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(Devlog: Academy)

A topic by Strung Up Starlight created Jul 15, 2018 Views: 244 Replies: 15
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(The goal of this Jam is to complete a game, but that may be overreaching for what I have in mind, even though the game I have in mind should be pretty short. So I'll plan for the first level at least, and see what else I can hit from there.)

(So. I've never made a devlog before. And my computer isn't the best, so I can't post a bunch of screenshots or anything (and I'm using stand-in graphics so nothing's particularly impressive at the moment), so here's the gist of what I'm doing:)

     (- I'm going to make an Adventure/Puzzle Game using RPG Maker, utilizing a technique that CrackedRabbitGameplay mentioned in a video. Basically, instead of the Choice menu, which has six options max, you use the Select Item command and set the variables to run differently in each event. It's going to be a mess, but it's easier than learning Javascript in two weeks.)

      (- I plan on using pixel art, which is a medium I'm relatively new to. It will certainly be interesting.)

      (- I'll be using outside sources for music and SFX.)

      (- I would really like to significantly shrink the final file size of this project, because my last one was ridiculous. I'm looking into TinyPNG as well as MVStripper and a SRDude Plugin that works to encode your work. Either way, it will be smaller.)

(As of today, I've evented a menu, and have part of the first puzzle evented out within said menu. All placeholder maps have been created. Honestly, the biggest thing that will hold me back is the art, because I don't have access to my home computer, which had Photoshop.)

(So, hopefully this won't be a bust.)

Submitted (1 edit)

(Day Two:)

(So I mostly worked on dialogue. Part of the first main puzzle is done, and what this taught me is that there's no way I'll be able to implement the full game. Scope always gets me with this stuff. So I'll strive for the first level, which consists of three main puzzles: big, small, and small respectively.)

(Honestly, the most difficult part has been adding lore and dialogue in a quick way that fits the characters, makes sense, and won't lead to anything hard to implement in the future. I'm also struggling with the introductory cutscene, which runs the risk of being either too vague or too expository. It's hitting that perfect medium that I'm having so much trouble with.)

(I realize that I sort of didn't mention any story in the last one. I want to keep it a bit vague, but the general gist of it is: You play as Ivy, a(n unwilling) student of a particularly controlling Academy, living out life during some kind of plague. One day, Ivy spots an open window in the bathrooms, and suddenly realizes that she can escape. And that's about it for now. I have more, but it's still getting worked out.)

(Other than that, the project looks doable. Let's hope it stays that way.)

Host (1 edit)

ahhh that's actually rly interesting re: shrinking your game file! mostly my advice for people is to not use rtp assets but these resources sound really useful + interesting. i know you have a tough setup but it would be really nice to see screenshots of your progress so far--you don't even really have to have animation to show off rpgmaker maps.

rpgs are tough because they are very content focused--and it's tough to get content right in two weeks. i think the best advice i have is to constantly run your script + game by other people! i do this a lot and people are very upfront when my stuff is very snooze or exposition-y or letting me know when they're confused!


(Yeah, I've been advised to avoid the RTP as well, but I'm working with some plugins that won't run without them. I'll be sure to post screenshots when I can, but the maps I'm using are barely presentable at the moment. I like to use parallax maps, so most of what I have so far is just the tilesets scattered about to show what's passable and what isn't. So, a total wreck.)

(I'll be sure to rope some people into playtesting, especially because I'm close to being finished with the first puzzle. Thank you so much for the advice! Good luck with the Jam!)


haha even if it looks like a total wreck at the moment, you might find it very satisfying to post those works in progress early on and then see the change + progress over time as you post updates to the devlog. it's really interesting to see!


(Day Three:)

(The first puzzle is finally coming into fruition! Considering that it's day three, it's about time. I'm actually kind of happy with the progress I've made so far, and hoping that the art part doesn't drag me down. I'll find that out tomorrow, as I'll finally have access to the computer with Photoshop again.)

(In addition to that, I squashed a few bugs and ran into a really stupid problem I caused. Basically, I'd put script calls in the plugin command box. God, I felt stupid. Luckily, I caught it pretty early, but I still had to go back and waste my time redoing a lot of work that could've been avoided if I'd just play tested it sooner. And then, I pretty much instantly forgot that lesson, because I forgot to bring up an item menu in pretty much all of the events requiring an item menu. So I had to go back and redo all of those as well. )

(Stupidity aside, I think I'm making good time. I'm trying to focus on the mechanics and actually getting the puzzles done as opposed to lore, because I'll spend too much time on it. When everything's set in place, I'll go back to it.)

(Tomorrow, I complete the first puzzle and fix the remnants of today's mistakes. If time permits, I'll start on art as well.)


(Day Four:)

(The first puzzle is done, but still needs to be play tested. I've started on the second puzzle, and I'd like to say that I'm halfway done with it, but I know that something will trip me up.)

(I managed to get a template sprite finished for the students, and I'll work on the teacher's tomorrow. I'll post screenshots when I can, but tomorrow will be pretty busy.)

(Not much else to say except that it's late and I'm tired. Here's hoping that I'll get more done tomorrow!)


(Day Five/Six:)

(Main characters sprites are finished, and I'm starting on the maps. Making progress on puzzles. Will return to complain when something interesting happens.)


(Day Seven:)

(I'm back and things have happened. I spent all day pretty much mapping, and I got the bases of about four of them done, leaving me with three tomorrow. I'm not crazy happy with them (especially the front entrance), but I'm happy that they're done. I'm worried that their appearance won't fit in with the lore/world I've built, but it's nothing a little color and lighting  can't fix! I have the bases in black, white, and grey at the moment, so it's looking a little like Suits.)

(I did some bug-hunting as well and discovered some minor spelling mistakes and placements of windows and a switch being weird. Pretty much nothing that was disastrous or required a full day of fixing like, say, Day Three. But I still have a lot to do, including eventing some cutscenes, writing more dialogue and flavor text, and working with an often frustrating parallax mapping system, and with the deadline looming closer, it's getting pretty panic-inducing.)

(Also: why are puzzles so hard to create? I feel like all of mine either turn out too obvious and treat the player like a toddler, or are of the moon logic variety. It's maddening. I'll have people test it more to see what they think.)

(So I mentioned some time back that I'd have screenshots, and now I finally do. Here is the placeholder map for the first classroom:)

(...And here is the current version of it, with no color or lighting:)

(...Man, those desks look weird. Oh, well: the deadline approaches. Finally, I have the main character's sprite:)

(This is Ivy. I was having some trouble with her color scheme yesterday, so thank you to everyone on Discord, as well as everyone in my immediate vicinity, who helped me pick out which color to go with. I reused her failed color schemes (i.e. coral pink/sea foam and purple/darker purple) into other characters whose personalities complement the schemes better.)

(That about wraps things up. Thanks for reading!)


aaaa i'm glad you were able to post some images of the progress! it's awesome to see your comparison of placeholder and current version. i'm excited too to see what it'll look like with color and lighting.

i think there are some books out there on puzzle design... i can't think of articles off the top of my head but that might be a good search for the gdc youtube channel or gamasutra!

Submitted (2 edits)

(Day Eight/Nine:)

(I'm not going to finish. And if I do, it won't be good. I'm going to keep trying, but these two thoughts are paralyzing me. They were keeping me up last night. I'm just not in a good spot right now.)

(Yesterday, I completed the maps in their entirety. It took me a full twelve hours. I have the final version of the map I showed off, but not on this computer. I'll post it in a bit. I sprited the teacher's sprites, and I'm working on more now. By tomorrow, I want to have all of the art done so I can focus on bug hunting.)

(I got some bug hunting done today, and discovered two big glitches that sent me back a few hours over some really stupid mistakes. And I still need to add music, event an introduction that doesn't drop exposition on your head like a barbell, add more dialogue and the credits page, and test to make sure the maps actually work. Oh, and then upload that in time and make the game page look pretty. I'm getting there, but nowhere near as fast as I need to.)

(I don't like the story or characters or dialogue anymore. I can do much better, but I don't have time.)

(EDIT: Here is the final classroom. It's not fantastic, but it's over.)

(EDIT 2: Just testing the lighting and it's giving me issues. If I can't fix it by tomorrow, I'll nix it.)


(Day Ten:)

(Ladies and gentleman and everyone in-between, we have a title screen:)

(It's not crazy impressive, but I'm happy with how it turned out. When in doubt about color schemes, just pick different shades of the same color, am I right? Anyway, on the real stuff I worked on today:)

(All of the art is complete, including small events and one character animation. I even have a little instructions page made up. I'm implementing it into the game now as I type. I also went back and figured out what was wrong with the lighting, and also decided that it looks a little too soft for the game at the moment, and one scene in particular was downright ugly because of all of the color I tried to add. So I made the lighting look a little more segmented, so it actually fits with the otherwise flat shading and colors of the school. Here's the new version of the classroom:)

(I think it looks much cleaner. I've also added finishing touches to the story, which I'm still unhappy with, as it's way too cliche, like a YA dystopian novel. I'll refine some of the writing as I go, but the important thing is that it's finished and playable. It wasn't possible for me to write a masterpiece in twelve days, and I have to keep that in mind.)

(All that's left after tonight is playtesting and music. And then I release this half-polished adventure to the rest of mankind.)


(Day Eleven:)

(Slowly but surely, I'm getting there. I spent most of the day play testing, and got a fair number of bugs. I'm at the point where I can play it all the way through, and that may have to do for now. I also had my video game-hating mother play it to see how a completely inexperienced player would do things. The results were informative, and even more bugs were squashed.)

(I'm most worried about exporting, so I also went through and manually either shrunk or deleted files I don't think I'll need. I got the file size down to about 425 mb, but that's still too much. I'm afraid that letting RPG Maker get rid of the files for me will mess with the plugins --which isn't a completely unfounded fear-- so I'll be using another plugin to further compress the file. I'll see what else I can either shrink or get rid of before I test deployment tomorrow.)

(All that's left now is the music and the credits, which I'll take care of tomorrow. Then one more round of play testing. Then exporting, and figuring out what I need to fix when that inevitably has issues. If anyone has any further suggestions for shrinking the file size, please let me know.)

(And that's about it. So close, and yet so far.)


(Coming soon...)

(So this is going to be the final update. I managed to shrink the game down even further by deleting all of the audio files I didn't need and running more images through TinyPNG. It's at around 71 MB, which, if I can get the deployed version to work correctly, will be perfect. I'll likely have to add a few back in to mesh with the plugins, but at least it isn't close to half a gig anymore. I ran the Public Domain music I'm using through Audacity this morning to get the loops working. They sound pretty janky, but they'll do for now.)

(I'm still unhappy with the writing, but if I hear enough positive things about the gameplay or puzzles, I'll turn this entry into a real thing, using the improved story ideas I've thought up in the meantime. Otherwise, even if everyone hates it and it goes down as the next E.T. for Atari, I'm still happy that I managed to get this far. Over my first jam, I struggled to complete a mediocre game in eight weeks. Now I can do that in two.)

(So for everyone who followed this Dev Blog or answered my questions here or in the Discord, thank you so much. I really appreciate the help. This may not be my first jam, but it's still my second, so any help was completely welcome. Good luck on your project, and I'll see you tomorrow.)

Submitted (1 edit)

(Day Thirteen:)

(It's out! If you would like to play The Academy, please make sure to check out the Jam Page, found here:)




(So, I finished. Time to overanalyze everything again.)

(What Went Right:)

  (- Art: This was my second attempt with pixel art, and it went much more smoothly than the first time. Though considering I used to use the brush tool for pixel art, there's really nowhere to go but up. The art ended up being very simple and clean, which is something I can get behind, as it gave the game its own style and made it easier to reproduce.)

  (- File Size: One of my goals for the jam was to reduce the size of my files after my disaster of a fist game ended up being half of a gigabyte. And after plenty of experimentation, I managed to whittle down the final size to about 56 mb. That much I'm proud of.)

  (- Completion: This could go either way. I had originally intended the game to go on for much longer, exploring what happened after the ending. Now I've left it on a cliffhanger, but I managed to figure out that I wouldn't be able to finish the whole thing and modified the plan. Being able to adapt and improvise in jams is an incredibly important skill, and one of the few that I have.)

(What Went Wrong:)

  (- Writing: I'm unhappy with the writing, which feels way too overdramatic and exposition-heavy. If I had to rewrite it, it would be a little less on the nose.)

  (- Gameplay: There may still be glitches in the menu format, and I still can't get the menu to go away by pressing the button to bring it up again. If I ever release a full version, I'll make sure that gets implemented.)

  (- Puzzles: Even with play testing, I can't tell if the puzzles are too confusing or too easy. I don't know if I telegraphed too much or too little, or if I didn't emphasize the menu in puzzle-solving enough.)

  (- Completion: Even though I completed the game, I still didn't complete my goal in the beginning.)

(And that's about it for now. At the moment, I'm awaiting feedback, and might update this later. Until then, thanks for reading!)