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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Battle Gem Ponies DevLog (March: Warmed Up & Eager)

     The Unity project has been cracked open and filled with placeholders and tools for actually developing a playable build now. One screen at a time, one placeholder at a time, one feature at a time.

     There's a long road ahead and I can already see myself going mad trying to animate all these ponies and debug every feature, but that's what makes this work. It's the tedious price paid to get to where I wanna be. And where I wanna be is online sharing links to my finished game for folks to check out.

    A lot of gamedev went on this past month. Hope to be dishing out some videos on the matter soon enough. See what's cooking so far below the break!

State of the Game

The new 'Credits' pop-up for the title screen.
And here's what it used to look like.
Maybe getting a second chance to make things neater all-around
turned out to be the greatest thing to happen for this game.

Functional Main Menu? Check. 
Savable & Loadable Data? Double Check.
Works at any resolution in both Portrait & Landscape? Yessir.
Tools working as expected? Yep. 
Debugging Tools? Armed & ready.
Placeholders ready to go? Pretty much all of them, yeah. 
Workflow organized and optimized? For the most part. 
Functional Battle System? Kinda.
Ready for prototype launch? Eeh, not so much.  

     There's some polish & placeholders that need to see the light of day. After this long wait I can't just toss out a half-butt barely working prototype. I at least want something comparable to what I had before. A simple test map where you can walk around and get a feel for the game loop.

     I wanna be able to go back to those YouTubers who tried the game before and show them there's new stuff to do. It's sort of a squeeze and I might not make that exact goal, but if not a playtest, then there should at least be a couple videos online going into April. It's about time I reminded the outside world that this game exists!

Product Goals

     Taking a look at things, managing my work/life balance, and balancing budgets from now to next February, I feel like I need to share where my head's at when it comes to finances. 

     I'm a couple months away from being credit-card free and after that I've got just student loans and car payments left as far as debt goes. Those two things alone add up to about $50K. So my goal is to make that much in BGP sales within the launch year. Same number as before, but now with a little more fire under my butt.

     Instead of dedicating every paycheck I get from my day job over the next 2 years to that debt pile, I'll be stashing away all I can for an emergency fund and finally start using a bit of my income for fun. Time with friends, local conventions & festivals, maybe visit a theme park for once, and get some consoles & rentals to catch up on games from the entire recent generation I basically missed. Just for those slivers of time I find to recharge and avoid more burnout. 

     The time I took to play Deltarune and Zelda only re-lit the fire I had to make BGP and gave me new ideas to implement that make the game feel more fresh and unique than "just a pokemon clone" comment I'm sure I'll be seeing in droves. Things like this led to me changing story beats, plans for animations, interesting NPCs, puzzle designs, and fundamental changes to battle mechanics.

Playing truly amps me up to just Try Harder to design something great.
More than watching YouTube videos on the subject at least. 
     So I can see the benefits now. Working myself to death just doesn't work like I thought it would and I'm better off making steady daily progress and riding the waves of inspiration that actually yield results. 

     Then as far as Patreon goes, I'll keep using all that money going straight to Yotes Games, LLC for things like ads, software, website hosting, Unity Assets, recording equipment, art commissions, and saving for future expos. I'm hoping to see a huge increase after I get the YouTube ball rolling. 

     So, like I outlined in my Return on Investment chart (used back when I was pitching the game to various publishers), I'll need about 20,000 paying customers to meet that goal. So that's my launch window goal. I need to get that many people hyped up enough to pay. 

     It doesn't feel all that impossible because the free version of my last game was downloaded about 150,000 times and BGP already has around 35,000 views across different Let's Play channels. Plus, I turned a lot of heads at Magfest and think I could really make a splash if I have a polished product to push in person.

     If I make that much cash (after taxes and revenue splits, and all that chaos) I'll consider BGP a success and focus on next steps from there based on feedback and reception. If I become truly debt-free and have 3 to 6 months of expenses stashed away, I'll be in a truly great position for entrepreneurship. 

     Not quite ready to quit my job and do indie full-time or anything, but definitely able to put more fire under marketing BGP and trying to get some DLC or a definitive edition ported & localized everywhere. I get starry-eyed when I imagine getting to spend paychecks on conventions and indie expos instead of endless loans... 

Let's see where 2020 takes me.

Upcoming Content

Updated File Select (with placeholders)
And here's what it used to look like.
Not all of these needed a dramatic overhaul.
But the new one's still turned out better.

     Getting all the UI stuff out of the way so I can get to a point where I can implement at least one in-game feature a day and start crafting some actual gameplay. 
When a game loop exists, then I can start uploading interesting progress videos alongside dev montages and design topics. That'll be enough to keep folks coming on a weekly basis over the next year, right?

April is here. Maybe it's about time I got started with those YouTube videos.

The channel feels a little stuck in time.
   I really wanna make my Patreon to feel more worthwhile and start putting these super long written posts there and using this blog to share major news and link to videos. I mean, the videos are gonna have the things I want everyone to know about, then Patreon can be the place to get my more detailed thoughts, "Tutorials", and week-to-week happenings. 

   Then social media makes for a good place to run polls, Patreon is a great testbed for spoilery ideas and early builds, and this website can be the hub world for getting to anywhere I'm spreading this game to online. 

     I just know the time has come to get some serious niche engagement going and I need to keep people interested in this game's development over the next year.

     And making frequent videos doesn't even have to be that hard. I screen recorded myself working on it for a bit and can put together clips of that with some voiceover of me talking about working on this and BAM! YouTube video for the week exists. Content like that along with some explanations of the game featuring attention-grabbing visuals like YandereDev and I'll be all set, right?

     So let this be the last of the super-wordy devlogs on These will move to Patreon (in a more brief & focused format), and the general public will get videos linked here with a descriptive paragraph or two. Videos featuring my voice, actual gameplay to witness, and a look at me working on the features themselves using Unity and whatever other tools I have to get the job done.

Prototype Checklist

     Here's the current To-Do list I'm going off of heading into the new month. My original aim was to get a playable demo out around April 6th to add to the upswing in hype around the final season of MLP premiering. But like always, this gamedev ship is moving slower than expected so I'll just settle for things happening when they're ready. 

     There might be more bronies than usual searching for the state of the fandom online this upcoming weekend and I'd like for BGP to come up and show that MLP inspired indie devs are still totally a thing. But that's no excuse to pull more all-nighters to rush out a barebones demo or a scrapped together video on top of the 40+ hours I'm spending at work.

     No more deadlines. Just make the game. No more rushing. Just do everything with love. Then once I have something worth showing, and worth playing, then I can go full marketing mode to get the word out.

     But I digress... Here's that To-Do list I'm looking at this month.

Please excuse the wonky formatting. These are my raw, chaotic, copypasta notes to myself.

  • All Interface Layouts (Landscape)
  • Placeholders & Prefabs for things to add over time.
Main Menu:
      • Debug Pop Up Buttons
        • Idle Arrows “Press Me”
        • Delete All
        • Battle Animation Test
        • Demo Island
        • File Setup
          • Control bunch of variables and create New Game with that chosen data.
      • Animate Ponies
        • See if sprites can color independently
        • Add 2dFX layer on top and see that animate too
        • See if Playmaker can make objects fade in-out
        • Try a pallette swap
        • Title Pony is randomized and changes every 2nd blink
      • Screen Transitions
        • White/Black In/Out
        • Diamond Effect
        • Dark Circle Closing
        • Fade Any Object via script
        • Transition to Battle Empty, BGPL, Paragon
        • Transition to Adventure
      • Credits Pop-Up
        • List musicians & me in place of title logo
        • Script for calling links.
        • Pony & Alicorn fade out when popups are called. Reset on main menu Show();
      • Save Data Scripts
        • Save Script & Load Script
        • Group Data Into Sections that can be Saved/Loaded Alone
        • Remember Basics of all [3] for display on File Select
        • Debug Button - Deletes All Save Data, Creates 3 New Games
      • File Select
        • Icon & Text Alignment
        • UIE Animate Slide in
        • Button Highlight then Press
        • Backveil Fade In
        • Loading Scene, White BGPL logo, Animated Idle Text
      • How to Play Slideshow
        • Alignment
        • read from csv
      • File Management
        • New Game
          • Pop Up System, Playmaker controlled
          • Boy / Girl Select, Your Name
        • Copy - load other’s settings, save to new file number
          • Copy To (Needs to be blank or error pop up)
        • Delete - Delete, New File setup
          • Multiple are you sure messages
      • Portrait Mode of Functional Main Menu UI
      • Rewired Input
        • Act, Cancel, Menu, Diections
        • Hold Esc to shutdown in timed sequence via playmaker
        • Menu nav test swapping between touch and keyboard

      Battle Scene:
      • Basic HUD
        • Action Select
        • Move Select, Info
        • SyncBlink global variable for Matchup Chart
        • Just Symbol, Proceed Button, Animated Ultra Button
      • Level Up Screen
        • slide ins, stat list for party
        • big fancy text
          • Victory, defeat, finish her, captured, level up, shattered, KO
        • choose HP, BV, or GP
      • Inventory Menu
        • categories, dynamic list, scroll buttons
        • use on who pop ups
        • “now unavailable” prompts
        • shiny USE button
        • page counter
        • scrolling background pattern
      • Stats Menu
        • weakness list. tap one to have its name label appear, pausing cycle for a few secs
        • see fainted pony info
      • Move Details
      • Playmaker Flow through Menu
      • Playmaker flow through battle logic, affect variables
      • Placeholder default animations
        • Tackle, Shoot
        • Malady, Submalady, State, buff, weather
        • KO & Switch
        • Healthbar & Particle effects
        • GP depletion
        • exp gain
      • Portrait mode
      • Functional Battle System Test
      • Move Animation Test Room
        • main menu button to access this room only appears if global debugMode is on.
        • Playmaker Control Presets based on Move's instructions.
        • Cast, Toss, Impact, & Reaction phases
        • Pony Sprites, Camera, Move Components, HealthBox, & Environment animations
        • Text Box printing flavor text
        • floating numbers & words for % or Critical
        • fancy textmeshpro effects
        • debug turn counter & move select from list.
      • Test Moves in Actual Battle Scene

      World Scene:
      • New Tilemaps
      • Animated Tiles
      • Animate Humans
      • Color Coded 16x16 squares over occupied tiles
      • Virtual D-Pad
      • Test if grid controls and pathfinding can work together
      • Controlled Grid Movement
      • Pathfinding grid movement
      • Walls
      • Patrol Patterns
      • Try making Dynamic path creation tool in Odin
        • Just input grid zone size and click squares to make a path
        • Set loop, pingPong, stall times, stall each step, turn rate range, turn certain directions off,
      • Followers
      • Layers
        • Sprites of characters
        • Footprints (sand, ripple, ice path)
        • Overlay (dust, grass, splash)
      • Text box
        • one letter at a time
        • try word chirps
        • Dialogue choice
        • localization test
      • Interactables
        • Read
        • Pickup
        • Animate Object/Tile
        • Detect Probe (Door Open)
        • Travel Move Prompt
        • Wild Battle
        • Trainer/Paragon Battle
      • Player Script
      • NPC Script
      • Demo Island Map
      • World Map Screen
        • takes you to demo island PHC by default. if map exists for real, opens that.
        • play with locked & unlocked
      • Level Loading
        • Change Maps
        • Alternate layouts of same map
        • Route Sign on Enter
        • Pony Radar placeholder appears if icon appearing after route sign is pressed.
      • Visuals
        • Tints, particles, and overlays triggered by tiles or on certain map startups
        • moving fog, ghost fog
        • rain
        • snow
        • sandstorm
        • darkness
        • heat
        • sunset
      • Implement Travel Moves
        • Run to Ride
        • Surf
          • floaty sprite
          • extra long surfboard
        • Fly/Teleport to new maps
        • Smash
        • Push
        • Cut
        • Waterfall
        • Whirlpool
        • Ice Walk
        • Lumos
        • swap in leader based on need. Travel items negate need to switch. certain ponies leading party trigger special animation like surfing pony or ice walk.
      • Cutscene
        • Disable controls
        • animate camera & npcs
        • text blocks in sequence, timing
        • trigger item get or battle
        • tutorial sequences
      • Pause Menu
        • World Map (instead of Teleport & travel moves)
        • Party & Travel Move Icons
        • Blades
        • Gradient changing color, subtle particles floating
      • Trainer ID
      • Save
        • Particles
        • Quit Game button appears, becomes green YES if you hover or press
        • hold esc for closing sequence
      • Party Menu
        • New Cooler Layout
        • Travel Move icons highlight based on pool
        • pool to party selection more intuitive
          • have hover hands appear and highlight the party boxes, giving player the idea
        • Ponies swap into lead position (even from pool) if you accept triggering a travel move with no travel item to do it for you. if only needed once like smash, your pony turns back to what it was.
      • Ponipedia
        • scroll List
        • Details page
        • move list page
        • Map
        • stat readings
      • Customize Screen
        • Moves
        • BVs
        • Pony Storage
        • Ponatina
      • Options
        • Controls
          • Now with dynamic symbols, replaceable & localizable
        • Audio Levels
        • Auto Save
        • Remap Controls Save to file profile
        • main menu defaults to last used profile
        • secret debug button here turns developer vision on/off.
      • Developer Vision
        • See active tile states, what probes detect via text above npc heads
        • what player probe detects too.
        • vision tiles & patrol paths
        • wild pony name above its head
        • mystery pony names & rarity under pony radar
        • Inventory increaser for scroll list
        • manual Pony swap in list
        • customize menu button
        • event trigger list
      • Portrait Mode
        • All Interface Layouts (Landscape)
        • Manage Camera, Test Each Scene
      • Finalize Art
        • All Placeholder Assets (Ponies, Humans)
        • Fine-Tune Pony Animations
        • Fix Color Tints on Pony Sprites
        • Cute/Simple Animations for “How To Play”
      Complete Game Loop Build!

     So if I do aaaaalll that, I'll finally be at a point where I can share my game with other people again and try explaining the vision in my head to the masses again. It's just a lot easier when people can see and get their hands on it. In it's current state, I'm all talk. From the outside-in this is just another vaporware project that's never coming out.

     But anyone reading this knows that this website is filled with 6 years of proof that I'm seeing this game through to the end. No matter what.

New 'Beginner's Guide' screen.
Most of the differences are gonna be subtle.
Like this new fonts and scaling to all kinds of resolutions.
And I'll leave room to add extra animations & polish later.
     Working on this game is the best part of my day. And it only gets better as I get the more tedious stuff out of the way. I really can't wait to show you all what I've been up to. The goal here is to make a mobile indie game for the ages and I'm deadset on delivering. 

    Thanks to every single one of you who've been alongside me on the long journey to this point. Especially my Patrons, who've been going above and beyond to keep Yotes Games afloat for well over a year now (15 months and counting).

Join the Herd. 😎
     Some friends, some strangers, and all generous. It's people believing in me this much that makes me want to be sure I'm doing this right every step of the way. I'm sick of making them wait to see this game published, and I want it to be worth all the hype. 

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