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supershigi
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« on: November 03, 2009, 12:13:01 AM »





Hi everyone, I already introduced myself a while back, but just in case... my name is Laura Shigihara, and I've been working as an indie game composer for the past 4-5 years.  My most recent project was the soundtrack for

.  For the past 2 years I've also been developing an rpg in my spare time which I'd like to share with you today ^_^  My game is called "Melolune."  At its heart, Melolune is an adventure rpg that features a unique musical dungeon mechanic. 



Melolune is a story about twin brothers who come from a place where people collect song fragments and put them together in order to keep their world alive.  After a catastrophic event takes the lives of their parents, the twins are separated due to reasons unbeknownst to the player.  You play as one of the twins, after the separation, and after having been adopted by a tribe of small catlike creatures called Leebles. 


The player has to collect and use fragments of songs in order to solve puzzles and progress through the world.  The reason I wanted to create this mechanic was because as a composer, I've always been fascinated by how melodies and harmonies blend together within arrangements.  As odd as it sounds, I probably learned more about this integration from video games than I did from my piano lessons as a child... when I was around 8, I recorded music from the Megaman games onto cassette tape so I could try and listen to all the various parts and figure out how they all went together (perhaps this is why I became a game composer, hehe).  Anyways, I basically wanted to find a way to share that concept with others, and this was the result ^_^

Music from the game:
Melolune main theme
Ultimate Battle (Boss Battles)
Traces (Liele's Theme)
Eclipse and Starlight
Carya de Mio (Dominic's Theme)

Link to the Demo:
Melolune IGF demo

Website:
http://leebleforest.wordpress.com/

Feedback that I'm looking for:
Well, first let me just say upfront... thank-you to anyone who takes the time to download and try out the game.  I know it takes time to play others' games and give feedback, so I really appreciate that.  I guess the sort of feedback I'm looking for includes general bug testing, letting me know about your overall experience (how you felt about the story, the music, the characters, etc.), letting me know if there were any issues with gameplay balance (were any areas too difficult, did you receive too many of any particular item, did you get irreconcilably stuck, etc.)... I think that's about it!  Anyways, thank-you again for your time, and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2009, 11:32:51 PM by supershigi » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2009, 06:18:20 AM »

I'm downloading the demo right now. How long is it?
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« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2009, 07:07:15 AM »

Feedback:
1. The default extraction folder is "C:\Windows\system32". This should be changed to "C:\Program Files\", because it is definitely not recommended to install anything in the system32-folder.

2. A real installer would be nice, which creates short-cuts and an uninstall-link.
I can recommend InnoSetup: http://www.istool.org/

3. In the trailer ( and all dialogs) is a bouncing arrow showing to the bottom. Because of this I thought, the arrow-down-key would be the right key to continue. Perhaps you can add the key as an alternative mapping for the continue-action.

4. The text could be displayed a bit faster.

5. The music and sound is beautiful. It is crystal clear, that you are an expert in this area. Smiley

6. Some more keyframes for the waterfall would be nice. You use it quite often and it is nice to have some level-animations, but 2 keyframes are a bit too less.

7. After I placed the first Melolune on the left pedestal in the prelude, the game lagged for around 10 seconds. First I thought, that the game crashed, but after a second try I realized it loaded the new music. You should definitely fix this.
There are three common options to solve this problem:
  1. Steam the music.
  2. Load the music in a separate thread.
  3. Preload the music.

8. Melolune puts the savegames into the game-folder. This is not recommended on Windows Vista, Windows 7, Max OS or Linux, because the game will need administrator-rights to write files into this folder. This means that a common Vista / Windows 7 user will not be able to save the game.
To fix this you should change the destination folder to the user-folder.
You can read the the proper user-folder on Windows out of the environment variable "APPDATA".
For Vista this is in most cases "C:\Users\UserAccountName\AppData\Roaming\".

Feel free to contact me, when you need any help with the installer or user-folder.

My PC:
- Windows Vista Home Premium
- AMD Quad-Core 2.2 GHz
- 3 GB RAM
- ATI Radeon 4850
« Last Edit: November 03, 2009, 07:10:41 AM by JackNeil » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2009, 12:11:32 PM »

Hi Jack, thank-you for your comment, I really appreciate the feedback Smiley  The demo is about 2-4 hours long depending on things like how many NPCs you talk to, how many battles you fight, etc.  Ah, my friend was telling me about #8 at some point, but I had forgotten to do this... thanks for pointing it out!  I'm actually not sure how to change the destination folder to the user-folder... so any instructions would be very helpful. 

I'm also curious, how did you feel about the story and characters?  I always like to hear about how these things come across to the player Smiley
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« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2009, 02:27:37 PM »

Hmmm.. you are using the RPG Maker, right?
This script here should solve the problem: http://www.rpgrevolution.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=34256
I've never used a RPG Maker, so I don't know what options there are to change the destination of the savegames.

I have not played the game enough to dare commenting the story and characters. Most good game-stories unfold their gripping experience after 1-2 hours.

I think it would be nice, when you could see the other characters in your party. Maybe only when you move, as a snake behind the main character that will catch up when he stops. But I don't know how hard it is to do this with the RPG Maker.


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« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2009, 06:05:17 PM »

Ah, thank-you for the link ^_^  I think they do have a script there that can solve for that.  I'll try to integrate it and test it out this week.  I know what you mean about the 1-2 hours thing... when I played Suikoden I didn't get into the story until after getting the castle (which was about 1-2 hours into the game), but then I was totally hooked Tongue

I actually tried writing a script a while back that allowed the party members to snake behind the main character, but unfortunately I got it working a tad late and it was kind of buggy.  I had already completed most of the game by then, so I figured it would be beyond my capacity to go back and alter all the cutscenes and puzzles that would be messed up by the new configuration/placement of the characters (the demo is only about 1/4th of the game... I didn't want to include the whole 80-90% of the linear gameplay because I felt it wasn't polished enough).   I think if I make another adventure rpg I want to integrate that script though... I loved how the characters followed you around in Secret of Mana.  Do you have any favorite rpgs/action-rpgs?
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« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2009, 06:56:03 PM »

Late game design changes are expensive in most cases, so it is a good decision, that you don't include the snake script.

Have you played the latest Prince of Persia? I really like how they implemented the sidekick, the princess:
1. She helps you a lot, because she is your save-system.
2. She never does anything dumb, like getting stuck or dying. ( She sometime gets stuck or can't follow you, but then she will teleport next to you. )
3. The dialogs are optional and can be triggered at any time by the player. I don't understand, why not more games are doing it this way. A game designer can not know, when a player is in the mood to play and when he is in the mood for some conversation, so this is the perfect solution. Generally bad written dialog can be very boring for me. But in Prince of Persia I even listened how they played "I spy with my little eye..." and enjoyed it, because I had the choice.

The Witcher and Vampire Bloodlines, both RPGs, are among the best 10 games I've ever played.

I love the character-design in The Witcher. Some decisions in the game are really tough. There is one dialog, where I thought more than 5 minutes about, what option I should select. The topics in the game are also very mature (racism, betrayal, sex, ...).
I can't imagine, how they created such a complex story. I would really like to know, what tools they have used.

The atmosphere in Vampire Bloodlines is incredible. I was so scared, when I played the ghost hotel: I crawled trough a tight ventilation shaft and suddenly a voice whispered "Help me!". Shocked Something like this never happened to me before in a game. I was only able to play through this level without sound and bright sunshine outside.

What were you most intense moments in a game?

Your game inspired me, to think about a story-focused game concept. I love games with strong character design and gripping stories. Improving my skills in storytelling is top priority for me as game developer.
For Grappling Hook I've designed separate situations / puzzles / experiences ( very simple sketch on a small piece of paper ) and arranged all of them afterwards. This worked out very well and had the advantage, that the gameplay-vision was very clear, because every feature was described in at least on situation / puzzle. "Design by samples" somehow.
Do you think, this works for stories too?

How have you created/planned the story for Melolune?
Have you created the character descriptions first?
Or was there a plot-idea?
Do you have a document with the entire story or do you have some notes and build it "on the fly", when you create your levels?
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« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2009, 11:01:01 PM »

I liked the art in this one, and the music. If I could describe it in one word it would be...cute.
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« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2009, 11:33:50 PM »

It feels comfy to play, somehow ...

The character portraits feel a bit rough in comparison to the rest of the art, though kinda cute.

I stopped after I had fallen in to the ground, gone through a cave, and then out on a cliff where it said I needed to collect more melolune to continue.  I'm not sure what this means exactly; do I have to find more melolune pieces or just put them in more orb/statues?  Last time the game said this to me was in the intro with the twins, but then it was lying and meant I had to put melolune in three orb/statues, not that I had to collect more, 'cause it displayed that message when I had all pieces.  So, I thought maybe I just needed to put the orb I had into the statue by the cave exit, but that didn't work.  I also wasn't sure what I needed the melolune for?
In general the underground area was kind of confusing; I went north first and captured a rat (is that normal for my character?  do I capture all rats I see?), then went south and walked up to a hole and it asked me if I wanted to put the rat in the hole to flip a switch, so I guess there was a switch there, but I didn't see what the switch was for or where it was exactly or why a rat would flip it?  But then it said the switch was flipped, but there was nothing saying what that did and I didn't see any changes on screen?

Also, I wasn't sure what happened earlier on with the twins' parents.  They died in the mine?  It seemed like I walked into a mine and then there were people standing around in there and then the cut scene ended.  That confusion might have been due to me just skimming the text too quickly though ...

Overall though I enjoyed playing until I got stuck.  Didn't run into any bugs.
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« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2009, 11:59:42 PM »

@Zaphos: Ah, thank-you for letting me know where you got stuck!  Well first of all, to get through the cave you have to put a Melolune in each of the pedestals and leave them there.  So all 3 pedestals will be filled with a Melolune (they'll all be turned blue and you'll hear the completed song playing in the background).  Once you've filled all 3, you'll receive the power of wind which will allow you to use Suby's glider to fly to the other side of the mountain.  The switch that the rat triggers causes the ravine to fill with water, which lets you ride the boat to the cave's exit. 

Thanks for pointing out that it was kind of confusing; perhaps I can rewrite the text to say something like, "you need to fill all 3 orbs" rather than saying you need to absorb the Melolune.  Do you think this would be enough to help players get through it?  Or should I put in an explanation about the rat (that was basically just there because I thought it would be a funny way to trigger a switch that was out of reach, hehe).  Anyways, thank-you for taking the time to check it out, I'm glad that you enjoyed it ^_^ 

@allen: Thank-you for your comment Smiley  I'm kind of curious... what is that picture in your avatar?  Is that a moose or am I totally blind, hehe...

@Jackneil: I haven't actually played the new Prince of Persia, but it sounds like a lot of fun.  It's good that they designed a good system where the 2nd character follows around the main one, because quite a few of the old rpgs had clunky ones.  I remember in SoM, the characters would frequently get stuck behind things >_<  As for most intense moments in a game... hmm... One time my friends and I were trying out Resident Evil, and we had just finished talking about the possibility of someone breaking into the apartment, so we were already kind of on the edge... that made the game more intense I think, haha.  Which system is Vampire Bloodlines on?  That scene sounds really scary...

Quote from: Jackneil
Your game inspired me, to think about a story-focused game concept.
Aww, well I'm really glad to hear that ^_^  I love games with good stories; I feel like there is a lot of room to be creative within a story since there's so much you can do to develop the characters, the world and its history, how everyone interacts, etc.  To answer your question about planning, I think in some ways you can design stories by mapping them out beforehand.  However, since many story-related goals include things like getting a particular emotion or reaction out of a player, the planning process is a lot less pragmatic and much more focused on things like exploring human nature.  Although I had specific ideas in my head about what events needed to happen, and how particular situations shaped the various characters' personalities... the story would frequently morph based on things I was experiencing at the time, or things I witnessed happening to others. 

There's one cutscene later on (sadly not in the demo) that discusses the relationship between one of the characters and his mother.  It was very heavy for me because even though I was working with these little 16-bit-style sprites, I was exploring topics that really impacted me personally.  I think when I delve into such areas it's also easier for me to create music because the emotional level is so high.  If you get a chance to listen to "Carya de Mio," this song was created to match the relationship between the character and his mother.  Basically, I knew what was going to happen with these characters, but I only planned it out so far.  A lot of how the cutscene was shaped was based off of how I felt at the time, or things I had experienced in the interim... if that makes sense (sorry I'm bad at explaining these things) Tongue 
 
Quote from: Jackneil
How have you created/planned the story for Melolune?
Have you created the character descriptions first?
Or was there a plot-idea?
Do you have a document with the entire story or do you have some notes and build it "on the fly", when you create your levels?
I think I tend to work backwards... I'll start with one character, and develop their life.  I think about what kind of person they would be if I knew them in real life; what traits they would have, what shortcomings, which of my friends they might be the most similar to, etc.  I'll think about their entire life from their early childhood until the "present time" so that there's a meaning behind why they act the way they do.  I'll think about what major events happen to them.  Then once they're all figured out, I'll decide how to siphon that information to the player little by little.  It makes it easier to figure out plot twists and secrets that you want to reveal.  I do have a document, it's about 150 pages long.  I have to admit that the story seems very light-hearted at first, but gets rather serious later on.  Those are my favorite kinds though ^_^

Beyond that, I just sketch a lot... I have notebooks where there are Leebles like this all over the sides Tongue
« Last Edit: November 04, 2009, 12:07:23 AM by supershigi » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2009, 03:04:41 AM »

Ms. Shigihara, this is absolutely brilliant. The music is excellent, and of a real professional standard. Who sings in that main theme? Yourself? It's really incredible.

By the way this is just from looking through the demo briefly, I'm gonna go get my paws stuck into it when I have more free time, I just thought I would share my compliments with you now. Keep up the great work.
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« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2009, 05:10:40 AM »

I haven't actually played the new Prince of Persia, but it sounds like a lot of fun.
The animations are also incredible in this game: strong, expressive, and beautiful. I wish I had the capabilities to create a game with such great animations. They can say so much about a character. I mean, everyone can change his hair-style, clothes, ... easily. But it is so much harder to change the way someone moves, because he has to think about it all the time and when he does, his movements may look stiff or false. I would love to play a game with a strong focus on body-language.

Which system is Vampire Bloodlines on?
Vampire Bloodlines was the first game using the Valves Source-Engine, so it is only available for Windows. But it should be cheap now, because it is 5 years old. Before you play it, you should definitely install the fan-patches.

I love games with good stories; I feel like there is a lot of room to be creative within a story since there's so much you can do to develop the characters, the world and its history, how everyone interacts, etc.
The "disadvantage" of a story-driven game is, that you need a lot of content. Well, that is more a disadvantage for me, because I'm not a good artist. When I design new games, I always think very early about, how to reduce the amount of required content.
Twins are a good idea. ^^

However, since many story-related goals include things like getting a particular emotion or reaction out of a player, the planning process is a lot less pragmatic and much more focused on things like exploring human nature.
I also thought about focusing on the emotions of the player and relationships between the characters. An epic story, where the player rescues the whole world, can be exiting and cool, but without deep relationships, it will never touch the players heart.
Musicians understand this intuitively better than story-tellers in other mediums. They just sing about emotions and relationships and don't think "Oh, but before I have to create a an exciting story, because with out it no one will want to hear my song.".

Basically, I knew what was going to happen with these characters, but I only planned it out so far.  A lot of how the cutscene was shaped was based off of how I felt at the time, or things I had experienced in the interim... if that makes sense (sorry I'm bad at explaining these things) Tongue
I think I understand what you mean. I've played role-playing games (the ones without hack-and-slay or leveling, where you play with other people ) for a few years, and I was never able to play my character significantly different to the way I felt myself. He was more like a mirror.
Thats probably the same with a dialog or cutscene, that you can't create something that you don't feel.

Beyond that, I just sketch a lot... I have notebooks where there are Leebles like this all over the sides Tongue

Really cute. Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2009, 11:11:39 AM »

@HyperDuck: Thank-you very much ^_^  To answer your question, yes I'm the one who sings the main theme.  I have so much fun doing vocals for songs, it feels different to me than when I sing regular music.  It's almost like I have an easier time getting into character if that makes sense, hehe Tongue  Oh, I was going to say that I saw the trailer for "Dust: An Elysian Tale" on your site and wow, that looks like a beautiful game!  The artwork reminded me of Legend of Mana because everything had so much detail and such nice colors.  How is that project coming along?

@JackNeil: Ah! I love games where the characters have good expressions.  I really liked the characters in Zelda: Wind Waker... they were all very funny and expressionate and you could tell exactly what was going on even before you spoke with them.

Quote from: JackNeil
The "disadvantage" of a story-driven game is, that you need a lot of content.
This is a major problem for me!  I guess this is probably common with rpgs... with so many different worlds and characters, the required content seems endless.  Even just in terms of things like dialogue.  I counted up the # of NPCs in one of my larger towns and there were 122... I only expect the average player to talk to a fraction of them... but for the folks that love reading dialogue and doing sidequests, there's plenty.  I spent so long just writing their dialogue, it was so exhausting >_<

I'm actually interested in hearing more about your process for designing levels in Grappling Hook.  Do you draw them out the way you would draw maps?  For some of my later dungeon puzzles, I would draw all the rooms out as little boxes and make side notes about what to put inside them.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2009, 11:16:45 AM by supershigi » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2009, 12:38:23 PM »

I played your demo for about an hour or so.
I like it so far!
As previously stated, I really can't make a judgment about the story and characters quite yet, but what I've seen so far is nice.

But there were a few pretty minor things that bothered me:
This was mentioned before, but the character portraits didn't really fit in with the other graphics, it looks like they could use a bit more polishing up.
There was at least one instance, I think, where a message box displayed the wrong portrait, though it had the correct name for who was speaking.
You used "then" instead of "than" at least once.

Those last two of course are very minor, and not very helpful since I can't remember exactly where they were.  Though if I run into more errors of that nature in the future, I'll be sure to make note of where they are so you don't have to look for it.
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« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2009, 02:24:02 PM »

This is a major problem for me! I guess this is probably common with rpgs... with so many different worlds and characters, the required content seems endless.
How do you manage all this? Do you have asset-lists?

I'm actually interested in hearing more about your process for designing levels in Grappling Hook.  Do you draw them out the way you would draw maps?  For some of my later dungeon puzzles, I would draw all the rooms out as little boxes and make side notes about what to put inside them.
I wrote an article about my work-flow for level-design: Work-Flow: From an Idea to a Polished Level
Thank you for asking! Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: November 04, 2009, 08:52:48 PM »

Thanks for pointing out that it was kind of confusing; perhaps I can rewrite the text to say something like, "you need to fill all 3 orbs" rather than saying you need to absorb the Melolune.  Do you think this would be enough to help players get through it? 
Yeah, that would have avoided my getting stuck.

I played through the rest of the demo, looking forward to seeing more ... whenever it comes out!  I like the atmosphere and walking around, though I must say the 'gameplay' bits were not very strong ... I mean, for non-boss combat I would often just target the medic first (if there was one) and then close my eyes and tap spacebar until it sounded like the battle ended.  In some sense this easy combat was a relief for me, 'cause I don't like jrpg combat that much & my ideal jrpg might just not have combat, but still it did start to feel silly tapping space with my eyes closed.  (edit: I should probably clarify: I still really enjoyed the playing!  The combat feeling silly was not that big of an issue for me overall.)

Nitpicks: In the last town there were a few places I noticed I was walking through people (the dancers, and some of the soldiers by the shipyard...).  Also, I think there were a couple typos in the script -- I might have seen 'interestign' somewhere (?) -- so maybe running spell check on the script would catch something.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2009, 02:35:08 AM by Zaphos » Logged
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« Reply #16 on: November 05, 2009, 12:25:33 AM »

@HyperDuck: Thank-you very much ^_^  To answer your question, yes I'm the one who sings the main theme.  I have so much fun doing vocals for songs, it feels different to me than when I sing regular music.  It's almost like I have an easier time getting into character if that makes sense, hehe Tongue  Oh, I was going to say that I saw the trailer for "Dust: An Elysian Tale" on your site and wow, that looks like a beautiful game!  The artwork reminded me of Legend of Mana because everything had so much detail and such nice colors.  How is that project coming along?

Well you have a beautiful voice, I'm really impressed. The mix on your voice in the songs, as well, is excellent! Whats your recording method or what programs do you use? Cubase, ProTools, etc ?

It IS a beautiful game! I've been one of the lucky few to play it before PAX2009, and I get regular builds off Dean to help him out in testing. It's coming a long well, least on Deans side, Dan & I have only done a few songs for it so far and will be doing the rest of the soundtrack to complete for early 2010, first quarter anyway. It's really quite amazing that Dean hand paints basically everything in Dust, no doubt the reasoning behind it's brilliant looks!
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« Reply #17 on: November 05, 2009, 12:40:01 AM »

Yeah, she has a fine voice. Definitely not my style though, I had to turn the speakers off when the singing started. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine song-just not my style Smiley

I really like the fact that you included to much dialog. I like that in RPGs. I play 'western' rpgs like the witcher, mass effect, planescape torment, and the like and I really like talking to everyone without them having something generic to say. Dragon Age: Origins did this, and it's awesome. Even a lowly guard will tell you his life story occasionally.
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« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2009, 02:34:31 AM »

@DYRE: Thank-you for checking out the demo Smiley  Yeah, I see what you're saying about the portraits.  I think in the future I'd like to recolor them and possibly add a border while still maintaining their original style.  And thanks for offering to point out those other things, I'd definitely appreciate it!  There's so much dialogue going on that even after lots of bug testing I still manage to find a text error here and there >_<

@JackNeil: Well the good thing is that rpg maker sort of has built-in asset managers, so whenever I make new character sprites or tilesets I can just upload them to the various folders.  Dialogue on the other hand can get kind of messy... especially if I have stuff written for several different conditions.  Ah, thank-you for the link, I'm really looking forward to reading your article!  That was really cool of you to post that!

@Zaphos: I'm always looking for ways to make the combat more interesting; that usually seems to be the area in jRPGs that I'm not particularily fond of (except in Chrono Trigger... perhaps all the cool animations made the battles more tolerable).  Do you have any suggestions for things that could make the battles more interesting while still maintaining the current system?  Right now I have enemies that heal, enemies that do a lot of damage but are easy to kill, tanks, etc.

@HyperDuck: Aw, thank-you... I appreciate that ^_^  I use Sonar 6 for sequencing and production, and a variety of soft and hard synths (I have my trusty Korg Triton for samples and the weighted controller, Edirol, EWQL, Cakewalk TTI, etc.).  I'll also use Soundforge on occasion to do some editing.  What about you, which programs do you like to use?  Ah, so the art in Dust is hand painted!  No wonder it's so lovely. 

@allen: I think I'm the same way about dialogue... sometimes I just like to wander off and talk to the various NPCs to see if any of them have funny hidden messages.  I got such a kick out of Francis' fortress in Super Paper Mario for that reason.

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« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2009, 07:57:03 AM »

Dropped by to say congrats for releasing the demo! I have also downloaded your game and will be back with more feedbacks later Smiley I need to work on my thesis on this weekend , so I'll probably get to play after that. I'm afraid that if I play the game now then all the time I should be working on the thesis will be spent on playing your game hehe Gentleman 
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