Hinterland

I’ve spoken a lot about my RPG Maker project Let the Moonlight Give You Wings. It’s a big project and it’s going to take a while to finish, so I’ve also been working on other projects on the side. Some of these exist only to learn new things about the program, others exist to be their own games.

Hinterland is one of these.

Last October I set out to make a creepy exploration game, in the same vein as games like P.T., Dear Esther, and Amnesia. I was having a lot of fun seeing what tricks I could pull with RPG Maker, but it was pretty obvious the game wasn’t going to be done before Halloween, so I set it aside for a few months.

Now, Hinterland is almost finished. I’m hoping to release it sometime in September or October, before Halloween, just so people have another unsettling little adventure to go through to get them in the mood for the month of horror. The build-up to Halloween is one of my favorite times of year, and I’m glad to be contributing, for once.

The plan right now is that the game will be free. It’s not going to be a long or complicated project, and so far there hasn’t been anything in it to warrant a price tag.

Without further babbling, here’s the gameplay teaser for Hinterland:

So there’s a little teaser of it. Hinterland puts you in a mysterious castle full of architecture that makes no sense, scarecrows that can talk, and a whole lot of darkness. There are things coming to get you, but there’s no dying here; if you get caught, you appear where you started, and the world around you will subtly change depending on how well you’re doing. Your job is to solve the mystery of this place and escape it.

The video mentions a demo, which is available now. You can find the download folder, complete with ReadMe and walkthrough, here:

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0BzO8YJWnSng8fktzMjIzOEl4N0c5WjVLdW5KV3Nyejh4ajdhcWtKYVlCNTRyQmJTVDhKdkU&usp=sharing

Or simply click this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzO8YJWnSng8Zi1pckx1MDBaQlE/view?usp=sharing

There are a few lighting and sound systems in place that might cause lag on older hardware. If you’re experiencing any lag, try this version, which has the footstep sounds removed: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzO8YJWnSng8M2Mzd0Y1UzdZN28/view?usp=sharing

And keep in mind that this is a work-in-progress. Some of the graphics and sounds aren’t final; I’d like to make everything custom, either DLC or created from scratch or tweaked from the RTP (I think only the snow itself, some clutter, the outside graphics, and some of the sound effects are untouched in that regard). That said, if you find any bugs or have any general feedback, I’d love to hear it! You can drop me a comment on this post, or on the trailer’s YouTube page, or shoot me an email at justonesp00lturn (at) hotmail (dot) com. Any help is greatly appreciated, and if you find a bug or even just play the demo for fun and let me know, I’ll put whatever name you choose to go by in the credits as thanks.

Hinterland has a story to it. It’s one I could only tell through interactive experience, or else I probably wouldn’t make the game at all. But I like it, and I can’t wait to share it, and I hope you like it too.

Let the Moonlight Give You Wings Progress Report #2

The following information and screenshots come from a work in progress. Anything in them is subject to change.

Some of the assets used were created by others. While they may not appear in the final game, said assets will be listed with their creators at the bottom of this post.

Quick recap: Let the Moonlight Give You Wings is an RPG Maker game and accompanying novel I’ve been working on. The initial announcement can be found here, and the first progress report can be found here. Progress can be viewed and followed here on my blog from now on, under the “Works in Progress” section in the header bar.

It’s been a few months since I touched on this progress, so I have a more substantial post than last time.

The Game

I’ve been putting together maps and characters while still trying to hammer out the overall style. I’m using a few non-default tilesets, and making changes to the default ones I’ll be using. I’m still not sure what all I’ll settle on, but at the moment I’m customizing the graphics to make the game look less and less vanilla.

The main quest line is almost complete. I have a handful of cinemas left and a smaller handful of locations in which they take place, and once those are finished, I can set to work packing in side quests and tweaking existing places to make the world come to life. The main cast is pretty much finished; I had to completely re-design one of the major characters because she looked too much like another character I saw elsewhere, but I’m super happy with the result. It ended up yielding an entire plot line, side quest, and history for this fictional world. I’m also making more faces for each character; I’ll be using the default face creator, but tweaking it to include facial expressions not possible in the RPG Maker face creator.

All in all, everything is going smoothly. My last major hurdle game-wise is that I haven’t figured out one of the later dungeons; I want to do something special with it, but I haven’t decided what.

Another big thing I’ve been working on are the game’s music and sound effects. I have a few cool things in place and a lot of rough sketches, but it’s coming together. I’m thinking about making the game’s soundtrack available for download, depending on how complex it gets, and as time goes on I’ll probably share a track or two here on my blog.

The Book

This brings me to the main point of a second progress report: Wednesday, April 1st, is the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo 2015, and I’ll be using this session to get started on the novel. I’m stoked to get to work on it, and I think writing the book and making the game concurrently will help me write both of them better, maybe help me work out some of the finer details of the story and world involved. You can follow my progress on the book here: http://campnanowrimo.org/campers/crackedthesky

Timeframe

It’s still not possible for me to even guess when this will be finished, but I’d like to think the game and book will release around the same time, and I’d love for both to be out by this winter. That said, I just can’t say for sure about either.

In the meantime, here are a few screenshots of some of the more complete graphics, ideas, or places, along with a description of them. Something I definitely don’t want to do is make promises that are mysteriously missing in the final product, so know that if I show something here, it’s something I’m almost positive will be in the final game, and if it isn’t, I’ll probably post about it the moment I have to cut it from the game. So expect minor changes, but if I say a feature is going to be in, it’s most likely going to be in.

Also, I apologize for the image compression. It’s not terrible, but the screenshots are slightly blurrier than the actual game will be.

Moonlight Test Bedroom

This picture is from a scene early on. The player character, Emery, can change outfits at a dresser in her room. In this scenario, she has to put on her school uniform, and can’t leave for school until she does. In both worlds (our world and fantasy), she’ll be able to change clothes and the character graphic will reflect this. I haven’t decided yet whether her party members’ graphics will also change depending on what they’re wearing; it’s time-consuming to make different graphics for each outfit, and even more so considering another feature I’d really like to implement into the game (which I’ll probably show next time).

As a bonus, you can see my custom text background in this picture, as well as the screen tint to reflect what time it is (I should note that while this scene is supposed to be in the morning, the screen is actually tinted to be evening because I was in debug mode at the time I took the screenshot).

Moonlight Alpha City

Here’s a shot of the city Emery lives in. I need to animate the flies on the dumpster, and the double-door needs a custom door graphic, but otherwise, this is more or less complete. Also note Emery’s school uniform.

Moonlight Alpha School

The lobby of Emery’s school. I’ll populate it with NPCs later. Also, it won’t be so orange in the final game; the lighting is currently set to sunset.

The next two pictures will highlight a major difference from the first time I showed images from my game. Last September I posted an image from an example battle, seen here:

Let the Moonlight Give You Wings

As you’ll see in the next screenshot, I’ve added a different battle engine:

Moonlight Alpha Battle

The characters now appear to the side of the screen, and characters and enemies move when they attack, like in classic RPGs, thanks to Yanfly’s visual battler system. I still have to tweak it so characters aren’t floating like they are here and enemies aren’t oversized, but it’s more imaginative than the default battle engine.

Moonlight Alpha Lake

Here’s a lake and some cliffs. I’m hoping to include a lot of nooks and crannies to explore, and a fishing system is currently way on the backburner and might not be included at all, but these are the kinds of things I’d like players to be able to do in Let the Moonlight Give You Wings.

You’ll notice a few more characters in this screenshot. These are more or less final designs; there are currently 9 characters players can add to their party. I might introduce a few of them later, but on the whole I’d like them to remain a mystery, part of the story that unfolds as players play the game. I haven’t decided how many can battle at a time yet.

Moonlight Alpha Port Town

Here’s an early version of a port town with docks. Driftwood and other wood can be chopped for firewood, and will eventually re-appear. Note the clock in the lower-right corner; this can be toggled on and off.

Moonlight Alpha Snow

Here’s a snowy environment. It’s currently snowing (hard to tell, but there’s a snowflake over the black cave entry in the upper-left). Weather is something I’m trying to make dynamic; it won’t always snow in snowy areas, it’ll sometimes rain in other places, or be windy. I’m hoping to have some cool weather-based features in the final game.

So that’s it for this progress report. My main focus will probably be on the book for most of April, and hopefully I can get a rough draft down, then go back and work on the game for a while before I get to editing the novel.

Next progress report I’ll hopefully be able to show off some of the cooler features I’m putting together, possibly some music, possibly a video, maybe something even cooler than that.

This game wouldn’t be very good without the use of several assets made by other people. Here are the ones seen in these screenshots:

SES Dynamic Time and Clock by Solistra
Ace Battle Engine and Animated Battlers by Yanfly
Shigekichi’s Resource Pack by Shigekichi
Modern Day Tileset by Enterbrain / Lunarea
Sprite base by Mack

If I missed any, I sincerely apologize, will edit this post if I’m made aware of any mistakes, and the final game should include all appropriate credits.

Let the Moonlight Give You Wings Progress Report #1

A while back I announced a project called Let the Moonlight Give You Wings. It’s an RPG Maker game I’m making, along with a tie-in novel. This post is a quick update on my progress, and I hope to post one of these from time to time.

I had the whole project on the backburner while I finished other things, but now I’d say Moonlight is on my middleburner.

The Game

My major focus right now is on the main locations of the game. I’m putting together the barebones dungeons, mostly geography, a few key events. Later I’ll go in and spice up all of the locations with clutter, things to do, events, more intimate designs, etc. For now, I’m mostly making the hallways and floors, so to speak.

I’m also working on some of the more complicated main storyline events. These are time-consuming; having a system that randomizes conversations means there’s a lot going on in the background. Playing the game, you might press the action button on a signpost and see a character say something, but what’s really going on is the game is determining which characters are in your party, randomly picking one to speak, and then often randomly picking someone to reply or add onto what they’ve said, and often times there’s a third or fourth nest of the same. The more party members you have, the more complex the conversations can get. Since all of the playable characters are required at some point, this means scripting conversations for all of them, even though in one playthrough the player will likely only see one of the responses I’ve written.

It’s complicated and it takes a lot of time writing and testing, but it’s worth it. I want this world and this story to be dynamic, not a static replication on each playthrough or button press. I want the characters to banter, antagonize, agree, argue, and play with each other, so I’m trying to work in as many in-character, believable outcomes as I can.

I’ve been bouncing back and forth on whether to implement a dynamic time system. Originally, I wanted time to progress automatically and kick the player out of the “dream world” after an in-game day. This idea didn’t last long. Besides requiring a lot of always-running processes that might cause lag, it put a huge restriction on me from a writing standpoint. It’s no good if a character says “We have X amount of time to do this!” and then the player can take an in-game year to get it done. I also don’t have much for players to do in the waking world, and I decided it would be boring if half of the game is spent waiting for the clock to strike midnight again.

What I have in place now is a dynamic clock, but kicking the player back into the waking world isn’t based on time. Instead it’s based on progression through the main story. I didn’t like this at first, but the idea grew on me, and so far it’s working best with what I have.

Weather likely also be dynamic. It might snow in cold areas, it might rain in others. I have a basic system in place for this, but it’s a little too random at the moment (it’s odd to walk through a rainstorm, go inside a house for two seconds, then come back out to a bright and cheery day). It’s another thing I’ll probably tweak to my liking later in development.

I’ve opted for mostly custom graphics when it comes to characters and their equipment, but currently I’m also heavily relying on the built-in stuff (RTP). I’d like to rely less on this. I’m not a good artist, however, and I reach my limits pretty quickly. That said, what I hope to eventually do is go through and tweak everything. All of the existing tilesets can receive minor overhauls, little things to keep development simple for me, but make the game look and feel less vanilla to players. I want this world to be mine, so I’m going to tweak tilesets and build my own graphics along the way to get it further and further from the default graphics.

I originally wanted this post to include screenshots, but I decided against it for now.  I’ve already made quite a few battlers, character faces (tons of these), in-game outfits, custom tiles etc. but at the moment I’d say the game is about 75% vanilla assets, and I don’t want to present the game in that light. I’ve posted a few screenshots already, mostly to prove I’ve actually done anything, and I’ll probably post some in my next progress report, regardless of how custom the graphics are, but for now, I’m leaving them out.

My biggest hurdle right now is that the game has three major story arcs to it, and while I have two of them mostly planned out, the third eludes me. I know the ending I’m working toward, and right now I can get from point A to point M, but I haven’t figured out how it gets to point Z from there. I have a few ideas I’m kicking around, and I don’t need that problem solved until I’m finished with this first round of locations, so I have plenty of time to get this sorted out.

The Book

I haven’t started yet, for a number of reasons. I want this experience to unfold as a video game, so the book automatically comes second, for me. That said, it’s not like I’ve done nothing, story-wise. All of the writing I’m putting into this project so far is going into the game, but much of it can also be used in-book, especially in regards to dialogue. I imagine this’ll be one of the fastest books for me to write, maybe a NaNoWriMo project, if I happen to be working on it next November or, more hopefully, in the summer.

Timeframe

I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m making decent progress. As I said, I’m working on the major locations and their major events. Everything after that is like seasoning the main course, and it’ll likely be small, easy things, but a lot of them. I’m able to devote more of my free time to the project, and when I do sit down and get to it, I tend to knock out a large chunk of what’s left. I don’t even want to attempt guessing at how much time I have left to spend or when the game might be finished. Some days it feels like I’m just getting started, others it feels like I’m in the final stretch. I think it’ll sneak up on me, one afternoon I’ll just realize I’m finished. But that’s a while from now, and hopefully my future updates will be a lot more exciting than this one.