Onward to October
First Rule of Mage Club: Know Your Spelling
Much time over the past month has been devoted to bug fixes and refinements in the Verb Coin user interface. We have made some adjustments to the way the system functions. Previously, only one of D'arc's spells would appear on the Verb Coin Interface at a time. You can see this functionality if you play the demo we released back when we ran our Kickstarter campaign. We've since changed it so that all of D'arc's spells will appear on the Verb Coin as he learns them (for faster accessibility and also to reduce the number of clicks required to cast spells). In addition, we've also made it so the active inventory item will appear on the Verb Coin as a clickable icon. These probably sound like they should be simple additions, and on the surface they are. But they resulted in a lot of “run-on” issues that then had to be addressed separately, and which took significant time to investigate. Each interface has its own script and those scripts all link into other scripts in various subtle ways, so there can be a sizable amount of cross-checking involved.
Considering that Mage's Initiation will have a choice of three player interfaces, we need to constantly perform extra testing and fine-tuning, like this, to ensure that the interfaces are still behaving as intended.
Anthropological Aspects of Art and Animations
We're on the verge of completing all of the background art and character animations. We have the near-final to-do list in hand, and we *plan* on tying up the vast majority of these loose ends before the new year so that everything art-related will be in place for our January summit meeting. Of course, there will likely be some straggling art assets left over, but getting through the bulk of the remaining workload will make those few things easier to pick off at the end. At that point, we'll also be in a better position to assess precisely where we stand and what else needs to be done before we launch the first alpha testing phase.
A milestone we reached last week was getting all of the sliding panel parallax layered scenes completed for the game's introduction sequence. The end result looks rather effective and works as a nice lead-in to the game. We're working on composing the music for that, and have put in some placeholder voices, pending future voice recordings.
Battles, Beta, and Beyond
The current area that's lagging behind the most is the combat and RPG system. This is chiefly due to the fact that the vast majority of the battle system had to be re-coded when we changed the game's aspect ratio to 16:10. Most of the spells have already been programmed and set up, but there are still a lot of bugs to fix and many of them relate to the way the spell effects are drawn over particular environments (e.g. a spell effect sprite being too wide and getting superimposed on top of background trees in the forest, for example). Morgan just finished scripting one of the Earth Mage's more flashy spells - an effect that's REALLY fun to cast on unsuspecting foes!
We have yet to program in our two backer-created spells (or the two Supreme Archmage backer battles, for that matter), but all the assets of these things exist and we’re just working on finishing up the spell behaviour, bugs, and making combat as smooth as possible so that we’ll have a nice, functional system to import the backer assets into.
The RPG/Stats system relies largely on the battle system, so it cannot be linked until most of the battle system is implemented. The reason for this is because loot drops will tie into the type of stat-boosting gems the player can equip. The combat system, D'arc's spell-power, D'arc's stats, and loot drop-rates all need to weighed against it. The underlying framework for the RPG system is in-place, though, so it will be a fairly trivial matter to converge the two when the battle system is ready.
We still have no solid ideas about when the alpha or beta testing phases will commence. But we're thinking of releasing the first beta without character voices. This way, testers / backers will be able to report dialog and text-related anomalies early on, giving us time to address them before voice recordings begin. With our previous game projects, we've always launched the beta AFTER voices were recorded, and it has always been a pain having to get actors back in for pick-up sessions when text-related issues were discovered, so we'll definitely be reassessing this situation as we move closer to alpha/beta testing.
General Progress Report
We figured that backers would be interested in an estimated progress report for each area of the game. This is, by no means, scientific (or even mathematically calculated). Just some rough guesses, gauging the amount of work finished against what still needs to be done.
- Writing & Design: 97.2 % (Give or take; flexibility for future line rewrites and edits)
- Background Artwork & Animations: 90%
- Character Animations: 85%
- Music: 75%
- Sound Effects: 15%
- Voices: 0%
- Adventure Game Programming: 85%
- Combat System Programming: 60%
- RPG/Stats/Equipment Programming: 50%
And if you're the type to get excited about this sort of thing:
AGS Game Engine Assets & Stats
- Total sprites: 15872 / 30000
- Sprite folders: 709
- Total Animation views: 653
- Total GUIs: 69
- Inventory Items: 300/300 (since our custom inventory system is dynamic, we have over 300 items)
- Characters: 185
- Dialog topics: 421 / 500
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (20th Anniversary Edition)
Pinkerton Road and Phoenix Online have just released their Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers remake. The game is a loving recreation of the 1993 Jane Jensen classic by Sierra On-Line, brought into the 21st century with HD graphics, new puzzles, and an remastered digital score by original GK composer Robert Holmes. If you’re a Sierra fan, this is definitely worth checking out.
H. P. Lovecraft: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
Dedicated adventure game developer, Agustin Cordes is working on a licensed H. P. Lovecraft game, called “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”. It looks awesome and has the suitably creepy vibe one would expect from a Lovecraft horror game. Agustin is running a new Kickstarter campaign to try and get the project funded, so take a look and give him some support if you feel so inclined.
Well, that's all for now, folks! We have the Himalaya summit meeting approaching in January, and great strides are always made when Daniel and Chris get together to playtest the game. We’re anticipating progress to be made in leaps and bounds over the next summit meeting, so we’ll probably save our next update until then, when we have much more interesting news to report!