Adventures in Game Development Part II

So, we decided to make a game. Simple, right?

When we started out, we had planned to create the game using the popular Unity3D (unity3d.com).  This was around 2013, when the latest version of Unity was 3.5. It was especially attractive to be able to port between PC, Mac, Android, and iOS with the push of a button. At the time, not a whole lot of engines could do such quick and easy ports, which traditionally was very time intensive.

Unity is a primarily a 3D engine, which means it is capable of doing 2D, but at the time it didn’t support the design of a 2D game very well.  For example, in many traditional RPGs, they use tile based maps (e.g., Dragon Warrior’s tile sheet – http://www.spriters-resource.com/nes/dw/sheet/10199/). That is, the whole map is divided up into a grid and the game designer chooses an image from a ‘tile sheet’ to ‘paint’ onto the map. Unity didn’t let you use tile maps, at least not in the way they were intended. However, Unity is a very extensible engine and has a huge community that develops plugins for it. So to make up for this lack of 2D game support, we decided to use the popular 2D Toolkit plugin.

Unlike vanilla Unity, 2D toolkit effectively supports tile maps and sprite animations – a traditional method of animating characters in a 2D video game (e.g., Dragon Warrior characters – http://www.spriters-resource.com/nes/dw/sheet/10197/). Sprites are 2D images that are quickly changed to give the illusion of animation, such as a character moving his feet while he walks, or in the case of Dragon Warrior, while he stands idle there looking like some d-bag on a Stairmaster. Ahh, those were the days.

We actually did a lot of work to generally make it look like and act like Dragon Warrior.  I started first with character control, which was rather simple. Although, at the time, the character control was quite fluid in that it was not grid based, like traditional RPGs. Ironically, creating a true grid based system would have been more work, even though a grid based movement system could be considered ‘obsolete’ by today’s standards. We really wanted a grid based system but in the interest of time and functional prototypes, I decided to put that on the backburner.

After we had a basic character moving around our maps, I decided to create a dialog system including the cute little retro dialog boxes that print out the text like a typewriter. As simple as that seems, I really felt like I had to wrestle with Unity to get it to work. At the time, Unity had very minimal support for graphical user interfaces, and even the plugins we found, such as Daikon Forge, did not by default support the traditional menu system of an 80s RPG.  So, I spent WAY too much time trying to get that to work.  It finally worked, but it was a real pain in the ass. From there, I fleshed out the backend of the dialog system by basing it on XML, which is a markup language that could be used to model the tree like nature of dialog.  So then, when you walked up to an NPC, you could talk, buy things, sell things, etc. Great.  Oh yeah, I guess at some point I made an inventory system. So a character could have a sword, a shield, or a stat boost item that rhymes with barujana. Yay.

Since we had a functional dialog system with cute retro menus and an inventory system, the next task was to create a battle system. This was relatively simple to do actually, once we had the menus working. Again, I designed this similar to Dragon Warrior as a placeholder. But, I knew what we actually wanted was a side view party battle system, similar to the Final Fantasy series. Since the battle system basically worked, we decided to put the side view battles on the backburner. C’est la vie.

From there I went on to create a save/load system and the ability to move between maps. Again, I found it kind of annoying to work with Unity for this, since every time you load a new scene in Unity, it erases everything in the previous scene, including your character’s XP! So we had to do some software tricks to save data between scene changes. It worked fine, but it was kind of annoying to do initially.

At some point, I decided that continuing with Unity for this was going to be an uphill battle. It felt like a traditional 2D RPG was a square peg that we were trying to fit into Unity’s round hole. Then I got distracted by other things and development came to a halt. DUN DUN DUN! Oh no! What is going to happen to our lovely game? Is it fated to become vaporware? If only there was another way!

About 2 years later, Unity still didn’t support cute retro menus without a lot of butt hurt. Luckily, we did find another way… but it turned out that it wasn’t the right way either…

Stay tuned for our next installment of Adventures in Game Development!

-John

Adventures in Game Development

Since we recently became a game development studio in addition to the musical act, I thought you might be interested in how this whole adventure into game development began.  After our first album was released, Tim and I started to explore the sound for our second album and after much experimentation, we came up with the concept of basing the album on an RPG from the 80s-90s, or rather a parody of the RPGs from the 80s and 90s that we fondly remember in the style of popular games like the Final Fantasy series and the Dragon Warrior series, etc. We wanted the music to tell the story of this imaginary game.

So, we spent a few band practices coming up with a rough outline for the main characters, the world, and the plot of the story. Of course we had to have evil kings, magical princesses, and an unnamed hero (ala Dragon Warrior). But since we are horrible examples of human beings, of course we added in lots of sexual humor, drug and alcohol use, and excessive inappropriateness all over the place. So it was like a typical RPG story…but not.

Then we began to write songs to give a soundtrack to the story. We wrote songs about love, good versus evil, magic gems, drunken airship captains, burning old men’s tree houses down, killing WAY too many slimes, emo-dragons, chicken intercourse, and of course a gigantic alcohol fueled celebration at the end that gets way more out of hand than any end-game RPG celebration ever has.  If you have seen our live show or looked at our picture gallery, we often take on the role of some of the characters and act out some of the events in these stories during the shows.

But all along, we had this fantasy – wouldn’t it be great if this imaginary game we are writing songs about was actually a real game?  Tim and I are computer scientists by training so we had the skills. When we finally figured out how to carve out the time, we decided to take our game soundtrack and make it a real RPG.

But this is just the beginning of the story… Stay tuned for more!

-John

Patreon

We are excited to announce that we have launched our Patreon! Why Patreon? Well, there’s a few reasons, but mostly we wanted an avenue to be able to reach fans more directly that support our work and, in turn, give them something more unique. There are times when it doesn’t look like we’re doing much, and while a few times that is actually kinda true, a lot of it is that we’re working on things that are not particularly visible, such as writing music or working on our RPG. We wanted a platform to be able to show some of that and provide some exclusive things to devoted fans. Things like having access to our original FamiTracker and LSDJ files, previews of songs, alpha and beta copies of our RPG, among other things. Hence, Patreon!

It should be noted that we will continue to release content via our usual avenues as we did before and will still continue to do live shows and what not. None of that has changed and, as a result, Patreon is optional, but, of course, much appreciated! Either way, thanks to everyone who supports us in any manner you see fit, even if that’s just by enjoying our music, art, and games!

Classic Game Fest, 2016!

cgf-logo

We are super excited to announce that we will be playing at this year’s Classic Game Fest! It is the classic gaming pilgrimage held every year in Texas put on by Game Over Videogames and others for a weekend full of classic gaming action. That not only includes tons of classic games available to play and trade, but also costume contests, classic gaming vendors, gaming contests, and, dearest to our hearts, video game inspired musical acts! That includes us!

We hope you join us for a mega kick-ass weekend! CGF 2016 is from July 30-31st at the Parmer Event Center in Austin, TX. More info can be found below.

Tickets Available Here
Facebook Event Here

VC In 2016

We have been on a pretty long hiatus from the Holidays and with Tim being super busy at work for the month of January, but worry not as we still have plenty of plans for 2016. Among them being that we’ve landed a mega kick-ass gig that we are incredibly excited about and will be providing more info for soon. We also plan on recording more songs from our Hero album. We plan on recording these throughout the year while we also work on some new songs and trying some new concepts for our sound. John has also been hard at work setting the foundations for a Victim Cache JRPG that is in the works. It will follow the story of our Hero album and include some of our current music, as well as some pure chiptune and videogame songs exclusive to the RPG.

And, of course, we will be continually looking for additional gigs throughout the year in addition to the big one! Exciting times ahead for Victim Cache!