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!

0.3.0 Release Notes

Summary

The Summer Beta Update is here! As mentioned previously, this update is quite large, as we’ve finished off the story in the province of Wynoa for now, and have moved on to province of Lakure!

We’ve added a large number of maps, skits, story, a new dungeon, a new party member and new art, along with more bug fixes and enhancements.

Please note that due to the current work to rebalance the economy and battles that the new province lacks items and enemies in the overworld. This will be adjusted over time, as the next beta update plans to flesh out the province more.

We recommend making a copy of your save files (the .sqlite files) in your game directory before continuing. There should be no issues, but we do upgrade the files in this release.

If you come across any issues, feel free to send us a Tweet or DM, message on the Discord Server, or shoot us an email. Bug reports and feature requests can also be logged here.

Release Notes

Added

  • The province of Lakure: 24 new overworld maps
    • Note: The game now has 50 overworld maps.
  • The towns of Itaea, Roatte and Lakure
    • Note: Lakure is temporarily blocked off for the next content update.
  • A new dungeon
  • More skits
  • A new party member
  • A chance to fail escaping
  • Max and min inventory item counts
  • Gamepad configuration options – not currently available
  • HP bars will now change color to better reflect remaining percents
  • Gameover modals
  • A short input delay when a text box appears to prevent spamming the button and missing key dialogue
  • New enemy types
  • When a character levels up, they will gain new skills if appropriate
  • A shortcut to adding points to your character’s stats
  • Criticals and Misses have been added to battles
  • Debate results screen will show everyone who has levelled up, similar to the Turn-Based results screen
  • A new cutscene system.
    • Note: There is a mixing of old and new cutscene systems now. After the 2.3 Gamemaker update during Q3 or Q4 we will be transitioning to the new cutscene system to fix a number of annoying bugs, such as flashing screens, or disappearing NPCs.
  • Confirm changes modal to a number of menu screens
  • New difficulty options: modify the enemy’s EXP and HP values using a multiplier.
  • Skills can level up after use

Fixed

  • Block and Dodge now work correctly
  • Skill information not being included when calculating battle damage
  • Equipment information not being included when calculating battle stats
  • Boss battles being marked as being escape-able
  • Line beside skit button on the HUD
  • Party members were not correctly executing their actions in the right order during battles
  • Shadow appearing wrong in Vuni behind a house
  • A number of bugs in the Equipment Screen
  • Tile checking for water was incorrect
  • Potential save crash

Other

  • Added a number of unit tests to verify stability of the game in key areas going forward. Along with adding the framework for simulating battles to balance the game better, this will help avoid users finding potential bugs.
  • Added command-line building of Gataela and a nightly process to run unit tests. This will ensure that if the game breaks, we’re notified the day of, instead of during testing. Should result in more stability going forward.