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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Battle Gem Ponies (October DevLog): Full Speed Ahead!

     The initial hurdles of learning to work together and getting a foundation in place for the project are all behind us now. The Yotes Games team is hard at work every day and we're knocking out features one-by-one.

Come get a not-so-brief summary of the game's progress below.

Here's a tiny bit of redecorating for the Battle Gem Ponies Download Page in anticipation for big things to come...

State of the Game

Now if that ain't the prettiest code ya'll ever did see...
And I'm sure you can tell from the GIF above that the gameplay is already looking much smoother than it was before.  Lag, tile snapping, animation skipping, and all sorts of other little kinks are all being ironed out as the new programmer (who wants to be known as Royal Pizza going forward) redesigns much of the behind-the-scenes architecture.
He's been turning my spreadsheet CSV files into Scriptable Objects so when it comes time to implement the things I put in there, it's just a matter of clicking a few things and the game is updated. Royal Pizza's always got new ways to increase efficiency and we're cutting out the repetitive steps of this game-making progress one problem at a time.
The end goal is to have data management be no more complex than some multiple-choice boxes and sliders.

Unfortunately though, there was one thing that had to be done the hard way... Animation.
Animate each pony. And its ultra form. And the chroma color-swaps of its normal and ultra forms. AND make separate UI versions of each of those! Also reorganize the files in a way that makes them easier to find and edit. Double also, the 15 finished ponies need to have each individual frame replaced by the color-swapped versions as well. 
Doing this literally over 7,000 times was a HUUUUGE grind.
Got real familiar with my mouse's keyboard shortcut controls this way...
I spent about 3 weeks straight animating placeholders for every pony and human in the game. Right now most of the ponies (All 60, plus Ultras, minus the 15 that were already made before the Great Computer-Crash Calamity of 2018), well, just stay still. Static sprites posed in their initial idle stances until I get around to fully animating them. 
Which can be done as one of the very last steps before release. Just making sure each pony is animated as they're added to the newest playable build. Same goes for the humans which are getting additional facial expressions, blinking, and dynamic poses for specific events  and personality quirks.
Everything in this game is meant to feel alive. I want players to get super invested in the world I'm trying to build here. A big part of that is shaking off the notion that this is just a pokemon clone. 
Oh. And while I was at it I also came up with a new water navigation idea that fixes the Sapphire Sea variety problem. You see, now in addition to any water pony being able to tug you along to sail on your hover-surfboard, you can also be pulled along by any pony with even modestly powerful wings allowing them to fly and you to jet-ski behind them. 
Any pony that meets neither of those criteria either float in the air behind the player avatar or sit tight in a little futuristic raft being tugged along by the player on his/her hoverboard. There's also a secret option of having an ice pony at the lead of the team that can freeze up a tile path beneath you and let you just walk/skate across the ice in order to basically walk across water. Outta be nice watch players discover that one .
Jet-ski style with surfing or flying ponies gives you the extra ability to dash and quickly zoom across water, which will be helpful in minigames to come. But at least now it's possible to progress without forcing the player to have one of the like, 3 water ponies in the entire game with em at all times. And it also means you can run into a wider variety of enemies out at sea, both trainers and wild ponies. 
Also, it's completely unrelated to the above paragraphs, but look what the overworld follower system can do:
Everything is being built in a dynamic way this time that allows for easier editing of the project, and a more polished version of the vision we're bringing to life here. 
We also ran into a bit of trouble with the menu files. RP couldn't find the ones I made (tucked away in a poorly named file hidden among similar junk files) and spent a week preparing his own by laying sprites over the screenshots I sent him, thinking those were just mockups. 
It was a time of stress and frustration for him since it overlapped with a bunch of overtime and other very un-fun dayjob related stuff (they have him doing documents and meetings more than actually programming anything over the past year and it drives him nuts). But the big crunch is over, I salvaged the original files, established some rules about no more working on features without at least sending a quick message first, and now things are back on track.
Menus look more like this when they're all spruced up in-engine. We've got the variables tracked. Just gotta make it all functional now.
Whenever something big is done, it's just a matter of hitting "Upload" and the other team member gets all the files added to his version of the Unity project. We have a nice rhythm going and it's super soothing to know each time we do this Unity automatically stores a backup. 
But we each also make local backups before uploading or downloading changes just to be safe, and I even store extra copies on a flash drive and to Google Drive just to make certain we never have another data-loss Calamity.
Next Steps

We hold monthly showcase nights where we have friends come by to see the game progressing and explaining the latest developments and features to them in-person pretty much the way I do it here on Patreon. This month was basically just explaining the project and showing off tile-based movement.
But its not a complete game loop yet, so nothing worth you patrons installing. We're optimistic for getting overworld and menus in a playable state by the end of November then spending all December on the battle scene and having a new demo to play by the start of the new year.

So keep an eye out for that stuff. These are very exciting times for BGP and I can't wait to show you all exactly how much better the overall quality of this game will be now. 

Workin' together to figure this out!  Two heads make better decisions than one.

           Still figuring out the best way to post these things. Going back and fourth with how to format them or if I should just copy/paste old news from Patreon. 

           Anyone following its development deserves to know what's up and Patrons deserve the inside scoop for being so invested. So to balance things out I'll be posting the usual devlogs here then super detailed progress reports with extra tidbits and Work in Progress stuff in the middle of each month on Patreon. 

           That way you don't have to be one of the 10 people over there to know that the game is coming along and is worth jumping on the bandwagon for. 

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