Hello fellow Game Jam folks!
I'm totally new to itchi.io but I'm excited to have this opportunity to make a totally new game and have people play it. Win or lose, this is going to be one heck of an experience!
Anyway, on to talking about the project: Hiro's Ascension.
Hiro dreams of venturing off to the legendary city of Válor, a centuries old labyrinthine structure that people flock to in order to make a name for themselves. On the day of his 18th birthday he is finally able to leave his sleepy little village in pursuit of his dreams. Be it alone, or with the friends he may meet along the way, Hiro aims to join The Hallowed Hero's Hall by exploring the many secrets held within Válor's walls.
*Day 1, 2, and 3*
I wasn't aware of this thread and didn't have an account for the first two days so the progress I made on those days will all be condensed into this entry.
I simply decided I would enter the competition on a whim. I was struggling on deciding what engine to create my game in because I have access to all the RPG Makers, Unity, SRPG Studio, and a few others. However, I'm really most familiar with SRPG Studio as I've made a prior project with said engine. Unfortunately, I couldn't use that project or anything from it so I was thinking of just moving to RPG Maker. Most of this first day was me just figuring out what the heck I wanted to do.
I also run a review site (Jon Spencer Reviews) and had other things I needed to take care of. I'll be juggling both of these things so maybe I'm crazy?
I had a concept that would be best executed in SRPG Studio, and thus project name TBA was born! This will be a tactics game with some visual novel-esque sequences that act as a sort of, "choose your own adventure" from the days of yesteryear. There will also be some minor management mechanics if the player chooses to engage with them as you may have multiple party members throughout your journey.
My brain is a bit wonky and I design things inside out compared to most people. I started with what aesthetic I was going for first and the general ground work for the story. I wanted the game to follow this general pattern:
- Introduction + Tutorial - Acting as a prologue, this would be two unique maps and one real combat encounter. Playing around with the idea of some minor character building/selection moments as you, "travel" to Válor itself.
- Válor Chapter 1 - Even when people finally turn of age and are granted permission to travel to Válor, they must prove that they are worthy of actual entry to the dangerous and labyrinthine structure. This will also serve as an introduction to the city itself, key locations like shops, and possible NPC's that may join your party!
- Válor Chapter 2-4 - Players have proven themselves worthy and enter Válor. They will progress through a series of floors (simple combat encounters, puzzles, and boss battles) which will consist of 1-3 levels each. Floors and levels would be themed for variety and a new experience for multiple playthroughs. Players influence progression by making choices and achieving stated goals in each level, outside of the standard gear upgrades in games similar. Additionally, the player may choose to specialize into different classes and/or obtain party members to fill out their ranks as Válor is quite dangerous... especially further in!
- Válor Final Chapter - It's a secret ;)
- New Game + - Given time I will implement a new game + that will have a similar core loop, allowing players to explore different choices, and a special surprise that pertains to the previous point. Included with this would be optional achievements.
Features that will likely be included but aren't necessarily essentials:
- Stated above New Game +
- Stated above achievement system
- Multiple difficulty levels (for sure at least 2)
- Bonus missions that may optionally be completed once per floor
- Minor voice acting (the most iffy item on this list; just tedious)
As for the aesthetic I chose this as my base image:
This to me, and everybody I work-shopped this on (which was a lot of people and a lot of what this day was actually dedicated to), this looks like an elaborate floor plan or blueprint. It has an old, worn, parchment look which, as you'll see in day three's entry, becomes an established motif.
I then went through and added altered text bubbles and some icons so that they would better match the parchment motif I have going on here. They kind of feel more map-y, but that still feels inline with the core vision this evokes. Probably not something that I had to do, since the default option is pretty great, but cohesion is important!
Lastly, for visuals, I imported a ton of new character portraits so I could have more options. I sorted those into categories of likely use. Since Válor pulls from several backgrounds, some of these have differing art styles that still match my existing ones visually (if that makes sense?) which allows me some room for playing around with character ideas as I get to hammering them out fully.
In addition to choosing this image I carefully selected a menu theme which would act as a tone setting piece for the player. Unfortunately, I cannot link to that here, but I believe it is a really good fit. The music opens with a soft progression on piano which builds to a fantsy-esque orchestral (think Witcher). As the song continues it becomes more intense, mixing in some battle-style flavor which culminates into an uplifting climax that mellows out into a few moments of silence before looping. While normal people won't sit on the menu for almost three minutes, I'm weird and do that sometimes so this is also a feature for myself. Still, the opening 30 seconds is fantastic and more than enough for the average person. I do have a composer working with me so this is subject to change, but I doubt this will be swapped out.
At this point in time I didn't have a name for the project or the central location. I had come up with a boring placeholder name for the game, "The Trails" but that was to be used in a creative emergency only. During the Halloween themed Ballroom Dance I attended that night, I spoke with several people regarding the project and we were finally able to settle on the final name for the game, "Hiro's Ascension" and location, "Válor" after about 4 hours and lots of talking between dancing.
Why Hiro's Ascension?
I am terrible at naming things and the main charter was place-held as, "Hero" as I spoke about the project. I changed the name to, "Hiro" because it pronounces the same and it is aligned with the premise that Válor is a melting pot of various cultures and ideologies. It's a famous place and people come from all over just to explore, be it for tourism, adventure, coin, or other reasons!
Válor was chosen because I liked the theme of valor. It is not the most creative, but it gets the job done and is an exciting enough sounding location name. It is a big place, I mean just look at the image I provided above, and the name comes with a lot of associations that just make sense.
The goal of today was to finish the main menu, build the first map, and script out the opening scenes on paper (but not in engine yet). This actually ended up being a big pain in my side because the original font design was not cooperating with me. I originally had intended to go with something like this:
Note that this is a rough draft only because it was scrapped for a few reasons (meaning this never made it to actually being put into the engine w/UI and all that). One, the text is actually super hard to read, even with the few tricks I did to make it legible in this image. Two, after throwing this through my editing software the words, "Hiro's Ascension" had a disgusting white halo-like outline that was fuzzy, that or the text turned brown and you literally couldn't read it. Three, I decided this looked too busy.
The idea was to be able to see the image through the text, because that is one awesome effect, but it just doesn't work here. Additionally, I liked the concept of the letters looking like a drafter did them up in a slightly rushed/messy fashion which dovetailed into the blueprint design nicely. Sadly, after wasting several hours on this, it was totally scrapped.
Instead I opted to simplify the font and play into the weird results that I was getting from my photo editing software. You see, the engine I use wants you to have the BG and, "Logo" or title, as separate entities. I could have doctored the above image more and probably gotten in to a workable state, but that would take more time that I don't have since I want to be implementing story and gameplay ASAP moving forward. Here is the (mostly) final result, this time UI included as this is a screenshot:
Noticed the mistake in the spelling of, "Ascension" which has been corrected for the next update
One thing to note about this is that, "Config" displays as, "Options" in all instances for the player. It only reads as Config for me since this is done from the developer console and I hadn't bothered making the switch to the more common terminology yet. New Game is pending a change to, "Begin Journey" or something akin to that. Drop me a line in the comments if you have an idea, I'll even give you a credit in the game if you give me a real whopper idea!
Notice that button called, "Extras" there? Guess what, I already have some of those made and designed custom menus for them! Here are the images I'm using:
This acts as the primary background for most of the other menus. As you can see, it is another vintage parchment. The image was created by the same person so it has a lot of visual consistency. As an added bonus, the menu icons really pop off of it. I didn't have a chance to capture this in-engine for you but this surely gets the feel across. You'll see this on all Extras menus EXCEPT for the Sound Gallery. That utilizes this image instead:
Also made by the same person, and a bit on the nose perhaps, but this image is very fitting for a Sound Gallery. I just find it very pleasing and was happy to see that it looks equally good in-engine with the UI layered on. Again, didn't have the chance to pull a screencap of this one for you at the time of writing this.
All that had to be finished for this day was the introductory map. This pertains to just the visual aspects of the map itself, not any of the story or scripting necessary to make it playable. That means there are some elements missing, most notably the characters, and you can't actually play the map yet. Still, getting it put down and planned out is a BIG step. I need to create a custom sprite for a practice dummy but that's really all this map needs made special outside of me putting all the story and code stuff in. I'll easily have that done over the weekend most likely. No screenshot of that right now because it still needs some tweaking and the game won't actually let me launch that level without me sticking stuff into it (which I really don't feel up to at the time of writing this, the menu stuff was a TON of work).
This has been so much fun to do and people around me seem excited for the project. I did have a prior project I was working on, which is tabled for this, but even the people who helped me with that are totally cool with it! In fact, some of them are returning to assist me with this project moving forward. I can't stress how grateful I am for all the encouragement and support I have received thus far.
If you have feedback, ideas, or just want to ask me some questions please feel free to drop a comment here or email me at email@example.com if you prefer being more private. The weekend is coming up so I will not be investing as much time in the project because I have other duties to tend to, but I will be back in full force come next week. Expect more updates (and hopefully shorter ones!) as I continue to make progress on the game.
Until next time!