The Production Blog of Sword 'N' Board
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!

So the start on the more advanced Item mechanics has finally started! While I've had the main mechanics and uses for all of the items on paper for a while I finally went through and started developing the other uses, and puzzle implementations for a lot of the items and how they can be used together with other items as well.

With older Legend of Zelda games, there was a limit to what items you could use at a time, and this game will be no different. However, when certain items are used along with other items the effect of the items being used will be much different.
For example, the Mallet can be used for a few different reasons, damaging specific enemies, solving certain puzzles and clearing out types of Obstacles, but for the most part it's a Hammer! Sure, you can attack with it, but you pretty much just hammer things with it.

But, should you then decide that you would like to use the Mallet with another item instead of your trusty sword, like say a bomb, the way the Mallet is used is much different and in a  way that can trigger switches and be used in different types of puzzles. (thought I won't say exactly what that combination does, I can't spoil everything can I?)

This adds a certain level of complexity to the game that I really hadn't thought about, but I think really is going to add something more to the game than just being a normal adventure game with monsters to beat on.

In a lot of ways I want to recapture the feeling the original Legend of Zelda had with making the player have to explore around the world and look for clues. In later Zelda games, the object of exploration became less and less of an emphasis, and I always missed that.
There was something really fun about bombing random walls, or burning trees in hopes of seeing them fall away to reveal a cave opening, or a hidden staircase, and that's something I really want to bring back. There's something exciting about finding something in a far off corner that's entirely hidden from view that you found on your own.

Not only that, but I want people to really have to think about their play styles, and the items they are using and make sure that an item is always useful.

Many different adventure games that are based around items and their mechanics always seem to have 1 or 2 items that really just sit there in your inventory and never get used and this is something I really wanted to avoid. I always want an item to have a purpose that you'll need to use it for, and I never wanted a item to be "padding" for the game and just be something that you forget about.
I also definitely want to make sure that the puzzles are far beyond pushing blocks, and bombing cracks in the walls, and I really hope that the Item mechanics and the puzzles will really help the game stand out on it's own.

It was a strange and frustrating few days last weekend. I reached a point when working on Dungeon assets that almost everything felt like it just wasn't working, or didn't look right.
It wasn't that anything looked bad, but it really all seemed to look entirely too much like The Legend of Zelda. While this game is obviously highly inspired by it and pays homage to it in a lot of ways, i was starting to realize that a game who's core theme and idea is about pretending and using your imagination was really starting to lack exactly that. Imagination.

While I think I've done a great job with coming up with fresh new mechanics for the game to help set it apart, the theme of the game itself was still lacking something. I just couldn't put my finger on it.

So, I set out to try and change things up a bit, and really embrace the theme of the game. The game is really at it's core about a much more simple time before the Internet existed when kids had to use their imaginations to keep themselves entertained. When we would make our own props and our own weapons out of whatever we could find laying around and we would have pretend adventures in our back yard, and I really needed to embrace that theme.

While one could argue that since the dungeon's in the game are largely in Sidd's head, they could look as elaborate as I wanted them to, they still needed to carry with them a look that suggested this kid with the help of his father made these things to help him better imagine the adventure that he's on.

What started out as a very Zelda like concrete Dungeon of bricks and mortar, has turned into a much more themed, cardboard themed Dungeon, after all a large portion of the title is "Board" and that needs to remain a recurring theme throughout the game. I also assume that Sidd or his father may have put a lot of this together in his backyard, and some of that environment should also show through in the Dungeon.  

After toying with a lot of different ideas and drawing a lot of the stuff out on paper I finally reached a look that I think is really going to not only compliment the game, make it stand apart from the game that's inspired it but also make it really stand out on its own.

To be honest before I had all of this figured out, I got extremely worried! This was really one of the first major hurtles I've had to deal with through development that really made me worry about the future of the game.

But now I'm even more determined to see where it goes, and I can't wait to see where this ends up!
So, as soon as I have a full license for Construct 2, I should be able to get the Beta finished, and up and ready! Luckily that's relatively cheap, so I should be getting that here in a couple weeks, but I'm not going to let that impact production at all!

So now, it's on to designing dungeon assets! I also do want to let everyone know that my buddy Josh was able to get the theme for the dungeon finished which is absolutely awesome, and incredibly creepy! I definitely think it's going to go with what I have planned for the dungeons really well.

Doing continuous walls for the dungeon, at different angles and directions has proven a little bit of a challenge but nothing I haven't had to deal with before. It's a matter of putting them all together and getting them illustrated, but in a way that you can use them as puzzle pieces. You have different corners, that face different directions, and different walls, and they all need to fit together seamlessly. So far though it's working out really well!

The Overworld assets are pretty much done, though I'm sure there may be 1 or 2 things I think of later on, that I'll add down the road, as I always do!

I definitely want this game to be a lot more puzzle oriented than the Legend of Zelda was. I've been replaying and watching replays for various Zelda games and I'm seeing a lot of things that can be improved upon. Don't get me wrong, I love the Legend of Zelda, but there's definitely a few things that I want to see about doing a little differently.

I'm definitely going to make sure that those principles and basic mechanics are there in the Beta, as I think getting the feel of the game across to the people playing as quickly as possible will be key, even if all of the art assets aren't competed at the time.

The Beta will consist of a good portion of the Overworld (though not all) and part of the first Dungeon (though again, not all of it), as I definitely think that will be enough to get all of the main mechanics for the game across to the player, at least that's my hope.

I'm also currently looking for a way to get to Pax, as there's several different Indie game companies that put together a mass Indie game booth, and I'm hoping I can get to be a part of one of them.

Until next Friday, I'm off to work on some Dungeons!
The May release date for the game is looming not that far away and there's still a lot left for me to do! Not only that, but I have even less of a timeline for the Beta if I expect enough people to be able to play it before the game is finally released, so time is of the essence!

I'm still trying to decide how much content the Beta will have. If it will be mainly the Overworld for players to explore, or if I want to include at least one of the dungeons as well. Or, do I want to include more than that? It's going to be a strange balancing act.

Not only do I have to pick a good balance of content for the Beta, but I'm also noticing that the game itself is going to be a bit of a strange balancing act as well.

I've seen a lot of games lately that really pad themselves with a lot of useless content. Usually to create a sense of artificial depth for the player.

You take a much loved series of mine for example, The Legend of Zelda. Especially for this example, lets use A Link to the Past.

In a Link to the past there comes a point where you get a wand that is able to set fire to things, including torches. When you first get the wand they introduce the mechanic of lighting torches to exit a room with 4 different torches and then from there on, you know that if you see an unlit torch, that you can light it! Sometimes, you can also use those torches to give you light in a dark room, or some times you may just choose to leave them alone.

The problem with this as a mechanic, is they then continue to beat you over the head with this for the next 8 dungeons at random points in the game... you see a block, and you move it but nothing happens! Oh, there's an unlit torch! And then you light it and the door opens, or a passage way is revealed.

The problem with this is that once this becomes a mechanic that you no longer have to think about, it basically becomes pointless. It's not longer rewarding in the sense that it gives you something to think about and thus gives you a sense of satisfaction for having figured it out yourself. Now, when you see an unlit torch you really don't have to think about it at all. Instead, you to go your menu, equip your item, and light the torch. Giving you one extra little thing that you have to do to get that door open, without any real reward.

Now, the torch lighting mechanic unless used in some new way to make the player really have to think about it again, becomes "padding" for the game. Something that creates some artificial complexity within the game. They did a great job with refreshing old mechanics within The Ocarina of Time, which was really great!

These are definitely things I'm going to have to keep in mind when designing my own mechanics. I want to make sure that each of the items can be used in multiple different ways in many different situations. In a game that's largely about exploration and puzzle solving, I need to always have people thinking about what they should do next!

Thursday evening my Fiance was having a large amount of random symptoms, including constantly being thirsty, feeling weak and having blurry vision and so first thing Friday morning we decided to take her to the hospital.

After taking her vitals and taking some blood, we found out that she has Diabetes. To say the Doctor was shocked was more than an understatement since my Fiance really doesn't fit the bill for Type 1 or Type 2 currently. As of now, we're waiting for the blood work to come back so we can find out what type of Diabetes she has. For the meantime, I get to learn how to give Insulin Injections and everything else, and so far she's handling it really well.

As you can imagine with everything going on I completely blanked on updating this blog since my brain is kind of scattered at the moment. Though honestly working does seem to help keep me from stressing out too much. It's a lot to do when you first start out, but after a while it should get easier once her blood sugar is leveled out.

As always, as before I'm still working on Animations for the character. Who, still doesn't have a name, I think I'll give it another week for any more suggestions to come out before I finally decide on something some Facebook friends have suggested!

The only animation I have left now is his upwards walk animation and his left walk animation. Currently, I have it mirrored so when he walks right, everything is normal and when you walk left it mirrors his right side walk animation. The problem with this is, his sword and shield switch hands, since it's mirrored! So I'll be correcting that soon I hope.

Before that however, it's a matter of getting the kinks worked out with his movement. Figuring out a good speed for his movement, and a good speed for his walk animations so everything looks properly. I suppose I was a bit naive when I started doing his animations and figured I could just plug it in, and it would all work right, but movement and animation speed is definitely key, to anyone wondering.

If your characters walk animation for instance is too slow, and doesn't seem to match his movement speed it will almost seem like he's "ice skating" as he will slide a bit with each move of his foot. And if his walk animation is too fast, it will almost seem as though his movement is a bit labored even though in reality it doesn't change speed at all.

So for instance, you can have the exact same speed for your character for all four directions (down,right,left,up), but if your animations for his movements are at different speeds, they can all look entirely different, so that's what I'm working the kinks out of right now.

A large portion of the problems with a lot of Indie Games I've played, are the controls, and truly amazing Indie games seem to have amazing controls, so that's really a main focus for me currently before I really get into the main mechanics and AI programming. Once there's a couple different Enemies in place and their AI is working, it should almost be time for the Beta!

Alright, so I'm a day late, sorry! I decided I owed it to myself to take a break and make sure I don't get burnt out on the game, but now it's back to work!

For the most part, I would say the assets for the Overworld are about 98% done, though there are 3 or 4 different things that I still want to add to the assets to really make the world come alive.
With that being said, it's really starting to feel like a world of it's own. It's a strange thing designing a world, and really trying to get the theme across as you have it pictured in your head. It's easy to have an idea, but sometimes getting that idea across to other people in the same way is much more difficult than you would think.
Overall, I'm really happy where the game is right now. I have a lot of the assets imported and optimized for the engine, and it runs about as smoothly as I could ask for. You can now run around the world and run into trees, and bump into rocks and things like that, and it's all really exciting! It's always amazing to see something that you've had in your head really come to life that other people can also see and experience.
At this rate the Beta may even be ready well before April, which I'm definitely hoping for. Though I am still debating on how much of the world you'll be able to explore within the Beta.

Be that as it may, I do want people to feel that they can give feedback on the game, and tell me things that they might like to see in the game, once they're able to see what's there. Designers are usually working so closely to a project that they eventually reach a point where they can no longer look at a project objectively. It's really hard after a while to look at things from the player's perspective and think of how things look in the shoes of someone that isn't so intimately attached to the project. So if anyone has any things that they thing would be a lot of fun, I want them to feel like they can share that!

The music so far is going along great. My friend Joshua is working on the music, and he's shared a couple different themes with me, and they're insanely catchy. I found myself humming the main theme for the game even when it wasn't running in the background, so I'm hoping people like it just as much as I do!

As always, anyone that shares any status on the Sword 'N' Board Facebook page, will gain Beta access, so just be sure to let me know you did so, so you don't get missed!

And now, it's off to Enemy programming. You Beta testers are going to need something to fight right?
It's a strange thing being the only person working on a game, it's a weird balancing act when it comes to choosing what to prioritize within the game and it's development.

While I have a lot of fun programming different aspects of the game, while I'm working on programing no artwork gets done, and the reverse is also true.  So I decided to put my focus into one thing at a time, and so I'm currently doing nothing but artwork!

Right now, its really a matter of just going down the list of assets I'm going to need, and getting them created for the game! Once all of the assets are done, and the enemies are put together and animated, it's just a matter of getting it all programmed!

It definitely feels better doing it this way, rather than bouncing back and forth between the two, and the artwork for the game is actually coming along rather quickly! Much like programming, I'm already far ahead of my own schedule that I've set myself to for my production time line.

So far, with everything that I've learned along the way in Construct 2, I'm definitely happy with the engine I'm using. I do see that should I want to really produce a game that I'm going to want to sell to people, that I may need to change to something like Game Maker Studio, which has PC and Mac specific export options, but that's definitely something I will worry about when I come to it.

As far as the Beta for the game goes, I'm really hoping it will be ready by April. While the Beta won't be the full game, I'm hoping to include enough of the game to really show people what the game is about, and really see the Mechanics of the game. Right now, I feel like people think it will play exactly like the Legend of Zelda since it's really a parody of that, but I definitely intend there being mechanics that are much different from what people really know of the Legend of Zelda as making a parody of a game, that plays verbatim like the game it's trying to parody seemed kind of pointless. I definitely wanted to do something new. So I'm hoping people will really be able to see that come April.

Not only that, but April is really going to be the time where I really start marketing the game to other Indie game sites, in hopes of getting the word spread a bit more. Until I have a demo available that the sites can play, it's really pointless to try and tell them about it. Since the game is going to be totally free, it's really just about getting as many people to play the game as possible.

Currently, the support I've been getting from friends, family and even people I don't know has been absolutely amazing, and extremely humbling. Even the small amount of likes on Sword 'N' Board's Facebook page is really already exceeding what I expected from it. Right now, I have about 12 people on the Beta list to help test the game, and I'm hoping the Beta release a month before the full game release will really help knock out a lot of the bugs that may be in the game that I didn't happen to notice along the way. I'm only one person, so I'm sure I will miss things.

May 17th 2013 is the release! Until then, I better get back to work. May isn't very far away.

So last week I ran into one of the biggest hurdles I've had to deal with so far while developing Sword 'N' Board. One that was a bit heartbreaking at the time - I'm over it now - and also a hurdle that has now caused a great amount of excitement.

When I set out to do this game, it was really about getting something put together to really have on my portfolio and to show people so I can get out of the job I'm in - albeit a good job, but still and get to doing some real design work.
However, I'm also making this game because it's really a game that I would love to be able to play! And because of that, I want other people to enjoy it along with me. I want to take them on a fun little adventure, and just escape for a little while. Given the fact that the game will be largely a parody of the Legend of Zelda, and other adventure/RPG games I really didn't have to heart to make people pay for a game like that, and so I decided to just let people be able to access the game for free, and they could play online from their browser. Sounds great right?!

I was using a engine called GameSalad, it's largely a "drag and drop" engine, though there's a little bit of special "coding" you would still have to do here and there. Since I'm no programmer, and I'm trying to put this game together, it sounded like a perfect solution!
After about 2 weeks of learning the engine, the User Interface and the "programming" - whenever I say I'm programming the game I always use finger quotes, I can't help it - I had a working interface for the game, character movement was solid and I had some basic enemy AI working, things were really going well!

However, that all changed when I decided  to publish it. I was trying to publish it to HTML 5, that way I can add it to a web page, and then anyone with the address to the game could access it and play it for free! However, one limitation with GameSalad is that it will only publish in HTML 5 to their special "arcade" and that it will only publish in a size of 480x320. Entirely too small for my game. 2 Weeks of work was lost.

So, I went looking for a new game engine and came across 2, that I really like. Game Maker Studio, and Construct 2. When I first started using Construct 2, I found it was easy to learn, so much so that I managed to program in about 5 hours what took me that 2 weeks in GameSalad. What I thought was going to push me back a few weeks for production, may actually end up saving me some time! Which is absolutely exciting. I guess some things happen for a reason.

Also, a friend of mine who I went to school with at IADT, who happens to me a talented audio guy, and musician has signed on to do the main them for the game, as well as a Dungeon theme!

He asked me to give him a deadline, so I gave him the next 2 weeks to get them done. So once I have something from him, I'll probably upload it so everyone can check it out!

For now, I just have to keep on keepin' on.