got there yet…

Weekend Update #5

My new time plan seems to be working pretty efficiently- I’m almost ahead of where I expected to be, although a couple of the things I’ve crossed off the list are works in progress and will still take some time. I’m still making and placing NPCs into the levels so that five petals can be collected in each level.

One of the characters I’ve worked on is the Monk character who I “pixelised” quite a while ago. I’ve given him a walk animation so that he can pace around. The interesting thing about animating this character was getting the timing of the staff right, although I’m still not sure how I feel about it!

I’ve also re-made the “nap” character I created a while ago, based on Japan’s casual outlook on sleeping anywhere and everywhere! Before, this guy stood up and looked sleepy, but I’ve remade him to sit down with his head against a table. When the player walks past he will stir, but take little notice and continue sleeping.


In terms of the petal system, I’m still currently looking at ways that I can improve this by adding extra animations and stopping all keyboard input to create a dialogue “cutscene” sort of scenario. I will hopefully finish the system in the coming week, as well as working on the game’s physical elements such as disc and box art and the inclusion of the all important game manual.

I’ve purposely left out a lot of instruction throughout the game in order to encourage the use of a physical game manual, and it’s become very apparent to me how vague the objectives of the game are to a player who has had no introduction. So the game manual has two purposes: one is to set the scene of the game in terms of back story and character bios, and the other is to inform the player how to actually play the game, what to look for and how to achieve goals. I haven’t started any designs yet, but I’ve come up with the table of contents:

    1. What I’ve referred to as “boring but essential” info- technical stuff and system requirements etc.
    2. Story Synopsis- briefly setting the story of the game.
    3. Hana and Zashiki Warashi character bios and backstories- I want this to be a double page spread so that the characters are seen side by side. This will take the story further to concentrate on the back-story for each character. None of this is touched on in the game.
    4. NPC bios- this will be very brief, mainly displaying a portrait and name info for all of the NPCs.
    5. How To play- this will be split into these sections:
      5a. Controls – including diagrams with controls for keyboard and controller
      5b. Menu Navigation
      5c. Understanding the HUD
    6. Game Items- a list of items, what they do and how to use them
    7 Hints and Tips
    8. Credits and thankyous

In terms of art style for imagery in the manual, I am considering continuing to use pixel art instead of using higher definition imagery. I’ve started working on some images that I can potentially use in the game as stills, but could easily adapt these for print. I’ve been thinking of clarifying the setting at the beginning of the game, and introducing Zashiki Warashi early on. I drew this kokeshi-style Za-chan so that the player knows what they’re up against:


I’ve also been working on some still images of events that happen in the hours preceding the game in a similar style. I’m not sure if I will use these, but if I do they will appear as a slideshow when the player starts a new game. None of these images are finished, but I’ve compiled some of the new images of Hana from these here: