What if the handheld game console on which the sprites lived was a spaceship. Or more accurately, a ship designed to navigate the Dream, where stories have substance. And a piqha family uses that ship to rescue story characters who are being jettisoned by a mind virus that is ravaging the fictional worlds of the Dream.
It’s Wreck it Ralph meets Kingdom Hearts. Except politically too on the nose.
But the on-the-noseness will abate as the concept sees development. As I work out the rules of the reality and the motivations of the characters.
I think this is it. I think I’ve solved my story equation.
Only problem is this thing. This thing ain’t no spaceship.
Piqha started as digital creatures that live inside the computer who were characters for a game I made when I was a teenager.
I later decided they were not, in fact digital, but were some kind of psychic mollusk, and noted that they had many, many advantages as a creature design:
They are basically faces with feet and stylized shells. Easy to model in 3D, easy to get a wide range of character styles while keeping to the core concept.
Piqha are my creatures. Like the muppets of Jim Henson and the Whos of Seuss. In addition to being very marketable and very personable, they feature a lot of things I like. Basic shapes. Big, expressive faces, Marvin Martian style glowing eyes in an orb of darkness. Cool armor effects. And crystals. Gotta have glowing crystals everywhere.
Yesterday, I learned how to use LeanTween’s spline-following functions, and attempted to create an interface using Unity’s UI. It went horribly wrong and mucked up my input, so I’ve ditched it for… rolling my own buttons.
Today, work has begun anew on the radial menu. And I have the radial menu spawning on command at the location of my choosing, with as many buttons as I like, and gracefully disappearing on command as well.
Cool beans. Now I need to tie it to actions and teach it to accept input.
I have to say I love the sheer amount of math involved that A) I don’t have to do, and B) I don’t even have to understand. How do you move an object along a spline? Hell if I know; Lean Tween will handle it for me. How do you rotate a spline around an arbitrary axis point so that multiple icons will follow the same path, except rotated? Hell if I know; Unity will handle it for me.
Input’s going to be a tad bit tricky. Mouse and touch will be easy, but the point of a radial menu is that you press a direction with the stick or D-Pad and get the button in that direction. I’m going to have to figure out a general solution that works on every number of buttons. But first, I guess I better do some plumbing.
I love the extra life and the shadow depth that a brush lends my work, but with that life comes a sensitivity to the faintest tremors in my hands that don’t even seem to exist when I’m using the tombows.
Here’s the same pencils, inked with the tombows, and then given a hurried color job.
My Series 7 has a split tip, which Mr. Jesse White, who extolled to me the virtues of the brush, has recently complained is increasingly a problem. So it may be I have a defective product. It may also be that I simply need a lot of practice to master the tool.
Æther is measured in drams, which are also the unit of currency in many lands where the substance is harvested and used in various machinations. The units are as follows. Four drams (4ᵭ) to the nip. 3 nips (3ꬻ) to the gil (1ꬶ). 1ꬶ of aether is about a teacupfull liquid radiant. Dram coins frequently (depending on the local culture) have an aether crystal set in the coin itself, whereas larger denominations of coins are theoretically exchangeable for aether. Seximal and duodecimal denominations are normal for other currencies.
Of course, a 1 gil aether stone may be worth considerably more or considerably less depending on the intensity and nature of the radiance stored therein and on market forces.
I’m up and the progeny is up. But the rest of the house would like to sleep, thank you very much. So I’m going to ramble a bit about what I’m up to while the offspring plays quietly with some stocking stuffers.
Hah! Just kidding. The kid ditched the stocking stuffer almost immediately for crayons and paper, because the kid is my kid.
Previously, in this space, I mentioned “rebuilding Final Fantasy using Piqha.” I did a ton of Piqha sketches to try and provide myself with six decent designs to use for the classic FF classes, and decided on these ones:
Fighter, Monk, Theif, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage. Since the white mage is supposed to be D&D cleric with the trademark information scrubbed off and any references to religion artfully removed, I cranked it all the way back: my healing class is not only a cleric, but a Christian. Similarly, while the Final Fantasy red mage went on to become its own thing, it’s fairly clear that in the first game it was a reference to the D&D ranger, so I went with one of two wilderness scout looking guys.
And hey, let’s make the wizard actually look like someone messing with dark forces, then.
Anyhow, my thought process is: if I take Final Fantasy, fix the plot holes, replace the characters with similar characters from my tool bag, and alter the plot to fit the characters, at the end of the day I’ll have something similar enough to Final Fantasy to fall into the healthy reference zone, and different enough to be its own creature.
For instance, Final Fantasy I centers on a time loop. The first guy you beat is also the final boss. Except he went back in time, and you have to go back in time to fight him. Except that has pretty much no effect on the rest of the game. It’s just sort of there.
Okay. Why not make the time travel thing present throughout? Piqha are a race of genetically engineered starship components. When they live in a fantasy setting, it’s because a ship crashed, and the little gremlins in the walls of the ship built civilization on the shipwreck. What if four piqha, Our Heroes, are on a ship that is crashing because of some kind of time vortex, they get launched into the distant future, and getting back to their own time is their whole objective?
Anyway, this year I drew pictures for Christmas for my family members, as is my custom, and because I have piqha on the brain, they’re all piqha.
They aren’t exactly concept art, but they aren’t exactly not concept art either (each piqha picture was designed with the recipient rather than the needs of my stories in mind). For example, I haven’t even decided whether mer-piqha are a thing. There’s no reason why they can’t be, but there’s no reason why they must be either. But one of my family members likes mermaids, and I have piqha on the brain, so mer-piqha it is.
But I have a celebration tomorrow with a white elephant gift exchange, so I thought, why not straight up make concept art, frame it, and hand it out? So here’s our four Heroes of Light in their spaceship:
Since I have four, I decided to name them Tsi, Em, Wye, and Kay, respectively, after the colors of printer ink.
“But what about the character classes?”
Ideally, I’d make a custom version of each class for each character. In practice, I’m going to start with reusing the same graphics for each class, but doing a recolor for the character, and if I have time in the polish phase I’ll get more fancy than that.
Of course, this raises other problems. If Em is a girl, she can’t very well be a Christian Cleric. If I want to say, “well, suppose she’s a nun, and while that’s a very different set of powers in real life, there can be overlap in game mechanics,” then what is her equivalent to a warrior monk?
I could just say, “they’re all boys; deal with it.” It would be a pretty good selling point. It might make social justice types mad enough to advertise my game. Bands of Brothers are under attack by the forces of evil, and pushing back is a noble cause.
But on the flip side, I want the four elemental fiends to be analogues for the heroes, to be “this is you in a hundred years if you turn evil”, and in Final Fantasy at least, one of the elemental fiends is definitely female.
So here is a puzzle. I do not suffer a woman to be a Christian priest, even in science fantasy, but I want one of the character’s direct analogues to be female and I want all four characters to be allowed all six classes.
I don’t have a solution yet. My best solution is probably to make Em male, and make the Kary/Marilth analogue male as well, but it’s going to be months, possibly more than a year, before I actually have to make my call. So I’m not going to stress over it. If a better solution exists, it will present itself in that time.
In the mean while, I’m going to continue developing the concept art along the current lines. After all, it’s not final art. It’s just a white elephant gift for a small party.