August 2016 Update

I’ll stay concise. ¬†I want to get back to work! ūüėÄ

This month my goal was to make major progress on the first boss and surrounding story content. ¬†As I briefly guessed last month, with my “month or three” before Alpha launch, I’ve only made it a short distance into this major milestone.

First Boss

First I¬†designed Gynkatuul’Gakreare:

Gynkatuul2

 

Then I converted the design into basic stills from multiple perspectives:

GyrkatuulSprite2

As I designed boss mechanics and worked on this fella’s art, I realized how nice it’d be to have to delve boss lairs before confronting the¬†boss. ¬†This would also later provide a home environment for each revived “guardian species” that Nectira unlocks. ¬†I sketched out multiple screens and did a first-pass of game art for each room, doubling back and finishing a couple of them. ¬†I’ll be spending another week or so¬†making all the “Chogi Chasm” rooms look as good as the first two. ¬†More props, debris and plant-life will be added later, from within the game builder, to further dress up these rooms. ¬†Then I’ll fill them with Dark Chogi enemies and Gynkatuul:

ChogiChasmMap

I’m sure I’ll put more thought into these cave areas of the Chogi Chasm, to make the whole level more fun, and less of a winding grind. ¬†I plan for the Dark Chogi/ Restored Chogi to have burrowing tunnels, to make it feel like a home for them, and present a strategic challenge in Nectira’s descent. ¬†Once I finish all the level elements, I’ll get to play with finishing the boss animations and mechanics, sounds and musics (August?) and then the story elements that surround defeating said boss (September?).

 

Aside from some minor¬†fixes to the game itself, that’s what I’ve knocked out this past month. ¬†I’ve also put some thought into reiterating upon previous designs…

 

Using Your Enemies

Months in the future, Yarku will be more useful to Nectira than as relentless enemies which¬†drop sap. ¬†Hives will be more than Yarku production chambers which drop gemstones. ¬†Bosses will likewise be more than beasts to slay, to simply reclaim a land. ¬†All of these will carry a dose of “life force” to harness, and also have a purified form, which will do multiple things:

For one, Nectira will have to strategically position her enemies to make use of the unlocked surge of life released with their defeat. ¬†Celaemus (through his vines at each vine level) can use this raw energy to grow ground-cover, chained together to the vine, and therefore develop Celaem¬†Vines. ¬†It’ll no longer be¬†up to Nectira’s tail to bring healing and lay a foundation for traps. ¬†This will do a lot of interesting things with level flow, which I’m opting¬†to make more enjoyable as I add other elements not yet in the game.

The¬†defeat of each Yarku will also bring a¬†critter, large or small,¬†back into existence in Raeos, returning the life which the Yarku possessed back to it’s original owner. ¬†I can picture Raeos’ equivalent of sparrows, crows, mice, rabbits¬†and¬†foxes ejecting from each¬†poof of each defeated Yarku, in relative¬†assortments and in many color variations.

In addition to that, as guardian species are introduced with each boss victory, Nectira will have more reasons to work Celaemus’ reach towards reviving strategically-placed guardian bushes, where she/Celaemus can use Yarku life-force to grow guardian species; critters purposed to fight back against the Yarku, at Nectira’s side on the battlefield.

Hives will release a blast of lesser critters too (resembling all of the to-be-spawned¬†Yarku, developed¬†inside), but also each unlock a Dynis, one of Nectira’s kin, whom has been saved and thus befriended by Nectira. ¬†Nothing like a new face to impart a little tidbit of information and the gift of a super-powered gemstone!

Bosses, as previously designed, will give birth to the once-slain, great beast kings¬†of Raeos! ¬†(I’ll let you experience the depth of that for yourself in a few months.)

 

Thanks for reading up on what I’ve been working on. ¬†Now back to development…

-Adam

Okay, I’m into this update thing now!  Once Nectira is ready to stay more active and visible in her community, I hope to have the good habit of keeping frequent updates playable (via”Early Access”), and supplemented by me sharing the new fun stuff.  So now, a month or a few ahead of time, I’m jumping on this update format, at the beginning of each month.

Here’s what’s new in July:

Realm Overlay Window:

Previously, the map for each of the 10 realms was dotted with mysterious levels.  The only thing that hinted at difficulty or level type was the color of the available icons.  Now when Nectira is near a level area, a little window will appear, showing relevant information, like this:

YarkuHiveOverlay

Not only hives, but Celaem Vine Levels, Celaemean Gardens, and other special areas all have this info automatically provided now.  More level icons have been added to correlate to all the difficulty levels.

In the process of better defining difficulties, I’ve also settled on Yarku types (“threats”) which can spawn within each level.  All Yarku-spawning objects (eggs, Vine level spawns, Mobs, etc.) had to be updated to generate the correct Yarku.  Lots of “behind the scenes” re-coding had to be done to get all the Yarku stuff straight again.  This has tweaked the game balance a lot too, something I’m excited to toy with as I further develop the Yarku (more diversity beyond their mindless marching to come)!

 

Yarku Mobs

Yarku Mob instances used to hold only a number of Yarku with them, and each Yarku within was completely randomized every time a mob was encountered.  This had been bugging me.  So now, every Yarku Mob holds not only a variable for its population, but also the variables for each Yarku within:  which type of Yarku each is, the color hue of each’s fur (which determines max HP), and if each is alive (still) or not.

With all those variables available to me, and with the whole difficulty framework built into the hive levels which spawn mobs, I decided to add varieties of art to illustrate the makeup of each mob.

MapObjects

The strongest Yarku alive in a given mob determines the Yarku Mob’s sprite on the realm map.  Feels solid!

mobs

Yarku Mobs are generated by Yarku Hives as before, but now the spawning-hive determines the types of Yarku which are in the new mob.  Stronger hives can also spawn more Yarku, keeping Nectira on her toes with the gem wielding decisions, and personal upgrades.

 

Gem Collection

It’s now much more exciting to pick up gems, just for the fact that Nectira now seems to appreciate the reward.  “Sparkle-blast” effect to be added later.

pickupgem

Gem Cost is Visible

I don’t know how this one was over-sighted for so long, but you can now constantly visualize how much sap your gems will cost, from the battlefield, as well as from the gem equip screen. Since the amount of sap you possess is also visible, it’ll be easy to gauge your uses.  Additionally, possessing insufficient sap will turn the cost number red, instead of yellow.

gemcost

Collection Alerts

Sometimes, even as the developer, I complete a Hive or Vine level and neglect to collect my prize.  Now there’s a bouncing, flashing indicator to inform/remind Nectira to grab the goods.  I’ll probably make it so you can turn this feature off later (or maybe just show it in the first few levels?).

pickupalert

Nectira Listens

One neat little part of the introduction has Celaemus speaking to Nectira.  She now listens, instead of standing blank-faced.

listener

It’s a minor detail that turned a few seconds of my play-tests from irritating, to satisfied.  And on that note…

 

Looking Ahead:  Finding My Balance

Proactive or reactive?  I wish I had a better habit of engaging this challenge more frequently.

I’ve been sort of off-balance, developing in the reactive mode, which looks like this:  Play test for 30 minutes at the beginning of a week or month and fill up a page of bullet-points; things that bug me, things that are bugs, or things that would simply be nice to reiterate or improve upon (like matching sprites to dialogue art, above).  I feel like this where I’ve spent a lot of time developing in the last few months; a place of critique, improve, repeat… just “reacting” to what Nectira currently is, versus how I want it to be.

On the other hand, I see that when I have a goal of something big to push towards (i.e. the introduction sequence, or a new realm, or say 3 new traps, etc.), then I can focus a month on that, and fill in any extra time that particular month may have afterwards, adding polish.  I’ve decided to go about the rest of this project with a stronger-leaning towards “proactive mode”.

There are usually a ton of little things that can use improvements, but I want to actually get this game done too!  I’m planning on spending a couple months on polish near the end of the Alpha builds.  Releasing some updates to the game after it’s “done” isn’t out of the question either.  Also, I still plan on spending about 1/4 of my time (or one week per development of each monthly update) on this category of development too, which should be plenty.

The main thing I want to see is a major milestone, or list of minor milestones, accomplished each month; which I much prefer to a list of updated or added features.  Those I probably couldn’t recite if I didn’t have it logged somewhere, but there’s no denying fresh content.

All that to say, hopefully I’ll have a boss to sneak-peak next month, shortly followed by a limited Early Access.  (I realize I’ve built into this happening a long time ago too… and it may be yet another 1 or 3 months, but this time I’ll be ready, as soon as the boss and surrounding story is approximately finished).

More on Nectira’s “limited” Early Access (not yet a Steam Early Access game) as we get closer.
Thanks for checking out the latest!

 

Development History

For the sake of gauging how quickly I’ve been making progress with my nights-and-weekends¬†development, I decided to consolidate¬†my progress into a single list, with logged hours connected to each section (quarterly or monthly). ¬†I’m hoping this’ll help me anticipate what the rest of development might look like, and/or brainstorm how to speed things up to meet some¬†more desirable goals.

Thankfully, I tend to be thorough with tracking both time and tasks, which made this report easy compile.

I thought it’d be fun to share this list, offering a peek into the development story of Nectira, so far:

 

2013:  No Hours Logged

Summer – Winter: Learned basics of programming, dabbling in various ‚Äúlearning projects‚ÄĚ.

 

2014  (550 hours logged)

1st Quarter:  48 hours logged in Feb 19 РMarch

  • Started Nectira around Zale‚Äôs (first son‚Äôs) birth.
  • Whipped out most of the basic elements. (including enemies, level flow, combat and traps; with 3 trap types, and three element types)

2nd Quarter:  171 hours logged

  • Hand-Crafted an over world map, with a few hand-crafted levels
  • more level content (procedural, regenerating trees and bushes)
  • Controller Support Added

3rd Quarter:  281 hours logged

  • Procedural generation of every level
  • Procedural generation of realms
  • Newly designed Yarku
  • Theme Song
  • 2 more traps
  • 2 more elements
  • 5 varieties of the new Yarku

4th Quarter:  50 hours logged

  • Greenlight Polish, Video and Campaign
  • Concept Art and Design Articles
  • Lots of holiday breaks (minor progress)

 

2015 (268 hours  logged: Jan РSept)

January:  40 hrs logged

  • New Nectira design and implimentation
  • Yarku Hives
  • Yarku Eggs
  • Toxic Fog

February: 26 hrs logged

  • Hive levels added to realms
  • Update Map Generation (flow changed: hive, vine, repeat)
  • Upgrades menu and implementation

March:  35 hrs  logged

  • Celaem Vine Anthem 1
  • Corn Cannon Trap
  • Sun Element
  • Bambarricade Trap
  • ‚ÄúPolicopis‚ÄĚ Butterfly Critter

April:  20 hrs logged

  • Gems Change Necira‚Äôs Colors
  • Nectira color varieties added
  • Bubble Element
  • Sulfur Element

May:  50 hrs logged

  • Color Palette Swapping, in place of large texture files
  • Gem Use Added
  • Jade Special Ability
  • Diamond Special Ability
  • Rhodonite Special Ability
  • Stinging Sedge Trap
  • Flurry Element

June:  19 hrs logged

  • Start World Map Generation (10 Islands onto world¬†map)

July:  36 hrs logged

  • Finish World Map Generation¬† (10 Islands onto world¬†map)

August:  35 hrs logged

  • A Page of Fixes and Improvements
  • Moving between realms and world map
  • Hive Anthem
  • Title Screen art and implementation
  • Story/Boss Placeholders

September:  7 hrs logged (partial)

  • Options Updated
  • Page of adjustments/features/bugs.

4th Quarter: hours not logged

  • Save/Load implementation
  • Options and System transitions/ notifications
  • Extra Background (layers)
  • Forest background layers


2016 

January: 36 hrs logged

  • STEAM GREENLIT: ¬†focus shifted from content to story and 1st realm progression
  • Story Script Writing
  • Yarku, Intro Frame
  • Nectira Empowered, Intro Frames

February:  15 hrs logged (partial)

  • Intro Music
  • Yarku Runt Enemy
  • Heartland Realm Generated as starting Realm

March:  20 hrs logged (partial)

  • Celaemheim (starting area)
  • Subtitle System
  • Intro Scripts and Voice Acting
  • Birch Trees added
  • Heartland BG Layers

April:  hours not logged

  • Celaemus Dialogue Art
  • Dark Chogi Monster
  • Seloryv Root/Sprout
  • Erkolial Tree and magic tree framework
  • The Celaemean Garden @ Heartland¬†Realm
  • First few ‚ÄúGame Guides‚ÄĚ (non-intrusive “tutorial-esque” pop-ups)

May: hours not logged

  • Finish ‚ÄúGame Guides‚ÄĚ (~15 total)

June:  ~26 hours logged so far

(NEXT MONTH’S POST)

 

Now that I’m keeping a digital record of my monthly¬†progress, I can easily start pasting¬†those here,¬†as monthly updates. ¬†Maybe I’ll add a couple pics to each,¬†as well.

*fun fact, of the partial hours I’ve logged up to this point, I’m up to about 915 hours, or almost 23 weeks, if Nectira were a full-time project.

I’ll get on the July update in a couple weeks!

I had planned on getting the Early Access program going this past month, with the first public alpha build of Nectira going live in September.

As I got closer and closer to hitting various “publish” buttons, I was feeling a bit trigger-shy. ¬†After taking time to think it through, I realized my game had too many lapses¬†for me to feel comfortable offering it to you. ¬†I imagined people stepping into an experience that would have been short of¬†expectation; ¬†one not instantly satisfying the feeling of getting one’s¬†money’s worth. ¬†(I want the first Alpha release to easily feel worth the price you’ll pay for the full game).

In spite of hours of fun, glaring flaws had me switching gears, from polishing to production.  New features since then include:

  • Save/Load System,
  • An updated options menu,
  • Title screen,
  • Entirely re-balanced levels¬†(to scale with the current progression of content)
  • Everything I previously had in mind to complete by September (3 island progression, difficulty scaling, new music and “cleaning up”)

If you are one of the few who were looking forward to a September alpha release, sorry for the wait. ¬†Otherwise, if you’re someone who buys the game later, reading back, I hope you’ll agree that the game would have been much less enjoyable if anything was¬†missing from what you’re now playing.

 

Looking Ahead:

Already, after having the extra few weeks to focus on progress rather than polish, I’m excited to share where the game has made it to. ¬†To be safe, I now plan to spend all of October in development-mode, finally releasing a solid alpha build¬†around¬†the beginning of November.

My main goal this month is to¬†develop the¬†introduction to the game’s story. ¬†It’s satisfying to see the world change as you progress through realms, but it’s missing a personal element, which the story is obviously meant to engage. ¬†This goal will wrangle in the starting realm, which means:

  • a new realm type
  • a couple new corresponding trap types,
  • a boss
  • a few characters
  • some events and the like

Optimistic-goals will include:

  • 3 additional Yarku types, which will each work much differently than the current core-army units in the game.
  • I may also add a couple tracks to the musical score.

Expect the actual launch in November!

Pre-Alpha Polish Month

My goal this month is to see how far I can get with Nectira, before I offer it to the world, via Early Access.

Right now, the game is certainly enjoyable for a solid few hours. ¬†Starting up the game again creates a whole new multi-hour experience, as most of the game’s elements are randomly generated; from the world map, stages and levels themselves, to the waves of Yarku, and combinations of both plant (traps) and gemstone (powers) make-up. ¬†Although a lot of the content of the game is months from being inserted into the game world, there’s plenty there to enjoy now!

On the downside, there are a lot of unexpected results that may creep in over thousands of iterations of the generated game world. ¬†I’m currently spending time making sure things come together in a unique, but appealing and¬†more-progressive way, every time the game world starts anew.

Here are my plans this month, to get the game from “fun”, to “appealing and more-progressive”:

  • Islands Progression. ¬†I’m finishing the¬†chain of progression that takes you from the first island of the mostly-finished realm type (forest), to the third. ¬†This 3-island-progression will include around 30 levels (from¬†two types) and up to a few dozen of shorter “mob battles”. ¬†All of the 30 levels will reward you with either a new gemstone, or a plant (corresponding to the level type), while the mobs will provide substantial “sap” (units used for upgrading Nectira in 16 different ways, or for spending on powers). ¬†I’m removing my developer navigation shortcut-keys and actually working on transitioning¬†the player from island to island more smoothly, while omitting story elements until full release. ¬†Because I’m saving the story for you for later, a lot of elements such as transitions will rightfully feel “placeholder’y”, but at least they’ll be in place.

 

  • Difficulty Scale. ¬†I originally built most of the randomized content that’s in the game to scale in difficulty over about 18¬†levels. ¬†When I added the multiple islands feature to Nectira last month,¬†my level structure changed drastically, leaving me with a complex difficulty scale to adjust my new structure to. ¬†There will be 9 islands now: ¬†an intro island with 10 levels, 3 easy islands with 6¬†levels each, 3 challenging¬†islands¬†with 10¬†levels, and 3 difficult islands with¬†14¬†levels (not 18 levels, but about 100, not counting¬†up to a few hundred¬†mob battles). ¬†Eventually you’ll be able to play all the easy¬†islands¬†right after the intro island; ¬†gathering sap for upgrades and gemstones all over Raeos; to be used all over the world¬†(meanwhile traps will stay specific to each of the 4 realm types). ¬†However, since only 1 realm will currently be available, I’ll have to craft a temporary-scale that’ll make the game less than¬†stupid-hard, since you’ll be missing out on the other 2/3 of the upgrades and gemstones, before you’d actually be expected to progress from easy islands to challenging islands, or¬†from the challenging islands to difficult islands, within each realm.

 

  • Cleaning Up. ¬†I’ve been going over all of my game objects, scripts and events, trying to clean up any¬†memory leaks, bugs and anything that may slow down or make the game feel more¬†amateurishly-developed¬†than¬†it is! ¬†I’ve also formed a¬†half-page-long list of minor game elements I’ve decided to redesign and improve upon.

 

  • More Music. ¬†Right now there’s a single battle “anthem”, and the theme song, which works nicely as realm map music (temporarily?). ¬†The one anthem has the right feel, and it’s long enough to not feel repetitive, but I’d¬†eventually like to have an hour worth of these anthems. ¬†Hopefully I’ll have enough music studio time this month to double the music in the game.

 

  • More content. ¬†I’m an optimist; ¬†the kind who thinks he can finish a game in a year. ¬†That being said, maybe I’ll have time this month to get more traps, elements, Yarku species types and realm wilderness makings in the game?

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back at the beginning of each month!

After about a year and a half of development, I feel that Nectira has “earned” a website.

There’s a lot I’d like to do with this game; that which will be a lot easier to handle through this sort of home base for development updates, and info/media pertaining to the game itself.

As I make progress, I plan to publish monthly Alpha builds of this game for those who’d like to partake of a 1/2 price Early Access Program.  This will really put a ton of momentum behind the project, giving me both valuable input and investment, as I crank out a new build of the game every month; adding as much content and zapping as many bugs as I can with each iteration.  It’ll be fun to do an article/video covering new content, for you to enjoy as the latest Alpha version of the game downloads to your PC (Mac and Linix probably won’t happen, at least not until after launch).

Aside from the news and Early Access side of things, this website will be a good place to populate with graphics, videos and articles covering all of the elements of Nectira’s game world.

Check back for new posts and updates to these pages soon!

-Adam