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Prologue Demo Available!

Hello, all!

Soma Union has been in development for almost a year now, but I'm happy to say that the demo version is finally here! This build will take Zero and their friends through the entire prologue of the story, which covers both the first dungeon and the early scenes aboard the Starship Virtue. You'll get to experience the new role system first-hand and meet new and familiar faces! Altogether, the demo should take roughly 25-30 minutes to finish.

A couple of things to note about this demo:

- I am working to ensure that save files from this demo will be compatible with the final game: so far so good! But I will keep everyone updated if something changes in the future.
The ability to turn off battle animations in the options menu is currently disabled. I am still in the process of sorting out a plugin conflict that is causing this to function incorrectly. Sorry in advance! UPDATE: Fixed in v1.0.1.

As always, thank you all so much for following this project. Any feedback, bug reports, and suggestions are always appreciated to help make Soma Union the best game that it can be.

Have a blast!

Progress Report

Dev Log #6: May Report

Hey all! Just a short update for the month of May.

With all the extra time I have had to work on the game, the last couple of months have proven to be quite productive! Lets take a look at the chart first and foremost.

With the exception of a couple of short scenes, Area 4 (Lamp Land) is now effectively done. This proved to be one of the most asset-intensive areas I had planned for the game, with three separate tilesets as well as two fun* minigames to help break up the flow of combat. Once the finishing touches on Area 4 are completed, I'll be preparing to move onto Area 5 to round out the rest of Chapter 2.

Though the chart above may indicate that we're just under halfway in development, this also doesn't account for all of the time spent building the game's systems, UI, and other groundwork that constituted the first 3-4 months of development. I can confidently say that Soma Union's development is now past the halfway point! So thank you to everyone who has followed the project up to this big milestone.

And a huge shoutout to SpecialAgentApe, whose tracks are once again truly bringing this game to life. You can check out some of the tracks he's provided on the game's Media Page.

It's hard to believe that Soma Union has already been in development for 10 months: roughly the development time for the original version of Soma Spirits. Compared to the first game, Soma Union is shaping up to be quite the undertaking. And I hope to see it through to the end!

Keep on the lookout for more updates, and be sure to follow the Torch60 Twitter for the occasional update as well!

Chunky Kong is owned by Nintendo and is absolutely not in this game.

Progress Report

Dev Log #5: March Report

Hello all!

I'm sure it's been quite a month for everyone, and it's been a fairly productive month for Soma Union's development. I can't really say why without mentioning the big elephant in the room, so yes: current events in the world have left me with considerably more time to work on the game. While I haven't been able to dedicate every waking moment I have to working on the game, I've been able to take out a large chunk of Chapter 2 over the past few weeks.

I picked today specifically to report this progress log, as today would have been my soft deadline to have Chapter 1 finished. Look like I'm still considerably ahead of schedule!

The good news is that I now know exactly the pacing that I need Soma Union's story to be at, and which major events happen at what points of the adventure. The other - I wouldn't call it BAD - news is that this means I had to make my chart just a bit longer, to include three shorter, combat-free areas of the story that feature a second playable character and covers story aspects that tie heavily into the main cast's adventure.

Below is the new, updated chart!

Unfortunately, since these three interludes are a bit too spoilery to show off for the time being, I won't be able to share any new screenshots or footage until I move onto Area 4.

On the bright side, I think Area 4 will be the dungeon that is the most in spirit with Soma Spirits' sense of style and humor, so please look forward to it! I will hopefully have more of it to show before long.

Progress Report

Dev Log #4: Chapter 1 Complete! The first big milestone!

I still can't believe it's already been 8 months since development started, but I can finally say that we've hit the first major milestone of development: All of the content up through Chapter 1 is content-complete and I already found two bugs damn it! Though the chart above is not completely to scale on the game's estimated length, this is about 1/3rd of the total game.

Amazingly, it seems like my quest to make the game roughly the same length as Soma Spirits is proving tricky, as my play tests are already averaging about 2/3rds of what Soma Spirits in its entirety was, and it's a safe bet that this game will be a noticeably longer. So please look forward to it!

So what's up next?

Well, to prevent the major burnout that happened with Crescent Prism, I think it's time to kick back for a couple of weeks and give myself some breathing room. I'll likely pick development back up around late March, and then dive into developing Chapter 2.

As always, thank you all so much for following this project! I hope you will all enjoy Soma Union when it is done. Here's a bonus screenshot reminding you to take care of yourselves, too.

Game Design

Dev Log #3: A Better Development Cycle

Today's blog update isn't so much about any sort of progress, as much as it is talking about Soma Union's development cycle and how I've been able to improve my approach to developing games on my life's ever-busy schedule.

As some of you may know, I had been previously working on another game prior to this called Crescent Prism: a game that, after releasing several games over the course of a few years, was my undertaking at finally making my "big one", a dream project that I was excited to tackle. It was poised to be a 10-12 hour RPG spanning a grand adventure.

About a third of the way through development, I was fortunate enough to land a full-time position in my day career after years of searching. Which meant stable income! But unfortunately this greatly impacted Crescent Prism's development and making games sadly doesn't pay the bills, so I made the heart-wrenching decision to shelve the game and release the first portion of the game that I had completed, rather than drag it out into a multi-year project that I no longer had the passion for.

Thankfully, I managed to pick myself back up and told myself I wasn't going to let this whole game development thing end on a bad note. So here we are today with Soma Union.

But what is different this time?

For one, Soma Union is a smaller project than Crescent Prism, poised to be about half of the size of that game (Don't quote me on this because I genuinely do not know how exact that will be). And the absolutely impossible task of making a long RPG while balancing a full time day job completely unrelated to game development has helped me find a better sense of rhythm.

So here are a few things that have changed between then and now:

1. A More Structured Approach.

Traditionally, my approach to development has always been very loose. "Work on it when I can, and on whatever part I feel like working on" had been my mantra for years. But this eventually became impossible: COMPLETELY lacking structure with a limited development schedule meant that I never had a sense of accomplishment when I did work on it. And it felt like nothing was ever done, since I could never look back on an evening's work and say "I got this, this, and this done today."

Now I'm setting aside time specifically to work on the game, closing the Firefox tab of the accursed hellscape that is Twitter, and throwing on some game OSTs to get the mojo going. Rather than just working on the game whenever I feel like and never mentally preparing myself to turn away from distractions.

2. Sharing Less

One of the biggest downfalls of Crescent Prism was oversharing its development. When you're a small-time creator without a huge following, it's easy to fall into a mind set of wanting to regularly share content to get that instant surge of feedback. Those likes and retweets, and that instant gratification that comes with it. This was especially easy to fall into because I am otherwise not an artist or a content creator online, so I have not been able to share more short-form content like sketches and drawings to keep my audience engaged.

What this ended up doing was giving myself quick surges of gratification rather than saving what I had for later. Ultimately I felt like I had shared too much in order to justify the fact that I was working on it at all.

Soma Union, however, is a sequel, which is one of the reasons that I have been sharing less of its development than I had for past projects. For one, it would be too easy for returning players to over-speculate on the game's events based on the existing lore of Soma Spirits. But I also find that being more selective in sharing progress updates has had a positive impact on my morale, as well as demphasizing how much I value short-term feedback like likes, retweets, etc.

3. A Better Sense of Consistency

There's no doubt that the way Crescent Prism looked at the start of development in late 2016 barely resembles what it looked like when I canned it in 2019:

Pretty stark difference, right? What in the sam hill is going on with those gremlin-looking people in the first screenshot?

Having jumped right into Crescent Prism after Soma Spirits, the game started off with that same strange inconsistency that Soma Spirits had. While I'm hardly an ever-evolving or professional artist by any means, I think I've been able to find a better sense of style in the last year or two than I had for years up until that point. I've been able to set better rules for myself in not just how to draw things, but also how to make things work efficiently within RPG Maker. This sense of consistency has helped immensely in that both "art evolution" and "code evolution" have become much less of a problem.

Soma Union's pixel art doesn't feel as experimental, nor am I trying to figure it out as I go. I can finally sit down and say "Okay, these are the rules I am going to set for myself with this game" and only improve those rules when I need to, rather than re-jiggering the whole thing like I had at least twice during Crescent Prism's development.

This basically means I'm trying to make as many big decisions about the game now, while the game is still fairly early in development. That includes the art style, the battle system, the menus, and any major gameplay systems. So I finished as much of the engine as I could right from the very start, in such a way that I should only ever need to revisit them much later on towards the end. This has helped streamline developing actual content, instead of just leaping in head-first without a game plan. And now the rest of the actual game can be worked on without worrying about any of it.


All of this has helped contribute into Soma Union being much more manageable than previous projects, and I still feel myself going strong. While I don't think the game will be completely finished by the time 2020 is over, I can at least look at how I'm approaching it and not feel like I'm going to dread the rest of this.

So please look forward to more updates. Thanks for reading!

Progress Report

Dev Log #2: It's the Progress Bar! Wow!

This will be a bit of a short update, but it's time for the return of everyone's favorite vague development indicator: The Progress Bar!

While yes, there may not be much to see here at the moment, rest assured that there has been quite a bit of work done on the game that will make things less of a headache for me later. Virtually all of the gameplay systems and custom menus that I need are now in place and in working order, and my aim has been to get all of these systems as feature-complete as possible before moving onto building the game itself.

This basically means I won't have to worry about too much of the under-the-hood stuff for a while and can focus on creating actual content and the graphical assets needed for them. Much of the last couple of weeks has been focused on that.

Over the weekend, I managed to make some great headway on finishing the prologue area, which accounts for about the first 15-20 minutes of the game, as well as the majority of the Starship Virtue hub area. Beyond that, the rest of Soma Union will be arranged in the manner you see above. While Soma Union will contain fewer individual areas than Soma Spirits, each of them will be noticeably longer and more fleshed out. My goal is ultimately have the full game clock in at around the same length as a single playthrough of Soma Spirits.

So far, everything is going smoothly and I'll providing more updates about at the frequency that I am now, so please look forward to more info down the road!

Game Design

Dev log #1 : Power and Support Roles

Hey folks of all kinds! Thank you all so much for your support and interest in Soma Union thus far. I'm hoping this sequel can be the best follow-up that I can possibly make it, and with it come a number of big changes compared to the first game.

Tonight, I wanted to talk a little bit about one of the biggest changes I'm aiming to make to the battle system. In the original Soma Spirits, the protagonists Heart and Soul traveled between the World of Joy and the World of Sorrow to achieve their goals. Depending on which of the two worlds you were currently in, one character would take a more proactive Power role, and the other would provide enhancements and healing with the Support role. Each character had a similar move set, but access to different elements and slightly different actions that they could take.

People seemed to really like the idea! And I think it helped give each character a unique sense of belonging in each of the two worlds. But when I looked back at how Soma Spirits handled it, there were a few things about it that I looked back on and wanted to improve.

The first aspect of this was that the choice of Power and Support was more or less forced on the player and was completely location-dependent. One character would always be Power, and the other would always be Support and you were never exactly given a choice as to who would take which role.

Soma Union, however, does not feature a two world mechanic like its predecessor, so that also means that roles are no longer location-locked. This time you will have the ability to freely choose which characters take what role. You can have any combination of Power and Support roles among the party. Roles can be changed from the menu and in battle, but changing a character's role in combat can only be done once every other turn.

Like the first game, characters will still have somewhat similar move sets, but with access to different elements, status ailments, etc. Now that you can change your roles in mid-battle, there will now be a greater variety of enemies with different weaknesses to exploit, rather than one half of the possible mechanics being in one world and the other half being in the other.

The second thing I wanted to improve was just how impactful each role was to the battle system. In Soma Spirits, Heart and Soul could also use the standard attack command among other skills regardless of what role they were currently using. This meant that Support wasn't quite as "supporting" as it could have been, and many battles could be easily solved just with regular commands and Spirit abilities.

Soma Union makes the Power and Support roles much stringent than they were before. There is no longer a regular Attack command, and physical attacks are now grouped into the Power skill set. This means that Support characters have far fewer means of dealing damage than they did before.

To compensate for this, Support abilities are now much more crucial to handling encounters, and Power characters benefit greatly from having Support skills used on them, no longer granting them the clear advantage they once had. In many instances, the enhancements you can make to Power abilities may be crucial to a swift victory.

Spirit abilities, which charge over time and can be used regardless of role, will also be making a return. I have not done much in way of balancing these yet, but I have a few ideas to tweak these as well.

So there's the basic premise of Soma Union's battle system! Let me know what you all think of these changes and look forward to more dev logs in the future!
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