Hello, everyone! How are you?

I haven’t updated this devlog in a really, really long time (the longest so far), and for that I must apologize. During these months, I’ve kept working on the game every week without fail, may it be on the code itself, on design stuff or characters, on the plot and lore… However, as I worked, the amount of stuff I had to post here grew as well, so I kept putting it off.

This time of forced quarantine seems as good as any to finally post here all the news, so there we go! I’ll try to summarize, but I have a lot of stuff to cover and I’m feeling talkative, so this post will probably turn out to be twice (or more) as long as usual. Sorry not sorry :B

Game and programming news

During this time I’ve basically done three things programming-wise: I’ve coded some visual tools to help me develop the game faster and better, I’ve improved the game’s user interface (implementing mouse and touch support in the process) and I’ve changed or redesigned certain aspects of the game.

  • Developer tools. These tools are meant to save me a lot of time in the long run, as well as make things easier for future modders of the game.

There’s two basic sets of dev tools: the map editor tools, meant to assist the developer when making maps, and the database editor tools, which are a visual way to edit all the .json databases that handle game data such as items, characters, locations, etc.

Some map editor screenshots: screenshot screenshot

Some database editor screenshots: screenshot screenshot

The tools are integrated into Godot Engine’s interface through Godot’s own plugin system, which is awesome! This system lets you code the tools using the same simple scripting language that you use for the game itself (GDscript), and there’s lots of premade nodes such as dropdown menus, windows, etc. to choose from. Thanks to this, I’ve learnt a lot about UI design, which I’ve been aplying to the game itself too.

The tools aren’t finished yet: the map editor tools are 3/4 done (still pending some functionality, such as being able to preview weather and day/night in the editor) and the database tools still have a long way to go. But the basics are there and I’m really proud of them. This is probably the most complex programming I’ve ever done.

I haven’t worked on these tools in a few months, to avoid burnout, but I’ll get back to them eventually. They’re really useful and fun to make.

  • Improvements to the game interface. I had wanted to do this for the past year! I’ve been working on improving the game’s menus and interface, as well as taking the first steps to make it playable with a mouse or a touchscreen. These are some examples of the new interfaces, still a work in process (the main character’s graphics are placeholders and will be changed in the final version): screenshot screenshot screenshot

And this is my theoretical design of main screen touchscreen and mouse support. The game should be entirely playable with a single hand, and the interface will be identical no matter the input device you use or the platform you play in. screenshot

  • Changes in the game system. Because of touch implementation, changes to the interface and other design decisions, I’ve also kept improving (simplifying, mostly) certain aspects of the game. I’ve removed the energy system, so now it’s impossible to get game over, and there’s also no time limit to finish any tasks. The game now has 4 action buttons + 4 movement buttons, like a Game Boy.

Right now, I’m leaning more towards making a mix between a Zelda game and a classical adventure game. I want to focus on exploration and fun instead of making the game particularly difficult or challenging. This might still keep changing, though.

Game design

When I first started working on this game, I did so with a very clear idea in my mind: I wouldn’t make any (or very few) final graphics for it until I had the basic system done. I knew that this was my weak spot in previous projects, and the reason I dropped them: focusing on graphics before I had proper gameplay, and then having to discard all that hard work when I realised that the game itself wasn’t fun or still needed improvements.

Since Monster Embassy’s prototyping process is stretching forever (two years and counting!), and I keep playing around with the game and changing stuff, it seems that those “final” graphics are still pretty far away. However, I realise that most people (myself included) judge games mostly depending on how visually appealing they are, so now I’m at least trying to make better UI and I’ll eventually make some nice beta graphics for the first game map. I guess it’s good that my pixel art skills are put to the test sometimes, since I’m getting really, really, really rusty.

Regarding art, perhaps the most meaningful thing I’ve done lately is make a simple storyboard of the game’s intro, which I’ve animated and implemented into the game as a placeholder. I’ll eventually need to turn it into pixel-art and compose music for it: gif

More design stuff:

  • I’m currently working on beta character designs and illustrations, to use them in guides and marketing material and stuff. They’re based on the alpha designs that I talked about in the previous entry of this devlog, but more polished. A “phase 2” in design, if you will. I’ll post more news once I have more finished illustrations.

  • Another important decision I’ve taken, design- and concept-wise, is that I want the game to fit in a CD — that is, 660 mb. I don’t know if it will be possible, but it would be a good way to both optimize resources and pay homage to classic PC and Play Station games. Also, the game’s cover will be square-ish, to go with that CD and Game Boy vibe.

  • I’ve also been working on the game’s lore, such as items, or expanding character descriptions and information on locations. I’m making an effort to draw inspiration and ideas from outside of videogames and cartoons, which are my main sources, and so far it’s paying off.

  • Oh! And did I mention the new logo and icon? Aren’t they nice? I added the fire element symbol to the logo and now it makes much more sense, since it’s directly related to the game itself. I’m liking it. gif

Music

This past January, I finally decided to publish an album with all my Monster Embassy alpha music to date! You can listen to it on Bandcamp or Soundcloud (oh boy, it took FOREVER to upload those tracks with my shitty Internet connection). This is the album cover, including an edited version of an early Monster Embassy illustration I made 5 years ago (!): screenshot

This soundtrack isn’t final: many songs will probably be scrapped or remade, and some new ones will be added later, but I thought it was a good moment to publish them. Monster Embassy is shaping up to be a very long-term project, and this way, these songs will be preserved in their current state and other people can listen to them right away.

Bugs

Fixed bugs

I’ve fixed lots of critical bugs, such as bugs in the warp system, in room transitions, in SceneManager, in the UI, etc. Too many to list here.

Known bugs to fix

  • The warp system is pretty broken and I’ll probably need to remake it from scratch.
  • In the dialogue system, if you press the action button many times when dialogue is still appearing, the dialogue disappears and appears again. The dialogue system in general needs more work… I might even redo it from scratch, since it’s not really that complicated and I made some serious mistakes when first designing it.
  • If you use the in-game “reset” option (which doesn’t actually reset the program, just returns you to the titlescreen and resets all game stats to default), the game crashes. I’ve disabled this option for now until I get to fix it.
  • Other minor bugs.

What I want to do next

  • I have to finish the UI overhaul (this includes adding item categories to the item menu and item database, which don’t exist yet) and make all menus usable by either a keyboard, a joypad, a mouse or by touch.
  • Spells should have an effect on EVERYTHING in a map, even if it’s just cosmetic. I want maps to be more interactive.
  • I need to make good basic graphics for the main character, trees, grass, rocks and other game elements, to make the game more visually appealing.
  • Developer tools: I should at least finish the destructibles database editor and the map editor.
  • I want to overhaul game settings to add more accessibility options, such as different font types, and also three different tutorial levels (no tutorial, basic tutorial and tutorial for beginners).
  • The notebook menu should be expanded so entries can be filtered by type and ordered from newest to oldest or vice versa. The friends and mission system also requires tweaks.
  • The cinematics system needs to be improved, so NPCs can be moved around the screen, etc. I also need to implement more screen transitions.
  • I also have to finish the “slide” effect for ice, which I started but seems to be harder than I expected. I’ll probably leave it for later…
  • I’ll need to implement the option to change character graphics mid-game, so for example the player wears different clothing depending on the occasion.

And a long etc. You can check the TODO_LIST file in the game’s repository if you want to know more about my creative process.

Well, I think that’s all for today, folks! I warned you it was going to be long, and I still left out many details (and probably forgot something important, but oh well). I hope you’re doing well and my best wishes to you,

Alf