Captain’s Log, 0210225.54: Of Battle Systems, Music, and Cartoon Kings

Normally, I would put off the Captain’s Log post for Friday, but I’ve only got three workdays left in this month, and that means I have to make a decision as to what I’m doing next month. And I’m almost 100% sure I’m going to Kickstart Awesome Moments starting halfway through the month. Which means I need to swiftly decide whether I’m retooling the art style, and I need to produce some good art for the Kickstarter itself, including the first draft of the PDF, and a couple of pages of finished illustrations.

The Last Legend engine has basic movement, dialogue, and context-sensitive radial menus:

There are two or three possible next steps:

  1. Add music and sounds, and the option menus necessary to have a basic, functioning game.
  2. Build the basic battle system
  3. Throw together a bunch of backdrops and characters that I can use both in-engine, and for the comic.

I really, really, really want to dive in on 2. I am hyped to turn this adventure game engine into an RPG engine, and forever banish from my desk the temptation to just make it a game as-is, knowing both that it’s a good idea, and yet I, personally, would regret it due to my feelings for the genre.

But can I build a battle system, or even the bones of a battle system, in three days, including today? Seems highly unlikely. So let’s assume even if I choose the battle system, I’m going to abandon this prototype in three days’ time, and not pick it up for at least a month or two. Wouldn’t it be much better to come back to it and find my sound and music and options menus are already running, and I can safely henceforth ignore them until it’s time to polish? Or to come back with a huge host of characters and backgrounds available for use?

The answer is yes on both counts. Plus, beginning a month with, “I have poured the foundation, now it is time to build the battle system” will ensure that next time I dive in, I dive in super hyped. With either option, I am giving future me the gift of an explosion of motivation.

The nicer present to give future me is that sound and options menu thing. So I guess that’s what I’ll spend my next three days on, and then it’s on to Awesome Moments again.


Okay. How do we want to play this? My initial thought was to make the game as diagetic as possible. That is, we start with our dragon piqha sitting ’round a campfire with his nephew, and starting a new game or loading a saved game is represented as him telling or continuing the story of his exploits. Then, scattered ’round the campsite are various things you can interact with in order to change your options.

Hence this picture, which was as much concept art as it was executed for my own entertainment:

So I guess the first thing I’ll do is make the campsite.

Here’s a start:

I need to decide if/how I’m going to do extreme foreground things. The Dragon Egg only has two layers, so I guess that they’ll have to use the foreground palette. But I had liked the shorthand of foreground palette items being interactable, and background palette items being scenery, and this would abandon that shorthand. Also, I may want to elevate the fire to an interactable. Hmm…

Well, it does sell the idea that we’re out in the wild. On the other hand, that great big fricking tree blocks off so much space that if I’m going to put in, e.g. a boombox or a mariachi piqha to adjust the volume, or something similar for screen resolution or controls, well, where am I gonna put it?

It also strains credulity that an 8-bit handheld system would be able to handle the number of sprites per scanline we’d need to construct a scene like this, but we’re going to ignore that.

Also, this world is the real world to these characters, but it’s also a self-aware video game world. Right now that’s not apparent from this pastoral scene. I need to put floating blocks or something to fix that. Which is a good way to involve my diagetic interface.

It’s kind of cheating to have a diagetic interface in a world that is self-consciously a game. But I don’t have a budget and a staff, so cheating is the name of the game.

Boom. The world of Cache Miss/Gritty Reboot/Crossover Arcade/Demake now has TV-screen blocks.

I don’t really have the time to do any more coding today. Tomorrow we’ll build this scene in Unity and start adding dialogue choices.

With my remaining 20 minutes, let’s do some design work on the screen blocks.

We want them to be remniscient of Mario blocks, but also crates from more generic games, and the TV monitors from Sonic. We also want them to have an identity all their own. I have two competing notions. One is that they belong to the world of aether, and are essentially crystalline. Second is that they are some kind of Jack in the Box.

Ooh! What if they are a type of Therian. An ugly duck variant, but a devolution of Rhunstones. The box thing is a shell, they hoard items, and like Rhunstones, they have some connection to the underlying fabric of reality.

Like jellyfish, they don’t really have any power over where they go and what they do. They become symbiotically locked to aetheric nodes, just like Rhunestones, and become a personality/maintenance unit for that node. Yea! So let it be written, so let it be done.

The obvious name for them would be Jackboxes, but that’s trademark-infringey. Although, really, the creature is less the Jackbox, and more the Boxjack.

I’m a moron. Therians have their own quasi-latin language from which names are drawn. I just need to translate “Boxjack” into that language and we’re good to go.

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