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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Almost a month since my last update! With school in session and work being… work, I’m admittedly not getting a lot done. But I did hammer down some pretty important stuff that I probably should have foreseen being a necessity a while ago.

 

Mainly, story. And character designs. You know, those things I started this game thinking I wouldn’t have to do…. well, the idea of Hysteria Star has grown in my head, and while it’s still silly and open to whatever I want to throw at it, I’d really like to have a narrative for players to follow. I don’t think this is going to add a lot more development time to the game, though, since I’ve been re-imagining how that narrative is delivered, and I think the result will be a more appealing way of delivering more story where I need it to be.

 

Before, the idea was to have some simple drawn cutscenes with slight motion play out a story at the beginning and end of each ship’s Story Mode campaign. Nothing super special, but fairly engaging. The problem with that is timing and animating visual elements in those cutscenes could be a bit of a chore seeing how I’ve set up the engine, and two cutscenes is a fairly time-consuming way of delivering almost no story at all.

 

So, the plans have changed! I have been working for a week or so on character designs and the galaxy that Hysteria Star takes place in. What I have nailed down right now is three races, two of which are warring with themselves and each other, and the third of which is almost completely wiped out but they’re all “chill, bro,” ya know. I’m spoofing some elements of various space games, keeping things lighthearted but still telling a pretty intense story about a galaxy on the brink of self-destruction. The story will be told in mostly talking-head-o-rama, (maybe more than heads) but I’m still working out how I want to do that. I’m still planning on having cutscenes where they’re needed, but these simple chats can fill in a lot of the necessary story in between (and within) levels.

 

I’ve also made some changes to how story is delivered based on what ship you use. Now, each ship has a pilot, and some ships may have the same pilot. You will actually play the game starting out as a human space soldier marine badass cooldudelady of space and meet spacepilots of the other two races to play as in the next two sections of the overarching story. The way I’m planning it, each of the three is a part of the main storyline, and each starts where the last one left off. So, starting out you have two ships to choose from and the human pilots both. The story is tied to the pilot, so you get the same story (just different level layouts) with each one, and once you beat the human’s story, you unlock a ship (one for free, and probably more that you can buy with points) piloted by the guy you met in the first part, then after his story, you get the “final” ship and pilot. So it’s a 3-part story at probably an hour per part. That’s on paper, anyway. In theory, playing through a story mode campaign in Hysteria Star should take about as long as playing through the main game of Starfox 64.

 

There is one other thing I should mention, though this isn’t related to the story. I’ve been having some technical problems with Game Maker Studio and changing resolutions. By all means the scripts I was using should have worked but it simply wouldn’t change properly. (or at all. Like, literally mathematically impossible stuff was happening. If I let it detect my monitor’s native 1080p and change the game to that it worked, but if I entered any other number to change to, INCLUDING 1080p, it failed. Despite the fact that after checking a billion times, it was literally the same numbers going through the same way)¬†I hate to let this game be anything but my best quality, but between working with high resolutions on low-tech hardware and the functions for screen resolution zonking out on me, I’ve decided the best bet is to stick to 720p. It eliminates a LOT of headache and having to test everything and create two versions of every asset in the game, and it will also help lessen the footprint of the game on your phone’s memory card (or massive computer hard drive) a lot. It also means it’s running a lot smoother. I have the opportunity to get it running on lower-tech devices and make it flashier overall here, and it still looks great running fullscreen on my monitor.

 

So I guess you could say I’m not just lazy for laziness’ sake, but I was FORCED to be lazy.

In any case, it means a more stable game. Downscaling also helped me realize the game actually plays fairly well with ships being much larger on the screen. I’ll have to play with ship size and a lot of things to get it tuned right, but it’s looking and playing fairly good right now. The addition of story is also helping to inform some of the level designs, too. I had the mechanics figured out before, but I’m really starting to “get” the whole thing now. It’s really too bad things are going so slow lately. Earning a living, learning and making a game is never easy. I hope next time I can have more than just a wall of text to share.

 

 

PS. I mentioned in the last update a little thing called “play points”. I realize that’s complicating things too much. So, here’s how it works: you play through levels, earn your points, etc. You get bonuses for various accomplishments and you can earn achievements which will unlock ships, collectibles, cheats, etc that can be purchased in the shop. But you don’t earn a separate, arbitrary currency to purchase things you’ve unlocked. Nope, when you finish a story mode campaign (or anything that earns you points, really), your point total at the end is added to your overall point total tied to your profile. It’s those points that you can spend to use your unlockables. So, beyond leaderboard trolling, getting high scores is great for unlocking content faster. Not only do you get more achievements, opening up more items to buy, the points you earn also let you buy those faster.

It also seems my Wii broke. :,(

It’s still turning on and making noise like it’s alive, but it doesn’t output anything to the TV and my Wii remotes won’t connect to it or even manually sync. I guess I’m getting a Wii U sooner than I wanted, but it may be a while yet before I can get back to Skyward Sword and Xenoblade. And The Last Story literally just came in the mail today. T_T I really hope I can get my save data and digital purchases back…

It was a good run. I waited in line for 12 hours for that Wii and paid my dues to get it. It’s been a good companion but nothing lives forever. You shall be missed…… Wii…. *taps playing in background*

 

But not all is terrible in the game world. I killed a ton of people and uh…

right. Spec Ops was also pretty disastrous.

 

Not in a bad way, though! It was an amazing game. I’m not much for war shooters because there’s no real meat to their gameplay, no way to be skilled enough to take on a challenge like a no-hit run or something. There’s challenge there, but it seems so arbitrary and out of control. There’s just not a lot to it, really. But Spec Ops: The Line took it all, from the gameplay mechanics to the story, and copy-pasted it and turned it on its head, using the same tropes and mechanics to drive home some really heavy-hitting points. You will feel terrible playing this game. You will likely grow bored of the gameplay. And it will highlight so much of what’s wrong with these modern war games, so much of the terrible things that happen under the banner of war, and so much of what should make these games laughable while showing the horrors of what it’s really like out there for a soldier.

I think for once I can say a video game has positively NAILED the kind of narrative and dialogue that is possible only within the interactive medium. This may be the closest I’ve played to a video game that digs as deep as a really good movie. You can say all you want about how Heavy Rain or Uncharted are like long movies, but this is something else entirely. It’s deep and emotional, it’s conflicted for good reason, and it involves YOU every step of the way. From making major decisions in the moment through gameplay to how the mechanics and context of the game (including you, in your chair, holding your controller, playing the game) give it depth, it’s simply brilliant. I’d hate to spoil a single moment after about an hour in… it’s a short game but one I can hardly recommend enough. If you only ever play one modern military shooter, make it Spec Ops.

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