Devlog 2 - Controls, Patreon, pixel art and parralax
Two weeks have passed since my first Devlog, here is a little recap of what I talked about in that article:
- I participated in the Mini Jam 118, got motivated and got great feedback on the game I designed in 72 hours
- I found a design style for the game, 1bit pixel art, it's something very special visually
- And also, I focused on creating a Patreon: the idea is to create a recurring revenue base and a community (one often goes with the other, on the way to becoming an influencer)
Today I'm writing from the beautiful city of Jeonju in South Korea, talking about the controls, sharing my pixel art inspiration, detailing the Patreon principle and explaining what I have in mind for the game's story. Enjoy!
Mouse, keyboard or both?
RTS inspired move, so both
I got some feedback (thanks PJ) asking me to add, in addition to keyboard movement, the possibility to move the camera with the mouse. What is often implemented in this type of game(real time strategy or RTS, yes, we're heading that way), is that when your mouse touches the edge of the screen, the camera moves at the same time in the direction of the cursor.
And if my feature is unpleasant to use, how can I improve it?
It was a fairly quick setup, but I ran into two unforeseen problems, and if you do a little bit of development, you know that this is not an unusual situation. The basic idea is simple: if the mouse touches an edge, I move the camera. Now when I run my game, it works, but it's jerky and unnatural.
Why? Because I can only move in one direction at a time, and my movement is too linear (we'll talk about how to correct this in animations and movements in another article), and the addition of the two makes the whole thing unpleasant. Who wants to play a game that is not enjoyable? I don't. So I take more time to :
- add bi-directional travel
- change the inertia when the camera moves
- adjust the speed according to the distance mouse / screen edge
And here is the result, much softer and smoother than the initial version:
Note to self: taking time to improve this kind of thing, I think it's a good idea. However, be careful not to take too much time. Done is better than perfect. Let's just throw it out there and move on, there's still a lot to do!
History as a driving force
Even though I don't want to make it a central element, i.e. I won't make a narrative game, I still want to set up a short story. With a story, I hope to touch the players and make them make decisions that will influence the gameplay. I really like to draw inspiration from existing stories and tales. After all, in chemistry and elsewhere, it seems that nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed.
More seriously, for this story, I want to take the concept of the 7 deadly sins. I'd like a story that doesn't give too much away, and an unexpected ending. Easy to say, much more complicated to realize, knowing that I have no pretension to be good at it. I won't go into too much detail about my choices at the moment as I might spoil the surprise when you get the controller in your hand, but if you like power-hungry men and plot twists, stick with me.
Pixel art and parallax inspiration
Creating a parallax effect to simulate an animation
The 1bit pixel art had made a good impression during the game jam, so I decided to create a portrait of one of the characters in the same style. I want to create portraits that are animated, and I know that animating pixel art is a time sink, so I tricked myself. I cut my design into several layers to create a parallax effect and simulate animation. The design part looks like this:
- I open Aseprite and upload a reference photo
- I create the character on a single layer
- I divide into different layers according to the depth (eyes, hands, arms, body, background...)
- I add all this on GameMaker
- I create a script that detects mouse movements and moves the layers according to
The effect is simple, but it adds a little life to the illustrations, I think it looks cool and I hope you do too. The code is accessible and the whole thing took me about 3 days, it's something I never did before. The design part is definitely longer, but I hope I can capitalize on what I already have and that the next ones will take less time. I want to keep exploring in this direction, there is so much to do.
1bit pixel art inspiration spotted on Pinterest
Also, here are some illustrations that are my inspiration, all available on Pinterest, one of the best sites I found for this. A lot of deconstructed design, it leaves room for imagination, it's pretty dark, I love it.
My last visual slap, Berserk
I also discovered the manga Berserk (thanks Gui), and the design is a big slap. I hope I'll be able to use it as an inspiration for my future characters. I also need to find some time between two bus trips to watch the anime, but that's another thing.
Love, hate, pain, pleasure, death, life... It's all there! For the human as for the demon!Slan, Berserk
My Patreon, or how to support an independent video game creator
I've rethought my ambitions on Patreon. Originally, it was focused on creating content for video game creators, and that involved writing tutorials. I confess, I underestimated how much time it takes. In practical terms, I can't create a game, run a blog, and provide tools for creators at the same time. At least not with the quality I'm aiming for, and I'd rather do one thing at a time than several in a hurry. Maybe this will change with time, but for now I prefer to focus on my main goal: to commercialize a video game.
That's why I decided that my Patreon would become an exclusive way to support me financially so that I can continue to create games. The idea is that if you like what I'm doing, you have the opportunity to help me. In exchange for your support, you will receive my game, no need to pay Patreon and an activation key as well. Everything is much more detailed on this link, just remember that if you appreciate my work and want to help me, this is one of the solutions available to you. And I thank you in advance.
A little history, dialogue and gameplay
The next step is to write the story in outline, so I can create more portraits and start coding the dialogues. I want them to be very short, because I hate long texts, especially when you start a game for the first time. I've read somewhere that the first thing to do is to get the player into the game when they start a new game, which is in contrast to the heavy explanatory tutorials in the introduction, and I totally agree with that.
I'm also going to start looking at the game itself again. I've got some ideas on the gameplay side and I need to add that. I have a lot of work to do.
More Devlog, SEO and site improvements
I'll try to stick to a rhythm of 2 or 3 weeks between each devlog, it gives me time to have interesting things (I hope) to write. At this rate, I should write about 20 articles related to the development of my game in a year, it seems to me a good goal.
Also, I got some feedback on the site (thanks Tanguy), so I'll take the opportunity to fix some bugs and improve the user experience. I'd like to keep it simple, ad-free and easy to use for the readers.
Speaking of the site, I'm quite happy to see that my SEO changes are paying off: traffic is increasing proportionally to my number of articles, and I'm ranking well on the keywords I'm targeting (mainly Game Maker for the moment). Come to think of it, I had the opportunity to add a French/English translation on my WordPress (thanks Thomas), which must surely help the recent increase in traffic.
The creation of a newsletter that talks about pixel art, indie games and video game news
This is rather good news since an increase in the number of visitors should translate into an increase in the number of subscribers to the newsletter. This last one, which is not existing for the moment, should arrive in the next few weeks. I'll share my articles as well as the video games links that are in the news on my side, surely a mix of game dev, design inspirations or games to test. You can already subscribe, the form is at the bottom of the page.
See you later!
Hi clem/klem/indieklem. I see you're having a blast in your new life as a game designer. Can't wait to read about this adventure.
Kisses from Lyon.
Thanks for your support, Jean Pépin. The next devlog should be out soon!
Kisses from Kyoto.