The Production Blog of Sword 'N' Board
 
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I've been hard at work lately reanimating Sidd for the game with his redesign in place, as well as redesigning the top UI for the game whenever I get tired of animating Sidd (which happens more often than I'd like to admit)

I realized a while ago that the mechanics of the game and combining items to create new mechanics for the items was great and all, but the current UI had no way to show the player if those 2 items would create a new mechanic or not. 

Not only that, but while the old UI was something that I really liked, it was very much heavily inspired by The Legend of Zelda, and I'm currently trying to get Sword 'N' Board away from that. While its still obviously heavily inspired by The LoZ,  I really want it to be something more, and to carry the overall theme of the game through beyond being just inspired by another game. I want people to see the game and the theme that I have in mind, that this is a kid going on an imaginary adventure!

There's still a lot of work to do between now and Casual Connect, and I have my work cut out for me. I want to get the animations for Sidd done, a good portion of the Dungeon together and working, as well as an intro animatic to really get the idea and story behind the game across to the player. 

Lots to do!

 
 
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So within the last couple weeks I've been hard at work on Sword 'N' Board, really tryin to get things finished and polished. While I have a working demo, I really want to get the animations for Sidd done before really showing it to people. Because frankly, not having the ability to attack in 2 directions really impacts the way the game plays and I want people to be able to play the game the way its intended (for the most part).

During the time that I've been working on the game, I've also been looking for ways to fund the game and get it attention beyond just Facebook and this development blog. I've gotten a lot of great advice from several people and so I've reached out to a few people I know. 

Well, Sword 'N' Board is going to Casual Connect as part of the Indie Showcase! You can find the page here: http://www.indieprize.org/games/index.html

So, I will be attending Casual Connect at the end of July, and demoing Sword 'N' Board there for the public. Around that time (hopefully within the same day or so) I will also be launching a small kickstart to help fund the game further, and try and get it in front of even more people! The Kickstarter will be for about 5 - 6 thousand dollars or so, and I'll be announcing it when it is finally up and active!

As of right now, I'm still animating Sidd, and it's coming together rather quickly, and a lot of the things that I was struggling with before are finally coming together! A lot of the bugs that I had with the money previously are now taken care of finally working, which I'm really happy about!

Anyhow, I better get back to work! 

 
 
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Well, we have a working demo for Sword 'N' Board! Sure, there are still some things that need to be better programmed, and a few features need to be added. 

Currently, within the demo you can venture around a very small portion of the Overworld, fight enemies and use bombs to search for secret areas on the map. But a lot of the functionality that is needed for the Beta is really all there! It's just a matter of getting a portion of the Dungeon put together and making sure you can easily go into shops (and use them, something the current Demo doesn't have) and travel betwen the overworld and the Dungeon itself. 

Things that are needed for the Beta:

- Working Overworld/Dungeon maps (It's blank in the current Demo)
- Item drops from enemies (enemies will drop money and additional bombs)
- Sidd Redesigned
- 4 Directional Attack Animations
- Working shop with items you can purchase

And that's really it! Currently the game has very basic enemy AI, and very basic enemy animations but I feel they're fine for a Beta run through. Currently the most important thing I feel right now is getting all of Sidd's attack animations finished. I had finished his left and right animations before I decided he needed to be redesigned (to be a lot less "Link" like) and so he currently can't attack up or down, which is pretty annoying!

But, as it goes right now, there is a lot of stuff done that can be used for the Beta, most of the functionality for the game is there and can be played with. I've made some adjustments to the camera, it's a bit less Zelda like, but I think it really works, and really helps keep you in  the game. I always felt like the transitional screen scrolls the original Legend of Zelda had kind of took you out of the game at times, and so I'm doing what I can to eliminate the things I disliked before. 

The game company that I'm doing Concept art for, Hashbang Games is really on board with trying to help me make the game a reality and is going to not only help me find funding for Sword 'N' Board but also help me publish it as well!

You can check out a video of the Demo by watching the video below, and I promise to start updating again more!

 
 
We're really down to the wire at Hashbang right now working hard on our current game, so I haven't been able to work on Sword 'N' Board as much as I would like unfortunately.
Right now I'm doing all of the animations for our current game, so while I've been getting much better and faster at animating, it also has made it hard to put in the time that I would like for Sword 'N' Board, but I'm confident than the things that I'm doing now will 100% make Sword 'N' Board an even better game. 

Obviously the game is highly inspired by the Legend of Zelda, but I've decided to redesign Sidd, our main character to be a bit more of his own character. Right now, he looks a lot like Link, which was totally intentional but I think he deserves to be his own character. While the game was definitely meant to be a parody of teh Legend of Zelda, that doesn't mean it has to mimic the game or the characters as much. 

I've always intended the mechanics of the game to be much more involved and puzzle oriented than the Legend of Zelda has been recently, and that's still very much my intention.

With parody there's a fine line between creating a game that is inspired by another game, but still it's own entity and making a game that shadows another, which isn't what I want to do at all. 

I think the redesign of Sidd will bring more to the game, and help it stand out a bit more (and yes, he will keep his sword and shield)

Right now, it's all about bug fixing, animating and getting things taken care of, so hopefully I'll have some new artwork to share soon!
 
 
It's a strange thing with Sword 'N' Board. It was largely to be a learning experience, to teach me something that I wanted to know to try and make the real game that I had in mind, and also give me something more for my resume to help me stand up. 

Never did I think I would end up getting the job I wanted before the game was even in it's Beta phases. 

As you can imagine now a lot of my time is spent doing real game development stuff for my daily job and then trying to fit what I can for the game within that time on the side of the more important things that help pay the bills. 

There is good news and bad news. The good news is, I'm 100% certain that Sword 'N' Board will be finished for people to play, the bad news being that I don't really know when that will be. 

I set the original release date for one reason, and that was to limit myself to 6 months for the project. I didn't want to spend any longer on the game than a 6 month production cycle because 1.) I was going to be releasing it for free, and spending a year on a free game seemed a bit much, and 2.) I didn't want to have to wait a year to have something great on my portfolio so I could start applying for better jobs. 

However, now that I have the job that I've always wanted, the reasons for completing the game are different now...

Now, I want to finish the game because It's not really in me to put this much time and effort into something and not see it completed, and also because... I really just want to play it!

I started this and saw a lot of things in modern adventure games, and dungeon crawlers that I really thought I could improve on, that I STILL think I can improve on and I want to make good on those ideas and see what I can do with them. 

Lately I've been increasingly concerned with that looming release date as it slowly draws nearer, and I realized something.

Can I make the deadline? Sure I could. Would the game be any good? Sure, for about the first 30 minutes... and then anything after that would have been a thrown together mess that was tossed together in a hurried panic to fulfill a release date that I set upon myself long ago with different circumstances in place. 

To spend the time, and care that I have put into Sword 'N' Board, in doing everything I could to make it something more than just a "Zelda Clone" only to throw it together in the 9th hour and watch it become a pale shadow of what it could have been, I think would be heart breaking. 

So, right now I am not sure when it is going to be released. Is it going to take me the next year to finish? Absolutely not. But I do know that it's not going to be finished in just a few weeks time. 

I'm going to take whatever time I need with the game, to make it as good as it can possibly be. So when I look back on it, I can be proud of what I did here. 
 
 
Well, here's another one 2 days later than I wanted... I have to say it's getting harder and harder to write these on time, and for that I'm sorry!

When I first started Sword 'N' Board it was for a very specific reason, well... a couple reasons really. The first was to help me learn an engine that I could then use to really bring the game I really wanted to do to life, and do so without the use of a programmer, and also to have something great to show in my portfolio and my resume to get a better job doing game development. 

Never did I imagine that during the games development that I would land that job that I wanted, which has been absolutely amazing thus far, which ends up taking up a lot of my time currently (no, I will not complain about being employed full time, drawing... that would just be silly). 

However, given the deadlines and expectations with game development, that's given me drastically less time to work on the game that I've been really working on since November! Before, I was working my normal 9 to 5 job with Big Fish Games and then would usually immediately come home and begin work on Sword 'N' Board until either my Fiance got home, or it was time for me to get something on the stove! I remember looking forward to the weekends in order to really focus on the game, so it's been a hard road when it comes to working on the game and finding time to still have a normal life and not neglect friendships and my relationship. 

I had hoped to have the Beta done by now, and get people playing the game, but unfortunately with a game that's just about to release (Gravi) and a new game in the works, it's made it that much more difficult. Will I get Sword 'N' Board finished? 100% absolutely! It's not in me to let a project that I've spent this much time on die. 

However, I do see May getting closer and closer, and there's still a ton more to be done! 
 
 
Well we're just a couple weeks out from the Beta (if all goes well) and things are going really well!

I've been busy working on Gravi, for Hashbang games as I redesigned the UI for the game and also worked on the achievement icons and a few other things, so that was pretty awesome! But now I can focus more on our next project that we're working on, and Sword 'N' Board!

Right now it's just a matter of polishing the game and getting it to a level that I feel good about people playing my unfinished game. I don't even like to have my own Fiance play it at this point, because there's still a lot of refinement to be done in terms of character movement and things like that.

Of the bugs that I have found, I haven't found anything that are truly "game breaking" while I have found one or two that really made me shake my head, they shouldn't be anything that makes the game unplayable, which is what I'm really out to find at the moment. 

There are still a couple assets that need to be done, and a couple assets that I've decided to change, such as the items you use for currency, and the items that add and display your health. While I didn't want to use the hearts that everyone is more than likely used to, I also didn't feel that what I had come up with and had been using was really working. I always had reservations about it, but I'm much happier with the solutions that I came up with for it. 

I also have a couple comic pages that I plan on doing to help tell the story. It's a pretty inexpensive solution that a lot of smaller indie games have done, some more effective than others and I think it will help tell the story behind the game a bit better. 

Right now, it's a lot of working on the assets needed for the first Dungeon that you the player will encounter during the Beta, as most if not all of the assets for the Overworld are finished (though I may add some polish and subtle animations to some things). 

All in all, we're on the right track, and now I have to get back to work!
 
 
So as I've mentioned previously, the Beta is closing in fast, and the release of the game even faster, and so I'm working on it as hard as I can while still making sure that my other responsibilities to my main job are taken care of also. Luckily my new job is totally fine with me working on this project, as most game companies really don't like their employees working on the own side projects, so high fives all around for having understanding employees!

And what's this? I'm getting a blog done on Friday finally? Good grief, it's about time...

Right now, I'd say the artwork for the game that is needed for the Beta is finished. Sure, there will probably come things later on in the game that I realize I still need to work on and create for specific puzzles but that's really it! Hence why the art posts have been so scare lately as there really isn't anything too new to show! Which, actually is probably a good thing when you think about it. It means things are getting wrapped up!

Right now it's mainly about getting the assets and things done for the Menus and the UI like I mentioned before, and making sure all of that is working 100%. Then, its really just a matter of putting the scenes together and adding in some enemies for everyone to fight!

The way I have things currently, is everything within Sword 'N' Board is built modular. Meaning you can just grab the pieces you want to use in a scene and put them wherever you wish, and Sidd will be able to interact with them accordingly once you are able to play the scene. It's almost like the old sticker kits you would get with a street scene, behind it and you could restick the characters and things wherever you wanted to recreate the scene as you saw fit. It's very similar to that.

I guess, since there's a lack of art updates, I should at least include a little more information about the Beta itself.

What can you come to expect from the Beta?

1.) You will be able to acquire your first item, which are bombs. I wanted to go with what was the most familiar to everyone,  before throwing the items that do much stranger things, with more odd ball mechanics.

2.) You will be able to venture through about 20% of the Overworld, though there will still be much that you aren't able to play through yet.

3.) You will be able to find, and enter the first Dungeon (to those of you thinking "Duh, you said we get our first item!" Don't always think the items you get will come from Dungeons...)

4.) You won't be able to complete the first Dungeon just yet, don't want to spoil everything right?

5.) There will be a few secrets for those of you to find that will also be in the full version of the game that is released. So those that do play the beta, will have a leg up on those that haven't.

So here's to hoping it all comes together quickly!
 
 
Well here is the production blog, be it a couple days late. A combination of being really busy with work, getting sick and just being busy with the game is a pretty good way to lose track of time, and keep me from here unfortunately, but things are going great!

Right now its just a matter of getting all of the menu systems to work for the game, to really bring the game together. For the most part enemy programming is pretty simple, since I'm trying to keep it a little "retro" feeling, though some specific enemies will have a bit more sophisticated AI, rather than just aimlessly wandering about the different screens as I'm sure some of you are familiar with.

Aside from a few programming issues that I had when I first started getting the menus together, things are going very well now, which is very exciting! It's funny how much simple User Interface additions really impact the way the game feels in testing. I no longer have to exit the preview for the game when Sidd dies, and I can interact with the game as it should be played in the Beta which is absolutely great for me in testing as it makes things that much easier.

I think when I design my next game I will probably design all the UI and menus first, in order to get everything together before I start adding in the artwork and getting the levels fleshed out to make the testing portions easier.

Some of the animations for Sidd are being redone or tweaked slightly to just add a bit more polish to the game. For the most part I'm happy with them but I definitely want to try and make them a bit more fine tuned. I have to admit, the stuff that bothers me probably wouldn't bother anyone else, so I might be just getting a bit nit picky at this point.

I've toyed with the idea of achievements, or if not achievements for the game a possible readout of important details when you finish the games. Details like Deaths, percentage of the game that has been actually completed etc, but I'm still really on the fence about it. It seems like a very "trendy" think to do, so if I do it for the game, I definitely want it to have some sort of actual impact on the game. Whether that means giving a reward to the player for achieving a specific achievement or what, I want them to have a real purpose rather than just being something in the game that really in no way affects anything else. So we'll have to wait and see.

These blog posts may become less long as the Beta draws closer. For right now though, I have menus to get done
 
 
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Wow, so I finally found some time to update!

For those of you that don't know I started a new job recently, but of course I was also still working through my last 2 weeks of my old job so I was having to bounce back and forth between the two, and as you can imagine it left me little time to do anything else!

But, I found myself with some time here to finally work on things and get an update, and let everyone know what's going on!

I finally started working on the Start Menu for the game, which is part of what you see here to the left, though I do still feel it's missing something. I'm sure it will hit me at the worst possible time. But things are really starting to come together!

I also started improving the animations for Sidd himself. While I think a few of his animations are great and really don't need to be changed, there was something about his downwards walk cycle that always bothered me and I just couldn't put my finger on why until recently.

If it's one thing I learned during the production of Sword 'N' Board it's that a downwards overhead perspective is really weird to work in, and when designing assets you really have to take that into account. Not only that, but you really have to think of the "angle" that is suggested to the player. It's a fixed camera angle, but it's also 2D. So all of your assets and your characters need to fit in with that angle, otherwise they will stick out like a sore thumb.
Another thing to remember, is it's not 100% top down, or even completely correct when it comes to perspective so it can drive you a bit crazy at times.

When I did his first Left and Right walk cycle, it turned out great, and really fit well into the game. When i did his downwards walk cycle I was happy with it at first and it slowly started to bug me. Well, after doing his upwards walk cycle (in the correct perspective and angle) I realized that when Sidd traveled down, his perspective changed, and something was telling me that it just didn't look right.

So now, it's all about fixing the mistakes with that, and really getting that fixed and ironed out.

The main thing that I'm really worrying about this game, aside from the obvious things, are the controls.

So many Indie games that I've played have just terrible controls, and it's really the games that have amazing controls and an obvious polish that seem to stand out, and I don't want this game to be at all different when it comes to that. After all, you're running around and fighting imaginary monsters and I want the controls to be as responsive as possible. There's really no use in making a game, that's going to end up frustrating its players because they can't control the character the way they want to.

As it stands right now, Sidd will swing his sword as fast as you can hit the attack button, which I think is great. If you get hit by a monster you can only blame it on your own inability to hit the attack button fast enough. I originally thought about having him swing his sword as long as you have the sword button held down, but that felt really too cheap, and a lot like E Honda's hundred Hand slap move from Street Fighter, and I just didn't think it fit very well and so I removed it.

This way also the player has the ability to attack when they choose or to move and reposition themselves in case they find themselves dodging projectiles or other enemies.

Right now, it's just a lot of animations and refining. I hope to have more artwork to post soon! So keep an eye out on the Facebook for that.

The Beta is just around the corner!