Monday, May 26, 2014

Fourth Time is a Charm

At this point in the project, I have rebuilt this game four times from scratch (not including the early versions I highlighted in the last post).  This will, I hope, be the last time.  It's no easy feat to scrap everything you've done and start over again...especially when you've done it multiple times.

This last time, it needed to be done.  And there were two reasons for that.

1)  REASON ONE: The Gold-Box Factor

The first reason was that the game had become something I didn't want to build.  While I appreciated the feedback I got from some folks on the Internet, their opinions swayed me away from the kind of game I wanted to build.  As I kept listening to them and doing what they suggested, I was getting pulled further and further away from my original vision.  After a while, I realized that I was an idiot to allow this, and I withdrew from the public for a while to quietly scrap everything and start over.

This game started as an homage to the SSI Gold-Box style games of the early 1990s.  Nobody is making games like that anymore.  You can find a ton of Bard's Tale and Wizardry knockoffs, but you don't find many games that try to copy the style of Pool of Radiance, and I think that's a shame.  That series of games was awesome.

So, I returned to that.  This screenshot (which is a work in progress, so keep that in mind) clearly shows a return to that form.  Anyone who has played those games will quickly see the same style and will notice that it also is closer to my original version of the game from two years ago (when this crazy ride started):

Work in progress screen.

The game now has step-based movement (free movement has been removed), allows for six characters (one thing that a lot of people have asked for) from a total of 12 classes and will hopefully have more tactical combat.

2) REASON TWO: Scaling Issues

The other reason why the project needed a reboot was that I had locked the game into one screen mode (1280x720) and had built around that.  Players would have no choice but to play in that screen mode.

After a while, I came to see how horrible an idea that was and realized that I was going to need to figure out how to scale things properly in order to allow players to play in any screen mode from 1024x768 (minimum) and up.   Now, the game should play in a variety of screen resolutions and scale properly.

For example, the above picture is in the 16:9 aspect ratio.  Here's the same screen in 4:3 at 1024x768 (the lowest possible resolution):

Same screen, different resolution.

You'll notice now that everything scales dynamically.  Folks playing in a 16:9 or 16:10 resolution will have more breathing space, but even folks playing at the lowest resolution will not feel cheated.  Fonts, buttons, etc...they all scale as required.  I test everything in multiple resolutions to insure that everything works.  It adds to the workload, but I think it's worth it.

Overall, I don't have a lot to show, since I'm rebuilding many of the things I've already shown off in the past.  But, I don't like to have nothing to show for my work, so here's a few more screenshots.

The first one shows how the game handles text and pictures when you encounter enemies or friendly folk.  As mentioned above, if you're familiar with the Gold-Box games, you won't see something here that you're not familiar with:

This is an old screenshot.  Notice how buttons aren't properly scaled yet (compared to the above screenshots).

Finally, I tend to always show how the character screens are evolving.  After attempting to use the Basic Fantasy RPG system and realizing that it wouldn't work out as I'd hoped (despite how close to the Gold-Box system it would be), I started working out the details on my own RPG system.  A lot of thought has gone into it.

This screen won't show you everything about it, but just know that I want it to be simple enough for anyone to play.  If you're looking for a game with deep character building options, you're not going to find it here.  This isn't that game.  This game will have tactical combat and exploration options, but characters will be pretty straightforward in the same way that they were in any of the Gold-Box titles this game is paying homage to.  That's just reality.

Anyway, here's a character screen:

This character screen isn't 100% working.  The scores aren't showing up right yet, and bonuses aren't calculated correctly either.

So, I hope some of you are still out there and haven't given up yet.  I don't plan on building this game for a fifth time.  This is it.  This is the final version.  I know what I want to build now, and I'm not going to let people steer me away from my goal.  If they don't like it, they are free not to play it.  It's not going to appeal to everyone, and I can live with that.  I'll just focus on making it the best game I can make, and I'll be happy if even one person likes it.

Until next time.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Something Old Before Something New

It's been a few months since my last update.  The project still continues.  In fact, I've spent most of my time redoing whole parts of it and rethinking a lot of the character creation.  I also changed how exploration will happen to more closely resemble the Gold-Box games and have been working out the details of how combat will come about.

There will be screenshots forthcoming when I feel it's ready.  I haven't reached that point yet.  But, I will say that some people will feel it's a step backwards when it happens.

I spent too much time listening to other people tell me how the game should be instead of doing it the way that I wanted to do it.  So, I ended up withdrawing for a while to pursue the project the way that I wanted, free of outside influences.  The game now more closely resembles the version that I was working on last year, which is what I wanted to do from the beginning.

And speaking of beginnings, I managed to find some screenshots of a really early version of this project from all the way back in 2010.  Wow, it has changed a lot.  A whole lot.  I thought it might be fun to share those screenshots.

The first version of the game's character creation screen looked a little something like this:

Only four classes and not a lot of options.

During those early days, I used a lot of copyrighted artwork to fill in the blanks.  I didn't yet have a clear idea of what I wanted to do or how I wanted to approach it.

The exploration screen.

The game worked okay, and I even remembered sharing it with a friend.  Of course, he wasn't an RPG player, so he couldn't make heads or tails of it.

The original combat screen.

I remember spending two or three days to get the combat screen working just how I wanted.  It was all primarily text based, as I didn't have the knowledge at that time to get full graphics working how I wanted.  The game was probably written in Visual Studio 2010, using Visual Basic.

After getting that version working, I decided to revamp it slightly.  So, later in 2010 I did a more "advanced" version and spruced up the graphics a bit.  It was still primitive compared to what I'm doing now, but there was some evolution going on.

Character Creation Screen 1 - Choosing a Thief
Character Creation Screen 2 - Choosing a Warrior

At this point, I was still using Visual Studio 2010.  I had taken a few programming classes, but still hadn't figured out how object oriented programming was supposed to work.  I'm sure if I could find the code for this thing, I would probably laugh at how amateurish it was.

Generating Attributes - 2010 style

In the end, building this game has been a real evolutionary experience for me.  I've learned a lot as I've gone along, and I continue to learn.  It's fun to see where I've come from.

In the next post, I hope to show where I'm going.