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Hey welcome to this week’s Kana Quest Dev Blog. Where I get to talk all about what I’ve been doing for the last week. What I achieved, what problems I had and how I solved those problems for my game Kana Quest (A Puzzle game that’s a cross between dominoes and a match three game that teaches the Japanese phonetic Alphabet).

So PAX Aus is now less than a month away. This means most of my energy is being spent preparing for that. As a result very little new content for is going to be made for the game. I’m patching bugs certainly, but making new content will have to wait for now.

KanaQuestPAXBanner180dpi.jpgKanaQuestPAXBanner280dpi.jpgSo what sort of things are taking up so much time? Well mainly getting my booth ready. I learned from AVCon earlier this year, that your presentation matters. It matters a lot. Thankfully PAX provides printing of artwork included in the booking of the booth which will improve my baseline presentation a bunch. But I do need to make the artwork for those posters. As of this week I can officially say that I have been given grant money by Creative Victoria to attend PAX Aus which is amazing and I of coarse can’t thank them enough. And that bright pink banner topper is part of the conditions of the grant. I have to display the Melbourne International Games Week branding on my booth. Which I am more than happy to do. I also made an English version of the Kana Quest Logo as at AVCon I realized that most people had to ASK what the name of the game is. I want my players to know the name of the game without asking so it was a natural addition.

One big achievement this week was this little beauty (please imaging me saying beauty in a really strong Aussie accent).

TaxAccept.pngTurns out getting my tax information verified by Valve turned out to be a bit of a headache. I’ve been trying to get it done for last three weeks and its been very frustrating to do. I do need to give massive shout out to Carmine Fantarella at Games of Edan (Link: gamesofedan.com/icebox-speedgunner#_=_ ) . He provided a bunch of help in this department. So I do want to give thanks where thanks is due. If you like fast paced action games go check out his game ICEBOX: Speed Gunner, its really sweet and just plays amazingly.

So now that Kana Quest is on Steam what’s the next step? Well the next step is setting up my Steam Storefront. This means I need to make a trailer, prepare some HD screenshots and once again make sure my presentation is top notch. Once I’ve done that I’ll submit the game to Valve, they will review it and it will go onto the Coming Soon section.

 

Finally for this week we have the tutorial. For as long as this game has existed teaching players how to PLAY the game. Which is saying something as the first people to ever play the game were two native speakers of Japanese. This week I finally got sick of my tutorials not working so I sat down and made a list of skills the player needs to have to play the game.

  • Know how to flip the Kana to see the English
  • Know how to move the Kana.
  • Know how Kana match with each other.
  • Understand the win state of each level.
  • Know what the undo and restart buttons are.
  • Understand that Stone Kana can’t be moved.

So I went off and made the following tutorial level.NewTutorial5.gif

So this tutorial level does a few things differently to all previous versions. Firstly this tutorial takes place entirely on only once scene. This means I can add new concepts one at a time and those additions will be the focus of attention. It also is much harder to sequence break than previous version. Actually I specifically made it impossible to do so. I can’t afford players who just skip the tutorial as they will be lost. Anyway I need to now playtest this new tutorial to ensure that it’s up to the task of teaching everyone at PAX Aus.

And with that, another Dev Blog comes to an end for another week. If you are interested in Kana Quest please follow me on twitter @notdeaddesigner or follow my blog here on WordPress. I hope you all have a great weekend, till next time.

 

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Hey. Welcome to this week’s Kana Quest DevBlog.

So what have I been doing this past week? I’ve been trying to implement some the changes to the tutorial that I talked about last week. NewTutorial.gif

So above is a new tutorial level that I made this week. There are a few new things here. First is the friendship gauge has been changed to show the size of the largest friendship group. This way it conveys information a bit better. Second I’ve changed the click image to a hand. In play tests with tablets and phones people have been confused by the old mouse. Thirdly is the English text bubbles above the Kana.  I’m doing this so that the player can see the connection between the Kana. Hopefully it will convey the idea that they game is about matching sounds.

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The most exciting addition to Kana Quest this week is that of SOUND!!! I recorded my voice actress Aki Nemoto to perform all the Kana tiles this week.  Here is a photo of my dad (a sound engineer) setting up the microphone with Aki. She did a great job, I got the exact quality to the voice that I wanted. Of coarse I do want to say a big thank you to Dad here for helping me record!

Once the recording was done, I downloaded all the files and implemented them into the game. As of the most recent build, if you double click a Kana it will say its name.

 

KanaQuestMusicManagerBut that’s not all the sound work that got done this week! I also commissioned Nicole Marie T to compose some music for Kana Quest. So far she has finished work on the Kana Quest Theme Song and has done a great job! She is now currently working on the background theme for world one and world two. But in preparation for those assets I have made a music manager. This script will fade the music in and out when changing between worlds and the title screen.

That’s about all I can show you for this week. I’m hoping to get some more play tests done on the new tutorial asap so I can further refine it. Anyway, hope you have a good week and I’ll see you next week.

Hey, so you’ve stumbled onto my blog somehow. And probably you landed on a page about my game project Kana Quest. This is because for as long as I’m making Kana Quest I will be uploading a devblog of my process. However most of the devblogs are not great for anyone who doesn’t know what Kana Quest is…. which is you know…. most people.

SO! This is a quick primer on what Kana Quest is, and how it works.

KanaQuestTitleScreen.gif

So what is Kana Quest? Kana Quest is a puzzle game that’s a cross between dominoes and a match-3 game that teaches the Japanese Alphabet (Both Hiragana and Katakana). It will be released on Mac, PC, Linux, Android and iOS.

It is an educational game, but it is being designed to be a fun puzzle game first. This way, people who already know Japanese can still play and enjoy the game. Another key feature of Kana Quest is that there are no pop quizzes. A lot of educational games lean heavily on game-ified versions of school tests in the hopes that no one will notice.
KatakanaDemoThe main gameplay of Kana Quest revolves around Kana. The word Kana comes from the names of the two Japanese Alphabet; Hiragana and Katakana and basically means letter. In Kana Quest, the Kana have been brought to life and want to make friends. Its the player’s job to help them find their friends. Two kana that are next to each other will be friends if their names/pronunciation share a sound. So for example か (Ka) and な (Na) will be friends because they both have an “a” sound. The same is true for か (Ka) and く(Ku) because of the “k” sound. Once you know which Kana can be friends, you need to make a friendship group that includes all Kana in the level.
LevelDemo2For example. This level starts off with every Kana having at least one friend. But because these friendships don’t connect all the Kana into one group the level is not complete.

This gif also shows a couple of other important details. The flashing lines between Kana show that they are friends, and a sound matches between them.

 

Finally a quick description of the different mechanics currently in the game.

Blank Tiles: These can be seen in the above gif. These cannot match, but can be moved freely.

Stone Kana: Stone kana will match with other kana and must be included in the final friendship group but can not be moved. They have been turned to stone, you see.

MysteryTileDemo2Mystery Kana: These enigmatic Kana are hiding their true face. But their true identity is given away by who they become friends with. Unfortunately Kana who are hiding their true identity are not truly happy and must be unmasked before the level can be complete.

Slime Kana: Slime Kana do not have any consonants in their names. Slime tiles cannot move.But they can merge with other Kana. When they merge they change the vowel of any Kana they merge with. Slime Kana cannot match, but they are happy to help other Kana find their friends.SlimeTiles

And that about covers it. This primer will likely but updated over time as new content is added. If you have any questions please feel free to comment, and I’ll get back to you asap!

 

This week was a big week for Kana Quest because as of writing, all the levels in the second world are complete. So for this week’s devblog we are going to look at how I go about making levels.

Before getting into it I just want to include a quick intro to some of the terms that I will use in this devblog.

Kana: The individual game pieces in Kana Quest. They are also letters of the Japanese alphabets (Hiragana and Katakana).

Match: When two adjacent Kana share a matching sound. Eg. KA N–> Matching “A”. Matches are important as they are how you complete levels in Kana Quest. When every Kana is connected by one chain of matches the level is complete.

Mystery Kana: The main mechanic of the second world in Kana Quest. They are represented with question marks both in game and in hand drawn notes. The player must pay attention to what the Mystery Kana matches with to find out the sound of that Kana.

Ok that’s that. Onward!

 

So what is step one? The first thing I will do before I make a level is to make a mental note of a couple of things. For example: What kana has the player seen before? What kana have been introduced very recently? How many moves did the last level need to complete? How many different possible configurations did the last level have?

That last one is really important. As it is the biggest determining factor of a level’s difficulty. For example look at the following mock levels.20170902_161642.jpg

Both levels have the exact same Kana, and require the same amount of moves to complete but A is significantly easier to complete than B. And it comes down entirely to the amount of possible configurations of the Kana. One of the first levels I ever made for Kana Quest was a 3×3 level with a Kana in every spot. It only took 2 moves to complete but no one could ever complete it.
20170902_163949.jpg

So once I’ve made a note of how difficult I want the level to be, using a pen and paper I start drawing down the idea of what the level should be like.

You can see this happening here. I start out with an idea for a level where you get two normal Kana to try and figure out lots of different Mystery Kana in the level. (Top part)

Once I realize the limitations of the level concept I rearrange things to ensure the level plays well (Middle part).

Finally I write down the solution to the level and the number of moves needed to get there. (Bottom part).

Once I’m happy with my first draft of a level its time to get it into the game!

To do this I have to give unity (the game engine I’m using) the following things. 1. The dimensions of the level (In this case 3×6). 2. Make a numerical list representing each of the Kana starting from the bottom left of the level.  (In this case the list is 12,47,20,47,47,310,47,307,47,322,47,105,-1,106,-1,108,323). 3. Tell unity how many Kana there are in the level. This allows unity to know when the level is actually complete. Once you do all of this you get…LevelDemo

One level, ready for play-testing! I will usually play the level once or twice to make sure that it is possible and I know the minimum number of moves needed to complete. Then I will give it to play-testers who let me know if the level is too hard or too easy. Then I will adjust accordingly.

If you have any questions about the level making process feel free to ask any questions in the comment section.

That’s me for this week. Have a great weekend all.

 

Hey, Welcome to this week’s Kana Quest Devblog where I talk about all the work I’ve done during the week.

So this week has been mostly about getting elements of the second world working ASAP. With PAX Aus fast approaching there are three major things I need to get done before then. First is World 2, second is getting it working on IOS and android and third is putting in some sound.

So most of implementing World 2 is done, the only tasks left on the plate is a tutorial for how to move to World 2, a tutorial for the mystery tile mechanic and finally all the levels. I’m trying to finish working on World 2 by the end of August so I have plenty of time to get the other things on my list done.

So I have two GIFs to show off this week. The first is a lock out screen if the player tries to move to World 2 without meeting the requirements.

World2LockedScreen

The other GIF for this week is a quick demo of how Mystery Kana work. So mystery tiles, cannot be moved and you cannot see the actual Kana. But they will match like normal Kana do. Using that information the player has to figure out what Kana is hiding behind that disguise. In this gif you can see the mystery matches with Ki and Na but not Ko.  This means that the Mystery tile must have the vowel “i” because if it was matching with the consonant Ko would match.  Then since we know that the vowel is “i” when we see Na match we know that the consonant is “n”. Add those sounds together and you get Ni. MysteryTileDemo2.gif

So there are a few things to keep in mind about Mystery Kana. Even if all the Kana match up if there are any Mystery Kana the level will not be complete. Secondly once you figure out the sound of a mystery tile, it will become a normal tile that you can move freely. This is great because it allows more interesting levels. For example you can make levels that are impossible to complete without unmasking all the mystery tiles.  This definitely increases the design space of Mystery Kana a lot.

Anyway that’s the devblog for this week. Hope you have a good weekend, and I’ll see you next week.

Before we get into the meat of this week’s update I just have some big news about Kana Quest. Officially Kana Quest is going to be heading to PAX Aus this year! If you are planning on coming come say hi and give the game a go! I would love to hear your feedback! And if you have any friends going tell them to check Kana Quest out! Anyway with that done, onto the week’s work!

So this week I’ve been working on implementing the second world into Kana Quest. I’ve known for a while that I want to transition between worlds by clicking and dragging the screen. And for the background art to join up seamlessly. So what’s the process of doing this involved?

world2MoreCurrent Step one was making the background art for world two. This was the easy part. All I really needed to watch out for here was to make sure that all the layers are repeatable so I can make the world as long or short as needed.

 

The next step was ensuring that the two worlds can transition into each other. This step will be easier in the future thanks to more planning in the world two art but no such planning was done for the first world’s art. As such the seam is a little abrupt. But its not an immediate shift so its better than nothing.

World1to2

MovingToWorld2

Part three was bringing the assets into unity and getting the camera to move when the player clicked and dragged. One small bug occurred with this though. I made my camera a physics object. Turns out any child object of a physics object loses its ability to know if the player is clicking on it. This caused some of my menus to stop working.

 

World2WithParallax.gif

Once we had the camera moving we had to get the background parallaxing with the camera. This means that the foreground art will move more than the background art to create the illusion of depth. This turned out to be troublesome as I kept being able to make my world two art not line up with the first world art. Thus forcing me to find a way to ensure that the art would always come back to the right position. This took half a day. It was not fun.

So here we have the last part of getting this whole thing working. The transition. This gave me the most trouble out of everything and is what I spent most of this week working on. The reason is for the first world I had used a static overlay that would fade in OVER everything in the scene. This overlay would work fine as long as the overlay was the exact same as the background. But once you add a variable camera position you no longer can guarantee this. So things had to change. So now, what is happening is I have a script that finds all the visible parts of the background, and prevents them from being destroyed when a new scene is loaded, then it moves those objects into the same relative position as they were in the previous scene. This is important as the camera’s position changes scene to scene so if this didn’t happen the art would be misaligned, or not in shot at all. Then would take all other objects in the scene and fade them out. Once the new scene is loaded it would get all the new non-background objects in the scene set the transparency to full and fade the new objects in. The result is what you can see below.

FirstWolrd2Level

 

And that was the process involved in adding the second world to the game. All subsequent worlds will be easier as I won’t have to worry about making the last three steps all over again. It will be set up for me already! Anyway I hope you all enjoyed learning about my process.

Till next week.

Another week another Devblog.

This was an ok week for productivity. Some stuff got done but not as much as I know I can get done (I spent most of Wednesday practically falling asleep). But three big things were done this week!

The first thing is that I have officially started working on Kana Quest’s audio. Well more like the background music for the game. Now when I knew I was going to have pixel art for the visuals of Kana Quest I knew that chip tunes were going to be used for the music. So this week I did my research of what were the best programs for making chip tunes and landed on FamiTracker (the visual fustercluck you see below). Then I spent a little bit figuring out how to use the thing. Thankfully there were some really well made tutorials on youtube that sped up the process. Now that I’m used to the software its not so bad to work with. Although if you look below you can see that I kinda ended up with a piece of music which has 5 frames to a crotchet for some reason. This is great if I want to you know have quavers (sarcasm). Regardless, progress on the theme song for Kana Quest is progressing nicely.FamitrackerScreenshot.png

The second major achievement for this week was the implementation of an options screen. Last week I talked about how the player can now switch between Hiragana and Katakana. The options screen is how the player is going to do that, so it is pretty important that I get the options screen working. I haven’t got all the controls on it working yet but we will get there soon enough. At the very least its really nice not to have one grayed out button on my main menu screen.Options Screen Demo

Finally, saving the best till last, we finally have world 2 implemented into the game! So the way you get to the world 2 is by click and drag the screen to move over. I’ve put a ridgidbody2D onto the camera so that when the player lets go of the camera will continue moving for a moment. It just feels a nicer to do doing it this way. Another thing to notice is that the menu button changes color when we move to world 2. One of the things that is a big part of making the art for a new world is making sure the colors of the UI matches the new setting. So, although you can’t see the extent of this in the gif below, a large part of putting this into the game was recoloring all the UI. One last small detail in this gif is the title screen. I’ve changed the image used for the stars in the background. I’m much happier with where they are now and the new stars look great!MovingToWorld2.gif

Anyway. That’s all the major and interesting stuff I got done this week. I’ll see you next week where hopefully we will be able to show off some levels for the second world! Until then, take care.

So this week had one task. One job that had to be done. It was long, it was boring, it was tedious. It was implementing Katakana into Kana Quest.

Why is implementing Katakana such a chore I hear some of you wonder. Well simply because implementing each Katakana has a bunch of steps that are not at all interesting and when you times those steps by 46 (the number of kana) things get very boring very quickly.

So the pipeline is as follows.

  1. Create the sprites. (We talked about this last week as I was most of the way through making the Katakana Sprites at that point.)
  2. Set the image setting for each sprite.
    1. This isn’t too bad what I have to do is tell unity how it should process each sprite. How big the image is (pixels per unit), its filter type (point filter as bi-linear and tri-linear make pixel art look awful) and if its a single or multiple sprite image. Now all of the above I can do all in one go by selecting all the files at once, but below I have to do one by one, because Unity wont allow me to do this in batch. Finally I have to set the sprite size for multiple sprite Kana. So for each Katakana I had to go into the sprite editor and tell it to divide my sprite sheet how I wanted it divided.
  3. For each kana make an animation using the unity animation system.
    1. For the stone tiles this is easy. They are just one frame so its just a matter of dragging and dropping the image into a new animation. For the normal tiles this takes a while longer because I have to copy the animations seen on the Hiragana Tiles. But the big annoying part of this step is that I have a LOT of animations on the one object now. So much so that they don’t all fit on screen so adding a new animation took about three seconds of scrolling down the animation list before I could get to the “make new animation” button.
  4. Add those animations to the animator of the tile object, and then set up the logic of when to play those animations.
    1. So putting the animations into the animator is easy. Select all the files you want and drag them onto the animation screen. Setting up the logic has to be done one by one and is really tedious. Right click from where you want the tile to transition from and to (from all to each individual animation in this case). Then click the arrow that comes up and create the parameters controlling the animation. In this case, what is the tile’s hiragana number? Is Katakana enabled? And is this a stone tile or a normal tile. Rinse and repeat 92 times.
  5. The last step is to add a control for turning Katakana off and on. This was the last and easiest step. Now if the player presses ctrl+shift+k in game katakana will be toggled on and off.

And that’s the process. Since you got through all the technical stuff your reward is some gifs! Enjoy!KatakanaDemo

SoneKatakana

Another week another update. This week has been kinda slow. This is partly because I’m still slightly recovering from AVCon. The other reason is this week I’m working from home and I always find a way to goof off when I’m at home. (This would be why people have work studios).

That said I do have some fun stuff to show off. The first thing which I am personally most excited for is the background art of the second world!ParralaxTest2GIF.gif

So I am super happy with how this turned out. The biggest thing that is different between this art and the tutorial background is that this has been designed to not be a static image. I drew each part of this background on nine separate layers that will repeat. The reason I have done this is because for each world I want to be able to add as many levels as I want without needing to redraw the art. This was a problem I noticed vary quickly from the first background: that it was drawn for a specific number of levels. If I need to change that number later on, making my backgrounds this way will allow me to do so. So now onto some of the artistic decisions with the piece. So this piece is set in summer following on from the last background that was set in spring. The rice in the foreground is a dead giveaway for this. A couple of other fun things about this piece is that it was inspired by the town I used to live in (Asago in Hyogo Prefecture). Lots of stunning mountains, rice fields everywhere, and ever so slightly worn down buildings. A couple of small details on the buildings is on the announcement board I wrote “テオドの” which basically means “This is Theodor’s”. Yes I am capable of being that vain.

Next up is Katakana. Katakana is one of the three writing systems in Japanese. All the gifs and images shown previously have been of Hiragana. Hiragana and Katakana (mostly) produce the same sounds, but Hiragana is used for native worlds whereas Katakana is used for foreign words. I have planned to have Katakana in the game for a while. The reason is that mechanically they will operate the same as Hiragana and A LOT of people forget their Katakana. So usually what happens is folk spend a lot of time learning Hiragana, then they get to Katakana and are just sick of rote learning letters. So it was simply a matter of when I found the time to implement it. Its not particularly hard to put in, just time consuming. But the first step is getting the Katakana sprites done.

 

Well as of this week I have all the Katakana versions of the normal and slime tiles ready to go. Not gonna put them all up in the blog post because that just takes up space for no real reason. Haven’t got them working in game yet, but the sprites are done so that is one big step to implementing it.

The way it will work in game once implemented is the player will choose Hiragana or Katakana from the options menu. Then all puzzles will appear as they normally would with the selected letters. This way the player can practice the one they want freely.

Ok. That’s me for the week. I’ll see you all next week. Take care.

 

So.

AVCon just happened.

My head is buzzing a bit still. My voice is shot to hell (I don’t sound like myself anymore). And boy am I tired.

But I had an amazing time. Getting to see people playing my game for the first time and genuinely enjoying it was incredible. And getting to become friends with game devs from Adelaide was a blast.

But this is supposed to be an update on Kana Quest and its development, not just me gushing how much fun I had. But as a result of AVCon, I honestly can’t remember what I added to Kana Quest leading up to it. So instead I’ll give a list of things I learnt from this weekend.

  1. Presentation is super important at these conventions.  All I had was an A2 poster behind me to tell people what my game was. My presentation was… lacking. But as a result of seeing my poor presentation I now have a really good idea of what I want for future events.  What I will want is a nice big poster that is as big as I can have it to catch people’s attention. But I also want one big screen for the game to be played on so that people walking by can see what the game is and what its like easily. However once I have my one big screen I will want several smaller tablets/laptops/phones running Kana Quest so that more than one or two people can play the game at once. Lastly I would like some small decorations to give my booth more personality. I’m thinking some nice print outs of the Kana tiles and a table cloth with stars on it would be great.
  2. My logo is not good enough. People who don’t know Hiragana didn’t know what my game was without me telling them. Thus a bunch of people would probably would have liked my game didn’t play it because they couldn’t tell what the game was about from the logo. This is a huge problem from a marketing perspective. I will have to change my logo a bit to fix this problem. And a smaller thing about my logo that I hadn’t noticed until someone pointed it out, the Na in my logo is drawn incorrectly. It’s not super obvious but its a small thing that needs to be fixed.
  3. The game is stable. Holy crap the game really is stable. I know that shouldn’t be a shock. But every time I have taken it to an IGDA meetup, at least one game breaking bug has been found. I’m guessing close to two hundred people played Kana Quest over the weekend and only 3 people found a major bug. They all found the same bug that when moving tiles in a certain way could cause the tiles to not move properly and thus cause a weird positioning error. Now of course I would prefer it if there were no bugs, but a bug that only three people found (one of whom was helping me exhibit) is a huge improvement.
  4. Tutorial still needs work. I knew this going into AVCon and its only been further confirmed after it. Now in fairness, the current tutorial is the best iteration yet as about 40% were able to play the game only using the tutorial and have a good idea of what was going on. But 40% is less than half. Better than it was (previous iterations had a 0% success rate). But less than half. Is. Not. Good. Enough. Thankfully some of the other devs who were there gave some good advice on how they would improve it.
  5. I’m on the right track. I know this one is really self congratulatory but I can’t help but feel as though I’m making really good progress. Kana Quest has had a total of fifteen playtests to date. And of those fifteen, from my perspective only the last three or four have been genuinely fun. I’ve been really worried that everyone would play it and just go “This is a cool idea, but its really just meh”. Instead I had people genuinely crestfallen that they finished the demo and couldn’t play more. I had people come back and play again, just so they could get gold medals on the levels they couldn’t get gold medals on. I had people upset they couldn’t pre-order the game from me. None of this would have happened four months ago when I started making Kana Quest full time. And it makes me so happy to think of how far I’ve come.

Anyway. Until next time!

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