Now that the Theme Roulette Challenge is over (and my sleep schedule has finally recovered), I thought it might be fun to talk about some of the behind the scenes development for Bounty Angel.
To begin with, I really lucked out with "Intergalactic." I had a few rough plots sketched out in case I got something that I wouldn't have been very comfortable with, like "Cupcakes" or "Unicorn" but I'm a fan of science fiction and I also really like making space scenes in Blender, so this wound up being a really good fit for me.
I decided early on that I wasn't going to be making a conventional RPGmaker game. I've got nothing against them, but lately I've been feeling a little chafed by the restrictions of working with a top down 2D perspective, and this wound up being a really fun change of pace; multiple possible camera angles, and all that.
My main inspirations for Bounty Angel’s gameplay were Wing Commander: Privateer (I snagged the cockpit graphics from there; normally wouldn’t have, but there was that nasty deadline looming over my head, so a few corners had to be cut), Infinite Space (the cargo hold module is pretty shamelessly lifted from that game, as is the general layout of conversations), and Adventures in the Galaxy of Fantabulous Wonderment (more or less wound up using a simplified version of its battle system).
Originally I only planned on making 3D models for each of the planets and would have resized and spliced together some of RPGmaker MV’s futuristic battle backgrounds for the cities, but, I realized early on that I wasn’t going to be able to make as many areas as I wanted, and that there was a pretty huge clash between the 3D stuff and the hand drawn art.
I think I did the bar maps first. Those were easy, because I just wound up reusing the same mesh over and over, but just replaced the textures so they looked like they were different locations. Probably not ideal, but, wound up saving me a lot of time.
Then came the planets.
Vulkan was the easiest. In my notes it was just “Kamino, but with Lava.” Obviously everyone would want to live in a reinforced arcology, so there weren’t a lot of little buildings everywhere to make my life miserable.
Karth was next. I borrowed a few queues from Mos Eisley, but then added in some futuristic looking pyramids because Karth was a desert planet and pyramids are both very easy to model, and are found in the desert. I only actually made four or five of the little buildings, then just used a particle emitter to repeat them a bunch of times. One of the main reasons I wanted to use RPGmaker 2003 was because of the low resolution; I was able to get away with taking little shortcuts like that, and it kept the render times nice and quick.
Freeport was a challenge, and I’m still not really happy with how it looked. Back when I first started I imagined it as a really nice albeit artificial space station, like the colonies in Gundam, but that would have been way to difficult for me to make, so I turned it into New York in Space. Again, I just used a particle emitter to put all the buildings in the city. Probably should have found another way to handle that, but, I’m still a novice when it comes to city maps and I just didn’t have enough time to sit through a bunch of YouTube tutorials then try and figure out how to make them all sci-fi, so… the lazy option it was.
Originally the game would have just been you flying around, getting into fights, upgrading your ship and then fighting a slaver in a heavy cruiser (there’s still a reference to that, I think in the Freeport bar? You never actually fight one though, whoops) but then Illy decided to give us an extra week to make our games, so I expanded the story and had the player go and explore the alien ruins instead.
Incidentally, did you know that I have no idea how to animate a horizon? If you just watched Liberty’s stream you probably won’t know what I’m talking about, but, that’s why the ship goes into a badly animated vector graphic “Terrain Follow Mode” instead of it just showing you flying over the desert. It’s also why I had the camera angled so low when the Nightbird enters the tunnel. A little higher and it would have looked hideous.
The alien ruins were inspired by Total Recall. I didn’t really do it justice, though. They were also extremely time consuming to render, even at the really low resolution. I also had to do them over constantly because I kept noticing little errors and bleh.
It was also around this time that I realized that the ‘Realistic’ sprites I was using just weren’t going to cut it. Only Anya got a portrait, everyone else got a silhouette. This wasn’t a huge problem when everyone was mostly just a one off character, but then I kept adding the detective into scenes and things started to get a little weird. Can you imagine how the torture scene would have played out if everyone was using the same NPC graphic?
Since I’m a talent-less hack who couldn’t draw his way out of a paper bag, I was using this really handy tool called IICharacter to generate the sprites for me. The only problem was a bunch of different artists contributed to it and their styles were mutually exclusive. So YonYonYon’s excellent adult female worked great for Anya, but it would have clashed with everything else. At first I just used other styles but then blacked them out so you couldn’t notice the different art styles, but as the cast of characters kept expanding that just became less and less feasible.
One tempting solution was to just use the Touhou sprites by Kaoru. They were really versatile and had male options, so I could have dudes show up and not look extremely out of place, the only problem was that the style was… kinda Moe. I’m not the biggest fan of ‘cutesy’ anime, and it didn’t really fit in with the dark and gritty atmosphere I was trying to build. But, time was running out, so I just took the laziest option I could think of, and let the player choose which art style they wanted. I figured people probably wouldn’t complain about the lack of sprites or them not being realistic enough if you could choose which drawback you wanted.
In terms of plot, I think my biggest inspiration wound up being the Flesh Interface series, honestly the only reason everyone melts down into goo instead of turning into some horrible fleshy monstrosity is because horrible fleshy monstrosities would require me to learn how to sculpt, and that just isn’t happening. I borrowed the goo idea from Neon Genesis Evengelion because that was way easier to depict visually.
Like I said, originally I never planned on the reactor actually turning on. If I did, I probably would have made Karth into some kind of heavily populated city planet. Not a sparsely populated desert world.
If I had more time and energy, I think I would have redone the animation that plays just before the final battle. I was trying to build up a sort of Battle of Endor vibe there, but as it turns out animating a massive space battle is actually kinda difficult, so I scrapped that and just reused the same old hyperspace/exit hyperspace transition I’d been using throughout the entire game.
A better developer probably would have had the Nemesis entity call you up on the coms and start saying cryptic, yet spooky things while you blast away at it, like Giygas from Earthbound or Harbinger from Mass Effect 2. I planned on doing that but then I just wound up not doing it. In retrospect, I probably should have. Oh well. Maybe if I ever make a sequel, Slade will show up or something?
I also really should have done something… more, for the Nemesis exploding. There are plenty of tutorials for how to make things explode in Blender. That being said, I actually kinda like how horribly cringy it looks, so, maybe that’s actually the one thing I wouldn’t change.
Anyway, that’s Bounty Angel. I had a lot of fun putting it together, and I’m really happy with the response I got on the stream. Who knows? Maybe some day I'll get better at Blender, and then do a graphical overhaul.