Archives for posts with tag: Game

Hi all, and welcome to the Kana Quest Dev-Blog for this week. This week I am going to show you a small part of Kana Quest’s pipeline. Specifically, the process I have to go through to add new world art onto the previous world. Which, full disclosure, is terrible. When I was making my parallax system I did not consider the fact that someone would have to use said system. And that someone would ultimately be me. How that slipped my mind as a solo game dev, I don’t know but here we are.

With that said, what do I mean specifically when I say I am adding the new world art onto the previous? Well a few weeks ago I talked at length about the process for creating the background art for the 6th world in Kana Quest. Isn’t it nice? But unfortunately I now have to get this art from Photoshop, into Unity.

World6WIP3

Legit, still really chuffed with how this art turned out. I would give myself a pat on the back if it weren’t for the horror I am about to inflict on myself.

And then once into Unity, get it to connect onto the previous world’s art. You would think this is easy. And it should be. But then you know… my coding exists sooo guess we can’t have nice things.

w5wip

I remember when I thought getting this world to connect was going to be easy.

See I can’t make them connect by putting the two finished images side by side and creating some transitional artwork. Because of one thing. All these environments use a parallax effect, so the point in which each part of the world will end in different places. And the only way for me to know exactly where that is, is to make a world’s art, implement it, then figure out where the end of that world will be, and finally create an end point for the art. But then we have to start worrying about the game objects that handle the parallax effect for the art, as well as trying to make the transition seamless by making transitional art. Like I said before, this is not a great pipeline. But on the bright side Franz Kafka is incredibly proud of me.

So let’s look at what everything looks like at the start of this “process”. This is the level select scene before I add any of world 6’s art.

5thWrldScene

As you can see in the first image the foreground images extend way further than the sky does. This is to compensate for the parallax effect moving these images faster than the ones in the background.

World5Gif

As you can see in game, everything lines up and looks nice, unlike how it does in their initial placement. Remember, as long as the player doesn’t see your garbage fire you can just pretend it doesn’t exist.

 

So the first job I need to do is figure out the point that the transitional art will start. This is pretty easily figured out by scrolling to the end of the world and seeing roughly where the camera ends.

5thWrldScene2

The arrow is pointing to the effective end of world 5 because it is the point where the last level button appears to the player. So everything beyond this point will be used to transition to the next world.

So now that we have our end point we have to start making transitional art. I start with the sky because we want it to the first to change. The sky moves the slowest and thus will be the last to finish switching over to the new pallet (even with a head start). Making the transitional art is also really easy as it just involves dithering between the original colours to the new colours, like so. It’s vital to give yourself easy goals to score. This will lull yourself into a false sense of security, and get you thinking “Surely its not as bad as I remember”.

W5SkyEnd

5thWrldScene3

As you can see here, the transitional sky image cuts a little bit into world 5. 

Then we repeat this process for each layer in the world. So for this world we do it for the buildings, the park, the stalls, the lanterns and finally the ground. Each layer should be staggered a little bit so that the final result should look something like this.

5thWrldScene4

You can see how the off screen starting point for the transition art is staggered so that the foreground images start further away. But by the time the player scrolls past they will all line up and look great. Remember, as long as the player doesn’t see your garbage fire you can just pretend it doesn’t exist. 

But this is just for the transitional art. Once we have the transitional art in place we have to position the world 6 art to line up properly. But because the parallax effect is handled by different objects for each world, you can’t line up the images in the inspector and call it a day. I have to figure out where those images have to be so that once moved by the parallax script in game, they line up. But in the scene viewer, the final positions overlap and look pretty awful. This step is the most time consuming and irritating as its like putting together a jigsaw puzzle except all the pieces are moving and you don’t get to see their true position when you want to place a piece. But at least the result is a nice clean transition. Remember, as long as the player doesn’t see your garbage fire you can just pretend it doesn’t exist.World6ImplementedGIF.gif

So how would I improve this pipeline? Well I would start by improving the parallax script. If I had designed the parallax script to handle all the worlds at once, a lot of this irritation would be improved. Because then I could simply place the transition images where they need to be in the Scene Window and not have to switch between running the game to figure out the placement and then back to the Scene Window to position things correctly.

Secondly if I had fixed world lengths for each world I would be able to standardise the interval between each world’s images and thus be able to immediately place new world images by entering that interval into the Transform component’s X value.

Thirdly I could make the parallax script run in editor so that wherever the Scene window is looking at, the script will get that X value and parallax as if the camera was in that position. But once again this relies on there only object that handles the parallaxing.

Anyway I hope this this been an “fun” look at Kana Quest’s pipeline and hopefully it inspires you think about your pipeline and the inefficiencies built within it before you start production. Because that is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made with Kana Quest. Ensuring quick and easy implementation of things is something worth spending a fair amount of time to work out. If you don’t get it sorted it can and will cost you days, weeks and even months of development time. And if you are really careless, you could end up writing a Dev-Blog about “The World’s Most Irritating Jigsaw”.

Until next time, have a great week.

Advertisements

Hi all, there’s not going to be a proper Kana Quest Dev Blog today as upon completion of my funding submission, my computer decided that it was time to call in sick. I’ve backed everything up, so you don’t have to worry about me losing Kana Quest, but it has put me out of commission this week. But thankfully the video game gods were smiling on me this week and gave me something relevant to talk about: Pokémon.

Yes, a new Pokémon game is coming. And as someone who has played every generation since gold/silver, I am very excited. But from the trailer we can see that they are planning on making some pretty big changes to the core formula of the game. And this has gotten me thinking about some of the core aspects of Pokémon. Aspects that people often overlook, but are vitally important. So we are gonna do a deep dive into things that Pokémon has gotten right for so many years, and some of the challenges Game Freak might have with “Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee”.

And we begin with the most iconic part of any Pokémon game, your starter Pokémon. Do you choose, grass, fire or water? This is a really small detail but it’s so important. By limiting your choice to only three types Pokémon avoids overloading the player with too many choices. This also allows Pokémon to introduce the player to the rock papers scissors gameplay that Pokémon types have without any tutorial. If the starting types were Flying > Fighting > Rock, in terms of gameplay they would be near identical. But no one is going to instantly know what beats what having never played before.

Now of course the Let’s Go games will give the player a choice of Eevee (Normal Type) or Pikachu (Electric Type). Having these two as your starter removes that instant tutorial aspect. However at this point in time, not explaining how types work, is not the end of the world. But this does create a challenge for the designers of these games in terms of balance both in early and late game.

See Pokemon’s early game is balanced around the player having one of the three starting types. The moment you can no longer rely on this, early gym challenges and wild Pokemon encounters can become incredibly difficult. Both Eevee and Pikachu have huge type disadvantages against the first gym: Brock a Rock Type user. Now this isn’t as big a deal for Pikachu because the second gym is Misty a Water Type user. But for Eevee, at no point in the game will it have a type advantage.  Regardless, both starters face the problem that new players (And there will be new players because it is being marketed as an introduction to “core” Pokemon games for Pokemon Go fans) will get their starter, head into Brock’s gym, and bash their head against a wall. Not exactly the best introduction.  There are ways Gamefreak could resolve this, they could let both starters learn a low power fighting type move by the time they reach Pewter City. Mach Punch (40 Power, 100 Acc, and Attacks First) would be a good candidate as it’s low power and high utility, and its power falls of towards the mid game.

Once the mid game ends Gamefreak will have to account for the late game. They have stated that the starter Pikachu, or Eevee will be able to evolve. But even if they did, Raichu and most Eeveelutions do not pack the same late game punch as a traditional starter Pokemon. Starter Pokemon are great because they are always just a little bit above the curve in terms of power, and so the correct play is to use them throughout your game. As a result, over the course of the game you form an emotional bond to your starter. Gamefreak has to find a way to make Pikachu and Eevee good in the late game. Failure to do so will make them dead weight, and players will come to resent them. Making new fans hate your two biggest mascots; not the greatest idea. Gamefreak has made efforts to make both better in the late game before. Pikachu’s Light Bulb and Eevee’s Z-Move are examples of this. But both are problematic as they don’t grant that much of a power boost, and they lock the player into only ever using one item on their starter. Eevee’s Z-Move is especially problematic as I doubt they will want to include Z-Moves into an introductory game. One solution I can see working is actually one of the features they have shown off. That’s right, fashion accessories. What if certain costumes granted your starters bonuses. This way you could give players much more options for self expression both visually and mechanically. As someone who spent most of 6th and 7th generation buying ALL THE CLOTHES, being able to do this for my starter as well as my Player Character, is something I am very much looking forward to.

Now I can see one more change that they have made that could cause problems with the difficulty: Wild Pokemon. This could be the biggest mechanical difference between the Let’s Go games and every other Pokemon game. You no longer battle wild Pokemon (only capture them) and you can see the wild Pokemon roaming around. The reason this is so big is that players can now avoid wild Pokemon better than ever before. This is problematic as Pokemon games are balanced so that if you fight every wild Pokemon and every trainer you see on a route, you will usually be properly leveled for the next gym. This change means that Gamefreak will likely have to revamp the amount of experience the player receives from trainers. This is something that I expect them to get right, and we the players wont even notice how much work went into it in the final project. But I guarantee you that it will be multiple designer’s jobs to re-balance the XP distribution throughout the entire game. Naturally this job will be made harder as first gen games were the most grindy. Once again the fact that these are introductory games comes up. A massive grind-fest is not something you want to give to new players.

That’s basically all I really had to say about Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee. I am certain that Gamefreak will find a way to solve these problems, but I just thought it would be interesting to look at the changes they have made and really think about the implications. Because the reality is I love Pokemon, and I love how they consistently make small iterations on these games and how these changes ripple out and effect the rest of the design. Anyway, until next time hope you have a good week, and hopefully my computer will be back and running so we can do Kana Quest content again.

 

 

This was another week of working on funding applications so I don’t have a lot to share when it comes to Kana Quest. So instead I just wanted to talk about a design tool that I use to analyse new games when I play them. Just a heads up, this is just a lens to use when looking at video games. Just because a game looks bad with this lens, it doesn’t mean the game doesn’t have redeeming qualities and vice versa. This is just a way of looking at games that will allow you to see different strengths and weaknesses within games.

So what is this technique? I call it Game-Player Relationship Analysis. Basically, imagine the game you are looking at is a person. And what does the relationship that you have with this person (game) like? For example, the relationship you have a Pinball machine is similar to the one you have with a street performer. They entertain you for a few minutes and you give them a little bit of your spare change. Whereas a claw machine in your local shopping mall is closer to a shady figure playing a cup and ball game. They promise you a fair game of skill, but the reality is you are never going to win. The relationship you have exists entirely to con you out of your money.

In both the examples above I use this Game-Player Relationship Analysis to contextualize the differences of two outwardly very similar games. And more specifically how the two games try to obtain the player’s money. But how money is exchanged is only one type of relationship a game can have with its players.

  • Money Exchange Relationship
  • Time Exchange Relationship
  • Mid Interaction Relationship
  • User Defined Relationship

The Money Exchange Relationship as discussed before, is about personifying how a game goes about obtaining the player’s money. They can be like street performers who ask for a few minutes and a few cents. They can be like conman with the cup and ball game. They can be like a drug dealer who gives you your first hit for free, but then expects you to keep paying up to get your fix. They can be like your favorite worker at your local bookstore; you pay them 20-60 bucks and they give a book for you to read, consume, discard and repeat the process.

The Time Exchange Relationship is basically how the game treats the player’s time. Is the game respectful of the players time? Does a game demand a large time investment on the part of the player to make the relationship work? If yes, how does the game make it up to their players? Does the game send you constant notifications to remind you that it’s still there and that it needs your love and affections non stop throughout the day and throughout the night? Does the game punish you for playing on your own time? Does the game ask you to revolve your entire life around it? As a quick aside, recently a lot of the big publishers as well as free mobile games have been making a push for “live services” for all their games. And the thing that worries me about these games is that the Time Exchange Relationship that these games have are quite toxic. If you had a partner that demanded you spend a third of your day with them, destroyed your things if you didn’t spend time with them, and kept messaging you throughout the day regardless if you wanted alone time or if you wanted to see your friends, you would call that an abusive relationship. But these “live service” games do a lot of these things as standard, without considering the ramifications this can have on the player.

The Mid Interaction Relationship is how the player and the game interact during gameplay. For example Kana Quest was intended to have a Mid Interaction Relationship that mirrors that of a good teacher. A teacher that points out your mistakes but doesn’t punish you for them, and that masks boring rote learning with something more interesting. Of course whether or not I achieved this, is not for me to decide. But some games are like story tellers (Visual Novels) and others are like tour guides (open world games). Some are like strict personal fitness trainers constantly pushing you to get better (Dark Souls). Now technically the Mid Interaction Relationship is separate from the Money Exchange Relationship and the Time Exchange Relationship  but often there is an intersection between these categories. Especially with F2P (free to play) games where the gameplay is interrupted by adds or by running out of energy. And of course if a game is large enough to have a lot of desperate elements, the relationship you have with one of those elements can be different to the relationship you have with another of those elements.

The User Defined Relationship is where things get weird. See much like people, not everyone has the same relationship with the same person. For example the relationship I have with my mother will be very different from the relationship you (the reader) have with me (the author). See the other categories care about personifying the way that games interact with their players. This cares about the inverse. It is about personifying how the players interact with the game. This category is weird not only because everyone’s relationship is slightly different, but because the relationship changes with time. I used to play Pokemon to be taken on a wild adventure with the world’s coolest tour guide, but now I play Pokemon to catch up with an old friend.

So how can we use this for making better games? Well the long and short of it is to try and craft the most effective Game-Player Relationship possible for the game we are making. Have an idea of what sort of person you want your game to act like. Make conscious design and business decisions to achieve this. And of course play test with a lot of people to see if your game is interacting with them in the way you want. Don’t be surprised if play testers make Mid Interaction and User Defined Relationships that you didn’t anticipate. Just make sure that these relationships are positive.

If you find using this technique, your game sounds like an asshole that nobody would want to be around, then its quite likely that your game has a problem. And much like people, it’s okay if your game isn’t perfect. Sometimes business forces you to have a Money Exchange Relationship that’s a bit shitty, but you need to be able to make it up to your players elsewhere. Case in point, one of my personal favorite games is Magic the Gathering. It’s Money Exchange Relationship is awful, but the Time Exchange Relationship, Mid Interaction Relationship, and User Defined Relationships are all so good that for me its worth it.

However if you find yourself in a relationship with a game that constantly tricks you out of your time, and money, only to then not give you an experience worth having for your investment, then its time to dump that game. It doesn’t deserve you, and you deserve better.

 Anyway that’s the Kana Quest Dev Blog for this week. Hopefully by next week I will have finished my funding application and I can show off some new work to you all.  But before I go, have some completely unrelated Steven Universe fan art, because who doesn’t love a pretty picture. Anyway until next time, have a great week.pinkDiamondHighRes

Hi all, hope you’ve had a good week. Sorry for missing last week’s post but I was out of town and I had mostly been working on funding submissions and trademark registrations. So you know I didn’t have the most exciting content to talk about.

Anyway this week I finished the background art for world 6. And I had a bit of a personal level up moment when it came to the color pallet. See, for world 5 I spent ages trying to settle on a color pallet that I liked. But ultimately I was pretty unhappy with the result.

 

So here is the color pallet I used, and here is the finished result as implemented into the game. This color pallet worked well until it really didn’t. It worked well until I had to draw the food stalls in the foreground and then everything started falling apart. And while I was making the art for world 6 I finally understood why.

So I started work on world 6 much the same way I started world 5. I made a pallet and started drawing from within that pallet’s constraints.

 

This worked great for the little bushes up the front of the scene, but I kept getting the feeling that the dirt and the sky just weren’t working. But still I persisted and stuck with my current course.

World6WIP2

But as I added more and more detail I found things just weren’t adding up. Things weren’t as pretty or as appealing as I hoped them to be. And so I found myself questioning the pallet I made. And I didn’t understand why my pallets just weren’t working. But then I realized that the pallets that I had been using had two major problems.

Firstly they don’t allow me to see the colors effectively in context. And secondly once all I had finished blending colors together, despite having 15-20 colors the viewer would only effective perceive all those as three or four distinct colors (Which often didn’t look good next to each other). And so after some extensive research of different color pallets that I thought would work for the scene on Pintrest, I landed on this configuration.World6Pallet2

So, lets dissect what I was trying to do with this pallet. I wanted to be able to see the 4-7 main colors that would define the scene, much like a traditional color pallet. But I wanted to be able to see what colors would be used as the highlight and shading colors for those main colors. This was so that I could get a better idea of how things would look once shaded. Another nice feature I found out while working with this pallet is that I could quickly see how color groups would look together by covering the colors I wasn’t interested in seeing with a finger.

Now there are some draw backs to this system. This system I think works really well for pallets focus on one color with maybe a complimentary color thrown in (for example mostly green and then some yellow). I don’t know how well this system will work for pallets that utilize a lot of contrasting colors. But I guess I will find that one out as I draw later worlds!

Anyway, once I had my new pallet figured out, I went about replacing the old colors with the new and we ended up with this. Which is so much nicer that if I had just stuck with the old pallet.

World6WIP3

Anyway, I will hopefully see you all next week. But until then, have a great weekend!

Hi all, this week on the Kana Quest DevBlog we are going to look at the background art for world 5. And how I went about making it, and what I think works and what I think doesn’t.

World5Gif.gif

So something that I did much more diligently for this world was deciding on a color pallet from the start and sticking to it. A good color pallet is the base of all good pixel art and the fact that I’ve been so lax about it is kind of ridiculous. And I think it worked to mixed success in this piece. The background houses and park look great within the pallet, but the focus of the piece; the market stalls are less than stellar. w5wip.jpg

As you can see with my first work in progress picture, the park scene starts off pretty good. There is a pretty limited use of the pallet and it looks pretty swanky.

w5wip2.jpg

Then I moved onto the houses behind the park and still the color pallet held out and kept looking great. And not just great, I felt this world was shaping up to be one of my best ones yet. But things all went downhill when I added the stalls.

w5wip3

I don’t know what it was but I did and redid the stalls so many times and they never turned out quite right. I was using the “correct” colors in the pallet, so why did they look so out of place? Honestly I don’t know all I know is, if I’m going to keep deciding on a color pallet at the start I’m going to need to be more careful with the colors that I pick and start with the highest detail thing and then work towards the lowest detail thing.

If you have any tips and tricks that you use for nailing your color pallet please leave them in the comments! I really want to get better at constraining my color pallets down!

Anyway, its a bit of a short DevBlog this week. Hope you have a great weekend!

Hey all, This week we are going to do a review of the Ice Kana mechanic. We’ve done one of these reviews before for the One Direction Kana. Basically what we are going to do is discuss how the mechanic works, how difficult it was to implement, how it plays, and how much design space it has.

So how do Ice Kana work? Ice Kana can be moved in any direction freely but will keep moving the direction they were moved until they hit a non-moving Kana, a blank space, or the end of the level.IceTileDemo2.gif

Ice Kana cannot be moved with each other as if they could there would be situations where tiles would move forever. Also whenever an Ice Kana is moved, regardless of how far they move it is counted as only one move.

 

So how hard was it to implement Ice Kana into the game? The initial implementing wasn’t too bad. The debugging was the killer for this one. They way the game handles Ice Kana is by checking if either of the two moved Kana are Ice Kana, then if there is an Ice Kana it iterates the “move Kana” script until the Ice Kana makes an invalid move. This was pretty easy to do as it relied on preexisting logic that was solid. The hard part was managing the undo function.  The undo button will log each step of an Ice Kana’s movement as individual moves so I have to tell script at what points an Ice Kana is moved so It can group each of those moves together and undo them all at once. This part of implementation was a nightmare. The last point that was a hassle was the animations. See because I have the Kana faces animated, whenever I want a different set of images for a different mechanic I am forced to make new animations for them. But I hear you saying “Isn’t that a LOT of individual animations?”. Why yes it is. There are 46 base Hiragana, but I have to double that number for each Katakana. Okay so there are 92 animations? Nope, because I have that many animations for EACH mechanic that uses the animation system. So far that is normal kana, stone kana, ice kana, paralysis kana and slime kana. Now slime kana only actually has 16 animations because it is only applies to あ、い、う、え、お、や、ゆ、and よ (I’ll go into why when we review slime kana). But even if we take that into account we still have 384 individual animations. And let me tell you Unity is NOT DESIGNED to have that many animations going on at once. TryingToAddNewAnimations

See this clip is how you add a new animation into Unity. You have to scroll down the list of existing animations until you get to the bottom where you can select the “Create New Animation” button. It is one of the most infuriating experiences I have as a game developer.

 

Anyway, but I don’t have to worry about implementing it anymore! How does it play? Actually pretty good, it can make some really interesting levels. However Ice Kana are certainly the hardest mechanic in the game for the player. Which I’m fine with. The first three worlds are pretty easy and its good to have a mechanic that can really challenge the player. Personally I enjoy solving these puzzles but what I enjoy and players enjoy are often two different things. So I will still have to do a bunch of testing to make sure the world 4 levels aren’t too difficult. I know for sure that the last two levels of world 4 are by far the hardest in the game.

IceTileDemo3.gif

But I think if I can get the difficulty correct I think players will really like Ice Kana. It will just take a bit of tweaking and balancing to get there.

Finally, how much design space does the mechanic have? Well, LOADS this was one of the first times I finished making a world’s levels and thought “I could probably make another ten interesting levels here”. They interact with One Direction Kana wonderfully, and I am certain they will work really well with future mechanics yet to come. So I am really happy with how they’ve turned out. My one biggest concern is just how difficult players find them.

Wrapping up. I think Ice Kana are a great mechanic that I will probably end up using liberally in future levels, but I do need to be careful of the difficulty. Having some levels be a challenge is fine, but not if players find their brains melting. And while debugging them was a royal pain, I am very happy with where they have ended up.

What do you think of the Ice Tiles? Let me know in the comments! But until next time, have a great week!

This week we’re gonna do something a little different. Instead of looking at what’s changed or been made for Kana Quest, we are going to look at the non-game related problems that I’ve encountered in making Kana Quest. In other words we are looking at how I use self care to keep on going.

See I have been working solo on Kana Quest full time for a year now and working solo has some great advantages, if I get bored of doing one thing, I can always switch tasks and continue on with something else. I get to have very low overhead costs. But despite these boons, they don’t make up for the fact that working alone is REALLY lonely. Sometimes its nice to not have to deal with people and make creative compromises. But I have found these times are not the norm. And you really do miss having someone around who can sanity check your work. And the worst thing about being a solo dev is you start getting something similar to cabin fever. You will start thinking illogically and getting cranky for no real reason. I’ve found it is so easy to let yourself slip into destructive thought patterns if I’m not careful.

So how do I try dealing with this? Well I try get out and see people. I make a deliberate choice to make time to go and talk to friends. But not just friends, I force myself to go to local game developer meet ups. Game developer meet ups are a great opportunity to talk to other (and in my case more experienced) game devs. Some of the best changes I’ve made to Kana Quest have been suggestions from folk I’ve met at my local game dev meet up.  Just make a mental note to be super extra polite. I go stir crazy from not interacting with people, and its really easy to find myself getting a bit snappy. I don’t want to do that. Folks are doing me a favor by giving feed feedback, and I try to appreciate and respect that.

I reckon I need this tattooed to my retinas sometimes.

Another big problem is simply maintaining motivation. Simply getting yourself to keep going is a really hard thing to when you are are utterly sick of something. And when you’re the only one making something, you get really, really sick of it. So something that I do is that I will keep a list of small and easy things. In other words I give myself an easy win. This way if I ever find myself utterly stuck and overwhelmed with everything, I can get something done. And once you find you’ve achieved one thing you find it easier to do more.

Yaaay, I’m so amazing I fixed a tiny non noticeable detail.

But sometimes I find this trick doesn’t work. These are the days that I just want to throw the towel in. Give up. What I do is go onto Twitter, and Pintrest, and just search for inspiration. Find images and games that I think are cool. Maybe try replicate some techniques that I see (to the best of my ability) and see what I can learn. Its not about comparing who’s work is “better” (because often mine is worse) its just about appreciating other people’s work. And wanting to do what other people can do too.

Yup, I’m working, I swear

But sometimes I end up thinking “they are so much better than me, I’m trash, I’ll never be that good”. In which case I have to force myself to come up with some logical arguments against that line of thinking. E.g. They are so much better than me –> Well yes they are but how much longer have they been doing this? I’m trash –> no Trubbish is trash, you are just learning. I’ll never be that good –> well, twelve months ago you would have said you would never be as good as you are now soooo.

250px-568Trubbish.png

Poor Trubbish, they don’t deserve all the hate they get.

The long and short of this blog post is really, these are somethings that I have to do. It’s a vital part of my creative process and making Kana Quest would be impossible without them. And there is a good chance that what I do won’t work for you. But one should still have a plan and strategy to deal with these problems because you will likely encounter them. And don’t fool yourself into thinking “I’m immune”, because then it will only sting more when you find you aren’t.

Anyway, hope you all have a good week, I’ll see you next week!

Hi all, welcome to the Kana Quest Devblog. This week I’ve been working on making Kana Quest a new logo. Now I’m not going to show the new logo here until it’s 100% done and its been submitted for its trademark application. But I am going to talk about some of the issues I’ve had with the original logo, why pixel art logos are so hard to make, and some of the visual language I’ve learned this week.

Original Logo Issues:

So, lets have a quick look at the original Kana Quest logo. And go over why I’ve concluded this isn’t a very effective logo.

KanaQuestTitleScreenImg

  1. It doesn’t have a clear and readable silhouette. English speakers are strange as most of our ability to quickly identify words come from a word’s silhouette. Because this does not have a clearly visible shape, it is really hard to read at a distance. Give it a try now, stand back from your computer or phone and try read this logo. You probably can’t it all just appears as a blob of different colors.
  2. It is massive in terms of pixel usage. This logo is not small. and it is not scale-able to smaller sizes. The problem with this is that many store fronts have strict specifications of how big your logo can be. And quite simply, the old logo will not fit those specifications. Not matter how hard I try I will never get this logo to fit into a 231×87 pixel image (the smallest image size used in Steam). Also the fact that the logo is less readable than the “press any key” sign under it is all the more damning seeing as how many more pixels it was given to work with.
  3. You need to speak Japanese to read the full title. Seriously, you would think I would have picked up on that problem when I made this but hey.
  4. Contains very little Japanese visual language elements. I’m not talking about the letters here, I’m talking about the visual features and bits of visual language that are often utilized in Japanese logo making. If I had used these elements then they would infer to the viewer that this game has something to do with Japan even before they see the Japanese written.
  5. Very little contrast to guide the viewers eye. So generally speaking we will focus on the part of an image that has the most contrast in value. If you don’t know “value” is how light or dark a color is.  Look at the greyscale version of the image, there is more contrast in the background that there is on the actual logo. So you spend most of your time looking at the wrong thing.logogreyscale

Things to Do/Not Do When Making Pixel Art Logos:

So, the original logo is bad. Really bad. But if you were thinking making your own Pixel Art Logo what are some things should you do and look out for?

  • This is an obvious one, but I genuinely didn’t do it when I made the first logo; Look at lots of other logos. Find logos with the same the feeling that you want to evoke in your viewer. What are the common elements between those logos? What’s different? How do those differences affect the feeling you get from the logo? Once you’ve done that borrow those common elements and use them in your own work.
  • Draw a bunch of logo’s on paper before you start. I made the first Kana Quest logo going straight into pixel art. This was a mistake. Its really hard to effectively try out ideas when you are drawing within the a constraints of pixel art. Below is a logo I made sketching straight into pixel art within Photoshop. While it is better than the original logo, its honestly half as good as some of the warm up sketches I did in paper this last week. If you find it easier to sketch digitally than physically then do that instead, but do some non-pixel art sketches first.

AnimatedLogo1Gif

  • Beware of overlapping shapes (for example overlapping letters). This is less dire if you have more pixels to work with, but overlapping shapes require a lot of defining so the viewer can easily process what’s on top and what’s underneath. And if you are using pixel art, you might not have the pixels to do this. This isn’t a “avoid at all costs” rule, but it is something to be careful of while you are sketching (Also you might notice that I have overlapping letters in the original logo, and it just makes things harder to read).
  • Check that your logo looks good on many different backgrounds. Its fine to have a background color that makes your logo “pop” the most, but if it looks bad on flat black, white or grey there is a good chance you’ve made a mistake.
  • Don’t go with your first design. Seriously, don’t I don’t know why I decided I thought it was a good idea to do so for the first Kana Quest logo, but it was a terrible idea. Don’t fall into that trap.

 

Japanese Logo Visual Language:

So while I was doing research for my logo this week I wanted to figure out what were  the most commonly used pieces of visual language used in Japanese game logos. And I ended up identifying three common elements (all of which I’ve utilized in my new logo). And of course, not all Japanese game logos use these elements, but a very large amount do. And they use these elements more often than western games.

To this end, look at the Japanese logos for Pokemon Sun and Moon. These logos are great for demonstrating three aspects of design that are common across a large amount of Japanese game logos.

JapaneseGameLogos.jpg

So the common elements are as follows.

  1. Letter Stroke Border:  So most logo’s will have some form of border around the title text of the game. These borders have a large amount of variation depending on the type of game. The width, the roundness/sharpness, the color and shading of the border are all important of communicating the game’s identity. The reason I bring this up as a feature of Japanese visual design is that it is far more common for there to be no border around the letters in a western game’s logo. For example the logo of Skyrim has just the plain text and no border. Or you could look at Dark Souls: A Japanese game that has a deliberately western looking logo by omitting the letter border.
  2. Subheading: While not as commonly used as the letter border, this is a far more commonly used aspect of design than in western games. The most common use of the subheading is to write the name of the game again in a more easily readable text. Often games with a name written in Kanji or English will have the name written out in subheading in Katakana or Hiragana for this very purpose. Another common use is a brief description of the game or as a visual ” : “. The main variations between subheadings are the placement, and font differentiation. Also subheadings are way more likely to forgo a Letter Border than the main logo.
  3. Visual Flourishes:  These are the least distinctive to Japanese logo design when compared to the first two, but they are an important part of the design. These flourishes are often incorporated into the Title’s letters and often use something emblematic of the game (see the pokeball and the Lunala/Solgleo symbol in the Pokemon Sun/Moon logo).

 

Anyway, that’s all there is for this week. I look forward to being able to show you the new logo when its safe for me to do so, but until then have a great week!

 

Hi all, welcome to the Kana Quest Dev Blog, after two weeks of forgetting that this is something I do I’m back. Truly I am the most consistent of self marketers.

Self deprecation aside, what are we talking about today? We are going to talk about the background art for world 4 got made, and what I learned along the way.

So before I started work on Kana Quest I had never worked with Pixel Art before. Not because I didn’t like it, just because I’d never given it a go. As you can expect this caused me to have quite the learning curve. I didn’t know about many of the common techniques, hell I didn’t even realize you were only supposed to use as few colors as possible (The first world is really bad for breaking this rule). But each world I’ve done, I’ve gotten a little bit better at it.

So what did I do differently for this world? Well for a start I used much fewer colors in sky. All previous worlds I had five colors making up the sky colors (most of which I would not reuse). This time I condensed that down to three (not including the purple at the top there as that has to stay consistent between worlds now for GUI reasons). And all three of those colors would be reused in the rest of the scene.

world4wip1

At this point this image only contains 8 colors, much fewer than my previous worlds.

Here you can see me start to reuse the colors already, the city buildings used the fuchsia at the bottom of the sky, and the roofs of the foreground buildings used the icy blue from the top of the sky. Speaking of reusing things, I got to reuse those foreground buildings. Copy pasted straight from world 2, scaled down, and recolored.

 

world4wip2

And with the station, the number of colors total is 14.

For the train station I used a lot of reference photos of other pixel artists to help get the effect I wanted. I know its nothing to be ashamed of (using reference photos) but I always try to do it without even when I shouldn’t. This is more for me than anyone else but, Always use reference photos, it makes life so much easier.

A couple of small details to look out for in the train station. The train shelter has my name written on it (テオ = Teo, basically the closest you’ll get to “Theo” in Japanese). The vending machine says うまい (umai) which means yummy, and the train station says 竹田 (Takeda). Which is the name of one of the towns in the area of Japan that I lived. I would have put down 朝来 (Asago, which is the name of the area I lived) or 和田山 (Wadayama the town I actually lived in), but I couldn’t write either with the number of pixels I had available.

World4Finished.gif

The finished background art. Total of 16 colors.

The final thing I added was some more frost on the train tracks and some clouds. I added one new color for the shading of the clouds and let that color have a pretty high contrast to the rest of the clouds. Something I’m still getting the hang of with pixel art is the need for higher amounts of contrast in the area I want people to focus on. I know its a pretty basic compositional thing to forget, but its something I frequently forget to do. So from now on I’m going to try keep it in mind more often.

Anyway, that’s all for this week. Making this background was a bit of a level up moment for me, so if you’ve had any level up moments in pixel art, design or anything really I’d love to hear them! Until then, take care.

The devblog is back! Sorry for such a long hiatus, but we are here and a lot has happened!

But today we are talking about World 3. Just before Christmas I finished making the background art and the one direction tiles so I would be ready to make some levels!

World3Level1

All the levels for World 3 are now complete! Something I might do every time I finish making the levels for a world I might “review” the mechanic deployed therein. I’m going to judge a mechanic on a few different criteria. Most of these are normal things to consider for all game design, but the last is relevant specifically to Kana Quest.

  1. Complexity of the mechanic. (How long does it take for the player to figure out how it works? How much mental strain does it cause the player?)
  2. Design Space of the mechanic. (This is another way of saying how deep is the mechanic? How many interesting scenario’s can it be used in? Does it interact in interesting ways with other mechanics?)
  3. Fun Factor of the mechanic. (Just simply, how fun is it)
  4. Ability to help teach Hiragana. (Does the mechanic play help the player to remember what a Kana is or learn new Kana?)

So how did one direction tiles do? Very very well, they have a very low complexity so much so that a tutorial is often not needed for play testers, and it has a large design space! The fun factor is a bit subjective, but personally I find it quite fun. The only strike against one direction tiles; they don’t really teach Hiragana very well. They don’t work against that goal, but they aren’t any more useful than a normal Kana tile.

The only other problem with one directional tiles is they require a large level to be interesting. World3Level20.jpg

Due to a bunch of mistakes that I made when setting the game’s camera up, I have a hard upper limit to how big a level can be. On the whole this isn’t too bad as it forces me to keep the complexity down but it does mean that for mechanics like the one direction tile, I can’t use it to its fullest extent.

But on the whole I give one direction tiles a B+. Its a good mechanic that can be used to make interesting levels.

Before I leave you today, I just want to share my personal favorite level from World 3.

World3Level16.jpg

This what the first of a series of levels that I made where the player has to figure out the correct place to start matching the Kana. In each row there is usually only one Kana that will match with the row above or below it. Thus making the physical size of the level and the positioning of the tiles crucial to being able to complete the level.

World3Level16Complete.jpg

Anyway, I hope you all have a great week, and I will be back posting regular devblogs again from here on out! I will try for once a week, but if I’ve just been squashing bugs that are not very interesting then it will probably get pushed back.