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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Battle Gem Ponies (October DevLog): A New Frontier!

The Yotes Games "office" (October 2020)

We're entering November with an all-new team setup, changed plans (for the better), a miles long checklist of finished tasks, a new potential source of funding, and cute little pony sprites you have to come see!

Time to show off what a couple weeks of hardcore indie development will getcha in this spooky good October devlog! 

Converting one pony's mini sprites into another.

For a pretty snazzy result.

Rinse & repeat for everypony!

State of the Game 

This was it. Programmers Psyaryu and Royal Pizza taking their hard-earned vacation days to come work at humble lil' Yotes Games, LLC! 

The big two weeks in a row where I got a taste of having a full-time team working on BGP with me. Developers firing on all cylinders to produce art, menus, polish, and combat gameplay all at the same time.

It was one heck of a couple weeks. I even rearranged furniture in my apartment to accommodate 3 developers for 8-12 hours a day. We blasted nonstop developer music throughout my home to keep a rhythm going. Stocked up on snacks and soda (which seems to basically be programmer fuel). And each night Chef Yotes whipped up a homecooked meal, made with love, to boost morale at halftime.

Here's a condensed list of what all got done during that big crunch:

  • Layered Animation System
  • Impact Feedback Text
  • Vs Match Setup Screen
  • Battle Rules Screen
  • VS Match Presets Saving System
  • Preset Select Menu
  • Item Select Menu
  • Battle Equip Select Menu
  • Chroma Pony Selection
  • Ponatina Picker Popup
  • Several New Overworld Pony Sprites
  • Ultra Vinerva Animation Adjustments
  • Chroma Animations on UI
  • Move Customization Menus
  • Battle Calculation Improvements
  • Animations for Maladies
  • New Sound Effects
  • Improved Attack Animation System
  • New Audio Mixing Pipeline
  • New Debugging Tools
  • Detailed Future Plans
  • Critical Hit Feedback
  • Impact Sound Effects
  • VS Match Pre-Battle Party Select Screen
  • Refactored Move Animation Phase Controller
  • Expressions on Menu Pony Sprites
  • Revamped Localization Pipeline
  • Dynamic Text Keywords (Linked to Variables)
  • Automated Animation Importer
  • Reorganized Tens of Thousands of File Names
  • Separated/Organized Dialogue Spreadsheets
  • PowerSprite Animator Mass Manager Tool
  • Dynamic Screen Scaling for Universal Device Compatibility
  • Dynamic Scroll View with Snap-to-Page Functionality
  • Scene View Layout Pipeline Change
  • Conveyance Redesigns
  • Polished Menus
  • In-Battle Flavor Text
  • In-Editor File Renaming Tool
  • Updated Entire Website
  • Applied to Humble Bundle's Black Game Developer Fund
  • Individual Financial Survival Plans Made
  • Company Long-Term Visions Documented

And here's some overworld pony sprite examples that got made this month:

Drawing all these little guys took a week longer than expected. Getting the initial sprites down is always a slow process for me, but editing them for animations is pretty straightforward and quick, so they'll be fully-implemented and in-game soon.


Although we did get plenty of improvements to the combat system in, we basically spent most of the two weeks on implementing VS Mode Menus and Pony Customization screens. There's a lot that goes into making menus look good and function as you'd expect them to.

Getting these knocked out correctly right away frees us up later because these same screens will be used in the single player mode with slight alterations. We also need to set these screens up to be compatible with touch controls, controller inputs, keyboards, various devices with wildly different screen sizes, and even translate well into a Portrait orientation.

The feedback from Unicorn Training still resonates.
Whenever I think about that game I see the what we need to get right with BGP.
Glitch-free. Good game feel. A story with characters to connect to. Intuitive design.

Due to being behind schedule in this regard, we're going to postpone a big public demo of the BGP prototype. Rushing something out for November would sour the first impression we're trying to make, and basically all of December is going to be dedicated to the next-gen console launches and Cyberpunk 2077. So why not ride out the news waves in silence as we cook up something truly impressive for January/February, the slowest news season in gaming.

Our Patrons will still get an updated demo in time for Thanksgiving, but we'll hold off on the YouTube blitz and whatnot til 2021 where we can ensure Battle Gem Ponies makes a big splash and looks as impressive as possible. Especially with what we have planned in terms of development going forward...

Next Steps 

The biggest discovery this month was just how well we work together when game development is the only concern in the world. It was beautiful in ways I can't accurately describe. Living the dream to the fullest extent. Every day felt like a major accomplishment and step toward a bright future we could all see.

Typical days consisted of Psy arriving at my apartment complex at 9am and working in the poolside visitor center on his laptop. I wake up before noon, exercise, then invite Psy over while I eat brunch (he prefers a quick, drinkable breakfast until dinner time), we watch gamedev videos on YouTube while I eat and we chat about the future of Yotes Games, then we work all day til around 7pm when Royal would announce he's eager to join the fun as soon as he gets home from work, I cook up a feast for the 3 of us, Royal arrives (desktop tower in hand) and sets up his battle station on the table we placed behind my living room couch for just this purpose, we chow down over more videos and dev talk, then work our butts off til anywhere between 1am and 3:30am. Then everybody heads home with a sense of satisfaction and gets ready to do it all again the next day.

It's super crunchy, and this kind of schedule would be GRUELING anywhere else. But it's fun here, making a game and dreaming stuff up. It's fun to do this. It feels like it'll all pay for itself in no time if we just keep it up!

In fact, this crunch was so powerful Psy dropped a news bomb on the final day. Psyaryu is quitting his six-figure income job to work on Battle Gem Ponies. Of all things! He believes in the vision I've laid out for Yotes Games that much. Says he's got enough going on with savings twice the size of mine, roommates handing over a thousand bucks each month, and the ability to hop back on into the lead software engineer field with an even higher salary whenever he wants. So according to him not taking the opportunity to hop into ground floor of this indie upstart with so much potential is the real risk he can't afford to pass up. 

These words shook me. Unprompted. Unplanned. Came outta nowhere. But apparently he's been thinking about it for weeks.

He turned in his two-week notice right away and turned in his badge and equipment just days before Halloween. As of right now he is a full-time indie developer just like me! 

Psyaryu says that compared to the 70+ hour workweeks he puts in at Universal as a lead programmer, this has been a stress-free cakewalk. Better crew, better long-term vision (in terms of how we're trying to set an example for the gaming industry), and the ability for him to focus on his actual passion of figuring out gameplay programming instead of cleaning up others' mistakes and attending countless boring meetings.

Psy's the guy on left in the memory foam chair, Royal on the right brought a whole table.
Felt cozy. Felt nice to all be in this together. Made me realize for certain, this is the dream job. 

This is the most incredible outcome of the month. Finding out it's not just a temporary boost before going back to a once-per week power push, but that this is going to become the norm soon! (Albeit with a less crunchy and reasonable 3pm to midnight schedule going forward.)

Royal is even considering following suit sometime next year, which would really complete the picture. Things are looking up. The weight of this validation is immense, and I'm incredibly thankful. 

And even beyond that, there's a small, twinkling chance we may not have to consider a crowdfunding campaign either. Imagine how lucky we'd be to get funding for outsourcing the remaining artwork and covering living expenses for the rest of development...

According to the site it was last updated October 15th, the day I found out about it.

Seems to be an ongoing thing that began this year and there's no deadlines as far as I can tell, so whenever we have a shiny enough pitch, we'll fill out the forms and hope for the best.

If the Black Game Developer Fund comes through it would be an enormous financial relief and accelerate development by allowing three of us to be full-timers, and cutting the 4 months worth of art left to do way down by commissioning some pros.

But whether we win the lottery or not, I've made a birthday promise, to both myself and the people that've followed BGP for about half a decade now, that I intend to keep.

I have everything I need to get this done. A team of superstar developers that believe in the vision. A year's worth of time. A target audience eager to play. A playable game loop. Functional menus. Detailed written plans. And good ol' DETERMINATION!

2021 is the year of Battle Gem Ponies. And I'm incredibly excited to prove it.

- Tony Yotes, on behalf of the Yotes Games team 

You can see the mid-month Patreon Exclusive progress posts here!

Thank you, for following the development of Battle Gem Ponies.

Feels like a whole new beginning... In the best possible way.

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