I am overburdened, back among the living

Hi there, long time no see!

Last month was rather chaotic for me. After a lengthy Easter vacation a nasty flu forced me to spend almost a week in bed, and overall the progress on “I am overburdened” was dreadfully slow up until last week. That is why I had no energy and not much drive to write new posts or to create video log entries, but it is time to break the silence.

Really, no progress?

There was a lot actually, but the development entered its last stage where there are a zillion small tasks left to be done but no modifications are substantial. The notorious last 10% which takes 90% of the development time 😀 . I go through all the changes made during last month in a few sentences, than I’ll adumbrate when and how am I planning to push this game through its finish line.

Monsters

I completed all the monsters from the easiest pawns up until the final boss. Their attributes are not balanced yet, but all their names, sprites and basic settings are done. Now each and every one has its own corpse graphic and unique sound effect too. This last bit was originally flagged as a nice-to-have addition, but after trying out the game with a few monsters having its own sound and carcass, there was no turning back 🙂 .

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Attack and skill effects

The battles and item skills were lacking visually, so I decided to apply some cosmetics. I Implemented a simple system to flash in and out various sprites at given coordinates in the dungeon on top of the entities. I was pleasantly surprised with the effectiveness of the initial results. Since than, I added configurable opacity easing- in and out and timings. Now item usage and battles are really shiny 😮 .

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Notifications

Another set of crucial visual queues missing from the game were notifications. Many pickups and events yield varying results in a roguelike and yes a player can figure out how much gold was picked up, but it is so much nicer if the game helps a little with these, especially when important changes occur. Clearly when it does not fit the style its not necessary, but I am overburdened is not a “super serious” game. Of course these can be overdone, but I tried making them not too obtrusive. Both the effect system and the notification system is accessible by the item skills, so various “spells” can trigger these too.

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Items, items, items

103 unique items, each and every one having a unique sprite. All the graphics are done with around 50% of the item lore finalized and it was a hell of a lot of work. Sadly something I underestimated again. Making the graphics was not difficult but coming up with unique, interesting or funny concepts, skills and short descriptions after having around 75 piece already, was tough. The last mile became a grueling, laborious crawl! When a lot of great content is already in place and almost every single archetype is taken, it becomes ridiculously hard to come up with new ideas hitting the same quality bar 😦 .

After all I think I achieved my goal in creating intriguing hand crafted loot what may serve as a strong hook for the game, so I’m proud of the end result. I don’t want to spoil too much so I’ll only show a small selection of sprites. Sorry, you have to play the game for more 🙂 .

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Localization

In Operation KREEP I hard-coded some strings, rendering the game impossible to be fully localized without code modification. Some buyers actually asked about how they could do translations. I felt really ashamed while answering those mails 😦 . For I am overburdened I’ve built a system which allows to bind assets for specific cultures and all the strings are read from asset files too. There are no major limiting factors now, so technically the game could be localized to any language without modifying the application. I know some languages are super hard to handle, e.g.: right-to-left ones or the ones with huge glyph sets, but the point is, that it is feasible now.

Since I don’t have the budget to pay for professional translations, only English and Hungarian will be done for release, but if the game does well, this is something, that is high on my list 😉 .

In-game UI

The user interface for the game is pretty much complete. Some finishing touches are missing here and there, but it is already pleasant looking and almost fully functional from the health-bar all the way to the item pickup pop-ups.

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The main menu

I dislike making menus because they are usually boring to design and program. For Operation KREEP I came up with the idea of creating a “screen in the screen” look, to make it more interesting and alleviate this feeling while working on it. You navigated the menus of a retro-looking computer and the whole frame of the machine was drawn. It blitted the maps on the level selection screen in awful 4 colors and all the cozy stuff like that 🙂 . It worked for me and for the game too.

I tried a non-traditional approach again, but menus are still boring 😀 . Since it is a classic trope to have a city in action RPG-s and roguelikes where you return to from time-to-time, I thought about including one in I am overburdened. The idea did not align well with its mechanics, so I decided to make it the main menu! You move around in an inn, interacting with people and objects there to enter specific parts of the game. Talking with the inn-keeper lands you on a help screen, poking a bookshelf shows the settings, leaving the inn exits the game and the trap-door starts the actual dungeon crawling… If a player gets lost, escape will bring-up an ordinary focus driven menu. It is far from complete, but the skeleton is there and some parts already work.

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Open beta, plans

I’ve been talking about this open version thingy for ages and I still haven’t released it. In my original plans I wanted to have the full game completed by now 😦 . For the most part it is, but some planned content and finalization (+polish) is missing. There comes a time when I have to say stop and I think it is here, so from now on I will only focus on wrapping the whole thing up and this starts with putting out a beta version. Will prepare some marketing materials beforehand, like store page graphics and texts, maybe even a teaser trailer, so it may take a few days, but will share a download link for it in the next post 🙂 😉 !

Stay tuned.

I am overburdened, check out the graphics!

Hello everyone!

Tiny post with lot of pics this time. Last week I worked on the original sprites of the game and progressed steadily. Far from finished with every piece but a huge portion is done!

Missing pieces

In the last log I showcased the tile graphics, but one final adjustment was missing back then. All the tile-sets shared a single stair sprite which wasn’t fitting well, so I made a separate sprite for each one.

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Entity sprites

The next stop was entities. I started out with defining clear goals for the looks and creating a palette serving these goals. The idea was to select contrasting, vivid colors to make entities pop from the environment and on contrary to the looks of the dungeons make them lively (browns and yellows are still pretty strong still 😀 )!

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Not yet finalized!

Player

I really liked the design I came up with before for the player character so I reused my concept which was a failed attempt at the box art of the game. Two sprite states exists, since in the planned “story” scenes the player will have his sword in its scabbard.

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Chests

The first apparent visual choice here are the light borders. I decided to add a colored one to every interactive entity type, so the player can not miss which tiles poses a threat and which ones provide bonuses. I made four chests with various costs/functions but I’m keeping the last one as a secret for the final version 😉 .

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Pickups

Pickups come in many flavors. Permanent attribute bonuses (Meat = +Strength, Frying pan = +Armor, Carrot = +Vitality, Coffee = +Speed, Clover = +Luck), gold, potions, random items etc… Here are a few:

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Monsters

I settled on a style after a few tries where the monsters are pictured from the same angle as the player. I plan to have around 15-20 unique monsters and a boss, which will provide a good variety for the 30 dungeon levels. They were divided into four groups based on the story when designing the looks: were/giant animals, goblinoids, undead and the allies of the boss. Almost all of them is ready (currently at 16).

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Some screenshots from the current version of the game:

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This week will be spent on completing the missing sprites (e.g.: items, some monsters) and overall visual improvements and polish, so I’m guessing the next entry will be similar. A kind-of “news” is my plans for an alpha demo. Before I complete and release the game I really want to do a open build (which will become the demo later) to gather feedback. I think wrapping this version up sometime next week is perfectly viable, so by the end of this week I’ll post a finished plan for this too.

Thanks for reading.
Take care.

I am overburdened, miles of tiles

Hi there!

Short entry, a bit tutorial-ish, about the tile graphics of the game.

Art direction, ideas

I really liked the style of the open art assets I used for prototyping. Pixel art, huge value differences between the wall and the floor tiles and a little noise to make it a little grimy & wrecked.

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Though I liked it’s looks and simplicity, I wanted to try some other ideas before settling on anything so I went ahead and made mockups.

False positive

The most interesting and furthest developed one was a tile-set and look with an oblique top-down view effect. I think this looks really good in many games, but sometimes it can get too exaggerated covering too much of the entity sprites.

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I came up with this, but I decided to scrap the idea. I liked it sort-of, but making multiple varied sets for the 30 to 60 minute long campaign and fully fleshing them out in this style would require and immense amount of work. I choose the original simple style with a decent amount of variation instead.

Goals, final looks

So I returned to the looks of the prototype. Easily distinguishable wall and floor tiles, noisy and grimy places (it is an old dungeon after all) and good variations (many sets and small randomization within each set too) so it does not become boring during a full play-through. I needed a cool palette. Something murky. While picking colors I naturally deviated towards the looks of a game I always cherished for its atmosphere 🙂 .

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Colors were picked carefully for supporting the look of the entity sprites, as they will use a marginally different palette full of contrasting colors instead of saturated ones to make them pop from the terrain (again just like in the prototype).

Here goes some shots about the results:

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I have 10 different tile sets ready which I suspect will provide a good variety 🙂 . With 30-ish level deep dungeons a set change will happen after every 3 levels.

How-to?

For creating a lot of pixel art tiles, like the ones I made, you are going to need a frame so to say. Some rules and patterns how you start pixeling each tile and afterwards patience for experimentation. That is all to it actually. I walk through the creation of one.

I use GIMP, a free and cross-platform image editor, but pixel art can be done just as well in a lot of paint programs (even in paint, but I advise you to choose a better one which supports layers). A graphics tool which can work with tiles or a hot-reload engine feature (because GIMP as an example does not support tile graphics) also helps, since you can check while you are drawing, whether your graphics work well when tiled instantly.

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First I usually start with selecting values for the whole set. This is a handy technique for defining an overall lightness/darkness balance for each tile.

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Than I “sketch” a simple pattern for a tile using the values, usually with a light-source residing in a North-West direction.

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I add a little variation, like cracks, missing bricks, mixing up the pattern etc… Detail like wines or stains can be added after coloring is done but this step alone makes enough differences between tiles.

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I know simply selecting the same hue for the given values feels easy, but it makes the outcome look kind-of boring. Try to make colors interesting by selecting at least two different hues and by playing with saturation a little. It will make a huge difference!

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Now you have a nice looking tile. The next step is optional. Adding noise was a deliberate style choice in my case. You simply add an extra set of values with only slight changes relative to the originally used ones. Select the noise colors the same way as the “normal” colors. Generate a noise pattern and overlay the noise colors on top of the tile using it as a mask.

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A screenshot with the final tiles:

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Thanks for reading.

Stay tuned!

I am overburdened, evolution of box-art

Hello there!

Took most of last week off for vacation == no entries, sorry about that, but this week I’m going to make multiple videos and blog posts 🙂 ! This first one is about the box-art of the game.

Backstory, requirements

For previous projects I did not spend too much energy on the promotional art. That was obviously a mistake, because usually it is the first thing both the players and the press comes across when checking your game, so it needs to have a good teaser, but it is easy to forget the importance of it and miss allocating time for it…

I planned to make a difference this time, but I significantly underestimated the needed efforts 😦 . I wanted to capture the plot of the game in an image, suggesting the core mechanic, which is trying to collect a lot of loot and having a huge inventory, but still not being enough. All in all I think I succeeded but it took two tries 🙂 .

First try

My first idea was to focus on the protagonist of the game, who is a tomb raider kind-a guy (the not so morally OK one). Not being a typical hero or warrior, I wanted to present him as a bit of a simpleton and not someone who would kill a bunch of monsters with a single slash, since you won’t be able to do that in the game either.

Concepting and direction

I started out with some concept sketches in my notebook, portraying a bandit/pirate figure carrying huge bags…

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I continued with flashing out this character with a composition I thought I like:

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I wanted to create a pixel art end result, because I dislike box-arts with totally disconnected style from the game (except if it is top-notch quality + it adds to the lore of the game) but from my experiences with Operation KREEP, I knew I’m going to need a s#!tload of image sizes for promotional art (especially true if you plan to sell the game on multiple storefronts). Steam alone requests 5+ marginally different aspect ratios. So I decided to go with vector art as a base, and fix various sized renders instead of manually doing 3 to 4 different setups pixel by pixel.

Inking, results and confession

I use Inkscape for vector art. It is a free and cross-platform vector graphics editor, and has a convenient user interface . Perfect for line-art, icons etc…

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First batch of line-art and shading work was pretty promising, I grown to quite like the character…

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I tried out rendering the character in various sizes and fixing them up in GIMP using color reduction and manual pixel pushing. I still had “hope” at this point 😀 .

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Then I throw together a “placeholder” pixel art title text.

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The only thing left, was composition, fine-tuning and polish, so putting together an actual art piece which I could use as the promotional material for the game. Here are my attempts:

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Of course I made close to a dozen of these, to try out various text sizes, backgrounds etc…

I don’t know if anyone likes them, but I sure felt like they simply aren’t working. I liked the character, I liked the colors, but the image was lacking detail, a good looking title-text, a correct composition and most importantly somehow it was lacking life 😐 . After days of fiddling on-and-off with it I decided, that no amount of polish is going the fix these problems, so I scraped it and started over!

Second try

I wanted to approach the next trial smarter. So instead of jumping in I looked at a lot of reference pictures and lay down much clearer goals and concepts before jumping into producing the picture.

Reference material

Looking at some images made for other games helped a lot! It made me realize, that I have to focus a lot more on the text first and foremost, and a more clever use of both color and space is required for the image as a whole.

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I came up with the following concept afterwards which I really liked:

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I followed a similar approach for scalability, using Inkscape to create the outline and work from the renders, manually pixeling the final image:

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Final, final, final, final!

Funny thing about the final image is, that it took much less time and effort than my first attempt and I think it turned out to be a good deal better looking 🙂 .

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The takeaway is if you feel even a tiny bit stuck, sit back to the drawing board and spend some more time on your concepts, it will probably yield better results !

The upcoming entries will be about the linux and mac ports of my previous game Operation KREEP and the tile graphics of I am overburdened. Here is a little sneak-peek of the last one:

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Stay tuned!