It has been a long while with the holiday break, but we are back to rock out some more development for ES and have some awesome stuff to show you guys!
AiGD: Legends and Lore
This month we went a little bit experimental with our Adventures in Game Development series. We decided to show off the other side to making a game, the lore of the game. We also showed off some level design and music in the classic AiGD style. We hope you enjoy!
The Dev Notebooks
So since we initially announced the dev notebooks a few months back we have a lot of people asking about them. Well we have had some troubles with getting the notebooks digitized without harming the original BUT we now have a plan and should have them to you by next month! Thank you for your interest in the notebooks!
The Monster Design Contest
So the team has picked it's top 6 designs for you to vote on! We have a video below talking about all the designs and what we thought of them. Go check it out and vote for your favorite!
Jeremy was hard at work with the soundtrack to the game. So much so that he has finished up the songs for the first 1/5 of the game! He ever started working on some night-time versions of songs. Here is a list of his work:
Crystal Ruins (boss)
The Join Party theme
The Museum theme
The Crystal Ruins, Foloi Forest and The Crystal Myth
This month the primary focus for Patryk was getting a layer of polish ready for Brandon to implement into the levels he has been crafting. Since Jeremy has gotten so much done in terms of music he decided to join Brandon and get a two pronged attack on these levels. In terms of levels we have gotten we worked heavily on the Foloi forest and Crystal Ruins and are just missing a few pieces before they are completed. Patryk also gave a makeover to the Crystal Ruins' boss, The Crystal Myth. Here is a look at some of the levels and the boss:
ESTk and EVMU!
Falco has been working hard on making the ESTk easier to use for Jeremy and Brandon and fixing bugs we have uncovered. That has consumed a lot of his time toward the game but will ultimately make for an easier and more efficient workflow.
Falco has also made strides this month to have the EVMU replicate the original even more accurately. Here is a list of things he has done to improve upon it:
- Implemented STF and LDF undocumented, hidden CPU opcodes for reading/writing to flash
- added ability to load BIOS separately so that you can run EVMU with BIOS only, Game ROM only, and BIOS + Game ROM
- 100% compatibility with Japanese BIOS (US BIOS has only been ripped by 1 person and has never been released)
- file manager mode support
- clock mode support
- flag for preserving aspect ratio
- pixel perfect screen zoom
- support for .LCD animations created with VMU Animator
- Start, Stop, advance frame, rewind frame controls during playback
- Redid serial communications back-end for clock-cycle level communications emulation - TCP VMU/VMU link is a WIP
- Implemented communications over serial/COM port for communicating between a real VMU device and EVMU emulated device (still WIP)
- emulated pixel "ghosting" effect of LCD refresh rate (used by some games to emulate grayscale and more colors)
- added support for loading .VMU raw VMU flash file dumps
- added screen saver for when VMU goes to sleep (Elysian Shadows logo, of course)
- fixed a few very minor, obscure bugs with existing opcodes that were exposed through running the BIO
That's all we have for this month. Thank you guys for your support and patience.
So to start off, we have come to realize that we simply don't need two monthly updates - we prefer beefier updates which cover a greater span of time and know you will too. Quality over quantity.
Now we have some really fun news to share with you guys:
Adventures in Game Development
This past week we have release two chapters of AiGD! We split up what was just 34 because there was just so much stuff to talk about. Some of it you heard in our last KS update and some of it is brand new! We have a special guest this time around, Tulio Gonçalves(The former president of Watermelon Games and now President of 2Dream). He has been helping us with a few things we will mention later in the update!
Jeremy had a productive November. His work included:
Region intro / cutscene themes
Over 20 sound effects
Broke ground on the Museum theme
A Deep Dive Into Chiptunes
Tulio and Jeremy had a one-and-half hour chiptunes deep dive session where Tulio did a demonstration of the various technologies and techniques Watermelon employed for projects like Pier Solar.
In addition, Jeremy decided that he would like to take advantage of the hard work that has already been done by the OCRemix Team and Impact Soundworks in the realm of chiptunes sampling and purchased the highly acclaimed Super Audio Cart - a VST plugin which faithfully reproduces the sounds of the SNES, Genesis, Gameboy, Atari and other monolithic systems which defined their generations.
This two-pronged approach to chiptunes will open a new frontier for ES audio, allowing Jeremy to get the most out of ES’s unique soundscape of chiptunes, 80s and modern synth, and orchestral influences.
ESTk Improvements, Documentation, and EVMU
Falco gave some love to the game designers this iteration - there are now custom methods on things like the camera object that will allow for complex panning, shake, and other features. In addition, he has been hard at work on documenting functions like these so that our current, and future game design engineers can employ a self-learning stratgey with respect to learning our toolkit and engine.
In addition to his work with Jeremy on the authentic chiptune sound, Tulio is also assisting Falco to improve our VMU functionality. For the details of the strides Falco and Tulio are making together make sure to check AiGD Chapter 35!
New Characters, NPCs, and A New Biome
Patryk has been hard at work this month getting us a bunch of new assets to show off this month. We have two new characters, Alexios and Rand, as well as some NPC skins and a whole new biome!
Rand is a passionate scholar. But he is a self-destructive, emotional trainwreck. His natural brilliance and talent in his field is in sharp contrast to his lifestyle of excess. Much of the time he is teaching and researching under the influence, as he tends to be drawn to the excitement of drinks, parties, and women. Through his sarcasm and witty banter, he is able to portray the image of a man who is cool and in control, although this facade does not necessarily reflect his internal state of mind.
Alexios is a cold, war-hardened badass. He is blunt, honest, and particularly rude to others. He has no remaining desire to socialize or feel close to others and treats them accordingly. He is a man on a mission.
This boat may look like it is 3D but it’s all smoke and mirrors done by Patrick with clever usage of layers and skeletal animation.
Seaside town is a small, laid back village along the coast of a major body of water, inhabited mostly by fishermen. We are going for a more peaceful, Chrono Cross-y kind of island vibe here, as kind of a brief respite from the dark tone and themes of Elysian Shadows in the middle of the game. Standing in stark contrast to the town itself is the ancient underwater ruins system the player must explore to progress the storyline. We’re toying with Wind Waker-style sailboat gameplay mechanics for this biome.
We are re-implementing our stream schedule! Patryk will be streaming every Tuesday and Brandon will be streaming every Sunday! The team will still be streaming every other Sunday as we said before. This will be a really fun way to interact with you all and we are really excited to get back into it! Come follow us if you haven't already!
With the holidays coming up our next update isn't going to be until January. We are hard at work getting some gameplay mechanics in place for the next update. We hope you all have Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!
So if it wasn't obvious already this update will be shorter due to the amount of time in between these updates being substantially less.
In spite of that, we have some awesome stuff we have been working on these past two weeks that we would like to share with you:
Interview with RadioSEGA
We had the pleasure of being interviewed by KC of RadioSEGA's The SEGA Lounge. It was a super fun interview where we talk about developments in the game, a bit about our new team members, some of the story of ES, and play a SEGA music guessing game! Also throughout the interview clips of our new music are played!
To make the characters’ current weapon show up sheathed on his body or in his hands during combat and allow him to pick up, hold, kick, and push objects in the environment while simultaneously rendering a different outfit for the current equipped Echo (job/class), we have to use some fairly advanced skeletal animation techniques involving dividing animations into multiple “tracks” for each body part and having them animate independently. The good news is that Spine’s runtime supports multitrack animations. The bad news is that their editor does not even allow you to represent or configure multitrack animations. Up until this point, we’ve had to write Lua data tables to feed the engine aggregate animation data using multiple Spine tracks, but this has proven to be a cumbersome pain in the ass that is ultimately not sustainable, as suddenly configuring animations becomes a task for Lua scripting rather than something an artist can do. To address this issue and streamline our workflow, Falco decided to add multitrack animation support to ESTk. Now when viewing the selected entity’s Skeleton component, you can dynamically add, remove, and manage aggregate animations and even modify them at run-time. The Toolkit provides autocompletion and drop-down menus for specifying track names from spine animations and even allows you to press a play button that appears when you mouse-over an aggregate animation to preview it in-game. This will drastically improve out workflow and speed up our development time when dealing with multitrack animations, and since we have yet to see any other tools or development kits solving this issue, we think you guys will also benefit quite a bit too when ESTk is released.
The EStk flags invalid Spine and skeletal animation data red, so level designers and artists know when there is an issue.
The team is back to livestreaming! We have been livestreaming together every other Sunday. We have been using them as time to hang out and chat with fans as well as use them as time to show off our development process. Going forward most of the time we will be using it to show off development. We post when we are livestreaming on our YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook so follow those to keep updated when we stream. We also post little updates on Twitter and Facebook throughout the month so if you can't wait for more updates check those out!
We have decided to extend the contest entry time period until AiGD 35. Don't be afraid to put in an entry if your art skills aren't the best! Put a little backstory to the monster to help us imagine your idea.
Just a reminder, you can send up to 3 submissions in. Use #MyESMonsters on twitter and facebook or send your submission(s) to email@example.com.
Our new musician Jeremy has been hard at work scoring our game! These past two weeks he has written two character themes, the theme for our museum, the Death theme, the song for our church, and he wasn't satisfied with how the Loren theme sounded so he even remastered that! On top of that he has been implementing a bunch of sound effects for the game.
To wrap up, we have AiGD 34 coming up with the behind the scenes of all this stuff we have talked about! Also thank you so much for the feedback on the EVMU! Your feedback is vital to making it a more cohesive product. Talk to you guys in two weeks.
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 had nothing 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:
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!
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
Some of you purchased the reward for a copy of Falco's development notebooks of ES. Well good news! Volume #1 is free to ALL who backed the project via Kickstarter or by purchasing ES from the website until now, Volume #2 is free to people who purchased the notebook as an add-on during KS, and they’re $10 each for all who want it moving forward.
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.
Hello everyone! It has been a while. Though it has been a bit we have a small update to announce an even larger update coming next month. "Well why not announce everything now?" you may ask. Well we are going to tie this upcoming update with a new AiGD video in order to save a MASSIVE amount of text. We have a lot to announce and we are super excited to share it with all of you! We really just wanted to break the silence and let you all know we are alive and making great progress on the game.
Here is a quick teaser for AiGD we posted today:
Here is quick little update on what is going in our team. Cole has left the team and went back to Utah because of other obligations. In spite of that, we are excited to say we have three new members on the team. A musician, a media director, and a coder to help Falco out part time. Oh... yea. This isn't Falco! This is their new media director speaking. You will learn more about all the new members in the next AiGD! So look forward to it!
Like most teams, ours has experienced its challenges. Know that we are as dedicated as ever to delivering the product you expect from us. There isn't much value in looking behind, but we really do appreciate your patience during this difficult patch and, due to a more calculated approach in how we delegate our work, we are poised to deliver quality, consistent content to you - the fans - who stuck with us through these dark times.