I love video games. I love them so much that I've dedicated my life to finding ways to use this wonderful medium to inspire others, get across clear messages, and provide fun experiences to all age ranges. I'm a freelance game designer mostly active in my own projects. Though I'm a designer, I have a huge amount of experience in animation, music, and sociology, with rudimentary knowledge in various coding languages. My general duties in projects are to design, illustrate, provide basic code work, organize, animate, create gameplay builds, and research credible concepts, from the very beginning of game development to the very end. My only goal is to make games that'll put a smile on someones face and maybe even give them a new way at looking at life, as precious as it is. This, along with my love for gaming, is what I live for. =D
Today marks the first day I have ever drawn and rendered a cloud in VHEL. Why in the world is this important? It's because clouds, smoke, and most other types of gas-like effects are tricky to piece together. Oddly, even though VHEL is very stylistic, drawing clouds that best fit it's universe and the atmosphere, is actually quite challenging. I believe I referenced 5 sources for the best results: Street Fighter 3, Borderlands, Uncharted (explosive effects), Wind Waker, Kingdom Hearts, and Team Fortress 2. I chose these games to reference because of the way smoke and clouds maintained a consistent silhouette, while also utilizing a much more vibrant color palette.
The clouds in VHEL have a soft purple color to them, contrasted by darker tones to give the impression of rainclouds. After about 2 hours, I had a prototype up and going. Afterward, I decided to tackle explosive effects to see if I could work with similar assets and techniques. To be fair, I don't exactly want over-the-top, super crazy, seizure inducing explosive effects, because on a lot of levels, that's overkill and terrible on the eyes. Instead, I decided to focus on colors that could help identify the type of explosions and smoke effects, with as little visual noise as possible. Red obviously works to show warmth and heat, so I use that in contrast to an almost black color in smoke clouds to show the remnants of an explosion.
Animating clouds are not too, too hard to do, but I won't lie and say that they're a cake walk. This, along with water and fire are probably my worst enemies because they demand so much more when it comes down to articulation and accuracy. I am happy about the results I did achieve thus far with the smoke and clouds, but we'll just see how best I can create them in the future. I'm actually quite excited. =o
...I use them in my character design for VHEL...a lot. =|
Sure, I have a scientific reason as to why, and the importance to encompassing practicality and aesthetics with visibility and gameplay purposes, but let's not kid ourselves; I just like them on girls, in general. The minute I slapped on bell bottoms onto Iberian and considered it a "good" design choice, I set myself up for name calling and stereotyping -- preferably the kind where people call me "hippy-lover" or "Mr. Jaded", out of lack of originality, to further imply that my manner of thinking is as obtuse as Pluto being called "a planet".
Still, I like them...a lot. =|
I just recently found the Odin Sphere Artworks book! I swear, I am in love with that thing! All of the art on display are vivid and clean. A large reason why I push so hard for VHEL's 2D imagery is BECAUSE of Odin Sphere, and most, if not all, games made by Vanillaware (probably the most inspirational company I've ever known). The fact that so much time went into developing so many gorgeous sceneries and vistas in that game, and then having to go back and forth to correct heights and redo gameplay mechanics, must have been maddening. To be honest, I don't know how the guys at Vanillaware keep in spirits considering the fact that they're games are in a niche category, and only earn just enough money to put a meal or two on the table. Even more so, the various people they hire really do have to be trained in a very exclusive manner; it's like conventional game development skills taught in colleges don't 100% apply here. A job at Vanillaware is pretty darn special because their game development process (most it being art and animation related) relies heavily on old school animation techniques (hand drawn animations). =P
Hopefully one day, I'll be able to match the artistry of their games, like Odin Sphere or Oboro Muramasa. For now though, I GOTZ ME AN ARTBOOK!!!11!!!
It's nice to know that the quality to VHEL, visually, improves incredibly fast with little to no effort. On the flip side, it sucks that the improvements cause other aspects to the game to become outdated just as fast. Such is the case with the most recent version of Cassidy (aka Casie). Due to a number of tweaks made to her graphics library, I accidentally "broke" the characters Page and Flo in the process. Basically, they share a large number of assets with Casie, so now I'm forced to redo nearly everything...again. =P
Yeah, this is going to be long night...
Outside of VHEL, I'm at work on another game project which I'll stay tight lipped about until the time is right. With this newer project, my focus is on more fanatical storyline themes and plot devices, so in many ways, it's a departure for me as a writer. In addition, the newer game also borrows unique elements from VHEL, but even then, those gameplay elements are being pushed in every other direction to meet specific goals. Again, another case of dealing with the unfamiliar. The art is also something I've yet to do before using the tools I have currently. Basically, it's a step to the side from VHEL's visuals, and then takes a left turn on "this is...interesting" street.
All newness aside, I believe the biggest issue thus far, for me, has been the complexity, and the establishment of a core gameplay mechanic. I seriously dislike rehashing the same ideas, and even more so hate focusing on violence. Yes, violence is virtually in EVERY game, but that doesn't mean I have to stoop to that level as well -- this is part of the reason why VHEL is built around "EVADING the enemy". Ironically enough, when I first started pre-production for the new game, I had finished up the design in less than a week. It was fairly simple to do since my design methodologies are so fine tuned; and even though the game was indefinitely unique and fun in it's own right, I found it depressingly superficial.
Looking at the type of characters I have for said game, it seemed like the best thing to do was to do some soul searching for a different type of experience. Now what that may be is beyond me, for the moment. I've looked at Phoenix Wright, a lot of the older adventure games, Majora's Mask, SMT Nocturne extensively, and even Ghost 'n Goblins. I've also taken time to look at various psychological films and anime to see what type of game I can draw out from, perhaps, the exploration of the human mind (Tim Schafer be damned!).
Hopefully I'll get out of this writer's block so I can FINALLY get some solid design work done. I love the characters to this new game a lot -- I really do. I think they compete very well with the VHEL characters, which is one of the reasons why I've decided to even work on this new game. Only time will tell what will become of this. Admittedly, even VHEL went through 7 years worth of re-visualizing to get right. I don't want to take another 7 years with this. >>
It was due time I created a name for the VHEL team. After weeding through all the possible names put on the table, and seeing as how I rarely like names with omnipotent meaning, I just went with what I knew was true relating to each game in development (Like VHEL and the Mad Devil series): Demons.
...or "Big Demon", in this case. =P
Not super original, but then again, what is these days?
I'm still adding art to the main developer page, so it's not quite done yet. I'm pretty sure, in time, I'll go back to the page and redesign it (a terrible habit I have with everything).
Considering I do a lot of work on a daily bases, and since I need to get back into using ModDB for the slur of work I'll have to put up on the VHEL ModDB page, I figured "hey, why not abuse the blog function for the lolz?".
So! That's what I'll be doing from now on (or until I suddenly lose interest).
At the moment, I'm stuck working through a few interesting mechanics I had recently added into VHEL's design document. The idea is to have a multi-layered health system that not only encourages the player to "evade", but gives both the player and the enemy an assortment of options to tackle a particular situation. We want less one-dimensional systems that only benefit the player, and more three-dimensional systems that can enhance the gameplay experience, but also force the player to make intentional decisions within the game world. Having already reworked the stamina system several times in the past, this newest iteration doesn't exactly boost my moral too high, but it does do something that previous builds didn't do to well: change the game and FORCE situations onto both the enemy and the player.
Although I can't give away details at the moment, the latest stamina system gives valid reason to run iso and group (a fancy way of describing the separation between characters on a given map), use cloak, cunning, or combat, and give meaning to the jobs each character has. All this sounds nice and all, but whenever you have a layered health mechanic in a game, there's a lot of complex jargon that has to be clarified for the sake of player education and playability. I've leaned quite a bit on a percentage based system similar to brawl since it gives me more room to insert my own rules and create a type of "ladder" that interconnects with stamina ratios (again, I'll probably clarify all this in a VHEL update in the future =P).
Considering this isn't the only thing I need to figure out (the art and storyline still have a lot of challenges in the way), I'm surprised how much time I've dedicated to solidifying major gameplay mechanics to make them genuinely fun and indefinitely rewarding.