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A beautiful 2D sci-fi metroidvania about love, hope, and redemption. Gameplay influenced by Super Metroid and Dark Souls.
A beautiful 2D sci-fi metroidvania about love, hope, and redemption. Gameplay influenced by Super Metroid and Dark Souls.
3,014 backers pledged $54,007 to help bring this project to life.

Post-campaign recap, progress report, and what's next (IMAGE HEAVY UPDATE!)

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Hey guys. Anyone still listening? Hopefully yes. 

Sorry about the lack of updates lately. As might be expected, I had a period of adjustment, trying to figure out what exactly I'm going to do and how I'm going to do it. Working for high res is pretty new to me; Most of what I've done in the past has been for lower res screens or displays, such as the very prototype that was shown off in this campaign.

Today I'm going to offer a hopefully mostly coherent recap of what I've been up to and where I'm headed next. There are a few things I want to cover, so I'm just going to word barf on you. Please excuse my rambling nature.

Moving forward, I've gone through a few different phases since the end of the campaign. Initially I was considering the possibility of changing the game's art style; Perhaps even radically changing the design of the main character's suit. 

I tried a few different things, some of which were similar to what I had before, some of which were... Really, not sure what I was even thinking.

These sketches are similar in design to the original, but not quite right
These sketches are similar in design to the original, but not quite right
This may be cool, but it's not right for the main character
This may be cool, but it's not right for the main character
Not sure what I was thinking.
Not sure what I was thinking.

After some flailing around design-wise, it became clear to me that it's quite hard to redesign the suit in a way that fit all the criteria that the gameplay and story call for and also work well visually. 

So.. Why redesign it, really?

I came to believe that where I should be focusing my efforts is on identifying what's good about the original design and refining it and making it better. That ultimately meant emphasizing the cloak/pancho more for a sleeker look, and slimming down the entire body a bit. And, naturally redoing the whole thing in a higher native resolution.

This is what I came up with:

 So -- As you can see, it's similar in many ways to the original. I wanted a slimmer, sleeker look, as said, and the longer cloth and thinner form help with that. I also made sort of a pointed leaf shape with the cloak running down your back, which I feel helps give the character a more memorable silhouette.

Something that was bothering me for the longest time was the asymmetric nature of this character (she has a gun on one hand and not the other) and the absurdity of simply mirroring the graphic to run left and right -- Her gun arm magically changes. If she's facing left, it was the left hand. Facing right, it was the right hand. This may be common practice, but, being anal, I wanted to do something about that. This is what I did.

I committed to make different versions of every single animation for this character so that we have total consistency. The left hand is now always the gun hand no matter what. Doing this requires a little bit of craziness, but it only has to be done once, and with the character finished, it's behind me and was worth it.

Animating a character like this with a lot of colors and textures is pretty tough. There are no real rules, it tends to become something of a scrappy, Photoshop free for all. A lot of it is done with manipulation -- I'll put together poses by cutting and pasting body parts, then paint over them to help eliminate seams. For something like a run animation, where I'm already pretty familiar with the leg positions needed, this was pretty straight forward.

Other times I'll sketch out the poses first and sort of wallpaper over them with body parts, finishing it off with a retouch. Take, for example, this "stop running" connective animation I wanted. I put the run animation next to the standing animation, and attempted to bridge it by sketching out a few loose frames.

Next, using the sketch as a guide, I started "wallpapering" over it with cut and paste body segments.

 The cape is a bit trickier, and it involves a lot of trial and error and liberal use of the warp tool. 

Other animations there's no real easy way through. It's just pure effort and trial and error -- Like these jump up and fall down animations, where I really placed a lot of importance on getting the cape movement right.

 Once the animations are finished, preparing them for use in the game engine is a task unto itself. I need to adjust their resolution to the desired size and pull the frames out, one by one, and form a massive sheet of frames that can be read by the game engine. The sprite frames are spaced apart perfectly so all the software needs to do is know which column and which row to pull a given frame from in order to display it.

Here's a shrunk down, partial image of the sprite sheet, which is much, much larger than this in its entirety:

When all the frames are together on a sheet like this, it also gives me good opportunity to make sweeping adjustments to the color levels and particular filters or layered effects I want to apply to tweak the look of the character art prior to putting it into the game. As such, the coloration may change a bit as I decide on what I think is best. The current plan is to make the coloration similar to what it was in the previous version of the game.

The other matter that was weighing heavily on me was environment art. How much work will it be making it for a much bigger screen -- And what, if any, of my existing environment assets can I use or adapt for a big screen. It turns out, a lot of them can be reused or adapted.

It's important to me to retain the essence, look, and feel of the original game -- The lighting, the noisy, thick, sci fi atmosphere -- All of this together with the sound design will contribute to a heavy, isolated feeling. I was always pretty happy with how the game looked before, on that small screen, and I want to make it translate to a much bigger screen as well as improve on it.

Click this to check an animated gif of an example of the lighting and atmosphere in the old game. This is the target. This is the best use of lighting I made before, and this is what I want to do again.

Here are some early screenshots using a mixture of old and new assets. Keep in mind that things are still early and much is liable to change over time.

(Click for higher res)

Ghost Tree room in HD
Ghost Tree room in HD
Ghost Mountains in HD
Ghost Mountains in HD

Having most of the new character design behind me is a big obstacle out of the way (I place a lot of importance on the main character art!) and moving forward this week I'm going to be focusing a lot on solidifying the finer parts of the game's design and making a new, more detailed blueprint for the entire map which will help us lay the framework of the game in the new engine.

At this point, after a lot of testing and experimenting with the assets on a big screen TV, I'm feeling very optimistic about how the game will look and feel and can't wait for it to be shared with the world. 

To everyone who backed, you continue to have my sincerest thanks and appreciation. For those who haven't, The paypal store is still up on my website and I'm still keeping those backer rewards (such as name in credits) available through to the end of the year. So if you are interested in the project and my vision of an isolated, atmospheric action/adventure game and want to support it by buying early, the option remains open.

One last order of business: While I'll get by fine without any additional artists (make no mistake, I will finish the game no matter what) it would be a nice luxury to be able to outsource some of the artwork and it would help allow the game to ultimately be finished sooner. Although there are many people out there who are as skilled or more skilled than me at art and animation, the artist would also need to be able to approximate my style and implementation, such as it is, so that the game's presentation appears seamless.

At this time I'm primarily looking for help with spritework -- Characters/monsters/etc. If you are interested in the job and believe you have the knowledge and experience to create assets that look similar to mine, (it may be the case that I give you a target drawing and ask you to animate it, but I'm also open to your own ideas on designs), email me at twotimingpete@gmail.com. I'm not asking for volunteers; there is compensation.

Thanks all!

Matt

Ignacio Puyol, Xinchao Liu, and 77 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Missing avatar

      John Edwards on

      Looks nice, just don't give us some cliche twist like that ghost person you're chasing is really you :P

    2. Ian Lamb on

      OMG PURE Beauties these pics

    3. Jacob Chambliss on

      Loving the way everything looks, drop some concept art on us some time! :)

    4. Missing avatar

      Goblin Honey on

      Hahaha I had forgotten how I had gotten to this page and when I finished reading it, I scrolled up top because I wanted to fund it, but then I saw that I already had and that's why I was reading this. Looking good so far, I was impressed with the transition so far.

    5. Zaranell on

      Those sprites look pretty sexy, I got to say.

    6. Andrew Gibbons on

      These animations are SUPERB! .. Absolutely fantastic! I absolutely love it!

    7. Robert B. Healy III on

      Taking the time to actually animate the character from each side instead of just flipping it like most other devs would really makes all the difference. Good on you for not taking the easy way out and making this game as great as it can be in the process. :)

    8. Jeremiah Christie on

      Oh my gosh, the HD character art and animation look so good. Fantastic work - keep it up! And I definitely appreciate and approve of your obsessive attention to detail - that's how you end up with an all-around exceptional project, which is what this deserves to be. Rock on.

    9. HyperNexus on

      So glad you went to the effort of changing the gun arm to only one arm. Much better. And hey, if Samus had it in Super Metroid - it's only fitting. Yet another way metroid was way ahead of the curve. Most games today still don't have alternate side sprites. It's extra work for you, but it's much better for it. Nice work.

    10. Shiru XIII on

      Awesome :) ! Your arts are very amazing ;-) !!

      Keep up the good work !

    11. Missing avatar

      Kyle Ryan on

      This made my day! I have not been so excited for a game in a long time! Thanks for the details. I watch a lot of films with commentary tracks because I am interested in the dedication that goes into artwork. It shows when people truly love what they are making!
      Thanks!

    12. S.D. on

      Thank you for this wonderful, content-rich update! If your monthly updates are even half as good as this one, then we're all in for quite a treat. I appreciate you letting us inside, Matt

    13. Jonathan Robertson
      Superbacker
      on

      Fantastic job, Matt!!

    14. Missing avatar

      Michael Tataliba on

      Thank you for not radically changing the suit design. You basically combined Priss' hardsuit with an invid trooper & gave it a cape. I couldn't think of a better design to use for a game like this.

    15. Niki Coppola
      Superbacker
      on

      How close are we to the Wii U goal?

    16. Missing avatar

      Lorenz Jugel on

      That looks amazing. Good job! Keep at it! Thanks for the update, it's very interesting hearing about your struggles and eventual solutions.

    17. Ian Chamberlin on

      Even in an early state, this is looking really nice.

    18. Brandon M Beall on

      The depth you go into for your posts is astounding. Keep it up!

    19. Missing avatar

      BH on

      Yeah, people forget how much effort the hi-res stuff requires, but it's looking wonderful so far! Keep up the great work, and we'll wait patiently for the next update.

    20. Missing avatar

      dmr87 on

      I'm floored once again Matt, simply stunning. Hope you get some help so you can finish faster.

    21. Missing avatar

      Adam Minder on

      That some quality sprite.

    22. Kimmo Savilampi on

      Im glad i backed up this game! waiting for this game so much, you truly inspired me to start making my own game.. But im am acually a musician and by the look of your game. I would love to make some dark, lonely,, interesting, cozy?, sweet tunes for this game. I could see myself doing it.Let me know if you want some sneek peeks of those kind of tracks. Ive got some. Best Regards // Kimmo

    23. Michael Flowers on

      I love what i'm seeing here, everything is looking great, i'm even using the screen shots now as wallpaper. Keep doing what you are doing, man I can't wait till you start on Rook now.

    24. Missing avatar

      Wyatt on

      Good stuff; very nice design. Though it's very dark; have you considered how you're going to make sure it remains visible at all times? (Running lights, or something?)

      The other thing is the stop animation feels a bit too abrupt. I think it's because intuitively the centre of mass will shift toward the leading foot as she attempts to stop, but the animation seems to show that sequence favouring the opposite. Notice how the trailing foot becomes rooted, and the leading foot slides forward and springs back? Our main character would land flat on her face! :)

      Dealing with inertia and modifying our gait to slow or stop is something we tend to understand intuitively so I can see how this would happen, too. It's a hard thing to get right. I think the ideal may be overextending the lead slightly; then sticking it to decelerate hard; follow the motion through naturally until the other foot plants a bit ahead.

      Come to think of it, good examples for this sort of stopping motion might be baseball players, soccer players, or Gymnasts.

    25. Missing avatar

      Godewijn on

      Wow so glad I backed this. Awesome job with the left gun hand :)

    26. Matt White Creator on

      thanks guys. the visor thing is a good idea and we'll be looking at different ways of doing effects like this. In the new game, as currently planned, dizzy is also a light source, and can be manually controlled with the right analog stick. This is partly a fluff feature but you can move and pin him to help you light the way in dark areas.

    27. Zach Savoy on

      This is definitely my most anticipated kickstarter game, and I've backed nearly 20 video games. The art, the passion, and dedication of the creator makes this a win!

    28. Saif on

      Really cool update. I always like reading about the process of making games and also the animations, step by step. In terms of lighting, it would be cool if their is a small light trail from the visor as the main char falls or jumps. Even though this is one of the smaller games on KS, this is the one i'm looking most forward to.

    29. Matt White Creator on

      thanks all :) @Nathan Hill 1920x1080

    30. Missing avatar

      Nathan Hill on

      Still listening! What will native resolution end up being?

    31. HyperNexus on

      Stunning work. This is going to look fantastic on a high res display. Really appreciate how detailed this update is . Something to really savour. Keep up the good work mate.

    32. Ian Barczewski on

      Man. Looks incredible!

    33. Joseph Huckleberry on

      Thank you Matt for this amazingly detailed update! Even if we only get one of these every month or so, it's totally exhilarating to see how hard you're working! I love the atmosphere you created in the Kickstarter trailer and it looks like you're on track to achieve an upscaled and fully realized version of it; I, for one, am absolutely inspired by your attention to detail and passion, keep it up!

    34. Stephen Rosebaugh-Nordan on

      I'm a bit OCD myself and I really appreciate the gun arm staying consistent depending on the way you're facing. To me, it's really cool that you did that ^_^

    35. SilverLimit on

      Love everything you've got going on here. I'm glad you stuck with a similar look to the flash game. VERY impressed with your character sprite up-scaling and animations (The attention to detail keeping the blaster consistent is awesome)! This is one of my most anticipated KS projects. Take your time and keep up the good work :)

    36. Missing avatar

      Roje Felix on

      I appreciate the update, I was wondering where you've been! But glad to know you're hard at work on one of the coolest indie titles I've seen in years. Thanks again.

    37. mabec on

      Thank you for this thorough update. That sprite sheet looks really cool actually.

    38. Sam Cook
      Superbacker
      on

      PS. Dablue quit following me from project to project! :D

    39. Sam Cook
      Superbacker
      on

      Great update and great work Matt! Looking forward to more!

    40. Dablue
      Superbacker
      on

      You continue to amaze me Matt, awesome design and very cool insight.