Art: Naomi vos Cruz Concept Art

http://kayinnasaki.deviantart.com/art/Naomi-vos-Cruz-Character-Sheet-197469904

I’m a horrible concept artist. I spent like a million years during this, but now it’s done. I’ll probably append this description later to include full sizes of all her clothing layers, but for now, I just wanna upload it.

So here we have, in full, annoying nobility naming, Naomi Isabella Victoria vos Cruz. Naomi is the lead character in the Metroidvania title, Tower in the Sky that will be finished sometime before our sun morphs into a red giant. Still, I wanted to get a better understanding of her design as I plan to experiment with 3d modeling. We’ll see how well that goes, later. Either way I drew every layer of her outfit, front and back. Theres only a few snapshops in this picture, but they exist.

So what of Naomi? I found it hard writing some of her descriptions because Naomi in Tower in the Sky is a different from the Naomi I’ve roleplayed. She is younger and naive, more trusting and faithful. She doesn’t quite yet have the resolve of her older self, nor has she begun to truly yet question her faith, a big point of the character. These things will all, hopefully be addressed in the game if I ever get it done and properly execute the story. As such, I kept a lot of her listed traits as things that are consistent with her in almost all incarnations.

I have more information about her up in various other pieces of artwork, which you can look at if you’re interested. Some of it is out of date — I’ve been revising everything and solidifying what I can. Once she’s in a game (even if it only comes out after most of society has collapsed), her history and details are then sort of set in stone unmovable, unless I employ the jackhammer of ‘retconning’. I’d rather avoid that.

Anyways this was a lot of fun

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Forum Post Breakdown: Game Design Edition

Heres a bunch of Game Design related posts I churned out on various forums I visit. Lets start with my ‘level design’ post which was supposed to become a full sized article. I’m lazy though.


WELCOME TO LEVEL DESIGN WITH DR. KAYIN

iTremble ye who look upon this map, for it is the mightiest of its kind/i
Tremble ye who look upon this map, for it is the mightiest of it

What makes good level design? Such is mysterious! Many men could point and say “Behold! This level is the shizzle, for rizzle”, and fewer but still many could psay “I like things!” and point vigorously at things which are made of good and things that are made of bad and EVEN FEWER may actually design a stage, have it be good and likely still does not know what he’s talking about. He also does not get to point.

Even I designed I Wanna Be The Guy with no idea what I was doing. I merely had intuition and experimentation to go by, which led to good and bad decisions as I went along, but over time I came upon the understanding of a process. But before I go into my methods, I will raise the first question. Why is Super Metroid so good and why does its map beat the pants off of everything else in it’s genre?

A typical Castelvania Area compared to a typical Super Metroid Area
A typical Castelvania Area compared to a typical Super Metroid Area

Super Metroid does a lot of small things very well through attention to detail. It keeps you moving and it keeps you moving in an energetic way. It makes you do platforming that may almost feel like formality when looking at it from a distance and it flows from one area to the next. it is active and varied, pleasing to look at and fluid. So with that in mind I will go on to discuss my building blocks for a level. This can apply to any type of level (not metroidvanias excusively) so I will use broad elements.

Concept

Before you do anything, you generally need at least a vague concept, thinking about what you want to happen on this screen, adjacent screens. You want to know what real challanges you want to have, if any and you want to consider the pacing of the game in it’s entirety when you come ot this point. Sometimes even a passing thought in these areas are all you need.

When you begin placing a level down, be it in game or on paper, there are other things you need to take into consideration.

Movement

Moving is the key thing you do in most games and in platformers or FPSs or anything, I generally think of two general considerations.

Motion

Portable Castlevania’s biggest sin has always been indescript hallways with periodic enemies. No features. No platforms to jump on. No motion but the most basic of motions. Games in the mairo series have traditionally been very good at this. Even tiny touches such as changing the terrain elevation or needless platforms and asymetrical areas makes moving from point A and point B way more enjoyable.

Flow

Flow I think of as distinct from motion. A stage has good flow not when you necessarily do a lot of ‘unnecessary’ ‘motion’, but when the path the player takes flows naturally. In games with winding passageways and complicated maze like structures, flow is important to gently guide the player where he has to go. Super Metroid does this beautifully as their are few times where you have to blindly backtrack. You can proceed through the game almost entirely through a cyclical motion. In linaer games like Half-Life, good flow wll help make the player not feel rail roaded. They are going down this road because they WANT to go down it, not because they have no choice. Playing the original Half Life, I always felt like I had mutliple paths to take that never existed during my first time through the game.

Pacing
pacing often has to be looked at in a macro and micro sense. In the macro scale, you may ask ‘was the last area hard? Does the player deserve a relaxing area? Do I need ot remind the player that this game is hard?”. You may ask if the game is reaching it’s climax and if it’s time to crank on the pressure. On a micro scale, each level is filled with ups and down.Long corridors in Symphony of the Night can get boring with your emotion impeded by ‘walls'(enemies) you have to hack down Even little screens in IWBTG can represent pacing. repeating rooms constantly filled with spikes are painfully stressful and even a few scant free spaces to move around in without fear can be a massive relief to players. On the same point, there are times when you purposely want to give no quarter.

Not Pictured: Quarter
Not Pictured: Quarter

Aesthetic

Aesthetic! Many hardcore gamers say they don’t care about graphics. Thats mostly BS. Graphics do not need to be fancy though by any means. Still, every screen, every panel, every section represents a composition. These compositions must look balanced. Stage design without balanced composition often feels random and arbitrary. Remove the moody atmosphere from the Colony section at the beginning of Super Metroid. Replace all the platforms with just simple boxes. Now it feels like a cheap flash jumping game! Take out the aesthetic screen balance and now the game looks like Cheetahmen II. Terrible aesthetic can even directly damage your flow.

You don’t have ot be an artist and don’t have ot make your levels a work of art, but at the very least you need things to be unnoticable Glaringly bad balance and composition can hurt to look at.

the simple lay out of most of the Zelda screens are burned into my brain.
the simple lay out of most of the Zelda screens are burned into my brain.

So… So far I’ve told you a bunch of stuff to look for. If you look you’ll probably find that these things are shown in pretty much all examples of games with good level design. Even Quake 3 maps use these concepts just to make something competitive! But I haven’t told you how to do any of this.

Well as far as I know, the only way to do it is guts and effort. The knowledge of what to look for and what is fun is key to making a good level. You have to test it and feel it. If you know what you’re looking for and keep in mind what makes an area more appealing, you have a better chance to hit the mark.

So what I’m hoping from everyone is that you add our input and insight on good levels. I’ll probably add more based on what I think of and what you say. I want to eventually compile a blog post out of this, so I’ll end here for now. May next time I’ll get into specific cases!

Also recommended reading:
Auntie Pixelante


Now wasn’t that nice, if not a little rough? Then theres a few posts I made on making games in general. A few people asked me for advice for new game developers.

Alright, lemme get some stuff out before I go to bed then.

First off, it’s better to complete something bad then make nothing at all. Your friends might disagree, but you have built up knowledge. This considered, it’s best not to start doomed projects. You’ll learn a little, but will never get the full picture.

So first thing is to not be over ambitious. If you over exert your self, you will never succeed and your effort will be wasted. There is no reason your ‘big’ game has to be your first game. Releasing a decent game of some kind will teach you an infinite amount of valuable things about managing your work and creating the content, as well as the effort required to get things done.

Second thing is to self edit.

Pro Tip: 95% of your ideas are abhorrent garbage

People often wonder how great designers come up with great ideas! The big truth here is generally that their average idea isn’t much better then yours. Well, maybe a little better due to experience, but they started out with ideas as bad as yours! The difference is, they are self critical. They do not hold their ideas sacred. They think about how workable an idea is and, if it is bad, they discard it. They are a better pruner of ideas then you are and the best way to become more like them is to prune more. Many people have idea that sound good, but fail, even theoretically. They are generally afraid to throw out ideas that seem cool, or try and shoe-horn them in just because. Develop the discipline to just say no to your self.

Secondly, great designers find a great idea and they make it shine. They don’t bog it down with excess. What excess is will vary, but they generally will focus on the juicy core. This isn’t to say you need to be minimalist, but the difference between minimalism and maximalism are smaller then you think. I’ll run this down quick…

Minimalism: Cut as many ideas and concepts away as possible without damaging the core idea (Example: Braid, Ikaruga)

Maximalism: Add as much awesome stuff as possible……. WITHOUT DAMAGING THE CORE IDEA (Example: Bunny Must Die, Radiant Silvergun)

So when adding or subtracting ideas to supplement your core concepts, keep this in mind.

Third! Brilliant people steal. A LOT. Originality is the most overrated concept in existence. If you look around hard enough, you should see that there is nothing new under the sun. Nunix said it pretty well earlier in the thread when talking about Idea Theft. REMEMBER THAT. Do not be afraid to steal. That doesn’t mean to just steal and be done with it — then you’re just uninspired and uninteresting to the player. Take the idea, polish it up, show it love and heck, implement it in a new, or heck, just plain well executed way. What games are accused of stealing and being clones the most? Bad games. Don’t be a bad game and you’ll be alright, even if a lot of your ideas are derivative.

The process of idea making, refinement and editing is one of the hardest things to learn. At the same time it is also one of the reasons why releasing garbage is good. It gives you a chance to get real feedback on your work so you can refine your internal processes.

Theres a lot of failure involved in making things, but that shouldn’t scare you. There is a Go adage I like…

Lose Your First 50 Games As Quickly As Possible

There are similar quotes involving painting as well. Failure is a part of learning and the sooner you make mistakes, the sooner you will no longer make the same mistakes again.

I guess thats enough for now, I think I should get to bed! Sorry if this is rambley, writing is not one of my best skills. I could benefit from a little more self editing, in fact. :(

A bit more on originality.

Originality is overrated.

Nothing about originality or innovation intrinsically leads to more fun or anything. I think people confuse themselves. They play a bad game that clearly wanted to cop off of Halo and they’re like “This game sucks! It’s so derivative and does nothing new!”

Well they’re sort of confused. When the game is a tepid mess, blaming the lack of originality is easier then blaming the lack of polish, love and care that didn’t go into the game.

When you play a good game, the slight differences between it and it’s predecessors seems huge, because it’s all dolled up and is well presented in a way that accentuates these differences. It doesn’t make the differences any greater, it just makes you notice them.

And some on game pricing…

I totally agree with Geo. I played VVVVVVV’s demo without looking at the price. Then I was like “Hey this is neat, if it’s priced right, maybe I’ll buy it!”

I saw 15 dollars. I was just like “lol” … I figured 5 might be the higher end, and 10 was possible. But 15? I laughed my ass off. I laughed at the absurdity.

I thought of all the things I could buy. Notably on the indy end of things, Noitu Love 2 is 5 dollars cheaper.

So for 15 dollars you get

for 10 dollars you get

HM. HMMM. HMMMMMMM. HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

And I haven’t even bothered to buy NL2 yet (one day I will). I just bought Serious Sam HD for 8 bucks. I can get a number of remakes of great games on PSN for less than 15.

VVVVVVV just does not look even close to a 15 dollar game. NL2 looks better than most professional DS games and its’ only 10 dollars. Granted I think it started at 15 or 20 but at least that looks awesome! VVVVVVV also has to compete with a number of FREE games.

15 is just a poorly considered price. He lost my sale and quite a few other sales I’m sure.

The problem I see if an issue of pride. If VVVVVVV was 5$ it almost seems to the average person that it was trying to make less money. Even if a simple game required a ton of effort, charging 15-20$ isn’t going to fly. You’re trying to find the optimal price point, not assess of much your game is abstractly worth on a value of goodness.

Feel that sting? Thats pride, fucking with you. Understanding price as an aspect of marketing and maximizing profits is the important part. This is regardless of quality, effort or production value.

Brave Earth Character Biograpy #1

:thumb111852556:
Name: Naomi Vos Cruz
Age: 17 (Born: June 19th, 366 CE)
Home City: Denzi, Aistoria
Hair: Purple
Eyes: Light Blue

Family:
Mother: Leona Vos Cruz (Formally Leona Brenton) (45)
Father: Duke Alexander Vos Cruz (53)
Brother: Trevor Vos Cruz (25)

Naomi is the second child of Duke Alexander and Leona Vos Cruz. She is a young, Paladin-Adept in the Sacred Order of Saint Alistair, an Order that serves the Holy Aistorian Catholic Church. Naomi graduated near the top of her class in the Order’s Military Academy. Despite lacking true combat experience, she is considered a prodigy in armed combat and with an excellent handle on the combative use of holy magic for her age and experience. Unfortunately her skills in the healing arts are lacking.

Naomi is kind and compassionate, though she possesses a firey temper when properly antagonized. She has a strong sense of justice and faith in those she serves. She stands at 5’9″ and maintains a high level of fitness, having slender, athletic build with long powerful legs. Naomi prides herself on her level of fitness and her excellent grooming, seeking to set an example to others.

Naomi idolizes her older brother, Trevor, who is an 8 year veteran and officer in the Order, known for for his righteous zeal in combat and his extreme piety and righteousness. Despite her successes, Naomi does not feel like she can live up to the same standards as Trevor. While generally rather cold and distant to those around him when not in combat, him and Naomi have a strong relationship. Trevor often seeks to protect his younger sister and to keep her out of combat.

Despite Trevor’s protests, Naomi and him have been sent to investigate and then eliminate a surging undead population in a distant village…

Brave Earth Q&A 1

The game is still a very long way off, but to get people a better understanding of what the game is about, after seeing some misconceptions. These questions were taken from forums and from friends and rearranged and rewritten to help me convey more information. Feel free to bring up follow-up questions, as they may be used in a future Q&A, or, perhaps answered in later in footnotes, in non-Q&A style updates.

What’s the mood of the game?
This is going be a very serious game, thematically and play wise. While the game and dialog will not necessarily be always-stickuptheass-serious, the game will not be attempting to be funny like in IWBTG.

Which side does the game lean towards more, medieval action sidescroller, or Castlevania RPG? What does it do differently?
The game will be a classic example of a Metroidvania, so very much in the style of the Castlevania action RPGs. Fortunately though, the game will different through the use of heavier action elements with fighting game style mechanics and a movement back toward real level design rather than ‘hallways of X enemy’ should set the game apart from the rest of the crowd.

Is the story line epic?
This depends on your definition of epic! In terms of a very tense, powerful story, I certainly hope so. The potential is there, all it needs is for me to actually pull it off. What it won’t be is epic in terms of scope. I think the idea of world threatening plots to be way too overdone, when a smaller scale conflict can have a more personal feel to it. The events in the game will be important and dire to those involved, but the scope will be more focused.

Are there multiple endings?
As it stands right now, there will be three! Sadly I can’t go into much more detail! Though I will say that you will never be able to ‘screw’ your self out of the best ending, like you can in other games.

Can I like affect the plot or something?
Besides the above mentioned endings, no.

Will there be multiple playable characters?
The plan now is for there to be 2 playable characters and perhaps an unlockable one.

Will there be traits that we can select and change?
The only customization will be equipment. But with the amount of moves and attacks in the game, you should be able to play your own play style as opposed to artificially making one with numbers.

How do we get from one area to another? (eg. a consistent map like Super Metroid or portraits like Portrait of Ruin [or Super Mario])
Very much like Super Metroid, with some instant transport areas. There may be some areas set aside to play like a stage from a platformer level, but they will fit into the map.

Do I get a whip? … Can I jump-cancel it?
No but if you did, yes. You could jump-cancel it. I’m serious when I say the game has a fighting game style fighting system, very similar to the Guilty Gear system. This includes canceling some hits into jumps for air combos, and a full gatling system.

Wait, What sort of moves will the game have?
The button has 3 attack buttons, a character specific button and two menu buttons. These 3 attack buttons can be used standing, crouching and in the air, leading to a minimum of 9 different attacks. Further more, there are some ‘command normals’ that involve hitting a direction and a button (such as Forward B) that will give even MORE attacks. Naomi, the main character, will probably have between 11-15 normal attacks.

Atop that, there will be 3 to 4 special attacks, just like in Guilty Gear or Fighting Game. Naomi will be able to throw Fireballs and Dragon Punch style moves just like Ken or Ryu, as well as unspecified other moves.

Also multiple air jumps, dashes, air dashes and wall jumps and maybe more! There are a lot of moves!

Will Fairuzons be composing more music for the game?
YES. There may be some music by other authors if they are fitting and good, but likely he will be doing the entire soundtrack. No complaints here!

Will the difficulty match I Wanna Be The Guy?
This is a difficult question. But I’ll say no. The game is going to be hard if all goes well, but not the type of hard IWBTG was known for. I hope to make my game difficult in the same way God Hand or Ninja Gaiden(3d) are hard. Unforgiving enemies and a system of moves that rewards doing the right thing and the right time as opposed to stubbornness, knowledge of traps and pixel perfect platforming (but will still require some good platforming). This might be a funny statement, but I think while it will be ‘easier’, many people who completed IWBTG will not be able to beat it.

Will we be able to see many video game references?
Expect none. I will probably slip in a few subtle references that don’t break immersion, but don’t count on it. That way, you’ll be surprised and amused if they are in, but not disappointed if they aren’t. Again, this is NOT IWBTG.

… Huge ass bosses that are bigger than the damn screen?
… At least one.

Like a… Giant enemy crab?
… I’ve considered it.