Another Star 2 Dev Log #29: The Fishing Hole

While incomplete, this part of the world is where your adventure begins. The lookout tower is where you take your first steps in the game.

From your starting point, you can begin to fan out into the wider world, but as you continue along the road, you’ll immediately stumble upon a little pond that flickers into being with the sound of a chime. This is the game’s first “hidden” area, purposefully placed in plain sight so that you can hardly miss it.

I’ve talked about these before in past dev logs: places that aren’t visible on the overworld until you get closer to them. This pond quickly teaches the player to expect them, and it’s only the first of many you will stumble upon.

Now, those of you who have played Another Star will know that there were only 2 or 3 NPC types that I reused all throughout the entire game. Yeah, this game is not that game. I want the world of this game to really come to life. You know how in most RPGs, you can easily spot the important characters by whether they have face sprites for dialog? I wanted to change player’s expectations of that right off the bat.

Every NPC is supposed to be an adventure in their own right. They have personalities and, in my opinion, are just plain fun to watch. Notice how the map sprite even blinks in unison with their face sprite! A small detail, but I’m proud of it. The flip side to this is that there are going to be so many different NPCs that I have to remind myself to move on, even if they aren’t perfect. A number of them will likely get tweaks and slight redesigns as I go on, but I’m forcing myself to finish each NPC and then move on. There’s just me. I can’t spend all day making every encounter perfect.

Most areas have their own little story or history. Some even have a narrative that plays out. Often they’ll loosely connect to the game’s central plot in some way, but even they are likely to be be self-contained. This particular area, you learn, is a fishing hole that is a local favorite. The characters here even make it clear that you’re supposed to explore in order to find more cool stuff like this.

Of course, just like the first game, the main thing you’re looking for in places like this is loot! This game even includes a nifty feature lacking in the first game, where if you don’t have enough room for an item the character will leave the chest open just a crack instead of closing it back up all the way so that you’ll know you’ve already searched it.

Not every NPC is completely unique. I don’t have that much time! But even repeated NPCs are made a little less noticeable by the fact that various NPC designs include a number of variations. These scouts of the Pioneer Alliance come in multiple flavors. You should keep an eye out for them, by the way. They have helpful advice about adventuring and can clue you in to the game’s mechanics.

This one makes it clear that, like the first game, sub areas have more difficult enemies than the overworld. In fact, in this game, the enemies in areas like this are much tougher. When you first encounter this area at level one you are likely going to have to play smart or outright ignore some battles in order to survive to reach the goodie chest at the end.

Even then, though, the game further uses this area to showcase a few anti-frustration mechanics that encourage you to press your luck instead of discouraging you from exploring. But that’s best left for another entry.

You really never know what you’ll find in this game.

Another Star 2 Dev Log #28: Toying With the Enemy

Generic encounters make up the bulk of play time in most RPGs, and Another Star 2 is certainly no exception. These battles can be dull padding if the developer is not careful. The original Another Star addressed this by speeding them up with its omni-battle system. Most of the strategy in battle was deciding which elemental attacks to use so that you could take out the biggest or most annoying threats first. Still, it’s easy for battles to feel samey with enemies becoming no more than the same thing but with different graphics. Another Star was by no means innocent of this.

Another Star 2 takes a slightly different route than its predecessor. Battles are still meant to be fast paced and not drag on past their welcome, but without the omni-battle system each character manually choose their target and a so lot of the first game’s design decisions are no longer applicable. And even as quickly as the battles play out, they just aren’t as fast. To make up for this I want to make sure that each enemy feels unique and gives players reasons to think about how they will approach them.

Take the humble Toad, for example. This is a very early game enemy, though one players will likely struggle with for their first few levels of progress because of the Toad’s relative power compared to the player’s initial strength.

Now, like all real-life amphibians, you can see that Toads have heavily armored skin on their backs. (Of course it’s true. Why would I make such a thing up?) This is a good demonstration of one of the game’s design philosophies: you should be able to gather clues about an enemy just by looking at their design. Sure, there are enemies that will purposefully defy your expectations to keep you on your toes, but observing new enemies is usually your first step to determining how best to confront them.

I also want to make sure that’s there’s not necessarily just one strategy to defeat an enemy. Again, the Toad is an excellent example. As I noted, Toads have natural armor. An obvious approach is to switch to a piercing weapon. As in the first game, piercing weapons ignore armor and deal damage directly to a target’s natural defense. Toads are squishy beneath all that armor, so you can easily deal a lot of damage.

However, that’s far from the only strategy. See, there’s a trick to these Toads in that you can use what would normally be an advantage to their disadvantage. If you think about it, you may note that many amphibians survive the cold winters by burying themselves in loose, wet soil and hibernating. Thus, as you might suspect, Toads are immune to ice damage. But this is a two-edged sword. Have you figured it out?

If you hit a Toad with an ice attack, you won’t do any damage, but you will put them into a deep sleep. While they’re in this state, they won’t wake up, even if you attack them! You can use this to your advantage by putting them into hibernation and then laying the smack down, or just ignore them and focus on any other enemies while the Toad is no longer a threat.

There’s certainly not an endless array of strategies. Another Star 2 is by no means a game steeped in emergent gameplay, and I can assure you that the developer has not thought of everything. But if you experiment with your abilities and think about how an enemy behaves and reacts, you’ll likely to be rewarded. Items, skills, and magic can take you a long way in battle if you put some thought into how best to use them. The work I put into the game’s scripting engine is really paying off in that regard.