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[PC] Brave Earth: Prologue

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[PC] Brave Earth: Prologue

Unread postby SriK » 30 May 2013 22:14

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A new heavily Castlevania-inspired 2D action game, from the creator of I Wanna Be The Guy of all people. Surprisingly it looks quite decent, and audiovisually it's far above any other Western NES-styled amateur effort I've seen (for once it actually looks/sounds on par with the best games released during the era, instead of an excuse for bad programmer-art).

A few screenshots, taken from http://kayin.pyoko.org/?p=1502:

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A page with some cool animated GIFs of the game in action: http://kayin.pyoko.org/?p=2001

A video showcasing the first two stages (second stage starts at around 7:00): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uOER3K4alE

A video showcasing the third stage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKDc-aTLBr8

A link to the game's soundtrack I found: http://kayin.pyoko.org/bepmusic/

In contrast to most (all?) other Western NES-styled games I know of the music here seems to be stored in a proper NSF file, meaning they're real chiptunes that can be played back on the actual system. The soundtrack utilizes the VRC6 expansion chip, the same one that the original Famicom version of Castlevania III used to add more sound channels and polyphony.

And a Q&A with the developer: http://kayin.pyoko.org/?p=2286

Here are some notable quotes:

KayinN wrote:From VioletLinked
How many areas / weapons will be usable in the game?
Can you upgrade and downgrade said weapons?
How many characters will you get to play as?


There should be about a dozen unique stages. Some stages are shared between character and often have paths that are unique to different characters. As for ‘weapons’ and ‘upgrades’ remember, this is not a metroidvania. That said, Naomi has 4 special attacks and can power up one of those attacks at a time. Including air variations, Naomi can do a dozen different moves with her special attack button, though only 5 and a time (only powered up specials have air variants). Sinlen, can hold 1 of 5 spells at a time and each of those spells has a special attack. Trevor has 4 different dodge techniques, but can only incrementally power up his sword, much like a Belmont powers up his whip.

As for the amount of characters? For now I’ll just say 3. I might add extra bonus characters later, but these are the three main characters with their own unique paths and storyline significance.


Kayin wrote:From Fortinbras
I dunno if this has been covered elsewhere, but since you’re best known for IWBTG, I’m curious what the difficulty level will be.


It has, but no harm in saying it again. I’d say at this point, Brave Earth is harder than Castlevania 3, but not by a lot. To experienced Castlevania fans, Brave Earth might actually be slightly easier. There will also be difficulty sets to help people find their ideal level of challenge.


Kayin wrote:From Poki#3
Do you think the self imposed limitations of having it be as close to an NES game as possible limit your creativity, or make you find more creative ways to do things?


Well first, let me be honest: I cheat. A lot. I cheat with resolution (the game is a bit wider than it should be, since NES games are natively ‘square’, and the exact resolution is chose more with resolution multiplication in mind more than accuracy). I cheat with the palette (I edit a number of traditional NES colors to get a few colors that wouldn’t normally exist), I cheat with sprite limits and thusly I can even cheat with colors per character. So I’m not hyper accurate, but I like to be aware of the rules I break and have a reason why. As such the limitation is actually very liberating. I have a lot of aesthetic tools to draw upon and I can cheat them when they are occasionally too strict.

My general rule has been “Would I believe this was an NES game if I played it as a kid?”. I cheat less than that, but if I couldn’t believe it, I know it’s flat out wrong.


Kayin wrote:Going all 8-bit retro often pushes people into tossing in limited lives (sometimes even with limited continues). What’s your stance with this on kicking people back to the start of the level/start of the game as punishment for dying too much?

Default game setting will have lives with infinite continues. In fact, once a level is beat, it’s unlocked and you can resume from there at any time. So you might have to restart a stage, but never the game. Also through an option you can turn on the ability to resume from checkpoints after game-overing. I want to encourage people to play in the ‘old school’ style, but they don’t have to.


Kayin wrote:Kinda related- Difficulty settings. I seem to recall you planning to include them, but how much thought are you putting into them? Just tweaking damage/HP? Altering enemy placement? Changing up attack patterns? Going all Mega Man 10 and including those shame inducing big obvious bumpers in platforming bits? Maybe without being so passive-aggressive about it visually (i.e. just make the pit smaller, don’t throw in big obvious safety bumper sprite)?

Pretty much everything. Health adjustments, some placement adjustments and for certain enemies, AI changes (this will mostly effect the Very Hard difficulty). Easy platforming (and the associated bumpers) are an option that can be toggles individually.


The second-to-last quote is an enormous red flag, but I'm still holding out hope that he was only talking about the "default" game difficulty. The level design in the videos looks pretty solid to me from briefly skimming through, aside from the slow pacing of the first stage (which really does seem like an unfinished alpha until the music finally kicks in with the skeletons around two and a half minutes in -- at least add some DPCM/noise wind or something so it isn't completely silent aside from sound effects). Some of the cutscenes also seem overindulgent compared to the (necessarily) terse writing of actual 8-bit games.

The nearest-neighbor upscaling also sucks, it significantly worsens the art in the blog post I took those screenshots from. I should send the dev an e-mail to this Postback thread -- it only took me around a half hour to implement a shader based on ronan's post here for one of my own projects a while back, with no previous experience in the area. I also have no clue what's up with the game's resolution in general; every screenshot seems to be a slightly different size, and it doesn't correspond to either the "original" NES resolution or a regular 4:3/16:9 one. Either way I'll probably play this once a demo eventually releases and post my thoughts here.
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Unread postby icycalm » 30 May 2013 23:43

Kayin wrote:From Poki#3
Do you think the self imposed limitations of having it be as close to an NES game as possible limit your creativity, or make you find more creative ways to do things?


Well first, let me be honest: I cheat. A lot. I cheat with resolution (the game is a bit wider than it should be, since NES games are natively ‘square’, and the exact resolution is chose more with resolution multiplication in mind more than accuracy). I cheat with the palette (I edit a number of traditional NES colors to get a few colors that wouldn’t normally exist), I cheat with sprite limits and thusly I can even cheat with colors per character. So I’m not hyper accurate, but I like to be aware of the rules I break and have a reason why. As such the limitation is actually very liberating. I have a lot of aesthetic tools to draw upon and I can cheat them when they are occasionally too strict.

My general rule has been “Would I believe this was an NES game if I played it as a kid?”. I cheat less than that, but if I couldn’t believe it, I know it’s flat out wrong.


This is the perfect way to do retro aesthetics, by the way. The reasoning is similar to the reasoning I employ in The Truth About Emulation article. And your intention to email him is admirable. If you truly care about some developers like this one, who are genuinely struggling to measure up to the challenge of the past, the best thing you can do for them is to email them links to articles that can help them understand what they are doing wrong. If I had the patience I'd do it myself, but I only have time for those on the cutting edge of progress now (and will indeed be contacting them once all my books are done).
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Unread postby SriK » 08 Jun 2013 01:52

So I actually did end up e-mailing this guy a few days back:

SriK wrote:Hi Kayin,

I recently found out about your game in progress, Brave Earth: Prologue, and I have to say it looks really cool -- probably head and shoulders above any other Western NES-styled effort I've seen, in fact, and definitely so audiovisually (even including professional work such as the new Mega Man games). I'd really like to see this succeed where I feel a lot of other efforts have failed, so with that in mind, I have a few questions and comments if you'd be willing to answer them:

1) In the Q&A you said that "[the] default game setting will have lives with infinite continues. In fact, once a level is beat, it’s unlocked and you can resume from there at any time. So you might have to restart a stage, but never the game. Also through an option you can turn on the ability to resume from checkpoints after game-overing". Is all of this only true for the default game setting, or will it also apply to higher difficulty levels? I'm asking because the relatively harsh continue and save structure of old console games is a large part of what makes them so appealing to me, and something which I feel modern efforts such as Super Meat Boy or VVVVVV have completely failed to capture (replacing deliberately paced challenge with tons of checkpoints and general "bite-sized" level design). Given that this game seems to have already gotten the audiovisuals and basics down pat it'd be a shame if it failed in that area.

2) The upscaling...I've always felt that nearest-neighbor is really fugly and detracts heavily from nice pixel art, despite the current "retro" obsession with fat quadrupled pixels. Have you given any thought to implementing a scanline/CRT shader as an option? Here's a cool thread about this: http://postback.geedorah.com/foros/view ... id=600&p=2. It only took me around a half hour or so to implement a decent-looking shader based on this post, for a project I was developing with SFML a while back. I don't know if this is possible with Construct (?) but if it is it'd be really nice!

3) What's up with the game's resolution? I was rehosting the images so I could post screenshots of the game on a forum, and it seems that every image has a slightly different one (around...272x228?), which doesn't seem to correspond to either 256x224 NTSC NES resolution or a regular 4:3/16:9 one. Just curious.

4) Would it be plausible to add some DPCM/noise wind in the first level before the music kicks in, haha? Or some ambient tones, or just something lol. Complete silence just makes it seem like something is broken or unfinished rather than building up tension or atmosphere, which I'm guessing was the intent. (See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presence_% ... cording%29)

In addition, I'd also like to link you to this set of reviews: http://insomnia.ac/reviews/introducing_the_indie_scene/. They're from a gaming site called Insomnia that I frequent, which you might have heard of (though probably in a negative fashion given shitty Internet forum osmosis) -- the Insomnia forum was in fact where I was posting about your project earlier. It's a site which has given me some genuinely valuable perspective and insight on a lot of issues regarding games, game design, and art in general -- while like many others I was off-put by the writing style of the main author (Alex Kierkegaard) at first, I eventually began to gain a deep appreciation for the site's ideas and philosophy by reading his articles and the posts of his supporters, and through understanding the content I began to understand the reasoning for the style. Either way I think those reviews do a great job identifying where a lot of other prominent retro efforts have gone wrong, and if you have any questions I'll be happy to answer them (or if I can't or don't feel comfortable about it then I'll ask the author of the review/article in question).

Thanks for your time,
Sri


And his reply:

Kayin wrote:1. As for the default game setting, that's going to be something I decide the last moment probably. But I WANT to encourage people to learn the hard way. I want people to want to 1CC the game. I want people to toughen up. I probably will put things like 'continue from last checkpoint' as an 'off by default' option. Basically I want the game to be accessible, but I really want to be clear what the intended experience is.

2. Upscaling.. Personally I like big sharp pixels (So much time playing on emulator before the scanline stuff became common probably lends to that more than any sort of modern indie style), but I hear enough people who don't that I will try and do something with that. There are also some other issues relating to doing this well that I'm currently trying to tackle. The short version is : Using baby-level game creation tools is a huge pain in the ass when you want things to work a certain way. Who would have guessed?

Anyways thanks for those links. Since that look isn't my cup of tea, it's better for me to know how other people are doing it than try and guess what people want my self.

3. The random resolution just comes from me being lazy when I crop images. Honestly and regretfully, how the current resolution got chosen is almost a mystery to me, lost in a haze of other issues.. If I recall, I started with 256x240, and assumed like an idiot that the NES did some non square sprite BS like some arcade boards so I made it wider to compensate, then I was like "wait no it's cropped you dumbass' and at that point I couldn't reasonably shrink it, so from THERE I was like "fuck it no one will notice just pick a resolution that will scale well", and did THAT wrong too because I'm a total idiot (1080 is the VERTICAL RESOLUTION, stupid past self!). I might still change it again but I know I need a bigger screen space than what the NES would allow due to my poor planning (This was originally going to be a really short term project. Like CV1 style, so some early decisions didn't get a lot of thought). Also was going to try and pick another standard resolution, but they were either two small or too big in areas I wanted them.

I don't mind having a made up resolution, I "cheat" a lot (too much parallax, a handful of colors that didn't exist on the NES, sprites that don't conform to what would be sensible NES sizes, etcetcetc) but I like my cheats to be sensible and lucid and the resolution just feels like something that I decided on after a fever dream or something and I hope to adjust it to something that at least makes sense. if you were to ask me 'what early decision do you regret the most?" my answer would be 'not planning the resolution related stuff better. My gut is churning just thinking about it.

4. Stage 1 is supposed to have some sort of ambiant music. It's only silent because nothing has been put there yet. Wind is a possibility, but one of the musicians wants to try to do a track first.


As for Insomnia and Kierkegaard, well... I'm familiar enough with it. I honestly can't stand Kierkegaard (he ventures into 'looney' territory with some of the philosophical stuff) but yes, I know some of the positive stuff you're talking about. His article on arcade culture is probably one of my favorite things written on games and really encourages me to apply my competitive fighting game player nature to single player games instead of leaning of save states and such.

So while I find his tone very distasteful and while I think higher of most of these games than he does, I understand what he finds to be lacking in these games. I might think it's great NOT to do type of games Kierkegaard and I assume most of that community want, I do find it somewhat frustrating that the indie community seems not to value that very much. I don't know if I'll succeed with that audience where they failed, but I guess I have a better chance. I'm somewhat allergic to rigid and intense ideology, but despite my distaste for Kierkegaard, I think on a personal level, at least where taste in games is concern, I value a lot of the same things he does and I totally get why you wanted to share some insomnia stuff with me.

Anyways thanks for a really huge, thought out email. I hope my incoherent babbling makes me an acceptable response!
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Unread postby icycalm » 08 Jun 2013 02:28

Kayin wrote:(1080 is the VERTICAL RESOLUTION, stupid past self!)


They want to make videogames but can't figure out what 1080p means. Is it any wonder that no proper studio will have them?

And then he finds "distasteful" that I bust a gut laughing at his complete and utter imbecility, lol.
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