Archives for posts with tag: KanaQuest

Hi all,

It’s the second Saturday of the month which means its time for a now Kana Quest Devblog! Last time I said we were going to unpack several choice levels from the game, and what makes them good levels. And that’s exactly what we are gonna do. So

Now if you’re new here, Kana Quest is a cross between dominoes and a match-3 game that teaches you to read Japanese. You match sounds between letters, and when all letters are connected the level is complete.

GoodLevel1.png

This is the fourth level in Kana Quest and is the first level that consistently stumps players. Up to this point levels have been made to get the player used to moving Kana around, and understanding that stone Kana can’t move. This is the first level that actually tests the player’s understanding of how Kana match. So, how is this achieved? It is achieved by asking the player two simple questions; “In what order do the three movable letters need to be in so they all match?” and “Now that I have the order of the three movable Kana, how do I position them so that the one stone Kana also matches?”. These might seem like very simple questions, but there are a few factors that make them a lot harder than you might suspect. The first thing is that, this is the first time the player has had to order 3 Kana. Second is that all of the Kana have been deliberately placed so that the player has no matches, this means they are effectively starting from scratch. Thirdly the number of potential configurations is way higher than all levels up to this point. Finally, because the stone Kana is placed in the centre of the board, it means there are a total of 4 different correct solutions. But it doesn’t guide the player to any of those solutions in of its self. This forces the player to pay attention to the sounds of each Kana, and use that information to solve the level. Not use the shape of the level to tell them the solution. This is not to say that using the shape of the level to guide the player is a bad thing. It usually is a great thing to do, especially for more complex levels. But the purpose of this level is to test the player’s understanding of how Kana match.

 

GoodLevel2

The next level I want to look at is the final level of world 3. So where the previous level was testing the players understanding of how kana match, this level is testing the players understanding of one directional kana. One directional kana, are a lot of fun to play with because of how the restrict the number of potential arrangements of the kana. This is useful because it can be used to signal to the player the shape of the solution.

This level is set up so that there are only 5 possible positions for each row that could be the correct position. This helps the player start with a very strong sense of how to solve the level. But there are two curve balls in this level. The first is the one normal Kana (の) at the top of the level. Because this kana could potentially go anywhere in the level, the player has figure out how to best utilise it. The second is the one directional す on the right of the level. This says to the player that one of the three rows to the left of it need to be all the way over to the right, but you need to figure out which it is. When these two elements are mixed with each other they create an ideal puzzle. A puzzle where the player has a strong idea of their goal, but they still have to work for it. One last small detail from this level that I like is the blank one directional kana. These serve to prevent the player from trying red herring solutions. Red herring solutions are fine to have, but each red herring still needs to lead the player towards the solution. If a red herring just leads the player down the wrong path and leaves them at a dead end, you need to get rid of it, as it will only aggravate your player.

 

GoodLevel3.png

So for the last level that I want to talk about today is from the ninth world. If the first is an example of a good introductory level, and the second was a good intermediate level. This is a good hard level. So what makes this a good hard level? Well, honestly the same thing that’s made the previous two good; You know what your goal is, but you don’t know how to get there. This level achieves this with the り in the centre of the level. Because it is central, and it cannot move because it is a stone kana, the first thing the player will do is look for the other kana that match with it. In this level there is the transform kana (the rainbow coloured one), the ice ろ, and the paralysis ひ. The paralysis ひ has to end up to the right of the り because it can only be moved once before turning to stone. This leaves three spots left for the ice ろ. This puts the player on a strong starting direction for the level. But the thing that makes this level so challenging is that because of how ice, paralysis and one direction kana work, if the player makes moves carelessly they will trap themselves and be unable to complete the level. Once again, the needed end state is easy to determine, but how to get there is the challenge. The only real difference between these three levels is that they make the “how to get there” part more complicated.

Anyway, that’s the Devblog for this month. Hope you enjoyed. I’ll be back next month on the second Saturday of the month. I haven’t figured out what the topic is gonna be, but ill figure something out. Until then, take care!

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Hi all, its another month and that means its time for another Kana Quest DevBlog!!

Like last month I have just been working on levels. But the big difference between this month and last month is that I am now SO CLOSE to finishing all the levels in the game! There are 13 worlds in a Kana Quest, I have finished making levels for 11/13, and the 12th world is more than two thirds complete. So we are in the home stretch here folks.

At this point I have had a chance to work with all the mechanics in the game and I thought it would be fun to talk about each in depth about the positive and negative elements of each.

mystery

And oh how the mighty have fallen. This is a Mystery Kana, and they were the first mechanic I made for Kana Quest, and I was so proud of it at the time. And I still think its a valuable thing to have in the game, but the more I used it the more utterly irritated I got when I play-tested any level with them in it. So why did I make them? Why are they important? And why are they so irritating? So I made Mystery Kana because I was having a very specific problem, players weren’t flipping over the Kana to learn the pronunciation to complete the levels in the first world. This is problematic because it would render the entire function of Kana Quest meaningless. So I needed a way to effectively force the player to look at them. Mystery Kana do that very well. They just also irritate the player at the same time. The way these things work is they cannot move, but can match. The player needs to keep track of what each Mystery Kana, does and does not match with. Then using that information, figuring out what the Kana’s true identity is. The biggest problem with Mystery Kana is they just simply break the flow of the game and force you make non optimal moves to figure them out, and then you can complete the level. The end result is they start to become a nuisance after a while, and its for this reason they get phased out after world 4.

OneD

The One Directional Kana have been a solid work horse throughout development. There are so many things about this mechanic that are excellent from a designer’s perspective. 1st is they are easy to understand from a player’s perspective. The arrow shows you what they do; they only move in one direction. 2nd is they have a huge amount of design space. Design Space is a design term for talking about how many different interesting configurations a mechanic can be used in. And these Kana allow for so many interesting levels to be made. I am still finding new and interesting ways to use these things even in the 12th world. They are also very flexible in how they can be used. If you want to build an entire level around them, you can and it will probably be a really fun level. But you can also just throw one of these into a level to help guide the player towards the solution. I suspect once I have finished making levels, and I’m in the polishing stage I will end up adding a lot of One Directional Kana for this exact reason. What’s more is they also have interesting interactions with basically every other mechanic. The only complaint I have against them is they can be very punishing of mistakes. The reason for this is if you move one spot too far and then make a bunch of other moves, you end up spamming the undo button more than is ideal.

IceDemo

The fourth world’s mechanic is the Ice Kana. These Kana will keep sliding in the direction you move them until they make an invalid move. These Kana are a good mechanic, but no where near as easy to work with as the One Directional Kana. They have a large amount of design space, they have interesting interactions with most other mechanics, and they can make some very fun levels. But the problem is that you can’t just through one of these into a level. Even if the Ice Kana is supposed to be a minor element to a level, you have to build the entire level around the Ice Kana to accommodate it.  This is not a bad thing as it allows you to create a nice change of pace for the player at points, its just something that needs to be treated with care. Another small problem is they tend to demand levels be a fair bit larger than a similar level without them would be. Other than that, I think Ice Kana are great.

SlimeKana

The Slime Kana are another mechanic in a similar vein of the Mystery Kana as they both play around the sound matching aspect of the game. And so what they do is they will change the vowel sound of any kana you use them with. However unlike the Mystery Kana, these do not get highly irritating after a while. The main reason for this is that they often feel like they are helping you, rather than getting in your way. And because of this is they can just be plugged into a bunch of levels to add a little bit extra. But the biggest weakness of them is that they struggle being the core element of a level. Where the Ice Kana can’t help but be a diva, the Slime Kana struggle with it. Another problem with the Slime Kana is that because the Kana that appear on them can only be Slime Kana it does mean that the Kana on them just get seen less than every other Kana. But the gameplay of them is still solid enough that I made two variants of them.

 

GhostKana

This is a Ghost Kana. Ghost Kana, cannot move and cannot match. But they will come back from the dead once the player has made a group of Kana equal or greater than the number on their head. This is a tricky mechanic. And honestly they represent the biggest disparity between what its like to work with them, compared to what its like to play with them. Because playing with them is honestly pretty good. They make interesting scenarios, and force you to think about the level in a different way. But from a designer’s perspective these things are so hard to work with. You have to engineer levels so carefully around these to make them fun for the player. They have very limited amounts of design space too, so I honestly struggled to finish the world where these were introduced. And what’s worse there are some mechanics that this straight up does not work with.

YaSlimeKana

So this is the first of two Slime Kana variants. This is a Blue Slime Kana. Blue Slime Kana are different because they only ever attach to Kana that end with an “i” sound… and they add an additional vowel to match with rather than completely changing the vowel. This is because of an actual function in Japanese. See Blue Slimes can only have the following letters や/ゆ/よ. And these letters can attach to other letters to make slurred sounds. For example き(ki)+や(ya) = きゃ(kya). So きゃ will match with “i” ending kana, “a” ending kana and “k” starting kana. This makes the mechanic quite satisfying for the player to use because it opens more doors for them than regular Slime Kana do. And its for this reason that they can be a bit frustrating to design around as a game designer. Another problem with them is they have to attach to a kana that ends with an “i”. This over the course of the game makes “i” ending kana being over represented in comparison to other kana. Whats more is that often you have to design levels in which fully utilise the multiple vowel sounds. But this often leads to further exacerbating the over represented “i” problem. But other than these issues, these kana have all the strengths of regular slime kana. And they allow me to illustrate an important part of reading Japanese.

Paralysis These are the Paralysis Kana. They can be moved once… but after that they turn to stone and cannot be moved. These are probably my second most useful mechanic, just after One Directional Kana. They allow for interesting level design, and they have a good amount of design space to them. Not quite as much as One Directional Kana, but still a large amount. They are also very easy to understand what they do. And they can be the focus of a level, or be used as a back up element. The biggest problem that they have though is they have a hard cap on how difficult they can make a level. This isn’t a bad thing as it does mean it’s basically impossible to make a level that is too difficult with these but it does make them a bit more restrictive as one might like in later levels.

Transform

Transform Kana are pretty straight forward. Then can become any Kana, but they can only be one Kana at a time. This mechanic probably has the least frills of any of my mechanics, and you what that’s ok. It works just fine. They ask a simple question of the player, and that question is “where am I needed, and what do I need to be?”. So the trick to designing around these Kana is making sure there is a spot that can only be connected with a Transform Kana. Which is fine as long as one is careful with the other Kana that are used within the level. If you aren’t careful the player will just plop the transform kana anywhere and not have to think at all. They also suffer the same problem that Slime Kana face in that they struggle to be the focus of a level, but they do slot into lots of levels pretty easily.

MaruKana

Here is the final Slime Kana variant. And this is yet another instance of me basing a mechanic off an actual function in Japanese. There are small added strokes called “tenten” and “maru” for Hirgana and Katakana. These will change the consonant of the letter they are attached to. In the game this often is something that is a disadvantage, not an advantage like the other two Slime Kana. Because of this you cannot finish a level if there are any Purple Slime Kana left in play. This forces the player to find the part of the level that can accommodate losing its consonant sound. Basically everything that applies to the first two applies to this one.

  DickheadKana

This is an “n”. Because they don’t share a consonant or a vowel with any other Kana they cannot match like a normal Kana. So I decided to make them the Unfriendly Kana that all other Kana hate. So for as long as an “n” is in the level, you cannot complete it. So how do you get rid of an “n”? You dump them into a rubbish bin. Which looks like this.

Bin

Once an “n” is moved into a rubbish bin both are removed from play, and the spots they occupied become empty spaces on the board. This mechanic requires a fair bit of set up to get working, but once you set up a level to accommodate them its a solid mechanic that has a solid amount of design space. One unique problem with this mechanic is using effectively uses up twice the amount of space that a regular Kana would. Because of this levels with this mechanic tend to look very cluttered and can be a bit difficult to process. Outside these problems they are a solid mechanic that just needs a bit of preparation to make work.

 

Finally we have Kana Sliders. The art for these is still under way, but what these do is they move every Kana in a row or column down one spot as long as there is an empty spot on the board in that direction. This is a very easy mechanic to design around and offers a lot of design space that had not been available for me for most of the game. Because Kana Sliders care about empty space, it allows them to interact with Slime Kana and Unfriendly Kana that no other mechanic has been able to do so far. The biggest problem with them however is they tend to make levels with ridiculous amount of moves required to complete them. There are levels that require more than 70 moves to complete with this mechanic. This can be problematic especially if the player makes a mistake early on as they will be punished especially hard for that error. Other than that issue, I love working with Kana Sliders.

And with that this weeks Kana Quest Devblog comes to a close. Next time I think I’ll pick out a handful of choice levels, analyse them, talk about how I made them, and talk about why I think they are special.

Hi all and welcome back to the Kana Quest devblog!

This last month was a busy month for Kana Quest development because for the first time, we’ve had to deliver to an “official” deadline. There have been unofficial deadlines before, like PAX and AVCon last year, but those deadlines were a bit fuzzier. They were more “make sure your game is in a presentable state by this time” sort of a deal. This deadline was much more concrete.

So what was this deadline? Well as a part of receiving funding from Film Victoria I have to complete milestone reports to prove to them that their money is being well spent and that I am on track to completion. For this milestone I said I would have the game’s art complete, and the game’s mechanics complete. And… we got there. All that remains at this point in time is bug fixing, level design, tutorials and balancing. That’s actually still quite a lot of things but lets not focus on that. Let’s focus on fun stuff. Like the full list of all the different kinds of Kana in the game!

STONE KANA: These poor kana have been turned to stone, and thus cannot move.

CtStoneHa

 

MYSTERY KANA: Look at these shifty looking Kana. They’re hiding something… Oh wait they’re hiding their true face! Pay attention to what they do and do not match with to discover their true identity.

mystery

 

ONE DIRECTION KANA: These Kana can only be moved in one direction. They have a big arrow on their head showing which way that is.

OneD

 

ICE KANA: These Kana have been encased in super slippery ice. They will keep moving until they can’t. Getting them to go where you want can be challenging.

IceDemo

 

GHOST KANA: These kana have lingering regrets. Mostly not wanting to pass onto the other side. But that’s no problem, you can bring them back to life if there’s enough friendship to go around. Make a chain of Kana the length of the number on a Ghost Kana’s head and they’ll come back!

GhostKana.gif

 

SLIME KANA: These gooey Kana don’t like to make friends. But they do like helping other Kana! Attach one of these Kana to any other to change their vowel sound!

SlimeKana

PARALYSIS KANA: These Kana are sick! You can move them once before they turn to stone!

Paralysis

 

BLUE SLIME KANA: These Slime Kana are a bit picky in which Kana they help. They will only help Kana with an “i” sound. But once they are attached the affected Kana will have two different vowels to match with other Kana. This mimics how the “y” sounding letters in Japanese attach to “i” ending kana to create blended sounds.

Eg. (yo) よ + (ki) き = (kyo)きょ (as in Tokyo)

YaSlimeKana

 

SHAPE-SHIFTER KANA: These Kana can become anything! Whatever you need them to be, they can be it!

Transform

 

EVIL SLIME KANA: These Slime Kana nice like the others. They are angry and will stop you from completing a level unless they are attached to another Kana. But they make it harder for you to match with other Kana. This mimics the tenten and maru symbols in Japanese. You attach these symbols to letters to change the consonant. E.g. a (ta) た becomes a だ when you attach those two dots called tenten to it.

MaruKana

 

JERK KANA: This kana is called “n”. “n” for “n”obody likes them, because they are a jerk. They’re mean, they call the other kana names. They are so unpleasant that other kana cannot be happy if there is one near them. Fortunately there is a way to get rid of them. Move a jerk kana into this little portal thing and they will GO AWAY. Where do they go? Don’t worry about it.

 

And that is all the Kana! Its been a long road getting all of these in the game, and I can’t wait for you to figure out all the puzzles they are going to make.

Anyway, I’ll see you in the new year! Have a happy and safe holiday season, and from me and the Kana “明けましておめでとう” (Happy new year in Japanese)trailerWIP2

 

Hi all, this week I finished illustrating the art for World 7 in Kana Quest. And I’m pretty pleased with the end result. So I thought I would go through each of the “work in progress” images and talk about the things I did.

World7Wip

So here we have stage one. I wanted this world to be based around yellows and reds but then balancing it with light blues as the contrast colours. I also try to centre each world around something different, and I hadn’t done Japanese shops yet so I started with the central theme of the world from there. A couple of small details I put in here is the convenience store says Konbi 2. The word for 2 in Japanese is “ni” and “konbi” doesn’t actually mean anything. But if you add them together to make “konbini”, you get the word for convenience store. And on the billboard above, it says “Wayward Strand Coming 2019”, along with a QR Code to their website. I’m putting in a reference to this game because the Art Director (Goldie Bartlett @GhostTownGoldie) helped me out a bunch when I first started working on Kana Quest, and I wanted to acknowledge the help she gave me beyond the credits. The final little detail here is the drive through restaurant is called Zukina and is blatantly ripping off Sukiya a popular Donburi chain in Japan.

 

World7Wip2

Here’s the next stage. The biggest change here is the massive change of the colour pallet. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to have the yellows and blues contrasting, but the yellows I was previously using were too green, and thus they ended being complimentary with the blue. So I redid the pallet, grounding the shading with a nice warm purple which gives everything a beautiful looking away from a sunset sorta feel. Apart from a couple of small alterations these colours stayed the same until the end. And I feel as though, you should be fine with deciding to change your colour pallet if the current one isn’t working. Every time I’ve done so has resulted in much more striking scenes. Of course if you have too many colours doing so might be a bit tricky, so maybe stick to a few colours to start  with, then change them as needed until you are happy and then use as many intermediary colours as you like.

 

World7Wip3

Once I was happy with the foreground shops, and colour pallet I moved onto making the background buildings. I have a fair bit of trouble with things that are not in the foreground because you need include less detail, but because it’s pixel art, you need enough detail to properly convey what it is. And to be honest I don’t think I’ve mastered this yet. I probably included too much detail on these background buildings. Also a small quirk about how I make these scenes, because each layer is parallaxing (foreground layers scroll faster than background layers) I have to make sure that the art for the background buildings extends to the lowest point in the foreground shops, otherwise there will holes. But the result is a bunch of artwork that just isn’t seen 80% of the time.

 

World7Wip4

Next up was completing the shading on the background buildings. There’s not a whole lot to say about this stage, its just a slightly more developed version of the previous image. Except that in this one, I’ve repeated the background buildings so they take up the whole screen. I do this to get a better idea of how it will look in game.

 

World7Wip5

Next up is the foreground. This is the first time I’ve had an actual person in the foreground. I had people in the stalls in World 5 and some students in World 6. But noting this front and centre. The main reason is lack of courage. I started learning pixel art specifically for Kana Quest. But I finally stopped putting it off and did it. My process was as follows. Create a rough sketch of the outline of the character. Then clean up the lines so everything looks nice and neat. Then block in large areas of colour going over the previously created line art. Finally add in small areas of shading and detailing.

 

World7Wip6

Last one! There are only two main changes here. Firstly I finished the sky to have the same dither effect used in all the other worlds, and then I gave my young boy a baseball cap. What team is it for you ask? Why, it’s a cap for the Hanshin Tigers: the team of choice in my area of Japan. I decided to give him the cap because he looked like a kid who’s a part of the baseball club at school, and thus would totally be all about his local team.

Fun fact about the Hanshin Tigers, they haven’t won in decades and its all because they got cursed by Colonel Sanders. And no, I’m not making this up. When they last won the championship, their supporters threw a Colonel Sanders statue into the river next to the stadium. Why? Because they thought it would be fun to find lookalikes of team members in the crowd, and then throwing them in the river in celebration. But the Hanshin Tigers had one American player. And they couldn’t find another westerner, so they just threw in a Colonel Sanders statue in instead of a fan. But the following years they went from being the champions to 18 years of ending in last or second last place. So years later they went in and pulled up the statue. But they only found the top half, and the Colonel’s hand was missing. But their performance improved a bit. So a few years later they went looking for the other half, and found it. Once again the team’s performance improved again. And they were now one of the better teams but they kept getting unlucky losses towards the end of the season. So there is a huge bounty on finding the missing left hand, but alas they are yet to find it. The found parts of the statue actually now rest inside KFC Japan’s headquarters.

1200px-Curse_of_the_Colonel_DSCN7774_20090921

Look upon the destroyer of Hanshin Tiger’s fan’s hopes and dreams.

 

Anyway, that’s all I got for this week. Until next time take care and have a great week!

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!

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!

 

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.

Hi, sorry for missing last week’s devblog. Was just working on stuff that wasn’t very interesting to show off, so I decided to leave it be. But this week we have some fun stuff to look at!

First up is World 3 is in the game!World3Animated.gifWell, at least the art assets are in the game. Getting the art in can be a bit arduous. First thing I have to do is position all the sprites so that they line up with the previous world’s sprites, then I have to create a new parallax manager for this world. All this does is it manages the different layers and makes sure they move the right amount. Then I have enter in all the sprites into the correct layer and set the movement modifier for each layer. Its just one of those things that isn’t complicated but just takes more time than you think.

Speaking of things that aren’t complicated but are time consuming: Pallet Swapping. So something I do for each world is I create new color variations on my UI. This is so my UI matches the color of whatever world the player is in.

This is not a complex task, but boy is it ever mundane. Open file, select color, replace color with new color, repeat for remaining colors, save, repeat for the next 80 something UI elements. Doing all the UI recolors took me about 75% of a full day to finish. The evening that I finished doing them I was talking to a friend and realized that if it took me most of a day to do the recolors if I had to repeat that process 15-20 more times that would take up most of a month to do. Not great. So I had an idea, I’m going to spend a day or two making a unity plugin that automates the process for me. You just give Unity all the files you want it to modify, each of the colors in the original sprite, each of the new replacement colors, where everything should be saved, and what naming convention it should apply. And when all is said and done I should even be able to sell it on the Unity Asset Store for a buck or two.

Finally I got the bare-bones of the next mechanic into the game. OneDirectionTilesVer1GIF

These are One Direction Kana. They can only move in one direction… also they love Harry Styles. They are “functionally” complete in that you can’t make any invalid moves with them but the game currently lets drag the Kana in the direction of an invalid move, it just then pops it back to where it began because it was an invalid move. I’m also not completely sold on the visuals of the mechanic yet, but hey its a placeholder so it will change soon enough. Anyway I decided to make this mechanic the next mechanic because its a pretty simple mechanic for the player, and it doesn’t have a requirement of learning more Kana to make the mechanic work (unlike the Mystery Kana). This is important as the start of Kana Quest has a really high learning curve, and I need to give the player a breather and some time to revise the Kana they’ve seen.

So before I head off, next week (23rd/24th) will be the LAST Dev Blog for 2017 (as the following Saturday will be my birthday and the day after that is new year’s). So what we’re going to do is, take a look at what’s changed with Kana Quest since I’ve been working on it full time. Just to see how far we’ve come.

Anyway, until then, Have a great weekend and Happy Holidays!

Good morning all. Sorry I missed last week. I was mostly still working on the new logo still and I didn’t want to publish the final finished version until I had bought my trademark for it.

But this week I’ve started work on the next world for Kana Quest. w3WIP2

So this week we are gonna look at some of the techniques I use when making these background, the way I set these things out and the inspiration for this one.

So right off the bat you will notice the biiig blank space in the second half of the picture. why is that there and what am I using it for? Well the backgrounds in Kana Quest have to repeat seamlessly. But they also have to transition nicely from the previous world. So what I’ve done here is I’ve drawn the connective tissue first but leaving a lot of room in the document so I can then draw the repeating part of the art.

Another thing about the setup of this image that you cannot see is the layer structure. Because the backgrounds will be parralaxing I need to choose what part of the background goes on which layer. And then work from the furthest back to the closest. The reason I do this is so that if there are any variations in a foreground layer’s height I can make sure the background layers still have stuff there so we don’t get a big gaping hole.

So now onto the techniques I use to make this a lot faster than hand placing every pixel. Whenever you are doing dithering (the process of creating a dot pattern to create the illusion of shading) in photoshop the paint bucket is your best fried. Let’s say we were going to make a bunch of autumn trees like in the background.

pixelart demo1

The first thing we would do is jut get some flat base colors like this. Looks pretty nasty right? But once we add some shading everything will look great. The only problem is no one wants to sit around and place all those pixels by hand.  So what we are going to do is select the areas we want shaded and use the hue saturation adjustment layer to alter those selected areas. Then we fiddle around till we have a shading color that we like. And we get this.

pixelart demo2

Then we will make a selection were we want the “in-between” of the two tones to be. I like to select the shade color with the magic wand and go to Select –> Modify –> Expand and expand an appropriate amount.

Then once we have that selection I go to my paint bucket and switch the mode from Foreground to Pattern. Also make sure you define a dither pattern beforehand (this is done in basically the same way you define a new paintbrush). Then just fill with your bucket and it will look like…. trash. But that’s ok.

Untitled-1

What we are going to do with this is use it to create a selection that will allow us to immediately fill up the black pixels with the chosen shade color and then delete the white pixels leaving us with a perfect dither pattern. Like so.

pixelart demo4

This is great because we get to have dithering in our piece without having to do any of the laborious pixel by pixel shading. Then for the final step we just repeat the previous steps for the highlights and we get this.

pixelart demo5

Seeing as these are supposed to be trees I would recommend adding some irregularity to the shading. But adding that is much faster when you have a good guide ready to go.

Finally I’m going to talk about the inspiration for the art for world three.

I wanted the first four worlds to follow a full year season cycle to begin with. The world one starts with spring and the world two is summer, so world three is of course autumn. What this means for the art is there needed to have Japan’s stunning autumn colors on display. But I also wanted to shift the perspective of the art. Spring and summer are both warm and optimistic times. Autumn is a shift, so while the color pallet is still very warm but I wanted it to be more introspective by bringing the focus to the foreground. As a result I have the brilliant red of the Japanese Maple trees the closest thing to the player. This way when we transition to world four when the mise en scene is even more cramped it wont be as much of a visual jump.

Anyway, there is still a lot of work to be done on the background before it’s finished but I’m sure I’ll get to show you the finished thing soon!

Till then, take care and have a great day!