Adventures in Game Development Chapter 33
As promised, we have delivered the next chapter of Adventures in Game Development which covers all of the topics we have written in this post and more! Give it a look for some game development action!
Hello backers - ES Team here. We know that an update is long overdue and we are taking steps to shore up this shortcoming to insure that we give you, our most dedicated fans, the information you deserve. And you deserve it because you have each given of yourselves to pave the way for us. Because of your faith in us, we have been able to pursue our labors of love and, frankly, that’s a luxury not afforded to most. This is something we cherish every day and we covet each and every backer for giving us such a great gift of trust. We have a pact - a solemn promise - with each one of you. Today we begin the process of rebuilding trust and renewing your faith in us that we will hold up our end of the bargain.
It all starts with tight feedback loops. As mentioned below, we have brought Brandon Likes on board to handle our PR and social media efforts. We thought it was extremely important to simplify and unify our message and how we interface with the public. Brandon has already delivered incredible value, having just released the biggest, most content-rich Adventures in Game Development episode in our history as an organization.
Brandon was an important part of an overall strategy and re-envisioning of our direction, which rests on the following three bedrock principles:
For those of you unaware, we do in fact approach our project in a systematic way. We have adopted many standard agile processes employed by the world’s most prolific software enterprises. If we were to break agile into its two most common flavors - kanban and scrum - we fall more on the kanban side of the spectrum. Our work is broken down into the following components, which are tracked in GitLab:
1.Tasks / Issues - when we need something from another teammate, or when we want to map out what we’ll be working on over the coming months, we log a series of tasks
2. Milestones - each task must accompany a given milestone. For those of you familiar with agile methods, you can think of milestones as “Epics” or “Features” - large, overarching themes that require a series of tasks to be completed before they can be closed.
3. The Assets Repo - this is where we manage our assets and where each commit can be seen and examined by the team-at-large.
Goals Which Drive Development:
We aren’t fully prepared to talk about each of these goals for 2016-2017 as we are still in the planning phases. Here are a few that have been locked down:
1. Monthly AiGD episodes - this may seem superfluous at first blush, but the AiGD series is one of the main channels by which we were able to generate enough excitement and awareness of our project to eventually bring about a successful Kickstarter campaign. We view AiGD as a product. Not only is it a marketing tool for ES, but it’s how we engage with our fans. Its role is even bigger than that - it drives development. Each episode is a milestone unto itself and it helps drive focus and rapid devleopment when our work is under public scrutiny.
2. Demos - in 2017 we will be entering a phase of intense engagement with the public. This includes releasing a series of demos that will serve to restore confidence that a product is forthcoming and let the public see how ES is poised to deliver a unique and compelling experience. There are a few surprises to come, but it's safe to assume that this effort will not be restricted to just the United States, either. Stay tuned.
3. Trade shows and expos - it’s not enough to release demos to the public. We want to insure that our product is being exposed to influential “movers and shakers” throughout the games industry. Expos offer us a chance to network with other developers, exchange ideas, and make ourselves a known quantity by talking with media outlets and contending for awards that will drive excitement and awareness about the ES brand.
A Public Roadmap:
Above, we shared a little insight into how we manage our project internally. In November 2016, we will be distilling our most important milestones and deadlines from GitLab into a document that we will make publicly visible. We feel like one of the biggest challenges we’ve had is that our supporters simply don’t know where we’re headed, and that’s all about to change in less than a month. As a final point, we are excited to finally introduce you to the latest two additions to the ES family:
Jeremy Likes - Musician
Jeremy is the oldest member of the team (and I’m sure he’s happy we said so) and brings a lot of “real world” practicality and experience to the team. He is working full time as an Automation Engineer for Alteryx out of Broomfield, CO by day but works on the music and sound effects for ES by night (and on weekends whenever possible). He is a trumpet player by trade, but he’s recently been teaching himself the keyboard on the Roli Seaboard Rise - though ES is his first official indie game gig, Jeremy has been composing and performing music since age 12 (which was a long time ago).
Brandon Likes - PR and Social Media
Brandon is the youngest member of the team (and I’m sure he’s happy we said so), but brings a bevy of video editing know-how to the team. He just-so-happens to also be Jeremy’s brother. But let us assure you that nepotism hadnothing to do with bringing him onboard - he has earned his stripes and delivered on his obligations in stunning fashion. More to come on this later.
Below is a summary of all important development activities since our last update:
Four Player Co-op
We now have implemented four player co-op, Secret of Mana style, in which you can play with your friends as the Julien and his friends! Check out this screenshot from AiGD 33:
Development on Razer ForgeTV
We have received our very own ForgeTV from the awesome people over at Razer. We are having fun learning the ins and outs of this machine and developing for it will be a treat!
As we dug into some of the areas, we ran into situations where we would like to have the ability for lit objects that are partially blocked by foreground objects - say, lava flowing through a concrete canal - to emit light that “spreads” beyond the confines of the foreground object We would have been fine with baking the effect into the graphics themselves, but, since we have a project lead who insists on doing things right, the ES engine now supports bloom lighting. Our game designers can now implement bloom lighting on objects with a click of the mouse in EStk - thank you, Falco.
We have now implemented Prefabs into the EStk. The ability to take an object in the engine, and save this instance for multiple uses later on. This functionality greatly improves our ability to get work done more expediently. Saving us from the process of redoing our work over and over again. With this it is a simple click and drag into the development screen and BAM, done.
Echoes are the name for our Job/Class system. Our job system is going to reward you for mastering a certain job. Too many job systems have you master a class only to have its abilities limited to when you have that class assigned to your character. We are going to have it be that when you master an Echo you can CARRY OVER the abilities to other Echoes by using Ability Points. You use Ability Points to assign what abilities to carry over. You will gain more AP as you level up your characters. We also are going to have a tier system with Echoes. As an example: in some games you have a priest and a knight. If you master both you can unlock the Paladin class. This is the system that we are implementing into ES. Not that this will be the name of the Echo, but the “Paladin” would be able to have the abilities as the priest AND the knight did. This builds an expansive customizable ability tree that you, the player, can decide which path take with. Here is Julien's death animation in his "Fire Mage" Echo apparel:
All great heroes need a death animation, right?
VMU Mini-Game and ElysianVMU Emulator (with download!)
One of the many Echoes we have in ES is the Monster Tamer Echo. With this Echo comes a mini-game for the Dreamcast’s Visual Memory Unit. A lot of games in the Dreamcast era had a functionality to take the VMU out of your controller and play a entirely separate mini-game on it. Our mini-game is going to let you take your monsters that you have captured and train them up Pokemon-style on the VMU outside of the game.
But what about the people who don’t have the Dreamcast version? Rather than investing a significant amount of development time creating VMU-specific features and standalone minigames (in pure 8-bit assembly) that can only be enjoyed by a niche subset of gamers, Falco has created an entire cross-platform VMU emulator, ElysianVMU, using the libGyro back-end he wrote for Elysian Shadows. This means that people who will be playing Elysian Shadows on Steam, iOS, Droid, OUYA, Razer ForgeTV, or any other non-Dreamcast platform can run ElysianVMU in the background on their PCs or even on their mobile devices and can connect to it in-game from Elysian Shadows to use it as a remote VMU screen OR even use it as a standalone VMU device for training their monsters on the go. We had already committed to a monster taming minigame within Elysian Shadows, but now we’re excited to bring that experience to every platform and hopefully in the future encourage other fellow developers with cross-platform Dreamcast games to use our technology to do the same. The emulator supports a wide array of functionality like screenshotting, dumping Dreamcast save file icons, load/save states, external USB controllers and joysticks (even the analog stick), and much more. We’ve even emulated linking two VMUs together over TCP/IP for trading with your friends over the internet!
ElysianVMU is currently in beta and is ready to be tested/played. Since it’s using the same run-time as Elysian Shadows for video, audio, controllers, etc, many of the bugs people have caught were in common code and have indirectly led to bug fixes in Elysian Shadows itself. If you’re interested, check out the official ElysianVMU topic on our message board for links to the Win/Mac/Linux builds along with a directory full of ROMs like Chao Adventure 1 and 2. Please report any bugs you encounter in the same thread.
Our new musician, Jeremy, has been hard at work to deliver as many songs as possible to fill ES with complex, layered, moving music. Since the short time ago when he was put on the team he has already composed the songs for Loren, The Loren Ruins, The Foloi Forest(the forest surrounding Loren), and the Loren Cathedral (church)! He also has songs for some of the undisclosed locations of ES as well (we’ll talk more about that in later updates). All of these songs are a very solid mix of classic chiptune and modern orchestration. These songs are breathing new life into the heart of ES!
The Desert Biome
Patryk has been working extensively on the desert biome in our game. Here is a peek at how it looks:
Baron, beautiful, covergirl... I mean Elysians Shadows...
The ES Monster Design Contest
Are you an artist in some way, shape, or form? Are you an Elysian Shadows fan? Well you are in luck! We are holding a contest in which you can submit your monster design to be a possible addition to ES! You can submit up to 3 designs. Animations, concept art, pixel art, mutliple angles, anything goes as long as it is only 3 submissions! Submit your designs using #MyESMonster(or Monsters if there are multiple) or by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The ES team will narrow all the submissions down our top 10, at that point we will leave it up to you guys to vote for your top 3 designs! Those top 3 will be put into Elysian Shadows! The submissions are due by Nov. 24th and the top ten will be announced in the next Kickstarter update!
Falco's Dev Notebooks
In closing, we want to simply say “thank you” for being great human beings. You’ve been extremely patient with us. We are hoping that the recently released AiGD - clocking in at over 2 hours in length - is a good start in rebuilding our friendship. Know that we are doing everything we can to deliver a product beyond what you paid for. The dark times are behind us and we’re very excited to step into what we believe will be a golden age for Elysian Shadows. We look forward to touching bases again soon.
-The ES Team