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12/22/13 -Sunday: ALPHA 4.1 TESTING IS OFFICIALLY TAKING PLACE!!!

Well, as of now, Alpha 4.1 testing is officially taking place! Out of 4 people, 2 have already started submitting feedback on the prologue, 1, I've yet to hear from, and other is having issues getting it seen by the Dragon age in the downloadable menu part, so he can actually start playing it. 2 out of 2 aint so bad, thus far :)

For me, the most important part was the damn game actually being playable. I think since I've been in my bubble for so long, I was a little paranoid that people would have issues with the game even starting up. Yes, I tested it on a fresh install of the game, and had no issues, but you never know until you get it in the hands of other folks. So yeah, very happy about that.

With regards to the feedback, the major bugs/improvements noted are:

  • some missing narration text that should show up during a cutscene
  • adding an additional codex entry for a particular group of people
  • a terrible bug where a completed plot entry, a full chapter away, is showing up during the prologue. It's also very spoilery :)
  • At the moment, I have cut out all but 2 piecesof vanilla DAO music: character generation when leveling up, and the after levelup music. It's actually quite annoying, as it plays alongside my own custom music. I have end up having to hack the original sound files for the game, open them up, and remove them. Or something.
  • Various tonics without descriptions.
  • Some typos
  • Minor speak trigger not firing bug
  • Background music is too loud to hear some of the VO

With that last bullet point, I just have to say, I'm well aware of it, and have been going back and forth, tweaking the volume level to get the right balance. As I am implementing custom music through the use of custom sound effects (and not "true" music), I don't get the in-engine benefit of things like the music automatically being lowered when a conversation is taking a place. Had we received more help from the Bioware folks on this 2-3 years ago, I may have gone the more proper route, but I honestly didn't have time to sit and wait for the help that never came. So, here we are. I'll just have to fiddle around with the settings a litle more, but I think, overall, it's much better than it was, say, a year ago.

So what's next? Well, another kind soul has reached out to me, so I'll be sending over the information he'll need to get started. We could still use more testers, just to get a nice cross section of different play styles and such, because the feedback I received from the 2 people thus far has been completely different, which is what I really love.

So as always, if you'd like to be a part of Alpha 4.1, I can be reached at gamecoder@optonlone.net

Till tomorrow...

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Ah, Kefka. As far as I know, he's the only villian in a game to not only talk about destroying the world, but actually going through with it. Hence, the title of the album, Balance & Ruin (World of Balance & World of Ruin). Anyway, enjoy!

 

12/19/13 -Thursday: THE SHADOW SUN RELEASED TO THE APPLE APP STORE!!!

The Shadow Sun is now OUT for iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch! It's available for the special price of £5.49/$7.99 until December 28th.

Here's a short description:

The groundbreaking Western RPG iOS gamers have been waiting for! Created by the ... developer of Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate and the former BioWare producer of Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal.

With The Shadow Sun, Ossian Studios brings together all its expertise from working with Dungeons & Dragons and The Witcher in order to create a deep, story-driven RPG experience for iOS. Prepare yourself for visceral real-time combat, a gorgeously detailed world to adventure in, complex characters to interact with, and an epic tale of an ancient city held within the grip of a mysterious plague.

Enter a world that has felt an alien touch upon its sun. An ever-increasing shadow that creeps across the sun's brilliant face, with consequences that are only now becoming horrifically apparent...

You can download the App here:
https://itunes.apple.com//app/the-shadow-sun/id396269166

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Here are some reviews for it:

I gotta tell you, I haven't felt this way this 2006, during the days right before the release of Cry The Beloved. It was an amazing feeling to see the game popping up in the app store in all of these different regions, and more importantly, see the feedback from our customers.

It's not secret that this game has been in development for a long time, to the point where people would whisper the term (which I absolutely hate): vaporware. We dealt with the same thing with our first commercial title, Mysteries of Westgate. But I'm not going to spoil the mood by going into detail about that project!

The game is out, and that's all that matters. Here's hoping for a lot of purchases of the game!

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Don't think that I was content to sit back and rest on my laurels. Even though The Shadow Sun is finished, I still have Rose of Eternity to complete.

The past few days have been more or less spent on creating the readme for ALPHA 4.1. I actually hadn't written a readme in well, 7 years, so I thought the best thing to do was to simply crack open my older ones, keep the same format, while putting in things specific to this game. What a trip down memory lane :)

As I sifted through the readmes for both The Coming & Cry The Beloved, I was amazed at how much work I actually put into them. I mean, come on, I had a damn beastiary, something I would translate to this website (link), an almanac, something that would become the Cast Members page of the site, and a full fledged walkthrough, which would end up on this site as well. It was at this moment that I realized that I would have to do something similiar for this game. I mean, of course I knew I had to, but seeing these old ones made it all the more real.

One thing I'm going to have to change up from the previous ones is the tone. Damn, I definitely came off as a complete and utter dick. I had lines like:

"- Learning To Walk Away

The combat in this game has been tested, tested, and then tested again. Simply put, if you encounter an enemy that
seems to be "too" hard for you, don't blame the module for not being balanced. Simply walk away and come back when
you are stronger.

The way the world is structured, you will be returning to many areas throughout your journeys, so don't be scared
that you are missing something"

Yeah, I definitely could have worded this better :)

The only other thing I'm worried about is explaining the need for a pre-generated character. I definitley did it in the previous readmes, I just think the explanation could go a little further. But, I'll worry about that when I cross the bridge. I've got the ALPHA testers to worry about...

...Such as Jason Melancon. God bless his heart, it's such a testament to his devotion over the years, but I don't think anyone knows the lore, backstory, and where the overall story is going, better than him. Hell, he helped me brainstorm many parts of it a few years ago. One of his most important skills is how we steadfastly adhere's to the consistency of the world. Many times, I would bring something up in a brainstorm session, feeling all good about myself, only to have him retort with something like, "You know, <cast member x> said <y> during this one scene in Cry The Beloved, so having them do this 20 years later doesn't make sense".

And my first thought is, "How in the hell does he even remember that?! I developed the damn game, and I don't even remember that!" But this is a great thing. I need someone to look over my shoulder and be like, "Tsk tsk tsk, no, Challseus, that simply does not work". So I'm looking forward to his feedback, but at the same time, I'm also scared :(

So he's loaded up and ready to go with ALPHA 4.1, as well as another kind soul (didn't get their permission to use their real name yet). We still could definitely use more. If interested, please shoot me an email at gamecoder@optonline.net. All the files are ready to go, so once I received an email, I can immediately send you both the game as well as the readme, and you should be on your way.

Till tomorrow...

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Will never forget the time I saw Edgar's castle move under the sand. Great memories, great music. Enjoy!

 

12/17/13 -Tuesday: ALPHA UPLOAD ISSUES FIXED...

So, I have finally successfully uploaded ALPHA 4.1 to ADrive. The initial issue occurred when trying to drag and drop the file to my remote folder. It basically threw an exception. Then, I would try the simple uploader, but it gave no usable output, like % complete, bytes per sec, etc. Then a light bulb went off in my head! I've been having issues with IE 10 on various sites (yes, I use IE, too tired to explain), so I tried on Firefox, and voila, the upload started...

...Until my internet connection went down at 33%. Because, of course, with everything else that could go wrong during this development cycle, why not that. Stupid Timewarner... Anyway, I reset the router, restarted the upload, and prayed to the gods that it would finish, which it did!

So yes, I officially now have a link for those that want in on the testing. Speaking of which, I really could use another 4-5 nice souls out there. Please? Pretty please? Don't make me beg :) If you're down, you can contact me:

Email: gamecoder@optonline.net
Skype: leonard.bedner

Till tomorrow...

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Here's another great track from Balance and Ruin. It was one of my top 5 songs from the original, so I couldn't see what they would do with it. Enjoy!

 

12/16/13 -Monday: THE SHADOW SUN TO BE RELEASED ON 12/19/13!

It's official! The Shadow Sun, Ossian Studios' western style RPG for iOS will be released this Thursday. Ahead of that are some previews:

Slide To Play

“Action-RPG fans should clear their gaming schedule, because The Shadow Sun is big, impressive, and full of stuff to do.”
http://www ... .slidetoplay.com/previews/the-shadow-sun-hands-on-preview/

RPGFan

“Thus far, The Shadow Sun is proving to be a solid iOS RPG. The gameplay is fun, the atmosphere is distinct, and the storyline holds promise.”
http://www.rpgfan.com/previews/The_Shadow_Sun/index.html

Gear Diary

“If all of this has you saying ‘wait .. this sounds like a REAL RPG', then you are right! The Shadow Sun is the first ‘made for iOS' game that feels more like its own game and less like a clone of something else.”
http://geardiary.com/2013/12/13/the-shadow-sun-hands-on-coming-december-19th-we-go-hands-on/

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On a more personal note, I've been feverishly looking for a free hosting site for the ALPHA. I tried one, ADrive, but it's been giving me all sorts of issues with the upload. I'll likely spend another day on it, and then just start forking over $ to my existing Dropbox account for more storage. At the very least, I know it works.

Till tomorrow...

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So, it's no secret that Final Fantasy 6 is one of my favorite RPG's of all time. Definitely in the top 5, and damn near might be #1. Along with that comes the soundtrack, which of course is great. Clearly, I'm not the only one who thinks so, because there was a kickstarter to remix the entire soundtrack, and the result of that was this album called, Balance & Ruin. Here's their rendition of the opening piece. Enjoy!

 

12/15/13 -Sunday: ALPHA 4.1 READY FOR PUBLIC CONSUMPTION!

STATE OF THE UNION

Wow... What a crazy past few weeks... It was hard, there were late nights, and as I type this, I'm tired as all hell... But it's been worth it, because ALPHA 4.1 is ready for public consumption! But let's back up and look at how I got here...

For the past few weeks, as I've been silent on the "daily update" front (ha!), I had been working like crazy to lock down the game into something I felt comfortable sharing with others. One of the biggest things I had to do was make changes to my custom death system. I had been using the Talmud local storage system, and while I still love that set of libraries, I know there are some wonky bugs in it. Essentially, I use it to mark a party member as "dead". That value determines a lot of things that happen in the game, so if it's not working, the gane breaks. Breaks as in, if a party member dies, they never revive. The reason for this is because, being the good programmer I am, when determining if someone needs to be revived (via a tonic or just because combat is over), I make a check to see if they're dead first. Well, if that flag isn't properly set, the game doesn't know they're dead, and nothing happens. Because good programming, I also don't want to apply the special revival VFX to already alive party members. It would just look weird.

Anyway, I decided to move away from the Talmud system to using custom local variables. Lucky for me, the way I wrote the system, there are 2 isolated functions, called something like IsPartyMember() and SetPartyMemberDead(). It was very easy to swap out the Talmud stuff for the local variables solution, and everything just worked after that.

Once I fixed that bug, and a host of other things, I had to do yet another run through of the game, this time, a speed run, skipping all cutscenes, dialogue, and avoiding most optional subquests. Once that was done, it was time to build the action package for the players. Now, I did this back in 2010 for Jason Melancon, and while the majority of it worked, there were some things I didn't understand about it, like how I needed to package up the "package/core" files, which contained the proper files needed to make sure water and such was shown properly in the game. Plus, because of how the utility works, some files can't be packaged up if they have multiple "."s in the filename. So those need to be added to the DAZip file after it's created. It's an annoying workaround, but this far into development, who the hell cares :)

Then, of course, once the package was built, I needed to test it on a fresh install of the game, just to mke sure it will work for everyone else. This sucker is 1.45 Gigs big, and the last thing I want is for people to DL it, and it not work. So I re-installed the game on my desktop, installed the package there, and voila, it worked! Well, there were some missing files I had to package up again and test, but it was very minor. The biggest win was actually doing a speed run of the game and seeing it work perfectly. Technically, it should have worked fine, but I'm always nervous there's always going to yet another workaround to make this damn game work.

So now, I have this large file ready to go for those interested. Of course, there is the question of delivery. I don't have enough space on Dropbox (though I guess I could shell out some more $ to get the basic level package for $9.99 a month), so I've been looking at some free solutions. One way or another, however, this game will be uploaded and ready to go by Monday.

You know, it's interesting... I almost fee like I'm going back to my roots. When I was working Cry The Beloved, it was hot off the heels of the success of The Coming. This meant I had damn near an army of people ready to test it. The result? Alpha's early as 3 months into development! There was a constant iteration of feedback, bug testing, etc. throughout the 15 month development cycle. Now look at The Coming. I was a nobody, so I wasn't even able to get testing until I joined the shortlived "Honorable Module Testers" guild, which game folks their first look at the game. That was like a month before I released it!

Fast forward to today, and this release is really mirroring The Coming. I haven't had that constant iteration of bug testsing, general feedback, etc. It's going to be one of those situations where I need to follow my heart, design wise, and hope I did a good job. Because let's face it, it's not like major design changes will be happening from here. So let's hope I didn't fuck things up! :)

Now, time for my begging. If you have 8-10 hours to spare over a few weeks or so, I would appreciate any and all help I could get from the community for ALPHA testing. I had roughly 4 people step up, but that was months ago when I thought I was close to the alpha. Things happen, live happens, things change, so there is no way to know if all 4 will still be able to test now. So I'm again extending an invite to everyone out there reading this. This isn't one of those, "Hey, I should have an alpha soon". No, it's packaged and ready to go. I just need some brave souls to help me out. If you're one, please contact me at:

  • gamecoder@optonline.net
  • Bioware Social Network (User: Challseus)
  • Facebook Group

Thank you, all.

Till tomorrow...

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Today's music, again, from Radiant Historia, is some of the most epic boss music I've ever heard. Hell, just listening to it allowed me to kick off a great brainstorming sessions a few weeks ago. Enjoy!

 

 
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