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Deadly Sin marks the third Steam release for Dancing Dragon Games, the studio behind the previously released Deadly Sin 2 and the sleeper hit Skyborn. Originally completed in 2009 on RPG Maker VX, the original Deadly Sin is actually arriving on Steam after its predecessor. Dancing Dragon Games developer Phil Hamilton agreed to discuss that and some other game-related points here on the blog. Read on to find advice on finishing a worthy commercial game, commentary on balancing old-school and innovation and news of what’s next for Dancing Dragon Games.

How did you feel about the response to Deadly Sin 2’s release? Was its reception on Steam the reason you decided to release the original?

I was actually a tad disappointed by Deadly Sin 2’s release, both its original release back in 2010, and its Steam release. I feel it is much better-designed than Deadly Sin 1, and even better than Skyborn in some ways, but it seemed to lack that “magic” that makes a game really come together. Deadly Sin 1 was my first commercial game, and I’ve had quite a few requests to get all of my work on Steam, and thus, here we are!

How much continuity is there between Deadly Sin and Deadly Sin 2? Do any issues arise from releasing them in reverse order?

There’s actually no continuity, other than perhaps some similar design choices and names. Narratively, the two games are completely independent. Releasing them in reverse order might strike people as odd, but it shouldn’t be an issue.

When working on a classic-style RPG, how do you find a balance between evoking an old-school feel and innovating enough to make the game feel like a fresh experience?

I will admit, I got better at this balancing act as I built up to Skyborn. But even in Deadly Sin 1 and 2, I made great efforts to leave behind some of the outdated RPG mechanics of the past, while still maintaining the core feel of a JRPG. I think the long and short of it is to simply go with what you know – lay the groundwork of an old-school JRPG, and pick apart its individual components. Are things like MP, save points, and game overs really necessary for modern gamers? These are examples of, in my opinion, outdated aspects of traditional JRPGs that would only serve to slow down and annoy players. JRPGs live and die on their narrative – no need to slow players down with mechanics that serve only as filler or delay.

What part of the game-making process comes easiest? What part is the toughest?

The easiest is almost certainly the building of the weapons and armor database. Coming from MMORPGs, it is definitely nice to be able to make your own gear, rather than waste away on WoW trying to grind someone else’s gear. :) The most difficult part, only by virtue of its paramount importance, is the narrative. This is one aspect that no JRPG can afford to put in 2nd place in terms of priority. I’ll be the first to admit, narrative design does not come naturally to me. I have to slog through it, erase days of progress and start over, basically dig through a mountain with a tiny chisel. But in the end, it’s enormously rewarding. In Deadly Sin 1, and much moreso in Skyborn, the narrative managed to come together pretty well.

The difficulty of actually finishing a game in the RM community has been well-documented. You’ve now had three full games that have been commercially released. What’s your secret?

When you’re young, you think you can go it alone. You think you can improvise, coast, and get by just on your talent. Once you learn that no successful person has ever gotten by just on their talent, that’s when you finally start to flourish. You’ve got to remind yourself of your purpose every day, maybe even every hour. You must never rest on your laurels – never think, “well, this is good enough.” Don’t settle for good enough. Only settle for your best. Delete “good enough”, start over, and make it better. Make yourself better, all the time. Be open to harsh criticism. Be open to failure. Beg for it, absorb it and use it to your advantage. It’s purpose that drives me, and perhaps, that would drive others as well.

What’s next for Dancing Dragon Games?

Skyborn’s popularity has really floored us and humbled us. We didn’t expect it, but now we want to build on that success. Echoes of Aetheria is coming soon, probably in May 2015. It builds on what we believe to be the succeeding factors of Skyborn, and makes it much bigger, much better, and much higher-tech. We think players who loved Skyborn’s whimsical high adventure will love Echoes of Aetheria just the same. We also think players who may have found Skyborn’s underlying systems primitive will be pleased to see the massive tech upgrades we will show off with Echoes of Aetheria.

Oh, and Skyborn 2’s probably coming after that. :)

Deadly Sin is available on Steam here
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With old school gaming going through a resurgence, there has never been a better time to be making games that harken back to those SNES era RPGs like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, or Dragon Quest V.

And in this zeitgeist we’ve had plenty of requests to bring back some of OUR classic makers. And today, we answer that flood of requests, to bring you, for the first time in the English Language: [click to continue…]

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So for the Runic Hunter, I had a pretty decent description going in

Mt. Zurat Summoner/Hunter – These Summoners wield special rune magic to capture magical beasts and demons.  Clad in white robes with tooled golden masks, their weapons are etched with sigils of capture and control.

I obviously tweaked the name a bit since I thought Mt. Zurat Summoner/Hunter wasn’t exactly amazing.  So I just made up something based off my description and sketch.

runehunter-sketch

So obviously the white robe and golden mask were a must, and I wanted to put lots of runes on things.  I also decided to make it a lady, which I thought would be something fun and different for the community since I usually just have giant, gross monsters!

runehunter-d2

A rare mid process drawing, I wanted to show someone on the team where I was at with the character, so I took a photo pretty early on.  Its easy to see how sketchy I am at the beginning.

runehunter_d1

A little further along and in the computer.  I ended up doing a revision on the left sword to make it a little less flat to the viewer.

runehunter_c1

After a quick tonal I started to think about my colors.  A friend suggested the use of red in the photo above, and I am really pleased with how it turned out.  As you can see around the edges, I set up my palette with the blender brush.

runehunter_p1

Here I’ve pushed the values a bit more with some painting over the above layers I set up.  Now its time to move onto effects!

runehunter_f1

Glows and rim lighting, go!  This is my final, which was then posted on the site for download.

Go vote in the poll, don’t vote for the joke character! http://forums.rpgmakerweb.com/index.php?/topic/38408-bi-weekly-battler-runic-hunter/

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LivingTownBanner

Hey everyone, the Living Town is back again after a long hiatus. Unfortunately, it kept getting pushed back for a variety of reasons, but from now on, we are on a regular schedule! A new Living Town article will be up every other Saturday, with the next one being on April 11th.

To figure out what is going on in this series that has been stuck in hibernation, you can check out the two previous articles.

Now, the first step in getting this prototype built… is to immediately change my mind about something I said in the planning phase. I just keep looking at the idea of just using a tileset switch on transfer, and I don’t think it will work that well. I would have to put the event on move through to be safe, and I’m not sure how that would interact with pathfinding, so its probably best just to use the second solution: Splicing together the two different tilesets.

BC

For part B and C its pretty easy, since our DE parts of the tileset are empty, we can just plug them in there. For the Tile A parts, we will need to combine them together. First, I’m going to decide which of the pieces will be the base. We use more of the outside tiles, so that will be the base we use. So let’s take the inside tiles, and using an art program with layers, mark all the ones that we need to copy over in a new layer.

Marked

Turns out we are only using a few parts of Inside Tile A2 and A4. All of which are marked above. So let’s copy those over into the Outside Tile A2 and A4.

Pro Tip: When using a Graphics Editor to copy or manipulate tiles, set a custom grid to 32×32 pixels, and set “snap to grid”. This will make aligning your new pieces MUCH easier.

Quickly remap it with the tiles, make sure all the passabilities are set, and now we have a map that looks right in the editor!

Right

Also, I need to make sure to remove the change tileset command in the transfer events. It would really mess things up if I didn’t!

Next step to do is configure the time script. I go into the configurations and… well they are already set in a way that works perfectly for what I’m working on, so no issue there. The clock script is also configured to work fine with our current setup. Once we do more complicated stuff than the prototype, it will need to be adjusted, but for now, it is fine.

Well that was anticlimactic...

Well that was anticlimactic…

NOTE: I actually have a more up to date version of this script provided to me by Solistra that I will switch to later. I decided that including switching to a more up to date version of a script and checking for settings and such would be a good lesson to learn in the future, so I’ll start with this version, and then change over.

Last thing to do to learn all my tools is to make sure I understand how to use the pathfinding script. It operates by using script calls in move routes. And a script call looks something like this:

find_path(x, y, distance = 0, jump = false, commonEvent = 0, catchup = 0,  catchupSpeed = 5, normalSpeed = 4)

With X and Y are replaced by the coordinates of where you want the event to go. The other parts are explained in the script, but I don’t think I’ll need them at this point, so I’ll leave them at default. To test it out I just make a move route on Arglebar the farmer that will make him walk around the town to different places and wait 10 seconds before moving to the next place.

Move route

So I boot it up to test it and… He’s super slow (might want to change the speed in the pathfinding setting), and he doesn’t care much for the beaten path, which was expected, but it works!

Don't rush me! I'll get there when I get there.

Don’t rush me! I’ll get there when I get there.

I’ve had a mostly successful time of it so far. I’ve figured out how our scripts work. I’ve managed to get my interior set where I know it won’t cause any errors. Next time, I’ll start actually putting the prototype together with these pieces.

You can download the current progress HERE.

Any advice on learning new scripts? What new tools have you used in your current projects? Join us in the comments section below.

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Tips: Writing and implementing a game plot

By: Lunarea

Sitting down and coming up with a really great story sounds simple in theory. After all, it really just takes some imagination and writing experience. There are some fantastic writing tutorials out there, as well as writing prompts that can really get you in the mood to be creative.

Yet, when it comes time to implement the story into the game, a lot of developers find themselves frustrated or stumped. How do you take a story and turn it into something that a player will not only enjoy, but want to keep playing for?

1. Plan out your plot

Story_Mountain

The concept of a story mountain is a good way to figure out the basic story structure.

 

One of the first (and likely most important) steps is to sit down and plan out the basics of your story – have a defined beginning, middle and end. I know, it sounds kind of boring, especially if you’re the type to feel at your most creative when you make up the story as you go along. Knowing exactly what your story is means that you can use a bundle of literary devices that can really push your story into the memorable category. It also means you have an excellent idea of how many maps and resources you’ll need – something that helps your development efficiency.

Still concerned that planning ahead will put a damper on your creativity? Start thinking about side quests and side stories. You can be completely random, creative and unfocused in side quests. It’s a great place to experiment and explore other parts of your game’s universe, without having to worry about how it fits into the main story narrative.

2. Figure out the pacing

Unlike novels and short stories, the story flow of a game plot is dependent on the gameplay itself. Dungeons, battles and exploration create natural pauses in storytelling, which is something that the developer needs to take into account.

On one hand, you don’t want the player to have to go through 3 hours-worth of play before they can continue on with the story. These large pauses can leave the player distracted or feeling like the plot is an afterthought in the game.

xs1shion

Though I personally love Xenosaga, a lot of players were annoyed at having to sit through several 20+ minute long cutscenes.

 

On the other hand, you are making a game and the player needs to be able to do more than just sit through a string of cutscenes. Showing scene after scene builds up great momentum, but it only works if the player is interested and paying attention.

Finding the balance between story (cutscenes) and play (dungeons, exploration) is challenging, even more so because different players will have different preferences. Some will want to just get through the story and will rush through the area, while others will explore every nook and cranny before moving on.

So, how do you figure out the perfect balance? Hearing feedback from your players will be tremendously helpful, as will playing games other developers have made.

3. Be adaptable

As you develop your game, you’ll come across challenges. You might not be able to use the character feature you really wanted, and suddenly it has no place in the narrative. Or maybe you have to scrap an entire area because you can’t find the right tileset. Then there’s the story-telling challenges… Maybe that long background story the character talks about would make a better playable flashback. Or maybe the revelations at the final boss lair are a little too “out of the blue”.

This is when you take out your pencil and make some changes to the planning you did at the beginning. It might sound intimidating, but making changes to the story can help you stay motivated and on course with finishing your game.

Likewise, don’t be afraid of making changes to your gameplay or your game format. A really elaborate story might be more manageable as a serial – where you release the game in chapters or acts. And writing the dialogue for a cutscene might just inspire you to re-map the entire area.

Do you have any tips on writing? Sound off below.

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Battler Art – Gluttony!

in Resources

For this seven sins Battler, I wanted to take a slightly different approach.  Initially I was thinking a more humanoid, fat character, but I wanted to push in a different direction so I started trying to think of how I could work in something like giant mouths.  From there a few sketches later I kind of had this giant toad-like monster with a demon tongue.  I then realized I had him “wielding a sword” in my description.  Obviously that wouldn’t work in his non-existent hands, so I thought it might be cool for the demon tongue to be holding it sort of like Sif in Dark-Souls.

gluttony_d1

So I sat down with my paper and a pencil and went to it.  I was on a slightly tighter timeline this time, so I decided to do all of my coloring digitally.

gluttony_t1

Here is my tonal comp, I have my broad light-scheme pretty much mapped out here.

gluttony_c1

Here I added color lightly underneath my tonal layer(set to multiply).  You can see my quick palette in the upper left; I was sampling most of my colors from here.

gluttony_p01

Here I’ve merged my tonal and color layers and started into that layer with some blender brushes, picking out details and detailing textures.

gluttony_p1

And here is the final with some more work into the dark areas, more detail work and highlights, and some fancy rim lighting on the right side.

Check out the time-lapse here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtDx9k_BPdw

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Today, I plan on doing something a little different. I talk a lot about making games. I talk a lot about games to look at to get ideas about making games. I talk about games that are not even video games to get ideas about making games. But, when you get enough of that project you are working on done to show off a demo, there is going to be that next step.

That step where you have to put yourself out there. Every person who creates puts themselves out there. That thing you made, is a piece of you. So you take that piece of you, you package it up with a nice topic on our forums, or maybe one of the many other excellent fan sites, or maybe you just send it to a friend. And you tie it off with a bow. And you just know that people are going to love it. Because you love it. How can it be bad?

I mean, look at that topic header. You had to put like, 3 filters on that thing. That is like, so many filters.

I mean, look at that topic header for my game. I put like, 3 filters on that thing. That is like, so many filters.

And then the shoe drops. Someone has come up to you, and told you what you made is awful. Or maybe they just criticized a couple of details. But all the same, its a crash. We get it. It isn’t fun. No one likes hearing someone say something they made is flawed.

But what you do next is important.

Stop

Never, ever respond to criticism right after you read it. You could be a bit emotional at the time. Its understandable. Someone is criticizing your baby. And I’m sure you don’t need me to explain why responding emotionally is a bad idea.

What do you mean my mapping is bland, that map has 3 trees. THAT IS LIKE SO MANY TREES!

What do you mean my mapping is bland, that map has 3 trees on it. THAT IS LIKE, SO MANY TREES!

But let’s say you aren’t. Let’s say that you actually are perfectly calm. Still don’t respond yet.

If you respond right after reading, 99 times out of 100, you haven’t actually thought about what the person told you.

Think

Okay. You’ve taken a break. Had a Snicker’s (you’re not yourself when you’re hungry). And you’re back at the keyboard. Now, read what they wrote again. Try to identify what they saw as problem spots.

In well written criticism, it shouldn’t be too hard to find. They will tell you directly. Sometimes though, its not as obvious. Maybe they are really vague, or maybe they just are explaining themselves badly.

Either way, think about what in your game could make them come to the conclusions they did.

Ask Questions

Ask them questions to get a better idea of the problem they had. Always lead off by thanking them for taking the time to check out your game. Even if they really were behaving badly, showing that you are mature in your response will help you get more detailed answers, as people will really want to help you out. Detailed answers about why people had problems with your game is crucial to perfecting your project.

Thanks for taking the time to give me some feedback. I just was hoping you could give me a bit more detail on what you meant when you said that all the main character choices felt samey? I made 3 main character classes (that is like, so may classes).

Thanks for taking the time to give me some feedback. I just was hoping you could give me a bit more detail on what you meant when you said that all the main character choices felt samey? I made 3 character classes for him (that is like, so may classes).

Analyse

Now that you have that detailed description of their issue, look at it in the context of your game. Try not to think of your game as your game, think of it as someone just coming in. Does what they are saying make sense?

If it does, you have some work to do. If it doesn’t, why doesn’t it make sense?

Did they misunderstand something? Then maybe you need to work on having your game communicate that better.

Are they not part of the target audience? What attracted them to your game in the first place, and could your target audience be adjusted to include people with his tastes, too?

Respond

Now is when you can take the time to respond. Once again, start by thanking them for their time. You put that demo out to get feedback, and they came to help you out. More than likely, they really wanted to help. Or maybe they just are a jerk who likes to get people down, but I like to assume the best until they prove they are worse, and it never hurts to show you aren’t going to sling mud.

After that, it depends on what you think you should do with their advice. If you think they have a point, tell them so. You can tell them how you hadn’t thought of that, and man, its a good thing they came along to help you out. Tell them some plans you have for fixing it, see if they have any suggestions.

Ugh, back to the editor. They brought up 3 things I hadn't thought of. That is like. so many things.

Ugh, back to the editor. They brought up 3 things I hadn’t even thought of being an issue. That is like. so many things.

If you think that their criticism isn’t applicable, you can tell them so. You can even point out the reasons you feel that it isn’t relevant. But don’t try to make it a rebuttal. You don’t have to justify your decisions. You can explain that you appreciate their advice, but you feel your original design for that portion of your game best serves your intended purpose.

You aren’t bound to follow every bit of criticism you get, and no one reasonable is going to judge you for politely saying you feel confident in your current design. (Though if you find a large majority giving you the same criticism, you should probably take heed).

Of course, there is always the criticism you can feel safe ignoring. If it is laced with so many profanities it could OD a sailor, and says nothing meaningful and personally insults your mother, your third cousin, and your childhood dog, just roll your eyes and move on, don’t even bother responding (and hit the report button if its on our forums!(extra points if you include the eye rolling emoticon on the report)).

So, do you have any advice on taking criticism? Any fun stories of criticism that really helped you? Or maybe an embarrassing story about you having a bad reaction to criticism. Make sure to join us in the comments section below!

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emotion

First, I’d like to thank everyone for participating in our Emotion in Motion Contest. We had a decent number of entries, and it was fun watching through them all. Because of this, EVERYONE gets a participation prize. If you sent in an entry, make sure to PM me (Touchfuzzy) on the official forums to receive a credit on your account. $5 for each participant, and $25 dollars for our winner!

And without further adieu, our winner:

Hahn Deathspark (as he is listed on youtube), centered his video on the emotion HOPE. And I’ll be honest. There were prettier videos in the contest. There were videos that were converted to video better (there is some blurriness from weird upscaling). But there weren’t any videos that captured the emotion it was going for quite like this one.

The story is cute, if a little cliche, and possibly also a bit unrealistic, but its also told with some nice tonal shifts in the music, and really keeps the emotion going all the way to the end.

Congratulations!

Thank you again for everyone that participated, and we look forward to seeing what you all make next!

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Why We Game

in Gamer Thoughts

So the other day, before a we had a meeting, I was having a brief conversation with Mark, who on top of doing some great work working with designers on games we publish, writes some awesome articles for us over here at the blog, and we stumbled in on an interesting subject.

We were discussing the Borderlands series (I think I was mentioning wanting to grab the Handsome Collection), and he mentioned he didn’t think it would have been as fun playing solo. Which confused me because I almost exclusively played it solo, and consider Borderlands 2 one of the best games of the last 5 years.

Krieg doesn't need another player, he has the voice in his head to talk to.

Krieg doesn’t need another player, he has the voice in his head to talk to.

The part that was interesting about this is that we both play games for very different reasons. Which surprised me even more, because we had very similar opinions on a lot of design ideas, though I know we have disagreed on some things in the past (I believe I have a lot more love for traditional RPG mechanics than he does for instance), it never seemed like as broad of a gap in reasons to play as I thought.

Video games, for me, are a way to retreat away from social interaction. A way to recharge from having to deal with other people. Now, I like people, I just find them all a bit tiring. Things like MMOs, it just feels like stress to me to have to work on anyone else’s schedule.

Mark on the other hand, sees video games as a way to connect to other people. He likes multiplayer, even when playing single player games he will often stream the game for others to see. And of course, he loves just talking about games (to be fair, I love this part too, otherwise I wouldn’t have taken this job).

I did get to see a good peek at the PC HD version of Resident Evil while he steamed it. It looked awesome.

I did get to see a good peek at the PC HD version of Resident Evil while he streamed it. It looked awesome.

And other people I’m sure, play for many other reasons. They play for challenge. Or just to hear a good story. Or any combination of other reasons. I’m sure we all have a myriad of reasons, and sometimes, we can have conflicting reasons for why we play different games. When I sit down to play Sudoku on my tablet, it is absolutely for different reasons than I pop in Saints Row the Third.

And I feel like this is something we really need to be thinking about when designing: Why do we play? Why do other players play? Can we somehow use that information to make our games better? To be honest, I’m not really sure how to use the information this conversation brought to the forefront for me. I don’t really have all the answers. So why don’t you join the conversation below. Why do YOU game, and how do you think thinking about the reasons people game can improve our designs?

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So this creature was fairly straightforward in terms of design, I didn’t want to push it too extreme (although now I feel like I should have gone further) and have it be a ‘regular’ enemy.  After some sketches loosely figuring out the design I went ahead and made my drawing.

armoredskeleton_draw

After laying the drawing out I did a quick pass of acrylics to lay out some values.  Next time I think I will just start with my colors from here though.

armoredskeleton_tone

Now everything was in place to start with some colors.

armoredskeleton-paint1

I laid in the main colors pretty thinly at first, mixing them with a bit of linseed oil and odorless mineral spirits.  After that I gradually increased my opacity until I got to this point.  I had to let it sit for a bit before the next layer.

armoredskeleton-paint2

This is a shot right before I took it into the computer.  I’ve glazed on quite a bit of shadow and light over my initial colors here, opting for a cool blueish shadow, and a warm yellow light.  I also worked into the cool rim light a bit as well.

armoredskeleton_f2

I mostly kept my adjustments in photoshop to levels, since the photo I took turned out a little dark.  I also added a bit of glow to my cool rim light with a hard light layer.  It was then removed from the background and saved out as a .png for use in RPGMaker!

Go vote for the next battler here.

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