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My third official hiatus status. :)

I'm going to dump a wall of text from the website, but the short version is I got pretty fed up with dealing with 2k3's engine bugs. I wouldn't mind finishing this, since RM20xx seems to be on-track, but for now I'm exploring other related things.

Around mid-October I really started slowing down with the game updates, and that is reflected in the forums. I did my due diligence in planning out the custom battle system, but I began losing motivation for the following reasons.

1.) Complexity: RPG Maker is not object-oriented. That means the work to implement one character or enemy would have to be copied and pasted, then modified, to add additional characters. This is a huge, error-prone overhead I was never happy with but always found hacky workarounds for (like the footprints system). At one point I considered creating a simple stack so I could do things like recursion, faster sorting, and variable management with ease, but stack manipulation (if you've done any sort of assembly programming) is not fun. In short, even though I had planned the battle system out, complexity swallowed up the development time as I spent more time sorting through lists of variables, copying procedure calls, and less time writing fun and clever algorithms.

2.)Speed: RPG Maker wasn't designed to handle the amount of stress I put in the custom battle system. A sorting algorithm is by no means fast, and at worst-case situations it required thousands of calculations that needed to handled relatively instantaneously for the end-user in order to not cause any sort of major input or visual delay. I was starting to see slow-downs on my high-end PC, despite all my efforts to optimize code. Without a doubt I've known RPG Maker was not able to handle some of the things I've developed, but when it gets to the point where a core component of the game could outcast, say, half of my fan-base that doesn't have a faster-end computers, I need to do something.

3.)Age. RPG Maker 2003 is going to be ten years old. Starless Umbra is ten years old in December. I'm using terribly obsolete software. Not only am I fixed to a single platform (Windows), but gaming is now on an array of platforms, and even Windows support is dwindling. On my Radeon 6970 graphics card, the screen periodically flashes black in full-screen. 320x240 resolution is awesome, but it's not supported by very many monitors. (When's the last time you've seen a 4:3 aspect ratio monitor, by the way?)

I burned myself out and stopped working on the game. From there I went on to doing some Java programming just to see what it was like. Despite being a programmer with a strong passion for game development, I've not done a lot of "real" game programming (other than a game engineering in C++ class in college).

In November, Gigatron was born. Gigatron is a simple side-scrolling shooter I developed with a few friends in a few weeks. I learned a lot about rendering, network programming, interface handling, and a lot of the backend work that goes in to something like a real game. Gigatron is written in Java and is more or less complete, but the code desperately needs to be cleaned up before something seriously gets released.

After Gigatron, I realized I didn't want to do complex hacky scripting in RPG Maker. I decided to revise the default battle system with some of the ideas I had implemented for the custom system instead. For a few weeks development had resumed; however, this didn't last long for my fourth grief with RPG Maker 2003 surfaced:

There are bugs with the engine. Remember that issue where the cursor wouldn't remember the last skill you selected but instead jumped a few slots down when that character got to act again? Yep, that's a bug with RPG Maker 2003. Remember the issue where the game would suddenly crash without warning during a boss battle for some reason? That was beyond my control. What about where fonts would be squished? Or dual graphics cards caused the engine to crash? Or movement getting stuck in certain directions? None of this was within my control and I again lost motivation to continue with RPG Maker 2003.

But not all is lost! SU's future has been on my mind a lot these days. There are many paths I've considered taking now, but none of them involve canceling the project.

For one, I can write an interpreter, similar to wolfcoder's RPG Maker 20xx. The big gain here is that I'd essentially be writing my own engine that reads in all of RPG Maker's project data files and customizing it a bit to my liking. This also means something like Starless Umbra in it's current form could be played on something like an iPhone if you really wanted to.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I definitely want to do something mobile, so I'm working on a SU-related minigame in Android that employs many techniques and algorithms I can use if I decide even to write SU from scratch. Within the next month or so if I finish it, it'll be available on the Android market to enjoy and then I'll consider Starless Umbra again.

After this game, I am considering implementing the battle system first--once and for all--on a mobile device as sort of a PVP-over-wifi network battle game using all the ideas and algorithms I already developed for the custom battle system. That can easily be extended to a full-length RPG.

Well, not quite easily, as now I feel a need for more original assets: sprites, artwork, music, and so on. To make matters worse, this need is amplified by the fact that I've lost a few members of the team due to some personal issues. But hey! At least now I'll have an opportunity to really work out the dialogue kinks and boring parts of the project.

What I'm getting with this is if you'd like to help with this project, in the coming months there will definitely be opportunities. Is there compensation? Some, but not much as if I actually owned a company or something. If you want to get in on this though, let me know. If you have any other questions you guys know how to find me.

Well, if you don't by now know how to contact me...
Any specific development work for my projects gets posted to starlessumbra.tumblr.com and @StarlessUmbra on twitter.
There's also a fanbase on facebook I'm trying to expand at facebook.com/starlessumbra. Sort of hard if there's no real current product to market, but I always check up on it. If you're really inquisitive, you can find my personal facebook there. Feel free to add me.

This project is sort of becoming a testament to my devotion and passion; it will always continue to march forward, even if I've been silent. I want this to be the best it possibly can.


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