Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Reallusion Character Creator

Taking a break from Project Merfolk, I decided to do more preproduction level work.  One thing about Project Merfolk I didn't really establish was a good character pipeline.  I was using Mixamo Fuse, which I liked for character creation, but I was having a few issues:
  • After its acquisition by Adobe, the Steam version of Fuse seemed abandoned; I'm not a fan of Adobe Cloud and didn't want Adobe Fuse -- the next iteration of Mixamo Fuse.
  • The amount of customization, though strong, left a lot to be desired at times.
  • Exporting a character to the website to download your auto-rigged Fuse model, though great, was also a bit slow at times and a paranoid part of me is always nervous when they'll shutdown that server.
Anyway, for those reasons, I wanted to try and find a different character creator.  I stumbled upon Reallusion's Character Creator (CC), an extension of their iClone product:

From their website.  I get what they are going for, but still, a bit creepy, right?

There were a couple of things I liked based on the preview and a quick trail period:
  • A lot more selection and variety for morphs
  • The ability to easily make new morphs
  • Exported characters are auto-rigged with facial blendshapes AND twist bones
So after downloading the trail -- and eventually purchasing it -- here are my notes of pros and cons

Pro:  Lots of Different Morphs (but could be more flexible)

Like I said earlier, there are a lot of different morphs and there are even more that you can purchase -- which I did.  The only thing that annoys me is that every morph is limited to 0 and 100.  I've used similar programs where these limits don't exist; however, I think this is done so that other parts of the program, such as clothing and auto-rigging, are more stable.

You don't have to go to ZBrush, but it's probably easier to edit in there than some programs.

Con:  The controls are TERRIBLE!

Admittedly, I am a bit spoiled (or used to rather) by 3DS Max's controls, so the controls for the Character Creator were a bit foreign to me at start, or at least I haven't gotten used to them.  For example, the camera controls are:

Z:  Pan Camera
X:  Enter Camera
C:  Rotate Camera

To my knowledge, there isn't a way to edit these either, which is rather irritating.  Also, there's only one viewport, so you have to switch to the camera view to see your character from all angles.

Pro:  Nice character models

Now, every character creator I've ever used always has a certain "look" to their characters something that makes them seem cheap and easily recognized, similar to when people are like "Oh, this is obviously a Unity game".  In my opinion, similar to when buying an asset of any kind, you shouldn't just USE the character you get directly from the creator if you want to avoid this; however, I feel like this CC can definitely get you a look closer so you don't have to do this.
For example, if you want characters to have more expressive or larger eyes, there's probably a morph that exist for this, OR you can make your own that achieves this.
Also, since they use Allegorthmic Substance materials, you can customize a variety of textures for your characters by just tweaking a few sliders and substituting a few maps.

Pro:  Good rigs -- though a bit advance

The rigs you get when you export a character are pretty good and they import nicely into Unity3D -- though the thumb and index fingers get mixed up when setting up a humanoid avatar.  They have arm and leg twist bones -- something Mixamo Fuse does not have -- though animations on these bones won't export automatically if you are Humanoid avatar rig in Unity, but I'm sure a script could be made to treat them similarly to 3DS Max's biped twisting bones.
Unfortunately, they do not have facial bone rigs -- unless there is a setting for this I missed -- but they do have blendshapes for various expressions.  The reason I say setting is that the rigs export with a bunch of dummy objects that would indicate that facial rigging does exist.
In addition, I only have to export to a propriety program instead of a proprietary site like Mixamo to get and use my rigs.

Con:  Meshes are a bit heavy

In addition to having a lot of bones in the rigs, upon export, the average character -- depending on how much clothing you dress it in, is about 50K triangles.  If you are making a console or high-end PC game or a game with few characters on screen at any given time, this is probably fine and can be fixed with LOD meshes or retopologizing.
In addition, there are a LOT of texture maps generate with each character, for example, there is a separate texture created for a character's nails and teeth as opposed to combining them.  This may be parameter that can be adjusted similar to Fuse, but I haven't found it yet.

Con:  Little clothing and hair to choose from

This was a problem in Fuse too, but there are few pieces of clothing to choose from and even less hair, and, unlike Fuse, there doesn't seem to be a pipeline for creating your own clothing.  I can understand why as there is probably lot more setup to clothing besides just modeling it.  I do, however, think there are plans to add this feature eventually.
Here is some clothing available from start (with the essential bundle):
  • Shirt
  • Tanktop
  • Jeans
  • Joggers
  • Skirts
  • Blazer
  • Sneakers
  • Boots
  • Sandals
  • Heels
And with the use of procedural materials, you can create a huge variety of outfits with little modeling effort.

Undecided:  Requires / Comes with iClone

So CC is really an extension of another tool known as iClone, which is for 3D animation.  From what I gather, it's does everything that 3DS Max's biped or Unity's human avatar does.  Every character has a standard rig and then you import animations into the engine.  
It has control issues similar to CC and it doesn't really seem to be intended for animating IN rather than using mocap or premade animations and adjusting them for your characters a bit -- blending, putting on multiple rigs, etc.  The package I obtained does include a tool for capturing mocap from a Kinect; however, I haven't tested this out yet; as I have yet to purchase the connector needed to hook a Kinect to my PC.

Con:  Relatively Expensive

No one likes talking money, and CC is free as part of a trial to iClone, but to export a character created in CC, you have to purchase an iClone license.  Though perpetual, it's rather expensive, about $700 -- and this is a sales price that I think ends soon.  In addition, the special morphs were another $150.  I was cautious, but I ultimately feel this was a worthwhile purchase as 3D character work like this is something I want to utilize in my future work.  This is what I got:
  • iClone
  • 3D Exchange (tool used to go between iClone and other programs)
  • Character Creator
    • Essential Clothing and Morph Bundles
    • 100 Reference Heads
  • Kinect Mocap Plugin
So in summary, despite the price, I think CC was (or will be) a worthwhile investment.  It seems the product will continue to improve and advance and, since I like making character-focused games such as fighters that focus on characters models, it fits my needs.  I am a bit disappointed that iClone seems to do things that 3DS Max already does.  In addition, I still need a way to either edit or make unique clothing, which brings my to my next point:

Marvelous Designer

I posted about CC awhile ago, and someone brought up this program, which I had forgotten about actually.  It's essentially a much better version of 3DS Max's Garment Maker -- more stable, easier to use, etc.  The issue is, despite it being easier, it requires precision and a rather good knowledge of actual clothing design and pattern making.  It's neat, but I'm unsure if it's actually useful for what I do, and with the clothing CC already provides, could I just apply a morph or a simple fix to the clothing I already have instead of making my own garment pieces?  If a perpetual license wasn't $550 (or $60 a month -- I just dislike subscription models), I'd probably be more inclined to get it, but I'm on the fence and need an actual character idea that would need it before investing the time / money to learn it.

Anyway, my next plan is to try and make a character from beginning to end that uses CC.  Tempted to do it for a Project Merfight character, but I may want to try and do something more human first.  I'll post progress when I get that started.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Project Merfight DevLog 01

So as I've hinted in previous posts, I've started a new game!  I still don't have a title, but for now, I'm calling it Project Merfight.  This name is appropriate as it involves merfolk and fighting!  I haven't done a great job logging my games as they progress, so I want to improve upon that.
This first post is about the game itself, but also some of the developments I've made on the 3D front of the game.  To summarize Project Merfight is a tactics RPG with a battle system influenced by fighting games.  I've been working on the game for a while on and off while working on Battle High 2 A+ stuff; however from February till now, I've been trying to get a build ready for Indiecade.
What I have so far:

Essentially, during the month of February, I focused on the tactics aspect, mostly just getting the characters walking around the screen.  Then, I wanted to get the battle system down.  As I work on this, I do wonder, "Why don't I just make a fighting game?"  Well, this game's goal is to fill the void I feel fighting games have been leaving for me lately.
One is story.  I've said numerous times that fighting games are not good at telling stories.  The story ends up getting in the way or is often neglected or ignored.  Though I don't have a super deep story written at the moment, the goal is to attempt to deliver one.  Another void is single player content.  At the launch of Street Fighter 5, I felt myself wanting more.  Playing online crosses this border between fun and frustrating for me rather quickly, and I'd rather just spend my energy in other places, so instead of trying to improve my skill in a fighting game, I decided to try and use my knowledge and see if I could create an RPG experience that takes some of my favorite parts of fighting games and puts them in this space.
I'm using Unity3D, and though I like using the game engine a lot, there are always a few things I encounter when working in it; these items I wanted to document.


Using Mecanim with Equippable Attacks

 So right now, the flow of the game is you do the tactics part, moving in range of an enemy, and enter the attack phase, which looks similar to a 2.5D fighting game.  You perform a combo within the time limit to inflict damage.  What I want to do is that every time you use (or land) an attack, you gain experience points for that attack.  Once an attack levels up, that attack either gives you HP, Attack Strength, etc., but also, new attacks OR, similar to Namco X Capcom, the attacks change so you're forced to learn how you attacks connect more.
One technical issue with this, however, is that Unity's new animation system, Mecanim, really feels that it was built to assume that your animation state machine will never change.  There is the Animator Controller Override system -- which I do utilize -- but that feels more for like "Oh, I'm replacing this character's walk cycle with a different one but all the other states are the same."



So, what I'm doing is essentially I'm taking EVERY state in the game -- a lot I'm still missing sadly -- and putting them into one AnimatorController
This is only a small section of it too...
 I then have an AnimatorOverrideController that references this:

So happy Unity fills these in automatically...

Finally, before the fight segment of my game begins, I assign various state to animation pairs, instantiate a new AnimatorOverrideController, and replace the animations I need.  The main reason for this is that I'm not sure yet how many animations a single character will have and instead of having possibly 100s, I only reference the ones I need for that battle segment.  I've also created a custom data class that handles transitions -- as well as other info such as when attack spheres should be tracked.  Anyway, I'm happy with this solution for now -- until I test it on Xbox One and it breaks for some reason (which I'm hoping doesn't happen).


Swapping Equipment

So once I solved my animation issues, I had another issue related to equipment.  How was I going to equip different items to my characters?  I could do something where the items don't get shown, but I felt this was rather boring.  I want what the player equips to the characters to show up; I think it's important.  This is what I have so far:

Essentially there are several types of equipment I am dealing with:
  • Color swaps
  • Normal Meshes (or GameObjects)
  • Skinned Meshes
Color swapping was easy.  I just make a new material for one of the default items the character is wearing and swap them as needed.  Unskinned meshes and other game objects were simple too.  I have each bone of the character referenced, so I just reparent the item to a designated bone.  In the video, this is how I'm making the sash -- which his also using Dynamic Bone, an asset I recommend -- as well as the "Kelp Juice" attached to her hip.
The hardest part was skinned meshes.  Now, I could put every skinned mesh the character will use into one file, but I don't want to have to keep doing that and having to deal with a giant 3ds max and fbx file with a bunch of different parts.  When working though, I figured, "Oh, I'll just import the other skinned mesh, change the root bone, and it'll just work, right?"  Nope!  The problem is that upon import, the skinned bones and root are assigned to the Transforms included upon import.  Also, you need to make sure that upon import, the bones in the skinning data -- at least from 3DS Max -- go from the root bone and include parents of any bones.  It's almost safer to include the entire skeleton in the skinning data; Unity will remove all those with no influence upon import.  So after fighting with this for almost an hour, I figured that I need had to write something to transfer the bone data from my imported meshes to the current character's rig.  The following script does so:

[ExecuteInEditMode(), RequireComponent(typeof(SkinnedMeshRenderer))]
public class SkinRendererWeightTransfer : MonoBehaviour
        bool initialized = false;

        SkinnedMeshRenderer smr;

        public Transform newSkeletonRoot;

        string originalRoot = "";

        string[] originalBoneNames = null;

        void Awake()
            initialized = false;

        public void Update()
            if (!initialized)
                if (!smr)
                    smr = GetComponent();
                    if (!smr)

                if (originalBoneNames == null || originalBoneNames.Length == 0)
                    originalRoot = smr.rootBone.name;
                    originalBoneNames = new string[smr.bones.Length];
                    for (int i = 0; i < smr.bones.Length; i++)
                        originalBoneNames[i] = smr.bones[i].name;

                if (newSkeletonRoot == null)

                // Reassign bones
                if (newSkeletonRoot)
                    Transform newRoot;
                    if (!StaticHelpers.FindChildByName(newSkeletonRoot, originalRoot, out newRoot))
                        Debug.LogError("No bone found for:  " + originalRoot);

                        Transform[] newBones = new Transform[originalBoneNames.Length];
                    for (int i = 0; i < originalBoneNames.Length; i++)
                        if (!StaticHelpers.FindChildByName(newSkeletonRoot, originalBoneNames[i], out newBones[i]))
                            Debug.LogError("No bone found for:  " + originalBoneNames[i]);

                    smr.bones = newBones;
                    smr.rootBone = newRoot;

                    initialized = true;
                    enabled = false;

 Probably not the best formatting for this blog, but essentially, I'm storing the original bone names and order, and then, upon equipping to the character, I get the new bone transforms.  (StaticHelpers is my own class).

Anyway, with this issues solved, I could start making equipment for my characters -- of course, writing details and what aspect of the characters they affect is an entirely different design mess.

Tons to Do!

I still have tons to do and I'm not even close to calling this game done.  I'm submitting a prototype more or less to IndieCade in the hopes that I can get some good feedback and maybe generate some interest.  These are still the biggest issues I'm having:
  • RPG Design.  I feel I have a decent grasp of fighting game design after all of my Battle High 2 A+ work; however, even just the pathing system took me awhile and I ended up finding a solution that was better than what I  had been doing and implementing that!  I'm just nervous that managing all of the data like how much each item cost, the stats they effect, etc., is going to prove not only difficult but boring and make me lose interest in the game.  And don't get me started on UI.
  • Title!  I still don't have an official title for this damn thing.  Project Merfight could work, but it sounds unfinished.  Essentially, the game takes place in a fantasy world that is inhabited by merfolk -- more like Rikuo from Darkstalkers than Ariel from the Little Mermaid.  The original idea was that it was going to be more similar to a World of Warcraft world in terms of aesthetics, but my friend got me thinking to change that a bit, and I thought about bioluminescence and have this 80's / neon yet underwater idea going through my head.
  • Content!  Rpgs -- well all games really -- have a ton of content.  Part of my goal recently was to go through the game and see how quickly I can make the content.  Having an idea of how to swap objects -- whether it's through texture or  meshes themselves -- helps, but still causes a bit of anxiety.
  • Tutorial -- though there are games that have done this similar, I want to try and make the game more about discover and experimentation instead of me telling the player how to do everything.  That being said, I'm still going to need to make a tutorial.  I want to take the Final Fantasy Tactics approach where it's optional, but I'm afraid if I do that I'll just neglect it.
  • Story.  I like writing, but I always lack confidence in my writing.  I also want the story to branch by level objects -- defeat Boss A goes this route versus defeating Boss B for example.  This is a lot of work, and in this first iteration, I will most likely be cutting.
Anyway, my goal is to get at least 2 levels (3 if you count a tutorial) before the late IndieCade deadline of May 15th.  I know the game will be far from what I want, but again, having the deadline is helping me focus and solve problems I'd probably ignore for months before actually tackling.  I'll try and post more about Project Merfight as I continue to work on it.  In the meantime, enjoy some gifs!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Struggling With the Social Media Spiderweb

I'm working on a new project, which I've been posting about at a variety of locations:  Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc.

The issue I'm having is that it's just so MANY different places.  This essentially is all of the areas I can post things about my work:
Even worse, there are probably 100+ social media sites I'm completely unaware of.  Maybe this isn't too much for some, but for one person, it gets pretty daunting, especially when the information being posted feels redundant at best -- queue the spiderweb metaphor.

The social media spiderweb! (or a real one)

I guess my one question is, how can I do this more efficiently?  Here are some ideas:
  • Twitter
    • Post messages and/or images
  • YouTube
    • Post videos
    • Put video links on Tumblr
    • Also post link on Twitter with an accompanying .gif made through Giphy (which I just discovered and is pretty great for.gif making)
  • FaceBook
    • Post links to various tweets and videos
  • Forums
    • Make unique posts / thread, but use information posted on Twitter and YouTube
This leaves two things sorta untouched.  One is my personal website.  I haven't really touched it since I made it using a free WordPress theme awhile ago.  I'm tempted to remake it using a premium theme, but filling in content is still tough.  I could abandon this blog and post everything on my personal website instead, making it a portfolio site as well as a game development blog; however, maybe it'd be better to separate them as I sometimes get a bit "feely" on this blog.


Anyway, this is something I'm still sorting through as I work on my next game (and hopefully the new Battle High 2 A+ updates soon).

Thursday, March 3, 2016

March 2016 Updates

It's March, a new month!  I decided to write a bit about what I'm up to -- the ups and downs.

Firstly, it's now officially been over 2 months since Battle High 2 A+ was released on Xbox One!


I'd like to thank everyone who has bought and played the game, and apologies to those in countries that can't purchase it or those having trouble getting their sticks to work on Xbox One; I'm hoping to have one or both issues resolved before 2017.  In a previous post, I wanted to start new updates for the game, mostly adding a new character and some single-player content; however, I started working on a new project:

That's a majority of the work I've done during the month of February.  I'm essentially making a simple Tactics RPG with a fighting game-influenced battle system.  There's still a long way to go, but I've really enjoyed working on it, so I may delay the Battle High 2 A+ update a bit.  I at least want to get to a stopping point with this game that, if I had to take an extended break, that I could come back to it and continue development smoothly.  I've contemplated on even entering IndieCade -- something I've told myself I'd never attempt again -- but with the late due date in May, I'm unsure what I can get something worthwhile done in three months.

In other news though, I've been going through some depression again.  I just feel like I'm slowly losing my passion for game development, that I can't keep up with the changing trends and can't get interested in them.  It could just be that it's becoming too difficult to work a normal job -- even in game development -- to come home and work on my own stuff.  It just feels like such an uphill battle to go completely indie though; I don't need a HUGE ROI, but I at least need to be able to pay my rent.  Anyway, unlike previous bouts of depression, I've decided to be more proactive in dealing with it, and hopefully, with some effort on my part, I can start to be more positive, happier, and healthier, regardless if I stay in or leave game development.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Battle High 2 A+ Version

So it's been exactly a month since I last wrote about Battle High and the current version on Xbox One, Battle High 2 A+.

But I'm happy to say, the first update for Battle High 2 A+ has been approved!  Like I said in the schedule, it's a rather minor content update, but I wanted to go over the features quickly:

Bug Fixes

My bug fixing approach has essentially been this:

Therefore, I found (or was informed about rather) and fixed a minor bug involving Jada's Elemental Super.  It  was very strange, only occurring when Jada hit her opponent during certain frames of animation, causing the final kick of the Elemental Super to miss, but the character to stay locked.  This was pointed out very early, but fortunately, wasn't a big problem and a rather easy fix.

New Features

Besides displaying the version number of the game in the lower-right of the Main Menu, I added a few new features to the game:

Stage Swap

Some reviews mentioned that they didn't really care for the updated 3D backgrounds.  Again, I'm proud of the work involved to produce these; however, I decided to add the ability to swap between the old stages and the new.  Just go to Options and under "Stage Type" press A to swap between 2D and 3D.


Music Configuration

Another feature I decided to add involved the game's soundtrack.  Throughout the life of Battle High, there have been 2 songs produced for every character (except Lucio); however, I decided to make this a feature.  In Options, you'll see Music Configuration.  This will take you to a screen in which you can preview and switch between songs on a character by character basis.  A new song for Lucio was even produced, so enjoy the new and old soundtracks.


Easy Reversals

Did you know there are Reversals in Battle High 2 A+?  No?  Well now you do!  The problem with Reversals is that they were rather hidden in the game.  Requiring 1/3 of the Elemental Meter, Reversals could be performed while blocking or getting up by performing a specific special move for each character -- which one?  You'd have to find out!
Finding that even I was having trouble performing some of the Reversals, I thought to myself "Why am I making them so difficult?"  I couldn't answer the question, so now, all Reversals can be performed by pressing the Overhead button while blocking or getting up! (They still require 1/3 of the Elemental Meter though.)


So I heard many requests to change the Achievements.  As previously mentioned, they are a bit difficult and repetitive since they are identical to all of Battle High 2 A+'s Journal Entries; however, my request to make these easier was denied since some players had already received all 1000 points, and changing the existing achievements would be unfair.
That being said, I was allowed to add new achievements, so I did just that!  Now, there are 17 new Achievements, totaling 500 additional Gamerscore points!  So good luck and enjoy!

Thanks to Brian Moseley for quickly banging out artwork for the new Achievements!

Updates On Other Features

Non-ESRB Region Release

Unfortunately, I haven't made much progress on getting Battle High 2 A+ rated for release outside of the US, Canada, and Mexico, or regions that use the ESRB for their games.
I did do a little research about additional regions, finding that it would cost me several thousand (possibly) to release in Europe, so I may have to put this off for the time being, and I sincerely apologize.  I'm hoping one day that Xbox One downloadable games will be able to be released and only require an IARC rating -- a free (or low cost) rating system used by many mobile and Windows 10 games for intentional release.


Just send the inputs to your home!

I put in a bug report for this issue to Unity3D, as I believe the issue is with their Xbox One module; however, I have no heard any updates on this issue, so again, I apologize for the inconvenience.  Hopefully it'll be fixed eventually or I eventually can dedicate a couple of days to try and see if I can solve the issue more directly.


Future Updates

Firstly, I just wanted to thank everyone who bought the game and (hopefully) enjoyed it.  I appreciate the feedback as well as it will help only make the game better.
I hit my goal of early February for the first content update for Battle High 2 A+.  Next, by the end of May, I'd love to add Battle High 2 A+'s first new character, as well as additional content.  As usual, I'll keep you posted!

In addition, if you have any feedback, balancing notes, even just fights recorded, let me know!  I'd love to see what everyone is doing with the game!


Monday, January 4, 2016

Battle High 2 A+ Updates: January 2016

So it's 2016; Battle High 2 A+ was released on December 16, so I thought I'd write about it!  That's not the real reason, but I thought I'd write about some of the possible changes to come -- hopefully sooner rather than later.


OUYA and Razer Cortex Update?!

If you haven't heard, OUYA was recently bought by Razer who have their own Android Microconsole, Forge TV.  I made a minor update a few months ago, around October, and was told that because I made the game for OUYA -- and performed a minor update -- the new build would work on the Razer Forge TV.  I think everything still is, but someone on twitter informed me the game's iconography was amiss, so I made a quick update fixing it as well as a small minor bug.
However, still unfixed is an issue where I'm using the Forge TV's home button as a pause button.  On the OUYA, last I checked, this is okay because you can just press it once and it's fine, only double-tapping returns you to the main menu.  Unfortunately, this is not the case on the Forge TV.  Essentially I would need to remap pause to a different button on the Forge TV, but this might mess up the OUYA version, so it's something I can't really take care of at this time.


Xbox One Updates 

Anyway, the Xbox version hasn't even been out for a month, but I've already been thinking about changing I'd like to make.


Minor Changes and Fixes

Soon after launch, someone found a rather minor yet annoying bug.  I fixed it almost immediately, but -- so people don't try and find it -- I've decided to just confidentially say that it is fixed locally.
Another minor change that I'll implement involves the reversal mechanic!  Did you even know there is a reversal mechanic?  Well if you don't, it's because I A.) don't really show it that well and B.) it's broken for some characters in the getting up state.  I'll either tutorialize or do a better job indicating its existence in the first content update I do.



I've heard you, and first, let me apologize.  This is my first Xbox One game, so when implementing the achievements, I was just excited to get them working.  I realize now that making them mimic the journal entries in Battle High 2 A+ is superfluous and they are difficult to achieve.
I've inquired about changing them, but it seems like it may not be a possibility; however, in the future, I may be able to add achievements!  I promise that I will try and make some (if not all) additional achievements easier -- but not too easy -- to achieve.



Another apology I'd like to issue is that apparently some fight sticks such as the Hori Real Arcade Pro V for Xbox One and Xbox 360 just do not work with the game.  I did some research trying to find a solution to this problem, but I believe it is due to the engine I used as I am not the only Xbox One game made in Unity with this problem (though I'm probably one of the few where it matters).  I've informed people at Unity3D; however, because it is such a niche problem, I can't say if / when there will be a solution, but I'm going to try and do a build with Unity 5.3 (the game is currently in 5.2) and see if this fixes the issue.
Currently, there is a plugin for XInput to interact with Unity.  XInput is an input library used for Xbox 360; however, Xbox One apparently uses something else, so if someone makes a plugin that allows Unity to communicate with that, it may work.  I, however, do not have the time or expertise to create such a plugin myself.  Again, I apologize and will keep you informed as this develops.


Artwork:  3D Backgrounds

This isn't a huge deal, but based on a lot of the reviews I read mention that one of the weakest aspects to Battle High 2 A+ is the 3D backgrounds.  From the reviews I received -- and thanks to anyone I gave a review code to who sent me back a review -- the 3D backgrounds, which again, I'm rather proud of, seem to be a "one-step forward, two step back" sort of thing.  They clash against the sprites and overall are rather boring.  Like achievements, I was excited to get them working, but they could have probably used a bit more polished and tender loving care.  In a future update, I would like to do some polish to these.


New Characters 

In a previous post I mentioned that there are two characters -- possibly three but the one character has very little work done -- that I have yet to implement into Battle High 2 A+.  I'd like to implement these two new characters in the future.  This, however, does require a lot of work:
  • Voice over
  • Music
  • Ending artwork
  • Background art
  • Design, testing, and balancing
Also, as to whether they or not they will be free DLC is another question.  I'd like to, but it'll depend on the cost of the previously mentioned bullet points.


Release Outside the US 

This is a question I didn't get a lot, but a rather unfortunate one when I do.  Battle High 2 A+ has only been rated by the ESRB so the game is only allowed to be officially released in the US, Mexico, and Canada.  Originally, I thought it was only allowed in the US.  I thought this because I thought I would have to localize the entire game into Spanish and French to release in those regions.  I was told, however, that I really only needed to do this localization to the marketplace data. 
To release in Europe, however, in addition to translating my marketplace info into other languages such as German and Portuguese, I apparently would need to get the game rated by a different rating board, and unlike the ESRB for digitial downloads, it is not free.
So to those asking about a release outside of the US, I sadly can't guarantee a time.  I'd love to do it sometime this year -- if at all -- though.  Again, I apologize, and hope to avoid this mistake with future titles.


Estimated Schedule

If I were to throw out a rough schedule for what I think updates for Battle High 2 A+ would look like in 2016, this is the best I can do:
  • Mid Jan. to Early Februrary
    • Fixes
    • Balance
    • Two secret features (just two small things adjustable in the options menu)
    • Possibly updated achievements
  • March to May
    • New Character One
    • Updated Background Art
      • Since I'd be adding some for the new character, I'd probably tackle fixing it all
    • Some new single player content
  • June to August
    • Second new character
    • New single player content
  • August to January
    • Make the PC, OUYA (Android Microconsole), and Xbox One versions identical (or as close as possible)
    • Release outside the US
  • ???
    • Online multiplayer
    • Fightstick patch
Besides the two secret features, you'll notice I put new single player content and put online under question marks.  I did this because I'm at a realization.  As much as I like fighting games, I'm not really equipped to work on them.  I'm essentially a one man team, so multiplayer games of any kind are a huge challenge.  I could try and spend time implementing online, but at this stage, I'd rather start on a new game, and if that is a fighter, then try online at the beginning. 
In addition, I appreciate everyone who has played and enjoyed Battle High 2 A+ so far, but it's not going to have a competitive scene -- or a real serious one like Street Fighter V -- not without a publisher or major sponsor behind it.  Because of this, I think I'd rather just add additional single player content to the game.  It's too early to tell what this would really be, but I've been thinking of a few things.  The biggest question is simply "Why?"  What rewards, if not achievements, would there be to gain from new single player content? 
Then the question of "Should I even bother?" comes up about the game as a whole.  In my mind though, almost all modern games can have characteristics of services, so, unless it doesn't make sense or can't be be afforded, not doing updates or new contents are almost a disservice to the games and its fans.  Though I should probably look at sales of the game to see if updates are even worth it, but I'll be honest about one thing.  I didn't really make and release Battle High 2 A+ with making a huge profit (or even a small one) in mind, so a part of me doesn't even care to look -- though another part of me is definitely curious.  In addition, there is a new game(s) I want to work on as well, so I don't want the entirety of 2016 to focus on Battle High 2 A+.
Anyway, I'll update again when I know more answers about achievements and as release for the first update comes out!  Thanks for playing!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The End of 2015: A Review

So at the end of each year, I usually write a short review of 2015, its highs and lows and my goals for 2016.



Releasing Battle High 2 A+ on Xbox One may have been the highlight of my independent game development career in 2015.  Though the game wasn't accepted to showcase at EVO 2015, I fought with a lot of self doubt concerning the game, and the launch did not go without a few hiccups, I'm still happy I was able to get the game launched and released before 2016.

A Battle High 2-themed holiday greeting!

Also, I helped Schell Games launch Orion Trail, which I'm pretty proud of too!  Another professional highlight was going to Unite 2015; it was a great converse and energized me more creatively than the last two GDCs combined, which is why I have decided to not attend GDC 2016, but instead attend Unite 2016.



I could write about lowlights, but I would rather not dwell on them as we approach a new year, but I would like to write about resolutions.  My idea with resolutions is that it's okay to make a lot, but keeping in mind that you probably won't be able to achieve all of them.  Anyway, here is a short list of mine:


Continue Battle High 2 A+

Again, the launch of the game could have gone more smoothly, but I'm still happy with the results.  That being said, I want to update the game next year.  There's a minor bug I need to fix, many have commented that the achievements are too difficult, and the 3D backgrounds need some work.  There are also 2 unfinished characters I would like to add; in addition, I'd like to get the OUYA and PC versions as close as possible before 2017.  I also want to get the fightstick issue resolved as well as experiment with online, but I know those are stretch goals.


Start (and maybe finish) a new original game idea

I have a game I've been working on a bit, a tactics RPG similar to Namco X Capcom, that I'd love to finish before 2017.  Now that's rather ambitious but I think instead of finishing before 2017, I'd love to publish a playable prototype similar to what Indivisible did, even if it's just on itch.io.  Overall, I'd love to release another Xbox One game, but maybe that'll happen in 2017.

An early 3D character / shader concept


Knowledge Share & Interact with Communities More

Admittedly, I'm a rather introverted person and don't really put myself out there much.  I put my work out, but I don't make a lot of tutorials or streams or anything like that -- though I did write a GameMaker book.  This is something I'd like to change in 2016.  I'm not sure I'll do game streaming, but I'd like to do a few dev streams in the future; one night aspect of this, is that it'll archive on Twitch so even if no one comes, I can watch it later to make sure I don't forget things.

This is a face you can trust, right?  Also I swear I'm not that creepy; I was just being silly in a wedding photo!


Do my art!

I used to draw and 3D model a lot, but I haven't had the time lately.  Battle High 2 A+ didn't require a ton -- besides the 3D backgrounds, which my texturing skills were a bit lackluster on.  I have a Substance license for both Painter and Designer but I haven't really used either.  I want to change that in 2016; hopefully the previously mentioned game idea will require and allow me to focus on improving these skills.


Focus on ME

This sounds stupid and selfish, but here's the issue:  I work a full time job at Schell Games, and then I come home and work on my side projects for Mattrified Games, and the last few months of 2015, I sorta stopped focusing on me outside of game development.  I haven't been exercising as much as I should or eating healthy.  Personally the health resolutions so many people make every year are really life commitments and they aren't easy to keep up with, but I think it's important to remind ourselves of them every year and to try and improve, if even by a little.
Personally, I need to reschedule my time better.  I need some days where, instead of trying to cram in work, personal work, and me time, I just say "screw it, today I'm not working on Battle High 2 A+ or any games.  I'm going to exercise or play a game," and at the same time, I need some days where I focus on a side project and don't worry about anything else.  I just need a better work-life balance, a goal for 2016.

Anyway, that's what's on my radar for 2016.  I hope everyone has a healthy and happy 2016!