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8/31/13 -Saturday: ARCHON TO THE RESUCE!

Archon to the rescue!

I've had this task on my list of things to do for far too long. Essentially, I needed a way to represent locked/hidden abilities. Now, in Dragon Age, you can always see what your next ability will be, which allows you to plan out how you will progress down the ability trees. Makes sesne. Only thing is... This isn't Dragon Age :)

For many of the custom abilities, they're not something you pick when you level up. They're things that get added after certain story elements play out in the game. Add in the fact that the player shouldn't know what said abilities are, and you can see the need for this new icon.

Now, the funny thing is, I actually wrote up an email for him requesting these in like early July, or something like that. Turns out, I forgot to send the damn thing! Then I had the laptop issues, etc., etc., and well, here we are. Anyway, I finally sent the email, and within the day, or maybe 2 at most, I had 8 different options to choose from. I like options :)

Once I decided on the one I liked, I just spent the few hours needed to integrate it into the game. It was mostly some 2DA trickery on my part, with some light scripting to actually assign the blank, locked abilities. Then I did a bunch of testing for every situation (i.e. player X has 1 Last Resort, player X has 2 Last Resorts, etc.).

When that was done, I got back to some more level design. Oh, while I'm on that subject, I'm happy to say that the draw distance thing isn't that bad. Turns out, I had the graphic settings pretty low (I do that when testing so things just run a little better, since I don't want to destroy my laptop again). Once I bumped it up all the way, it got much better. Still not where I would like it, but a lot better than before.

Tomorrow, I'll solely focus on level design, and if I'm lucky, prototype more of the cutscene itself.

Till tomorrow...


I assume it's the nostalgia, but damn, when they didn't have much to work with, I feel like video game composers really came up with some interesting stuff... Anyway, enjoy!


8/30/13 -Friday: STUPID DRAW DISTANCE...

So yesterday, I was talking about the draw distance of trees and other things, and how I need to create the cutscene a certain way in order to get around it. While I still have to do that workaround, I just wanted to point out what the trees actually look like. Yeah... Ugly, flat, and annoying. I mean, all I want is a zoomed out view, and I can't do that. Stupid draw distance...

At any rate, I did a lot of work on the level today, which pretty much consisted of changing the height of terrain, adding in snow capped mountain vistas, and adding more trees. Then I exported the level, and walked around, so I could get a good idea of how things were looking, which was pretty decent (sans the stupid trees with the draw distance).

Next up, I started work on the cutscene that will be seen in the area. Now, the main reason wasn't to actually start the cutscene. No, I wanted to start mocking things out, creating some of the camera shots that will be needed. The main goal was simple: See how the trees look. Stupid draw distance... But yeah, it's one thing to run around the stage, it's another to have camera angles in places the player could never go.

So, I did a bunch of that, learned a lot about what I will be able to accomplish, and what I'll have to cut, etc. I'm used to having to bring my ideas down a peg when it comes to dealing with various toolsets over the years, so it's not a big deal. Better to start with a crazy huge idea, then to just have mediocre ideas.

Another thing that saddened me was how a particular structure looked up close. I'm not even sure if it's used in the game anywhere, but ti's massive. I thought, "Oh, how nice, they did all the hard work for me. I just have to add it to the game". My thinking was that I could do some flyover shots of it, but when I saw them in game, the textures looked muddied as all hell. So it's like the reverse problem here. I can see it from afar no problem, up close is not such a good idea.


Till tomorrow...


Here's some more music from Contra! I just have to point out one thing before I forget: I am proud to say that I could easily beat this game without using the 30 lives code :) Enjoy!


8/29/13 -Thursday: LEVEL STARTING TO TAKE SHAPE...

Now I'm starting to get to that nice sweet spot of level design, where said level starts to take shape. I always knew what I wanted in the back of my head, but when you sit down and start executing those ideas, things always ended up changing somewhat.

I think the biggest thing I had to re-think was distances. When you place trees, you can set a draw distance value on them. I actually just learned this myself a few months ago. Anyway, when I set it to high, I figured I would be able to see them from any distance.... Nope... Because this level is so large, depending on where I stand in it, the trees are rendered differently. From very far away, I don't even see them. As I inch closer and closer, they start appearing, but the textures look very muddled, and have a very 2D look to them. As you get closer and closer, they start to take shape more and more, until they look like the same tree you placed in the editor.

I'm sure the original Dragon Age Origins gets around this through use of topography, meaning, you can never just see from one end of a level to the other. There's always hills in the way, mountains, etc. So whenever you can see one of those trees, you're close to it, and if you're out of range, there is something blocking that view.

Now, this isn't that much of an issue since this level will only be used for a cutscene. Since I'll clearly have control of where the camera is pointing, I can just make sure that every shot contains things the player can see. Unfortunately, I won't be able to have some huge overhead shot that takes in the entire level, because I'll definitely be out of range at that point.

Speaking of topography and whatnot, that's what I'll be handling tomorrow. Right now, everything is flat and unnatural. I'll need to raise/lower pieces of the level where applicable, smooth them out, etc. Essentially, make the level look realistic (well, as realistic as it can be!).

Till tomorrow...


Well, it's time to go back in time and start with another old NES classic: Contra! Enjoy!


8/28/13 -Wednesday: THINGS ARE LOOKING UP...

Alright, alright, 2 new screenshots in consectutive updates. Things are starting to look up!

Today, I continued my level experiments, which I'll need to lock down before going nuts with the final design. As stated earlier, this will end up being the largest level I've ever created. On the plus side, it's only used for a cutscene. So, once that cutscene is defined, I can start stripping away pieces not needed, in order to improve the performance.

The main goal was to create the main section of where the cutscene will take place, and make sure that there is something that looks good in every direction you look. I'll be using tons of different camera angles, and I don't want to constrain myself certain shots.

I expect that this work will go on for a few days before I have things looking exactly the way I want. And then from there, I'll spend time filling out things, then start on the cutscene, which is going to be a bitch to create :)

Till tomorrow...


Well, here's the final music from The Legend of Zelda series. As you can see, this set of music went by pretty quickly, because while I am in love with the series, the music for the most part, I am not. Oh well. Enjoy!


8/25/13 -Sunday: WAIT, WHAT THE HELL?!

Wait, what the hell?! Is that a screenshot of the day? Yessir, it is :) So yeah, clearly, I'm back into the swing of things. Where to begin...

Well, I had to take care of a lot of personal things going on in my life, where the laptop was needed... Once I was done with that, I was ready to start getting back into the swing of things.

Earlier this week, while on the train (where you could say, 75% of the development of this game has occurred), I did a little light scripting. While brainstorming over the past few weeks/month, I realized I wanted to expand the Bonus XP system a bit. The thinking was that I wanted to encourage people to try new ways of fighting enemies. In this case, I wanted to reward those who put in the time to utilize the Unison Ability system. It's pretty simple, actually, but I just created a XP tier (small, medium, large, etc.), where depending on how difficult the ability was that you just used, the participants would gain some bonus XP. It shouldn't mess up the balance of the game, but I'll have to just wait and see once I do another playthrough.

Next up was a nice and lenghty Skype brainstorm session with Alexander Baxter, someone who started out just voicing some characters, but who has become so much more. Now, when people say that they roleplay, this guy reallly gets into a role. Sometimes, I think he think he is the person he is voicing in the game :) I mean, we'll just have conversations where we're saying, "You know what, I don't think <insert character who he is voicing> would do this. No, no, that's not his style". He pretty much owns this characters, and as such, is heavily invested in him and any other characters he encounters. But it's gone much further than that. Now, I can just bounce ideas off of him, ideas I would have perhaps brainstormed a few weeks earlier at Quiet Cove.

I think it's really important to be able to do this, because if every idea was just mine, things could take a turn for the worse. Jason Melancon really helped out in the same way with Cry The Beloved, and also with the foundation for this game early on. The game world/lore have probably grown more in the past 3 years, than it did from the beginning of development (1999) through the release of the first game (2005).

Finally, I have gotten back to what I need to: level deisgn. It kills me to know that all I need to do is finish this freaking intro cutscene, and everything is more or less feature complete. Of course, this intro cutscene has to be epic in scale, which means the largest level I've created thus far (exterior at that!), which means long as lightmapping/exporting times... I'm trying to keep my patience, but this will definitely test it. I usually like to make smaller changes, then export, and see what they look like. Looks like I'll be holding off on that, and just trying to do as much as possible, and keep the exports to a minimal. *Sigh*

At any rate, I'm back to it, and that's good news.

Till tomorrow...


Here's a great rendition of some of the music from Twilight Princess. Enjoy!


8/15/13 -Thursrday: LAPTOP IS BACK!

Yes people, the impossible has happened. I finally, finally have my laptop back! I've been through hell and back, but I finally have it back. First, I'll start with the most important thing: does it work? Well, I don't know... If you remember, I had an overheating problem, and have had it for quite some time. I was able to get around it by playing the game on the lowest settings, but eventually, it was getting so hot, it would just shut off.

So the fix was pretty simple, actually... They just had to clean out all the dust (and some other shit in there), add some more thermal paste, and I was good to go. Interestingly enough, this was the same thing my friend and I tried to do way back when, but gave up after we realized it was going to be too much of a pain in the ass to try to open up the laptop.

Anyway, so far, so good. Things haven't shut down. Now, I haven't started up the game, because I'm behind on some other things, but I'm slowly working my way back to it.

Now, I could go on and on about all the hell I went through just in the past few days to actually get the laptop back, but I'm honestly so exhausted, I don't even want to talk about it. I'm just going to be happy I have the laptop back, and move on with my life.

Till tomorrow...


Now, I'm still doing Legend of Zelda music, but ironically, I have to skip over one my favorites in the series: Ocarina of Time. I remember a lot about that game, sadly, the music wasn't something that really stuck out. So, I'll move to The Wind Waker. Enjoy!


8/10/13 -Saturday: I CAN'T EVEN MAKE THIS SHIT UP...

Wow, look at that professional (for a local place) banner. I mean, it even says, "The Hudson Valley's #1 Computer Repair Provider"! Service has to be really great here, right? Well, as you could see from my last post, I just wanted to get the hell out of there so they could fix my laptop. Problem was identified just fine, it's 20 minutes away... What could go wrong?

Well, for one, they don't return my damn phone calls. Look, I know it's like 2 dudes in there running the show and whatnot, and I'm cool with that. If I call and don't get an answer, I'll leave a voice message. But damn, call me back! I mean, not even a "Hey, we are starting the diagnosis on your laptop, should hear something with a few days.." Nothing...

Okay, fine, so now I have to go down there to see what's up. Like I said, it's only 20 minutes away, a minor inconvenience at the most. I pull up, and see some guy on his cell phone standing outside the store. Then I see him peering through the windows, like the place is closed. Then I see this on the front door...


Let me remind folks, I haven't had my laptop in like a month or more. Mostly due to the idiocy of The Geek Squad. And, for the most part, I've been very patient. In fact, people have been telling me that I'm more patient than most, to a fault... As I get older, I try to not care about things as much as I used to. Maybe I'm giving up on man kind :)

Then I see this below the above note...

So now I'm finding out that the town itself has shut down the building? Jesus... Even I can't make this shit up...

Till tomorrow...


Today's piece is from Link's Awakening for the Gameboy, and the only piece I'll be posting, as it's the only memorable one for me. I love how it starts out like the standard issue Zelda overworld theme, and then takes on a life of its own. Enjoy!


8/3/13 -Saturday: LONG, ANNOYING DAY...

I couldn't find the appropriate image of the day, but you get the picture. It was one long, annoying day.

It actually started off pretty well. I slept in, had a good breakfast, watched the first set of a Grigor Dmitrov tennis match, and in general, was feeling pretty good. Around 12:30 or so, I figured I would head off to the local computer repair shop. I had no problems getting there, and even got the last parking space. I grabbed the laptop, and was feeling pretty good.

So I get in, explain to them my story, and they immediately remember me from calling a week earlier. I tell them the diagnosis that the Geek Squad (or the people they send it to) gave, and they immediately dismissed it. Sigh... Look, I understand every local computer repair place hates them. They know (like I do) that they charge incredible rates for things are seem simple to them, like virus cleanup, network setup, etc. I get it. I just hate (and this is in general) when people just assume that other people don't know how to do their job.

Let's be clear here. My laptop is overheating. It's very obvious. I was told by Geek Squad that my laptop essentially couldn't cool itself because the heat sink was damaged. Fine, cool, just fix it and send it my way, I'm thinking. Money is not even a concern anymore, I just want to develop again. And as anyone who has been reading since I decided to rise from the dead knows, they couldn't get the parts to fix it, due to their vendor. Fine, it sucks, but it is what it is.

I'm telling this to the guy at the shop, and he's like "Well, I don't think the heat sink is broken". Fine, so I turn it on for him, he tells me it doesn't seem too hot. I proceed to tell him that it gets bad when I have the laptop on for the entire day, using the toolset, testing the game, back and forth. He then begins to lecture me on how laptops aren't made for games, and that games will always run hot. Plus, I can't expect to play new games on a 2 year laptop at full settings.


I then go through the whole song and dance of how I'm not stupid, don't treat me like everyone else who comes in here, I know what's what, and for the love of god, Dragon Age is a 4 year game! And I've been developing/playing it fine on this laptop with settings all the way up, and I'm just seeing issues within the past few months. I mean, seriously, I hate when people start giving me this crap about (oh, have you defragged your computer, have you run cleanup, CC Cleaner, etc.). YES! I have done all of that, and I know when the laptop is overheating, because it's burning a hole in my lap.

So of course, they need the game so I can show them how hot it gets. And of course, it's sitting in my desktop at home. He tells me they'll do the diagnosis, let me know what the deal is, and I should bring the game in on Monday. I'm like, "Look buddy, I live 20 minutes away, you close in 1 1/2 hours, I'll just go home now". He begins to say, "Sure, if you can make it". It's like, whatever I say, no one believes me.

Long story short, I get back with the game, I load up the beginning of Rose of Eternity, and he's smuggly saying to me, "Has it powered down yet? Is it hot yet?". No fucker, not yet. It's been 10 minutes, relax. After about 30 minutes of me playing the game in there, I bring it up to him, and he's like, "Holy shit, this is really, really hot! It should never get this hot".

".........Really?.........You think?

"Just fix the god damn laptop", I'm thinking, as I walk out of there, 3 hours after I had gotten there the first time.


In order to get over my annoying afternoon (I won't even go into detail about how I had to hurry home form the repair shop to login to my workstation at the office to fix a production issue I was diagnosing from my phone while at the shop!), I decided to go to one of my havens, one of my meccas: Quiet Cove.

I've been coming here since 2009 to brainstorm. I don't know what it is about this place, but I just sit down on a table, look out onto the river and the town across it, and get lost in... brainstorming... thoughts... yeah... Interestingly enough, I've sat on top of that very table during a few brainstorm sessions, was very interesting that I could find that pic on the web.

Luckily for me, today was the same as every other time is: I came up with a lot of ideas. I started with a spark of an idea I had earlier in the week, which I had immediately put in the notes section of my phone. Then I came, put on some music, opened up the note, and started to expand on that idea. Within 45 minutes or so, I was done, and had added significant history to one of the various countries in the Rose of Eternity world.

As usual, I'm not sure any of it will fit into this current game, but it's definitely going to help moving forward. I'm hoping I can get down to the river every Saturday/Sunday until it's too cold to do so. If I can just simply brainstorm for 2 days a week, it would make a world of difference for this next game. Because as always, I have to be completely honest... A lot of things that ended up in this game were designed well after the game was already in production. I know this is how game design works, but I'd still like to have a better of certain things going in, instead of being like, "A ha! This would be great! Now, how can I work this into the game?". *Shrug*

Till tomorrow...

P.S. Finally downloaded the whole site to my desktop, which is how I'm able to write this update. Didn't want to get out of the groove again while it's being worked on again...


Okay, back to A Link to the Past. And oh, look, we're at the end :( Well, I think they saved one of the best pieces for last, because this piece is so damn good. Ah, the memories... Enjoy!


8/2/13 -Friday: BIOSHOCK INFINITE...

First things first... I'm bringing the laptop to his store one town over Saturday morning. As I believe I said in yesterday's post, I already talked to the guy a week ago, he knows he can order the parts if needed, and he has a good idea of what needs to be fixed. So, I'm going to lose the laptop for another few days, looks like, but this time, it will be worth it.

In terms of other work I did, I mainly started organizing all of my notes I've been taking over the past month. If I couldn't do real development, it sure as hell wasn't going to stop me from brainstorming! I still have lots of work to do on the organizational part, mainly wanting to get them up in a secure WIKI, but progress is progress.


Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about this special game called Bioshock Infinite. I'm not here to talk about the crazy ending, or anything like that. There are tons of people talking about it on youtube, and I have nothing to add to the conversation. I'd like to talk about...well, obviously... Elizabeth. Simply put, never have I felt so drawn to another character in a game, and that's including all the various RPG's I've played throughout my lifetime.

First and foremost, it starts with the voice acting, and clearly, Courtnee Draper knocked it out of the park. So much respect to her. Then there's the animation, and in particular, the facial component. Usually, you get these facial expressions in cutscenes in other games, but hell just walking around with her, you can look at her and immediately tell the mood she's in. Happy, scared, pissed off, confused, etc. She doesn't have to say anything, you just know.

And while she's walking around telling you how she feels without saying anything, she's also poking around the world, discovering things. She may walk across a boardwalk balancing on a single board, she may lean up against a wall if you're taking too long, or maybe sit down in the nearest chair. If there's smoke in the room, she'll cough, and if you point your gun at her, she lets you know she doesn't like it.

Also, this game does other things I have long wished for in RPG's, and that's show physical progression throughout the game. An example is her clothes as the game goes on. They get dirty. They get ripped. She unloosens the top button of her blouse. She gets dark bags under her eyes. Hell, halfway through the game, she straight up changes her entire outfit, and get a new hairstyle.

Couple all of this with the outstanding story of the game, and the results are a fully realized character the likes I have never seen. It's one thing to get things like this in cutscenes (and hell, we don't even get it that much), but to have it happen all in real time? Genius... I haven't felt so drawn into a game world like this since... Twilight Princess? All I've done is think about this game since I beat it early Tuesday morning (on my birthday, no less!). Oh, and this game has also just hopped right into my top 5 games of all time :)

And to finish off things, I will take a break from NES music to show appreciation to Elizabeth, with her theme song from the game. Enjoy!




Out of all the state of the unions I have written, this has to be one of the most important ones. I did something I told myself I would never do: I fell off the face of the earth for damn near a month! Now, it's not like I got lazy (more on that later), but the end result was the same. Lack of communication, and worst of all, a month of miss opportunities.

It all started with my laptop. Frequent viewers of this blog have no doubt heard me complain about the overheating issue with it. After trying out various things, the only other option I had was to send it in to get fixed. Now, I didn't want to deal directly with Dell, because of the time it would take for them to send me a box to send the laptop in, send the laptop, diagnose it, fix it, ship it back, etc. So I thought, "I'll just go to The Geek Squad"... Never again...

Once I brought it down there, and they realized they couldn't do the work there, they ended up having to send it out, much like I would have had to do with Dell. At the time I was thinking, "Okay, well at least I'm saving time by not having to wait for a box to come in the mail for me to do the shipping". The next few weeks turned into a nightmare...

It was 2 weeks before I even heard anything from the company they sent the laptop to. Then, when I do hear things, it's semi good news. They know it's the heat sink, and that it has to be replaced. Great, order tthe part, fix it, send me my shit back! A week later, I get a call informing me that the vendor they go to for all their parts (by contract) doesn't have the parts for this particular model of laptop (it's only like 3 years old!). So, you're telling me that after 3 weeks, you can't even help me out? The icing on the cake was the week it took to get my laptop back, which I just picked up today.

Moral of the story: To hell with The Geek Squad!

Anyway, I found a local mom/pop store that I talked to even before I received the laptop, and they were immediately able to find the parts needed (if neccessary), and that I just had to drop it off between the hours of 10-5. So, that's what I'll be doing on Saturday morning.


So what does that mean for Rose of Eternity? Well for one, it will allow me to get back on track. The thing that pains me the worst is that the game is so damn near done. I'm talking a few cutscenes here, so more VO here, a few bugs/improvements to fix, etc. And because of the issues with my desktop at home (I'm not even going to touch on that subject too much), it was too painful to even do that work there over the past month.

What I did do over the month was partake in a lot of brainstorming sessions. I have about 10-12 ideas that have popped up, and 2 of them were fully fleshed out while I was at my haven, Quiet Cove. It may not directly influence this game, but any time I can further develop the world of this game series, I will.

I also did some work with some of the people who have constantly added to the world for the past few years. With Alexander Baxter, I was able to bounce some ideas off of him, which he may or may not incorporate into some dialog he still needs to do. And then there's Kelvin Lu, the original author of the Demartolian Prophecies from Cry The Beloved. He wanted to help with some ancient lore, and help, he did. He only had a first draft, which I gave him feedback on, but even that snippet of information was able spur me into another brainstorm session.

So, the entire month wasn't a wash, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that I wished the game was over, and I was doing all of this afterwards, looking forward to the next game.

But, as I have experienced with The Coming & Cry The Beloved, something always comes up to halt development at some point. I juts have to keep my head and work my way through the trenches. I'll see the light one day :)

Till tomorrow...


Hearing this song still gives me chills. Will never forget the time I entered the Dark World for the first time... Enjoy!


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