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!