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Progress Report

Heartland: Interact EVERYTHING!




Well, well. Each week it passes, one more day the weekly report is delayed. But it is here nonetheless.

This week's report includes an important aspect of games that ironically we often forget to include in our games. I hope you're guessing it right--Interaction.

Interaction is what makes a game be, well, a game. Otherwise it'd be like watching movie, or like reading a book just that more visually (in case of RPGs). Games of course are interactive. Heck, even walk simulators are. The level of interaction, however, varies from game to game. But we will be talking about RPGs for simplicity.

In JRPGs the 'interactive' part often reduces itself to moving around, go from place to place and battles. And menus. Some JRPGs include 'extra' stuff to appeal more, like the overused (yet never boring) fishing minigame for example. Puzzles are also among the most popular examples. From moving rocks to reach somewhere, to pressing the right buttons in the right order, as well as the classic 'find the way to move an object so the floor switch keeps pressed and you can continue your journey through the dungeon'.

Everything of this, however, relies on the same interactive factor (player movement and pressing action key at much), just re-invented to be fun. But interaction can go much further than that... or closest.

What if instead of pressing the action button (often 'Z' key) to open a chest, you'd have to do something else? What if to pull a lever up or down, instead of just pressing Z to make it go one or the other, you could press UP and DOWN when you're close to it? In fact, why opening doors by just colliding into them, or, once again, pressing the goddamned action key? Have you ever thought the motion one does when grabbing the knob?

That's what I mean by closest. Player interaction can (and must!) be actually re-invented in order to make the most ordinary stuff (again, opening chests, activating switches, etc.) a bit more 'fun'.

Heartland's today actualization includes this... in several ways.

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Maintain the action key pressed close to a lever and proceed to choose wether to pull it down or up, by pressing the corresponding up/down arrow key :)




Chests are often heavier than pulling levers. Maintain the action key pressed while close to a chest and proceed to press the up arrow twice. It can contain makerscore.




Open the door by maintaining the action key pressed close to it while you perform a semi-circle sequence, just like if you were turning the door knob. The above signal can be translated to (1.→ 2.↑ 3.←). Folks that like fighting games will get the hang of it quickly :p




Other actions can be more complicated. Precision action is an example of this. Activate what's in front of you by pressing the action key right when it's time. Otherwise nothing will happen!


There will be more actions to objects! Not only variations of the same (double-tap down key, right semi-circle, full circle, etc.) but also other type of more complex actions (short QTE, other mini-mini games like the focus one, etc).


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Player interaction doesn't end there, however. We said those are the closest forms of interaction--what's in the most ordinary stuff. Other ones are more original themselves, and situational--therefore needing a special action.

As an example of this, here's the Memory Focus mini-game. It happens in a matter of seconds. If player succeeds, not only Rose will recover memory from the person she's trying to remember, but also will get a special bonus. If player fails, she won't recover info from them, and will not get any bonuses whatsoever.

There isn't any GIF for this one, but I'll try to explain.



You have to help Rose focus on remembering that someone. For this, press the action key as hardest and fastest as you can. The fastest you tap the key, the smaller it'll be the circle and the closest you'll be to achieve success. If you aren't quick enough, the circle will get bigger. If it gets out of the boundaries, you'll lose.

Once you success, info will be shown, as it can be seen in the third frame of the image shown above.

How's that? Leave your comments here! I'll appreciate it alot.

More's coming for Heartland!

Progress Report

Heartland: New Textbox Format and More!



Ahh. Should've posted this yesterday, but my connection sucked. Regardless of that, here's the weekly report on Heartland's progress :)

This weekly report is short on content unlike the last one, sadly. But this time at least I got GIFs to show!

What I wanted to talk about today is textboxes. To me, text, from the way it's displayed, to the font and the colours, is highly important in a game. Specially in RPGs where everything is managed through it (GUI, dialogues, story narrative and whatnot). Therefore I needed to change the way text was displayed in my game due to the graphical upgrade I made. The first stop was the text aesthetics--it needed to stand out more over the new windowskin. So then, I decided to use gradients(thanks Neonblack) just like rm2kX did, as well as a contour. It looked neat.

However, the next problem I saw was how text was shown outside of any GUI. Heartland is a game that features a narrator telling the player everything you do, what you have to do and what you did. The way the game showed the narrator's lines before featured no textbox per se. It was rather a black bar with the width of the screen and two lines worth of (possible) content. This had problems: the screen being 640px wide made the text line too "big" to read comfortably. Like it wasn't so much of a big issue, but it was not optimal. Also, having only two lines made for a lot of text display commands, thus getting easily lost if you didn't pay attention enough. Putting a lot of text in two wide lines also wasn't optimal. So here's the solution:

I decided to go back to using a textbox. A very simple one yet handy which could hold any of the contents I'd put into it, in a coherent way of course. Apart from that, the thing also has a sound when it opens and when it closes (soft and nice, of course) for better immersion. This decision optimized the aesthetics of the text display method as well as optimizing the problems it had when reading.



One of the harshest critique I received was how damn slow the text was. And I completely agree. Hence why I changed the speed to the quickest, reduced wait command for punctuation in half, and made able for the player to skip text by pressing the action button (Z).

Remember what I said about the two lines not holding enough content? Well, this textbox is smaller but can hold four lines. Even then, some paragraphs can have more than four lines. What'd happen then? Another text display and continue the same problematic? Of course not. The paragraphs can now be reviewed! This is done by pressing the up and down arrows of the keyboard.



Smooth-fashioned! Thanks to modern algebra for their ATS scripts. Wonderful doing.

If you're wondering how it'd look in a map, take a look! This is the same scenario than the gif at the top.



A few last notes to be said: I yet have to re-visit the menu design. And I did, but then I realized that it had to have the new gameplay elements not yet defined, and thus I couldn't design something unknowingly of its contents themselves. For such, I decided to firstly re-structurate the game flow, story and narrative firstly and after everything's done, the CMS will be made. It's just more logical that way.

Last note is that Heartland: Awakening will be a game of its own. What will remain from the old Heartland are only core elements (such as characters and -some- of the barebones of the script). A lot to be changed. However, and for exposure purposes, I'll keep blogging in this game's page :)

Well, that's all for this day! Time to drink (more) coffee.

Progress Report

Heartland: (A Visual) Awakening





Yes! Finally an update. Took me long because of reasons and because of bad internet.


One aspect that I seemed to ignore on the Heartland's changelist was a visual revamp. While its style was just OK being minimalist, mainly black and white colors, I didn't wanted it to stay like that for a future remake. It just doesn't feels like the vibe Heartland should be giving. Back then, when I finished the game, I had to make a logo and the presentation overall, and so I understood quickly that just black and white wasn't going to work. But I had to keep it minimalist, so I went for the safe go and just made a minimalist, kinda soft pink coloured logo. It was OK, but nothing so special. Oh, and I did put an ending scene as the background. Very dark, but it's still there.







That was it, yeah.

But it was remake time already and I needed a whole new fresh image for Heartland. Something more impactful, vivid, vibrant, intense. Something that felt like "oh this is nice" more than just "eh ok *keeps scrolling*". And I must say, It wasn't easy at all.


The first challenge and main problematic was the logo itself. *What* in this god-forsaken world represents Heartland? Its thematic, its plot, its vibe? What is it? Just a heart? Come on! I broke my mind to pieces when I tried to come up with ideas. The old logo featured a heart split in two at the both far sides of the text (which reads Heartland). If you ask me, it looks OK (which is not awesome, or nice) but it doesn't *tells* you anything. It's like, just a picture there. Bland, meaningless, empty. And it wasn't even stylish!

So this friend o' mine comes to me and says that, if the protagonist is called Rose, I maybe should play with that. Some petals and stuff perhaps. And I just went "oooh". Kind of an epiphany. Long-short story, I came up with many different concepts for it:




This one I still like, but its just too weird. I like it 'cuz it's weird, but it doesn't have any meaning. It's just... a thing.



Unbeknownst to me, this was the prototype for what was going to be the future, definitive logo for Heartland. I made this iteration even before my friend advised me.




Second winner overall. A lot of people liked this, and some perhaps may still think this is better than the current one, but it has problems when you take it out of just being a white-on-black logo and start giving it shape and colour.
]



Yeah. Don't ask.




Winner! It's still basic but it has more meaning to it. It has the rose, its an abstract heart and, if you look well, in fact there are *two* hearts. The second one is background--what makes the figure be split. The second one is just upside-down :)




Before deciding to go full vibrant, intense and colorful, I made this trying to keep the minimalism. Comments were all the same: it looks good but it *needs* something*. I couldn't agree more. It's just bland.





So then I had a logo that worked but a style that didn't. And If I wanted to go for a more impactful style, I had to go *deep*. That'd mean changing the whole UIs, graphics and all the looks of the game. Because one thing I hate is a logo that doesn't fit the thematic of the game, and that its style isn't reflected on the user interface (call it menus, text and whatever else).

Long-story short, I changed everything just the necessary for it to fit and to stand out, but to keep it simple as well. Not minimalist, just simple. Results?





Versus






Notice something? I've also had changed the character graphics! I used gradients area by area to enhance graphics and make it look not only more coloured and vibrant, but also more alive. Here's a quick comparative.





Beautify magic! I enjoyed the process of doing this. I still have many to go, but I'll make 'em come alive when its time for.

Next current objective is re-designing the menu concept I was working on for the Custom Menu System (CMS) that Heartland will feature!

For now, I'll leave a screenshot of the previous concept I had:






Character graphics from:
Rose: Sorejanai.blog.shinobi.jp
Valerie: Makapri/Kingdom Kohsheng (ameblo.jp/makapri)

Announcement

Heartland Returns.

Okay, crazy stuff. Never have written any blog whatsoever. Like, anything at all—not even a personal diary. Hell, I don't even use Twitter that way (as a lot of people do). But I felt the necessity of sharing my progress on Heartland so far, maybe because I didn't intend to remake this game.

For you, curious person that perhaps is reading all of this blabbery, do know that I made this project for IGMC 2018. On top of that, I finished it in just 13 days—what was left of time due to me losing all the progress for a (different) game I was working on. That is, 17 days of progress vanished away in a blink. Boo.

As a result of the hurry this game contained several errors. Even game-breaking errors if I recall correctly. A lot of polishment issues, like, a friggin' lot. Besides technical stuff, the game itself felt rushed. I couldn't see it right away—took me all this time for me to notice it. The narrative, which is the main focus of this game, felt hurried, plain and the neuralgic parts instead of giving proper exposure to the plot, were more of a text throwup.

Even so, I never could quit Heartland off of my head. I left RM for a while—tends to happen in me—and recently returned. I was plotting a game set on Heartland's universe (which is rich enough to make many games) but...

One day my GF comes to my house. All good. I had talked to her just a bit about my experience in the IGMC and how I got to make this game—Heartland. She had never been in here, so when she came, I decided to show her the stuff so she could get a brighter idea on what was it all about. Yet what really happened was the both of played through half the game. That resparkled things in me. That is, the love for this project.

So I decided to make of this what it should've been in the first place. The game that I wanted this to be, that it needs to be, and what I want it to be: a fucking great game.

TL:DR; Heartland Remake is in the making. I will re-structurate everything—from the plot, to the visuals, to the gameplay. Some stuff just enhacenments, other ones a new build-up.

I will be sharing blogs about my progress so far! I hope those seven followers (bless ya) I've got since then are still interested in this. And for anyone that isn't, please do subscribe! (if you're interested enough).
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