How are you doing? Is the weather warm where you're at? Summer has brought the heat down upon my back yard, with the temperature is getting close to 80°F (27°C), which to me is way too hot! I actually planted some kiwi vines in front of my window in hopes that they'll grow into a "green screen" of sorts to absorb the sun heat. It's a technique Nozomi taught me that they use in Japan to reduce the heat in the buildings during hot summers. Here's to hoping it can cut down on the air conditioning costs!
Development is going well, and my focus at the moment is the final content of Soul Saga. I'm currently crunching away on the cutscenes. At first they were taking much longer than I was hoping, but as I continued to work with them I created more tools and developed work flows and programming patterns to speed it along. So at the moment they're moving at a more reasonable pace. Because I'm the only person working on the cutscene scripting, dialogue writing, and engine programming it bottlenecks the development process and takes longer than a big studio can do. But with all that aside, seeing the final result of the story in action is just surreal. I often find myself saying "Did I really make this game?!" Here's a little peek of what I've been working on.
One of the biggest challenges of making a JRPG like Soul Saga is testing. Coming from a video game quality assurance background I have high respect for good testing procedures, and often find myself testing regularly rather than putting it off until later. But testing something like a JRPG isn't normally a one man job, so to assist with testing I've created some tools and "hacks" in Soul Saga just for me to speed up the testing process. Some of the tools include a speed hack, scene jumping, and an overpowered Ring of Debugging used to smite my enemies in a single blow! No Torne or Squabble shall slow a test session ever again!
Ryan Camus has been hard at work on the Soul Saga soundtrack. Seriously... he's cranking out more songs than I know what to do with at this point, but they're just so amazing I'm making spots for all of it! I really appreciate the hard work he's put into Soul Saga. Music is one of the most important elements of a JRPG, and I'm ecstatic Soul Saga's music will be great! Here's just a few that he's made:
My Best Friend
"My Best Friend" is the catchy and adorable theme song played when Mithos interacts with his best friend in the Soul Saga story, a character to be revealed soon!
"Likurk Living" is the relaxing theme song played when you visit the different Likurk inhabited areas of Medonia.
Life Is Good
"Life Is Good" is the smooth and relaxing theme song played when in various parts of the game for happier moments. Relax a little, you've earned it! =D
Moonlighter Cross Over!
Moonlighter is a gorgeous and incredibly fun looking 2D action adventure RPG where you play as the owner of an item shop! Your goal as the item shop owner, Will, is to delve into the nearby dungeons to earn treasure and loot to then sell to the traveling adventurers for a profit, one of which will be Mithos from Soul Saga! The mysterious dungeons are constantly changing, so there's a new challenge every time you go spelunking. It was obvious to me as soon as I laid eyes on this project that it was a labor of love by several talented people, including the amazing composer Alec Holowka, who has done great work on the Aquaria and Night in the Woods games. I'm a backer myself and can't wait to see Mithos in Moonlighter!
Will and the Moonlighter shop will also be making an appearance in Soul Saga! Search for the shop hidden away in Medonia's capital and you'll have access to some nice items! Just make sure to bring your Jul.
Each day Soul Saga's last 10% gets whittled away, and I get ever closer to sharing my 3 year labor of love with you. Yeah that's right, this month marks the 3 year anniversary of the Kickstarter! Holy Torne cakes! This has been a long and incredible journey, but every ounce of sacrifice was worth the effort. Thank you for everything you've done for me... I couldn't have made Soul Saga without you!
How've you been?! I hope your spring has gone well. Did you know summer's right around the corner already?! Time sure does fly when you're spending all of it working on Soul Saga! I've been focusing on Soul Saga's new user interface lately, and I'd love to show you some of that today!
Beta v9.3 Live!
Beta v9.3 is live and has almost all of the new user interface implemented! This includes the Title Menu, main menu and all sub menus, and part of the shop menus. Next I will work on finishing the shop menus and the crafting menus. The user interface implementation should be 99% done by next week. I'm also planning on adding controller support in pretty soon!
User Interface Enhancements
The biggest change over the past month has been a complete overhaul of the Soul Saga user interface design. The previous betas were simply using placeholder UI. I like to tell people that making a good game with a tight budget should be treated like baking a cake. You don't put on the toppings until you've baked the cake first! And now that Soul Saga is being finalized it's time to start piling on that sugary eye candy frosting!
The title menu sports a black and white background of the beautiful Soul Saga character collage created by Akaneko. The UI designer then created some fancier save file frames, and I programmed in a cool animated glow effect behind them. I also implemented in a couple social networking buttons at the bottom so new fans can easily connect with me to chat about Soul Saga and keep up to date on future Disastercake games!
The main menu sports more coloring in the background, but a bit desaturated and blurred so it doesn't overwhelm the foreground. This is the menu you'll be seeing often in game to access all your information. The goal was to give you some nice eye candy on the landing page of the main menu so you can enjoy your time here.
Many of the menus in Soul Saga will sport a notebook type look to it. The goal is to give the user interface some character by making it look like young Mithos has scribbled this information into his notebook.
New Title Theme
Soul Saga's lead composer, Ryan Camus, has created a new title theme for Soul Saga! This epic and inspiring theme is titled "Dream Big", and it captures the mood and moral message of Soul Saga perfectly.
What Do You Think?
One of the many things that makes Soul Saga unique is the obviously strong impact fans have on development. A recent question I brought up for fans to help decide is whether your airship should cost money to repair or not. Feel free to join us in the discussion on Twitter or on the Disastercake forums.
I'm going to jump right back into working on Soul Saga now! I'm so excited to share Soul Saga with you this year I can't even explain it! I'll always be eternally grateful for the opportunity you've given me to share Soul Saga with you, so thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!
I'm still aiming to release Soul Saga on the PC, Mac, and Linux by late August, and I'll let you know if that has to be adjusted in the near future. So far everything is coming along well! I'll definitely keep you up to date about console porting soon after the Desktop version has been released.
Hello, friend! How are you doing today? Is the spring weather treating you well? It's been starting to get warm here, but there's no time to play in the sun! Soul Saga's development is cruising along and I'm crunching in as many humanly feasible hours as possible to get you the best game I can this year!
Beta v9.1 Update!
The update is here! The update is heeeere!!! Yesterday I uploaded the latest Soul Saga Beta version to v9.1 for beta testers to get their hands on. This update is a huge step forward for Soul Saga as it shows off it's final draft of its unique and innovative combat system. If you're a Soul Saga Beta tester, you can find it for download in your humble bundle library now!
Steam Page Live!
Soul Saga's coming soon Steam page is now live! This is a very exciting time for me to be far enough along with my dream project, that YOU helped make, and be this close to sharing it with the world. Thank you! Please let your JRPG loving friends know so they can add it to their wishlist! =)
Earlier we had a vote among you and other backers whether you'd like to maintain the Final Fantasy inspired combat zone system, or switch over to a more dynamic Chrono Trigger inspired system. The Chrono Trigger inspiration won by a landslide, and I got to work implementing that in for you! The results are fantastic, and you can take a look at how it feels below.
Soul Saga Combat
I'd like to talk with you a little about Soul Saga's combat system and the innovations that drive it. When I started working on Soul Saga, it was my goal to design a system that was inspired by the JRPG classics like Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire, and Final Fantasy, identify the critical elements that make those systems fun, and innovate around those core design concepts. After identifying the elements I wanted to maintain, I dissected the common elements in JRPGs that were the most critical to address, and I quickly found the number one issue: monotonous battles.
Monotonous battles are an issue present in almost every JRPG and are even in many of the great classics. As you’re walking through those dungeons and you’re forced to fight wave after wave of weak and predictable enemies, you turn off your brain and just keep hitting the “next” button over and over again until you’ve stomped all over them and you're on to the next battle. Well not in Soul Saga!
For Soul Saga I made sure this wasn't the case, and I'm ecstatic to finally share with you the final version of Soul Saga's combat design that has successfully banished that problem.
The Beauty of Self Discovery
The beauty of Soul Saga's Combat system is in discovering exactly how the synergy works for yourself. While this system is new, it's completely understandable with a little experimentation. I'll share an overview of the system with you here, but I'm going to avoid delving deep into different uses and strategies with these mechanics so you can experience the joy of mastering them yourself!
Your actions, your choice!
The core concept behind Soul Saga's battle system is that you have FULL control over when and which of your characters act. You can even delay your actions to pause the enemy's turn.
Intervene Points (or IP) is the universal bread and butter resource your characters utilize to use their personal skills. In the current beta, you have 3 IP points maximum.
IP can be accumulated by:
Taking actions. Every 3 actions generates a new IP point. Enemies also accumulate points this way.
Delaying actions. All unspent IP will roll over to the next turn. Delaying will also not consume the current action buff.
Accumulated IP can be used to:
Take multiple small actions.
Use a single strong skill.
Intervene the enemy turn for various strategic reasons.
Intervene is a unique concept that allows you to pause the enemy's turn to use any IP you've accumulated. You can utilize this to initiate different types of strategies for time critical situations.
Wheel of Morai
The synergy of all these systems comes together perfectly with the Wheel of Morai. The Morai Wheel is a device in the bottom right corner of the screen that foretells the buffs and debuffs that the next 5 actions will be afflicted with.
The most common effects are:
Double Attack Power
This buff will increase the actor's attack power to 200%, strengthening damage dealing skills.
Double Support Power
This buff will increase the actor's support power to 200%, strengthening healing and shielding skills.
Half Attack Power
This buff will reduce the actor's attack power to 50%, weakening damage dealing skills.
Half Support Power
This buff will reduce the actor's support power to 50%, weakening healing and shielding skills.
Synergy = Strategy
By taking advantage of the IP, delaying, and intervening systems, you can manipulate which team and actors consume which buffs and debuffs to turn the tide of any battle! The great thing about this system is that it's simple, but dynamic, so you're always thinking for every turn in every battle.
Hopes and wishes to Kumamoto, Japan
You may have heard about the recent earthquakes in southern Japan and the devastation it's wrecking on the families there. One of Soul Saga's key members, Nozomi, is from that region of Japan. She has requested time off to take care of her family during these trying times and I will be making adjustments to Soul Saga's timeline as needed. My sincere condolences go out to the people of Japan, especially Nozomi and her family. She has been a critical part of Soul Saga's successful development from the beginning and I wish nothing but the best for her.
Adjusted Release ETA
Earlier this year I had set a hopeful release date of June, but with everything happening at this point it may be rushing things a bit. To reduce the chance of delays I'd like to say that August is a safer release schedule. However, I will be trying my best to get it earlier than that for you. Thank you very much for your patience while we finish up Soul Saga for your enjoyment!
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for having given me this opportunity to create Soul Saga for you. I seriously can not wait to share it with you later this year! Please join me and other Soul Saga backers in the forums to discuss this update here:
How are you doing, buddy?! I missed you! So this past month we've made some major polish to the Soul Saga Combat system and User Interface (UI) based on your feedback over the course of development. I'd like to thank you for all of your valuable input over the years of Soul Saga's development. I couldn't have made such a great game without you! Let's start with the fun stuff!
June ETA Remains Steady
In a previous update I mentioned I'm aiming for around late June to release Soul Saga on the PC, Linux, Mac platforms, and consoles soon after that. That's still looking feasible! I'll let you know if anything adjusts with the timeline in the next couple months. There's always the possibility that I'll want to squeeze some more content and polish in for you, but I'll do my best to get it out ASAP! I know you're salivating from excitement as much as I am!
UI for You and I!
I've recently brought on a talented artist and UI designer that I've been working very closely with to bring you the most pretty and functional user interface we can. I think we've really nailed it out of the park with these UI designs!
Dialogue User Interface
The dialogue UI is a scroll with subtle alchemy inscriptions framing the text and an ornate name plate sporting the Soul Saga logo's blue and gold color scheme. We made sure to keep the shading and lighting style the same as the beautiful character portraits so it ties all of the art together perfectly. Feedback has been wonderful so far on Twitter and Facebook!
Combat User Interface
There have been some major enhancements to the already innovative combat system of Soul Saga. I'll go into deep detail on Soul Saga's combat system in the next update, but for now here's the work in progress of the Combat UI! What do you think?
Dragontree Village Make Over!
Dragontree Village has received quite an aesthetic make over! As always, I took fan feedback to heart and implemented in several views to the town that really help immerse you in the feeling of Mithos' small hometown.
This is the entrance to the town. The goal of this view is to help establish that Dragontree Village is a small rural farm village with great distances between areas.
This is the town center. The goal here is to establish that the town is a small tight nit community and also to make all of the stores are in a very convenient layout. You can visit the Blacksmith, Item Shop, and Restaurant in this single scene. The job board is also just off to the side of the Blacksmith!
This is Mithos’ House. It can be found off to the right side of the Restaurant in the town center. The goal with this scene was to capture the feeling of neglect to the home and yard because Mithos’ lives alone in it. You can do all of your alchemy crafting in Mithos’ home and also take a nap for free!
Mediocre Monster is an adorable and unique concept about how you're an average monster employed to help the heroes on their adventure. But it's not that simple! To be a good Mediocre Monster you must follow the rules of combat. Get the heroes low on HP, but don't kill them! Are you charmed? Then slap some hearts on your eyes and drool a little! Are you taunted? Make sure you hit the right hero! And don't forget to sneak in some nice loot for the heroes while they're striking their victory pose! Do a good job and you get to swap your color palette to become the strongest Mediocre Monster in town and inspire other monsters to join your party!
Imagine if you took the best of JRPG trope comedy and put them into an adorable setting like Monster's Inc. or Wreck-it Ralph with an enthusiastic and lovable main character. That's Mediocre Monster, and it's looking like loads of fun!
And the coolest thing is...
Soul Saga and Mediocre Monster Cross-Over!
That's right! Mithos, Elise, and Max will be making an appearance as one of the hero groups you can help along their adventure! Ever wonder what it's like to be on the receiving end of Mithos' enthusiasm? Well now you can find out in Mediocre Monster! I can't imagine a more fun and appropriate cross over for Soul Saga, and can't wait to play on the opposite team from the heroes we all love!
But it's gotta get funded first! I'm super excited for this game so please come join me and other backers on the Mediocre Monster Kickstarter page here and make it happen together!
Thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU! I seriously cannot thank you enough for your amazing feedback and support for Soul Saga. Looking at where Soul Saga is now compared to where it started is just mind blowing. The evolution of quality is phenomenal, and I can't wait to finally share Soul Saga with you in the near future!
Do you have anymore great feedback? I'm especially interested in hearing what you think about the combat user interface! Please join other Soul Saga fans and myself in the Disastercake forums here and let us all know what you think:
Hello, friend! How's my favorite valentine doing today? Well it's gonna get better because I got you a present! Now here's a box for everyone. Don't open it yet. HEY I SAID DON'T OPEN IT! Okay, now in one of these boxes is a key. A key to what, you ask? Well it's a key to your very own...
Now open your box. That's right! You get an airship! And you get an airship! And YOU get an airship! EVERYBODY gets an airship! If you're a beta backer, check out the latest download ( Beta v8 ) and let me know how much you love your new ride! If you're not a beta backer, you can still help Soul Saga out by grabbing the beta from here: http://www.soulsaga.com/beta
Every bit helps to cross the finish line!
Do You Twitter?
Now that Soul Saga's completion is on the horizon, I've been finding time to leave my cake cave and interact with the world via Twitter! It's been a ridiculously fun time connecting with Soul Saga fans! I use twitter for periodic updates and shout outs between big Kickstarter updates. If you use Twitter, please give me a follow and receive your free cake hug! You can find me @Disastercake.
If you're more of a Facebook person, I've got a Soul Saga Facebook page setup for you as well!
I love the social media sites not only because of the inspiring experience of connecting with passionate Soul Saga fans, but also because they're a great way for you to easily help me spread the word about Soul Saga to others! Thank you so much for your help! I couldn't do this without you!
If you don’t use either, don’t worry! Kickstarter still receives all valuable information and more, just in bigger packages… like this one!
So now that you’ve got the keys and you’re doing that cute happy dance you do, you can head over to the Dragontree Docks to give your new airship a whirl! Airships are boarded from the designated docks on each island. On Dragontree Island you can find the docks south of Dragontree Village.
Airship port buildings are easily identified by their unique logo, a boat with swan wings.
Make sure to pick up a couple quests from the job boards outside!
And chat with the receptionist to get your airship!
The same receptionist is your go to guy for airship repairs and purchases. You can pick up new shielding for more HP, boosters for faster traveling, engines for more agile movements, and fancy new weapons! Check out this industry standard flamethrower that’s on sale for just 2000 Jul! Honey Jackets beware!
Two Airship Modes
As promised during the Kickstarter, there are two airship modes: exploration and combat. In exploration mode you fly around a fully 3D world, in combat you fight your enemies in a real-time side view arena!
The most exciting thing I want to announce today is a very important addition to the airship exploration… Wonders!
Wonders are Soul Saga’s equivalent to Skies of Arcadia’s discoveries. The thing I spent the most energy on with Soul Saga’s development was creating a deep, rich world. Wonders help me deliver that story to you by introducing you to some of the natural and man-made cultural wonders of Medonia. In the beta there are 3 wonders to be found, and there will be MANY more in the final version of Soul Saga! Let me know if you can find them all!
The jingle played when discovering a Wonder was composed by the talented Ryan Camus. Ryan is working on fleshing out Soul Saga’s soundtrack to bring you a robust OST.
Airship Enemy Spawning
I experimented a lot with the best way to make enemies appear during Airship exploration. Internal testing showed that the best solution was to periodically spawn aggressive enemies at certain intervals. So as you’re exploring, rather than finding a group of enemies just sitting around you just avoid, enemies will come to you! This ensures that there’s never a dull moment while exploring the dangerous locales of Medonia’s sky islands!
Airship Boss Enemies
There are some special situations where enemies are on a specific point on the field, like bosses. There’s a boss at the end of the explorable zone in Beta v8 that represents this design… Benny’s worst nightmare!
At the moment there are no in game instructions on how to pilot the airship. I will add these later in polishing just in case anything adjusts based on your feedback. I tried my best to make the controls as simple as possible while still capturing the flexibility needed for dynamic and fun gameplay. Hypothetically you can play the entire game with just a mouse, but also using the keyboard will help give you much better control. Here’s the jist of the controls:
Exploring with a mouse is very easy. Simply left click on the screen where you want to go, and the airship will turn and accelerate in that direction! If you want to boost, just hold the left and right click buttons together to charge up, then let go of the right mouse button to kick it into boost! By holding only right click you can turn your airship horizontally without moving, and and raise and lower the airship easily. This is useful when trying to collect flying fish or aim yourself for boosting through mines.
Using the keyboard you can use the W and S keys to move forward and backwards, S and D to rotate, Q to go straight down, and E to go straight up. Hold the space bar to charge up your boost, and then release to let er’ rip! If you want to interrupt the high speed boost, just tap the space bar.
To mine, you simply need to collide with a small floating rock while boosting at any speed.
To collect fish, simply get them close to your airship and your crew will scoop them up!
Movement in combat is very similar to the exploration mode, with the twist that there’s a little bit of physics used to get gradual deceleration. This adds a little bit of a skill curve to controlling the airship. To move with a mouse, simple left click where you want to go and you’ll accelerate in that direction. Let go of the mouse button to decelerate. You can also…
Do A Barrel Roll!
Fox! I mean, Mithos! You’ve got a bogey on your tail! Just do a double click and you’ll roll out of the way!
To fire your weapon, just press the right mouse button! You can hold the mouse down for a semi-automatic effect with most weapons. Some other weapons, like the flamethrower, will continuously shoot a stream of fire out. Later there will be more weapons that can be charged and then fired.
At the moment, only the mouse can be used to fire the weapon. There will be an update later to add controller support.
You can equip 3 weapons on your airship at a single time. To switch between them, scroll the mouse wheel! In a future update hotkey binding will be implemented so you can bind keys to weapon slots.
16:9 Aspect Ratio Letterbox
With the addition of the airship combat, I needed to make a decision regarding supported aspect ratios for Soul Saga. The problem that was occuring when supporting every aspect ratio was that the side scrolling airship combat was different for each person! Besides that, it’s also been difficult to try and design UI and camera angles to every situation. You simply just lose lots of valuable screen real estate if you’re trapped to consider a square ratio. A conundrum indeed for all movie and game developers!
Obviously I couldn’t just only allow certain aspect ratios on a desktop… I want as many Soul Saga fans as possible to be able to play! So I did some research and found a way to force a 16:9 aspect ratio at every resolution! This means that you can play Soul Saga at any resolution you like, and get the same experience across all of them!
There’s a lot of technical stuff under the hood of what has to go into forcing a perspective ratio in the Unity Game Engine, but the short story is that if you use an aspect ratio other than 16:9, you simple get an unintrusive letter box at the top and bottom. This ensures that you will always get the same gaming experience from Soul Saga as everyone else! =D
The one backside to this is that changing resolutions in game introduces bugs. So now there’s a launcher when you first start the game to choose your resolution settings.
Soul Saga development is going well, and we’re getting into a stage of polishing our scenes and environments. Beta testers will notice a change to the entrance of Pleasant Woods where we use a more vista panoramic view. This type of view helps you feel more immersed in the beautiful world of Soul Saga for certain “beauty shot” scenes, and then the camera returns to normal for the purpose of good gameplay. Speckling these types of scenes around helps capture that immersion I want you to feel as you travel Medonia.
In miscellaneous Soul Saga development news, I’ve just recently got around to optimizing the way text is stored for Soul Saga. The new way uses CSV (comma separated value) files, also known as spreadsheets. This will make it significantly easier to deal with localization if the chance arises for that!
There’s been a ton of other little things as well, but it’s impossible to list! It’s very exciting to see everything starting to solidify for Soul Saga!
Combat Battle Zone Poll
There’s an important poll on the Disastercake forums right now regarding a potential change to the way combat is initiated in Soul Saga. Since it's conception, Soul Saga has used traditional Final Fantasy instanced battle fields. I’m considering a change to instead keep combat on the field similar to Chrono Trigger. After experimenting with it I feel it fits our art and combat style very nicely. Here’s a quick prototype I made as an example. You can find the voting poll here: http://forums.disastercake.com/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=857&start=10
Kickstarter Shout Outs
It’s a really hot time on Kickstarter right now for RPG fans! With Soul Saga’s completion on the horizon, I’ve started to kick it forward to some other developers and I think you might be interested in them too! I’ve personally chatted with the leads from all of these teams, and each one gets Cake’s stamp of passionate approval!
Children of Zodiarcs is an innovative turn based RPG with big inspirations from Final Fantasy Tactics. The really cool thing about Children of Zodiarcs is that instead of just having a random percentage automatically rolled for you, it’s setup more like a table top game where you can customize your own die to gain different effects. There’s also a card system for skills where you build a deck and act based on the cards you’ve drawn.
City of the Shroud is a turn based RPG that’s pushing game design to new innovative limits. In City of the Shroud the goal of the creators was to seamlessly mesh a turn based strategy game with a fighting game. So in each attack, you can choose from an intuitively designed scroll menu to connect combination attacks for different effects. Probably the coolest thing about City of the Shroud is that the story is written in episodes based on the online actions of the players.
Knights and Bikes is an adorable and very creative take on the action RPG genre. With gameplay inspirations from Secret of Mana and artistic inspirations from Earthbound and the Goonies, Knights and Bikes sets 2 young female protagonists in a modern world against an onslaught of creatures to “save the adults” on both foot and mounted bike combat! Rescue islanders, collect treasure, upgrade your bike and abilities, then explore some more!
Shadows of Adam is a gorgeous retro sprite game polished to a shine that you can see your own childhood reflection in. With strong inspirations from Super Mario RPG and Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, Shadows of Adam aims to deliver a fast paced and light-hearted turn based RPG. The team has already proven to deliver a quality gaming experience with their demo, so you can check out all the goodies for yourself!
What do you think?
Woah, what an update! And I didn’t even cover everything we’ve been getting done!!! I cannot express how excited I am to finally share Soul Saga with you this year. I seriously could not have made such an awesome game without you so thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!!!
Please feel free to stop by the Disastercake forums and chat with me about whatever's on your mind! I love to talk with you!