May Update, Belated Version
Greetings, backers! Yes, we realize we’re a little bit late with this update and that we’ve been shamefully slow with getting back to messages. We’ve had some illnesses and obstacles to contend with and supply chain kinks to iron out, but we’re happy to state that we’re now back to our regularly-scheduled programming and a great deal work has been done on the game!
First, we’ll show off some eye candy with this new background from JP—the game’s sure going to be imbued with some old school goodness in terms of visuals!
And, some words from him regarding the background art front.
Background Art & Techniques
I've been working through a schedule to get a set number of backgrounds colored and edited weekly, and have a color-coded map that shows me which areas need to be redesigned and edited, as well as new locations that need to be conceptualized. I'm developing a master color palette for each location to streamline the process and most of all keep things consistent.
One of the critiques I heard during the Kickstarter was a concern about some of the background art being too blurry. In the past I was not fond of the pencil tool, as line work often turned out too jagged for my tastes, and I found adjusting the opacity settings for it to be tedious. The latest version of Photoshop (now CS6) in addition to having an incredible selection of texture and angle brushes, also has a much improved pressure sensitivity button for the pencil tool which enables me to sharpen and define the scenery in its native resolution. Many of the backgrounds were colored at a higher resolution and needed to be sized down, creating some discrepancies in the detail levels. I can now revisit other areas of the game with this tool to improve the detail level and create consistency across the entire game.
I'm hard at work on finalizing additional scenery for Mage's, such as the surrounding forest trails of Iginor, originally sketched out by the very talented Jeremy Kitchen. It is with great effort that I make these environments have both the familiar classic flavor reminiscent of the Spielburg Valley in Quest for Glory I VGA, but with a higher resolution, more updated twist. Above is one of the latest forest rooms in Mage's Initiation. I've made the lighting as dynamic as possible, complete with cast shadows. When D'arc will navigate the forest, his level of brightness will change when he moves under a tree and into the light.
Another area of the game I've been finalizing are rooms in the Priestess's Palace. I'm creating room objects for a labyrinth of sorts (no, not an endless, annoying, headache of a maze) where D'arc can now engage in combat with Amun-Cul's minions. To tell any more would spoil the fun!
If you have any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to post on the forums. I'm often swamped with art-related tasks, but I'll try to keep up with the postings there. Thanks again for all your support, and I look forward to providing you with future updates.
Now to turn the proverbial mic over to Morgan to discuss changes to the combat engine.
Changes to Combat
Since the release of the public demo, the entire combat script has been rewritten. Most of the changes to the script have been under the hood, to allow for much more flexibility in designing and fighting more complex monsters, particularly the combat-training mages, who can cast every spell that D'Arc can. Some of the changes, though, affect gameplay dramatically, and will hopefully make combat much more enjoyable and less frustrating.
The biggest change that is already implemented is an auto-aiming system. I’ve spent a lot of time developing code that lets the enemy spell-casting characters pick their targets (usually D’arc) and aim intelligently and automatically when casting spells. Now, you can also auto-aim. Instead of a frustrating click-fest of moving, changing spells, and then desperately trying to click on moving targets, you can click on an enemy or their icon to select them, and cast spells by pressing spacebar. Spells automatically aim right at whatever you've got targeted. Switching from enemy to enemy and from spell to spell can also be done with hotkeys.
There are many more advancements on the way, from smarter, more capable enemies, to changing combat rooms with enemies in pursuit, to more and more spells and classes! We'll keep you posted!
Turning the mic over to Jason to bring everyone up to speed on the programming and general design.
Overall Game Design and Programming Progress
With the demo of Mage’s Initiation, we gave a brief taste of what was to come. Given that small window into this world, it is a bit difficult to convey the scope of the changes we have been hard at work on since the Kickstarter. Thanks to the generous support we have received, several aspects of the game have been improving dramatically as of late. The world has been expanding; the story has been getting richer and the overall gameplay better. Where once there was a world map for traveling between sections, we are now bridging together scenes with more traditional forest screens, creating a more distinct world. The story and characters have also been getting a serious amount of attention from Daniel and I can say that the number of dialogs in the game right now is about to break 200! The game is really starting to shape up and the overall experience is evolving daily.
Since I can’t give away story spoilers or other significant elements of the game, I thought I would talk briefly about one of the systems of Mage’s Initiation. Due to the RPG aspects of the game, we are able to have a lot of fun creating unique and interesting systems for the game: for instance, I just wrote a script to piece together random characters to populate into rooms, just so D’arc wouldn’t feel lonely. The tool essentially takes a random head sprite, a random torso sprite, selects an element class, and then joins all the pieces together to dynamically make a unique character in the room.
One aspect that I have put a decent amount of time into over the course of development is a dynamic inventory system, which allows us to read and write data to inventory systems on the fly during gameplay. This means we can have items with dynamic enchantments, unidentified items, track durability, attach weight, you name it. This allows us a ton of flexibility when dealing with inventory in the game and works nicely with our combat engine. How much of this will be fully utilized is still to be decided, but this is a good example of the types of systems we have been working on for Mage’s Initiation.
Jeremy has also been plugging away at the bestiary you’ll be fighting, he’s put together some amazing sprites lately! Now we don’t want to give away too much, so we’ll whet your appetite with this one: the Casipoisse is one fish you don’t want to meet in an alley late at night!
Latest Scoop on Rewards
Lately, we’ve been prioritizing core game development over getting the store section of our website up; which we will be announcing when it is ready. But we’re happy to say that a great deal of the swag production is underway: we are currently awaiting proofs of the stickers and maps and once they meet our approval they will go into production. This should be quite soon! We just approved the pendant sample, they’ll be going into production right away. Check out the ancient bronze goodness!
The resin figures are a longer process since even small runs (by factory order standards) will often require at least 4-6 weeks to complete due to the sculpture and casting processes, then approval before going into mass production.
So with all that said, once finished products start appearing in our hands we will be sending out the surveys—we will post another update when the surveys are going out, which we hope is soon!
We’re very happy to say that progress on Mage’s Initiation is running at a smooth pace and we’ve been getting much done on all fronts lately—and we couldn’t have done it without you! Going from the epic journey of the campaign itself to seeing the game really taking shape now has been nothing short of astounding, and we really can’t wait to see what the coming months bring us all.
The Himalaya Studios Team