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Progress Report

Foundation Complete

^^Yes, the image is dark. It's night time xD

Anyway, after rebooting into MV, i am finally.... FINALLY ... finished all the foundation work ... Character Designs, Database stuff, Storyboarding, Graphics organisation, Music, etc, etc... to the point where i can actually ... MAKE THE GAME! .. That is if i can put in enough time to actually make it. >,>

In a weird way, even though I've been working on this never ending project in some way or another since 1999, or this 2nd game since 2002, i think it was only a few days ago that the RPG Maker system itself finally matured to the point where i would be satisfied with the game i could make.

I was always dogged by the 320 x 240 limitations of RPG 2003 ... and XP was better but lacked the built in side view battle system and i never really knew enough about scripts at the time... and VX (Ace) seemed like a step backward ... so it was only really with the release of MV and Yanfly's hard work at realizing the full potential of it that i found myself with a platform that would make the game i wanted to make at a level of quality i could be satisfied with.

So here i am so many years later, in a position where all i really have to do is make the game...

I still honestly don't know if it will ever come to be ... it's so complex to make ... Even a 34 x 19 map (1600 x 900 resolution) takes me several hours to design ... since i'm using prerendered floors to get away from tiles, and using the doodads plugin + per pixel movement + region pass-ability + several dozen other plugins and i've got 25 pages of nots to remind me what the plugin commands are for stuff xD ...

And since i've drawn up the whole thing in advance i am certain that i will need to be really creative to keep the game under the systems 1,000 map limit if i ever finish the game, which i'll release in Chapters either way or else it truly will never stand a chance. I guess if i go over the limit there are ways to deal with that so i'll cross that bridge later...

But if it takes me 10 hours per map x 1,000 maps that's 10,000 hours to make this thing reality... and so the quandary.

How will it ever happen?
I still don't know, but... i'll keep plugging away and see.


System Reboot

I've made the tough decision to reboot my game over to VX Ace ... a decision made even more difficult by the impending release of MV.

Now, i recognize that this sort of shift is where a lot of projects go to die. There are reasons though, why i am confident that this is going to get a higher quality product out there, sooner than i would have without rebooting.


Principally, my decision was made on the fact that time invested on tasks in VX Ace is much less for my needs than it would be in 2K3.

My game is based on HD rendered assets, which have to be scaled down to the super low def of 2k3. This process always heavily distorts the image and forces me to have to clean everything up. When i spent 6 hours trying to clean up a simple swing chair the other day it was all the more evident. The higher resolution in VX Ace is enough to avoid this problem.

Second, the color depth. In 2k3 i was forced to work around the color depth by using objects to event tile most of all my maps. Every tile of every wall. Every table and chair. It was a massive headache in object mapping. In VX Ace i can simply plug the resources into custom tilesets and away i go. Things will get done at a fraction of the time.

Third, and very importantly, is the availability of assets that blend well in the overall design. Buying bookshelves and tables and things on DAZ is pretty expensive, and while i don't mind at all, and will continue to do so, the low resolution in 2k3 as mentioned above, would make it difficult to use any of those assets without great difficulty. The 'High Fantasy' add on packs for Ace are a perfect match for my Bryce / DAZ approach, as are the sprite sets. This makes life a whole lot easier, and makes the game look that much better.

Fourth is the power of scripts. Once i started really looking into the Ace scripts, it became apparent just how much better an overall product my game can be than it ever would be on 2k3. I admit some frustration that i don't know how to use both the per pixel script, and the Dungeon tools script at the same time. They just plain conflict. Badly. So i sadly had to abandon the dungeon tools for the much more important (i think), per pixel movement.

In addition, i can make the 6 player battle party i always wanted instead of being stuck at 4, and keep the active time flow as well. I can still implement everything i had put together for the whole foundation of my gameplay across the board, but do even more with it. Furthermore, the addition of a Bestiary is just plain cool.

I do have concerns given my approach about the ultimate file size issues i will face, and the 999 map limit is a big problem because if i make my maps freely as i intend, i estimate needing over 3,000 maps by games end. I can consolidate my maps thankfully, by putting sections in a larger map size, but i must avoid scrolling. It's not always ugly, but it's terribly ugly and unprofessional for the map to scroll in a single screen room. Thankfully, it looks like the camera control script will solve this... it'll just be a bit of extra tinkering.


In all, this reboot puts me immediately that much farther away from releasing anything, but in the long term, i believe this game will be completed years sooner than it would have as a result. It's basic stuff really. Being able to tile everything instead of object mapping. Not having to clean up muddy textures all the time. The addition of a quick event for treasure chests ESPECIALLY, since i have a boat load of them. It all just adds up. Plus all my character and gear designs and the core save files for many of my bryce / daz stuff still exists, so i don't lose all of my work on any of that, although i will need to rework it. I do lose all the work i put into object mapping, but hey, whatever.

So i look at it that way. Right now, i'm that much farther behind because of the reboot needs. But over the long term, all the time saved will get this product completed to the final chapter years sooner, and at a much higher level of quality.

It's also a nice feeling knowing that my project is now 100% Licence/Original/ or Freeware made, so i could put it on steam if i wanted to.

Progress Report

500 hours to go...

Or so i estimate is probably left to do before i can finally release the first 2 chapters of this never ending project.

It feels like enough hours to still be daunting, but in perspective after the thousands of hours that have already gone into this project, it's also the light at the end of the tunnel. Will i manage to get this done before the end of 2015? I hope so. I don't know so ... but i'm close enough now that it's certainly possible.

I'm finally satisfied with the game-play foundation ... which has taken a lot of tinkering over the years. Part of the complication with releasing this in parts, is what happens if i want to go back and make a significant system side change later that wrecks the save file for those who have already started playing. I hope to avoid that.

I've got a choice system in the game which adds to variables depending on the player response, and then will start to make significant storyline branches later on depending on the values, so it's very important to cement those. I went with 4, which should be more than enough for combinations.

I've also got plans from Chapter 4 onward to implement a 'home town', where the player can recruit characters to live in the town. Therefore i need to plan ahead a bit in terms of putting these named characters in the game world ahead of that point in development. I've added variables for every one of them so that i can make branches later.

I also want there to be some non linearity involved, although the plot of the game is pretty linear ... i want the world itself to be properly filled out. I want there to be changes to places the player has already been to, and allow the player to revisit them. Side dungeons, town characters, etc, etc. So i've opted to just give the player open warp to previously visited areas right from the start. If there's a story sequence that would make it unreasonable to allow warping i can just temporarily disable it for that sequence. Given the linearity of the plot, it will always make some kind of not-sense to have warping, but i imagine people are not likely to complain about the feature. It's well worth having.

With all the work on the foundation in good shape, it's really the graphics more than anything that are the time consumer now...

Honestly, i have struggled for years with learning how to make the game look GOOD. It never came easy for me. This game looked like **** once upon a time. ... and i just can't put out a product i am not proud of. Inevitably, there will be the odd clash here or there that i won't have actively noticed. Or a design choice that will irk someone ... and i'm sure to have more lightbulb moments along the way, or take good advice to further polish this aspect. Thankfully, this CAN be pretty easily updated after release without breaking the save file.

I'm reasonably happy with the visual presentation ... FINALLY. Although it is taking a heck of a lot of work. The backgrounds are typically painfully slow to create, although worth it. I've also opted to work around the tileset and color limits by using objects as my tileset graphics in large part. Every map has a basic tileset that i've edited together to simplify things some, but vastly, it is an ever growing array of objects. Hundreds of different kinds of walls, dozens of floors, plants, paintings, lights, trees, etc, etc. So even when i'm doing a more tileset based map (by design interior locations are tileset based and exterior are renders), it still takes a LONG time.

Originality is important too. I want to keep away mostly from the standard rips that everyone has seen a dozen times before ... although i'm giving myself some slack on that. Some flowers, a nice looking piano, a bookshelf. Selective stuff that can fit in. I can replace them later if need be. In all, Google images is my friend. OK, not entirely as though i drew everything by hand, but a brick wall texture i will consider to be freeware. If it's not, i'm giving credit.

I guess really, it comes down to me being satisfied. In the bigger scope, the project has just gotten so massive over the years that it feels impossible to finish. That's where my choice to go episodic came in. I can buckle down on these first two chapters and have them out with another 500 or so hours work. That's something real. About 10 hours of play ... ish. And with the foundation in place, the rest will come quicker, and it will be easier to be motivated. So things will keep rolling along.

Progress Report


I've spent most of my time lately going back through the database, both to fix some things that have been long overdue and to update some things.

One of those 'should have done it long ago' things was the sounds. There's a pretty solid database of free sounds at freesound.org and so i combed through it to give all the attacks and basic battle sounds a huge upgrade over the RTP stock. No doubt that will make the game experience much better, and i could not have really released the thing otherwise.

Similarly, i will need to finish replacing as much of the RTP monster set as i can. I spent a few days going through Charas and downloaded a few hundred ones i liked with a focus on either originals or ones without a real source definition. There's certain stuff that just shouldn't be used for professional reasons like anything Final Fantasy. But there's some good designs form obscure enough sources, and google itself can provide additional free sources.

Also, upon combing through the items tab today i realized that it is far overdue of me to just scrap the whole built in gear system. The stat and ability growth for characters in my game is nearly completely done through the use of customization instead of the level curve. Having standard armor sets seems useless as a result. Instead, i figure to devote the gear slots to accessories. There are 5 total in RM2K3, and the decision for me to make right this moment is should i devote all 5 to accessories or keep one or two for customizing the basic 4 of ATT, DEF, INT, SPD. I'm not sure yet.

On an aside, i just saw the "how is this game 400mb? did you accidentally include an episode of Friends in the exe package?" quote on the website banner. Well, MP3's really do add up. MIDI doesn't cut it. :)

Dunno, once i am satisfied with the database tabs in the next little while i will move on to really polishing the game itself. That will take some time but not too long, given how much is already in place. My goal remains to release Chapter 1 and 2 on their own as a starting point so that i can release something this year. As you will notice from how old this project page is, it is long overdue.

There is the choice of should i release each subsequent chapter as a stand alone download, but i have decided not to do that. It offers me much greater freedom with the project as a whole and simplifies a whole bunch of other stuff to just keep it as a single download. That does mean people will need to redownload the whole thing when each future chapter is released, but i think... in today's day and age... a few hundred megs is not really a burden to any ones bandwidth.

Game Design

Thoughts on 8-bit Color depth

Self motivation is always a bit of a constant inner struggle while i plod along with this project. The old phrase 'best game ever' is generally not something to aspire to, if only because the claim itself doesn't work. Still, i expect of myself a certain level of overall quality that i cannot compromise on. Certainly this game would have been finished by now if i wasn't constantly asking the question, 'how can i make this better'?

There is an abundance of content on this site. So much so that it is almost i think, even too much to expect to stand out. No, i think it would be a mistake for me to compare my work to others directly in an apples to oranges kind of way. Rather, i want to ask myself, 'Am i satisfied'?

Well, 8-bit color depth is something that always has irked me a little about my chosen platform. Finding ways of maximizing the colors is one part of the graphical presentation i must do my best with. I always admired the Saga series for its world immersion, and graphically, the point at which i am satisfied is when i feel that my game can be looked at also as an artistic experience.

So long as i hold on to Rm2k3, so far as i know, there are no 24-bit options. But what i do have is a virtually limitless array of content storage. The 256 color limit is per map and per layer.

So i did at first apply this to mixing pre-rendered backgrounds and chipsets. A bryce floor texture is less repetitive and works on its own 256 palette. It also takes some strain off the map chipset since i can effectively erase the floor tiles. Adding a transparent glow through pictures on lights or for any shading purposes is also its own layer. Each picture is its own. To the best of my knowledge, there is no way for the picture to be beneath the chip set graphics and character graphics, and this presents a very real limitation.

Ultimately, i have come to that point once again, where a very time consuming task simply has to be done because i don't want to settle for less. That is simply, to turn the vast majority of my entire chip set graphics into object files. Object files are each on their own 256 color palette, and so in theory, each and every tile in the game could be its own 256 colors. Of course, this isn't entirely necessary, but it does mean that i could display thousands of colors on each and every 20 x 15 map (which the vast majority of my currently 1000+ maps are).

I figured that since objects are events, i would have to leave a few things on the chip set, like tables and chairs. If i want to place a beer bottle object on a table, i cannot have two different events graphics on the same tile unless i move one event on top of the other during map transitions, which ... maybe is just taking it a little to far. But for most anything else, like bookshelves and walls or carpets when they don't have something on them, or lights and shrubs and plants and barrels and just about anything else, they can be object events.

Better yet, any of the objects can be used freely on any map, like having one giant chip set file instead of being restricted to a map specific tile set.

I suppose again, if one wanted to make a custom graphic of the table or the wall with every imaginable combination of objects pre-placed onto it (or use pictures instead of objects), then there would be almost no further need for the chip set whatsoever, except for animation tiles. I have decided not to go quite that far. This simply because for a marginal chip set, 256 colors still goes a long way, and i can change them with every 20 x 15 map.

Progress Report

...and i am back

First off, this project is not dead. The only way this game does not eventually see release is if i die before i finish it. When that day comes, i really don't know. Life keeps taking twists and turns. I had meant to have the first 2 chapters up here last spring/summer, but then i hopped into my car and eloped across the continent to meet a girl, who i am going to marry.

Sadly my game did not come along for the ride. In hindsight i really ought to have brought it but at the time i left, i did not think there would have been time... and i didn't think i would be gone for so long either.

So here i am. I THINK, or at least i hope that i will have ample time over the next few months to really grind out some progress, being as i am not working currently. I do understand that it is wise for me to just release the first two chapters and then add a chapter at a time as they are finished. This should, if all goes well, get the first 10 hours of the game to you all by summer.

Part of me knows this game could have been finished some years ago, but it has gone through so many evolution's over the years. It will be done when it is ready. I suppose if there is just one thing to know, it is that this game WILL be finished as long as i am alive to finish it. This is most certainly one of those projects that has expanded to such a ridiculous size that you could expect it would die, like many others before it that just got too big. I will finish it though.

Progress Report

Progress Report

It has been one week since my last update, so i thought it time to post another.

I wrote earlier that i thought there was maybe 1,000 hours of work left to do in the game as a whole, but i badly under-estimated that number. It is likely closer to 3,000 hours. In any case, i am committed that the episodic release format is the only way this story will ever be completed. For Chapters 1 and 2 i believe another 200 hours work should do it.

My immediate goal is to have the graphics design largely completed in time for the Olympics. Given that i am now re-modeling the last area of Chapter 2, this should easily be met.

During the Olympics, i will be glued to the TV to watch them constantly as i always do, but fortunately i have 3 monitors. This means that production on the game will continue on one screen while i watch the Olympics on the other. It's a good multi-tasking approach which has always served me well. Currently i am catching up on my favorite radio program while working on the game.

As i am preparing this for a release, i'll need to comb through the database and fix up all the small things that i've been 'leaving till later', so this will easily be accomplished during the Olympics. It's a small task, maybe 20 hours worth and easily suited to the situation.

I've also got a couple areas i want to fix up graphically, but nothing hugely complex. I also need to add a couple cut-scenes, most especially in chapter 2 to glue everything together properly. There's a lot of characters and it't important i keep track of them so that no one is forgotten for extended periods, or their locations at crucial times unexplained. I may want to flesh out relationships a bit too, we'll see. All small things adding up to i'm guessing about 50 hours work.

So there's 70 hours there, and largely i feel i can accomplish this during the Olympics. That way i can go into final testing afterward. I might at some point feel compelled to add a new area or something, but in general, that last leg isn't too complicated. It's still 10 hours of game time though and i'm aiming to play through it 3 times, but maybe 2 will do, it depends. The final test through will be off the game disk i create. A couple weeks should do it, so for now i think Mid-March is pretty realistic.

My body might fight me pretty hard trying to adjust to Russia time though, and if that's the case, i'll be zombie brain and things will slide back to late March. I'll keep you posted.

Progress Report

Release Plan

I'm determined!
I want this game released.

So, I'm going to focus on finishing Chapters 1 and 2 and get them out to you as soon as possible. That way, instead of looking at the monstrous task of getting the whole thing finished hopefully ever and then losing heart and getting sidetracked for another few months... i'll take it one very doable chapter at a time. I'll look at Chapter 3, and only Chapter 3 and polish it, then update the release.

Chapters 1 and 2 will account for about 10 hours of game-play. They are very close to being ready. What is left to be done and how i intend to approach it is as follows:

#1 - Polish the graphics - Give me another 2 weeks for this.
I'm redesigning a couple areas i'm not happy with, and finishing the last area in particular that has dogged me for years. Also, i've got some creative ideas to modify my chip-sets so that they are more entirely original than current. There will be some trial and error involved, but it should both make things look a little better and eliminate that feeling of seeing a chip-set you've seen in a dozen other games.

#2 - The Database - Can be done in a few days
General tightening of the database contents. Also thinking of replacing the RM2K3 wav sounds with the set of a newer maker like VX if they are better, why not upgrade? Also going to replace all the stock monsters in there, and i've been using stock RTP sprites for non-essential characters... so i'm going to go on a charas blitz and make a few dozen townspeople types.

#3 - Play-testing phase - 2 - 3 weeks
Going through the game and snagging all the spelling errors, glitches and whatever else. Making notes in general. Tighten a couple battles. Then make a branch off copy, scrap all the materials not used in Chapters 1 and 2 to make a smaller file size and wrap it up for release, make one final play-test to make sure it works and go.

It's all very close enough to be a realistic goal at this point, so i'll drive hard to get it done. Then you'll all have something to actually play, and i can start taking this one chapter at a time, which means chapters will actually get done.

Progress Report

Episodic release

In the words of an old teacher of mine,
'You have to release this some time, or you'll never release it'.

That is the development story of this game.

So i've been turning that over in my head the last few days,
what do i do with this?

As the years have wore on, the once new and shiny RM2K3 is now the older program to the newer and shinier XP, VX, and Ace makers. Still, the old RM2K3 battle system is perfect for my needs, and no newer maker has updated it. Of course i could create a custom system on a newer maker to replicate what RM2K3 offers... so shouldn't i do that? I could handle the task of transferring the resources over, and the battle formulas too, but unless i could just directly copy and paste the maps and events..., no, if i had to remake all the map designs and events it would take forever.

So i take a step back and look at my game and the RM2K3 platform. It does do generally everything i need to make the game i want, except for three factors.

1) The 320x240 pixel depth
2) The 4:3 frame instead of widescreen (i'm not a fan of stretching).
3) The 8 bit color depth

Thankfully i have resolved #1.
I found a copy of cherry's old Hq2x program and will include it with the game. Many of us have used it in emulating those old PS1 games, and it looks wonderful. The screenshot below is using it.

I am also not overly concerned about #3,
if only because the screenshot below shows how far 256 colors can go. The trick obviously, is to limit the color range per picture. This one has primarily only the greens and yellowy browns in the spectrum to share it, so both color ranges look full. If i added Blue and Red to this screen, the shared load would create a noticeable drop off in quality. Obviously i'd rather have some sort of tool or plug-in or just be using a program with a higher color depth, but i can work with this.

That leaves #2,
Which i have no idea how to work around without stretching. I suppose the individual player can make that decision on their own. If i could, i'd make my game with triple widescreen support, but, if there's no way to modify the original RM2K3, at least none that i know of, i guess i go with it.

So that brings me back to the idea of Episodic release. The more i dig into the scope of this project, i am reminded that i'll never finish it.. and what i mean is, that even if i finish this entire story arc, i've still got more stories to tell in this world that would be entirely separate games. Finishing this particular chunk though (9 chapters at the moment), is doable within a couple years.

I have minor concerns about the episodic release format. One is that i'd like to have a gameplay mechanic where the player makes choices which change variables and branch the story-line later on. With episodic release this becomes problematic because i am always making changes to this. My second concern is more simply that i am always tightening up small things across all chapters and i push forward. Maybe remaking a map, or cleaning up dialogue, or tightening a battle. I suppose neither concern is game-breaking though. I could keep tweaking things forever. Certainly asking a player to re-download 500megs in today's day and age should not be too massive an ask?

The character customization element in my game is extremely deep and i'd like to allow the player to carry their builds over from start to finish. For this reason it makes the most sense for the entire game to remain on a single platform. Still, releasing the game in chunks would make a change to a different maker possible later on with less headache. Certainly it would make it more of an option to consider. Also, giving people something to play would substantially increase interest in this project (or not if everyone hates it, haha).

Probably the benefits of episodic release far outweigh the drawbacks.
So that is what i will do.

Progress Report

I'm not dead...

Perhaps this game is best suited for the category of games that simply got too large to ever see completion... except that this is a story that i must complete before i die.

Then, i have felt over the years that i simply was not ready, not mature enough to write the story well. I also suffered a loss three years ago which crushed my motivation to continue.

The reality is that all of the most challenging work to be done on this game is largely complete. The foundation is all in place and i need only finish it. Maybe now is the time, but i make no promises.

I have a story to tell, and one day i will finish it, if not here, then in a book, but i will finish it.
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