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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Battle Gem Ponies (April DevLog): The World is on FIRE!!

We're mid-apocalypse as showtime approaches! I'm sure April 2020 has been rough for pretty much everyone. And the team here at Yotes Games is no exception. 

Spritework, cut budgets, major losses, and hard lessons finally learned. It's been pretty busy.

Get a full update on the new decade's most destructive month yet as it relates to Battle Gem Ponies and see how we plan to rise from the ashes, developers reborn!

Despite all of civilization collapsing around me, I've gotten to know myself really well during this isolation and uncovered the spark that ignites the passion I've been missing for years. A fire under my butt and a twinkle in my eye. It's Go-Time!

State of the Game 

Things are about to heat up, with May being the most productive and interesting month yet (for reason's we'll get to later).

In short lots of preparation for the announcement spectacle we're trying to make out of May 20th, while also rescheduling and retooling convention plans on the fly. 

But visually speaking, I bet you'd like to see the new animation process we've got going on.


This funky medusa-snake thing is Ultra Vinerva. A prime example of the beefed up Ultra ponies that act as boss characters in the game. On top of the animations you see above will be special effects applied in engine like color shifting and glowing and particle effects to make this and other ponies look cooler than ever before.

And things aren't done frame by frame in just Gimp anymore. I finally forced myself to start using Aesprite and so far it's been wonderful. The Vinerva you see above is one of the game's most complicated ponies to animate with those 10 tentacles and all, yet got fully animated in about 8 hours. That means I could potentially get 1 or two ponies animated in a single day! with 83 ponies left to bring to life it'd mean about 3 months straight dedicated to getting pony art into the game.  

Been charting out how long it'll take to get everything done as far as other art assets go too. Overworld sprites, tiles, laying out all the maps too. There's a lot of work to grind through here and it can feel overwhelming if I dwell on it too long.

But when the nose is to the grindstone all day then I look up, suddenly I realize how far I can get with some serious focus. What you're seeing above this paragraph is the Pony Parts Library where I chop up sprites into their individual pieces in order to animate them separately before combining them together in various ways like a Nendoroid. 

In the end it should allow me to more rapidly crank out animations quite a bit smoother than the ones I did earlier like this: 

But then there's the option to take it even further beyond...
I'm thinking about combining aspects of this one to combine with the old animation to spice it up.
But also not have it look too smooth compared to the rest of the ponies that won't have this style.

Experimented with the idea of having other pixel artists taking this 3 month task of my hands. The sprite you see above is a commission from a great pixel artist named gatekid3. I wanted to see what BGP could possibly look like with smoother in-battle animations using a technique called subpixel animation (which is really hard to pull off). But in the end it turns out to be super expensive when you add all the ponies together (98 ponies, 10 animations each, $35-$80 per animation) the numbers got real scary real fast. 

Then there's the nitpicky problems I get with subtle things feeling off or not knowing what pose would work best and communicating that with another artist can be pretty difficult.

But then I started watching some youtubers play Battle Gem Ponies and the sprites didn't look so bad. Players were reacting positively to seeing new things onscreen. I feel like the ponies looked lovable and expressive enough. There's no good reason to shell out $3000 to make them more high fidelity, even if it matches what I see in my head better. 

If I ponder it, really the main advantage to outsourcing would be to save tons on time. But even that's a gamble because who knows how long it would take to setup sprites in a useful way to a team of 10 to 25 artists that can tackle a handful of ponies each to knock out real quick. I wanted to skip the 14 ponies that I already animated and reach out to a number of artists I have bookmarked to get all the sprites done. Then just as I was considering making the investment I suddenly lost the ability to do so at all.

 And that brings us to the next topic...


We've had the troubles you'd expect from the plague going around. Culminating this month in family emergencies, destroyed savings, and job losses for many of us. The team programmer Royal got back from an extended work trip abroad and can finally get back onto BGP starting tomorrow. And I've been furloughed from work meaning after May I'm out of paychecks and can't continue throwing a third of my income at BGP related things to keep things running smoothly on top of the Patreon budget.

Things have been very investment heavy lately, but its going to have to stop in order to meet rent for the next few months. I'll need to run a crowdfunding campaign no later than July to stay out of debt.

Our musician Euleom had to step away from the project (perhaps temporarily, perhaps not) in order to take care of personal matters, possibly leaving a spot open for music that needs to be made before release. But we'll cross that hump once we're further into development. We still have a demo to make just 20 days from now!

And even a week from now we'll need some special preparations for the BABSCon Online event on May 8th! I'll be hosting a quick Discord Stream playing an old build of BGP and discussing its development. A bit of a warm up to running a YouTube channel filled with weekly tidbits like that.

You may have noticed this website being down for the past week or so. That was due to a mix-up behind the scenes while setting up an extra nice surprise coming next month. The technical derpages were severe and took several days to fix, but as you can see its back to normal now.

But you'll get to see what we're cooking up soon enough...

Next Steps

Literally first thing this morning my bosses called and told me I'm off payroll until further notice due to COVID-19. Told me to sign up for unemployment like the 30 million others and hope for the best over the next XX months. So in short, I've now lost both a job and a grandmother to this pandemic in the same month. Along with a little bit of my sanity after about 2 months of isolation (we started in March). 

The corona virus is seriously, the uncontested WORST.

Needless to say, I'm feeling the stresses of this worldwide situation on a super personal level. It's a horrible time out here on planet Earth. The only thing I can do is try to stay productive and come out the other side of it all in better condition than I was coming in.

Before, I was weighing the risks of crowdfunding & more development time vs financial safety & slow progress on BGP.

But looks like fate has made the decision for me. Time to go all-in on Battle Gem Ponies. 

Like my life depends on it.

- Tony Yotes 

 You can support us on Patreon and see Exclusive Progress Updates! 

Thanks for following the development of Battle Gem Ponies.

We're all in now. Go for broke.

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