Rogues Gallery

Sorry for the long time between posts… I’ve been working hard at the 3rd disk’s contents. The Progress tab will tell you where I’m at!

In the meanwhile, I decided to write up a “monster graphics extractor” tool so I could generate a quick PNG file of all my monsters. It’s colorful and cool! The gaps you can see in various areas are where I have monsters planned that aren’t drawn yet

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Green Times

Interesting times right now…

First we had St. Patrick’s Day. And Emerald City Comic Con, which naturally uses the color green rather heavily with the brand. And things are definitely greening up, Seattle hit a temperature high for the month of March the other day.

So to further celebrate, a green dragon I’ve been working on! I was aiming for a look closer to Singe from Dragon’s Lair (inspired by the most excellent cartridge version of this game recently released by Tursi for the TI-99/4a, a marvel of technological accomplishment!) but I think he came out looking pretty good.

May still need some tweaking… Or twerking.

Maps are basically done for 75% of the game now, time to turn my attention to scripting and mobs for a bit and get that part caught up.

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Sand Slogging

Been awhile since I’ve posted, so here’s where we are…

Work has slowed down as I’ve entered the second half of the game’s content. It was bound to happen, unfortunately.

Part of this is due to the necessity of creating new graphics for maps that only existed as concepts. I also decided, as the maps I was working on had a distinctly “Arabian Nights” feel, that I wanted some more graphics to make the maps more interesting. (low tables, cushions for seats, rugs, etc.)

This had me thinking at one point, why not just dynamically load patterns for maps? Each map would have a tile set and then run-length-encoded map data, possibly followed by elevation in one huge block. There would be a slight delay as it built the character set out but then I could literally have any tile I wanted on any map.

I decided not to do it, at least for now. Creating maps in such a system would be a major pain in the ass.

A Palace in Progress…
  • You would have to designate what tiles you wanted before you started even drawing it.
  • The map editor would be a major pain to write; I may have to resort to writing an external C# tool to do it instead of on the TI itself
  • Animated tiles becomes messy and potentially a problem. Right now it’s hard-coded for speed and efficiency
  • Compression of maps is nice but not strictly necessary, I got plenty of disk space

Maybe for a sequel I could do something like this but for now I think I can get by without it.

The other slow going work is the quests and story-line, which were broadly written but lacked detail. (Rather like how George Lucas had a rough idea of what was going to happen in the prequels early on but no concrete story.) Now I have to actually sit down and think and fill things in.

Part of this also requires some research on my part. My favorite resources for historical and mythological information are, not surprisingly, RPG game books! Steve Jackson Games produced a huge number of world books for their GURPS system in the 1990’s, and all of them are invaluable sources of information on not just gaming but cultural aspects of the settings.

I try and keep my Progress page updated with the latest numbers, so stay tuned!

Posted in Assembly, CRPG, Design, TI-99/4a | 3 Comments

Two Nearly Down, Two to Go

I’m now in the process of wrapping up the second world disk… There’s a few transactions to write up, I need to finish populating the map headers with character and monster data, and I need to add the tile set data to the program file, so it knows this blocks sight, this makes that sound when you step on it, and so forth.

I’m glad I took the time to create a map extractor tool. Seeing the finished maps just auto-generated and including a black and white version is just neat! I’m considering adding a monochrome option to the game, just for fun.

Color map
Black and White map

As I was working, I realized I needed to make an infrastructure change. I’m going to have the game store all mobs for the current world disk in memory. That increases load time for loading and saving games, but it will give me the ability to allow the game to be restored to points before events that significantly altered the game. The more I’ve worked on this the more I’ve realized that modern gamers expect the equivalent of an “undo” button, and with the SAMS card I do have the memory to make this happen.

I live in western Washington so it looks very likely I’ll be snowed in most of the week… Hopefully that means I can make some great progress with this!

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Snowed In

So during yesterday’s Super Bore, er, Bowl, and overnight, I got 8+ inches of snow. Needless to say I was working from home today. 🙂

I spent a good part of my time during the football game working on a couple of new C# utilities, one that would extract and create a graphics PNG from my game file, and the other which would auto-generate maps from my map data using that PNG file. I’ve been spending far too much time saving screenshots in the emulator and pasting them together in MS Paint to create map images. So now I got an automatic tool which generates them, both in color and black and white. 😀

In case you’re wondering WHY I need map images, my editors on the TI are limited to the 32 column screen, and really limited with slanted maps. As a result, I often can’t see the entire map and get a feel for if it’s large enough, or TOO large, and where things are. Having map images helps me with my planning. Plus BW images will come in handy when I get around to writing up a hint book, I’m sure. 🙂

I’ve completed all the maps for the 2nd World part now, I’m now working on finishing mobs and transactions. This is where I often find I need to add or remove things, because I realize I need something to spruce things up somewhere. I was working on a cavern that was just for transition from one point to another, and I had a great idea for adding some specific monsters to it to make it a “special” location with a bit of a story to it.

The slowest part are the mobs, because I have to constantly look at the map to get coordinates, and I often decide treasure at that moment as well. I do placeholders as much as possible just to get data in place, but I want to limit that if I can. Many times with the first set of world content I found things I had forgotten to populate and now I had to do the work to make it look right.

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Centralize and Reorg

I had no idea I had so many maps to draw… It’s definitely taking longer than I thought!

I started on the 2nd disk’s contents, but I’m jumping all over to start the 3rd and 4th as well. In particular, I’m working on designing the world map so I can see “the whole” of the game at a glance.

The realms, pieced together! Just a few left to do…

One advantage of this approach is identifying some bottlenecks. For example, I originally had monster graphics split up among the world disks, each disk having a separate list. This was when I was attempting to keep the game playable on a 180K disk system.

I no longer need to segregate monsters, and I can actually combine the data and graphics files and keep them in one place. This has the following advantages:

  • I can load any monster anywhere in the world
  • I don’t need to replicate graphics or statistics, which means constantly updating them as I make tweaks and changes to battle balance
  • I can consolidate creating monster content in one phase, rather than having to start over each time

Once I get the world map complete, I can return focus to finishing up the 2nd disk’s contents. I’m mostly finished with transactions, but maps and mobs take considerably longer than expected to map out and write up…

Posted in CRPG, Design, Screenshots, TI-99/4a | 6 Comments

Big Tasks

Still grinding away at maps… I managed to pick up a cold this weekend that grounded me at home, but as soon as I had energy I was back at it!

A particular slow-down is for some of the maps, I need to create new graphics. I had several “special” sets that are only used for particular situations, and the time has come for me to actually draw them out.

This is part of what I think is fun about CRPG’s. You set expectations early (“Oh yeah, more hills and mountains, seen that kind of building before…”) then break them. (“Whoa, what the heck is this place?!”) Leave the players guessing as to what could happen down the road.

It’s a bit of a spoiler, but one thing I just decided tonight, and will need to make coding changes for potentially, is to have “giant” size mobs, which are 2 tiles tall, 1 tile wide. This lets me have “giants” who have their own land and places have a bit of scale to set them apart from the rest of the maps. It should really give you a sense of how “big” a problem you have. 😉

I’ve done some transaction write-ups as well, but the current ones went quickly because I had plotted text some time ago in a spreadsheet. After an early set of maps, I’ll be writing new material. I’ve had plots and ideas in my head for years, now is the time to commit them to a text file and see how they fly…

That’s part of the CRPG design process, honestly. You need to be able to change, alter, and update material as you go along, because you’ll have new ideas. You’ll realize there’s not enough information being provided in one place so you need to add a new NPC to tell the players something. Or you’ll realize some plot idea is overly complicated or has been done elsewhere, so you trim it back or remove it entirely.

It’s an organic process, and probably the biggest reason I haven’t started sharing it yet for testing is that it’s still incomplete. You can taste the stew before it’s ready but you don’t want people seeing the bones you’ve added or removed. 🙂

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Map Making

Another year, another resolution to get the CRPG done. This time I mean it though. 😉 I’m not updating that copyright on the title page again!

I made a couple engine fixes, my favorite being that monsters now don’t move towards you if you can’t see them. I ran into the problem that monsters immediately came through doors out of rooms to attack you. I don’t have a flag for tiles to be marked “permissible to players but not monsters” so I was trying to figure out how to stop that from happening.

I realized that I already had the solution; during the map view generation phase I place mobs on the map only if they’re visible. So at the same time, I can update a small array to indicate the monster either can see or NOT see the player, and have them react accordingly in the AI phase later.

Now I’m changing gears away from engine work, though, and getting started on content generation for the rest of the game. I have maps to create, mobs to place, script and dialogue to write, monster graphics to draw, and so forth… 🙂

I had considered starting beta testing with other people with just the content I have. But new content requirements could significantly alter the engine. Also, I’ve put off the work long enough. Certain cities and towns and dungeons have long been just a name in my head, it’s time to see them actually plotted out!

Drawing maps is both fun and helpful for plot. I always wanted to make the game so that exploring is rewarding. CRPG’s that have a lot of empty and meaningless territory without any significant interactions are boring. So I try and make sure if there’s a bridge leading to an island, for example, there’s SOMETHING on that island to check out. Otherwise, why put the bridge there in the first place?

The time to draw maps is considerable; I expect I’ll be working at this the rest of the month. And I’ll have to slow down when I get to some maps where I haven’t actually created the unique graphics for them yet. (A few special cases I’ve long planned.)

Posted in CRPG, Design, Graphics, Screenshots, TI-99/4a | 4 Comments

Year in Review

First of all, happy new year!

So a year is nearly gone… what has been done, and what’s left to do?

I decided in mid-2017 to start using the AMS (Advanced Memory System) for the game, which gave me tons of CPU memory to work with. I started a massive redesign and by the end of 2017, I was creating a music player and a title page for the game, and reworking the original engine code to make use of the added memory.

Looking back, I’m actually impressed with the amount of work I’ve accomplished. At the end of 2018, the engine is 99% complete and undergoing alpha/beta testing. I’ve even created a brand new dynamic battlemap system that wasn’t present in the original engine!

Content has largely stayed at the same level of completion because I’ve been trying NOT to work on it until the engine is done. That’s going to change soon, though. I can’t really draw a world map until I know what the whole thing looks like. 😀

The reason the game was stalled for so many years is I wasn’t certain I could finish it. The baseline “high-end” TI system had only 32 K of CPU RAM, and I was starting to realize the complexity of a CRPG engine strained it to the upmost. The fact I had to start using a cartridge to get an extra 8K RAM was definitely a sign my ambitions were getting too far.

So I kept putting it off, delaying the inevitable conclusion that the game was not possible to do. The original game engine would not have worked, not on hardware anyway. Pushing data to disk helped mitigate CPU RAM consumption, but the cost in read time would have rendered the game unplayable.

And now? It’s no longer a case of IF I’ll finish the game, but when. 🙂 And I’ll definitely finish in 2019!

Posted in CRPG, Design, Personal, TI-99/4a, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I swear I saw a…

I still need to make some adjustments to direction determination for monster special attacks, but pretty good!

Posted in CRPG, TI-99/4a, Video | 5 Comments