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

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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.

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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- 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.

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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).

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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 Blog – Bug Hunting

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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 🙂

AXRIA Project Evergreen going Alpha!

Axria project Evergreen is now in alpha form, it’s playable, but there’s a lot to go! I will be letting people play it in private real-life sessions, which will help towards gaining feedback! No release date has been set, there is a lot of work to go!

EDIT: Just to clear up confusion, this Project Evergreen was later changed into the current build of ‘Axria’, I’ll use techniques used and learnt from project Evergreen in Axria for sure, I may include this as a little demo in the final game.

My Love of making art books! | Angus Beer

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I’m currently writing a book on my work on recent Axria projects, talking about my inspirations and making of art pieces. I’m very passionate about making art books, writing by hand along the glued in pictures, i keep all my watercolor pieces in this book and have a round up of them when i feel the time is right. For now here’s one to give you an idea on what I’m working on:

AXRIA Tale of Zythora Watercolour 1

Angus Beer

Axria Project Evergren comic announcement

No main images for todays post, rather just updating on the current situation.

Currently the game itself is on hold, in favour of developing the story further. I’ve been in a comic creating mood so I thought this would be a perfect time to develop the plot. This comic it will be around 10-12 pages of length detailing the games backstory.
As I wanted this to be a follow up to my previous title, Axria Retro World, I’m making some considerations on how to continue where that title left of. I won’t be giving any major details now, but be assured I have some great ideas in mind!

Thank you and remember to keep on playing.

-Angus Beer

Edit: This comic later became ‘Tale of Zythora’, that project is currently on hold to stay focused on the game just titled ‘Axria’.

Keep on running – AXRIA Project Evergreen (Making of Part 3)

As of now I’ve taken a break on programming due to stress, but before that I happened I made some major tweaks on things in the code, some experiments have taken place and some important steps done to make the product feel better to play. At the moment I’m developing the story and characters of this title, while its minimal I want it to make a more sturdy connection to the previous game, Axria Retro World.
So keep that in mind the following was written when I was last developing the engine.

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The game begins with the camera panning up to the upper altar, it lacks details just so I can concentrate on how it works first. After a few seconds it releases Berri seeds as the camera then pans down to the ground again.

It then shows Sarah jumping out the painting portal, made out of simple black and white shapes for now. Sarah is missing her graphics so I can test the additional red hitbox, I’ll get into that in a bit. Previously you had six Berri flowers set on the ground at the start of the game, instead the six Berri seeds fall down from the altar, to make it feel like you grew those Berri flowers yourself.

Moving and jumping is mostly the same but I want to make some changes to the star, for one thing it’s a bit small when you consider how much Sarah’s been up scaled since Axria Retro world. Making it bigger will also help aiming at ground enemies, a lot of times when trying to destroy Bloids it would go over their head first, then I had to wait for it to bounce off the edge of the screen into the enemy.

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Another change I want to make is how the star fires, at the moment you press the button and it instantly fires, press it again and the star disintegrates, and press it the next time and you fire a new shot. Last time when you pressed the button it would destroy the star, but as soon as you released it would instantly fire another. This didn’t cause any problems but I got the feeling this would lead to some accidental shots, however the way I’ve tweaked it now has made the star feel a bit slower in execution. So now I’m thinking of ways to improve this to make it faster, my current thought process is to have Sarah charge her star, how long you hold the key down will affect the Stars speed, therefore its impact when it hits the obstacle. I

t’ll also make it clearer when Sarah’s about to fire because I imagine her holding a grip with the Axria star at the ready!
The physics I also hope to improve, since it’s built on top of Axria Retro World’s engine the impact of the star didn’t need to be that strong given the very small screen resolution of that game, now that the resolution and the environments are going to be bigger I need to optimise the stars physics so that the impact feels right. I also noticed glitches such as the star occasionally hovering on Sarah’s head and not properly bouncing off like it should.

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They key thing I’ve been working on now is collision and other related events with the Perri Trees, the max number of trees on the stage is 6 at the moment, to prevent potential slow down. Sarah no longer collides with the left or right side of the tree because I’ve had a new idea, that Sarah could climb the tree like a ladder! How well will this work? I’m not sure until I implement it. I’ve never actually pulled off ladder climbing in Game Editor yet but that’s why I want to try it out. That was what the red box was made for, long explanation short it helps when telling if you’re standing on top of a climbable object and when you’re actually climbing it.
There have been some problems however; if Sarah collides into another climbable surface while walking on the top another Sarah will either fall off or bounce up (depending on how I tweak it). This means Sarah can’t collide with another climbing surface while she’s already on one otherwise the code gets confused on what to do. Other mishaps include her not going up along with the tree while it grows. This is again triggered by the code not knowing what surface she’s on. I may resort to a similar method eventually, like wall climbing like before, but I won’t give up just yet unless it really halts the flow of production.

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There have been issues with slow down, while I’m not sure what precisely it is, if it’s the trees or Berri seeds, my thought is that it’s the amount of Bloids that could potentially appear. Bloids don’t disappear when off screen so for all I know they could be falling forever off screen putting too much pressure on the game. So now I need to implement a max counter for the Bloids and any future enemies that can be on screen at once, and make them go away forever once their off screen. That and have Berri seeds not be released if there’s too many on the field already, that could be a potential cause for slowdown as I say, but I want the Berris to at least do something significant to signify this. It may also mean turning the sparkling water of the ocean into a gif rather than having there be multiple sparkle ‘actors’ acting at once.

Another issue I thought I’d mention here is that sometimes trees grow on top of one another, which causes some collision mistakes. Above you see three trees nearby each other, I want to make it so when the trees are little samples they look for any nearby trees or Perri samples, if there’s any nearby then they won’t grow. It’s perhaps the simplest thing to do.

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But I was thinking my game gave you little choice in the placement in the placement of Perri trees and Berri flowers, so I thought maybe I could have Sarah carry the samples from one place to another. This will minimise the reliance on randomly generated number type of gameplay, giving the player more to do. The Star copy ability idea I mentioned in an earlier post could be used here, when you take the Perri’s ability, maybe it would get rid of the tree and you could use that Perri piece as a new seed. If that makes things too easy then maybe the trees could drop fruits when fully grown, and Sarah can throw those into spots to start growing into a new tree!

Despite pointing out a lot of issues I don’t feel majorly discouraged from working on this project, I feel if I return after a while of not working on it some things will just click as to figuring out how to fix some of the problems. And since I’m not following any rules of how a game should be made I feel a lot more creatively free to do what I want, so if I have a problem I’ll just find another way to work around it!

-Angus Beer