2016/07/28

Hello, friend!

How are you?  I hope this past month has been treating you well.  If it hasn't, let me know and I'll give it a stern talking to!  It worked well for me because this has been a great month for Soul Saga!

Development Status

The current state of development is in an excellent spot.  I keep spending time adding more bulk and polish to Soul Saga's main and side content, and I really want to squeeze as much in there for you as feasibly possible.  As such, this last 10% is really feeling impossible to estimate exactly.  It could take a few more months to get it all in the way I intend it to be.  My goal for Soul Saga has always been to give you the best game I possibly can, so I'm going to keep pushing forward and keep you posted on where it's all at next month!  In the meantime, let's go over some things I accomplished this past month.

Music

Here's some lovely and catchy music by Ryan Camus while you read!  This one is called "I Love My Job".

Cutscenes Workflow

The main story line events and cutscenes are continuing to be implemented.  These are taking the vast bulk of my time, as I'm the only person working on their writing, design, implementation, and the programming API for the cutscenes and actors.  A general cutscene's development flow goes something like this:
  1. Write a summary of exactly who and what happens in this scene and the order of the events.
  2. Write the dialogue for the scene.
  3. Comb over the writing and make any adjustments to events, orders, or the dialogue.
  4. Place the pre-made cutscene boilerplate code into the scene.
  5. Place actors in a general starting position.
  6. Place camera points where major camera points will most likely be needed.
  7. Test.
  8. Make any adjustment to scene props to assist with moving actors or cameras.
  9. Test.
  10. Do a rough "motion" pass, where the actors enter the scene and go to critical locations.
  11. Test.
  12. Do a polish pass with actors making more movements or turning to look at speaking characters.
  13. Test.
  14. (Repeating) Polish and test small tweaks rigorously.
There's also many extra steps related to 3D game development that make it much more difficult and technical than 2D games.  Because these are taking so much time to complete I'm always looking into ways to try and improve work flows.  New tools get created and added as I find ways to modulate and streamline certain actions.  I might also experiment with some different cutscene styles at certain locations in the game to help alleviate more complex scenes while maintaining visual quality.

Cutscene Features

To ensure the user experience is as smooth as possible in Soul Saga, I've added a few extra features to cutscenes. First, a cutscene skip confirmation has been added.  Previously if you just pressed the skip button (escape key on the keyboard, and the menu button on the controller), the cutscene would immediately cancel and progress beyond it.  To prevent accidents, I've implemented in a safety feature so that you now need to hold the cancel button for about 1.5 seconds.  The text "Skip" with a circular progress bar appears in the top left corner.  When the circle completes, the scene will skip.  Releasing the cancel button early will prevent the skip from occurring. Also an Options menu has been added to cutscenes for volume controls and skipping.  From this menu you can adjust the music, sound effect, and voice acting volumes, and even toggle the VA on and off.

Interactive Environments

Some of the feedback that Soul Saga fans have given me is how important an interactive environment is to a good JRPG.  Many modern games have deviated from this by adding more visual detail to their art styles, but they forget that receiving input for exploring is an important reward for players.  So now that Soul Saga is in the polishing stages for many of its scenes, I've begun adding these types of details around the world.  These moments are most prevalent in town and residential areas where there's a lot more character personalities to build and culture to be experienced.

I added interactive objects around towns that build the characters and world in #SoulSaga.#JRPG #PSVita #PS4 #WiiU pic.twitter.com/97eOlPiVTB

— Disastercake (@disastercake) July 8, 2016

Controller Support

As Soul Saga progresses towards the finish line I had a strong urge to play the entire game with a controller.  So... I added it in! I've been told by colleagues in the game industry that one of the hardest parts of porting to a console from Desktop can be adding controller support.  So it's a good thing I saw this issue coming from a mile away and made sure to build Soul Saga's design and code from the ground up with both a mouse and controller in mind!  Because of this careful planning, adding controller support was a rather painless process.  You can even seamlessly switch between a controller and mouse, allowing you to use the mouse for general clicking and then using the keyboard to quickly navigate the menu list options (if you desire). So far I've tested on Windows with Xbox 360 and a PS4 (DS4Windows plugin) controllers.  When the next beta version comes out I will be very interested in getting feedback on the keybindings and controller support. Vibration has also been added to the game and works on controllers that support direct input (like Xbox and DS4Windows PS4 controller).  You may also toggle the vibration off in the options menu.

And more!

A lot more has been done as I squeeze in time between cutscenes to add more functionality to Soul Saga.  For example you can toggle the party leader with the controller bumpers to quickly switch between the leads.  I've also created and implemented a lot of performance optimizations, which in some cases require I rework a scenes models to be more universally performant.

What do you think?

As always, I'm very interested to know everything on your mind!  I'm excited Soul Saga is getting closer to being finished, and I can't wait to finally get it in your hands!  I promise to let you know as soon as I'm certain when that can happen.  Thank you so much for your patience!  I couldn't have made Soul Saga without your generous support! You can find today's forum topic here: http://forums.disastercake.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=935