Monthly Archives: February 2010

The pixel art nostalgia

I grew up playing pixel art games. Some of the best games, first on C64, then Amiga, and lastly PC (but the first 3d or pseudo-3d games like Doom were already showing).

I really like that style, and it’s a pity that nowadays you can see pixel art only on the small devices like iPhone, Nintendo DS or cellular phones. So, I am thinking to use pixel art for one of my upcoming games! 😀 I know that this might sounds crazy in an era of 3d accelerated cards, shaders, and so on, but I think a good pixel art graphic has something really artistic that you can’t get even with the best 3d real-time art you see in most games nowadays!

Besides, I also think pixel art is very good for cute/girly games, and since one of my upcoming games is definitely made for girls (but also men will be able to play it, fear not) I really want to try. Of course, I won’t feature full 800×600 screens made in pixel art, but for example a tilemap (similar to those you see in all the games made with RPGMaker XP) or perhaps a central part of the screen where the action take place, and all around my usual window/boxes with statistics and hints/tooltips.

I don’t want to announce anything yet, not unless I have implemented some screens with the new art style, but if everything goes well maybe in a month will make a new post with a surprise, a sort of a sequel (even if it will play differently) of one of my most successful games…

Super Heroes and Heroines

Is Vera Blanc a Super Heroine? No, not really. She is human: she has fear, she feels sympathy or love for certain person, she is jealous, and she can die like anyone else.

Recently I’ve been writting a lot of those “sudden death” endings. It might look weird, but they’re fun to read. Like in the old “Fighting Fantasy” gamebooks: I remember I was always reading the “death” scenes with great interests, even if they meant I had failed in my quest. I don’t know exactly how to express it, but I thought those description were really cool to read, and they’re to write too 🙂

During the game, Vera’s investigations can encounter a premature end in many different ways. However, beside “saving often” (which is always a good advice for all kind of games) I also try to give the player some hints, like subtle warnings, of what might happen if they’re not careful, or what dangers they could encounter. Anyway, it is definitely a different game from my other ones, you won’t be able to rollback and you will also have to think carefully each move. In the game there are LOTs of menu, much more than my other games. It is more interactive, and after the introductive chapter, the game becomes very interactive, with a daily/weekly planner, a map with places to explore/investigate, and a sort of diary (or “cluebook”) where Vera writes down all the clues/info she will discover during her investigation.

The game will also feature a few minigames, the most important being the “Mind-Reading” one. Yes, because one of Vera’s superpowers is the capacity to read other people’s mind. Check the video below for a good explanation on how the minigame works:

Note – of course the game will be completely edited/proofreaded by native english speaker before being released 😉

That’s all for now – next post I hope to be able to show you a video introducing Vera’s story, including her superpowers!

The Year Of The Tiger

I just discovered a fun thing. One of my best collaborator, Ayu Sakata (Flower Shop’s writer, voice actress / proofreader in Bionic Heart, Heileen 2 and more) and I are both of The Tiger in the Chinese Horoscope. This means that this is our year! 😀
It surely started well with The Flower Shop who is getting a positive response and nice reviews everywhere.

Now she is working on editing what should be my next game (unless I manage to finish Vera Blanc first but I doubt it). It’s a manga visual novel / strip poker game called Card Sweethearts. I started this project last year, asking Ren’Py main programmer Tom to create a poker engine out of his card game system for Ren’Py.
The poker is the classic Texas Hold’em, and will become a classic strip poker (featuring only tasteful images though) when you challenge one of the four girl depicted in the title screen image below:

I absolutely like how Ayu is reworking the original game texts (written by another collaborator of mine who had to quit). Just read at Tobias description of Miko, one of the four girl you can pursue in the game and my personal favourite:
“You mean Rocco? That old guy ain’t much, but his woman Miko. Now she’s a fine piece of work. Hottest thing out of the orient since they invented gunpowder.”

Now that’s what I call really top writing! 😀

Below a in-game screen featuring the poker part. That is really fun, and is cool how it integrates with the story itself. The game will also feature a scheduler like my other dating sims where you’ll be able to decide what to do with your week.

So basically I have in production (or planned) the following games for this year:

  • Cardsweethearts – a visual novel / poker game mix
  • Vera Blanc 1 – an american comic-styled mystery game with several minigames in it (more on this soon)
  • Planet Stronghold – probably my biggest project to date, a sci-fi RPG featuring a battlesystem, many varied enemies, an inventory for each character, a training system, a map system, different weapons/armors types, with a romance/VN background and several possible outcomes!
  • a still unnamed horror/mystery game set in victorian times that most likely will be illustrated by Zyephen (the same artist of Planet Stronghold characters / enemies)
  • a sequel of Flower Shop with a brand new game (not farming sim) seen from “the girls side”
  • an hex-grid turnbased fantasy wargame similar to the good old SSI titles

It’s going to be a very busy year as you can see!

Follow the leader: about characters in a party RPG

As some of you might know, recently I fell in love with Bioware’s latest title, Dragon Age.

Of course there are MANY reasons to love that game: but as game designer, the most interesting new feature (never seen before in a RPG game as far as I know) is the party management / relationship between the main characters and his/her companions.

Beside the possible romance outcomes, which are very nice, I also liked in particular the skill bonus that each NPC can get if you have a good relationship with him/her. I definitely want to do the same in my game Planet Stronghold. Beside raising the skills the “normal” way (through Training or winning battles / earning XPs) I also want to have a relationship value with each of them, and that value will give bonuses to combat. Of course also a negative value will give a negative bonus to combat.

Another very interesting feature is that the NPC actually interacts during the exploration dialogues. Evil / selfish characters will be annoyed if you try to help too much everyone you meet, while generous / brave characters will be pissed if you do evil action or if you refuse to help the weaks. This will require a bit more planning during the dialogues to check for all the possible companions present in that point, but will definitely add much more atmosphere and realism to the game.

I always liked the idea of your party NPC being not simple soldiers that will follow the leader blindly, but real characters with their own morals / thoughts that will change their opinion on you based on your actions.

Planet Stronghold – New characters

Today got more pictures for Planet Stronghold + new sketches for the new characters. I must say the improvement is great, and the game is changing from a “cute” look to a more “adult” look, but still using manga art. Michelle is the new character that was redone, and I like it a lot. She’s a small, thin girl but she is very determined in becoming a good soldier for the Empire!

Click on the thumbnail on the left to see it bigger, is worth it! This is her “casual dressed” version.

The new sketches looks also very promising. Rebecca, who is my favourite character, an aggressive and sexy woman of the Scout class, and also your training Sergeant, will have a big role through the whole game. While the older image was cute, the new one (just saw the sketch but I’m already loving it) will better represent her personality.

One last image showing both Lisa and Michelle in their uniform, during the training session. I’ve also started coding the Training Screen where you’ll be able to train your heroes skills without going to combat, but I am still doing some balancing / UI work so probably won’t be able to post any screens before 1-2 weeks.

I’ve also started another artist on the inventory/items art, since I decided to switch from just displaying text lines in the inventory to a standard icon inventory, so player will be able to recognize instantly the item from the shape/colors.