Monday, December 24, 2012

It's been a while...again

Hellooooo people.

Yes, I know. I've disappeared again. Well, sort of, but not really. I just haven't been updating this blog because I'm a lazy ass. But never mind that, things are going to change now.


Well basically, I've dropped a certain time consuming hobby/obligation that has been stealing away nearly all my time. It was fun for a good while and I improved my writing and characterization because of it. But now, it's time to get this show back on the road. My timing has been freed up now, so I'm going to throw myself back into the fray working on SEM.

Now, what needs to be done since I left off and what HAS been done? Let's see...

Firstly, the battle system needs to be adjusted. Thankfully it's not anything major or system altering. I've released several behind the scenes demos to friends for evaluation and such. And I've managed to learn some veeeery interesting things regarding the gameplay as a whole. And to address this, here's a couple additions to battles that will be implemented

- There will be more of an LF penalty for using Strike Chains when you don't have enough EP. In one playthrough I watched, the player was able to utterly destroy a boss by linking several strike chains back to back while ignoring their EP. This is wildly amusing, but at the end of the day, it's not exactly balanced. So there will be a larger penalty now. Currently the LF penalty is 10% per stage. I'll be increasing it to about 15% for a grand total of 75% LF loss overall if you use a chain without EP.

- Passive EP recovery has been removed, but in return, the Focus command recovers a full 10 EP per use now. It's not as if it was a problem before, but I felt that EP gain was too slow and stifled the pacing of battles. Easing up on EP gain should allow for faster battle speed. I may look into implementing both at the same time however. We'll see.

- Burst Skills will now have a base damage addition. Because I've seen that Burst skills do less damage than even Chains sometimes because of severe elemental penalties and the rather tight damage algorithm. In order for them to be useful again, their base damage should be guaranteed.

And secondly, the symbol map system will be getting an additional overall so that there is more to do than just battle your way from node to node. This comes in the form of Trap Tiles and Reward Tiles.

- Trap tiles can be anything ranging from status effects such as Poison, Burn, Freeze, Burst Seal, Ether Seal, Stun, Stat Debuffs, etc. There are two options you can select when deal with a trap tile. You can spend a bit of TP to nullify the trap and move on. Or you can try and take the chance to dodge it. Trap avoidance is based on the party's stats. For example, to avoid a Power Debuff trap in a midgame symbol map, you must have a total party power rating of 400. If it's lower than that, then the chance to dodge turns into a random roll, the range of which is the difference between the party total and the target number. Basically this is also something to spend TP on other than avoiding battles.

- In the case of Reward Tiles, the player will be rewarded with a certain kind of positive effect. Effects can be Stat Buffs for one, Stat Buffs for all, Regen for one, Regen for all, Extra SP, Extra RP, TP replenishment large or small, memory fragment replenishment, Etc. Rewards will be presented in a choice of three. The choices will be predetermined by me from tile to tile. This is present to offset Trap Tiles. It can't all be punishment, right?

In any case, this is what I will be working on for the time being. As for overall progress, both Days 1 and 2 have been completed at their base, barring a few visual assets, but those can be added later. Day three is in progress, but I will be withholding work on that to complete these changes.

SEM is not dead! Though I admit, it can be a bit of a trial working on this project sometimes, but I definitely will not give up!

Thanks for reading. For your time, have a Priel!

This is not her SEM design, but whatever! I'm too lazy to dig around for something specific to SEM!

Anyway, this is Skie signing out! Till next time!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


It's been nearly eight months since the last blog entry. How in the world did that happen? Wow. I still had a job back then! Hah! Indeed it's been a while.

So what the hell's been going on with SEM while I was gone all this time? Admittedly not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. ...Okay that's a lie. A lot has happened. Though it's been mostly under the hood and out of sight.

I've spent some time revisiting the design of the game, refining the battle system, adding a new character, implementing new art as it comes in. The usual.

I suppose I can go a little deeper this time since it's been so long.

First order of business is the subject of field navigation. SEM started out as a traditional RPG. Which meant leveling up, traversing dungeons, and solving puzzles in detailed maps. This was carried over from SEB, it's predecessor. But as development continued. I realized more and more that A) I cannot come up with feasible puzzles worth a damn, and B) I don't want to make a traditional RPG anyway! I want to tell a story, with gameplay that I
find interesting. But I don't want to force myself to adhere to standard RPG staples because every other RPG ever uses them. No. I really have no need for them myself.
SEM does not have useless NPCs. SEM does not have traditional towns. SEM does not have equipment. SEM doesn't even have items. The gameplay model is essentially what I enjoy about RPGs, and distills it down to it's purest form; which means cutting away the useless fat that I don't want. The battle system itself is a testament to this fact. Yet for some reason, field navigation never followed through with this line of thinking. You were still able to traverse dungeons, solve puzzles, and fight monsters in traditional JRPG formula. While this is not a bad thing, in fact I enjoy it in other RPGS, it's not really what I feel inspired to do with SEM. Again, I just want to tell a story.

So in that respect, and finally getting to the point of the last two paragraphs, SEM will no longer have traditional detailed maps and dungeons. Instead, a new system of dungeon navigation replaces it. Players will still progress through dungeons and fight monsters. But the scale has been reduced. I have actually attempted this system before, but the end result wasn't quite what I envisioned. But recently, I finally obtained the spark of knowledge needed to push the idea to it's fruition, thanks to having played Record of Agarest War 2 which used a system similar to my initial idea.

So, taking the cue from Record of Agarest War 2 to go through with it. I present the Symbol Map Travel System.

As it's name suggests. Travel through the area is relegated to a grid of different symbols, each representing a kind of event that will happen when the player interacts with it. The screenshot above is not actually accurate however. Because when the player first enters a dungeon. Only the starting point, and the first symbol will be displayed. It is up to the player to interact with and complete each node in other to reveal the next node. And if branching paths are revealed, then the player can choose to tackle the paths in whatever order they wish to.

The goal of a dungeon is to progress through the grid and reach the major story event. Wherever it may be located. Major story events are denoted with exclamation marks. And usually, they blocked off by a lock. If this is the case, then that means that you missed a minor event somewhere in the dungeon that leads to the major story event. Minor events are simply banter between the party members and any other characters they may come across on their way through the dungeon. They can be likened to Skits from the Tales of Series. They serve to break up the stream of battles with sometimes amusing, sometimes not so amusing conversations that shed light on their current situations, themselves, and the world around them. Not all minor events need to be seen. But there are some that may influence things down the line, so it may be a good idea to see them regardless.

Other things located in a symbol map are rewards like Soul Essence, RP, and SP. I.D.E. battles are present. Those are still there to challenge daring players at any point in the game and test their skills.

And that is pretty much the system at a glance. It provides an activity that compliments the gameplay and is far less hair pulling than designing map after map. I think it will serve SEM well.

As for other things...well, like I said in the beginning; a new playable character has been added to the game to round out the playable cast to 8. That empty space in the main menu honestly bothered me for a long time, and I hate odd numbers with a passion. So it was pretty much inevitable that a final party member would eventually fill that spot. The only thing that prevented me from doing it sooner was one simple, but very complicated question; Who do I pull out of the vast Sacred Earth cast to join the rest of the party as playable? Honestly it was a really tough decision. I have so many characters that I love in SE, and choosing just ONE was like pure torture. Some choices were Relima, Alvis, Fate, Rhia, Corrine, Mireille, Maron...but in the end. I decided to go with the character that was truly and forever will be the first modern SE protagonist and the character that inspired me the most in my early years; Caith Aqil.

Caith was originally the protagonist of Sacred Earth: Mystic Legends II. Which was then renamed to Sacred Earth: Light. It was a story about a group of students living and studying at 'Valdis Academy of the Ethereal and Alchemic Arts', a highly prestigious school that takes gifted kids from all over the world, and trains them to be the leaders of their generation. But this school held a secret whose origin lies in the events that took place 20 years ago during Sacred Earth: Zero(Mystic Legends). Caith and her friends wind up witnessing some things they shouldn't, and so begins the story to uncover the truth behind Valdis Academy and what it means for the future of Miltiades...

Sacred Earth: Light was the project that filled my mind throughout most of high school. It was all I ever wanted to do. I couldn't ever stop thinking about it's characters and systems and all the ideas I had. But it was not meant to be. In the end. I just didn't have the skills to really push SEL through into proper development and it languished. The remnants of SEL's gameplay ended up becoming what is now known as SEB, or Sacred Earth: Bonds, the first released modern SE game. Though not one I'm completely proud of at the end of the day. But it was an accomplishment for the time I did, so I'll let it be!

Caith is a martial arts type character that uses punches, claw slashes, and kicks to deal damage to her opponents. Her elements are Bolt and Aqua. A strange combination since Bolt and Aqua are opposing elements. So her weakness are rather unorthodox. Her command skills aren't like the rest of the party's either. Her first command skill only has one charge and is used up immediately after that. Her second command skill immediately takes effect upon use and does not have any charges.

In this respect, Caith only has one command skill available for linking. And it must be carefully timed since it only has one charge. This may make her difficult to use for players who want to use Link Arts. But the reward for doing so with her will still be great.

Other major battle related changes are the addition of Command skill cooldowns. Before, you could immediately activate a command skill again after it's initial duration ended. Now that is no longer possible. Once a command skill ends, a character must go through a cooldown period of 5 turns, the same amount of time they had to use the command skill, before they can use it again. The addition of cooldowns also indirectly prevents the spamming of Link Arts. Now one must think carefully about when to A) Activate they command skills, and B) When to activate Link Arts. And this is in addition to deciding your battle party because certain combinations of characters may allow for the use of two Link Arts back to back, while others may only allow for one. Yes, I enjoy making players squirm.

...In any case, that is about all I have to say for the moment. Development on SEM is starting to pick up again, after months of silence. I'll try to do a better job of updating this blog than I have before as well!

See ya.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Obligatory Update

It's a new year and I still haven't updated this place. My boss said that I should, so here we are!

What's been going on recently? Well, I'm slowly getting work done as usual. I've actually been spending a good amount of time planning the storyline day for day in further depth as well as going back to the very beginning and fixing the sidequests that the player can engage in.

Right now, the quest system is structured so that only one quest may be taken and completed at a time. This is rather slow and cumbersome, so I'm redoing it all that the player may take multiple quests at once. So far, it's working out pretty good. I've managed to finish up Day One and Day Two's redone quests. Day Three has a bigger number of them, so that's where I am now

It's a lot of fixing rather than actual progression, but in the meantime, here have some screenshots.

When it's not fixing things, it's working on scenes, and when it's not working on scenes, it's writing out plans. I feel like I'm moving at the rate of molasses going up a hill, but it can't be helped. In a perfect world, I'd have/be able to do everything I want with great skill and progress at a good steady speed. Unfortunately, it's not a perfect world, so this is the best I can do.

Till next time.