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bdsowers
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« on: August 11, 2016, 09:19:30 am »

Once More With Feeling
Once More With Feeling is a modern-day RPG that draws on elements from Chrono Trigger, the Mario & Luigi RPGs, and Earthbound. It's a small, concise story - closer to a short story than a novel - that depicts a small group of people fending off an alien invasion, dealing with a time traveler, and taking college courses.

Story
In contrast to the above games, the story has a more serious tone. I'm trying to hammer on themes of failure, specifically failure despite best efforts. There will still be light-hearted touches and comedy, but those don't dominate the stage.

The major story arc involves an alien invasion that threatens the world and a time traveler who has seen how it plays out and is trying to manipulate the outcome to suit his wishes. It's unclear whether he's a good guy, a villain, or somewhere in between (spoiler: it's the last one). You play as a college student who gets caught up in the manipulations, acquiring a few party members along the way.


Gameplay
The game utilizes an active-time battle system similar to the early Final Fantasy games. Each attack and special power incorporates a small minigame that, if done properly, powers up the attack. Things like spinning dials that you have to touch on a sweet spot or floating bubbles you have to pop in order.

Outside combat, it's pretty standard RPG fare - walk around, talk to people, interact with objects.

Tech & Resources
Using Unity to develop this, and writing most of the code myself. Major exception being Super Tilemap Editor which I got from the Unity store.

Using a pre-made art set yanked from the GameDev Market, with supplemental art made by me (unless I find someone more... able to make 2D art ^^).

Focusing on PC first, though I may pivot to mobile as that's where most of my experience is these days.

Development Goals
I'm starting this dev log earlier than I normally start them. I'm very much still in the "throw things at the wall and see what sticks" phase. I'm not sure how the project will evolve: it may get shelved in prototyping, it may turn into the fully realized small game I've sketched out, or it may evolve into something larger. I have ideas for how the story could branch out in smaller gameplay sessions that play on the time travel concepts a lot.

Mostly I'm just looking to hack on a game that's closer to what I grew up loving. I've been making a lot of casual mobile games lately. That's fun, I have no complaints there, but I want to go back to my roots a bit and flex my writing muscles. So we'll see how this goes.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2016, 09:28:31 am by bdsowers » Logged

Pixel Noise
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« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2016, 11:43:07 am »

Sounds cool! I like the concepts, anyway. Looks like you'e already got a good start on everything. Following so I can see more  Beer!
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bdsowers
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« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2016, 07:53:23 am »

Sounds cool! I like the concepts, anyway. Looks like you'e already got a good start on everything. Following so I can see more  Beer!

Thanks, appreciate it!

I made a level design push yesterday. This isn't an area I'm... very good at, and I generally find it cumbersome. But this game requires some maps, so maps we shall have.



These are the 3 floors of the college, which is the first major area the player visits and also the first dungeon (spoiler: things start to go wrong...). I laid everything out, and now I need to put sprites in and make things happen. That'll be where things get interesting (and tricky).

I also tried live-streaming development on Twitch for the first time last night, which was interesting. It was quiet - a few people came in and out periodically, but nobody said anything. It was a new experience trying to narrate my thought processes and verbally walk through what I was doing. Think I did okay, though there's still a learning curve. I expect it'll be different when I'm in the programming-heavy portions of development. But I'm gonna try to do it twice a week.
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bdsowers
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« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2016, 02:05:12 pm »



Working on the college post-disaster. Not everyone makes it, and the people who do are clearly quite shaken.

When this arc was just an idea in my head, I didn't appreciate its gravity. It was actually a bit distressing to author these scenes. Brutal events happen in older JRPGs (Kefka poisoning Doma's water supply and wiping it out), but it's something else to actually create it.

The game is intended to have a more serious story when you dig into it, but the first dungeon brings that home early (earlier than I expected - older designs had the college as a throw-away scene). From there it'll lighten up a little bit before going downhill again.
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marcelofg55
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« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2016, 04:16:03 pm »

This looks promising, I love all the RPGs you mentioned, hope to see more updates soon!
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Pixel Noise
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« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2016, 08:12:43 am »

I like it - the blood pools really add to the effect of the scene. I think maybe if you also broke some furniture/trashed the place up a bit, it would help to strengthen the "disaster" impact.

I'm all for the atmosphere and story-arc you've got going on.
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Currently working on the Underworld Dungeon OST!
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« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2016, 08:40:07 am »

When this arc was just an idea in my head, I didn't appreciate its gravity. It was actually a bit distressing to author these scenes. Brutal events happen in older JRPGs (Kefka poisoning Doma's water supply and wiping it out), but it's something else to actually create it.

Glad to hear that you're not a heartless robot  Wink

I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out
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bdsowers
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« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2016, 10:11:56 am »

Thanks for the positive feedback guys!

Here's a minor update:


Still working on the first dungeon. I underestimated how much extra work is involved with non-random, fully authored, in-map battles similar to Chrono Trigger. With a purely random battle generator, I could just specify the types of enemies that get generated in a map and let the RNG take care of it.

With this system, I have to specify a ton of extra stuff:
- Positions where the various characters jump to when the battle starts
- How enemies enter (sometimes they come from off-screen areas as a surprise, sometimes they're already placed)
- A good camera position
- A safe position to jump to after the battle is over (in the screenshot above, you can see the characters jump onto the table when the fight starts, but they can't just stay there when it ends)
- What starts the battle (whether it's a map trigger or touching an on-screen entity or something else)

Not really a fast way to do this, and there isn't a lot by way of tools I can write to streamline it. Just requires me to roll up my sleeves and work things out.
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« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2016, 03:38:49 pm »

This all looks and sounds great ! I like that this is a short-story, because I can never finish those endless J-RPGs  Screamy

Good luck with the map design. I think when programming video-games, "It was supposed to be easy" is the motto :D
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bdsowers
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« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2016, 04:13:04 pm »



Working on the first boss encounter. This guy's more alien-like than the previous enemies, because the primary antagonist is an alien invasion. After he's finished, I'll clean up some of the encounters in the first dungeon and then move on to the next set piece.

Dev is more slow-going now, as I'm teaching this semester and I'm about to take a lead engineering role. But it's still pushing along.

That name is not final. Wink
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bdsowers
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« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2016, 04:40:59 pm »



Not dead! Progress is just slow due to a day-job promotion and teaching kicking into gear.

I decided to move away from an Active Time Battle system. Combined with mini-games, it lead to a very "hurry up and wait" feeling, and all the menu navigation lead to a jarring play flow. Now things are not real-time, but there's a speed system that controls the order units act in.

I also tossed menu navigation entirely. Now everything is mapped to single button presses - you just your action by pressing an arrow key, and each target is mapped to an arrow key. This reduces things that were normally 6-7 button presses away into 2. It's not represented very well in my (hideous) UI, but it's there.

I also found a collaborator. He's an artist, and he's gradually shifting away from the pixel art aesthetic. He's redesigned the main character Sally, which you can see in the screenshot. Looking more like The World Ends With You than an older 16-bit RPG. I'm happy with this - this game's clearly a throwback, but I'd prefer it look more modern if possible.
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« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2016, 06:55:18 am »

It naturally looks out of place amongst the pixel art, but the new art style does look promising!  Nothing against pixel art, but having something different will likely help you stand out- so it seems like a good call. 

I quite like the idea of the story, and the minigame concept sounds a lot like Shadow Hearts, which I also enjoyed.  Quite cool that you're doing battles on the same screen as you explore on, I always found the JRPG "Battle Arena" thing a bit jarring, and loved how Chrono Trigger circumvented that.
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bdsowers
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« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2016, 04:35:02 pm »

Appreciate the feedback Valar!

A few people are on the team now, so I felt it pretty necessary to start writing up a design document to communicate everything. Not being one to be secretive about my work, I've made it publicly viewable: Once More With Feeling GDD

It's very much an evolving document and is not intended to be all-inclusive (there are various aspects of the game that are being developed on-the-fly as they become necessary).

Feedback is welcome. Or not. I can't tell you what to do, man.
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« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2016, 05:29:31 pm »

I'm super down with the elevator pitch! Following (and gonna catch up on previous posts when I get the chance.)

Edit: Do you still do dev streams? I tried to in the beginning of my project, and stopped for a few reasons. But I still appreciate the concept (and might try and tune in).
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 05:40:11 pm by Nathy » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2016, 04:47:24 pm »

Following because game looks interesting!
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« Reply #15 on: October 31, 2016, 05:21:33 am »

I think the new art and characters will look good once they are fleshed out!
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Currently working on the Underworld Dungeon OST!
https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=50972.0
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« Reply #16 on: October 31, 2016, 06:03:27 am »

Following because game looks interesting!
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bdsowers
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« Reply #17 on: November 06, 2016, 09:25:52 am »

TIG hasn't been e-mailing me about replies to this, otherwise I would've been in here earlier thanking everyone for the positive responses. Thanks guys!



Working on integrating new characters. This stuff takes time when every developer on the team also has a full time job. ^^ But we're pushing forward slowly.

The middle character (Chloe) still needs some love. Her animations look a'ight in motion, but still frames of her highlight some of her flaws. The aliens are in a decent place, though the markings on their breastplate I think don't quite fit the space very well. Artist is currently working on a pretty fantastic attack animation... we struggled over appropriate weapons for college kids, and we settled on Sally carrying a big baseball bat while Chloe has a high-tech glove she built herself.

Our goal right now is to work toward a vertical slice - the completed first dungeon, with representative art and gameplay features and writing. Obviously this is still far off (all the environment art and UI is still todo, though the core of the gameplay features are actually in a pretty good shape).

Quote
Edit: Do you still do dev streams? I tried to in the beginning of my project, and stopped for a few reasons. But I still appreciate the concept (and might try and tune in).
I haven't done any for a while, but that's largely a product of what I've been working on and not because I've lost interest. I try to keep the dev streams to when I'm doing level design or content authoring, because I think watching me code might be the worst experience a person could undertake. Wink Most of my personal work has been backend stuff, which hasn't been very streamable, but if there's interest in that sortta think I can do some streaming again.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2016, 09:50:29 am by bdsowers » Logged

bdsowers
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« Reply #18 on: November 17, 2016, 05:34:47 pm »





Artist created an attack animation, which I think is super nice - has a lot of energy and umph. I still want to play with the timing a bit (she starts to put away the bat while jumping away).

Also on display: started polishing up the UI a bit and adding little UI animations to making everything feel less static.

Lots of little backend improvements. Trying to get a web build working, but Unity's WebGL option is being a bit finicky.
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bdsowers
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« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2017, 04:30:10 pm »

Progress on the game is still super slow, mostly because I'm in the middle of preparing a boardgame for a local convention (come to Playthrough in NC y'all!) and we're about to ship a game through my day job.

Still, there's some stuff to show off! Artist prepared some neat concept art for two of the main characters.



There are also some animations and new environment work in the game, but I'm in the middle of cleaning those up in code, so they're not *quite* ready to show.
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