Category: Progress Update

November 2020 Progress Update

Hello everyone! We hope you had a Happy Halloween! Here’s what we’ve been up to the past month!

Demo Update

In case you missed it, we released an update to the demo last month! We expected to update closer to the end of the month, but it was done earlier than we thought! We hope everyone has enjoyed the improvements we’ve been working on for the past year!

Beta Update

With the demo update out of the way, we switched back to working on the Beta Update! Most of last month was spent planning and writing, which doesn’t have too many visual things associated with it unfortunately! One thing worth noting is that we’ve made a small adjustment to the scope: we will now be updating all of the SFX, and adding a few new ones! We’ll have more information in the near future, but we hope you look forward to the coming change!

2021 Planning

Last month we did quite a lot of planning for the beta update, but we also spent time planning out the next six months of development. This past year we have tried to put out a demo update each quarter, because it fit in well with the story and the gameplay. Following the December Update, the story and gameplay will open up a lot, as shortly after your full party will be assembled, fast travel will be unlocked, and you will be able to go anywhere.

We would like to keep the final stretch of the game’s story a secret until the full version is launched, so there’s the question of “What should we put in for beta updates?”. To be honest, we are still working to figure that out. Some games release updates based on regions or features, and theme them around that, which is one option we are considering. In order to do that though, it will mean that updates will no longer be quarterly, as some sections of the game can be added within a quarter, while others cannot.

We’re considering many things, and will have some more information in the new year, in the meantime, please look forward to more news about the Beta Update in December!

October 2020 Progress Update

Hello everyone! Welcome to the spooky season! Here’s what we’ve been up to for the past month!

Battle VFX Upgrades

This month we wanted to show off some of the Battle VFX Upgrades we’ve been working on!

TT Battle System (2016)
TT Battle System (2020)

In the old battle system layout, we had the layout of the screen be top-to-bottom instead of left-to-right. We got a lot of feedback on this, and ended up changing the layout, but that meant that all of the battle animations needed to be changed with the new view. So if you played the old demo there were a lot of skills available, but if you’ve played the new one, there were not nearly as many.

We’ve been making good progress on this recently, so below are a couple animations that will be available in the next few beta updates.

Bullseye Skill
Hammer Blow Skill
Gust Attack

Cutscene Upgrades

Last month we talked about the cutscene upgrades we’ve been working on, and we promised to go into some depth on the kinda changes we were making from a coding and workflow perspective. As a quick reminder, this work was necessary to fix a number of bugs with the old system, and streamline the workflow for the rest of the cutscenes for the game.

Old
New

The old cutscene system used the timeline asset provided in Gamemaker with each moment being a “node”. The idea was that other than in a few places, each cutscene would be more or less linear, so it would work well. However, we started to find a lot of issues with this. For example, you can’t reorganize moments easily, you can’t insert moments either. If we wanted to making a small change to the cutscene it was a lot of work. We also noticed that a lot of these nodes were very empty code-wise.

Old Layout
Empty Nodes

At this point in development, content addition is what we spend the most time on, and not so much on bug fixes and engine-level issues. So maps, NPCs, quests, and cutscenes need to be easy and quick to add, edit and delete.

One of the other main issues with the old cutscene system was that the API we chose was very verbose, and wasn’t very specific on what we were trying to do during the cutscene. In the example below creating actors, changing the BGM and playing a SFX were not obvious at a glance. Now it’s much more clear about what we are doing.

Before
After

We also did a lot of copying and pasting of code because typing out the full function or also including all of the options was very time consuming. When we need to write out the same sort of information over and over again, we can simplify it by using wrappers around these functions.

Before

After

Thanks to these changes, the improvements with the workflow was felt immediately. It was much easier to remember what the functions were, and it took much less time to rewrite all of the cutscenes than it was to add them in the first place. Everything is also much more streamlined, and we fixed a large number of bugs. We went from something like this:

To something like this:

Demo Update

So with all that said, the game is now stable again. There’s still a number of improvements we would like to make behind the scenes to clean up and streamline a bunch of code, but for now we can call the Gamemaker 2.3 Upgrade complete!

We’ll be working on doing some regression testing to make sure everything is good, and work on releasing an update for the demo near the end of the month! Afterwards, we’ll be back to working on the Christmas beta update!

September 2020 Progress Update

Hello everyone! Welcome to the end of Summer and the beginning of Fall. Here’s what we’ve been up to in the last month!

Cutscene Upgrades

Last month we talked about our work into upgrading the skits to make it easier to add content to the game. We mentioned that this type of work would also be going into the Cutscenes, and we were also hoping to tackle a number of bugs.

We’re unfortunately still in the process of converting cutscenes over and fixing bugs, but a majority of the cutscenes have been converted (50/80) and the others are soon to be finished. We plan to go into detail about the sort of changes we made from a coding and workflow perspective next month, but we’d like to show off the type of bugs we’ve been fixing.

This is how cutscenes currently behave when one is required to start immediately when the map/level loads. The level starts, and then for a split second you can see the level incorrectly, before the cutscene starts and sets everything up.

This was a bug that was really bothering us for the longest time. Outside of potentially causing issues with flashing imagery, it doesn’t look great, and if we wanted a single cutscene to play across different levels, it would look really, really bad.

This gif shows the bug fixes we’ve been making alongside the cutscene conversions, and what is currently running in game. As you can see, we no longer have the popping effect and the cutscene starts smoothly as soon as the level transition finishes! It looks a lot better, and it adds an extra level of polish to the game that we hope people will appreciate!

Fall Beta Update

Last month we said we were cutting the Fall beta update down and moving some of it into the Winter update so we could focus on the Gamemaker 2.3 update. Although we’ve been working hard to finish that off, there are still too many bugs, and we require another month to finish it and get the game back into a playable state. So we’ve decided to merge the Fall Beta Update with the Winter Beta Update.

The content at the end of the year will still be what we intended to publish this year, but we’ll be giving ourselves some extra time to make the changes we need to get it done. We hope to provide a very nice Christmas gift to you all!

In the meantime, for Fall we are thinking about releasing an update to the demo. There has been a lot of Quality of Life improvements we’ve made over the past year to generic gameplay elements and we’d like to share it with more of you. We can’t promise a date, but it will likely come once we’ve got the game in a stable state again.

Thanks for all your support, and we hope to have some more interesting news next month!

August 2020 Progress Update

Hello! We hope everyone’s been having a good summer thus far! Here’s what we’ve been up to over the past month!

Gamemaker 2.3 Update

Last month we were able to upgrade Gataela from Gamemaker 2.2.1 to the 2.3 Beta! The new beta has a large number of features that would really help to clean up a lot of the code and make it easier to add and organize content, so it’s something we’ve had our eye on for quite a while. If you follow us on Twitch, you’ve seen us stream some of the process while fixing the bugs.

Overall the upgrade is going well, but it is very, very time consuming. Much more time consuming than expected. While doing this upgrade we are also taking the time to refactor code and clean things up so that we can fix a number of fundamental bugs, and add new features like cutscene skipping.

So as a result of this, we’re planning to shuffle around some of the content from the Fall Beta to the Winter Beta. We’ve gone ahead and updated the Roadmap to better reflect our plans. In summary, we’ll be removing the inaccessible map additions, and moving over two of the MSQ to Winter. This is also a good opportunity to make this change, as we’ve been feeling the amount of content we try to get into the Betas is more than a little ambitious.

Full Screen

Something that is highly requested is the ability to fullscreen the game. A big reason why we haven’t supported it thus far is that Gataela’s UI is not pixelated, while the game itself is. This means that either the pixel art is blurry or the UI is pixelated when scaling.

We took the first step to implement this by making sure all of the UI was rendered on the GUI layer. This way we can specify the UI be rendered at a specific size with interpolation.

At the moment we haven’t yet figured out how we want to scale the pixel art; if we want it to be at whole numbers only (1x, 2x, 3x, etc.) or not. Once this is sorted out, we’ll be implementing the second step, where the pixel art can be rendered scaled without interpolation.

Skit Improvements

While working on upgrading to 2.3, one of the big things we wanted to do was clean up and change how we add skits to the game.

Each one of these skits is a small scene showing off a small interaction between the different members of your party. They are usually very short, so it is very easy in comparison to the cutscenes to write and add.

One of the big problems we had with how the skits were handled programming-wise was that they weren’t very flexible when it came to editing them, and it took longer to add than desired.

How we had it setup before was that each skit was a timeline, and each “node” of the skit was a timeline moment. Timeline moments cannot be easily swapped around, so if we wanted to insert a character jumping, or another one slowly moving in, it would be quite difficult. We also needed to remember a lot of enum codes, sprite file names, and other information, and if any one of these changed or we mistyped them or we forgot them, it would cause a huge headache.

We’ve since adjusted everything to solve these problems, and to have the programming be closer to how the new cutscene system works. The skit shown above now looks like the following in code:

This is a lot less code, a lot easier to edit, and a lot easier to read!

Another benefit of these changes is that we can now implement skit skipping, which is something we are also looking to put in for the cutscenes during the next beta update.

What’s Next?

This month we’re hoping to finish the 2.3 upgrade and related bug fixes, convert all of the current cutscenes (80 of them!) to the new cutscene system, and fix a number of cutscene related bugs, while also adding some new maps and working on the content for the Fall Beta.

Take care, and we’ll see you all next month!

July 2020 Progress Update

Hello again! We hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of summer! We’ll be talking about the beta update that went out yesterday, and the plans for the beta update in Fall (Q3).

Summer Beta Update

Yesterday the Beta Update went live! So if you haven’t given it a look at yet, please do so! We’ve been working on this update since the end of February, so we hope everyone enjoys it.

This update was very large, and quite difficult to get done on time. We added in another quarter of the world, doubling the size of the in-game world, and had to move one of the story segments to the Fall update due to the impact of COVID. That being said, we’ve been able to make quite a lot of progress in rebalancing the battles, adding more features to them, and so on.

One change we’ve made with this update is adding a public bug and feature submission form. If you play through the game and encounter bugs, please check the list, and if not there consider logging it! Similar for features, if you have an idea, feel free to log it! There’s no guarantee that features will be added, and some bugs may not be fixed (i.e. can’t reproduce, not a bug, etc.) but we hope these forms make communicating these issues and ideas easier.

Fall Beta Update

So what’s the next update like? Well, it’ll be mainly focused on finishing off the story in the new province we’ve added. We’ll be fleshing out a lot of the area, fixing a lot of bugs, and working to rebalance the game. As such, we will also begin adding more of the overworld for the Winter update behind the scenes. Also, if you happen to be a fan of the debate battle system, the next update will be rather heavy with debates!

As always, consider giving the roadmap a look if you are interested in more of the finer details.

What’s Next?

In the immediate future we’ll be focusing on adding the maps for the next update and finishing up planning for the next update. We will also be looking at fixing a number of bugs, and hopefully working on upgrading Gamemaker versions.

Take care and see you next month!