Thursday, August 6, 2009

Legend of Iya history so far...

OK, since I never elaborated on what Legend of Iya is, or given you any idea of what happened in the development so far, I might as well do it now.

The original Legend of Iya or LOI was an episodic game I did back in middle school for ZX Spectrum. It was written in basic, and was essentially the training ground for my art and programming skills. All in all – five episodes were created, all slightly varying in gameplay mechanics, though rarely straying from the established formula of being sort of platformer-adventure games.

Fast-forward five years – in the year 2000 I was collaborating with an indie group – S+F on several Visual Basic game projects. All that was required from me was art, and I had little say in how the games were put together. As one of our projects was winding down in a stir of inspiration I have in one night created a tileset and the characters sprites for a remake of one of the Legend of Iya chapters. The next day I approached the programmer/creative director guy about, perhaps remaking my game as a quick, contained one-month mini-project. My proposal was met with apathy. As I couldn’t program to save my life at that point – I had no choice but to shelve the graphics and begrudgingly continue to work on projects that were not mine.

One day, after listening to me bitch about being unable to program worth of shit, a friend has let it slip about GameMaker. I was initially skeptical – after all, I tried other “game-making” packages before, and they were all, as a rule completely terrible. Either they were incomplete, or so limited, building a game in them was simply not worth the time, as the final result would’ve been sub-par at best.

As with everyone’s first attempts at GM programming, my first project was to modify the platformer tutorial. For that I used the Legend of Iya graphics I had sitting on my harddrive for almost a year now. In less than a day I have concocted a platformer game that was significantly more advanced than anything I was expecting from my S+F programmers. Over the next month, the new LOI took shape, but as I explored GM, the new-found freedom has driven the project further and further away from being simply a remake of a single chapter of the old game.

One day I decided to forfeit the one-single-huge-room design I have been using up until that point in favor of a Metroidvania layout – with smaller interconnected rooms and scripted RPG-like events. That day marked the end of the first LOI remake.

The next two years I spent expanding the game into a much larger, more diverse world, with many more zones, enemies, puzzles, boss fights and NPCs. Some scripting was implemented at key points, playing out simple in-game cutscenes An elaborate front end and, albeit unfinished intro were added. An inventory and equipment systems were implemented.

This was the furthest LOI has ever progressed, but then a weird thing happened. Around Halloween I took a month off working on the LOI project to create a small sideproject – Maziac. The game turned out quite decently, and was finished in a record time. After playing it, however, I noticed that it wasn’t particularly fun. I went back to Iya… and began to notice the same thing – the gameplay was just dull.

Disillusioned, I scrapped the project that was probably close to 70% done, but if finished would’ve been only mediocre.

However, it didn’t stop there. As my art skills have steadily improved over the years, I decided to redo Iya’s animation, making it as smooth as I could by inserting in-between cycles for transitioning from any cycle into another. LOI mark 3 was born. This time I tried to make the gameplay as fast, dynamic and real physics based as I could. The graphics, partially recycled and edited from later areas of previous LOI game were made more and more elaborate, and this time around actually used some semblance of color theory. The project went on for almost a year, by the end of which I had a fairly impressive physics playground finished.

And then I met a programmer. He wanted to port my game to then-more-popular-than-hotcakes GBA. To do that, he wanted to simply auto-resize the sprites to about 2/3 their current size, and color-reduce them to 16 color – which to anyone who ever did pixel-art will sound like a travesty. Despising the idea of simply auto-adjusting my pixel art, I decided to do a manual pixel pass over the reduced graphics, and discovered that it would probably take me less time and produce better results to just redraw everything from scratch… so LOI mark 4 was born.

And that’s the one you see in the screenshots... or at least that's the game that was born of my intention to develop for Gameboy Advance. GBA has since died, and even the NDS is now on its last leg, so this is a now, yet again, a mostly PC game.

The game was started with more or less a clear plan - first for me, and actually has a finalized story, of which I don’t want to divulge any detail, other than to say that it starts out as a standard Wizard of Oz-like scenario of a girl getting whisked away to a mysterious and possibly magical land.

Currently, Legend of Iya is an exploration platformer with melee combat and ranged “magic” attacks. The game features a world structure similar to games like Super Metroid and the recent Castlevanias – a lot of smaller rooms strung together to form an enormous labyrinthine world with themed areas. Some areas can only be accessed after acquiring a certain ability – be it a running wall-smash, ground-slide, double-jump, or “the ultimate doorknob” power.

In addition to utilizing tons of full-frame animation, the game also features Phaeton Engine – a custom animation system to allow modularly animated bosses and environmental objects, allowing for enormous, yet well-animated boss enemies.

The plot will be delivered via non-intrusive environmental storytelling and (maybe) soliloquized voiceover of the protagonist.

In the end I hope to deliver a game with at least 5-8 hours of non-recycled gameplay content, plus some cool extras.

Weather or not the game will be free is still undecided.

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's been a while, but work on LoI continued all this time, though even slower than usual, as I had some freelancing work to rob me of even the tiniest bit of free time... and then there is Red Faction Guerrilla. I never thought I could have so much fun destroying things - it's like I'm a little kid again - spending hours to build robots out of Legos, just to bombard them with AAA batteries...But I digress: )
Over the last weekend I added some background elements to the first puzzlette of the game - the one with the turning wheel.

...Oh, the turning wheel - I hope it wouldn't become the bane of my existence as it right now has all makings of one.
Among other things - I added another enemy - a Moai head that pops out of the ground and shoots fire, and can only be destroyed with a rolling smash. I gave the thing a very nice and elaborate breaking cycle, but unfortunately almost nobody will ever see it, as at the moment of impact a lot of dust and sparks are spawned, covering most of the animation... oh, well.