Saturday, November 24, 2018

Introducing the Princess from the Clouds!

On this blog, I've only talked about Hell City, as that's the only location that's actually in the game, unless you count the Fourth Dimension, better known as the Special Stages. However, I still have plans in my head about other parts of the game, the most recent ideas being for the levels that take place in the clouds. Yeah, the clouds, y'know, that place that I composed a song for a long time ago but still haven't gotten around to adding to the game proper?

Anyways, getting to the point, I didn't have ideas for the sky levels, just planning to make them open areas where you have to do precise platforming, jumping from cloud to cloud. Not even the boss was planned out, just the music that would play in these levels, Atmospheric Glide (formerly "The Skies"). However, recently, an idea started coming to mind, the urge to create a new third little girl who'd be found in these levels, with her being a part of the overall story with her own unique things about her. Everyone, meet Peppermint!

Yes, I know, she has that skin tone...
This is Princess Peppermint, the first dark-skinned character I've created! In my game's universe, the darker-skinned humans originate in the sky, where their skin tone makes it naturally easier to see them on top of white clouds. Lighter skin tones originate down on the ground, respectively. Unlike American TV shows that just shoehorn in dark skin tones to indicate their racial diversity, Peppermint was created just due to my personal want to design a girl with this skin tone.

She has strange green hair with curly bangs and two oversized peppermint circles attached to it with two long bangs going down the sides of her face. This, along with her skin tone, was done to make her look foreign compared to Mary and Jane, coming from a different part of the world than them. Her normal outfit is a light-yellow dress with red stripes that go down the front then spread out similar to the lines on a peppermint.

Her dress is different than Mary and Jane's outfits, as it has short sleeves! These and the dress itself end in soft, cotton-like white stuff, which makes the dress more comfy. Her shoes don't have as much detail, but they are the same light-yellow color, with green gems on top of each, which match her hair color.

Princess Peppermint lives in Cumulus Peaks, located in the clouds. She is the current princess there, though during the story she isn't found at the big place the royal people would be found at, but rather guarding a path that leads to there. She doesn't have weapons in the traditional sense, unlike Mary or Xane, but she has another way to protect herself...

Peppermint has a magical melodica, given to her as part of being the princess, handed to her on the day she was declared one. With it, she can play small "melodies" that cast spells on her target, whether that is an object or another person. Though these spells are nothing major compared to the Origin Master's powers, things such as stunning her enemies and forcing them to move in a certain direction are possible thanks to her instrument.

At the moment, the melodica is basically the real Yamaha Pianica P-32D/E, a light-blue rectangular instrument with 32 piano keys on its front side and a black handle on its backside. A small mouthpiece is attached to the left side, which Peppermint uses for more reliable airflow when playing melodies. To the left of the keyboard Cumulus Peaks's insignia, a light blue circle with a round, yellow sun placed near its center. A long, white cloud overlaps the sun, placed at an angle, hanging off the edges of the overall insignia.

As stated before, this is based on Yamaha's 32-key Pianicas, melodicas that use piano keys rather than small buttons. I was inspired to bring this melodica into my game when I saw an anime girl named Kaori playing it in Your Lie in April. I didn't watch it, but seeing that odd but neat instrument gave me the urge to replace the magical recorder that was planned for Princess Peppermint to use previously. That will still appear in the game on display in one of the buildings in Cumulus Peaks, but it won't be used by her.

After I made this 3D model, I got a light blue Yamaha Pianica P-32E myself! Why would I be after this harmonica-piano hybrid? Well, four reasons:
  • It's a neat instrument I haven't heard of much. Sure, I saw it in WarioWare DIY, where it looked like a light-blue Pianica (and sounded like a harmonica), but I didn't see it in high-quality until Your Lie in April included it.
  • It looks kinda cute, like a little light-blue piano with a mouthpiece on the side. It's probably the "toy-like" color that gives the Pianica its cuteness, but unlike others, I like its color, even if a pink one would've fit Kaori's pink dress a bit better.
  • Just like how I like owning the weapons magical girls like the cute Pretty Cures use, I wanted to own "Kaori's melodica" myself. (Unfortunately, since I got the P-32E, the back of my Pianica doesn't match Kaori's melodica. That melodica has two markings on the back near the mouthpiece, which are positioned exactly the same on the P-32D. I guess I didn't think those indented parts would be moved in the latest P-32-series melodica...)
  • Of course, the biggest reason for getting this melodica is because I plan to have Princess Peppermint's instrument-playing to be recordings of me playing the real instrument. As they are only short series of notes, I won't have to play much. With the way Kaori, Peppermint, and I hold the melodica, you can't see the piano keys, so I won't know what keys I'm pressing!
Yes, I know how to play the piano, so that knowledge can transfer to the melodica, but I have no clue how Kaori seemingly knows exactly what she wants to press with her limited vision...unless it's because she's an anime girl that doesn't exist.

...I bet I just made someone start crying about her, so I'll end this blog post here!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Development Worries and Updates

This post is pretty negative compared to my usual post, so read only if you wish to see the bad side of game development.
Whoa, how long has it been? Sorry, but sometimes, I forget to update this blog. I believe I'm becoming too lazy to even write a blog post lately, even though that's easier than other work I haven't been doing, working on Mary's Magical Adventure. Anyways, let's get to the updates about the game! It's been a long enough wait for this!

Indie Game Troubles

Work, Work, Work...

 Let's just start this blog post with the negative, as I have to get it off my chest. If you want to develop your own indie game, take it from me: It's way harder than photography and, "music theory" aside, even harder than playing music on an instrument you aren't familiar with! You'll start off with many ideas, things you can't wait to put into the game. Sure, at first it's easy because there's barely anything in your game to keep track of, plus it's easier to take it easy at that point.

However, as you start really developing things, you start raising your standards, like improving the game's textures, lighting, and overall look. Problem is, doing this only increases the amount of work you have to do from then on to put something in the game, as placeholder art and basic shapes would look very out-of-place beside finished assets. This is one thing that affects me, as I've done just that over the years, adding and improving textures, even redesigning Mary. This isn't even mentioning the music, which initially improved with song after song, beginning with The Nightlife for Rooftop to Rooftop. However, since the music is so high-quality, like the textures, this presents me with a bit of work that I have to look forward to doing, which I rarely do.

All of this has made me too lazy to add much before hitting the invisible walls that an artist hits when in an "artist block". As a result, not much new is here for those who have been checking the Xane's Development group on Facebook or kept up to date with the Facebook and Google+ pages. For readers of this blog, it will seem like I've done more than I've really done, due to these blocks and laziness. Hopefully this can be bypassed and work can resume going full speed, but with how I'm a single developer with no team members, this will be way slower to finish, and will probably take a big chunk of my life to finish, to earn barely any money to make up for it.

Legal Potential

No, don't worry, no companies were dumb and threw a cease & desist letter at my face, thankfully, but, you see, I read /r/gamedev on Reddit and people on there mention that any indie game developer should get two things before releasing their game, an accountant and a lawyer (and said lawyers sometimes make posts there). The first, I assume, is just to make sure your money is all in order. However, the second one made me really start thinking: I have no lawyer. This would be a big problem, should Mary's Magical Adventure get released then have legal trouble for whatever reason. Additionally, lawyers can handle getting trademarks registered, so things like "Mary's Magical Adventure®" can be used, like Intel®'s legal symbol obsession! There's a third thing lawyers can help me with, and with how lazy I've become, I'll probably need it...

Work-for-Hire Contracts

Yes, they can write legal contracts in that confusing Legalese English variant that somehow is more legally-binding than actually-understandable English! Since I barely seem to feel like doing work lately, I'd like to pay others to make things like character art, animated parts of cutscenes, and even music for me. It sounds straightforward, but trust me, reading that subreddit reminded me that even if the commissioned person gave me their finished work, they still own the legal rights to it, so they could backstab me after the game is released and cause a lot of trouble and wasted effort from me. With a contract, this is eliminated, as their legal rights are forcibly transferred to me, so I can use them in my game with no problems, the way it should be by default (but isn't, unfortunately)!

Anyways, hopefully you understand the problems in my head now, knowing I have a lot of work ahead of me if I want this game to be released but I don't feel like working enough anymore... How about we move on to updates?

The Many Minor Updates

Compare Rooftop to Rooftop (1-2) and City Street Run (1-3) in both of these videos. The top one is the first video on the newly-created Mary's Magical Adventure YouTube channel while the bottom is the last gameplay video on my personal channel. You may notice most of it is the same, but there are some small differences...
There's really too much changed to be explained in a blog post, but I'll show comparisons of a couple things here, anyways. It's up to you to find the other differences between the videos.
v1.95 - Did someone paint the ceiling black? Nice try, whoever owns this place.
v2.0 - Now this looks more believable! Want to follow the coin arrow up there?
One subtle difference between v1.95 and the upcoming first demo is this secret room found in Rooftop to Rooftop, hidden in the room down the hallway with the three trolls. In the older version, the holes in the ceiling where panels are missing were just pure black ceiling parts, raised slightly above the panels that didn't go missing. Nowadays with how much more detail I put into levels, this seemed too simple, so I converted the ceiling into 3D floors then added an extra "floor" above, hiding a Powerup Coin and upgrade!

You can get up there with Mary's upgraded Air Dash, Xane's multiple jumps, and Mary's Hammer Jump upgrade, the latter used in the newer video. In case the player couldn't see this obvious secret, an arrow of coins was also added below the "ceiling" to encourage players to try going up there. Yes, in a way, this is now a secret within a secret.
v1.95 - A Gex tile texture was used for many floors in the third level.
v2.0 - Not only is this more legally-safe, but it's high-res and has nice reflections!
The second change to point out is...well, new textures. You see, like the legal stuff mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, using assets from other games could cause problems for Mary's Magical Adventure, so I've replaced some textures since the old video. For example, the checkerboard tiles seen around City Street Run, most obvious in HCPD HQ. Notice how nice and shiny that floor is! If you play MMA and want reflections like those, get the Materials Mod, which adds realistic PBR reflections to some surfaces around the levels.

v1.95 - Most textures here come from SRB2. Also, note the background.
v2.0 - This dimension is more realistic now! Goodbye, trippy rock sky!
This particular change goes even further than just replacing level textures; All Special Stage textures were also replaced, just in case Sonic Robo Blast 2's developers could legally do a thing when their game's not an official Sonic game.
v1.95 - Who cares about soap? We've got a meeting, guys!
v2.0 - Soap's on the table, in Mary's inventory, and more! Don't underestimate soap!
Returning to the video, there's another obvious difference that can be seen when Mary goes to the HCPD HQ: When she visits the meeting room, there isn't a Soap Box on the table! Out in the hallway around each corner? Same thing, no soap in sight! Soap Boxes were a recent addition, added to represent my fear of soap. In Mary's Magical Adventure, soap is harmless unless there's enough of it, in which case it becomes deadly! Soap Boxes are this game's equivalent of explosive barrels, but you can push these boxes around before hitting them.

You can also purchase soap boxes to carry around. This can be seen in the new version's inventory, which shows the Soap Box as the first item. Additionally, magic was added as both a form of ammo and a timer for Mary/Xane's transformation. Collect at least 25 magic and you can transform, but you will lose the magic gradually over time.

Well, there's more to talk about, but due to that intro section, this is already pretty long, so more development-related stuff will be included in a second blog post. See you then!