August 18, 2016

Portrait of a Potion Salesman

Note: This will be the last blog post until next week. Yes, I'm actually gonna take a couple days off! CRAZY right? I actually haven't had a single day off this year, unless you count the time we spent taking care of our cat Link when he went back and forth between our home and the animal hospital earlier this year (not exactly a relaxing time). 

So, I'm gonna take a few days to try and enjoy what's left of summer and try to recharge these batteries! The blog will be back as usual on Sunday 28th :D


Now that that's been taken care of: here's another new character - a potion salesman in Tai Ming:

When I made this guy (yes, it's a he - or it's supposed to be, anyway), I had some a vision of some kind of mix between Remedi the alchemist in Evergrind City, and a vampire. Yeah I know, don't ask where these ideas come from. I have no idea!

August 17, 2016

Order & Documents

Over the course of the development of Secrets of Grindea, which has gone on for five (5!) years now, we've had many different ways of keeping track of decisions made in the past and where to head in the future.

Unfortunately they've varied in usefulness - turns out, simply talking about something in the group and then expecting everyone to remember the outcome of that conversation doesn't work quite that well. In fact, more than once we've had the exact same conversation several times, with different outcomes, where people have changed their opinion over time, or we simply don't remember which idea we thought was best.

To solve this we've used a variety of documentation methods - we've kept our meetings documented physically through a notebook I've brought to them, and sometimes we've used our "agenda" document (basically a to-talk-about list for each upcoming meeting) to document what we talked about and what it resulted in. There's also been attempts to have a Upcoming Quests document, an Arcade Mode document (with future arcade mode mechanics), and a Story Mode document with random bits and pieces about the game written down randomly.

After trying to navigate through these documents for a while, searching for the answer to another one of our eternal "what did we say about subject x?" questions, I decided it was time to clean things up.

So, over the last few days I've been merging all of our documentation - the quest documents, the contents of my notebook, the Story Mode- and Arcade Mode- documents and ordered them properly in a single Google Docs document:

We tend to merge Swedish and English for all our documentation. Sorry about that... :)

In order to keep things easy to find, we decided to sort this new all-powerful list area by area in chronological order, starting with a "General" section for things affecting general gameplay (such as visible healthbars for co-op), and ending with all things Arcade Mode. Thanks to their "new" (at least, I hadn't seen it before) outline feature, it became very easy to navigate through the content once I was done, but if the feature wasn't available I'd probably created something similar in a regular text document, adding a table of contents in the beginning.

We're very glad to have this new documentation method, which hopefully will save us some time when looking up what exactly we decided after having discussions, and why we came to that conclusion. It is likely we'll still have to talk about some things again, of course, as we do tend to change our minds around - but at least now we don't have to take it all from the beginning again!

August 16, 2016

Tai Ming Zone02 - HQ Battleground

As I (probably) mentioned before, the giant Thorn-Worm boss fight will take place outside the HQ! But as you can see below, this place is already filled with training dummies and boxes! Things that will most definitely disrupt your fight in an annoying way:

So, in order to solve this, while still keeping the fight area somewhat decorated, I made a version of the area where the giant Thorn-Worm's you'll battle have trashed the area, leaving the dummies and boxes in ruins. The progress of doing this can be viewed in the video below:

Basically, I create a bunch of smaller parts of each of the props and tear up the Collector banners. Some of the pieces are taken from the crate- and barrel break animations and adjusted slightly colorwise. These parts are almost all small enough that you can walk over them without hitting a collider, and those that are bigger are placed near the edges of the area where it's unlikely you'll run around a lot.

We haven't tested this new background with the actual boss fight yet, so if it looks weird in any way (like the Thorn-Worm animations overlapping the decorations in odd ways), we might move things further to the sides or remove some stuff completely. For now though, this is the final result:

August 15, 2016

Tai Ming Zone 02 - Administration House (Present)

Moving on to the present version, this building is pretty much the same - only less clean. And the carpets broke, as it seems they tend to do?!

Present Version

While Tessen's house resembled her old home in Tai Ming's first zone, this building is supposed to hint back at the left house next to the exit of that same zone. Like this place, it was a place of administration, only difference is this building deals with the actual villagers of Tai Ming, while the one in zone01 dealt with visitors and people wanting to enter the city for the first time. 


So, as with Tessen's house, I reused a bunch of things from its predecessor, such as the green colors, and actual props like the couches and pinboard. I also made a new variant of the desk, facing sideways rather than down, like rest of them, to fit this room!

The chests in the past are purple, like all past chests are supposed to be in Tai Ming! Right now I think the chests in the beta are the regular brown because of miscommunication (unless it's been fixed lately without me noticing). In the present they'll be brown, due to their color fading :)


August 14, 2016

Tai Ming Zone 02 - Administration House (Past)

Next on our interior list, we have the government/administration building (we just keep calling it random things), where your goal is to get a citizenship-emblem in order to progress the story. Since you're not from Tai Ming, and have only spent a very short while in this town, this might prove harder to get than you'd first hope.  

After all, with a several year long wait list to even visit the city, getting citizenship here must be quite hard indeed. But I guess, if you could find another way into the building, there's a chance you might accidentally happen upon one of those citizenship emblems, and nobody would blame you for keeping it, right? 

Super detailed, extremely professional sketch

The finished thing

August 11, 2016

Puzzle Cave Preview

Remember I talked about the puzzle cave design a while back? The prototyping has officially begun, and here is our very first in house testing of two of the puzzles!

The first one is the phase shift challenge, where you'll phase through time to reach your goal. For this puzzle, you have to move mirror blocks around both in the past and the present in order to reach your goal. When we make the correct graphics for this, we'll have to make some kind of indicator for where the time rift is on the puzzle (currently simple blue u-shapes in this sketch version):

This is actually already the second iteration of this phase puzzle. The first one turned out to be more complicated than we first thought, even though the solution itself really wasn't. The problem was that going back and forth in time really confused our brains (and, I admit, mine was the worst - I just panicked trying to figure out what to do, without finding a solution at all - ha)! So, we had to make the puzzle a bit easier. I guess we'll save the mind-warping ones for an optional puzzle somewhere :)

Next up - the statue puzzle. Here you have to push some statues around, trying to figure our which one to move where. The only way of doing this is to cross check between the past and the present: where do I need to move statue x in order for it to hit button y as it falls? There's also a hole that needs filling, and a cage of some sort holding a statue that needs to be released (currently illustrated by a barrel, hehe):

I'm currently very positive about these puzzles - they make you think a little, but they're not too hard to solve once you know what to do! Definitely looking forward to completing this puzzle cave and give it some proper artwork :)

August 10, 2016

Guest Post: Teddy on Water Transitions

In game development, sometimes you encounter things that are so annoying to implement that you need to vent on someone else’s blog. This is one of those times.

Task: make a short transition between low water and high water, to be played when you close or open the dam in Tai Ming. Easy enough, right? Well, yes, but sometimes it’s the easy things that end up melting your mind!

Here are the assets involved (excluding the background) in creating the transition above:

The stuff in the pink square (top left) are overlays needed to preserve the illusion of depth. These had to be placed at heights intertwined with the stuff in the light blue square (bottom left), to make sure the right mass of water is behind and in front the right rock piece. Oh, and the rock pieces had to be cut out of the background with pixel perfect precision! The piece of grass was needed to hide the edge of the water on the left side.

In the dark blue section (top middle) are all the waterfall animations that Fred had to make! Each of them was a small puzzle of their own. The top four sprite sheets were pieces that can be used to create waterfalls of any height, needed for when the waterfall rises. This custom made waterfall must appear and disappear the correct way to fit with the “appear” and “disappear” animations. Note on the bottom spritesheet how the foam does not despawn until frame 5, meaning it must keep playing until then!

In the green square (middle bottom) you find Fred’s favorite pastime: animated water edges. These appear when the water has reached the top, hiding seams and creating some nice motion. Due to the uneven edges of the rock walls, however, these things don’t look proper at all while the water is moving! Something else was needed to hide the water’s edge during this period.

To this end, Fred made ten tiny particles, to be placed along the water’s edges! These are found in the red square (upper right). I had to be careful that these particles didn’t behave nonsensically, for example making sure that the water drops always flew away from the walls, to avoid water ripples on the vertical parts of the background.

After a few decades of fine tuning positions, timings, particle abundance and fading, we finally arrived at the point you see in the gif. I should’ve never quit law school!

Note: In reality, Teddy loves even the dreary parts of his job, and is quite happy he quit law school!