Friday, December 3, 2021

CUPdate 14: Notion Pages, OC Cards, & Art Journey Video

I'm now back from Thanksgiving break, and I ended up getting a lot done! Some of which I still can't show yet, but overall, the projects I was able to get some work done on that I'll be showcasing here include: Notion pages to organize projects, prototypes of OC Cards printed (and played), a Twine story uploaded, and my Art Journey video finally finished.

I've been working on a lot of mini-projects, some of which I'll show once they're finished, but for now, I've been organizing a lot of this into Notion pages, which has really helped me refocus and start to see what needs to get done. So while there's not a lot of art to show for this time, there is a lot of Notion progress that I can share here!

So I started off by organizing some Notion pages. I made pages for each of my OC cards so that I could store the inspiration images that I wanted to reference for the style, as well as the current card that I have. I figured this would be a good way to keep all of this in the same place!

Then I realized that a big blocker for me when drawing is having to stop and look for references. So I decided to make a Notion page for The Nays. I know... I have a massive Google Drive of documents, but I think a Notion page to keep track of a few things will really help. So I started by making a Characters page, and from there, creating a Gallery where I have a page for each character. I already have my Weebly and Google Sheets to store a lot of those specifics, but I wanted one massive list that I can just quickly Ctrl+F the page to find a character and see their most recent design/image without having to click through a bunch of pages. And then I have links to the Weebly and Deviant Art searches if I end up wanting more. I think this will help me be more productive and able to draw without the dread of having to search around a lot for references.

And then I took that even further to be able to sort by Eventures that they appear on. I know I already have a Google Doc for this, but being able to open up that Eventure and quickly sort to see references of every character involved on that Eventure will help me a lot, especially when I'm doing storyboards for these scenes. So far I've only done this for the first Eventure, but I plan to update this whenever I start writing a new Eventure, so I can have it open while I'm writing.

After that, I ended up getting pretty carried away and deep into Notion. I started to convert my massive Google Drive worth of documents into Notion pages to more easily link them all to each other. And through this, I found myself accidentally creating a full Wiki for The Nays, which I honestly had always been wanting to do. This will make updating data a lot easier than updating a bunch of different documents. I still have a lot of work to do in terms of adding everything from Google Drive to this Notion page, but I'm having fun doing it, and I think it'll be a great resource in the end.

I realized another area that has been making me unmotivated to work on projects is a lack of schedule. Through this, I decided to break down the tasks I want to do before the next CUPdate and scheduled them out on a calendar in Notion. This way I can have a goal for each day, or push them back if I need to. And once the day is complete, I'll either check the Complete box to mark that I did it, or move it to another day. I think this will help me stay more organized and on top of my tasks.

Another Notion discovery I made was the ability to connect Discord to Notion! Using Zapier, I was able to set up a connection so that whenever I post in a certain channel, it creates a new database on Notion. I started out by just using my channel where I write my dreams on my personal server and populating it from there, and it works out really well! I'll have to utilize this more in the future.

After all of the Notion organization, I also started to work on some of the tasks I planned out. I started by reprinting my prototype cards after doing some research and figuring out what the best method for printing is. 

I discovered that we'll want to make the text size a bit bigger on the cards themselves since they're still pretty small. Then I realized that printing PNG files are not ideal; the quality is very blurry on the text and overall not great. When I printed them as JPEG, they came out much better. And when I printed as TIFF with no compression, they turned out the best, so that's the best method to print at. 

After those print tests, I cut them out and placed them into card sleeves in front of Pokemon cards (as one of my coworkers recommended!) and that method worked out great for prototypes so I can shuffle them and they'll feel like actual cards.

I got to actually try out my prototype game with my brother when I visited my family for Thanksgiving. There were a few cards that I wanted to change mechanics for that were too overpowered, the wording was unnatural, or some cards that needed specifications when played together. But the main changes involved Support cards and how often they're drawn, since they were definitely skewing a lot of the game with how we played it. Also, I want to add more strategy by choosing what positions you play your characters on the first turn, and specifics on how to shuffle cards or refer to specific slots on the board. So overall I learned some things and I do want to try playing it again with some of the overall changes like with Support cards and strategies to see what further changes might need to be made in relation to the specific cards.

And then I finally finished my art journey video! I recorded this back in the spring of this year, but I didn't actually edit it all together until a few weeks ago. I had to record some additional footage from old art that I had at my parents' house, so I took some time to do that when I visited for Thanksgiving, and collected a lot of old folders and notebooks to bring with me for future reference. This was fun so I might end up doing more of these kinds of videos in the future to kind of change the focus of my channel.

While I was looking back on some old projects I did in the past, I realized that one of the Twine Eventures that I made never got uploaded, so I uploaded the Pubby & Lonny Reunited Eventure on itch.io here!

Also a bit unrelated, but I did want to share a discovery I came across the other week. I've been having an issue in Photoshop where I couldn't turn off Windows Ink or it would also get rid of pen pressure, but thanks to this blog post, I was able to figure out how to do that, and my line quality is SO MUCH BETTER! It's such a relief, because this Windows Ink issue has really been demotivating me to draw since it's been a struggle, but now with it all working, I'm enjoying drawing digitally again.

And lastly, I spent a little bit of time making some Notion databases to help one of my friends organize her to-do lists. The one pictured above is a daily task tracker where you can set the visible dates and archive old tasks.

Friday, November 12, 2021

CUPdate 13: Catching Up

So it's been a while since I had anything relating to my game Compass Nays, so I've kind of decided to take a break from it until the new year. I've realized that I'm experiencing burnout, so I think in this situation, it's best to take a step back and try to change my focus so I can try and get back into things.

For this CUPdate, I mostly decided to refocus and figure out what all I want to accomplish before the end of the year. I started out by making a bunch of checklists on Notion. Some of these are mini-art projects I can do and others are as simple as starting to buy Christmas gifts for loved ones. I just really need to reorganize my life since I realize I've been in a bit of a slump the past few months due to what I think must be burnout. I had been accomplishing a lot for my game, but stress from work/life has mostly been taking a lot of energy and I think that's why I've been struggling to get back into working on my own personal art projects as much.

During the last presentation, I talked about my process on Frank Hawk from my devlog post here. I've also been making a point to post this game on other platforms (Game Jolt, RPGMaker.net, and simmer.io) since it's my first real finished personal Unity project.

I also finished Inktober! This year it didn't re-energize me as much as it usually does, unfortunately, but I did get all 31 days done. You can check out all of the individual posts on my Instagram.

Then I decided to go back to working on one of my YouTube projects, which is a 30-minute video about my art journey and how I got to where I am today. I recorded the footage for this back in March, but haven't gotten around to editing it until now. Some of the things I mention are about 2021 being the current year, so my plan is to finish this by the end of this year. I've been making great progress on editing it, and only have about 5 minutes left to finish up, so once I can grab some footage from my parents' house, I'll be able to finish it up and post it for the next CUPdate!

And after talking with some friends, I got inspired to go back and work on the trading cards for our card game we were gonna make a while back. We decided to finally make a more accurate template to get the prototypes into, so I went through and imported placeholder art for all of my cards with the information. So far I have 4 cards that are completely finished with the final art (which are the ones above), but the icons and formatting are subject to change for the actual final prints. I'm hoping this can be something I'll come back to, since making the art for these was really fun!

I printed out all of the cards last night, but I still need to work on the sizes, because some of the text came out a bit blurry in the prints. I might try to reprint them sometime soon, but for now I can at least start to try playing the game and see how balanced it is, with characters from different decks. 


There are a few other projects I'm working on that I can't post here yet, but once I'm able to, I'll add them to one of my future CUPdate posts. Until then, I'm slowly making smaller checklists to complete so I can be ready to finish a few mini-projects up before the end of the year.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Frank Hawk Devlog

So you may have noticed my lack of CUPdates recently relating to Compass Nays. That's because I took a sidetrack onto creating an endless runner game in Unity for my brother's birthday! Now that I can finally post about it, this will be a mini-blog post before the next CUPdate that showcases my process on this project.

Ever since December of last year, I've been teaching myself Unity for work. So I decided to finally create my own project outside of work in Unity for fun! This was a short project that I finished in under a month, so I didn't have a whole lot of time to dedicate to it.


This game is called Frank Hawk. It's an endless runner skateboarding game where you get to eat tacos.

Backstory

The idea behind this game came from an arc early in The Nays where they visit Frank Lady World, which is a World full of skate parks and skateboarders. And Frank Lady's specialty is making tacos.

The idea of this World was inspired by Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, since I used to play that game all the time as a kid (and that's why the music you'll hear are midi versions of the songs from that game). It started out with The Nays just creating characters and levels in the game and eventually turned into a full World where they would skateboard in real life and compete in competitions.

In this game, you play as Chozu, who's a huge fan of this World, as you race through levels created by friends, both current and old, and the ultimate goal is to collect the taco at the end of each level. Each level increases in difficulty and new obstacles show up along the way.

Development

I started out by brainstorming some ideas for a short game that would be fun to make in Unity. Since I've already made a platformer game in Unity before, I figured it wouldn't be too much different to make an endless runner.


Something that's core to my games is making sure there's character dialogue, so I explored the Unity Asset store to try and find a quick and easy dialogue editor, since I didn't want to dedicate a lot of time to building my own from scratch. That's when I found Runia Dev's Dialogue Editor, which worked perfectly for what I needed.


After that, I made the basic character movements and collisions for the hub scene in Frank Lady World where Chozu interacts with characters to enter the levels. Starting out, I was just using sprites I already had or quick sketches as placeholders for the characters.


Then I made the endless runner level. The hub world works like a platformer game where you're not endlessly running, so this was just a quick tweak to make Chozu move on his own. And the actual mechanics were actually a lot easier than I was expecting. I just needed to make a way to end the game and teleport back when you reach the end.


So I made a few scenes like the game over and title screens so that this could feel more like a full game.


Once I had the core mechanics down, I started to create the sprite art for it. Luckily I already had some quick sketches of these characters drawn for Compass Nays, so I just had to clean up those sprites and that meant I was completing the art for that project and this one at the same time!


Once I created the main sprites, I decided to add some various mechanics for each of the characters to move differently in their levels. That included Grenna spinning, Ralphie standing in the way and slowing you down, and Scott shooting projectiles downwards.





Then I started to design each of the stages to be different so they weren't all just clones, and were their own designs. It was really fun to make each of these be unique to the characters and how they acted at this time in the story.

After that, I did some tweaks to make the game more enjoyable and easier to play. So I updated the retry button on the Game Over screen to send the player back to the beginning of the current stage rather than the hub map, so they could retry. I noticed this was needed when the last level ended up being a lot harder than the previous ones, so I didn't want the player to be frustrated from having to redo the conversation before.

And finally, I was able to get to a few of my wishlist ideas! I started by updating the kill object block to be actual lava, since it was previously just a red box. And then I added collectible salsa containers to help lead the player throughout the levels. I also added UI on the screen to tell the player how many salsa bottles they've collected.

Final Thoughts

So overall this was a fun mini-project and I learned a lot more about Unity in the process! There were a few wishlist items I didn't get to like adding more story, custom text boxes, more customized backgrounds, and a few more polish things like animations, but considering I made this in less than a month without a whole lot of prior Unity experience, I'd say I'm fairly happy with how it turned out!


This was also a fun break from the RPG Maker project I've been working on this year, and it felt good to finish a project (since that project is still years away from being close to finished). So this made me think about how I might want to take some breaks from my main project to still have that accomplishment of finishing things, to keep me motivated along the way. Obviously, the Global Game Jam is a huge boost for that, but also it helps to have other smaller projects throughout the year so I don't experience burnout.

Friday, October 1, 2021

CUPdate 10 & 11: Mission Menu and Character Sprites

So I ended up skipping making a blog post for the last CUPdate, so this is counting as 10 and 11. I've been taking a break from working on this game for the past month or so, so still not a whole lot to show, but I've got a few updates.

I started out by working on the Mission menu. You can access the Missions screen from the main menu, and I used events to create a menu screen to store all of the quests. You can view different lists of active, complete, or failed lists of missions, and the information about the mission will appear on the right side of the screen. Because all of the mission data is stored in arrays, the order that the missions appear is based on when you accept them in the story, starting with the oldest missions at the top. I learned a lot while doing this and used a lot of arrays, and even some loops. Definitely one of the more coding-intensive eventing that I've done!

Then I made some colored/more finished sprites for some characters from the Prologue. I'm aiming to slightly clean up the rough sprites I made without a ton of extra work to save on time and keep the life in them. Here's Firebreath, Larry, and Capillstation.


Then I made some more sprites, focusing more on creating poses that fit with the characters' personalities. My goal is going to be to turn these into idle animations at the very least, since I know full walk/turnaround animations would take a lot more time. This is Haru, Izumi, Rocko, Celia, Jaboo, Shaw, and JrTr.


And then a few more sprites! These are the orphans: Pigger, Chila, and Frank.


Side Track: Posting Games

And then I strayed off the path of working on Compass Nays a bit as I mentioned above. I've been slowly uploading all of my previous Global Game Jam projects to various websites to get my games out there so more people can play them. They're all playable on itch.io, but we weren't getting any feedback on there and not many people were finding the games. So I made a Game Jolt account a few months ago and have been uploading a game a week on there, and have been getting some people to play my games. I've also been uploading web versions of the games that can be played in the browser, so people that don't want to dedicate time to downloading my games can quickly preview them in their browser. For example, try the Play link for I Wanna Go Home here!

In addition to that, I decided to revamp some of the itch.io pages to include links to play it online or point out the download link. These are through header images, since I think those really help. I'm starting to think that I should spend some more time really fleshing out these pages to look more attractive with imagery and potentially gifs, but that's a project for the future potentially. I also added favicons and further customized some of the backend information on these pages. Check out the Complex.net page here for an example!

I've also been uploading games on RPGMaker.net, and I received my first game review on SOS.WAV! They gave a lot of valuable feedback that I look forward to applying to future games and gave it a 3.5, which is fair for how short it was and all things considered. I've been receiving ~700 page views and 3-5 downloads per game, which is a really high volume in comparison to what I'm used to, so I'm really happy with this site.

Then I decided to search for other popular sites for uploading games. I found out that some people were saying Newgrounds actually has pretty good traffic for games, which makes sense since they only host browser games. I was a bit hesitant to dig up my Newgrounds account because I had some really bad experiences with the site 10 years ago, because the community was really toxic. Back then, I was posting my first Flash animations and early digital art, so I was getting a lot of negative attention to the point where I almost quit art entirely. But I've removed all of that content or unpublished it so that it's all in the past now, and I'm thinking maybe my games will attract less negativity, but I'm not holding my breath. So far I haven't received any feedback, but I did upload SOS.WAV on there.

So while a lot of this isn't directly related to Compass Nays, it is preparing me for whenever I finish the game in many years from now, so that I'll have a better idea which platforms work best, how to apply feedback from previous games, and just practicing uploading to game pages and customizing those in general. So it's all good practice and I'm having fun doing it! I'm planning to have more updates next time though!

Friday, August 20, 2021

CUPdate 9: Logo, Characters, and Enemy Paths

So this time around, I don't have a ton to show, but I did do some important things that will help me in the long run, so overall good progress.


With big news to start off, I finally have a title for my game! After hours of brainstorming, I finally came up with Compass Nays as the title. And from there, I made the logo to go along with it.


And to get here, I did a bunch of concepts. I started with a font called A Aha Wow, and my drawing of The Gek for the O, then I sketched my own version to make the letters look waxier. Then I just started to apply a bunch of effects in Photoshop until I got to the final version!


Since I finally have a title, I made all of the social media pages that I'll need. I don't plan to start posting on those until I have final art to show, but I wanted to at least get those set up so I don't have to worry about them down the line when I'll need them. So I made the Website, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram.


In addition to social media pages, I also made accounts on Game Jolt and RPGMaker.net so I can start to share my progress there. I'm slowly uploading older projects first before I start sharing this game's progress there, but I wanted to be involved in more game dev platforms so I can share my progress with more people!


Then I made an asset list for all of the characters and backgrounds I know I'll need for the entire game, so I can start working on art for some of the later parts when I feel like doing art more than the game design parts. So once I did that, I sketched some characters I forgot about in The Gek Eventure.


Though nothing visually changed, I did improve the mechanics of enemies chasing the player with a VisuStella movement plugin instead of using a bunch of manual events that required parallel events. This way, the performance will be much improved, and there's no longer lag on maps with a lot of enemies! It may not look like a huge update, but a lot of work went into this! Now enemies are alerted when the player enters their range, then they chase the player, and stop when the player exits that range.


So overall, not a lot of updates this time around, and I'll be pretty busy with life things in the weeks to come, so I'm not expecting a huge post next time around either. But I'll try to get what I can do!

Friday, August 6, 2021

CUPdate 8: Backgrounds, Script Progress, Character Sketches, Random Battles, and Menu Prototyping

I ended up doing a lot of smaller tasks for this CUPdate, but made a lot of progress overall!

I started off this CUPdate by working more on backgrounds! For the interiors, I've decided to draw all of the rooms on the same map. This means that characters need to be able to walk under the walls for the doorways. To do this efficiently, I needed to figure out a way to create events that characters can walk under, while still lining up correctly with the parallax background. Eventually, I decided to recreate the RPG Maker grid in Photoshop, so I can see how events line up on the grid, and where to place them. This allows me to have very precise placements. It also means that each background needs to be divisible by 48 so that they fit perfectly on the grid. With those calculations down, my doorways are a lot more believable!

From there, I drew more backgrounds. I decided to block out a lot of the areas that you can't explore to save on time of drawing locked rooms that don't have to do with the story progression, for the time being. So I finally drew the second floor of the Ragger/Braves house.

I imported the beginning of my script into Ink, and then into my game, to test out importing Ink dialogue with in-game events, and it worked out really well! Here's the first clip (obviously still with placeholder faces and not final art):

Then I went through and added expressions and split up the scenes for everything that I've written from the prologue so far. This was a good way to proofread what I had written as well, and update a few lines as well.


I decided to plan ahead and start drawing character sketches of the next Eventure. I got a little carried away and drew more characters than I thought I was going to include in the game, so we'll see how many of these end up in the actual game, but I do like the idea of having a bunch of background characters, even if they don't end up doing a lot.

And then I designed the monsters that The Nays run into during the prologue in Mayon Woods. I'm aiming for two that are native to the Mayon Woods and two that come from other Worlds. After asking around, I made some decisions based on the most popular voted ones. 1 and 6 will be native to Mayon Woods, and then 7, 8, and 13 are going to be the other World ones (potentially one outside of the cave and the other two inside of the cave):


Then I worked in the game some more. I added a picture file for the name of the map that displays when you're on the map. 


After that, I worked on the Mayon Woods map a bit more. It's still a rough layout, but I made some collisions and filled in the map with trees so you can walk around it more. And I set up regions for where the different types of monsters show up.


Using some plugins and events, I set up enemies to spawn in specific regions, then once they're within a certain distance, they chase after the player. I'm still working on if there's a way to make them stop chasing once you've outrun them, but for now, that'll do. Also the whole chase event does end up making the game lag a bit, so I might need to find ways to optimize that better, since right now a lot of parallel process events are running at once to accomplish this.


Then I spent some time prototyping the menu screens to get the general progression for how I want the menus to work. Some are still super rough sketches, while others are using VisuStella MZ plugins. But I put the rough prototype together to help with planning in Adobe XD. I still need to update the Links and Party screens to have back buttons in the top-right instead of the top-left, and then I need to plan out what I want the Journal to look like.


My biggest accomplishments for the VisuStella MZ plugins were customizing the location and Eventure on the Save screen (as well as adding the BG image) and creating a custom variable on the Options screen that changes the Input Button types (also one for the Difficulty of the game). I also worked on the main menu screen a bit to try and match this prototype more closely, but it still needs some work.


And lastly, I tried really hard to think of a name for this game, but nothing is popping out to me just yet... so I might need to brainstorm a bit more. I might end up just going with a slight variation of my WIP title, which is now "Nay Recruits", since the rest don't sound right. But I'm not sure yet. I'll have to think about it some more.


So overall, a lot of progress this time, and I'm slowly picking away at different areas. Thanks for reading!