Hey everyone, it’s been a while! We all know what’s been going on in the world, so I’ll just say that I sincerely hope everyone out there is safe and healthy; and hopefully not going too stir crazy from being stuck at home.
My thoughts go out to everyone at this difficult time, but I know that we’ll get through this. 2020 doesn’t have to be a “wasted” year, nor does it have to belong to some virus. Circumstances are difficult around the world, and I don’t want to minimise that for a second; but there’s still a lot of good to be found – even if you’re stuck indoors!
I’ve had a lot of opportunities to help family members and other people I know over the last month, which has been time consuming (sorry 8-Bit Adventures 2 fans!) but also very much worth doing. On the fun side of this, though, was buying Animal Crossing to play with my Grandmother – partly to try and give her more activity and mental stimulation. She has trouble with the controls, but she did surprisingly well – especially seeing as the last game she played was Kirby 64’s multiplayer mini-games in 2001! We got her camp set up, gave her tools, and I made her a birdhouse =P I don’t know when we’ll get to do it again due to current restrictions, but she genuinely seemed to enjoy it and said it made her use her noggin, so it was definitely worthwhile haha.
And honestly, I think this situation is a time for video games to shine. Not just for keeping us all connected and interacting with each other, but also for helping us stay positive and happy. I always approach game development with the perspective that a game is a kind of “conversation” between the developer and the player. The developer presents ideas or mechanics, and the player decides how to perceive and utilise them; there’s this moment-to-moment back and forth, as the game shifts from player directed to developer directed over and over.
I’ve been playing Threads of Fate on PS1 recently (a pretty obscure Square Soft title from 1999) and that game’s just a sweet, earnest, feel good adventure – with way more narrative depth than I expected at the start. It’s not exactly what I’d call a good game mechanically, but its charm wins out over any flaws, and it always left me feeling cheerful and optimistic. And that’s what I adore about video games! I’ve played so many titles like that over the years; and right now, I think we could all use a bit of that =)
So my personal recommendation? Hunker down with some old favourites – ideally anything which features a cheerful vibe, whatever makes you happy – and see what messages those developers left for you. I personally have always found games like that to be really helpful in lifting my spirits and bringing a positive attitude to the people around me!
Anyway, with that tangent out of the way, let’s get out onto some 8-Bit Adventures 2 talk!
The March of Progress
So March was, once again, a slightly compromised month. The first week featured the memorial service for my Aunt, so the start of the month was really still about supporting family and getting back into routine. Zepht, Klara, Pierre, Seamus – thank you all very much for your condolences and consideration; it was sincerely appreciated! Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone! And then, with everything else that’s gone on, and trying to be helpful and supportive to people I know, that’s eaten up another chunk of time.
BUT, the month got off to a great start and progress has still been good all the way through. With the turn order bug for battle fixed in February, I finally was able to move forward in my testing. The first hostile area of the World Map was properly tested (a set number of enemies randomly spawn in different locations and chase you down if you get to close), and I also had to test what happens if the player attempts to backtrack to areas that you’d never normally bother to return to.
The really fun part about this was that it’s where the game starts to feel like a fully fledged classic JRPG; when the player can temporarily go off the rails and poke around in places for no other reason than because they can. I loved doing that as a kid, because it made the world feel more real and tangible – even though I wasted a lot of time haha XD
Anyway, moving on from there, you might’ve seen me talk about completing testing for the 5th dungeon on March 9th via Twitter. There are no standard enemy encounters in this one - instead it features a mix of light puzzle solving sprinkled between two boss battles. I tried to find lots of little ways to vary up the dungeons in 8-Bit Adventures 2 and particularly to make sure that no dungeon overstays its welcome (Sylph Cave in FFIV, I’m looking at you 0_0).
The next town-style location and 6th dungeon have also been tested; however what I’ve spent most of the month doing is implementing and testing new bug fixes! Sufyan (the programmer) has done a lot of work this past month, and some really important features and fixes have been implemented. For example, we now have a proper battle transition!
Most of them aren’t very visual, or at least not very exciting to talk about, but they make the game a whole lot better. It feels so much more solid and final to play now than ever before! And that’s been really helpful for me, because it makes balancing the game a lot easier. Now that the characters are gaining more Abilities in my playthrough, it’s been really fun to experiment with them.
For example, I can put Charlie into a Parry Stance (which lets his block most forms of damage for 3 turns) and then use Warrior’s Decoy ability to make all single-target attacks focus on him. Or swapping slower party members in on faster characters’ turns when I need a quick heal or to use some other ability (e.g. swapping out Thief to bring in Robot so that I can use his Heal Ray to keep the party alive). It feels really satisfying to run rings around normal enemies like this - fun stuff if you love turn-based battle systems!
One of the other cool things that’s been added this month is a Palette Shader effect for battles and fade transitions. Essentially, this removes opacity and transparency effects from the game, and instead uses specially made palettes to fade to white and black, or flash the screen. It probably doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a big difference visually and brings us a lot closer to the enhanced, faux 8-bit aesthetic we’ve been aiming for. That’s how fades and other effects were done on the NES – in simple terms, they’d alternate between palettes; for example, swapping a lighter colour for a darker colour on the NES palette and stepping down, colour by colour, until they reached black, for a fade out.
There’s still a lot of fixes and tweaks for Sufyan to make, but there’s one from March that I do have to mention…
Simply put, the humping glitch is finally fixed! Long live the humping glitch!
...I might've spent more time doing this than I'd care to admit haha.
So what’s next in April? Hopefully a lot more fixes (it’d be ideal if we could have all of the fixes/tweaks I need from Sufyan done by the end of April – but we’ll see what happens), and a lot more in-game progress! Next up for my testing is a city under siege which concludes Act 1 of the story, followed by two big towns, a court sequence where you’re your own lawyer, and a very familiar optional dungeon for players of 8-Bit Adventures 1 to revisit. So it should be fun! …Assuming the game doesn’t decide to break every five minutes =P Ah, the joys of game dev!
As much as I know I’ve let you all down with constant delays and the speed of production, I am glad in some ways to not be releasing just yet - given the current situation. A game like Final Fantasy VII Remake will be fine because it has such a big fan-base, but a smaller title like mine really relies on word of mouth and being featured in the media. While I’d really love to have it out for you all to play right now, I think it’d be very difficult to have a successful launch in the current climate.
Of course, it’s a moot point anyway because the game isn’t ready haha, but I just wanted to comment about that. I’m thinking about release every day, and I’m aware that all of you who’ve stuck by me – some since even 2015! – are all waiting for this. I know how hard it is to wait for a game you’re excited to play, and it means the world to me that people feel that way (this is the first game I’ve ever made where that’s been the case!). So when I finally figure out what that right time is, you’ll be the first to know =)
That's All Folks!
To make sure you don't miss any news, I recommend following @CriticalGamesAU on Twitter, as that's the best way I've found to keep up-to-date on news! Every monthly update is also posted here on IndieDB, and on the Steam Store page.
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Follow that page or wishlist the game to be notified when 8-Bit Adventures 2 is finally released!
I hope this update lets you know how things are going; and I truly hope things are well with all of you too! At least, as well as they can be =)
Now if you'll excuse me, Final Fantasy VII Remake has just been released early in Australia, and I've been losing my mind over that while writing this! XD Honestly, it's surreal getting something first here (almost 2 weeks early) because when I was a kid, we were always the last! Not to brag about it though (sorry international people) =P I'm crossing my fingers that everyone else will get the game this week too! I'll probably tweet some spoiler-free thoughts once I get to start playing, if anyone's interested.
All the best, and please stay safe and healthy! =)