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Progress Report

BiWeekly Update No.2 - 2/3/2022

Ok, so, I'm a little late on this one...but I just moved house, and I think most people would struggle to maintain regular productivity during a move.

Key in-engine updates:


- The first two sections of Part 1 are fully greyboxed. The locations this covers are: Deling City, Balamb Garden, Balamb Town, and Dollet. I am currently working on greyboxing Winhill fully, it's around 60% done. The remaining sections required/not touched for Part 1 are Timber and a few dungeons, though dungeons in general I'm doing less greyboxing for since I'm not using references.
- Rough gameplay elements for these are also in place, but they are not priority.
- At about halfway through the overall story for Part 1, the scenario takes about an hour and a half to run through.

With general progress updates out of the way, I'd like to discuss a couple of design decisions.

1 : Lore Expansion

A very key angle I have aimed for with SLH is to not unmake any established lore that FF8 provides. While I was writing collaboratively for the game over the past few years, I saw a lot of people going for the angle of 'I can fix it', rewriting key aspects that they deemed 'poorly done'.

I've never really agreed with this take, because I don't think FF8's lore is poorly done. Perhaps not entirely well presented in places, but the game is also not forthcoming with information -- it must be sought.

The only real 'rewrite' I have done is changing the Poison element to Dark, and switching up some of the GF oppositions to suit.

So coming into writing SLH as a whole, I instead try to ask what supposed 'gaps' I can fill in naturally, adhering to conventions established in game. These are things like each city's main exports, plotting out unestablished but inferred smaller towns and unexplored dungeon areas. Which brings us to the game's second dungeon: The Old Timber Mill.

Profile

The Old Timber Mill saw around 70 years of continuous use, with operation even continuing during the Galbadian occupation at first. However, the Galbadian regime became suspicious of it being used as a Resistance hub, and its operation was violently shut down, with the wood logged from Timber's forests instead being moved and processed through a Galbadian built and controlled facility. The old building still stands, unused, though rumours have long circulated through Resistance members that there may be a secret way in and out of the city in the building.

Needing to seek access to Timber but lacking a clear path from the south east, Rinoa's group seek the abandoned facility for this very reason.

Gameplay

The Timber Mill is a puzzle-based dungeon, though it has been occupied by monsters and animals during its years abandoned and will have encounters. The area must be explored thoroughly to find and open the secret passage that will allow progress into Timber.

2 : Player Character - Seifer Almasy

Seifer's inclusion as a playable cast member has long been decided, though not discussed at length on this game page. During the aforementioned period of writing collaboratively for FF8, I met a number of people well-versed in Seifer, and came to more deeply appreciate him as a character. Looking at SLH's overall plot, upping his involvement to playable became an easy decision. And in that same vein, I am treating his inclusion the same way the original promotional materials treated him -- his story is of equal footing and importance as Squall and Rinoa's. SLH gives me an opportunity to explore their relationships to each other, and how each has coped with the aftermath of the original game.


Brief Rundown


Following the defeat of Ultimecia, the brainwashing that had taken place in Deling City was lifted. Ingrid Deling, Vinzer's successor and the new president, demanded immediate extradition of Seifer Almasy for war crimes. However, Garden rebuked the demand, refusing to turn him over and instead claiming he was Garden's responsibility. The debate was still in place the war reignited, and thus has been left at the wayside...for now, at least.
Seifer's actions and movements are carefully monitored, but he has relative freedom of movement and agency within Garden and occasionally outside, provided he is escorted. However, events of SLH have resulted in Seifer not only being locked up in the disciplinary hold...but breaking out of it. Again. Naturally, the circumstances will become clear during the game.

Design
(You can view his design in the images tab)
In terms of Seifer's design, I knew I wanted a few key elements:

- Some kind of hood
- Some elements of armor or medieval 'knight'
- Maintain the original palette

Which the final design manages to accomplish. The back silhouette invokes the profile of a medieval knight's attire, along with keeping Seifer's symbol and trademark white coat. The hood is present to hide his face/identity, though he was unable to fully let go of his trademark colours. Portions of the boots were inspired by the Bodyguard's Attire from Final Fantasy XIV, which I felt was an appropriate point of reference given the gear's clear Seifer inspiration.

On that note, Squall's design is not inspired by the Allegiance gear, though it looks like it. I'll probably talk about FFXIV: Shadowbringers in another blogpost, because while SLH's story has not changed at all in response, you'll definitely find similar plot points in both games.

Gameplay

Seifer's main specialties are damage and enmity. Although he has high STR, his focus on group damage means he's less about boss focus (especially in his early kit) and more about crowd control. As a tank, Seifer's enmity generation is a Provoking move which raises his enmity level to max and bottoms out the rest of the party's, so if not serving as the sole tank, it's best he goes second.
Seifer has a few drawbacks - his base kit is elemental leaning, with several moves using Fire-based attacks. He is also not a proficient magic user, instead using chi-based energy to create magic-like effects, and therefore has the lowest number of GFEs he can link with.

Another drawback to Seifer is that his kit starts out with no self-sustain and lower defensive stats, so he relies on the party healer keeping a close eye on him and regular refreshing of his enmity draw. Later on he gets more of his own self-sustain (or can be bolstered with the Alexander GFE), though he'll still need healer support if not using a curative GFE.

What's this about 'secondary tank'?

Although not relevant to the first part of the game, the game mechanics and kits are, naturally, being developed for the game as a whole. From Part 2 onwards, you'll have access to a Reserve Party that can be subbed in at any point during combat, if you so wish. There'll be several benefits to this, least of which being able to have flexibility regarding elemental weaknesses and playstyles on the fly.

Alright, so that's all from me this fortnight. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up the pace again now that the move is (mostly) finished, though I won't have access to my main computer til tomorrow.

Ciao~



Progress Report

BiWeekly Update No. 1: 14/2/2022

Wow, actually keeping to targets?

Well, tbqh I actually typed this blog up over a week ago, which is most of the reason I can post it today.

So, especially given my last update was very bare bones, I'll put what writing I lost in this update. Let's start from the top.

Early Era (2012-2015)

The VXA build of the game and the demo that still remains up. At the time I was in uni and this is also around when things started going pretty downhill home life wise. There were a few compadres in this era - NewBlack, who assisted with art and design as well as narrative ideas. Happy, who was brought on for music, but wanted to be involved in other things (which resulted in a bit of headbutting). MakoInfused, who was lead programmer and fantastic to work with.

And, to be frank with you, I was at the "" last section"" of the first "disc" before the VXA version was dropped.

So what went wrong?

Me, of course-- home life and mental health being on a downward spiral doesn't exactly make for a game-development friendly mindset. But there's a bit more to that.

Basically my own inconsistency meant that by the time I was no longer in contact with the aforementioned people, for various reasons, I didn't feel comfortable contacting them again. So in the interest of doing it myself, I ported to MV to rebuild the systems using existing plugins.

The MV era 2015-2019

Let me preface with 2015 to 2019 was a complete wash for me productivity wise. I got very little art, games, or writing done due to home circumstances, though I did try. Often.

After the port, I ran into intense (unplayable) lag. Realising I'd have to rebuild from there I began listing out exactly what systems I needed, what I wanted to have, and what I needed to do to make progress. Around here was also when I realised that 48x48 was better for the existing SLH sprites, and went "I could just rebuild a few maps I guess". Hah.
Along with using Hanzo Kimura assets (bleh), I hadn't tracked anything I was using. Sourcing and crediting has become progressively more difficult. And, at that stage...I shelved the project, as I was not able to continue any of my passions.

The Revival - 2019 (documentation) into late 2020 (MZ releases and the new build begins)

Here's the thing about the VXA build. It...was boring. It felt like the beginning of a JRPG, rather than actual progress through 1/3rd of a plot. Not to mention that you only had access to ONE permanent party member and were holed up in a single location for the whole time. Scope-wise, fine. Fun-wise? Bleh.

So I did a revision that made that 'one' into 'four' and the 'one location' into...well, a lot more, knowing that I'd have to address my mapping speed along the way. Which is fine! Because...

Critical Change 1: Streamlining

Gone are the cowboy days of only documenting a select few things. I've got a lot of documentation now (which is what a good chunk of 2019-2020 was used for). This includes making the sprites into templates, more cohesive use of 3D models for reference, and...splitting and sorting map tiles.

I'll go into the way maps are handled being different later, but it was handled poorly.

I also have a trello and a google drive to keep track of things.


Critical Change 2: Gameplay Flow
Of course the move from 'one location' to several is a pretty big thing, but the reality is it's not as much as you would think. The added locations are Balamb Garden, Balamb, and Timber. The permanent playable cast is four members, and you'll find out fairly early on why not everyone is available. You'll also get some of the development you do for the temp members carrying over, so it feels less entropic to actually work on your PAE and GFE builds during Part 1.
In the original version you would see glimpses of the other parts of the plot during sleep, but I've instead reversed it to ensure certain plot points are addressed earlier and give a better idea of the plot unfolding for SLH.

Although this build is a lot more work than 'hang out in Winhill for 6hrs', this is 50x more interesting and conducive to the game as whole.

Critical Change 3: Map Handling

Now heres the thing with this game: my maps were...mostly accurate, thanks to lots of flubbing with parallax and tiles. But the trade off for that accuracy was of course, time. But we are talking hours and hours and hours and hours and HOURS AND HOURS and hours and hours of scrolling through the tilesets I had collected (with no credits like a dummy) to find the perfect tile that I KNEW I had seen at some point (and this is for things like, a couch. Or a globe). This was for every single map I made. We are talking 10-15+ hrs per map with 10 of those being spent looking for items.
Unsustainable, as I'm sure you can agree, especially when the first part of the game is currently sitting at approximately 160 maps.
So I am slicing every tileset I have (now with tracked credits) and sorting into specific folders based on their form and function. Globe? Astrology. Knife? Tools/Utensils. Windows? Do I need round, curved, arched, square? Programs and utilities to speed up scale, animation, and isometric conversion when needed
It also means I can move to using actual tilesheets and plugin light as opposed to parallax and baked light. The filesize of the VXA version was already beginning to bloat, and that was without animations being considered.

The other change in this regard is moving to 'greyboxing' maps before I try to build them with final tiles. This involves using very simple, grey tiles to outline how the map will look in the engine and to give myself an estimate of map scale and the tiles required. From the 'greybox' version it will be much, much easier to build into a "real" map, even if I have to leave it barren initially. Greyboxing is also damn fast to do. Getting so much into the engine so quickly has actually been driving me quite a bit these past few weeks.

Critical Change 4: Development Process.

SLH Disc 1 is currently divided into five phases, ones that I can move sideways across, but deliberately not too much.

There are Phase 1 Scenario, Phase 2 Gameplay, Phase 3 Graphics 1, Phase 4 Graphics 2, Phase 5 Polish into release.
Why scenario first? Because nailing the scenario of this game is the most important aspect. While all of it is important, if the writing doesn't feel right, everything else will fall apart. Presently I'm about halfway through the Scenario phase, though I had to take a brief pause as I updated the phase to include greyboxing each area as it comes up.
While Gameplay is Phase 2, this does not mean no systems are in place. In fact, aside from a few aesthetic pieces and things I need to event, the code base of SLH is implemented and ready to go, as are the formula functions. Gameplay being in Phase 2 is for things like puzzles, dialogue trees, detailed boss mechanics, dungeon exploration, etc.
There's no need to go into the future phases yet, but I will keep you updated on them.

In terms of having something playable by May, I'll need to make the maps, then I'll use a lot of existing assets-- but I think its important to have something palpable for you as well as for myself. Programmer assets are one thing but actually getting a ghost of how the game will actually be...feels very special.

There's a lot more I could go into regarding the gameplay design, what got cut and what's still here, the streamlining I've done, but I think this blog is plenty big enough. On the next bi-weekly update, it will be more specific progress details, though my speed will slow as I am moving house over the 22nd to 24th, as well as uh...well...I work in healthcare admin. So work's kinda busy these days. Doesn't stop me from working on the game, but does take a few energy notches out of me at times. I'll definitely have something for you by then however.

Sorry that was such a big read! But I like being as transparent as possible and the biweekly updates are a part of that. If you have any questions please ask - I am happy to answer.

I will also be planning to upload a few screenshots so keep an eye out for those, but keep in mind due to the way the phases are set out, I won't often have graphical majesty to show off until a bit later.

Progress Report

i'm alive

i closed chrome and forgot i had a draft of this blog open and i lost all four paragraphs I had

tl; not writing it again, my abuser left in 2019 and i've been working actively on the game since bc 2014-2019 was a complete wash productivity wise

i'm gonna try for bi-weekly updates and for something playable in may but no promises

at least this is here so i don't have to keep checking in on the 2014 blogpost featuring an animation that's been done for years

here's a library test map

Progress Report

Swish

I've been really busy the past week, but it's been a great experience and I've learnt at lot- basically, I did an animation short course at uni. It was a lot of information to absorb in one week, but I've come a long way because of it.

Basically, this is a long winded way of saying I've remade Squall's attack animation. Finally. Rejoice!



I'm still working on what I'm going to present tomorrow in terms of assessment (since this was basically a catch-up on the classes I failed around a year and a half ago).

Generally the course has given me a lot more confidence and energy to animate, so hopefully you'll be seeing a bit more from me on that end.

I've also done some minimal event work and some sketches for a map. I did also make this for the Japanese 15th release anniversary...

...which is obviously not going into the game.

But yeah! I'm going to try and blog more often, since I just feel like I'm out of contact with you all.

Game Design

Discussions on Tutorials

Before getting to the crux of this blog:
I have been working, just not updating. And I've been playing a lot of games for inspiration and research in the meantime. So I'm not on hiatus, I'm just not around here all that much.

Onward!

There are a couple of things that are considered consistently problematic across the board with Final Fantasy VIII, and one of them is how it handles Tutorials. They're long, cumbersome, and tend to be a little inconcise. Because Junction is fairly complicated to pick up in the beginning and learning its nuances can take a lot of time, this makes the learning curb steep (and is a large reason why people drop the game quite quickly.)
Now, I've never quite understood why they're so long myself, because Junction is simpler than what they make it out to be, really. It could've been left in the players hands a lot more.

I've just recently started 13-2, and despite it being a sequel it still covers the basic mechanics (and I've noticed a small number of people interested in this game actually haven't played Final Fantasy VIII, which is curious but not something I'm going to touch on here). I like 13 and 13-2's style of tutorials, which are informative, easy to skip, and concise. If they are skipped they can be re-accessed through the Datalog, and since SLH has retained the Information menu section I can do the same thing.

My reason for creating this blog is thus; what do you, as a player, feel would need to be covered in tutorial sections? What would you prefer be in-depth, and what would you prefer to be glossed over/read up on later? Should I include a basic battle overview (given this game has a different system to FF8) or allow the player to make their own way? Do you feel like Tutorials are a waste of time or necessary? Would you rather controls be covered in a manual or a document or within the game itself? How much prior reading do you do before playing a game you've downloaded, whether that be here on via formats like Steam or the PSN?
Discuss away!

Announcement

Starting the Livestream now!

I'm about to start importing and adjusting maps that I was working on earlier today, then I'll probably do some battle balancing, database or sprites. I may also be working on our dear Selphie's portrait, so if you want to see my colouring process tonight might be your night :3

Go here! http://www.livestream.com/sorceresskyrsty

Announcement

Anyone Interested in a Livestream? [7-10-13, 7pm, GMT+11]

I'm scheduling a livestream for the time in the blog title (so in a little under twenty four hours) for maybe three hours or so. I'll probably be either doing pixel work or in-project work, such as databasing or testing the current build. If you want to see what's currently going on, or would like to request something (like portrait drawing? I'm thinking about working on Nicolau or Tobias's) post away!

There is a (slim) chance I won't be doing SLH work, but I will most definitely be working on games in some shape or form. Sorry about my times being so awkward; I live in Australia and we just went into DST. Balls.

Anyway, have some artwork from earlier last week.




Announcement

Livestreaming Now!

I'm going to be Livestreaming some Sleeping Lion Heart dev work, possibly some drawing for my school project involving Lukas. It's currently 6:40pm my time (so...8:40am GMT) I dunno how long this'll be, but come say hi and watch if you like!

I'm mostly going to be working on Dollet hopefully. I will warn you that I am a bit slow when it comes to mapping, but maybe it'll probably some insight into how I do things.

Hope to see you there!

Link: http://www.livestream.com/sorceresskyrsty

Progress Report

Butts

Hi guys! First of all, happy belated birthday to our grand buttsmith Squally-chan!




Dun worry guys, this is like a regular thing for us. Worry about the fact I have mental conversations with Squall in my head.

I dunno when I last updated, I'm having a great amount of difficulty keeping up with things lately. More or less I've been absurdly busy. I am out of the house for school 20hrs a week and now I work 20hrs a week as well, so if that doesn't put a damper on my timekeeping abilities I don't know what will.

I've been mainly working on that train sequence I hinted at in the last post. I need a few action sprites for it, so that's what I've been fiddling with, along with the intro sequence.



I kind of really liked how the intro image came out, especially since it was done in a little over an hour I think? It was pretty fast.



So the intro sequence is mostly done and now I have to do the eventing for the train sequence. I keep telling myself I could get it done in one night and then blowing it off and going to sleep instead. I DON'T WORK A DESK JOB, LET'S JUST PUT IT THAT WAY.




I've also been doing some database work, using spreadsheets to pre-calculate damage ratios before putting the formulas into RM. So far it's going ok, just a little slowly.



I didn't post it last blog, but I've also been doing some tile work (yay?). Since you can walk in 8 directions I figure making some furniture like that will help break up the grid.


No updates in other fields since my other two team members have disappeared for the mean time (MakoInfused is around every now and then, but with NewBlack...well let's just say we're doing the internet equivalent of putting up 'MISSING' posters. He hasn't been around for a month and a half, no hair or hide of him to be seen.

If you do see NewBlack please call our hotline which is 1800-WE-ARE-GOING-TO-KICK-YOUR-TEA-DRINKING-HIDE)

Well that's all from me! Have a screenshot of what happened after Squall realized I only wanted to draw his butt on his birthday.



Needless to say, I only got one completed.


Progress Report

Greatest Blog Ever!

...Not really.

As I ever-so-obviously pointed out, Laguna Loire is officially included in SLH's roster. Although I didn't realize until I was looking for pose references, his class in SLH is very similar to his Duodecim incarnation. Laguna's the only one who can use Militia items, which used to be restricted to a sub-class called Demolitioner. Certain skills will use certain Militia things, and as he levels up he gains new skills that use different amounts or types of items. For example, Desperado would use 1x Grenade. There's going to be a variety of moves, many most likely inspired by Duodecim, but like Squall there will be some new ones thrown into the mix.

So, since I haven't posted in forever-ages, I guess this had better be a nice big blog post, eh? True question is, have I been working?!

Yes. Yes I have. HOLY SHIZ.

Alright. Soooo I've actually decided on the proper intro for the game now. Starting out in Deling City in the RSW demo wasn't...dynamic enough. So I've added a bit to make sure the entrance is nice and abrupt. Drop you right in the thick of it. I won't tell you too much, but it involves trains.

Yes I did draw this specifically for this blog.
No, the train sequence does not involve Laguna.
I wouldn't let that man within ten feet of a train.


Aside from that, I've been mostly mapping and doing cutscenes for Winhill. I wanted to remake some older maps because they were genuinely too cramped for cutscene use, so I did!


Text box is semi-transparent in the final version. I have a common event for them.

Artwise, I'm sure most people who are reading this blog will have seen the new Squall portrait. I'm still playing around with how to crop it, but I'll get there eventually. I'm a much bigger fan of this version than the old one, at the very least.


I have a STYLE apparently

Continuing along on the arts, I should probably preview Laguna's art, eh?


battle sprite, guest staring Zell and Irvine's FF8 outfits


Outfit design, featuring VESTS.

I do love vests. The outfit's pretty simple, but I didn't want Laguna of all people wearing something complicated.

Aside from new cast members, I do have some new-ish stuff for some other members of the cast that I do need opinions on! I'm not completely satisfied with Irvine's, though I think this might, finally, be Rinoa's last incarnation. Friggin hell.
Rinoa:

Irvine:

And one last sketchy-one I did for Tobias:


Aren't you guys lucky?

Although it's probably a bit early to actually be mentioning it, I will be looking for a composer at some stage. If anyone's interested please message me, but I'll warn you that I'm picky about this. Sound design and music is so crucial to a game's vibe and energy, and I need someone who knows how to keep the power and emotion of a song in place. More or less, the songs I'm referring to are The Legendary Beast, Man with the Machine Gun and Only a Plank Between One and Perdition. If you think you can deliver a satisfying rendition or integration of these tracks in a song, then by all means, give me a buzz.

Anyway, onward and foreward! I plan to have that train-related intro done some time soon.

Out of curiosity, which would you prefer in the opening of an FF8 sequel- the game's tagline ("When the sleeping lion awakens, grief will swallow it whole") or a throwback/something similar to the text during the opening of Advent Children? ("For those who loved this world, and found friendly company therin- this Reunion is for you"). Of course, phrased differently.

Something along the lines of
"For those who promised to wait."

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