I’m a visual type of person and one of these days I’ll have to accept that. No matter how hard I try to plan in ways that don’t involve working on graphics before I nail the main mechanic/feel/experience I can’t help it. The good news is that I’m slowly accepting that I’m just like that so I better deal with it.

Since I started this project (Ereptoria) I spent an enormous amount of time coding numerous features meant for various types of games (space, military, reversed tower defense, etc.). When I finally found the setting I’d be working on (dark fantasy) I thought that all I had to do was to first build levels then make everything look nice … Oh I was wrong …

So I knew what I finally wanted to do and was now staring at yellow circles (player character and NPCs) and rectangles of various colors hurting my eyes (buildings, obstacles). Nothing was getting out. The game was stuck in my head and no progress was being made while sitting in front of the computer. So I gave up my initial plan and decided to work on the visual presentation right away. It feels risky as I know I still have work to do to make the core of the game fun. Well more fun than it is anyway.

That’s when I decided to spend some money to get my hands on an art pack from Rusty Axe Games. I wanted everything to be custom-made but something happened so I needed to adapt. It’s not a big problem anyway as the art packs from Rusty Axe Games are very nice looking and a game I recently bought thought me that yes games using free graphics can still make it to Steam.

I’m doing everything through the map editor that will come with the game so of course the first thing I realize with my new plan is that I have to improve the damn thing to be able to achieve the visual stuff I’m looking for … It feels like it will never ends … For example take a look at the following building:

Ereptoria - Building with irregular shape

Of course I want the player to be able to walk on the green zone. It’s a stealth game after all and it makes sense to provide more opportunities to hide. Plus it’s a little touch that makes the world more believable. So I had to change my map editor to be able to map each tile of a building as walkable or not. Something I never saw while working with red/green/blue rectangles acting as buildings …

The I needed to see how my limited budget would do when it comes to characters so I spent a good deal of time adding support for 8 directions sprites. It was quite some work but well worth it as the result is looking smooth. You can’t tell that my characters cost me a big $0. But what happens on death? Oh yeah need to add support for death animation as well … Again lot of work but quite rewarding to look at.

Ereptoria - It will get bloody

Already it became easier to build levels and tweak them. It kinda set me in the mood I guess but still not as much as I’d like to. Something feels wrong. Right! The world is too static! Those chimneys really need some smoke! Oh dear … There I go adding a new type of object which sole purpose is to show animated objects in a loop. At this point though it’s a breeze to add this kind of stuff since I already have so much stuff in the code and I can copy/paste most of the stuff I need to make that happen. How do I make believable smoke? Thanks to Timeline FX for that. Since I’m on a budget I feel like I’ll be using a lot this little software I bought months ago.

Smoke - Yes I'm using bitmaps and not and AS3 particle engine

No, adding smoke to chimneys isn’t an essential part to create a  fun game. It’s stuff I should have done later but having it now is 1) motivating me by seeing how nice the game will look and 2) inspiring me even more for level design. Which brings me to …

CHICKENS!

I really need animated chickens around to show that Ereptoria is not just a static city with NPCs waiting to be killed. Chickens will just be NPCs (so of course you can kill them too) so it doesn’t require additional coding but I haven’t found free sprites for them yet. I have cows and horses but no chickens and chickens have now become my obsession.

Oh I’m making progress on the design of levels sure. But it seems each time I add these little things the whole experience working on this project becomes more enjoyable and I actually can see how easier it becomes to make actual progress on the core fun of the game.

The human mind really works in strange ways …

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