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Latest Release
0.2.0 - Jan 27, 2024

Synopsis
Join Amalia, a tracker from the simple orphan colony of Tulron, as she discovers the veiled world of Alcuria in search of her friends.

Links
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Legacy Synopsis
In Starless Umbra, you play as Andoru in a quest to attempt to return home to save your sister after bandits raid your village. This simple task complicates itself quickly, as a strange phenomenon leaves you not only away from your village, but with little direction in a completely new continent.

As you travel, you'll learn the people around you aren't what they seem, and ties begin forming between yourself and others as your past is revealed. Unfortunately, no one can answer the simple question: "how do I get back home to save my sister?"

Latest Blog

2023 Recap!



You can also watch on youtube if you don't want to read!

Hi! Once again over a year has passed since my last update. I figure now’s a great time to reflect and share what I’ve accomplished in 2023.

YEAR OVER ALREADY?

2023 had some setbacks. At the start of the year I was impacted by the tech layoffs and spent the first five months of 2023 finding a new job. I thought I’d get more development time in, but the pressures of securing reliable income constantly loomed over me. Game development for the foreseeable continues to be a side project.

I did what I could though. The new gig is good, and here we are in a new year. Let’s recap some SU dev.



NEW STORY CONTENT & MECHANICS

This past year I focused primarily on content for the second of the game’s five planned acts. Act 2 adds four new dungeons centered around a new hub town. All mainline cutscenes, dungeon maps, and mechanics are in. And yikes there are just so many small mechanics here and there that start to conflict, despite my best efforts to maintain some semblance of control over my scope. For example, having characters follow you with a basic pathfinding algorithm is great, till you have swimming, and levers to raise/lower water levels, and all sorts of interactions. These things get complicated (and buggy to be honest) quickly. But these systems are coming together and make multiplayer quite enjoyable.

On the character customization side, I’ve added a passive ability system. This is inspired by FF9’s ability system with a few tweaks. Passives have a set of triggers (I deal damage, I use a specific elemental attack, my party member is defeated, a battle begins, etc) and then an outcome as a result of those triggers occurs: usually a buff or stat boost at the moment. You have a set number of points to equip passives, but in another twist on the FF9 abilities formula, you can unlock more slots by exploring and interacting with the environment. This is a dumping ground for lots of worldbuilding and character development. The goal here is to add a bit of depth to character-building with fun ways to experiment and get creative, without cramming it in the player’s face.

COMBAT SYSTEMS

One recurring piece of feedback I received was that combat felt boring at times. SU had a distinct lack of resources. No SP? Few items? This was more out of hesitancy to implement new systems without giving it proper thought, but I’m finally moving forward with a few combat tweaks.

First, I’m experimenting with SP as a character stat. This is not a currency for abilities, but instead something more akin to hunger. It determines how much HP you recover after battle and slowly depletes after every enemy encounter. It’s replenished most easily by drinking water. But water of course requires a container to store it in, so you can’t simply purchase 99 bottles of water and be done with it. Instead — as another resource of sorts — the team will collect empty bottles. Bottles may be filled with various liquids, like potions, ingredients, and of course water.

In an effort to be more environmentally-friendly, the party saves their empty bottles after consuming water to refill later. That’s right, this is straight out of early Zelda, but the benefits this system provides solve many of the traditional problems I had with items in RPGs. You hoard them, never use them, and they just clutter your inventory. By providing meaningful choices to the player when shopping I hope to combat item hoarding. For example, I have 5 bottles, do I bring 5 waters? Maybe I bring 3 waters and 2 monster energy drinks that don’t replenish as much SP but boost my movement speed. As an added bonus, the system slots right into the game’s trading mechanics. (You trade empty bottles for filled bottles. Using a water bottle is just removing that consumable, then giving the player an empty bottle back.)

Players also have four additional secondary action slots in combat. Accessed by holding space bar (or a trigger on controller), these will be a variety of equippable combat tricks, items, and most interestingly, combos. Combos are special attacks players can create using any combination of learned skills. For instance, you might have an attack that deals frost damage and freezes an enemy briefly. Another character has an attack that launches a fireball. Because that frozen enemy is now ice element, the fireball does extra damage.

This is a lot of new mechanics for an otherwise simple battle system. I might tweak the rate at which I introduce them. I might also drop some of these if they aren’t fun or are needlessly complex. The goal here is to provide more long-term, dungeon-scale resource management to the game, and drip-feed new mechanics to make combat more interesting and engaging.



NEW ARTISTS

I’ve hired a few artists to help on the game, mostly because if I try to do this all myself who knows when I’ll finish. This is part “WOW MAKING A JRPG SOLO IS HARD” and part I actually have to be very deliberate with what little time I have for development. (I get ~1-2 hrs a night after my daughter goes to bed if I’m lucky). Spriting over a sketch to get character portraits that look barely passable take me a full week’s focused time. It’s just not sustainable and I believe in the vision of the game enough to get help.

puking rabbit has sprited monsters for all of act two. These are far more expressive and polished than I’ve been able to ever do.

Iamsako is sketching and spriting in-game portraits. Their attention to detail from sketch through to pixeling and anti-aliasing the portraits is inspiring.

1800animeschool, aka keifurisu returned to do my game’s title screen. You may remember (https://rpgmaker.net/games/407/images/20111/) (https://rpgmaker.net/games/407/images/16458/) from the rpg maker 2003 version of the game. I feel like the new title screen symbolizes a slow maturity and natural progression of ourselves as artists.



TOOLING

The way I was doing spritesheets was not at all scalable. I’ve leveraged Aseprite’s json exporter, written a parser, and then reimplemented character animations. Now a character sprite doesn’t need an entire texture page to itself. This is relatively minor from a player’s perspective but man I just want to show off what a good texture packing is capable of.



NINTENDON’T ASK ME HOW MUCH I PAID FOR A SWITCH DEVKIT

SU will target switch at launch. I pitched it to Nintendo. I’m an approved developer! From the start of development, I’ve taken a controller-first approach to input, and the couch co-op nature of the console makes it a perfect fit. The game is totally playable with a single joycon, so you can play with a friend without an additional controller.

SO WHAT’S DONE? WHAT’S NEXT?

Act 2 is basically playable from start to finish now. I’ve done three solid playthroughs and caught most of the hard crashes. Story-wise, this bit of content was particularly difficult for me to write. Certain scenes aren’t quite as impactful as I like, and the character-to-character dialogue didn’t write itself like Act 1 did.

There’s a lot of holes for side-content: an optional dungeon in an abandoned church, a hot springs side quest and so on. It’s always a balancing act between polishing existing content and charging ahead with the story and writing, but this is a massive amount of material. My last playthrough clocked in at a bit over 6 hours, so Act 2 roughly triples the amount of available content.

I’ve updated the public demo with a cleaned up Act 1. If you’d like to support me and get access to the newer stuff while supporting my dreams of finishing this thing before I retire, please consider subscribing to the Alcuria Games discord server or donating on kofi.

For 2024 I’ll continue to slowly and diligently chip away at game content. Features and polish will come but the core pieces are already here. The biggest challenge for me at this point is writing and implementing a cohesive, meaningful story: turning ideas and plotpoint wishlists into a concrete narrative. I’ll continue working on that and hopefully not get too sidetracked by shiny mechanics or minigames.

Stats
14,489 Words in script
1,013 Commits (snapshots of the codebase)
154 Maps
576kb Database (skills, cutscenes, player data, etc in plaintext)


I think about this line from SoulBlazer at least once a week.
  • Production
  • 2 of 5 episodes complete
  • Commercial
  • dragonheartman
  • GameMaker Studio 2
  • Action RPG
  • 02/20/2008 08:51 PM
  • 02/01/2024 04:45 AM
  • 01/01/2030
  • 910455
  • 351
  • 17965

Posts

Tau
RMN sex symbol
3293
Everyone has to play this game, NOW! seriously great work, should have gotten a Misao haha.
Yes, the game seems good from what i've seen and looks massive. I will try this out soon.
my font isn't right.The font fix files dont work.What to do?
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2966
Noo don't play this game. Wait for chapter five. haw haw <3
I've been hearing about this.. nice job dude.
I went to check its homepage, this game is not available for download yet, unless you want to beta-test it.
And to be 'allowed' to beta test, there is this ludicrous requirement:
----------------------------------quote------------------------------------------------
Important! In order to download the beta, you need to be logged in and have at least 30 points. Remember, it's +1 point for a reply and +5 points for a topic.
---------------------------------unquote-----------------------------------------------

That is posting on that game's own forum.
Well, I have better things to do than posting on a forum just to be allowed to beta-test... so I move on to next game.
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2966
Fafhred, the reason that is put into effect is because I only need two, maybe three testers. There are a lot of bugs as it is and there's no reason for me to hear the same bug feedback from testers to testers. Once it is ready (which it is absolutely not at the moment) there will be no posting requirements. In addition, I will make an effort to actually promote it. But for now I have been limiting the amount of traffic my game gets because I want people to play something that's good and ready--not something that has so many bugs. x]
Tau
RMN sex symbol
3293
Check the Misaos man you got a nomination!
PM me when you have a download ready.
WIP
I'm not comfortable with any idea that can't be expressed in the form of men's jewelry
11363
I just played this again real quick. The whole intro got changed from the last time I played!
I'm really glad this was featured.
Your admins and staffs are on the ball, with their thumb on the pulse of the community
Ciel
an aristocrat of rpgmaker culture
367
I downloaded this like a year ago but never got around to playing it. It looks very RM2K3! (Which is +++)
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2966
I'm very excited that this got featured! As if I wasn't motivated enough already to work on this I hope you guys enjoy it, because I am rapidly working on chapter seven. 8)
congratz on front page :D
everyone definitely need to play this game. it's epic.
Everyone so needs to download this!
(Including m-me... *click*)
Dude this map is very awesome, I've never got bored with with this game, with many kinds of unique features and mini games this is totally awesome!!! but I think I found a glitch, the house in the entrainment village, the one with 3 treasure chest with gems on it, if you get back and forth the house the treasure chest somewhat refills, so from that I can get unlimited money selling thos gems, but I know you can fix this easily, :) overall 9.9/10 for me!!!
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2966
ravenduran, thanks. It has been fixed. :]

I'll be updating the game soon.