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New name, mini-poster, and development update!

Posted: Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:55 pm
by CommanderData
Here we are, springtime just arrived! Unfortunately, I'm still way behind on the development of this game and I'm sure there's been some concern that maybe the whole idea had been forgotten. Fear not!

As mentioned in my "what's in a name thread" the game has been renamed:

Spirit Hunter Mineko: Demons Reach

Let me introduce you to Mineko: she's an average teenage girl, stubborn, short-tempered and rebellious, but with an insatiable curiosity and desire for adventure! Living in a secluded mountaintop village with her family, she finds many opportunities for exploration, spelunking, and sparring with tough monsters. Mineko is a Spirit Hunter, and has been training since childhood in the ways of channeling and manipulating her spirit to perform magical feats. Recognized as very advanced in skill for her age, it infuriates her to still be treated as a child by everyone in the village, especially by her older brother and her own mother!

One dark night a vicious storm kicks up, tearing through the valley below and whistling through the peaks that she calls home. Upon waking the next day, Mineko and every last member of the village are amazed to see that this was no ordinary storm! Down in the valley that previously contained nothing but dense forest, a huge castle has materialized... apparently from thin air! Its sinister appearance, as though an enormous evil hand was stretching out of the earth towards some unseen desire, immediately earns it the name "Demons Reach".

The village council decides that it would be best to send a scout into the valley to investigate, and choose Mineko's older brother for the task. Outraged at the possibility of missing out on the greatest adventure ever, she has some choice words for everyone... Unfortunately, this does not help her situation and she is ordered to remain behind, and then (the horror!) grounded and sent to her room!

Mineko is not one to sit back and take that lightly. Fortunately she's been sneaking out of the house regularly and going on adventures for *years* now. Grabbing a dagger and her trusty crossbow, she kicks back the rug next to her bed and reveals a trap door. Mineko grins... "let them try to stop me!"

Where did Demons Reach come from? Why is it here, and if things are as bad as it looks, what can you do to stop it? You'll be playing the role of Mineko as she tries to learn the answers to these questions, or die trying!


Re: New name, mini-poster, and development update!

Posted: Thu Mar 18, 2010 2:26 pm
by CommanderData
Yes, as hinted previously with some of my posts and teaser images, Spirit Hunter Mineko: Demons Reach (Maybe SHM:DR for short?) is a roguelike game with a storyline. I've been trying to craft it in such a way that it will not get in the way for those who prefer a more traditional dungeon crawl but provide a bit more meaning to your actions than simply "finding a trinket at the end of the dungeon". I think I'm on the right track! Story details will be withheld for now of course :lol:

The good news is that artwork (sprites and tiles) for the game are finally nearing completion, after months of work on that front! I expect to see the last of it turned in sometime in April. Music composition has begun, and a lot of neat ideas are being tossed around there. Sound effects are absolutely necessary in this game, and I hope to find a decent source to assist me with them in April as well. So the pieces are beginning to come together.

Some of the game concepts and magic system have been overhauled several times now, before any code was written thankfully! One of my goals for this game was to provide an experience that has roots in Rogue and other games, but with its own unique spin. A lot of popular dungeon crawlers now just throw down the same old equipment and put you in the situation: "oh I found a sword that does 3% more damage than my current one". That's pretty boring! Not to say that every single item in my game will be amazing and unique, but there will be more variations and trade offs to consider when using them. This should help satisfy the hunger for great strategic gameplay :D

About the programming... due to the major upgrade in experience I want to provide, I've had to spend some time re-thinking a lot of my assumptions and compromises made in the development of Rogue Touch. Different kinds of environments, multiple tilesets, and animation are a few new things to deal with. Can't use a simple rogue "3x3" dungeon generator anymore, so I've been working on new techniques for greater variety. Caves have turned out to be particularly interesting as anyone following me on Twitter may have seen.

To provide smooth motion and animation I've had to finally start learning OpenGL. There are many benefits and it will take me a while to grasp all of them. Even though I'm just scratching the surface I have been able to put together a little spelunking demo using OpenGL drawing, some simple character animations, and a test of some "line of sight" code. This hides areas you should not be able to see while walking around, and does it in a much more realistic manner than Rogue Touch used for visibility. Even though it is a rough test, I want to share this with everyone so you can see the humble beginnings:

Disclaimer: What you're looking at here is not representative of the final game, and nothing has been optimized. It is only a tech demo to show how some of the ideas (cave generation, smooth scrolling, animation, and line of sight calculations) blend together.

In the end, the game will have a look similar to the golden era of 16-bit gaming (SNES, Gameboy Advance, and Nintendo DS adventures are the inspiration here) with some splashy animations and particle effects included for good measure. People familiar with Shiren the Wanderer DS will feel right at home!

Now is a good time to mention: if you follow me on twitter, not only do you get more up to the minute info and images (many have been posted in the last two weeks), you also get to read about some of my adventures like the recent hurricane force storms in New England that trapped me without power for days! Go on, you know you want to :D

Re: New name, mini-poster, and development update!

Posted: Thu Mar 18, 2010 10:51 pm
by ejfarraro
This is looking really great, looking forward to the release :)

Re: New name, mini-poster, and development update!

Posted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 12:15 pm
by CommanderData
I have created a *very preliminary* sample of smooth shadow-casting, rather than the tile based "Line of Sight" used in the first tech demo. I'm torn between the retro-goodness of a good tile-based shader, and something more modern like this:

This is choppy because it was recorded in the simulator with a few hundred other things going on my iMac at the same time, but it'll give you an idea what I was trying to do. Anyone care to comment on the look and feel of something like this versus the initial method shown in my earlier post and video? :mrgreen:

Re: New name, mini-poster, and development update!

Posted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:15 pm
by plaidman
I think I like the oldschool feel of the original video better, but with a few improvements if you can implement them. I would soften the edges of the perimeter of the shadow so it's not so sharp. Also, as you move if you can fade the shadow in and out, instead of instantly changing that grid section when the character stops moving, that would make it look very nice.

If you end up going with the vector based shadows, make it so it's not opaque black, and soften up the edges, then it'll look nice.

Re: New name, mini-poster, and development update!

Posted: Thu Apr 08, 2010 9:25 am
by CommanderData
Development has been proceeding slowly since I had a trip for the "day job", but I am back on the trail this week. Some new graphical enhancements to the shadow casting system have been made! Please remember that this is a very preliminary look, and everything is subject to change and tweaks:

What we have here is a smoother lighting system, creating a very dark and spooky looking cave! The bright light around Mineko is basically a lantern or torch effect, I'd like to make it blend a bit more but it creates a cool way to see what's in your immediate area more brightly. Shiren the Wanderer on the Nintendo DS used a similar light-circle and just dimmed the dungeon beyond the circle to the same brightness level, but I decided a smooth drop off of light and all the great shadows looks even better :D

Still, this is rough around the edges, needs smoothly blended shadow/light borders (the "penumbra") and other stuff. I barely know enough in OpenGL to be dangerous, so if I learn a bit more these tricks will hopefully fall into place :lol:

Also of note: a new control scheme test- in the video I am using an "analog anywhere" stick / "swipe to move" control method. It's very tough to control with the mouse in the simulator for this recording, but it plays much nicer on the iPhone! So I think we're looking at three different control schemes to please nearly everyone:

1) Rogue Touch - Classic controls - Tapping the edges of the screen to move in the appropriate direction, with double-tap support for fast running actions. Hallway following will be in place but it will not be as useful in the caves as it is in more "man-made" structures like dungeons and castles.

2) D-pad - On screen D-pad just like RT, can tap in the direction, or keep your thumb down and slide it around for movement. Double tap is supported here for those who like it too.

3) Analog-anywhere / swipe - Will end up being much like the video. Sword of Fargoal is played much like this. It might be a bit floaty for a turn based roguelike, but hopefully I can balance it into an excellent choice for those who like it :D

Does this list sound reasonable to everyone? Any other control options you'd like to see? In addition to these methods, there will be a few buttons provided for actions like Resting and Accessing your player info/inventory, and at least one smart-button that changes based on the context. It could allow you to go down stairs, open a chest, etc.

Please let me know what you all think!

Re: New name, mini-poster, and development update!

Posted: Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:46 am
by johndramey
Sorry, just got done with a really busy month of work. Saving money is really lame. Anyways, I'll read up more and let you know more later, but as it is now I gotta say the latest video is really impressive. Good work! I look forward to playing this whenever it comes out!

Re: New name, mini-poster, and development update!

Posted: Fri Apr 09, 2010 3:59 pm
by CommanderData
johndramey wrote:Sorry, just got done with a really busy month of work. Saving money is really lame. Anyways, I'll read up more and let you know more later, but as it is now I gotta say the latest video is really impressive. Good work! I look forward to playing this whenever it comes out!
Good to see you! Tried to chat with you a while back, but got no response... We can catch up sometime soon. In the meantime, you narrowly missed out on an EVEN BETTER video. Just went live in youtube, will be posting details here shortly :lol:

Re: New name, mini-poster, and development update!

Posted: Fri Apr 09, 2010 4:06 pm
by CommanderData
(If you've read my Friday afternoon, April 9th, post on TA this may seem familiar, because it's the same info ;) )

Wow, here we are at the end of the week already... Some amazing gains have been made since Wednesday on visuals for Spirit Hunter Mineko! Before moving forward I had to step back and look at what I had to work with. Played with all the variations of my Line-Of-Sight / Shadow Casting that I've come up with so far on the iPhone and simulator. There were parts of each one that I liked, but none of them was good enough on its own.

After that the path became more clear. I was able to take good attributes from multiple tech demos that I've coded up and add even more math to the mix, creating the best dark, creepy, cave-dungeon experience yet! Here's the latest video:

This continues testing of my "analog-anywhere / swipe" controls, but adds so much more visually to things: Not only are the shadows smoothly animated- as a bonus I have multiple light sources now! Still no "penumbra" on them, but I am not sure it'll be necessary. Note that the shadows are ALWAYS drawn from Mineko's perspective, and I'm going to keep it that way. This is not meant to be a perfect simulation, but a demo of a low CPU usage dungeon crawling engine. The shadows are used to create atmosphere and the element of surprise, not photo-realism :mrgreen:

The video is a bit odd looking in youtube on my iMac, some of the light edges and fades are uglier than they are live on my iPhone. Chalk that up to compression artifacts and different screen brightnesses I guess. :P

Final notes:
This is one un-edited chunk of play-time in the simulator. The analog-anywhere is not as easy to use with a mouse so I apologize for the wonky walk through. Since it's unedited you'll be glad to know that new dungeons are generated in a split second (the instant the screen fades out around 0:30 a new cave floor is made and immediately fades in). It is just as fast on the device, which I'm very happy with!

The icing on the cake with this re-write is I've cut my CPU usage in HALF now, even though it is looking better than ever! It's never going to be as battery friendly as Rogue Touch (which used almost no CPU when not actively moving around) but it should be pretty darn good.

Please compare this to my previous tech demos and give me your feedback... musssttt... have... feedback... :lol:

Re: New name, mini-poster, and development update!

Posted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 3:56 am
by osiris37
Wow CD that's looking really nice, although I have a nostalgic fondness for the Nes like scrolling from your first tech demos, this one adds a hell of lot more 'creepy' atmosphere, and I thing would actually have more of a motivating pull to find the next exit as you feel something could be lurking in the darkness to grab you...

Great work as always :D