The October update with no structure whatsoever
10/31/2022 by Mary Strawberry
Hey! It's been a while since I last posted here!
I've been very busy working on Shattered Earth (and other stuff) that I haven't been able to write one of these in a long time. But now I am back!
Since it's been so long, I'll cover a couple of things that have changed since the last post.
After the Mother Direct
For those unaware, Mother Direct is an event in the style of Nintendo Directs organized by Mother Forever, a website made by fans of the RPG series by Shigesato Itoi.
The live stream consists of around 50 minutes of fan content and video games such as mods for the Mother games, completely new fan entries and fan projects based around Mother, and of course, games inspired by the series.
As some of you may have figured out, a good chunk of Shattered Earth is inspired by the Mother games, and as such, I talked with the organizers of the event to showcase a short 2-minute trailer of Shattered Earth.
And well, it was shown during the Mother direct, proudly being the first "mother-like indie" of the show!
The positive reception of the trailer is amazing and it really fills me with joy and motivation to keep working on Shattered Earth.
I am highly thankful for the results, as it seems that people really like the game and are even excited about it!
It was a good chance to see what people thought of the game. A great chance to see what works, and what does not.
With that being said, I've watched as many reaction videos as possible and read every comment about the game, and I've seen what people don't like.
Ever since, I've tweaked more aspects of the game, mostly visual stuff, so people enjoy it!
And that's also why I haven't posted much, as it is mostly chapter 1 tweaks and engine enhancements, which I'd rather show most in a demo, rather than in screenshots and mockups.
Said changes and enhancements for the player lead me to...
The Resolution Wars
On August 10, a very serious question was made on the Shattered Earth Twitter.
Should the game be 270p or 180p? Some people thought that it was too zoomed out and I wanted a way to solve that and see what was the common thought.
Was it too zoomed out? Or does it look alright?
Hey everybody! Got a very very important question for you all. Do you prefer a 270p resolution or a smaller 180p? Take in mind that both can be upscaled to 1080p. Pick your favorite! pic.twitter.com/rz1nWrWGe0— Shattered Earth (But Spooky) (@GamerNat94) August 11, 2022
Now, the latest trailer was 270p, and in my opinion, looks fine as is, but 180p didn't look out of place either.
I was hoping for 270p's victory, but it was fine if 180p won.
After a couple of days, hoping that the choice was clear, I checked the results and...
You mad lads chose both! The votes were so tightly divided that if I chose one, the other half that preferred another option would feel ignored.
If there is something I really hate is someone asking for my opinion to then completely ignore it and pretend like it doesn't exist.
And I did not want that for the people who expressed their thoughts about the matter.
So my solution was, after a few months of re-writing and adding stuff to the source code (drumroll)... ...both!
While I was editing the dialogue engine so it runs faster, I realized how if I made the game 320x180 pixels and made a box where the dialogue goes, that same box would look good in 480x270, and the menus can be resized to fit 180p and expand with a full view in 270p.
That way, if you feel like it is too zoomed out, you can change it yourself!
And with these changes, not only are these 16:9 modes possible, but also 4:3 360x270p.
So yes, you can now play Shattered Earth with a CRT! Hooray, everyone gets what they want and everyone is happy!
All the resolution modes.
I've talked to a couple of fellow developers that also make RPGs about whether it is a good idea to work on it as the story is supposed to play in-game or work on assets in absolutely random order.
Most of them say that they flip-flop between both, but most of them stay in order from start to finish.
I started to adopt this method not that long ago, but I used to think that much of what I show, like screenshots and mockups, might get boring eventually as I kept improving pretty similar stuff, so I was reluctant to show much.
And I doubt code optimization is exciting for you.
However, enough time has passed and I'm confident that what I have right now is what is going to be in the final demo.
Again, I'm not making a game for myself, but for everyone's enjoyment.
As such I have a private Discord server with a couple of incredibly talented game developers and artists, where I show them the latest graphics, scripts, songs, and even new mechanics I add along the way.
Then I get feedback from them and make adjustments based on that until everyone is happy with the final result.
They know damn well what they're doing. If anything, they are more experienced than me so I know I can trust their opinion.
Getting feedback is very VERY important if you want to get somewhere with your game, so don't be shy and show your friends what you've made.
And don't feel bad if they don't like it. Don't take it as a failure, but as a learning opportunity.
And that's where you guys come in!
I haven't shown much since the trailer, and I want to know what YOU think! So here's some stuff I want to show.
This is quite an interesting track.
After playing Final Fantasy VII for the first time, I realized how important was the start of a game, and how it gives you a little introduction to the world before throwing you off into a battle right as you meet your character whose name you don't even know.
It shows you how gameplay is right from the get-go and then shows you the story in a bit more detail once you have a hold of the game mechanics.
I instantly took notes and went back to dev mode and wrote a whole prologue that shows you how life works now after a nuclear apocalypse, and of course how you're supposed to play.
This is the song that plays during that intro if you chose Nat as your main protagonist.
For the first 40, it sets up a calm melody with soft pads and a piano.
The player reads a small text meant to introduce you to the world, and it explains what happened to Arladia many years ago.
Afterward, the camera shows two "definitely very very good friends" watching the stars, having a nice talk.
For these two minutes of peaceful silence, I try to give it a style similar to Joe Hisaishi's early Ghibli stuff in the 80s, but only using synths from after the mid-90s, including the Korg Triton and a synth a friend made called Integrate.
But not too long after [something very bad] happens. The intensity goes from 0 to 10000.
They gotta head back home quickly. The track completely shifts and now uses stuff made before the mid-90s, like the Roland D-50 and Yamaha DX7.
Aaaaand the track ends here because it's not ready yet but I really wanted to show it.
Good Morning (House theme)
These tracks are laid out in chronological order, so this is one of the tracks you'd hear after Skywatching.
The scenes full of adrenaline and tension are over, and we can now relax.
The intro pad synths are mostly done with the Roland D-50 but after that, they're pretty much gone.
Instead of using literal leitmotifs, here we use instruments to represent danger or peace.
I used a low-pass filter (the thing that makes it sound like you're covering your ears) with the intention of simulating the feeling of waking up.
Of course, since this is music and not video, instead of blurring the view or something like that, the closest thing I could find to that was using a low-pass filter.
For the rest of the song, it uses Korg Triton, which we previously established as an instrument used in a peaceful context.
Isolation (Town theme)
What's an RPG without peaceful town music?
At this point, you can probably notice the pattern of peaceful/tense instruments here.
I originally arranged this song in a different way, but it was too energetic, so I took a step back and tried a slower BPM. Now I could've conformed with something short and simple that does the job.
However, I decided to make a longer song that loops 4 minutes in because I expect some players to stay quite some time talking to the NPCs and I didn't want to make the music feel obnoxiously short and loopy.
The Forest (West Arladia Overworld BGM 1)
There's not much I can say about this one despite being one of my favorites. I guess this one just speaks for itself.
I've shown this song a couple of months ago, but I've changed some instruments (mostly higher-quality samples) and changed the mixing to be way better on the ears.
Some readers may remember an earlier iteration of this song that sounds closer to something like Mother 3, but since the focus of the game has changed completely, I've reworked the instruments to include a much wider variety of sounds that work well together.
But I didn't stop there, and completely changed the composition itself. While you can see the similarities, I changed the song to fit the newer instruments.
Roadless Journey (West Arladia ground map BGM 1)
As the quite large and obviously temporal title says, this is a song dedicated to the yet-to-be-shown overworld map.
I'm still figuring out how it will look (most likely with smaller protag sprites and faux mode 7 stuff like a SNES game) but sometimes music helps me guide the art, so I made the track first.
This song is mostly inspired by Ahead On Our Way (from Final Fantasy V) and Wings That Cross Time (from Chrono Trigger) which highly scream "JRPG overworld adventure theme", so it's unsurprising I took notes from both songs.
Every instrument uses one sample to mimic the sound of a 16-bit console, except for the guitars and the trumpets, which are mostly lead instruments.
This is a very good example of a trick I tend to use a lot.
Let me explain how it works in this song, though remember I'm not too fluent in music language so I may have some inaccuracies.
At the start of the loop, if you were to isolate the strings, you'd hear a C sharp minor chord.
In the full song, what you'd hear is the C sharp minor chord changing to A major 7, which is essentially an overlap of A major with C sharp minor.
Chords that, once combined, have a nicer flavor than a simple major chord.
And you'd be right since the bass note is now A2.
But if we just listen to the strings it is still in C sharp minor.
Instead, the bass recontextualizes this chord, and since it's already clear what chord is it with both the bass and the strings, you don't need to play A in the strings.
I'm saying all of this because at all times the bass only plays one note at once, and the strings only play 3. If we were to compress this to a SNES song (which if you remember only uses 8 channels) that'd leave us with 4 extra tracks, whereas if we were to play 4 or even 5 notes we'd be much more restricted.
Converting this into a SNES song would sound similar and there would be little to no instruments cut by the channel limitation.
Despite not having a set limitation, the composition is highly led by some self-imposed restrictions that make it sound like SNES JRPG music in some tracks.
Mushrooms In The Garden
Much like the previous song, I came up with this one by complete accident.
Just practicing with other songs until I start to improvise and that's how I came up with the melody in this one.
It has no ties to any other song and I'm not even sure where exactly will I use this, but it's going to be somewhere, at least the melody itself.
Lullaby For The Fallen Ones (Game Over theme)
A simple song, with one instrument. It's as simple as a game over song can get.
It's quite likely you're going to hear this after a super hard and stressful battle.
Making you feel bad won't help a lot. A calm song is way better.
Based on feedback from the Mother Direct, sprites were adjusted.
I redesigned the indoors too so it's more coherent with the current art style. The furniture is mostly the same with a couple of edits.
However, the cool thing about this screenshot is the simulation of light!
Contrary to popular belief, Shattered Earth at its base isn't exactly "2D" but rather 3D at a fixed perspective.
Game Maker Studio can handle sprite depths asides from their horizontal and vertical position.
And with that in mind, I wondered what if I used some sort of "ray tracing" for rooms with little to no light, like Nat's house!
And with this ray tracing calculation, you can block light in a realistic way. With this effect early on in the game, you give the player a taste of what's to come.
I wonder who owns that car. Or even more interesting, how do they charge up an electric car in the middle of the forest?
Now, it's near the end of 2022. Nearly half a year since the trailer and there still is no demo in sight.
I know this very well and I sincerely apologize.
In recent months my life has been pretty hard. School is getting harder.
And now I don't have a healthy schedule where I get to do cool stuff in my free time like Shattered Earth. My depression isn't helping much either and I feel like a soulless walking sack of potatoes constantly.
The point is, I'm currently having a hard time and I apologize for the lack of updates and for delaying the demo, which I'm sure won't be out this year.
However, I hope that I can get through this as soon as possible and release the demo next year.
And as always, thank you for reading through this. I really appreciate your support. ❤️
Let's talk about music!
04/20/2022 by Mary Strawberry
One of my favorite parts of making Shattered Earth is composing the soundtrack.
Without music, video games would feel empty, so it's very important to create what the player is going to hear through their adventure.
So in today's devlog, let's talk about how the music is made!
It's worth mentioning that I never took music theory lessons, so I'm not a professional, but I'm going to keep things simple anyway, for people like me who barely know what a minor chord is.
What do I use?️
It's quite surprising, but I only use ONE physical instrument!
Everything else (even if it sounds like a real guitar) is on my computer.
Said physical instrument is a Yahama Reface DX, which is a successor to the famous Yamaha DX7 and its sister keyboard, the DX100, used in a lot of songs you might have heard before, during the late 80s.
I mainly use this for communicating and playing notes with the computer.
I also use some of its FM capabilities to create unique sounds, but I'll talk about that later on.
It's small and easy to transport, so I def recommend this little fella.
What a sick little keyboard! It's cute and cool at the same time!
For writing music, you can use the keyboard that you use to yell at people online, but I'd highly recommend getting a MIDI keyboard (aka a keyboard that speaks a funny music language) to compose music faster. It doesn't need to be as expensive as a gaming computer or anything like that.
Something small and cheap, but of good quality will work just fine.
A very good thing about MIDI-compatible keyboards is that they register how hard you press a key, so you can get a realistic result if you start recording the notes.
You can really put your soul into music with it.
It also helps to physically see what notes you're playing.
So, what software do I use?️
A Digital Audio Workstation is a tool used in the computer.
Think of it like Adobe Premiere Pro (a video editor) but for making music.
Just like how there are many video editors, there are a lot of DAWs, and even some specialized for specific things.
I personally use these tools:
As of right now, it seems that SNES Tracker is no longer going to be worked on, but it is open-source for anyone who wants to give it a shot.
Another option is the EarthBound Music Editor, which I haven't tried, but my friend Vince94 (a very talented musician) recommends it as an alternative in the future.
As you can see, unless it sounds like an older pre-SNES console, I mostly use FL Studio.
With Shattered Earth, I want the music to sound like music from JRPGs, mainly from the SNES and PS1 which are both very similar.
To understand how it works we need to take a look back.
Let's take a look back
If we compare the SNES' sound capabilities to previous sound chips like the NES, it's like comparing someone that can draw rectangles and circles (the NES) to someone that can draw a realistic portrait (the SNES), but it still isn't like the Sistine Chapel ceiling (something like your phone or PC).
While it can do more complicated stuff other than pulse waves and that kind of stuff, it still has some limits.
It uses 8-bit audio samples through 8 voices.
That means you can hold 8 notes but not more than that at the same time.
That's why when you pick coins in Mario sometimes it cuts the music because it needs one of those channels to play that sound effect.
Due to the SNES (and similar consoles like the PS1 and N64) not having a lot of memory in the cartridge and memory capacity in the console compared to today's standards, it's very hard to just slap a bunch of mp3s and expect it to work.
For example, an .ogg file of the song "Megalopolis" from SimCity is 2,872,127 bytes long, while the rom itself of SimCity is just... ...512,000 bytes!? Does just one song already take more than the entire cartridge memory? Zero graphics, zero code, nothing other than audio? Really? Man, ram is not going to have a lot of fun with that file size...
The most common approach was to sample the instruments instead.
Think of it like this:
Instead of asking a guy to play a song with an mp3 player, you're asking 8 guys to read a music sheet and give them some instruments to play music.
So basically the game stores the "music sheet" and the "instruments" in a very lightweight file.
Then when it needs to play something like a song, it plays the "music sheet" using the "instruments" and renders the song in real-time as the game goes on.
Asides from being smaller in size, you can also recycle the instruments in other songs, which also reduces the size even more, fitting in the cartridge memory perfectly and leaving enough space for other assets such as code and graphics.
Here's an example of Final Fantasy VI's boss battle theme deconstructed:
But nowadays, in most cases, it actually IS telling a guy to play a song with an mp3 player, and Shattered Earth does that (actually more than 1, but we'll see that later).
So what's the point of all this nonsense talk if we're just going to ignore it?
Well, you see, since the music is not pre-rendered we can actually "rip" these files (instruments and sequences) from the game rom and be able to open and even edit them.
That way you could either go to SiIvagunner and start making "high-quality rips" or you can create your own music using these sounds, to get that "classic sound".
And in most cases just using these samples, people might say "ah yes, vintage" but the audio quality is not really up to modern standards.
Heck, music on CDs, even if it takes a lot of memory it sounds better anyway, and those came out nearly a decade before the SNES. Especially games for GBA have an awful lot of compression.
So, how do we get higher-quality versions of these sounds?
Professionals have standards!
Samples don't grow in trees.
Rarely, composers record instruments in real life themselves and it's basically impossible to get a high-quality copy for those, but most of the time they come from sample libraries.
With these, I don't need to own a flute, a saxophone, a tuba, and a guitar, because the sound libraries already have samples of these sounds, which composers would sample in the games.
That's why if you really pay attention you can hear the same slap bass used in Seinfeld in the Mega Man X stage select theme because both use the same instrument! (Seinfeld somehow sneaked back into my updates again, damn it Jerry!!!)
We can find the source of a sample based on several facts, such as the release date of the game (or production start date too), the composer and producer company, known libraries from other samples in the same game, etc.
People also look at popular libraries such as the previously stated Korg M1 slap bass example, which was a fairly popular instrument during the 90s, so it makes sense that it was used in both MMX and Seinfeld (weird combo, but ok I guess?).
Companies such as Roland and Korg have preserved their instruments in VSTs (the equivalent of an instrument/sample library in DAWs) such as the JV1080 and the Roland Sound Canvas line (used in some HAL games like Kirby, Mother 3, and SSB Melee.) or the Korg M1.
And you don't just get one sample like SNES games, but a wide array of samples for different notes and even how hard you hit the notes.
These are called multi-note banks and they wouldn't start appearing until the late SNES lifespan and the start of the PS1 era.
However, some companies don't re-release these instruments, and it's harder to get physical versions of these, due to how old they are.
Fortunately, the same communities that find the samples on discord often post a small example of the instrument used, so I sample that instead.
In the end, it is just one note unlike the previously mentioned VSTs, but either way, it'd be squished and stretched just like how the SNES would, so people will go "ah yes, vintage" but with clear audio.
My goal here is to create something like SNES, but I like to bring it back from the afterlife, refined and with higher quality for the contemporary age. Or something like that I'm a game dev, not a poet.
I definitely know that a couple of people reading this are also fellow devs and composers, so I made a quick guide on how to find and use in-game samples and source samples, for anyone in need of it.
Magicians don't explain their tricks! But I'm a cool person so let's keep this between us k?
Another piece of advice is to not name the audio files after the video game that uses the sample, but instead the library and patch of where it comes from.
While it won't work with iconic sounds such as the Chrono Trigger choir, it can avoid bias towards specific samples just because you like those games.
Hell in my instruments folder I have no idea why I added half the samples outside of "they're from an old game", but they sound cool so, sure, why not use them?
Anyways, that's enough talking about getting the instruments themselves. How do we turn those instruments into music
It's time for the good stuff
Before coming up with anything, I play other songs on my keyboard to warm up.
Specifically, songs that fit the vibe of what I want to make.
For example, if I need a "desert-ish song" I just play music from other games that might fit the vibe.
Then I start to improvise my own stuff and see if there's something I really like. That can be either a melody, an arpeggio, or a chord progression.
After that, I open FL Studio and I transcribe what I made usually with a piano sound or a plain synth sound from the reface DX, and start from there.
Think of it as the blueprints of a house.
It won't always have the exact color of the walls or where you're going to add furniture, but it gives you a rough idea of where the walls, doors, and windows should go. Then I continue for the rest of the song until I feel it's complete.
If the song is for an important scene/place, I'll use a leitmotiv.
Basically, it's a recurring theme that appears throughout a soundtrack, mainly in movies and video games.
You might also know it as "why 73% of Deltarune Chapter 2's soundtrack contains Queen's theme".
For example, I bet that you'll recognize "Darth Vader's theme" aka "The Imperial March" if you've watched Star Wars Episode V, but you might have not noticed slight hints at it through saga when something related to him happens.(even in Episode IV!?).
Important characters and sometimes places have their own themes.
Here are some examples of that in the Shattered Earth soundtrack: (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand here goes the example because I've been quite busy, please be patient)
When all of that is done I search for some instruments in my folders that fit the song and I add them to the project.
If the base instrument is the blueprints of a house, the theme is the wireframe of the house and the rest of the instruments are how your building is going to look, from furniture to even smaller details such as paintings or other minor decoration like that.
It can be incredibly different, like an orange house with baroque architecture, or something that looks like a spaceship.
It can be minimalistic or extremely detailed.
So once every single decoration is done, we're done? Is the song finally finished?
We're close, but there's a very important detail. Mixing.
If the bass is stupidly louder than every single instrument in the song, it needs to be tuned down.
If the melody is too quiet, it needs to be tuned up.
Mixing is super important because even if the song has an incredible amount of detail it's all going to waste if it doesn't sound good.
In this process too, we can apply special effects.
Once again using the video editor analogy from earlier, these effects are the equivalent of visual effects like blur, saturation, black and white filters, VHS distortion, and stuff like that.
But instead, we have reverb, delay, vinyl distortion, overdrive, etc.
The SNES and PS1 have an echo feature (because their dedicated sound processing unit of both was made by Sony), where it can either work as a delay or if sped up and extended, reverb!
While it's a pretty obscure feature that not everybody uses, it can give a song a lot of life and it makes them feel less empty.
Using .spc players and disabling the reverb in some songs (specifically in Chrono Trigger or in underground levels of Super Mario World), it feels very off.
Another example is the PS1 boot sound, which covers and smooths the incredibly low-quality samples and turns them into such an iconic sound.
Fun fact, it only uses 3 small samples pitched up and down instead of a big one.
Fortunately for us, FL Studio already comes with delay and reverb effect plugins.
Using a combination of a very short delay and a very subtle more detailed reverb, an effect similar to the SNES effect can be achieved.
Once we're done with that I hit export and we're done?
...I like your enthusiasm but still no!
We have to add the song to the game.
Since GMS2's audio features are somewhat limited there is some stuff that I need to do myself.
Mainly GMS2 does not support looping points, aka playing an intro that only plays once before the full loop.
Other examples are in-engine reverb, adaptive audio, etc.
Oh, and it also loads all the sounds for some reason, which might take a lot of RAM.
I won't go into too much detail about adaptive audio until a future devlog update, and my reverb is similar to the one in the SNES. But here's how it works.
Once I have the final file, I create a folder just for that song, add a .txt file with the looping points data taken from FL, package it and add it to the included files in Shattered Earth.
Later, in-game it unpackages this folder and reads both the .txt and the audio file, and loads them into the game.
And after all of that finally yes, we're done :)
Some final thoughts
Is this a long process? Yeah, it is, but it's definitely worth it in the end.
Music can be a complicated thing if you're a beginner, but once you get the hang of it, oh boy, can you go so far with it.
I still haven't touched on a lot of stuff such as adaptive music (using Celeste and Super Mario World as examples)
I still haven't touched on FM synthesis either, and to be honest, it's too complex that I don't even get it entirely myself.
But I'll try to include those in future updates. Remember that well... ...I'm creating a game and creating these updates takes some time, so please be patient.
I'd like to leave some examples of a couple of tracks from the game showing each point that I've told you so far. I'll try to update this often so there you go, a reason to visit the website weekly ;).
I'd also like to take this moment to list some composers that I really like and that inspire me to create a lot of stuff in no particular order.
and a lot more people that I probably forgot hehe...
I specifically wrote this list randomly because I want you to go and listen to each and every one of these amazing musicians because they deserve it.
If you don't you're a fake Shattered Earth fan (just kidding).
Their music shaped me in some way or another, and I hope that my music does the same to you.
And if you want to give it a shot, well if a dummy like me can pull it off, maybe you can too!
I hope this was not only informative but also useful for all composers, both beginners, and pros.
That's all for now! Thanks for your support and see ya in the next one!
...I hope Seinfeld is not mentioned in the next one, I really do...
HOW TO BE FUNNY
12/24/20211 by Marty Starkiller
Yes, that's the actual title.
Don't you love NPCs being... ...NPCs?
Yeah with their hilarious dialogue that has nothing to do with our quest, sometimes even glitching out like crazy acting like normal even if they barely survived an explosion in the background.
NPCs feel artificial, and sometimes bring absoluetly nothing to the experience other than "being there".
If you throw a prototype of a phone into a pool and bubbles come out that means there was air in there. We could either somehow design the phone so it is slightly shorter but uses the same components, or we can add more features in those air-filled spots.
We just can't remove dialogue from RPGs, it's the thing that keeps them together!
So perhaps we should just write better dialogue. How do we make them feel not painful and wasteful?
Why not make them funny?
Well ok then let's make the funny™️
We can probably study memes, watch some episodes of Seinfeld, and boom!
It took a lot of research.
We gotta find what fits best, no slapstick humor, and definitely no poop jokes. Shattered Earth is a game for everyone, and it has to make everyone laugh the same way.
I actually found out that you can get a chuckle out of people based on these pillars that are answers to the same question.
It was funny because it's:
Like if our reality wasn't crazy enough.
Exaggerating stuff can result in le funny™️.
A guy in some looney tunes branded pajamas buying 500 boxes of Froot Loops with two shopping cards sounds hilarious.
Of course, you don't see that every day, because nobody in their mind would do that!
However, some people do get two shopping cards when shopping, or that go shopping in the fanciest clothes ever, or that buy 3 or 4 Froot Loop boxes, or even me who is writing this document with some looney tunes branded pajamas (btw they're ultra-soft and comfy).
But adding things up together and exaggerating them is just crazy, and feels out of a sane mind. And if done right it can be funny as heck.
"Knock knock" and "Why did the chicken cross the road" jokes are playing with literal fire.
For example: Why did the chichken cross the road? To get to the other side!!!
Hahaha! I'm so funny! NO, you already expected that, you already knew that joke and YOU DIDN'T LAUGH!!!
However, what if you didn't expect it? I bet you'd be laughing so loud even I'll be able to hear you!!! Observe.
Here's another one.
See? I'm Mr. Comedy!
If jokes are already funny, a surprise and a twist can make it even better.
A joke is better if you don't know what's coming.
Ah yes, humor based on my pain! Relatable jokes feel like they're jokes specifically made for you! It's like if somebody made a movie about you but it's just one sentence that makes you smile. Though, it's a little bit hard to nail, because you gotta make a game for everyone, and if you make jokes for just one person that's going to be difficult to handle. For example, everybody can relate to the feeling of searching for food in the fridge at 3:AM, but not everybody relates to:
Me at 5 in the morning, a feeling that only I get.
Fortunately, you (hopefully) don't.
It's like when you crash in a racing game and spin uncontrolably, and it looks like you died, but 5 seconds after you go back to the race, and you say "wait wuh?" and start laughing uncontrolably, then that's basically absurd comedy.
Bigger nonsense = bigger laughter.
However, this is a little bit harder to get correctly, since not everybody will get the joke.
For example: John Cena eats beans from a boot while beatboxing.
That won't work with everybody, but at least it took for me 15 minutes to continue writing because why am I laughing at this please somebody explain me.
The art of being funny is beyond the jokes being funny.
Jokes can be funny by themselves. But you have to deliver them perfectly.
Asides from being the perfect joke, it has to be at the perfect place in the perfect time.
For example: here's a joke in a png, and here's a joke in a gif.
Which one is funnier?
Both are good, however the gif feels more natural and funny, like if somebody is actually telling you a joke, instead of you reading it from a note in your "funny jokes that you should tell people in a party where you know nobody" notebook.
Fortunately for us, the dialogue system can pause while it's displaying, change colors, shake, and many other effects to give a more natural feel (we'll talk about the dialogue system itself and how it's rendered in a future update, but as of right now yes, you can actually edit the script for making your own scripts/translations of Shattered Earth, in case if I never learn how to speak Italian and some guy wants to play Shattered Earth in italian, and it's super easy to edit since .ini files area easy to read and can be opened using a txt editor like windows notepad, anyways this might be the longest parenthesis, wouldn't be surprised if I broke the world record).
By perfect place I also mean that it has to make sense in the context of the game, and at least provide something to the world.
It is better for a person to complain about something or tell a funny anecdote related to the plot with a joke, rather than a random person telling a knock knock joke.
I usually watch sitcoms with my family at dinner. We started the tradition with The Big Bang Theory, but of course we had to come to an end at some point (good show btw).
Then we watched The Office, and asides from it being obviously a mockumentary from the start, unlike The Big Bang Theory, it lacked laugh tracks.
There were NO laugh tracks at any point (or at least non-diegetic). And then watching something like Friends and Seinfeld, while mostly funny feels, off?
Nobody in real life pauses after somebody says something that just so happens to be funny. And in The Office you feel like you are watching a conversation in real time, and I feel more inmersed.
You might argue that it doesn't contain laugh tracks because it's a mockumentary and documentaries don't have laugh tracks, but in Superstore, a show created by Justin Spitzer (that just so happens to be a writer from The Office) the show is pretty much The Office but not a mockumentary and in a supermarket, still doesn't contain laugh tracks even if it can, because it picks to go with more natural dialogue.
And now for something completely different.
Ah references yes! Because Robert Zemeckis HAD to add the flux capacitor to the Polar Express somehow (yes this is real).
References makes us go "oh yeah I remember that! It's referencing something I like in this another piece of media!".
References are nice and funny.
However we can't just reference something like Minecraft in the middle of a casual conversation and get away with it.
For example in Mother 2's english locaization EarthBound (not sure if it's in Mother 2 itself) there's a guy that asks you fill in the blanks of a song from The Beatles: XXXterday, with the joke being that you have to pick between Yes and No. However this implies that The Beatles exist in the Mother universe, and it implies that England is real, but Mother 2 takes place in Eagleland, then what is real???
References are fun, but they gotta be coherent in order to be in. Here are some examples:
What doesn't fit:
Context: Nick and Nat enter a cave and it's all shiny. Nick says "Looks like we're not in Kansas anymore".
References: a line from The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy says "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore".
Doesn't fit because: If the sunflower state is real, so is the united states, which is not true. Plus Nick referencing The Wizard of Oz means that he has watched it, but there are no TVs where he lives, so this is pretty much impossible. Plus the movie is from 1939, and by the time Nick references it, the movie is super old. Oh and it's too quoted already.
Context: Nat is about to leave her hometown to go explore the forest in her adventure, and before she leaves a friend tells her "See you space cowboy".
References: Cowboy Bebop.
Doesn't fit because: Again, there are no TVs and it implies that Japan is a real place, and by extension that Mexico is an actual location (and we all know that in real life, it doesn't exist either). And on top of that, it sounds out of context, even if it is a nickname because space is barely explored in the year XXXX.
What does fit:
Context: A random nerd at Nick's town explaining why arcade machines should be turned into computers for security purposes ending with the quote "I like to think. Think forward".
References: IBM's "Think" slogan and Apple cheaply copying it by changing it to "Think different". And also the "Technology is incredible!" guy that appears in Pokemon games.
Fits because: It's in character and doesn't directly mention any of those companies. Plus it remarks that the town is technologically outdated, giving that conversation a purpose in the plot.
Context: Nat refuses to go out to the forest in search for a mysterious source of energy, suggesting to send guards, and the town chief gets mad, knocks at Nat's head and says "Hello? Anybody home? Huh? Think Natalie! THINK!!! If I were to send my most important guards there would be nobody protecting us! You wouldn't want that to happen would you?"
References: Literally a quote (that happens twice) from Biff Tannen in Back To The Future.
Fits because: The town chief is shown to be agressive and tough, specifically with Nat. Having this interaction fits well with the character and doesn't feel like a quote for people who (are losing their time not watching bttf or) haven't watched bttf.
Oh god, I referenced Back To The Future twice...
Some final random thoughts
Dialogue is a suuuuuper important, even when interacting with objects.
At the very start of the game you can pick between Nick or Nat, and the start of the game is slightly similar, but with some changes. Dialogue at the begining (and even the rest of the game) reflects what Nick (or Nat) feel and see. Here's an example:
A regular RPG would say "It's a table", but this slight difference shows more of the characters. It shows that Nick's life is painfuly boring and average, and that there isn't a lot of flavor in his life.
And Nat had a short childhood, and she didn't wanted that to happen. Regardless of her choice she lives in a place where she doesn't like living in that much.
And this is like, 5 minutes into the game, hell you can even skip it.
But you wouldn't get to know them if it just says "it's a table".
I feel like funny dialogue, specially at early game compensates a lot, because Shattered Earth gets dark. Like SUUUUPER dark.
You will swim in sadness, but without air you might drown, so a joke might just make somebody smile for a bit. It all needs some balance.
That was kind of a deep ending for this devlog post so um...
Here, take this image
Merry Christmas, happy holidays, enjoy yourself and have fun with your family :)
Death to the dice!
10/31/2021 by Marty Starkiller
As a Mexican, I was raised watching Mexican TV, with Mexican culture, but most importantly, Mexican food!
And of course as a kid it was common to play Mexican games.
Some examples are Lotería and Snakes and Ladders (who calls it Chutes and Ladders, snakes are cooler!).
These are good games, and you can have fun with your friends for hours, but there's something I don't like about them...
...they rely TOO much on...
You can call it however you want: king dice, lady luck, RNGsus, but we all know that it's nearly unpredictable.
You could argue that in Lotería you have to pay attention or you'll be out. But in Snakes and Ladders it's entirely effortless and you just have to roll the dice until you somehow win. And it feels very good when luck is with you but, when you don't it feels unfair.
And this applies for RPGs too.
Random encounters are not fun at all. They cut gameplay all of the sudden, and most of the time I'm just smashing the A button.
It's more stress than fun. How can we solve it?
Shall we play a game?
So a friend (who we'll refer to now as "Chess girl") had a lot of chess skills... ...go figure.
We're very close friends, and she's very nice with everyone.
One day I decided to take lessons with Chess girl.
And that's where I started realizing how complex chess was, the different strategies, the tricks that can change the entire game in mere seconds.
And one thing chess has is, if you win it's mostly your achievement, and your victory wasn't dictated by luck, but your own choices.
You are the only one who did it. And that feels amazing!
I wanted to portray this feeling of strategy and victory that feels so damn good.
That feeling of strategy and victory that feels so damn good™️️️️
Since we're going with the chess theme, I decided to make the player's position important.
There are some games that have played with the idea. Chrono Trigger kinda did this, and there's also Secret of Mana, but that's more Zelda-like and if I wanted to make a game like that, I wouldn't be writing this.
So I decided to have a grid similar to a checkerboard, where the enemies and the party members would fight.
Both having attack ranges where they can only attack enemies as long as they're inside.
Otherwise they'd have to move towards them. But if a party member is low on HP, you might want to walk away, so you don't get hit.
The "Run" option, instead of rolling a dice in the back and choosing if it lets you escape or not, gives you a limited number of steps (similar to Clue) where you can walk towards, or away from enemies.
Mockup of the battle playfield (wow I'm dumb and forgot the background and the tiles both are #000000)
Balancing the player's position and actions at the same time opens the gates for strategy, and it can also lead to a smarter AI, where instead of every attack being random, it actually feels like someone is really trying to break your bones.
As far as I'm aware only a few games do stuff like this.
The only games that come to mind are Final Fantasy Tactics and Mega Man Battle Network, but I've never played them so I can't really tell how similar it is.
Balancing the player's position and actions at the same time opens the gates for strategy, and it can also lead to a smarter AI, where instead of every attack being random, it actually feels like someone is really trying to break your bones.
As far as I'm aware only a few games do stuff like this.
The only games that come to mind are Final Fantasy Tactics and Mega Man Battle Network, but I've never played them so I can't really tell how similar it is.
Random numbers can sometimes make sense, like an enemy picking either to move or use a long-range attack.
For example in Catan (another amazing board game, please give the Wikipedia page a read or even buy the game it's very fun) your goal is to get a specific number of victory points.
You need to build stuff and you need resources which you get by placing towns in specific parts of the map, divided by tiles with a specific number and a resource type.
Each time you roll the dices, it gives everybody the resources from the tiles with the number the dices rolled if they have towns touching the tiles.
It's random, but it tells you the chances of getting those resources.
We don't talk about number 7 (°-°)
8 and 6 are marked in red and they're the biggest number, because these are the ones with the most chances. 5 and 9 are the same size but black. 4 and 10 are also black but
they're smaller. 3 and 11 are even smaller, and 2 and 12 are the smallest, because the chances of getting
those numbers are the smallest.
So you know what to expect instead of just praying to RNGsus. And it doesn't feel so random.
Snakes and Ladders just move you to a random tile, but Catan uses that random number for strategy.
Making it better
Another thing I added is the Cross Menu! A game designer's goal is to make a fun game, and that usually involves a challenge. But if that challenge it's annoying, is it
really a fun game?
A usual annoyance is not being able reach an option in time.
In Mother 2's menu it takes 4 button presses to reach the "Run Away" option (including the A press).
But if we use the Cross Menu we get the exact same distance between each option, and it only takes 2 button presses (1 if you want to attack).
This saves up a LOT of time.
Maybe I'm going too Steve Jobs, but I really don't want to waste people's time.
Loading screens might just be a tech limitation, but attacks taking a while to finish, taking a lot of time to reach to the menu you want, stuff like that can be avoided.
Even if it's just one second or less, if we accumulate every single time that happens through the entire game, it can take up days!!!
It's better to use that time for having fun, or even do some more important stuff outside of the game.
I even reduced this blog's text so I don't waste your time :) you're welcome.
Instead of waiting for the player's input while the text finishes to display, it just shows the player the entire text, and gives the player between 30 and 60 frames of reaction.
I want gameplay, not time wasted.
Conclusions because I'm tired and it's 3 AM
So, what we want is the player to have control, we want to give the player a challenge, but most importantly we want the player to have fun.
That's all, fellas! Thanks for reading this post.
Happy Halloween! Enjoy this rotating dice!
Welcome to the world of Shattered Earth
9/14/2021 by Marty Starkiller
Hey fellas! Welcome to the FIRST SHATTERED UPDATE EVER!!!!1!!
I'm so excited to show you guys my ideas and everything.
Here's a recap of everything before this website was made.
A quick recap.
The 9th of May, 2020 we officialy started development of Shattered Earth.
We were 4 at first, and we started it as a spiritual successor to Mother 2.
I prefer to make the best rpg ever than just a successor to Mother 3.
So I wanted to make a more sci-fi story.
First messages in the dev server.
The first thing we started to make were the protagonists of the game.
There were some tweaks here and there, but the characters became what they're now.
Just like Rockman's design, we started with sprites.
We went with the Mother 2 aesthetic because it's simple, and with a lower color palette. I'll talk more about later.
The origin of Nat's name.
We were making steady progress in the first days.
The team slowly grew. Some came in, some others left, but Shattered Earth was still going.
We finally released a trailer, showing what we have made so far.
Back then the game worked pretty much like Mother 2 from a gameplay standpoint.
Of course there were some problems sadly.
I have to admit there wasn't a lot of perfect communication with other devs.
And sometimes some forgot that the game even existed.
Plus, it looked too much like Mother 2
So I decided to turn this into a one-man band.
BUT MARTY ARE YOU CRAZY???
And to that I say yeah kinda.
But it's a choice I had to take and I'm fully responsable.
It has been done, so... ...now what?
Shattered Earth today.
Of course there gotta be a lot of changes right?
I mean yeah there are changes.
Most of the work that has been done such as music and story is remaining.
Although some sprites are being reworked for a new style.
It looked too much like Mother 2 and a lot of other games do too.
But there are more games that aren't Mother 2, so I decided to create a NEW style.
Well... ...it's kinda new...
Oversimplified logos be like.
While I was preparing everything for switching to a lonely development, I made a test project called "Mother Genesis".
It was a remake of Mother 1, that kept a similar NES look while having the shape of Mother 2 and a story told like Mother 3's.
I came up with this artstyle.
First I made the sprites symetrical. Then I touched up some stuff until it looked good.
Finally I made a palette similar to the NES's palette, and voilà!
In theory if I can convert Mother 2's characters to this new artstyle, this can be done too with Shattered Earth!
New attitude, new Nick.
It works well, it's readable, it's recognizable. It's perfect!
This new style is of course inspired by NES sprites.
I could have used a bigger palette, but decided to have one even smaller than Mother 2's by just having 4 colors
The NES' palette is made up by 4 colors, one of them being transpare...
...wait the palette has 5 colors if we count transparency...
IS THIS PIXEL ART BLASPHEMY?
Actually no hehe.
There has been several other games (including NES ones) that use a 5 or even 6 color palette.
I want this to look nice too so I won't be too picky with details like palette limit.
I'm also changing how combat works, but more on that in a later update!
I'm super happy with this project and I can't wait to make more!
That's everything for today fellas! Hope you enjoyed it!
Cya in the next one!
Oh hey you arrived at the bottom of the page :) congrats