Saturday, December 14, 2013


It's been a while.

I've been slowly whittling away at this whenever I can between life and other responsibilities. Not a whole lot I can manage in the time I get left, but I've been gradually making strides. I'm posting today to share some of the work done. Though not all of it I can show.

First up, I've finished all of Caith's combat abilities finally. Which means that all of the battle system related tasks on the player's side are finally finished. I no longer need to touch their skill code ever again.


Secondly, I decided to axe the combo chain bonus revision to the battle system. Why? Well...I actually implemented it at first. But then when I actually tested it, I discovered that it was WAY TOO POWERFUL. The player would hit 999999 Damage recorded on the counter, with the actual damage being even higher than that, in just one Sacred Will. ...Which was mildly distressing. So suffice to say, I did not think that system through nearly as well as I thought I had. It broke everything. Not in terms of coding, but in terms of balance. So I reverted all the code I had changed and decided to keep things as they are now.

So now Strike Chains get no damage bonus from the current combo chain system. But Ether Spells and Bursts do. Combo Chain will be retained from character to character and you can try to build up a high combo to then use as a damage bonus to your spells and abilities. That's it. Chains build it up, Ether/Burst uses it. And it retains till an enemy acts. Simple.

Lastly, I've begun work on implementing Caith into the menus. So far I managed to work her into the main menu. That was interesting as I basically need to made additions to all my code, considering that the menu was originally build for 4...and then 6....and then 7...and finally 8. Once I finish including her into all the menus, I can finally say I'm finished with all the technical nonsense and I can go back to working on story and gameplay segments and continue from where I left the game at Day 4. Which was quite a cliffhanger really.

Here's a screenshot of the main menu. Character's 6 and 7 are blocked out because...well I've never mentioned them before. Or ever. You'll find out who they are in game. 8>

Monday, November 11, 2013

Been a while

Thankfully I said 'try' and not 'definitely' last time. = v =)a;;

Anyway, work on SEM has been slow because of real life, and other things. Especially real life, but I won't touch on that. Notably other groups have been stealing my attention on top of a recent drawing binge for the sake of self improvement. It's actually been my dream to be able to draw my own game resources. Be it dialogue portraits, concept art, cutins, event scenes, and all that good stuff. That's pretty much the sole reason why I draw. But I'm never satisfied unfortunately. I never feel good enough to be able to say to myself "I don't need to recruit outside for this, I can do it.". So the long road continues.

Mind you, I love working with other talent. Seeing everyone's work come together in playable form is certainly a treat for all involved, but there's something just attractive about being able to perform in every necessary field yourself. My main inspirations for this mindset initially came from ZUN, of Touhou fame. Then later on, Konjak, who created Noitu Love 2, Legend of Princess, and currently The Iconoclasts. Another big inspiration to this mindset that's a little closer to my level is Neok. He created Alter Aila/Genesis/Variant, Wraith/Sainth, and other projects primarily as a one man army with a good degree of custom material. That's pretty inspiring.

And I want to do that. But maybe I'm just being a grouchy loner. Nevertheless it doesn't hurt to be able to dabble in a lot of different areas, even if you have someone else doing it primarily.

Creative ranting aside, I have gotten a little work done. The battle system is still undergoing changes to the Combo Chain mechanic, which I detailed last entry. I'm also working on a new sprite set for Veili. Admittedly, Veili is the character I pay the least attention to. And that's not right because she's just as important as anyone else. So to start, her battle sprites are currently being upgraded.

Here's some progress:

Beyond graphics, I've been rethinking my approach to field progression...AGAIN. Because as the time passed, I come to realize; why am I making this game? I'm making it because I want to incorporate ideas that I enjoy and find fun. ME primarily. And while I can be wrong at times, and there is room for improvement. I will not and should not sway to massive system changes under the criticism of the masses. I've seen a friend of mine fall victim to this, and in the end, his enthusiasm for the project was ruined because his vision was compromised. 

Criticism is important of course. It's BECAUSE I got feedback and criticism that SEM's gameplay has improved to this point. But that's exactly the point. If there's a problem, IMPROVE it, don't shelve everything and set development back by another century with a sweeping change to an important area of the game. If it's not fun, make it fun. If it's flawed, fix the flaws. That's what should be done. ...And besides, I've been on this project for an unhealthy amount of time. Even now, the game isn't planned to be that long. But I've been stuck in development hell just standardizing everything and moving on.

All that said, it's been decided that I WILL be keeping symbol maps. BUT, I will be striving to make improvements to the details of the system to make it easier for the player to approach. One such improvement will be the displaying of stats when it comes to Trap Tiles. Before, you needed to memorize your stats and take a guess on whether or not to attempt a dodge or spend TP to nullify. This time, the aggregate total of your active party's stat will be displayed for easier decision making. Another improvement will be an icon legend, easily accessible while traversing the nodes, for the player to reference what does what.

It's the only logical step I can think of. Between spriting, edits to the combat system and tutorial explanations based on feedback, and work remaining to be done on the menu system to accommodate character #8, I find that making a massive change to the field gameplay is a huge mistake. And I won't abide it.

I want to tell the story of SEM in full some day. I won't give up until it's told. Until people can put their fingers on the keyboard and experience the struggles of Gunnar and his friends. This needs to happen no matter what I have to do to make it so. 

That's not my promise to you. 

It's my promise to myself.

And with that, I bid you all adieu. Till next time!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Trucking along

Whoa, an update within the same month.


True facts aside, I do have something worth noting to say today.

What's that?

Well, I'm proud to announce with I have finally killed the Skill Cancel Bug that plagued the battle system. Through a combination of changing the method of reading skills used and an overhaul of the ATB system(both utilities credited to PepsiOtaku), and some editing of existing skill code by myself, it's been made pretty clear that the issue is now a thing of the past. I'm really happy that it's gone though. Especially sooner rather than later. Because my motivation for the project was waning pretty badly in the face of this issue.

But that's a non issue now. What's next?

I'm still undecided on the field interaction issue, but I've been doing some thinking for the past few days and I think I can say that going back to explorable maps is very likely. I'm not going to make areas huge and the obstacles are not going to be revolutionary. I'll be reusing the SEB tool system in order to push things along. Thankfully the work for it was already done. I just need to reintroduce it into the sub menu code. Not a huge deal.

On the battle end of things again, I will be making a major adjustment to the Combo Chain System and it's relation to Ether, Burst, and EX skills. Now, when using any of those three skills, the Total Damage from the combo will be added to the damage of the skill in differing percentages. Ether gets 25%, Bursts get 50%, and EX/Link Arts get 75%. This should encourage more use of those skills other than just Chains. But Chains are not rendered useless now. All skills need to be used in conjunction in order to maximize damage. The current demo is rather easy, but from Day 5 and on, the kid gloves will most definitely be coming off.

So what do I need to do overall?

- Make the changes to the combo chain system
- Finish adding Caith to the menu systems
- reintroduce walkable maps to the game and phase out symbol maps. Thankfully I have leftover maps I can reinstate. Day 4 will require new maps however.
- And once that's all done, resume progress as normal.

And to leave off, here's a WIP of Veili's new idle stance. The old one was bothering me now that I look at it recently.

Till next time!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Design Musings and Inquiries...Mostly Musing

Right, so...

I haven't been able to work on this as much as I'd like due to everything life has had to throw at me. But all the time, I've been thinking about where to go next with the project. The story itself is all decided, so I'm not at any sort of conundrum there. The problem lies in the gameplay design itself.

Which brings me here, writing a meandering blog entry about it.

Battle Accessibility

First and foremost; the issue of battle accessibility. According to multiple accounts, the battle system is too confusing, having everything piled on all at once. I tried to remedy this initially by locking out certain battle features till certain points, such as the first boss battle, or the beginning of the second dungeon. But there needs to be more done on that account.

Which is why I've devised my next solution; The Vanguard Handbook.

It's essentially a custom menu filled with image tutorials that the player can access explaining all the tiny, basic nuances of the battle system all the way up to key features such as Chains, Burst, Spells, Command Skills, Link Arts, etc. It sounds simple in theory, but I'm actually kind of dreading it due to the volume of information and imagery that needs to be divided up into sections to be explained.

But the alternative is even worse; and that's no one understanding the system. I don't plan to hold people's hands and tell them everything they need to do. But at the very least, people need to know what they're doing at the basic level, right?


Besides, if people can understand games like Mana Khemia and Record of Agarest War 2, then there's no reason why SEM would be any different. But it's my job to explain the basics, again.

Does this sort of thing sound like it would work? I'm not going to force players into elaborate tutorials, but let them know that they can access more in depth information later on.

Okay, moving on.

Field Interaction 

I'm going to be frank; I'm thinking about making dungeons walkable areas again instead of the pseudo-tabletop system it happens to be right now. But that's about as far as it goes.

The Symbol Map system was an amalgamation of ideas derived from Riviera: The Promised Land, and Record of Agarest War 2. You progress through a grid of nodes corresponding to battle, traps, rewards, and events. And all the while, the player spent TP in order to make it easier to progress at the their leisure.

This system also existed for one express purpose; to circumvent mapping. Not because I'm bad at mapping, I'm no faroz_flare, but I think I can manage to make areas look interesting enough. But rather; because I don't think I can make areas mechanically engaging. What's the point of walking through a 'dungeon' where the only obstacle is choosing the right way to go? Sounds pretty boring, right?

Well couple that with my meager puzzle design capabilities, and you can see why I chose the Symbol Map system.

But again; I am considering reverting for a few reasons and with a few catches. Reasons being that Symbol Maps simply aren't mechanically engaging. I personally think they're just engaging enough, but apparently I'm the minority. But I don't want SEM to be boring in an important aspect such as field interaction; which is my conundrum.

Now, catches to reverting back to maps would be that dungeons simply would not be as large as they were in my previous efforts where they spanned 40+ winding maps. Instead, that number would be cut by at least half or more. Secondly, I wouldn't be trying to wrack my brain trying to come up with obstacles on the level of Golden Sun. Because I just can't do that. I have dreams, but I know my limits as well. Of course there would be simple roadblocks to contend with, but nothing crazy like refracting light off of mirrors or something equally as absurd.

Basically it will all be scaled down to a point where it's manageable. But I worry dungeons would be shorter for it. Which brings things right back around to map numbers.

Okay I'm just rambling incoherently now, so I'll leave this section as it is and end with a question.

How do you feel about the Symbol Map System? Does it work? Is it acceptable? Or would walkable dungeons be better, despite the intended downsizing of scale?

Other Stuff 

Beware technical jargon rambling ahead.

Currently there are eight playable characters. That number won't change and I still need to complete work on the 8th. But while that work is stalled, I've been thinking about how to better balance the battle system and change the damage emphasis between various mechanics.

As it is right now, Chains are the weakest skills, Ether Spells are next in level of strength, and then Burst skills are the highest. Now logically the progression of usage should go Chains/Ether Spells --> Burst Skill when available. However I've noticed that in most playthroughs I've seen, it's been Chains --> Chains --> Chains --> Occasional Ether Spell.

This is kind of off putting really as players are wasting their time using the weakest forms of damage available to them over and over. Why is this the case? The cynical part of me simply wants to say that it's the case because 'Chains look cool!', but there must be a deeper reasoning that even the player doesn't seem to realize. Eventually I did come to a reasonable and logical conclusion. And a simple one.

The Combo Chain count.

This system rewards building large combos by adding the hit count of the combo directly to the damage being done. Thus, damage escalates rather quickly, especially when characters act back to back. This system also applies to Ether and Burst skills, but it's more readily accessible if one simply uses Chains back to back.

So I thought of a solution to this issue; amend the combo chain system to boost the reward of using Ether and Burst skills in relation to Chains. How to do that? Simple. When using an Ether or Burst skill, take a percentage of the total damage count of the current combo and add it to the damage of the skill being used. For Ether Spells, it's 25%. For Burst Skills, it's 50%, and for EX Limits, Link Arts, SW, it'll be 100%.

I think this is a pretty logical evolution to the system and one that rewards timing and planning your actions rather than acting all willy nilly, only to find yourself interrupted by the enemy and your combo count lost.

And that's about all I have to say on this front.

...Wow. Look at all that rambling. Better leave off with a visual to make up for it.

Have this. It's a design for Patchoulli that I drew long after SEM got well underway. Safe to say it won't be used in this project.

And that's it from me. Till next time.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Demo Release

UPDATE: The demo link has been reuploaded with a fixed version. Sorry for the trouble!

*shamelessly crossposts*

Annnnd as of this blog post, Sacred Earth: Memory has made it's first foray into the realm of public consumption. ...I'm not quite sure how to feel about this actually. I've been working on this nonsense for so long, and taken so many breaks, that I was never quite sure if I'd ever see this day. 

Of course, I had to make some cuts, pass on some content, and use some placeholders(albeit, pretty placeholders, but still!). But in exchange for the content that was cut...somehow, I ended up adding new content to take it's place. I don't know how that works, just bear with me here. 

Yes, the demo is moleboxed. It's just easier to have it be a single file Especially for my non RM gaming audience. I do have a few other things to note about the demo. 


- Some character's portrait sets are still in progress, so temporary art of them is being used. It's a style clash, but it's still their art. Please excuse that. 

- During battle, if you use a skill from a submenu(Burst/Ether) and an enemy acts at the same time, the character's skill will either be canceled or overridden and the MP taken away anyway(THIS IS IMPORTANT). 

This is a bug that is inherent in the engine of RM2k3 itself. I can't fix this. So sorry! Perhaps DynRPG could address it, but alas I don't have the skills to do that. All I can say is that you should keep your eyes on the enemy and try not to rush your moves! In the meantime, I can do nothing but hope it's addressed in the future. But I did the best I could with the knowledge I had! 

- Veili/Patchoulli's 'Sacred Blade' Link Art fails to return the characters back to their original positions. My bad for forgetting. But again, not gamebreaking. It'll be fixed next time. 

- No the exe is NOT a virus. Virus scans just seem to falsely recognize packed exes as viruses for some reason. Not sure!

- ...And I've got nothing else that immediately comes to mind. 

Anyway, thanks for your patience and I hope you enjoy playing! There are several optional bosses to be found in the game. Do let me know how you fare against them!

That said, here's the demo!

Saturday, April 27, 2013


SEM has been on ice for a long while now, but I finally decided to buck off all previous distractions, namely those of the RP variety, and get back to work. In just the past few days, I managed to consolidate Day 3's events and gameplay. I played through it myself and it runs just fine. There were some minor irritating bugs, but I ironed them out now.

It's a great feeling to finally be making actual story progress instead of just working on the battle system for 278234781 years. As much fun as it is. However, there are still kinks to work out in the system. But fixing these will require skills that I unfortunately do not have, and likely cannot recruit. Namely, action interruption and other minor battle flow technicalities. I've been watching the RM community to see if anyone would eventually tackle it, but no dice!

Therefore, it comes to my next point. I am targeting May 5 for the release of SEM's first public demo. It will contain the story and gameplay of Day 1 to Day 4 in it's entirety. I chose Day 4 as it's the perfect spot to cut off at. It's my hope that when people play the game and see just how irritating these battle flow technicalities are, that they can be addressed. Nevertheless, that's my plan! If I don't reach May 5th, then I'll just keep working and release it some time after. Either way, it's coming.

In any case, have some screenshots of events from Day 3.

Things are shaping up well overall. I'm finally beginning to settle into a nice working routine with the days, and I hope that I can continue this along and finally make the push needed to get the ball rolling on the story for real. I seriously want to get the action started. Because it feels like I've been playing a slice of life anime. Even if it is necessary, haha.

Anyway, that's all from me. I don't have much time left and I have new material I have to make for Day 4, so it's back to work!

See ya.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Gasp! An Update!

Whoa! I'm actually updating sooner than my usual six month gap? Utter nonsense!

But yes, I figure I may as well since I do have stuff to share sooner for once. So then, what's going on?

First off, every change I mentioned in my previous entry as been implemented.

- Trap and Bonus tiles have been integrated into the first and second Symbol Maps and will be present throughout the rest of the game from this point onward. I think they serve as a nice alternative to just another battle and it's a good way to make TP more relevant I think. I can even include little dungeon relevant messages like "A magic glyph hidden under the snow activates beneath your feet!" Ahaha!

Anyway, here's how Symbol Maps look with those additions now.

One thing to say though is that with the lessened frequency of battles, EXP rewards from battles will have to be increased to compensate on that front. I'll work it out for sure.


- Secondly, I decided in my testing that having both an increased EP bonus from Focus as well as a turn by turn EP recovery would definitely speed battles along even more. So now both are implemented together. If you fight wisely, you shouldn't have HUGE EP troubles. Unless you like blowing all your EP on Chains. Which you shouldn't be doing anyway! But who am I to tell you how to play, huh?


- And on that note, all Burst and Ether skills now have base damage included into their makeup. So now, even if the innate algorithm figures the damage from your spell down to say, 3, you will at the very least have a base damage of 30 to make it 33 damage. Each skill has base damage based on amount of hits. It's definitely nice to see these skills doing proper damage again. And it also factors another facet of the battle system.

Multi-Hit skills have less base damage, but they increase the Combo Chain, which directly adds onto skill damage. But Single-Hit skills have high base damage, which is especially good if the target is weak to the element of the skill. I've seen upwards to about 500 damage from a single hit skill in my tests. It was pretty awesome. But the target was weak to the element in question. It only did about 130 damage to a neutral enemy.

All in all, damage is fairer now, which is good. Previously, almost everything was doing 1s and 2s, which actually empathized the Combo Chain system as well as Strike Chains more than Burst Skills. Hopefully the focus of the system changes for the better with these additions.


Lastly, I've actually managed to completely finish Caith's sprite sheet. With this progress, EVERY playable character has their sprites done. I'm currently working on implementing Caith's Burst Skills into the battle system, of which you can see some examples here.

Click on it for a better view.

And that's pretty much all on my end. Once I finish with Caith's skills, I'm going to have set on to the grueling task of adding her presence to the main menu and the other systems. It's going to Not really.

Anyway, that's all from me! Till next time!