The Production Blog of Sword 'N' Board
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
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!

Like the title suggests, there's a lot of things in store for Sword 'N' Board I think. While I can't really discuss what that may be, if all goes well I do think it will really help make this game even better than it's already going to be.

I've had my hands full with transitioning into my new job as a Concept Artist and UI designer for Hashbang Games, which has been absolutely amazing, as I work with a great team of people so I've had less time to work on Sword 'N' Board but it's always in the back of my mind. I'm always writing things and mechanics down on paper to make sure I don't lose track of all the ideas.

It's amazing how much of a game really starts to come out when the mechanics are worked out.

While the game was obviously inspired by The Legend of Zelda I think people will be surprised in the long run by just how different it's going to be.
Sure, it's an adventure game, and you collect health and money and things like that, but it's the personality of the game and the new mechanics that the game is going to be using that I think will really make it stand out.
The Legend of Zelda was very much about taking itself pretty seriously, while there was still some humor here and there, you were still a boy on an epic quest which pretty much set the scene for the game in it's entirety.

In Sword 'N' Board its about a kid, having fun with his dad and going on an imaginary adventure that his dad has set him out on, and because of that I think it's only right to play up the humor and the fun of the game and really just focus on giving the game it's own personality.

With that said, I also want the game to be difficult.

I've talked about the "padding" in other Legend of Zelda games and that's really something I want to avoid, while also making the game a bit more puzzle oriented, and difficult. Games any more seem to spoon feed people what they need to know in order to reach a broader audience and get people playing the game but I don't think you necessarily need to make a game easy to reach a broad audience, and may games have already proven this.

Super Meat Boy by Team Meat is a great example of this. This game has sold more than a Million copies between Steam and X Box life and its notorious for it's difficulty. The thing about difficulty however, is when you finally do something, and you finally get the puzzle right and get to move on, it feels rewarding! I remember playing bosses on my old NES and SNES and playing them 10 - 20 times before I would finally get it right, and when I did I would run out of my room and go tell my parents. They didn't really care, but I did, and that's all that mattered. I felt accomplished at something in my young age.

But, I also want to make the game rewarding in other ways as well through items. It wouldn't be an Adventure game without items right?

Each of the items in the game can be used in useful ways that change their mechanics when used with the other items in your Inventory, and a large amount of the puzzles rely on you finding different ways to use the built in mechanics and different item combinations. All in all, I think it's going to make for a unique experience that is really going to set this game apart.
For the last couple of weeks, I really plowed into doing art assets for the Dungeons in the game, since programming had to come to a complete halt.
The engine that the game is using currently, is Construct 2, which is turning out to be an absolutely amazing engine for someone like me who doesn't know how to actually program. The limitations of the engine are really few and far between and really allows for things to be added and prototyped pretty quickly.
The problem however, was I was using the free version of the engine, and to encourage you to buy the actual license for the engine, it has certain limitations which I hit while designing the beta.
I had hoped to get the Beta done within the limits of the free engine, but alas, I wasn't so lucky. And so I hit a bit of a wall in development and had to focus my efforts into things that I could do to still keep production on the game moving forward, even if programming the game had to take a backseat for a little while.

But, that's all put to an end now, as the full version license has been purchased! Now, there's absolutely no limitations within the engine, and I can do whatever it is that I decide is in the best interest of the game! To know that I have the tools that I need to make some really great games at my finger tips, and that I can literally do whatever it is that I want is really empowering. I'm hope to see some really great things come out of this new sense of power over my own creativity. More than likely, it will result in much more difficult puzzles. Go figure.

The music for the game also finished the same day, which wasn't planned but is still very exciting. My buddy Josh who I met a while ago while we both were going to school for Game Production did an absolutely amazing job. I really didn't give him much direction other than tell him to make it good, and he did just that.

The "Overworld theme" as I've been calling it, is really lighthearted and epic, and really makes you want to go out on an adventure, and is also a stark contrast when you hear the Dungeon theme. The Dungeon theme that Josh wrote is amazingly tense and creepy, and is a complete 180 in terms of direction. It really makes you afraid, and invokes a sense of dread which I was really hoping for. The 2 different songs really bring about 2 different emotions, and leaving a Dungeon to go back out to the brightly lit Overworld really seems to feel like a relief.

While I had originally intended the game to be a embedded browser game, I've decided to change the direction with that. While it was a great idea in premise, with it being browser embedded, there was a lot of performance issues I didn't quite care for. While the game really didn't suffer too badly, depending on your running processes of your computer, and the things you were doing it could cause different lag issues within the game that even though it didn't seem to affect anyone that I had play the game so far, it really still bugged me.

However, another great feature of the full license of Construct 2, is it will actually export to a desktop Executable file, and that's how I will be letting people download the game! The game will still be free, but rather than being browser embedded, whoever wants to download the game to play it will be able to do just that by downloading the Executable file from the official site once it's released!

Anyhow, I have a ton of art to do, until next time!