That Long Information Blog Post

I wanted to give a bit more of a thorough and informative post about the project and the ideas behind the game, it’s going to be long so brace yourselves!

I’ll start with a slight bit of background story. My name is Alex Dawson and I am presently a freelance artist. I previously worked for a games company named Zoë Mode which I left in 2011 in order to follow my own path. In between contract work for the past year or so I’ve been developing the project from it’s early conception to what it is now, it’s been a labour of love and something I had been wanting to pursue for quite a while. It’s something I was really excited about and something that I felt hadn’t been done quite just yet.

The project so far has been developed from scratch using the XNA Framework. Originally I wanted to look into supporting as many platforms as possible and researching into all the avenues led me down a path of using MonoGame as it seemed like the route which had most platforms covered in some way. MonoGame is a write once, play everywhere open source implementation of the XNA which adds support for Andoid, iOS, Mac OSX, Windows 8 Phone, Windows 8 App Store, Linux, OUYA and Playstation Mobile. Couple that with the existing support for Windows 7 Phone, Xbox 360 and Windows PC it seemed like the best choice.

So far I’ve created various handy libraries to create the game including a tile map rendering library, an input handler, an event driven graphical user interface library, a sprite management system and a panel based cinematic system. All of these work in conjunction with XNA and MonoGame and the aim is to release these as free open source libraries for indie developers once the project is over and I have the ability to clean up all the code.

Now to the interesting part, the game info.

Protoype World Screen

Protoype World Screen

As you can see the game is isometric when you are wandering about the world. The artwork is still in the early stages of development and isn’t exactly how the final thing will look. With the art I’ve tried as best as I can to get as close as possible to the final look so that I can get a  better understanding of how long all the content will take to create and to also to build up a process and method for creating it all.

The game uses mouse control to walk about in the desktop builds at present as this was an early way of porting the tap controls from the mobile side of things which was created first. The controls are certainly not final and nowhere near polished but it’s been a fundamental step to get something working and learn about whether that felt right or not. The final game will also have gamepad support.

A lot of the core mechanics are there in some way with objects that you can interact with, maps that you can transfer between and aliens who you can trigger to fight, the aliens will eventually patrol and do all kinds of interesting stuff but for now they sit there and block your path gunning for a show down.

Prototype Fight Screen

Prototype Fight Screen

Speaking of show downs the fight screen is something that I haven’t shown of much of yet due to the fact it has only recently started to come together. The fight screens are inspired by the type of screens you get in classic RPG games, the ones that seemingly whisk you off into an abstract landscape. The look I was going for was of a camera peering through a whole in a war torn building. As the game is real time and aimed at working on mobiles as well as desktops I took a lot of inspiration from other mobile games including Infinity Blade and wanted to create an experience that could work well with the simplicity of touch screens but which could also be opened out into a slightly more complex variation on PC.

The aim is to have the cover present options for fooling the enemy if you switch at the right time. I also want lots of actions that can be learnt and used in a way similar to the power wheel in Mass Effect pausing time for a few seconds before you attack. There’s still a lot of testing and prototyping to do in this area but it’s already proving to be quite interesting.

Prototype Fight Cinematic

Prototype Fight Cinematic

Prototype Fight Cinematic

Prototype Fight Cinematic

Cinematics are incredibly new to the game, the aim with them is to create a simple and effective story telling device but also to add extra dynamics to the fight screens without resorting to 3D models which would increase the amount of work required. They are more impressive in motion clearly so I’m looking forward to getting a game-play video up soon to show them off.

Prototype Inventory Screen

Prototype Inventory Screen

So far the game has a pretty in depth inventory system with the ability to store items in your safe house. There’s quite a few variations of items including drinks, food, ammo, grenades, guns, medical products, traps, barricades and turrets. There is still more to be done in this area but the core purposes are there. The aim is also to be able to combine items in order to build and modify weapons much like in other survival games and to be able to find templates or recipes to help.

Later down the line the hope is to also have documents, keys and other items which can be found to unlock doors, solve puzzles and provide story.

Prototype Status Screen

Prototype Status Screen

I guess the final thing to talk about is the survival aspect of the game. Unlike a lot off games where water and food is just a way of replenishing health Will to Survive treats water and food very differently. I’ve read survival books and garnered information to give food and water a strong purpose in all this. the bars in this screen literally represent what is in Will’s body at present and these levels go down as they would in a normal person, if you move or do a high activity these levels drain faster. When you return after exiting the game it will simulate how much water and energy has been lost and Will tops up the levels by eating should he be running low. If you run out of either you die.

Something interesting that I want to do further down the line is to have the idea of thirst and hunger, if you go too low on any of these levels then things like accuracy, speed and wits will be significantly lowered as happens in real life.

There’s lots more planned for the game and lots more going on already which I’ve not mentioned but hopefully this rather long post should give you a bit more insight until I can fix a few bugs and film a game-play video.

Phew! That was long and it’s a hot day… I need to top up my own fluid levels!

In Game Screens

I’m a day late on this but as promised here are some images displaying the new tiling world art and objects as well as a glimpse of the player and alien sprites used in the world. These are actual screen grabs taken from the prototype running in 720p on the PC.

It’s all starting to come together which is great and I’m hard at work knocking off the tasks on my check list and glueing all the cracks together to form one cohesive whole, I’ve also registered for development on the Playstation Vita/Mobile. It’s getting rather exciting!… Anyway, have some pretties!

Prototype Screen: World

A screen grab of the prototype world as it currently looks.

Prototype Screen: Inventory

An in game grab of how the inventory looks with some new item art and overlaid onto the world.

Prototype Screen: Safe House

A screen of how the safe house currently looks in the prototype.

Extraterrestrial Art Time

The past two and a bit weeks have been a busy few hence the lack of updates. I’ve been busy creating all the world artwork for the prototype as well as creating sprites to be used for the world versions of the player character and alien enemy. I’ll hopefully look at uploading some previews of the new sprites and world artwork tomorrow but for now here’s what I’ve been working on today.

Alien Cinematic Art

Alien art used in cinematic cut scene events.

Most of the artwork for the prototype is now done meaning I can concentrate on finishing the programming side of things, all being well the aim is do have the prototype finished by the end of the month ready for a proper reveal in July… exciting times!

Items… Lots Of Items

As promised last time here is some item artwork that I’ve been working on. The larger ones being used for the item details screen and the smaller ones being used in the inventory list screen.

Inventory Item Art

Items that you will be able to find and use.

So far I’ve been keeping the exact details of the game a little hush hush until I’ve got a full working prototype but I’m sure looking at the items available you can glean a little bit of info about what the game is.

The Invasion Begins

This past few weeks I’ve spent finalising the design of the primary foe in the game and incurring Wacom claw by drawing a pain staking 34 different frames of animation for the beast to be used in the fight screens. Here’s a few for you to check out…

Fight Screen Alien Sprite Art

Alien artwork used in fight screens.

I’m currently working on a load of inventory artwork which I will no doubt post up soon after they are done, but at some point in the next few weeks I’ll also try and upload a more detailed concept of the Alien for you to take a gander at.

Until then, enjoy!

Character Art

Here’s some slightly older artwork of the main game character which I’ve realised wasn’t on the blog up until now. The first is for use in cinematic cut scenes.

Player Cinematic Art

Player art used in cinematic cut scene events.

The second is a piece of concept artwork done to try and figure out what the lead character was going to look like, there were many sketches drawn before arriving at this point and the character evolved slowly as the project has progressed.

Player Concept Art

Concept artwork used in developing the main characters look and style.

Hopefully this should show what I was trying to achieve on a smaller scale with the sprites in the previous post.

Run Sprite Run!

It’s been rather quiet around these parts just lately but that should be changing very soon and to kick things off here’s some new artwork I’ve been creating for the main characters sprite animations during fight screens.

Fight Screen Player Sprite Art

Player artwork used in fight screens when switching cover.

Things have been progressing nicely while finishing the work for hire contracts I’ve been working on as well as having a week off to go snow boarding. A lot of the updates to the game have been programming and tool related which isn’t very exciting visually hence the lack of updates. For those interested the game is now building for Android though I can’t create the APK as the game is already too big for the free version of Xamarin, I’ve programmed the new cut scene engine to be used for fight screen intros and story related stuff. I’ve also created a script based tool for animating and exporting XML for the cut scene panel artwork and animation curves. The other good news is that Firing Pin is now a member of Microsofts BizSpark Programme which gives some neat benefits including free copies off Visual Studio Pro and a 12 month Windows 8 developer account… Yay!

Until Next Time!

Quick Status Update

Progress has been slow of late so updates have been a little thin on the ground.

I’m still busy working on the game where I can however I’ve mainly been doing work for hire with the lovely guys over at Fat Pebble on a couple of top secret projects which have given me some very helpful Android and iOS development experience. I’ve also been helping to design and create a soon to be open shopping site for designer and vintage women’s clothing which goes by the name of Evie Knight. As you can see time dedicated to the game has been fairly minimal but that gives me a bit more cash in the bank to rest easy.

So what’s been done? Well the game is now fully ported over from orthogonal tile maps to isometric with some new artwork to boot and it certainly looks massive amounts better than before. I’m making good head way on saving the state of the world for when you exit the game and I’ve been doing a lot of background house cleaning code wise so it’s better organised for when I expand it to new platforms.

Which leads me to the other bunch of work I’ve been doing… porting! I’ve been getting ready and starting to port the game using MonoGame to all the platforms I’m hoping to build for, it’s been going well if not for a few hiccups along the way.

I spent a good few nights setting up my PC to quad boot into all four operating systems which I need to test and build with, this involved buying copies of Mac OSX and Windows 8 and a lot of tampering! It now successfully boots into Windows 7, Windows 8, Ubuntu and OSX Mountain Lion so I have the ability to test everything which is great!

I now have Xamarin 2.0 installed with a semi working version of the Android port however the game is currently too big for the Free version which is a minor blockage… I was so excited to get it deployed to a device as well!

I’m looking at the Windows 8 Metro port today and the Windows Phone 8 port is currently in progress, unfortunately the emulator doesn’t run on my machine so I need to hold off for a few weeks until I get my hands on a new phone to deploy to… fun times!

That’s a lot of text for a quick update… oh well!

Happy New Year!

It appears I have started the new year with a bang… the bang being my brain exploding as I try to convert the games tiling map code over from the easy peasy orthographic style of mapping to the much more head hurting isometric style.

It’s taken me a couple of days to really get anywhere solid, however now the game is rendering the map on screen in “roughly” the correct position and updating correctly as you move, hurrah! I think I may have even developed a new technique for rendering tile maps as the usual diamond and staggered ways weren’t quite cutting it, I feel an explanation of that will be coming later. There are still some kinks to work out before I can tick it as done but it’s nice knowing that I will soon be able to get working away on some decent world art tiles.

Here’s a comparison of the place holder orthographic art along with my rather neater looking isometric art test. Can you guess which is which 😉

Tile Map Conversion Example

How the world is changing from orthographic to isometric

Until next time… Over & Out!