Update

Just to let you know I’m taking a break from Axria projects, I’m trying out new things so I’ll come back to working on it when i feel the time is right.

I’m currently making more art and animation based projects, so if you want to stay in touch here are my links;

Facebook: facebook.com/AngusBeer.art
Twitter: twitter.com/angus_beer
Instagram: instagram.com/angus_beer
Tumblr: angusbeer.tumblr.com
YouTube: youtube.com/c/angusbeer

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AXRIA Diary: Graphic Novel (24/01/16)

I’ve been had big ideas for AXRIA’s story since its creation in 2008 (8 years now!), the overall scenario has changed and evolved drastically from time to time. Sometimes the story took a dark approach, sometimes it took a family friendly approach. But now i’m at a point where i don’t care, i just want to tell the story i want to tell.

Previously i’ve been making AXRIA as a video game to tell the story i’ve had in mind, but it has been through some serious development hell for numerous reasons. Video games don’t have to tell a story, but i was thinking since this is a story driven project, it didn’t necessarily have to be a video game. At least not for now.

So my approach now is to make a hand-drawn comic (graphic novel). I’ve went for this as drawing is close to my heart and doesn’t require the same production weight as animation or game design.

I’ve had experience in making comics before (AXRIA Retro World, AXRIA Tale of Zythora). Now in fairness, Retro World was very beta-stage visually speaking, and Tale of Zythora was left on a cliffhanger. I’m aware of what to do about it, and combine what i’ve learnt from that with what i know now.

I’m currently in the pre-writing stage. I often doodle ideas for scenes, and sometimes try to visualise them through short storyboards. Yesterday i was designing a map of Moonlight island, where the story is set.

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Map draft of Moonlight Island- AXRIA © Angus Beer

For the video game version of Axria i had ideas for the major locations (levels) that Sarah (the protagonist) would go through, and had ideas of each location’s backstory and the characters that lived there. Now that i wasn’t approaching this as a video game, i felt more freedom in writing individual scenarios when Sarah approaches each location.

It was something that i feel just worked, as i’ve had ideas circulating for these locations for years, but now it felt like i was on my way to bringing out their stories. For instance the snowy village (now named Sunsnow Haven) was just that, a snowy village.

However now i’ve devised a story around it; the axrian species retreat from their home city after a virus breakout, in Sunsnow haven they realize the virus dies off in cold locations. They begin to live there in fear they’re unsafe elsewhere on the island, but tensions grow as not enough axrian survive the harsh weather.

This is just the groundworks, but i feel i’m onto something. Most of these locations were made from unconscious decisions, and now it feels like i’m finding where they could’ve been inspired from. That or i’m finding new inspiration toward them.
Some locations were inspired by places i’d visited before or works of fact & fiction.

At the moment i’m basing each chapter on what happens in each location, I feel as if there will be plenty of content to fill each one. I made rough writeups of scenes i can visualise in my head, writing sentences or bullet pointing them.
Some sentences are left vague often so that i’d expand upon it later, i sometimes write over these kind of papers.

I’m now using the ‘blocking’ technique to highlight the text that relates to each chapter, and i then made small thumbnails to illustrate the main event of each chapter. I like to think them as covers.

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Storyboarding. AXRIA © Angus Beer

I hope to use the blocking technique to create storyboards like these- this particular one was made without writing up the scene, but thats ok as i feel i’m quite flexible about it.

I like to make these storyboards more presentable by having an appealing colour for shadows. And I try to make it as informative as possible with the ‘shot’ descriptions and movement arrows. You may notice the pan-down arrows as i was still deciding between animated film and comic. None the less i feel i’ll stick with this scene as i feel it will tell a lot about Sarah’s character.

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Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind : The Original Storyboards © Studio Ghibli / Tokuma Shoten

I’ll be honest in saying that these are inspired by the way Studio Ghibli storyboard their movies (yes this will be a comic, but i feel it’s just as valid). Even though they’re rough sketches they’re still appealing to look at. And they’re informative to others on the production team.

I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Studio Ghibli and especially Hayao Miyazaki’s works, not just technique but story and character wise too. I would love to write about my influences sometime. But i digress.

So that’s what’s been going on recently. I’ve been hitting some roadblocks recently which is why i’ve been absent for so long, but i’m recovering. I feel that it’s ok to go smaller scale when things don’t work out otherwise.

 

 
Thanks for reading, and i appreciate your patience.

-Angus Beer

AXRIA Dev Diaries- Revolotion of Tile

blocky 1

A few things have happened when it comes to designing levels, main thing is that I will no longer use the standard tile option that Game Editor offers. The reason being is that makes all platforms one single actor, where as what i want all blocks to be individual.

Making blocks individual clones will mean if i have a weapon that destroys blocks, it will destroy the blocks it touches and not effect the entirety of the land! And blocks can now be individually animated, and have partner actors joined on top! Which is awesome considering how long I’ve wanted to have animated tiles work properly!

The way this is done is unusual but i feel works well after some tweaking; you have a tile-based actor which is invisible in-game, when you load the level, scan lines go down and identify where to load blocks and what type they should be.

They are all clones of the same actor, but have different variables to define what actions they take. For instance the standard tiles (called Poly-egg) are destructible to a special power up, whereas the Convener belt tiles are indestructible, and move Sarah to the speed and direction they’re set to.

blocky 3

Another revolution is having Sarah walk up stairs, it may not sound like much but it makes it better than repeatedly jumping or side walling up! If its one block above the ground, you’ll walk up it like stairs, if its more than two blocks high, you’ll push against it like normal!

It was a happy accident in a way as I was developing a separate collision box for side-jumping. During that time i wondered on the spot if the technique were possible. And it just worked like that! Sarah did slide up the wall sometimes but this was later sussed out.

Also those grass across the ground are automatically generated! This is done by the loaders putting grass tiles on top of platforms, then it won’t put another one on until finding six blocks-worth of space. In other words spacing it out so it wont appear within the ground, only on top.

Hope to give a video demonstration soon, as I’ve been using Open Broadcaster Software now it’s a lot easier to record now without having to go into full-screen!

I will continue work on this despite soon going to University and other personal things going on, but keep in mind breaks are to be expected for projects like this.

Angus Beer 🙂

AXRIA Dev Diaries: Control considerations

Sarah_Keyboard_sketch

One thing I realized over the years of being a Games programmer is that there are many things we take for granted while playing games. One of those things in PC games is giving gamers the opportunity to customize controls, be it changing the keys input or controller input.

I myself grew up with keyboard controls for platformers so I’ve adapted to it; however I’ve become more and more aware that some people who grew up on console would prefer the controller option.

I feel that it’s lucky to look into this now, as I’m at the early point of development where most of Sarah’s player mechanics are functioning, yet there’s still room for change (I expect to be experimenting with Madaura abilities soon).

Even though Arrow keys and ZXC are my preferred way of playing platformers, I want to give players the option to customize keys, should they prefer the WASD control scheme, should they prefer Space to jump, should they prefer using Shift and Ctrl, and so on!

Sarah_Controller _sketch

As I’m using lesser known software (Game Editor) it is a bit intimidating as it’s something I’ll have to properly research into. These are the commands that I believe relate to this action:

GetJoystick1Axis
GetJoystick1Button
GetKeyState();

From the sound of these I can get an idea of what these functions could be like, one recognizes controller inputs while the other ones for keyboard inputs. I remember trying the Key State one before with some referencing to other peoples code, I remember tidbits but I wasn’t experienced enough for it at the time.

Another thing to keep in mind controller wise is what kind of controllers people will be using.  I myself either use a PlayStation Controller with a USB adapter, or an Xbox 360 controller. The 360 controller is a common option for PC players as they’re both Microsoft based machines. When I get one controller to work and feel good to use, I’ll try different controllers and see how each feel.

Keep in mind that with both of these control considerations that I can’t promise it to happen anytime soon, but I sure hope to have them in the final game. It’s something that I believe will make the experience much more fluent for fans, and just overall more fun to play!

-Angus Beer

AXRIA Dev Diaries: Super Metroid

So to follow up on the development of 8-directional shooting, I looked for a game that excelled in that function and tried adapting it with the mechanics of Axria; that game of inspiration being Super Metroid (1994, Nintendo).

I considered to look at either Super Metroid or Super Probotector: Alien Rebels (UK release of Contra 3), however I’ve played Super Metroid than I have Super Probotector, and overall I feel Super Metroid ties closer to the kind of game I want to make (alongside Megaman and Sonic 3 & Knuckles).

My other intentions not covered in this video include using 8-directional fire with all weapons, from what I’ve tried so far it is certainly possible as it’s just a matter of telling the game what number weapon you’re holding, and how differently it acts upon release.

Another point I want to go into further depth in is about the control, more precisely having giving the players the option to have their own input. But I feel that deserves to be its own entry in itself. Tune back soon, and I’ll have covered the great struggle that is control!

-Angus Beer

angus making axria

Me narrating the use of the Axria star

AXRIA Dev Diaries: 8-Way Star

I’ve been thinking over things and i decided to give Sarah the ability to aim in 8-directions. My hesitance was from the thought that would this break the way things work, but then i envisioned some puzzles and scenarios using 8-way fire. So I thought, what the hell, why not 😉

It wasn’t too hard thankfully, just a matter of telling the game when you’re holding up or down, and the way the star shoot corresponds to what direction you’re facing and if you’re running.

My main influence is Megaman, but i felt it was most fun when you got an 8-directional weapon like the Metal Blade. But with the Axria star that’s a bounce-able weapon that collects items too, so to have it be able to shoot up into small upper areas and find a trail of items felt like a fun idea!

upward star

These are two areas just to demonstrate the potential scenarios; here we have a line of rupias that you shoot up and you have to get them to bounce at the right angle, notice there are bigger rupias that turn into smaller ones. This was done because the average rupia was now gravity based, so having a gravity-less one that spurts out four I thought would be more fun!

upper rupias

This is another draft area that when hitting the crystals releases all the rupia. The only issue at the moment is collecting the rupias that fall out, as they land on the platform below and have to be collected by the very touch of the star. What i intend on doing is having a magnet area much like what Sarah has to draw in rupia.

You can see this and more in action in the video below!

From whats been demonstrated in the video, you can see you have to run while aiming upward or downward, that’s what I hope to change next time, to have something of the likes of Super Metroid where you use shoulder buttons to aim diagonally without aiming. This may require a lot of tweaking as I’m currently using arrow keys, and WASD may be a better control scheme given you have Q and E above both A and D (Left and Right).

How well will this work out? Will there be controller support? We’ll soon see, as I don’t know at this point!

-Angus Beer

AXRIA Dev Diaries- Running to the present!

When it comes to character animation, running animations might be one of the hardest to pull off. Mainly because in platformers you’re focused on the character’s position, and half the time if you’re not jumping you’re on the ground. So what i wanted to do here is go through a little retrospective/ self critique on Sarah’s animation, how intentions and techniques have changed and my overall thoughts.

Keep in mind that i can be a bit of a perfectionist at times, and while there is no such thing as perfection, right now I’m looking for a satisfying level of convincing!

Old-Sarah-Run-nobg

In 2011 when the original build of this game was made, this was the sprite i used for the longest time. While it does appear detailed in individual frames, i have to be critical and say the feet don’t go forawrd enough. It looks like they stay in the middle for most frames and in two frames go back. This was when I was working in MS Paint alone (I now use MSpaint + Photoshop), so previewing the animation wasn’t so simple.

None the less, not a bad start.

sarah-runright-5

When i rebooted the concept of Axria in mid-2014 Sarah’s sprite got a complete overhaul. I didn’t want to detail Sarah too much as i felt detail is best reserved for BIG sprites, or at least the backgrounds. Not only would it make animation easier to make but it would be easier to spot in crowded environments.
This was a pretty solid effort, though I feel she kind of limps a bit, and when that happens the leg goes by so fast in comparison to every other frame. That and her body doesn’t move when her arm does, it stays still. The best achievement was the smoothness of her hair, I was getting the hang of Photoshop’s animation menu so i could was getting very pixel perfect when i could.

Also the reason for the black & white was mostly temporary, i had a passing idea of the more hit points you had the more colour you’d have, but this was way to overbearing so i changed the colour idea to revolve around what madaura ability you had equipped.

sarah-running-test  sarah-running-test-2  sarah-running-test-3  sarah-running-test-4  sarah-running-test-5

Now we’re up to the (hopefully) final animation, i now had a dedicated box size to work in, 80×80 pixels, which is small enough to get up-close and personal on the pixels, but view able on the chosen screen size. I managed to save step-by-step different GIF’s on the making of this animation.

The first two were about getting a line animation planned, from the third GIF i had Sarah’s body mostly ready but the head would only twitch, same with her body rotation. It was at this point i got some reference, i looked at the Sprite from Megaman X and analysed the movement of the chest and limbs, since Megaman is one of my main inspirations it fitted perfectly to the kind of speed Sarah would run at. By the fourth step I had the motion pretty much spot on, and by the fifth her hair was smoothly animated!

Sarah running-big

It took about four years, but I can say I’ve made an animation I’m satisfied with. My favorite details are how you can see the back while she runs, and the way her head moves along with the body. I’ve now got a GIF on how it looks with the ponytail in tact (Note: Its green because of the power up selected).

fire-sarah-2

As mentioned, Sarah’s ponytail is now separate from the main Sarah sprite, one part being the hair band that can change colour depending on ability, like mentioned in the previous Dev Diary entry. The hair is made out of different animated sprites spawning at random rates, the look of it was almost fire-like so it was a perfect fit into the fire them of the Madaura flames! When Sarah runs or jumps, it affects the movement of the flames which was also perfect!

The only thing i need to do is to properly animate each little flame sprite, but that’s OK because its a cakewalk in comparison to everything else. While I’m at it i have another idea in mind, and that is to make Sarah’s fire appear stronger the more hit points she has lift (I imagine 3 would be a fitting maximum).

Four posts in a day, and I feel like everything’s progressing really well! Hoping to keep you posted! 🙂

-Angus Beer

AXRIA Dev Diary: Flames of Madaura

AXRIA INT TEASER 16a

I’ve had this idea for the longest time, and at last I’m going to shed some light on it.

These are the Flames of Madaura, six flames that guard Sarah’s homeland of Moonlight Island. However in the plot of this game, they’ve been corrupted by the Tyranch (antagonist species in the game) to give them power while mutating their bodies. You’re goal is to get them back, and in turn use their power to help you on the adventure.

What I’ve done so far is made it so Sarah’s pony tail is like a gathering of fire. This way not only does it fit into the theme of collecting flames, but it means the hair generates flickering flame sprites. This makes Sarah herself more of a breeze to animate, as i don’t have to animate each pixel of her pony tail on top of everything else.

super sarah 3

This is an idea of how it would look for one of the Madaura flames i have in mind, a Rose petal themed one. This one sucks the energy out of enemies which you then collect for yourself. Currently Sarah’s hair doesn’t change but her hair band does. I’m considering having her shirt and air change colour but it may require mapping a new skin on top that can change colour at will. If it works, hell yeah i’d go for it!

I’ve made a test room to include six of the madaura flames, these don’t change your star throwing abilities just yet but they do change your hair band colour, to at least prove they work when collected. I’ve demonstrated such in the video below:

I made it so Sarah can collect the madaura in any order she likes, meaning that when the player presses the C key to switch weapons, it skips over the value for uncollected madaura and finds the next one that has been collected. I’m considering a menu, but at the same time it takes no time to switch so it may not be necessary. There will be a icon in the top right of the screen incase it becomes hard to pin-point the colour.

I hope for players to have fun with the abilities to come, next I’m going to be documenting the animation of Sarah! 🙂

-Angus Beer

AXRIA Dev Diaries: Getting over gaps

sarah over gap

A little back story on this feature: Initially when I made Axria Retro World i immediately went to work on a sequel, which unfortunately never came to be. But in that sequel i had one new feature the original didn’t have, and that was the ability to run over gaps. This current version of Axria is technically based off the code from Retro World 2, but I’ve now had the time to properly look at it and polish it.

As you can see in the video, Sarah has a little window of time to jump even after leaving a platform. I intend this to aid players so that not only can they run over gaps, but they can have a few extra frames to jump when leaving the platform. If you’ve ever played Super Turrican (SNES, 1993), you may have noticed something similar where certain jumps require you to jump shortly after leaving the platform. However in Axria i intend it to be more clear because of this running over gap technique.

Check back soon and I’ll have posted more on new abilities!

-Angus Beer 🙂

AXRIA Dev Blog – Bug Hunting

sliding

There’s been one particular bug in the game that i finally exterminated!
A few weeks ago I made a video of me going through a build of the game listing the changes and bugs that would occur, since then I’ve tackled a ton of them, one of those being the sarah sliding bug. This bug has (or had) two forms, one where Sarah wouldn’t register if she was on the ground at all, and another where it knew she was on land, but it wouldn’t animate.

The first version of the bug i was able to get rid of not long after finding it. The bug is a result of Sarah leaving the ground and quickly revisiting the ground, when she leaves the ground, there’s a brief window of time where she can run over gaps, when that moment of time stops, its expecting sarah to be in the air, but because she’s still on the ground, she’s technically in the air while on the ground!

collected screens

What i did was take screen shots of when the bug happened, i also checked the newly made ‘Dev menu’ showing the different values of Sarah, and compared them to when the collision did work. At first i didn’t see the problem, but after watching a playback i recorded, the problem was found and it was soon cured.

Though i noticed a less drastic form of the bug was still there, it took so many routes trying to find a way to fix. I tried methods including having her jump animation ‘end’ to then register if she was on ground or not. But nothing worked. Then it turned out to be all caused by one line of code that didn’t need to be there…

So that line of code causing the error, meant that Sarah’s animation would only play if your yvelocity (Velocity of the y direction) id more than one, however sometimes there’s a window of time where your yvelocity ranges below 1 and above 0.

Now I can imagine why i put that in and how i can use something similar in future; I believe it was because i was trying to make platforms that didn’t have solid bottoms (Which sounds a lot like a euphemism for something).
This would mean Sarah could jump from below the platform, but not collide to it until landing back down. Now if i were to try this again, what I’d do is change it, so that if the yvelocity>=0. That way, Sarah could collide mid-jump and not have her slide on the platform.

I’ve been doing a lot of bug hunting since last time, check back soon and I’ll be sure to have posted more!

-Angus Beer 🙂