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Announcement

A Prayer Answered

I think I crunched so hard over the last two weeks I deserve my own cereal. Red_Nova's Crunchberries: a suckerpunch of flavor, overtime, and a rabid desire to follow through with your commitments at the cost of your time, health and friends in every bite. Buy now for only $29.99!

... Maybe I need to work on the advertising campaign a little bit, but it works! Because, as soon as I submit this blog, I'm gonna compress and upload the complete prologue for Prayer of the Faithless. YAAAAY!

Like I said before, this took much, MUCH longer than I thought it was going to. And the worst part is, I did more work since releasing the tester's copy than I did the month prior. I seriously underestimated the amount of work that would go into this game. If you don't take anything else from this blog, take this: No matter how much you plan and prepare, a game will take longer than you thought it would initially. This can be applied to real life too, you know. But whatever. No one's learning any life lessons on MY blog!

There's been a surprising amount of coding that went into this project. I've always been able to code, but I haven't taken the time to learn RGSS3, so I just let it fall to the wayside for all my other projects. Even now, I wasn't creating completely custom scripts, just tweaking already made ones to make the act in different ways. It's been, by far, the most tedious and annoying part of the process, but also one of the most rewarding.

The second being, of course, the characters. It's been a blast writing the initial cast and, even though you only play as three out of the six planned cast (while interacting with a fourth), I'm pretty proud of how they turned out. This goes for how they play in battle, too. One of the goals for this project was to make each character feel more unique and less like the same cookie cutter character templates in battle, and I think the end result succeeded in that.

But enough rambling. I'm just happy to finally have this out for you. Of course there's plenty more things I could do to improve the prologue, but I said it was coming out this month, and dammit I was going to follow through with that commmittment! That's why I had a bowl of my own Crunchberries cereal every morning!

So yeah, as soon as the prologue goes up, I hope you download it and give it a play. It's actually a bit longer than I planned, clocking in about 1:30 hours of playtime, but I hope it's an engaging 1:30 hours.

Now then, if you'll excuse me...

*dies*

Game Design

The Delicate Art of Murder: Suit up!

Since I started school two months ago, progress on this game has dropped to a pathetically slow pace. I had wanted to get the prologue out before I started, but that just wasn't going to happen. I've been working on this in what little spare time I have nowadays, but don't expect rapid updates anymore.

Good news, though: I'm about 90% done with the prologue! All I have to do is write out a cutscene, then the boss fight, then the ending cutscene, and then the core of the prologue is complete! Then all I have to do is add more NPCs, make some tweaks to the battles, run some bug tests, update the character art, pick out some music, edit the dialogue, run through the prologue myself again... tweak the equipment again... Get eviscerated by beta testers...

*sigh*

Anyway, while I don't want to commit to a hard date yet, I think I'll have the prologue ready for public consumption sometime soon. One thing I can say with certainty is that it will be out this month. I'm really sorry to keep you waiting for the prologue. Believe me: I did not expect it to take as long as it has.

But enough whining. No one wants to read my whining. Although it's fun to whine.


While there are no official classes in PotF, a character's equipment loadout is designed to be something akin to a subclass. Adding in an official class changing system would be a bit too rigid, so instead, players will be given a healthy amount of weapons, armors, and relics, and it'll be up to them to pick and choose who gets what given each character's stats and innate abilities.

Equipment has three major functions: Altering stats, applying bonus effects, and enables Drives if said equipment is a weapon or offhand item. Some gear leans more towards one category than the others, but that's the general idea.

Let's use Amalie as our test subject since she's the most standard party member in the prologue. (Aeyr doesn't have his power yet and Mia breaks the normal routine in character building) Amalie, unaltered by any equipment, should play similarly to a Final Fantasy Paladin. At the start, she comes with a mix of aggro moves and state restoration abilities. This is her starting equipment loadout:



Here's the catch: She is a Manna, and Manna are typically weaker than a standard human. This means that her Attack and Guard stats will be below average compared to others at her level. After you gain a healthy amount of equipment, you'll have a number of options to get around this problem. Here are a few examples:

1: Turn her into a Sentinel by boosting her defense.



So we've equipped her with medium armor and swapped her shield to a heavier one. The Helmet prevents Head Injuries, so she'll always be able to use her aggro and defense abilities. The Drives that come with the shield enables her to stagger the enemy, leaving them open to further damage, and go into a counter stance, which prevents her from taking any more actions that turn, but nearly guarantees a counter if physically attacked. Plus, her Guard stat has jumped up, so now she won't have to worry about using too many abilities to leave her with less SP and consequentially, more open to damage.

However, note the drop in max SP. There's much less flexibility in what she can do in combat. She can't attack or use her abilities as often as she could otherwise. This is because she's been loaded down with medium class armor, which takes off a percentage of your max SP.

So the result is Amalie becomes more of a hands off character than she was originally. Less SP and actions to perform, but a more solid Guard stat that can't drop no matter how low your SP goes. If you prefer a more offensive, high risk/high reward style approach, you can...

2: Turn her into a Duelist by boosting her counter attack rate.



This loadout makes Amalie much lighter on her feet than the other one. The Rally Drive she gets from the sabre enables one ally to perform a critical attack on their next action. Her Target Shield and Guerilla Boots combine to give her a constant 30% counter attack rate, which nullifies damage to Amalie and hitting the enemy for a boosted damage value unaffected by their SP.

To tweak it further, you could swap that Sabre with the Swordbreaker, losing a Drive and a bonus to her Magic stat, but boosting your counter rate even further, or Ruhiel, which inflicts Bleed (losing HP every turn) on a target. However, Amalie has one of very rare magic attacks of all the party members have. And if you're fighting a crowd of enemies with high SP, you'll lose the chance to do some preemptive damage.
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Hopefully it's more clear now how much more of a difference equipment makes than levels. This was actually more detail than I had intended (why bother playing the game when I'm pretty much talking about it all right now?), and so now I'm going to go into my little hole and get back to work on finishing this prologue. Next time you hear from me, it'll be announcing that it's out and ready for public consumption!

Game Design

The Delicate Art of Murder: Stamina

Sometimes it takes a little time away from a project to break your mind out of a routine that you settled in, you know?. Sorry for not being as active on here as I used to. I don't really want to go into details; Suffice to say I've been ... out of it... for a few days. I know, I know: don't go saying things haven't been going well without talking about it or else you'll look like one of those Facebook attention seekers. Well, I feel it's important to be as open and honest as I can with you about what's going on behind the scenes, especially since it directly impacts the development of this game. The good news is, though, that my little funk is over and done with. I'm really pumped to come back to this project! Now that I've opened PotF for the first time in almost a month, I feel refreshed, energized, and ready to get going again.

Right then, back to being fun.


It's been requested that I talk about the battle mechanics next, so that's what I'm gonna do. One of my main goals with the battle system in PotF is to place the emphasis on player skill over levels. If anyone hasn't seen Egoraptor's Sequelitis, go watch that now. It's a series I highly recommend if you want to learn more about game design. Anyway, a short statement that he made in the Castlevania episode stuck with me: Do you really feel accomplished by grinding and getting the best weapons/spells that boosts your damage output? Or do you feel accomplished by using your intellect as a player and work with the game's mechanics to overcome a challenge? And you know what? I agree with the latter. If you have the right strategy, but didn't spend enough time killing the same mobs over and over again just to boost your numbers, then don't you feel even slightly cheated or that you're wasting your time? I know I do.

So how does one emphasize player skill in a turn-based RPG? Well, my solution revolves adding more functionality to each character's SP.



Just like in Soul Sunder, every action you take, with the exception of using items, has an SP cost. Yes, even your basic attack. Basic attacks will cost just 1 SP, but all your abilities will cost 2 SP or higher. This limits your damage output and prevents you from spamming strong abilities.

As of right now, there are no items that recover your SP. To regain lost SP, you use the Focus command. This costs you one of your three precious moves you get during your turn in battle, but it restores the character's SP by 50%. Since every enemy has a relatively high attack and magic attack stat, you will get punished if you waste too much time making your characters Focus over and over again. And since there's no real healing spells in the game you can access easily, it makes every point of damage the characters incur have much more impact. This is why you're encouraged to spread out actions among the party instead of making a single character act solo.

However, there's another reason you'll want to keep your SP high. In addition to being required to attack the enemy, each character's SP factors into their defense. So whatever damage the enemies do to you will not only be reduced by your physical defense stat, but also your SP. Oh, and many enemies have SP as well. And since 90% of your attacks are physical based, that's gonna be a problem. You'll have to reduce the enemy's SP by using a character's Guard Break abilities. But wait! That costs extra SP on your side!

The balance of reducing the enemy's SP to damage them while keeping your own high to protect yourself is determined by player skill. You can fight an early game mob with mid game equipment, and still have the potential to sustain heavy damage if you're not paying attention. If all goes well, the game will be rather easy as long as you know what you're doing and pay attention to the attributes of the enemy you're trying to kill.

At the end of every battle, the characters will restore all of their SP, but not their HP. So not only do you not need to waste time making every character Focus multiple times before ending a battle, but you can turn up the heat and use more powerful attacks to end a battle quickly. The idea is to finish battles as quickly as possible to avoid enemy's attacking any more than necessary.


Thanks for reading this text wall! Next blog, I plan on talking about equipment and how that factors in to the emphasis on player skill.

Progress Report

Becoming One with the Machine (and some Announcements)

Let me tell you a story about friendship, coexistence, and forced assimilation: Yanfly's Target Info script refused to play nice with the Luna Engine for the longest time. If you tried to use it, battles would lock into an infinite loop, effectively freezing the game and forcing you to restart. I don't know what the deal was between them. Maybe the Luna Engine broke Target Info's favorite toy when they were kids and was never quite forgiven. Regardless, Target Info was just determined to be a disruptive child, and so was put on the sidelines while NeonBlack's Enemy Scan script was used as a substitute.

Unfortunately, while NeonBlack's script does some cool things that Yanfly's does not, it did not have my favorite feature: comparing the actor's stats to enemy's during battle. And so, with my recent interest in delving into and messing around with scripts, I decided to drag Target Info out of retirement to undergo some... "persuasive therapy".

And it worked. Yanfly's Target Info script is not only working perfectly with the Luna Engine, but the, uh, "therapy" went so well, Target Info decided to apologize to Luna by showing off more info that it hadn't originally:


See? Now you can view HP and SP in addition to the four main stats on the Parameters page! Woohoo!

Okay, dry humor aside, I wish I could put into words how happy this makes me. Being able to see the enemy's stats and weaknesses/resistances was one of my favorite things about Soul Sunder's battles, and even in RPGs in general. Without it, players wouldn't have as much information conveyed to them, and battles would become more of a guessing game of finding the enemy's weakness. If you died, it would be hard to justify the cause of death, and you could end up feeling cheated. No longer!


This would normally be a good segue into talking about the battle system. Hell, I've already written down what I want to say about it. Plus, since it was requested, I feel back for not talking about it. However, there's a couple of announcements I want to make that are pretty important.

1: That August 17th date I set before just isn't going to happen for the whole prologue. I underestimated the amount of work I had left to do, and I'd rather wait to give you guys a quality product than a rush job. I've gotten about 80% of the cutscenes done and all the battles done except for the end of the Prologue, but that's just the barebones. I haven barely touched most of the extra stuff (NPCs, extra maps, etc.) and I wanted to get those done. Sorry! But you'll have to wait a little bit longer for the prologue.

2: Well, okay. How much longer? Well... Good question. For those that aren't aware, I'm participating in the second McBacon Jam! Which means I'll be tied up for the next few weeks while I work on that game. I would say I'm sorry but... have you seen team I'm on? I'm working with unity, Luchino, and JosephSeraph. All wonderfully creative people! Sorry, but I'm really not sorry. So instead of a prologue to a game, I'll work with others to give you a WHOLE, COMPLETE game. That should make up for the lack of activity here, right?I know any of you would have jumped at the chance to work with them, so you can't blame me for this, right? ... right?

Wait... what are you doing with those torches and pitchforks?

Progress Report

Nature of the Beast

I wanted to wait a bit longer before writing this next blog to keep from pumping out too much info at once, but the initial reaction to this has been so unexpectedly awesome that my motivation has rocketed higher than it has been since January when I started working on it! I've been blasting through tasks that normally take me an entire day's work to do, and I've made SO MUCH progress that it's insane! Learn from this, everyone: if your motivation starts to take a dip after a long time of solo working, don't be shy about sharing what you have.

Game Structure

So I said in the last blog that I'd talk about the overall structure of the game, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm sure you've noticed the episode count on the main page, yes? Well, PotF isn't going to be strictly episodic like what you see in, say, Fire Emblem. In truth, the episode listing is more in line with a pseudo progress bar for the entire game. Each "episode," is just a chunk of the game that is to be completed and playable. So you're not going to see chapter splash screens or cheesy, "Next Time on Prayer of the Faithless," scenes. No.

So what does each episode consist of, exactly? Well, PotF has two main characters, Aeyr Wilder and Mia Alacruz. After the prologue, the two of them will split and undertake their own separate journeys. With some exceptions, this means that each episode will be divided into an Aeyr segment and a Mia segment. While the final product will undoubtely be different from my plan, I'm aiming for each half to take about 30 minutes to an hour to complete.

I like this structure because it gives clear beginning and end points allowing for character arcs to make a powerful appearance without dragging on and bogging down the player. I think this is especially important for longer RPG Maker games to help keep them focused.


Art-tastic

You may have noticed a new portrait completed in the character tab a few days ago. If you haven't already, go check it out! I'm aiming to have a new portrait and description done about once a week, so be on the lookout for those! Plus, there are a decent amount of characters that aren't playable but still very relevant to the story. For example:



Commandant Vanessa plays a very prominent role in both Aeyr's and Mia's story.

I want to draw a portrait for her, and I will eventually along with all the other characters that get busts. Since she's not a playable character though, a portrait wouldn't go anywhere in the game, and isn't a good use of time right now. I'll do that later once I get all the portraits for the party members that you'll see in the prologue done.

Speaking of which, here's a WIP of the next party member to be revealed:



This is what a true Manna looks like: Dark skin and red eyes (does that remind you of anything, Soul Sunder players?) are the defining characteristics of a Manna.


Art has been, by far, the biggest time sink for this project. It's coming to an end soon, though, at least for the prologue, and I can focus more on the writing and eventing.


As for where I'm at now...

The current prologue has about 45 minutes of content ready to play. That's including cutscenes and battles. Thing is: it's still pretty barebones. Few NPCs have been added, some interiors aren't finished, and the second half of cutscenes haven't been added yet. So I imagine the final prologue will take over an hour to get through. This is surprising, since I originally planned for the prologue to take 30 minutes at most. But there is quite a bit of story to convey, and it has to be paced well enough to avoid the dreaded info dump. Don't worry, you won't be sitting through a long cutscenes where your only interaction is to mash the space key. You'll be doing plenty of walking about and interacting with others.

I want to talk more about the battles systems and such, but I think I've wasted enough of your time already, so I'll leave that for the next blog. This does raise a question, though: What are you interested in reading about? I've been working on this project for half a year already. I've got plenty to talk about. Hell, I could post about 10 blogs on the story alone. But posting constant updates of "I did this, I did that," can get pretty old pretty fast, and the last thing I want to do is bore you by ranting about things you don't care about.

I want to get you involved in this as much as I can. So whatever you want to hear about, let me know and I'll tailor future blogs accordingly.

EDIT: Oh yeah, a release date.

Well, I'm going to start school on August 17th. I aim to have the prologue out before then. you'll have something playable soon. Yay!

Progress Report

Coming out swinging

Finally, after about 7 months of planning, writing, coding, and arting (that is now a word), I've got enough material to warrant a gamepage! And I checked off the short term goal of getting New and Notable! We're off the a pretty good start, if I do say so myself, but now the challenge is carrying that momentum going forward. I'd like to start off but talking about the top two priorities for PotF:

- A character-centric story reinforced through gameplay. Since character development is my favorite thing to do in literally any creative work, not just gameplay, that's at the front and center of PotF. If you haven't already, check out the Character list. It's got a detailed description of the characters you can play as during the prologue, although you'll meet most of the cast as well. Those that have played Soul Sunder know what I mean. It's going to be a bit tougher this time around since PotF has TWO main characters, but I think I can pull it off.

Let me tell you, though: I'm really liking these characters. They all have distinct personalities reflected in their battle styles. It's been so much fun playing with them and writing their dialogue. I hope that comes across when you get to play it!


- Giving players as much control over the battles as possible. This may be an unpopular opinion, but one of my biggest beefs with RPGs nowadays is the reliance on the RNG for hits, misses, criticals, etc. If I select an attack, I expect said attack to hit the opponent, especially if there's no indication that enemies can dodge attacks. So I made a few minor changes: Crticial values default at 0%, and accuracy and evasion defaults to 100% and 0% respectively. These values will change, of course, but you will be made aware of when they do, allowing you to adjust your strategy accordingly.

What I want to happen is, if players get a game over during a fight, they'll learn from that death and can come back and adjust their strategy accordingly. If you do everything right, you should never get screwed over by RNG.


Speaking of the battles, this is not going to play even REMOTELY similar to Soul Sunder for one specific reason: the reworked item system. The biggest flaw in SS BY FAR was the glitchy items. No, I'm not pointing any fingers because there's too many things that went wrong back then to lay the blame on any one person, but I vowed never to use that combination of scripts again. Problem is, the entire game was built around that system. So once the item management was gutted, it created balancing problems with enemies, which created balancing problems with character skills, which eventually snowballed into a situation where half the entire game's system had to be scrapped/reworked. Essentially, this entire game, despite being a, "sequel," is completely different from its predecessor.

Which is good, right? No need to worry about Sequel Syndrome since this isn't going to play like SS, right? Cool.


Now, what can you actually PLAY? Well, at the moment, I've got about half the prologue done and playable. Not enough for a release, but enough to start sharing my progress. Without battles and speeding through dialogue, the current build has about 10 minutes of content. That's pretty good.

The original plan was to release the prologue once it's completed. Now, I'm not too sure. Of course, I'll eventually release the entire prologue, but I'm wondering if a small teaser would be appropriate. It'll give you a glimpse of what's to come and it'll give me the precious feedback that I've been starving for for so long.


Sorry for being so long winded. Can you tell I'm kinda excited about this? I've spent a looooooong time planning this game out. So long that, ironically, 80% of my work for this RPG Maker game has been OUTSIDE RPG Maker. I think that's a good thing. The point is I've got a lot to talk about, and I want to eventually, but I'm trying to cut this down into tiny little chunks as best I can.

And that's all for this first blog. I'll go into a bit more detail about the actual structure of the game later.