Stuff Under the Header


Another Progress Report

The blog reached over 100,000 views the other day. Some of that is from a handful of google bots. (I typically see about 10% of the 'traffic' from those.) It's how I find sites where people link to the blog and where people are talking about the game.

Chapter 18 has a small handful of maps left to make and script for. Spoilers to the testers, there's another boss encounter. Things aren't done yet. That said, it's pretty much done. When looking over what's made compared to the original plan, I wasn't surprised that what I actually made was pretty different than what was planned.

Without spoiling things: Originally it was going to be more story driven, with bits of dialogue mixed in and somewhat frequent short stops. This isn't what happened at all and lately I've been playing around with more interactive cutscenes. They're nothing that AAA titles do, but that isn't the focus here at all. Scripted cutscenes take a long time to do right and my engine is not built for it. I haven't given myself a lot of tools to develop them rapidly like I can for levels and AI. I find that interactive sequences (where the player has control, but they really can't change the outcome of the situation/story) are actually easier to do in my engine. Forcing the player object to move during cutscenes is tricky because when the game is paused, all the player physics are told to stop, and while that's actually an easy fix, I won't bother with it. There are very few times where I forcibly move the player object without player consent. I don't like doing it actually. The most I do with DT3 is move the player object a short distance left or right. Like the stuff that happened just before the Quick Time Distorter in DT1. I much more prefer to do something like what happens at the end of the Shroud Lord fight with the spike walls closing in. Of course the things I'm doing now are much different, I simply mean I like giving the player control of the character during something like that, even if they technically can't do anything to change the situation. (Note: There was some redundancy in that long paragraph.)

So what actually happened in Chapter 18 is a lot of almost no cutscenes at all. The dialogue is very condensed and occurs rarely. There's even sequence that the player can skip by entirely where two characters are chatting, but don't know the player is there. The player will probably stop, but I find it actually felt right to let them simply pass that conversation by if they wanted. It's simple I know, but DT3's end content is stepping in that direction a lot.

No screenshot this time, but hey, there's a spider drone that can reverse its gravity and stick to the ceiling. How fucking awesome is that?


Development Progress on DT3

There's that young male grackle from before. His darker feathers are coming out.

I'm getting to the end of Chapter 18 content, which means just two more and I can finally move onto the final stage of development. That is making the game more presentable and fixing all the things that I know will bother people. The game won't be perfect, and I know bugs will slip through. I'll be doing my best to minimize that of course. There's going to be a point where I'll just have to say, "I'm done and I need to move on." I don't know what that point will be, but it'll happen.

Sound is the biggest thing missing from the game. A lot of sounds simply aren't there, or sounds aren't final. There's a video posted below that showcases sounds not being final. Jerry fires off the Shotgun Ice that uses the X-Buster sound as a placeholder. Little things like that.

There's a lot of little effects that still need to be put in. During DT1 development, I was afraid of using too many particles because I kept thinking they would lag the game, so effects that requires a lot of little particles didn't happen often. The thing is, those kinds of things did lag DT1 when I tried them. There were two reasons, my particle system was incredibly inefficient. I was using code that took more cpu time when there were far better options. The other reason is DT1 started on Game Maker 6.1, whose interpreter and sprite drawing functions weren't even close to how fast they are now. Game Maker has improved a ton since then. Frame rate was a thing in DT1 both because GM 6.1 wasn't very fast, and my coding practices were far worse than they are now.

I've been slowing adding in bits of sound and visual effects here and there, but I really haven't devoted that much time to them, because the rest of the game has just been more important. When all the game's content is set, I can then see exactly what I need in terms of sound and improved visuals.

Here's a video, the video info on youtube has more info.


This Post is Secretly About Birds

This is somewhat a rant post, and sort of not a rant post; and it does contain spoilers for the animated movies, Rio and Rio 2. This is more specifically about Rio 2, why it sucks, and what I think should have been different. Also this post is long, because I can bitch about things for a very long time. (Skip to 'What Should Be Different'... or don't.)

This movie has birds in it, so... I had to see it. Okay, that's not the reason. I just like animated movies and had happened to see the first Rio sometime back when it was released. It wasn't anything spectacular, but it was enjoyable for simply a kids movie with likable characters, wait, gotta stop here for a second. The characters, while there were some loud ones, namely Pedro and Nico, it wasn't over the top and they fit the setting and atmosphere pervading the movie. I didn't care much for the two named birds, but they (well Nico) at least worked well for it. The plot was standard, but nothing cringe-worthy that makes your sides hurt and want to jump off a building, plugging up your ears to shut the... we'll stop there. The animation is one of the better things about it. It's well done, very fluid and colorful. A lot is happening, but it's not an overload.

The plot for each film can be found at these two links, or just keep reading here as I give an overview and my own thoughts.
Rio 1 Wikipedia
Rio 2 Wikipedia

We then come to Rio 2, which I had heard nothing about and didn't even know it was in theatres until I saw it on the board when choosing another movie. (Maleficent I think?) It wasn't until after it was released on DVD that I saw it online. (No, I didn't steal or pirate it, my viewing was legal and paid for.) Before watching the movie, I wasn't expecting anything out of it, I was pretty sure it would suck hard. Then I saw the premise for the movie. In the first movie, the protagonist Blu, a blue macaw, is brought to Rio de Janeiro to mate with a female blue macaw named Jewel. Blu was raised by a human girl and comes to know human environments and what they do as the norm. Jewel is in captivity, but wants to get free. When Blu is brought to her, it's right in the middle of her escape plan. The two are accidently tied together during her escape, which of course brings Blu along with her. The two are very different people(birds), shenegans occur and we have the movie of their eventually coming to like one another. Something I want to note here about the first. Blu is never out of his element in the first movie. He knows humans and their habitats very well. While he is strung to Jewel for a very large portion of it, the two never leave the confines of human influence. This is important to note.

Into the second movie, the two macaws still think that they are the last two blue macaws in existance. They now have their three kids, who are actually introduced and set up well, about one of the only good things in Rio 2. The premise is the two hear about other blue macaws being found in the amazons, so Jewel decides she wants to bring the family there so her kids can see what it's like to be a macaw, as their current lifestyle isn't completely bird-like. This is where I thought the second film could actually be good, maybe better than the first. I brought my hopes up that it wouldn't simply be a standard animated sequence that is essentially the first movie cranked up to 11 without any of the charm. This is exactly what it turned out to be. Rio 2 is loud and at times obnoxious I feel. It never slows down, never stops to really take in anything. As soon as it looks like it's finally calming down a little to reveal some character, something loud and spontaneous must happen. The animation is still really good, it's like the first Rio, but with more saturation and color. Imagine 100,000 boxes of Fruit Loops all exploding open at the same time, that's Rio 2 in a nutshell. The choreography is great, the songs aren't too bad. Certainly better than Frozen's songs, actually this movie is better than Frozen. Frozen sucked, it sucked hard. Fuck that movie, it isn't good. It's damn awful. Horrible characters, horrible writing, god-awful annoying songs.

So we're back to Rio 2 now. I looked up reviews on Rio 2 after watching it, and it seems to average a 49%, which I find fair. Something that many reviewers said was that they wanted the characters to shut up and sing more. And I thought... NO, stop saying that, stop giving writers more fuel to write garbage. They needed less song and dance, and more dialogue. The dialogue was very rare, but when it actually happened, at least without all the noise in the background, it was enjoyable. So far, no one mentioned the thing that really made Rio 2 suck. Well sorta. They covered why the movie in itself was bad. It being loud and obnoxious, the characters not being very likable, the horrible plot. There were too many characters, no focus. Blu of course has trouble adapting to his new environment in the amazon, but that isn't at all important in the film's eyes. It introduced his three kids well and then forgets about them. We get almost no more development for any of them past that first scene.

What Should Be Different
Rio 2 was bad for those reasons above, but it isn't the core of what really made it suck. When I first saw the premise, I thought that it would thematically be a whole lot different. In Rio 2, Blu is now moving to the Amazon, at least temporarily in his mind. This is a complete departure from what he knows. He'll be out of human establishment and into the unknown for the first time. This movie should have been about change and dealing with everything that comes with that. Jewel would already be established as she didn't grow up in human captivity, and while the three kids have so far, they would be far more adaptable than Blu at this point. It's set up perfectly for the theme of change and we could experience it through Blu.

The beginning of Rio 2 could mostly stay intact as it is mostly like the first. This would be great as a contrast to the rest of the film and remind us of familiar safe ground. Especially the scene introducing the three kids as it lets us know just enough about them at this point. In the actual film, when the macaw family leaves for the amazon, a lot of other characters from the first movie come with them. Namely Pedro and Nico (and one other bird), who were incredibly loud and obnoxious in this film. They are horrible characters to have here. While they were a good contrast to Blu in the first, here they only get in the way. Instead, all those characters should have been left behind and never seen in the film again. Sometimes with big changes, we leave big things behind.

The two prominent human characters from the first were also present quite often in Rio 2, who added nothing to the film. They shouldn't be in the film at all aside from the beginning. In fact, as soon as Blu and Jewel arrive in the amazon, there should never be another human seen again. Which means we remove those human antagonists as well. The bird, Nigel, one of the villains from the first movie is also back. (Yeah, Rio 2 had too many villains as well.) He should also be completely written out. In fact, there shouldn't be any actual 'villains' in this movie as thematically, they are completely unnecessary. The antagonist in this should have been Blu's conflict in dealing with the big change in his life, both the inner and outer elements that come with it.

With all the characters that Rio 2 had, none of them could really get any development. By removing all those side characters that aren't important, we give a lot more room for the important plot element and those new characters to be brought out more. By removing those human antagonists and Nigel (and by extension the ant eater and the frog) we give more time for the other more important conflicts to play out and resolve properly instead of the very contrived way it did.

The characters we see right on the movie's box are Blu and Jewel's three kids, who would be arguably who we would want to know the most about as far as the new characters go. But past the first scene, we don't get anything. We see that they're all of varying intelligence levels and mischievious. There's Carla, who is a music lover. Tiago, their only son, who we really only get any development during the first scene. Then my favorite, Bia, who is an intelligent math-wizz. The problem is they were all pretty one dimensional, which stemed from there being too much and not enough to go around. Perhaps in my revised version, one of them also suffer from not immediately fitting into their new setting. A role perfect for either Carla or Bia, though I think it works best with how Carla was established. It would make sense as she's fairly comfortable with her lifestyle in human establishments that she would reject the move to the amazon, then further goes through those hardships that Blu would be working through as well. She's often seen wearing headphones. Perhaps that would be a way she helps comfort herself and 'escape' the amazon, though inevitably when the batteries run dry, this would no longer be an option.

In the actual movie, Blu has a knapsack with various supplies, like his gps. There's a scene near the end where he puts all this down and decides to leave it behind. The scene had no weight to it as that knapsack, while shown often, was never a source of comfort during the movie. It never held any signifcance other than, sudden random tool that Blu uses for 2 seconds before another character loudly interrupts.

In my version, like Carla's music, the knapsack is an escape or a delusional reminder that things will be okay. But unlike the batteries forcing that away from Carla, we'll take the original movie's route of Blu willingly leaving it. Blu goes through the understanding that things have changed and the knapsack isn't going to help him fit into his new culture and environment.

I'm not going to do an entire script, but simply giving the movie a thematic change, one that I feel it was ready to go already, would have made it much better. If your question is; “Why did you even write this up?” I don't know. Aside from my own full viewing, I've seen this movie a few times at work on about 40 or so TVs. I've had a lot of time to view the movie and think about the above. Take it as you will.

And since this is a DT Blog post, well here's a screenshot of something a little bit goofy.


DT3 Is Very Challenging At Times

Not to create; well yes, to create, that's a given. I've experimented more with this project than I have with the previous games. That and being very adamant about certain things going in instead of backing out if it's a technical or programming issue that I can't seem to get through. I've learned a lot by doing that. Research and asking other programmers questions has helped a lot as well. (Thanks to Slaix and WhattayaBrian the most in helping out there.)

Going back on the challenging bit, I meant to play. Specifically these end game chapters. I went back and reviewed some earlier segments, specifically the combat scenarios compared to the current ones I'm working on and the earlier content is cake now. That probably sounds scary or bad on its own, but everything feels really good right now.

If you played DT1, then you might remember the Heart Piece in Abstracity right outside of the plot room. That required the player to use Earth Shift and then follow it up with Zephyr to push the block off the platform and jump in time to reach the pickup. DT1 had other moments that required a few steps or mixtures of your abilities to reach something. Its puzzle solving and exploration were a bit more complex than DT3.

In how I see it, DT3 takes a simpler approach to that, including its combat. But I've found since all the abilities in DT3 are useful and easier to understand its functions, the combat is more complex. These end game enemies seem to reflect that.

The chapter 18 enemies have a nifty set up. Most of them assist one another in some way, whether it's something as simple as simply providing a buff if it's close by, (this really only has one occurance though) or relying on an ally's shield for protection. (Among other nifty things.) It makes the encounters with them feel more organic. Another thing is them closing up a weakness or easy exploit when the player finds it. Once it's figured out, it comes down to knowing when to exploit a weakness or hole in a defense. When the player is comfortable with these new enemies and understands better how to face against them, another element is added which shakes up everything about these encounters. In my own playtesting throughout the project, I found myself very rarely swapping characters. I tended to find my safe zone and played that way. With the most recent content, I've found myself swapping a lot more. Both characters have easy access to all damage types, just in slightly different ways. The scenarios in this chapter have shown me that going for making combat in DT3 simple to understand, but going for more complex scenarios has paid off. The combat in DT3 feels way better than DT1. It flows better and is far more satisfying.

Or... I'm just talking out of my ass and have no idea wtf is going on... ever.

In conclusion, I like where DT3 is right now.

Also this guy makes some good Phantasy Star remixes/arrangements.
Youtube or His Site