My day job makes it difficult to set aside time to work on projects like this. I have to be careful to budget my time, or else I’ll end up getting a lot of work done for awhile but then quickly burn out. Still, over the past month or so I’ve managed to get about thirty minutes to an hour of progress a day. It doesn’t seem like much (and really, it isn’t) but it does add up after awhile, so long as I’m good about where I spend those precious minutes each day.
I’ve been messing around with the battle system for a long time now, and that makes sense. The battle system tends to be what really engages people when they play an RPG, and it’s where they’re going to end up spending a lot of their time. But a video game is more than the sum of its parts. A good RPG needs more than just a battle system. It needs a story to frame the battles you’re fighting and give you a reason to fight them. To that end, I’ve switched gears for now and am plowing ahead on changing the game’s scripting engine from mere partially-programmed ideas to a reality.
Previously, I’d mentioned wanting to make a “vertical slice” to show the game off, but I’ve never really used that method before. Instead, I’ve fallen back to the same work flow I used on the first Another Star: starting at the beginning and working my way to the end. The first cut scene is scripted and plays, with characters moving to their cues and going through their dialog. After so long, it’s really amazing to watch play out, especially since the last game’s scenes were so simple. I’m working hard to make sure that the game’s custom scripting language makes it easy to generate and tweak the content very quickly so that I can make the absolute most of my time.
One of the things that I’ve done during this process is move the character portraits up out of the dialog boxes. This allows room for a few more letters to be visible in each line. As you can see, the portraits aren’t static. The mouths flap, and when they’re not talking they even blink in sync with their sprites!
I also made the portraits bigger. Much bigger. I was inspired by looking at Shining Force II which had these huge, vibrant character portraits. I wanted the characters in this game to be able to be likewise endearing, even though there wouldn’t really be quite enough room in the system’s VRAM for portraits this big without sacrificing some of the area graphics. I’m not 100% committed to it yet, and the first few portraits are in need of tweaks, but I kind of like how they look so far. My only worry about the size is that they’re going to obscure what’s going on beyond them. The characters on screen have various actions that play out with their dialog, and I don’t want their portraits to always be in the way.
I’ll share more from these early areas of the game as I make progress. In the next dev blog, I plan to write about the often overlooked process of nailing things down to avoid working on them forever.