Brave Earth Q&A: Answers!

Got a pretty good turnout for questions. Hope this satisfies some of you!

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.

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.

From Grognor
I know I’ve asked you this before, but I liked your answer so much that I want to share it with everyone! (Also, I forgot your answer)

Will religion be “the real deal” in the Brave Earth series, like it is in most fantasy games?

I forgot too so I hope this answer is still good…

It depends on what you mean by “the real deal”. There is magic, there is undead and there are monsters. There are events that definitely give more credence to the idea of “There might be a creator”. So despite the obviousness of magic and souls and the like, unlike most high fantasy, religion is still an act of faith. Same with philosophical ideas like skepticism. Just because there is magic in the world does not mean we should assume all claims are true, just like, in real life, just because we have amazing science doesn’t mean we can assume all technologies people claimed they invented are real.

These themes will be relatively minor in prologue but will hopefully be an important part of Tower in the Sky if that ever gets made. BE:P will probably have a bit more to say about gender roles, though the NES nature of the game somewhat limits how in depth that’ll be.

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.

From Leylite
It seems like one of the tenets of the game design here is to make it possible for people to go through the entire game without taking damage, and for people to be able to speedrun the game.

So with that in mind, are you going to include your best times in the readme? Just for comparison’s sake, of course.

The game SHOULD track your best times in game. I still have to figure out how to work this across difficulties and stuff like that, but it should pretty much be assuredly a feature. I’m actually somewhat concerned about the game’s fitness for speedrunning and how optimizable it is. But I guess we’ll see. I’ve had some people say that they think the game is very much suited for speedrunning.

From Stew
Will you intentionally leave in a glitch, and try to make the player play around it? (think, shield dash SOTN)

I haven’t found a glitch worth leaving in yet. There was only one that ever came up that was ever an option (think: Zombie Hover) and it was a bit too goofy and unusable to leave in.

From Logo
Well I’m mostly curious about what type of system of hitboxes have you built and how do you manage them since you have a pretty interesting set of moves. Are you using rectangular collisions boxes? Are the timing of the hitboxes run off animation frames or are they timed (ie how do you sync that all up and ensure the moves come out the same each time)?

Okay so each character has 3 sets collision data. One is terrain collision. This is usually a rectangle. Heck, it’s a rectangle even when you’re crouching so you don’t get stuck understuff. That one’s easy. Then you have the attack/hurt boxes, which are a set of image masks that fit over the pre-exisitng sprites. I do them as ‘boxes’ but they’re technically images. Every logic cycle, the attack and hurt boxes set them selves to the same animation and animation frame as the character’s base animation and the player’s position. This keeps everything perfectly in sync pretty easily!

From Yagamoth
Too late for questions? Whatever, I’ll ask anyway:
– What is the focus of your game? Please try answering this question before you read on, I don’t intend to put any words into your mouth.

How scary! I’ll try my best!

I would say the focus of BE:P is in it’s level design and enemy design. Relatively slow, careful encounters, rather than quick, rapid action. I want the player’s actions to have weight. Sinlen subverts this a bit, and Trevor embodies this and Naomi sits in the middle.

I’ve seen a lot of platformers lately. Often they revolve around a single gimmick (for better or for worse). But ignoring the gimmick, the platforming itself is often a bit sketchy and unappealing to play by itself – only the gimmick tries to make the game worthwhile and stand out from the others.
For me personally, I prefer platformers the other way around – the platforming itself should be appealing and make the player want to play the game, just because the controls are THAT good. Super Meat Boy did an excellent job at this. Even IWBTG has (in my opinion) excellent controls – precise and on point with no unnecessary distortion.
If you add a ‘generic’ gimmick on top of that (Say, charge shots and a grappling hook), that’s absolutely fine if it only adds to the gameplay. If a not-so-generic gimmick interferes with the already solid mechanics: For me to accept this as a valuable addition to the game, It has to be incredibly well thought-out, well implemented and interesting enough (=worthwhile). Even a not-so-good generic gimmick can already be harmful for the game if it’s poorly implemented. I’ll probably earn some hate for this, but for example in “They Bleed Pixels” the combat mechanics are nowhere near as good as they should be in contrast to the platforming.

In short, for me a good platformer stands and falls with its controls. How elaborate are BEs controls?

The BE:P controls are probably a tad more elaborate than they should be for the NES premise, but I’d still say it’s relatively straight forward. I think more importantly, you could play Brave Earth without using the special button, especially with Naomi. I think the game is better with the special button (which is why it still exists), but I think it’s important that it isn’t a crutch. Much like how subweapons aren’t a ‘crutch’ of Ninja Gaiden or Castlevania. They exist as a spice. I think the two most important elements are in a good spot — jumping and attacking. I’m particularly proud of the jump, which has the design advantages that come with an old Castlevania games, but an amount of controllability that makes it not feel dated. I’ll have to wait for people to play more to see if I’m right.

The grappling hook in IWBTG is kinda a funny example but I think highlights part of the problem with a lot of gimmick games. They choose the gimmick because it seems neat, not because it suits any design purpose. This can be fine if you build around the gimmick well, but those types of games are a bigger risk. If the gimmick doesn’t pan out, you’re fucked.

People have asked me if future chapters of IWBTG:G will have different gimmicks and they’re always surprised when I say no. The grapple arm was chosen to solve problems I felt existed in making an IWBTG sequel. The precision of IWBTG’s controls meant it was hard to craft new challenges without looking like a cramped, spike ridden fangame. Knowing that I wanted a smooth scrolling screen, a way to open up the game would be nice. Atop while IWBTG is precise, there is very little nuance to the Kid’s controls. So adding a mechanic with inherent nuance would allow me to open up the game without fundementally changing the Kid’s basic controls. The grapple arm fit perfectly and is a mechanic I inherently love. A little off topic but worth talking about.

From Googleshng
I vaguely recall mention of the different characters having different paths through the game. Is the idea that everyone just gets a full on unique game (with heavy resource recycling)? Is it going to be a multiple paths through each level accessed by unique abilities (a la MM6’s jetpack access ladders)? A weird hybrid sort of deal, where people make their way through the same levels, but there’s different enemy placement, and/or the occasional alternate/extra level crammed in for certain characters?

You can think of it as ‘everyone gets a full unique game’ but it all sort of comes together in a more complicated way then that. For example, you unlock Sinlen at level 3 and Sinlen’s path starts at a difficulty curb fitting to that. Also the alternative characters tend to have shorter paths than Naomi’s (which is about 8 levels depending on how I want to count them). Some levels have different paths (Level 3 has Naomi and Sinlen’s path on an alternating sinewave type thing), some are the same levels, but with different abilities, or different times on the stories itmeline. So yeah, it’s a weird hybrid. Hopefully it’ll be cool in practice. Due to my fetishization of level designs and living world, I want it to feel like characters doing their own thing in the same world instead of on their own disjointed levels.

Also, same question for bosses. If it’s pretty much just, “this is level 8, this is the boss of level 8″ people are always cool with it, but for some reason, “this is level 8a, it’s different from level 8b but has a the same boss at the end” that’s somehow psychologically dissatisfying (while changing ONLY bosses, that flies just fine, it’s weird).

There won’t be any shared bosses, at least not in a way that doesn’t make sense. It would not only be dissatisfying, but it would also mess up some of the chronology of the game.

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.

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.

Mind tossing out an animated gif of that skeletal dragon meandering about? That thing warms my cold black sprite loving heart so damn much.

Oh what you mean this?

From Big Ari
s there any truth to the rumor that all of the storytelling will be done through emoji, and gifs of corgis?

That sounds like me and King are making a true IWBTG/Owata crossover!

I guess if I’m posting, I should probably ask a serious question. Are you planning any optional side content like the secret items in iwbtg?

There will be secrets. There’s a whole ‘hub’ map filled with little things. The hub setup is sorta an interactive “menu” you for you to change characters and choose levels (or even try characters on paths they’re not supposed to go on). Chronologically, it exists AFTER the events of the game and talking to some characters on it can give you some insight on some of the things that went on in the game. None of this is required, but for the people who like this stuff, they can dig around and uncover a number of Easter Eggs.

There will also be secrets hidden in the actual stages too. Of course I can’t say too much. :)

14 thoughts on “Brave Earth Q&A: Answers!

  1. Thank you for your answers, now I’m really looking forward to playing it ^^

    I’m actually not surprised about the Grappling Hook being the only planned gimmick for IWBTG:G. Your reason for choosing and implementing it are solid – even if the implementation itself was a bit wonky before the update ;)

    To me it is pretty obvious that your focus when creating IWBTG:G was mostly the level design. Although the savepoints feel like “Ok, the level is completely designed. Now I should add some savepoints somewhere..” – a bit odd.
    Also, the overall look of the first two levels is why I wondered about the design of the third level a bit. Sure, it’s simply a throwback to the original IWBTG, but the previous two levels look so much better. It looks like you were a bit in a rush ^^

    That being said – I really liked your level design in IWBTG:G 1-1 and 1-2 for the most part. Not HAVING to put in Save-Stations at random places for BE:P probably complements your design quite a bit.

    I wonder if it’s possible to visit the “wrong” paths like in Sonic 3 ^^

  2. Actually 1-2 was the last stage I did so there wasn’t a real rush. I did 1-3 before it because I knew I wanted the boss done and if I needed to, I could have a blank spot for 1-2. So in a sense 1-2 is the best looking because it was the last. 1-3 really couldn’t be much different though because ultimately it had to resemble the beginning of IWBTG.

    As for visiting the wrong path, it’s definitely possible. In that Naomi/Sinlen stage I mentioned, the last crossing point lets Sinlen visit both paths. Also on the first spit, Naomi can in THEORY go up on the Sinlen route with a trick, but I don’t think she can complete it. My guess would be that it is possible, but barely and would possibly require tool assistance to do but also maybe not. DEFINITELY not practical in away way though.

  3. So, reading about characters getting unlocked after different stages and the “hub” system has me wondering, will character selection when playing “normally” be a “choose at the start of the game, stick with them until the end” thing, or will it be a “choose which character between stages, and get a different stage depending on character” thing?

    The latter would be unique as far as I can think of right now although I don’t know whether it would be good or not.

  4. Admittedly the system isn’t terribly elegant because it was kinda emergent. But basically how it works is you have 3 story lines. Naomi’s, which is like, a full ‘game’ and Sinlen and Trevors which together is like another full run. I’m assuming most people won’t pop through the game in one go, so when the restart the game, they’ll be in the hub level which will have some unimportant plot bonuses and little fun stuff, and they can switch to the secondary characters and do their routes or continue from the last stage they unlocked. Players like you will just pick their character in the hub then walk to the start orb to play through their route, while less experienced players might slowly push their way through levels.

    That said, I actually got a lot of flexibility here and very well might change things. Option to switch characters at the points you’d unlock them would make sense. The way the stage counts work that would make for some branching paths of the appropriate length, making it almost analogous to CV3s map system (only you switch main characters instead of getting side characters). You’ll also be able to unlock playing other characters on other routes.

    Honestly? The reason for the hub level was because it seemed like the laziest way to set up level and character select and continuing while still making it kinda stylish. It’s less invasive than it sounds — or more so, it’s invasive as you want it to be. You can go in and fuck around and chat with characters and read books or you can walk two feet to the start orb and play the game like a classic Castlevania.

    I suppose calling it a hub level is misleading too. It’s not like Mario64 where you beat a level and go back to the hub, then pick another level and go back to the hub. It really is like a big interactive menu with a bunch of bonus content. Hopefully it’ll turn out as cool as I think it will. It definitely has a chance to turn out kinda goofy, but I can always change gears. That content/system is less important then the levels/characters themselves.

  5. Just watched Specs’s playthroughs of the first three levels; this looks amazing!

    I’m a bit worried about the parry balance. It almost looks like, if you can get the timing in, it’s a “anti medusa-head” button. It seems like you’ll either have to design levels around the parry’s crazy power, which will make things completely ridiculous if you don’t have it (or can’t get the timing down), or that the parry will break the game if you get good at the timing. Of course, I haven’t played it, so I may be completely wrong here.

    I assume that you can’t duck under the fireballs of that knight that acts like a skull pillar?

    I’m curious: when you say that it might be easier than Castlevania 3 (I assume you mean CV3 US when you say this) for Castlevania fans, but harder for “normal” people, in what way will it be easier for the fans that won’t apply for “normal” people? Also, what difficulty level are you shooting for with “hard”? Will it have those hateful random-flying-skulls from CV3’s second loop?

  6. Current plan with the parry is to make it too good so people actually use it and than nerf accordingly. So I wouldn’t worry about it too much. My other thought is that the parry sorta doesn’t add a lot of real utility. it’s almost like slashing something but with more forgiving hitboxes. If someone is playing well, other powerups will probably offer more actual functional advantages. But it is DEFINITELY too good right now.

    Also yeah, no ducking the skullpillar/shooter joes.

    As for being easier, I think the game is a bit more consistent than most NES games so I think players who are used to dissecting problems and memorizing solutions, it’ll probably be a bit easier to get consistent, but I’m not sure. That’s mostly just a ‘gut’ comment.

  7. I’m going to buy this the second you’ll release it as long as there will be a drm free version. Btw, I know this whole game is inspired by Castlevania but will there be any direct ingame nods to it like for example wall meat, candle whipping or secret whip weapon?

  8. The game has lanterns that work like candles (makes a lot more sense since a lot of the game is out doors). There are healing items in walls (not meat though) but there will be no whips.

    Glad to hear you’ll buy it. Dunno what the DRM situation will be, but I’m going to guess there will be a DRM free version somewhere.

  9. How about releasing it on GOG? I think this game would fit there perfectly.

  10. man I didn’t even know GOG carried indie games. Definitely a possibility. Or Indievania or the Humble Store.

  11. This is honestly the game of my dreams. I only just heard about it today, found your site, watched a video of the first levels on youtube… and I’m just stunned. I cannot wait to get my hands on it. You’ve probably been asked this before, but do you have any information for a possible release date?

  12. Glad you’re excited, man. Axelhander’s videos I take it? Anyways it’s slow going so I can’t say anything, but I appreciate the interest. :)

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