• Add Review
  • Subscribe
  • Nominate
  • Submit Media
  • RSS
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
website
discord
twitter
facebook

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
  • 907928
  • 351
  • 17943

Posts

dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2966
author=Zadok83
This game is GREAT! It's definitely among the best RPGs I've ever played, indie or mainstream. The minigames are so fun, but it's a shame that there are some you can't play but once. The game isn't finished yet and it has HUGE potential from what I've seen. I was sad to see "To be continued" but I know that the best is yet to come. I can't wait until this game is finally completed!
Thanks, I'm glad you like it. Despite some of the game's issues which will eventually be addressed, I am glad you see potential.

FYI there will be some sort of arcade in the future where you can revisit all of the game's minigames and puzzles from one location for prizes, etc. (Like Gold Saucer from FF7.)
Looking forward to more of the game being released.
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2966
I'm glad you guys are looking forward to it. As always, it's in steady progress!
Melkino
solos collectors on purpose
2021
I got to the end of the demo a little while ago. It was so much fun, and I'd love to see more! :)
The variety of sprite poses were really cute, and the puzzles and minigames were enjoyable too.

By the way, I think I found a small bug: I can heal a bleeding character for free by equipping and unequipping the Mindwrath essence instead of using the bandage on them.
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2966
author=Melkino
I got to the end of the demo a little while ago. It was so much fun, and I'd love to see more! :)
The variety of sprite poses were really cute, and the puzzles and minigames were enjoyable too.

By the way, I think I found a small bug: I can heal a bleeding character for free by equipping and unequipping the Mindwrath essence instead of using the bandage on them.
Leave it to RM2k--thanks for pointing this out! haha. I will likely think of some workaround eventually!

I'm really glad you liked it.
I came here to say that facebook is encouraging me to play this game.

unfortunately I now have a Mac and haven't touched any RPG makers in about 5 years. kind of a shame. I kind of miss it. but I wouldn't have the time now anyway.

I don't remember why I still post here, even.

what day is it?
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2966
That's awesome man. If you get bootcamp or something maybe you could play it? Or there's easy rpg in a couple years, haha. I've still got a lot to do.
This game looks really similar to another one I tried a few years ago, but that one was named Dragon Heart.
Many of the details on this seem to match up, so I suppose it just made a title change.
Even your username seem to imply something. ;)
That's because Dragon Heart evolved into Starless Umbra.
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2966
Dragon Heart is just a myth!

Nah, I just changed the name so I could be a bit more original and nab a domain.
I have this game on my computer. I'll give it a playthrough one of these days! Looks pretty rad, and I've heard good things!
Meh, I was hoping that your download would have the music files in em... I love editing midis with FL Studio and making them into epicMP3s....
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2966
author=Somaru
Meh, I was hoping that your download would have the music files in em... I love editing midis with FL Studio and making them into epicMP3s....
Me too! Email me and I'll send you any you're interested in editing.
Yo dragon. Nice to see your on RMN now. I still frequent SU though it's with my nephews account.
how do you get through the catacombs? I may have an older version of the game where this is fixed. Also, what level do you have to be to defeat the dragon in the mountains, and who has to be in your party?
easily my favorite indie rpg game whens the next update planned for
dragonheartman
Developer, Starless Umbra / Heroes of Umbra
2966
author=Justicelord
easily my favorite indie rpg game whens the next update planned for
Thank you! Umm a couple months or so. Maybe Christmas? I'm not really sure. :<
Tau
RMN sex symbol
3293
So, any progress updates for us DHM, haven't heard from you in a while?