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Progress Update: Skulls, Crystals, Fans and More...

At the time of this writing, sixty three people have downloaded my demo.

I know there are games on this site with upwards of twenty thousand downloads, but this is the first time in years that I’ve shared any of my writing with the internet, and the very first time I’ve ever released a game publicly.

Strange to think about, really.

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to write out a progress report. The game’s still being actively developed, but things are slow going and I’m going to try and explain why.

Way back when I first started this project, there were no Sylph Woods. The first dungeon was called the Haunted Swamps.



I was just making things up as I went along, so, aside from random ghost NPCs, it being haunted never actually tied in the design at all. There were over forty separate maps, random encounters, it took forever and wasn’t fun. There were parts I enjoyed, like a shell game that was obviously a scam and impossible to win, a giant tree you’d enter, and one of the random enemies was a Medusa who’d try and get you to smoke weed (to get you “stoned”, get it?) but in general it was just a slog and I have absolutely no regrets about axing it.

This was a few years ago, but, even back then I realized it was awful, and when I took my first stab at the Crystal Caves, I decided to try and make something inspired more by Banjo Kazooie, or Ocarina of Time instead.



It had a bit more going for it. It was a more aesthetically pleasing, you could swim in the water, tackle objectives in any order you wanted, and it was a lot shorter. But... it still had a lot of the same problems the Haunted Swamps did, so it won’t be coming back.

When I started redoing the game a few years later I decided that it wouldn’t kill me to actually plan things out ahead of time. Instead of making a massive labyrinth, I made the Sylph Woods be a central hub that changed over time. This worked out pretty well, I “borrowed” the central gimmick behind Click Clock Woods, threw in a bit of the Water Temple, and the dungeon basically just wrote itself.



Normal forest in the spring, no water in the summer, pumpkins and spooky ghosts in the fall, and snow in the winter. Easy peasy. It took me forever, but, I’m fairly happy with how it turned out.

The only problem is... I burnt out, and I burnt out hard. I don’t think I’m ‘bad’ at RPGmaker, but I am a dismal failure when it comes to efficiently managing my time. I was constantly testing the map to make sure everything was flowing right, always making minor tweaks to everything, and just generally taking forever to get anything done.

Once I finished the demo, it took me somewhere around six months to actually post it. I was sick to death of hearing that upbeat Sylph Woods song, I hated making the maps, and I hated writing the characters.

I knew I needed a break and I didn’t want to just upload my game then completely abandon it, so, I just sort of goofed off and did random stuff for awhile.



One of the ideas I had was making a vaguely wild west game about water thieves on a desert world...



... An X-Com style mech strategy game where you played as a team of bounty hunters, also on a desert world (you can’t see it, but the planet has about 100 frames of animation - it looks very pretty when it spins) ...



... A weird SNES style game about hunting down a group of goblins who were worshipping some kind of Lovecraftian Eldritch God in a swamp temple...



... And another SNES wannabe game vaguely inspired by Legion Saga 3, Skyrim and Final Fantasy 6.

I never really took any of them seriously, but they were fun little diversions and helped me get some of my creative energy back.

But now I’ve started in on the Crystal Caves again. The 2018 version:



... Things are a little different now.

The dungeon’s going to be a lot bigger than the Sylph Woods. I’m not thrilled about it, but I don’t really have an alternative. I can’t reuse the same gimmick twice, and I can’t think of any other way to change a central hub without it being either hilariously impractical or just another variant on the ‘control the water level’ that I kinda already did. So there are going to be three hubs this time around, each with its own unique theme.

I’ve got a rough outline of how I want everything to fit together, but, I’m struggling with puzzle design. In Ocarina of Time, the devs got lazy and just recycled the ‘collect all of the white rupees’ puzzle in the later dungeons, and I’m starting to see why. I’m not completely out of ideas yet, but it’s getting difficult to keep things original.

Another thing I’ve been trying to do is create more and more custom assets. I’ve gotten praise in the past for my use of RTP, but I’m trying to move beyond rehashing old graphics and make some original sprites.



In the past I’ve said that bad things tend to happen whenever I make something from scratch, and while I do stand by that, I’m still pleased with how this giant skull turned out.



The RTP never actually had any graphics for the inside of the tents, so I went and made some myself. Though this is only partially mine, since I did splice in some of the wood parts from the Ship Tileset. If anyone wants this, let me know, I can send them the tileset I’m using.

Besides messing around in RPGmaker, one of the other things I did in my little ‘goof off hiatus’ was to learn Blender. Or, try to. I’m still not very good, but I’ve been experimenting with turning 3D animations into sprites.



These crystals have seven frames of animation each, and slowly spin. They don’t look great in screenshots, but they draw the player’s eye to them in-game. Which is good, because you’re going to need to collect one hundred of them.



The fans are my second experiment. They clash somewhat with the RTP graphics, but I’m pretty horrible at perspective, and there’s no way I would have been able to make something that animates like this normally. It only has three frames, but it moves quickly, so I think it’ll be passable.

Well, there isn’t really much else to say, really.

I’m a little hesitant to set a definite release date (the last time I tried that, it didn’t go very well for me), but as of now, I’m approximately 25% done the Crystal Caves and making steady progress. There are only two big dungeons in the game, so once I’m done that, I’ll really just have the final area (only three maps) and the Sand Castle (should be pretty short, maybe five?) left to do, as well as about eight or so sidequests.

With any luck, Dirge of Doningoth will be done before the end of this year.

Posts

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This is really fascinating, it's cool to see how you've progressed :D hoho
Cap_H
DIGITAL IDENTITY CRISIS
6615
This was a great read. I adore the love you treat rtp with. The tent's interior is purty and a great idea.
author=sea_witch_nova
This is really fascinating, it's cool to see how you've progressed :D hoho


Thanks, Nova. It's been a long road, and it's been a bumpy road (with a bunch of dead ends), but I'm getting there.

author=Cap_H
This was a great read. I adore the love you treat rtp with. The tent's interior is purty and a great idea.

I really like working with the 2K RTP. It's at that nice and happy sweet spot between being versatile enough to do what I want, and simple enough to edit.
Inspiring process, also that wild west scifi game sounds
Wow, this was an amazing read. It's such a good feeling to see progression like that, all of those screenshots are lovely might I add! They all have a sense of depth and atmosphere, and seeing your inspirations for them, I can definitely see why.

I feel pretty inspired in a variety of ways from just this read alone.
Keep up with the good work and never be afraid to experiment with whatever you feel like, that's how creativity is developed after all.
author=Darken
Inspiring process, also that wild west scifi game sounds

It's something I'd like to revisit in the future, for sure.

author=KoopaKush
Wow, this was an amazing read. It's such a good feeling to see progression like that, all of those screenshots are lovely might I add! They all have a sense of depth and atmosphere, and seeing your inspirations for them, I can definitely see why.

I feel pretty inspired in a variety of ways from just this read alone.
Keep up with the good work and never be afraid to experiment with whatever you feel like, that's how creativity is developed after all.

Thanks. Learning Blender has been a pretty major game-changer for me. I'm still not... 'good', or even really 'okay', but it's let me do some things I couldn't before.

Like this sewers section:

(I may need to fix it a bit, but I really like the concept)

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