Shoot for the Stars Devlog 40: Dinner is Served!
Hello Everyone! We creep closer and closer to the release of the Shoot for the Stars Demo. Very recently, we started posting daily short clips of gameplay progress on our youtube channel. The team has been hard at work optimizing the game to the best it can be!
Here are some examples of the clips already posted.
Today is also the day "TerraZone: Wake the Will" premieres on Webtoon. For those that may not know "TerraZone: Shoot for the Stars" has a parallel story following the character "Evan Williams" in a darker toned story compared to the video game which has a more "light-hearted" story. Many events and characters are shared amongst both stories and are fully canon to each other. The most notable character shared being "Hayley" who is a main character in both stories.
Rob C. Miller
Lead Illustrator/ Game Design
As mentioned last month, I’ve gotten reacquainted with the Event Editor. Using this, I can link to various images, sounds, and more. Then, bam! It’s a game!
For now, I’ve been aiming to get a rough skeleton of the entire demo scripted out in the Editor. This includes all characters that show up on screen, every music track that plays, every sound that is heard, as well as the dialogue written within the visual novel portions of the game. Doing this will give us a loose, overall look at the entire demo and how it will play out. This also lets us know what pieces we need to complete to have the demo itself whole.
Once I’ve completed this rough skeleton, it’ll then be time to add all the finished pieces of work as the work is completed. We will then review the script and make any edits from there that can improve the experience.
I’ll also be coloring and rendering the background stills Kayla has completed, as well as any other still images that are lined in the near future.
While other projects and life events have kept me busier elsewhere this month, the projects have been increasing my speed and proficiency in terms of drawing and coloring. This will ultimately aid in Shoot for the Stars looking better visually, as well as allow me to get the work done sooner.
Things may have slowed down, but know that all three of us are still pushing on. So long as we continue to do so, the playable demo for Shoot for the Stars will get out there and in your hands. We’ll continue to keep you updated each month to remind you the project is, indeed, progressing forward. For now, I hand it off to one of my associates.
Backgrounds, Backgrounds, and more backgrounds! Yes, a large focus I’ve done this month was working through some of the visual novel backgrounds as well as the maps themselves that show up in the overworld. Early on , we were experimenting with a pseudo isometric where the left and right side of the screen were mirrored while the middle had its own section for placement of items. If Sky were to walk on certain parts of the map, Sky would sometimes step on a very precious threshold that would freeze the game. So yeah, that just simply won’t do.
We encountered a number of issues with sorting objects on the map, so we inevitably decided to go with a complete isometric across all of the game. Luckily, not all is lost, as a fair amount of objects can still be used as they just need to be flipped! Below, I present the before and after of the Cards and Comics Shop with the view we originally had and what we are doing now for the maps.
I have also been adding to other locations including the school exterior, various hallways and the Main Street Where Cards and Comics is located.
As mentioned last month, we finished a photoshoot for TerraZone, and I’m happy to say, we have a lovely photo album soon to launch on the site and our social media showcasing the Photoshoot. Some of you guessed correctly on what the cosplay was going to be and it’s Dragon Girl! Once again, thank you @shanem201 for the lovely photos!
Dragon Girl also made her debut recently for the “Card Reveals” channel in our discord, which we now are doing monthly reveals showing off more cards from the packs as now the 4 base starter decks cards showcased at etablecon have now all been fully revealed.
Lastly, we figured out what our cover for our Steam Store is going to look Like, and so we started concepting the cover. We went over many different ideas, and many started off looking too “YU-GI-OH” or “too Vanguard”. Naturally, the first thought when thinking of a card game cover is “main character looking triumphant holding up a card surrounded by cool looking monsters or creatures.
Since Shoot for the Stars is both a card game and a game that focuses heavily on the “Slice of Life” Factor and also has a very abstracted art style, we wanted to play with a more abstract approach. We went back to the outer space theme seeing how “Star” is both literal and metaphorical in this game. We then came up with the idea of the main boss cards of the cast benign constellations with the main cast hanging off their respective creature. After concepting this out, we knew we had a winner. Soon enough, the fully colored cover will be revealed along with a soon to come store page!
Programmer/ Game Design
I come to you today with more updates on the technical side. Bare with me as I type this squinting at the screen as my glasses have temporarily been indisposed. Remember kids to always carry a spare.
I would say development has been split in two directions this month. My work has continued in the department of AI; however, I have also been supporting Rob in utilizing the event editor tool I created previously for finally generating more of the story content.
Talking first about the latter, things have been running mostly smoothly with the editor. Aside from some minor bug fixes, the existing version was holding up very well from a functional standpoint. As I observed Rob use the editor though, I certainly noticed quite a few repetitive tasks that would need to run that generally became tedious over time, (Namely most of all opening and closing the dialogue window).
I decided to generalize this into events he would be able to call in one line to open and close the window. The event would preserve the data about the window so he wouldn’t have to continuously add events to adjust scale/alpha/etc. for the uncountable number of times the game will need to toggle the message box.
Beyond this sound needed to be managed better. Originally sound had a single channel it would play on; however, it became clear very quickly that this would be inadequate with the text scrolling sound that plays as a message is displayed. I updated sound playing to be more robust, working across multiple channels (Currently 10, but is able to be changed dynamically). Also speaking of the text scroll sound, this sound effect would play any time a new letter would appear on the screen. This turned out to be incredibly annoying! So I changed the scroll sound so that it would only play a new instance of the sound when the old instance had completed its duration. You’re welcome.
Here is a snippet of the older intro scene in the game with the sound effects.
And here is the Sound with the "fixed" spacing. (New art style animations coming soon!)
So you’re probably wondering how much more I have added to Seon’s AI since we last spoke. Well let me tell you I’m excited to share that everything I did for his AI has been scrapped and I’ve been working on redoing the entire system!
Since I know you all hang on every word I type in these devlogs, I’m sure you all recall me mentioning in a previous devlog how the AI worked off Decision Trees and how it’s such a clean and efficient way of writing Seon’s AI… Well I’m a liar.
After working for some time with the Decision Trees, it became clear that while it became easier to automate how Seon’s AI was being designed, it also made even the most simple task I wanted him to perform take a large breadth of nodes before he could arrive at a final decision. Even with the visualization tool I had built, it made his AI very difficult to read
I needed a system that would allow him to make advanced decisions while simplifying the readability. I decided to consult the wise programming sage, Google for answers. I found information on a plethora of different AI patterns that would be suitable for this task.
My first thought was utilizing the Behavior Tree pattern. Behavior Trees are very common in AI for many AAA games today, and are a very flexible way to essentially activate states of AI behavior. While this approach was tempting, I realized that the Decision Tree pattern I put together previously was already a bit of a mix of a traditional Decision Tree pattern and the Behavior Tree pattern. Upon further mulling over this option I also came to the realization that a pattern like this is far more suitable for a more real time approach to AI.
With this newfound discovery at my side I was able to narrow down my pattern search to something more appropriate for a turn based game like ours. I came across the Utility AI pattern.
For those unfamiliar, the Utility AI pattern gathers a list of all possible options the AI has to perform, then calculates a weight for each of those possibilities. Using that weight value, the AI may then make a final decision based on which option has the greatest weight. This pattern was perfect for our turn based AI, as it only really needs to be called any time a new decision needs to be made and allows for very advanced behavior since it becomes easy to manipulate weight based on what the AI’s current concerns may be.
While I’ve loosely begun to implement the new AI, I am now in the middle of building a system that allows the AI to create a “snapshot” of its prediction of the board state after it performs the action it is checking against. These snapshots will allow the AI to make more intelligent decisions as it can determine its weights based on what may actually occur in a specific scenario rather than having to make more general hypotheses based on the present board state.
I know the time we spend apart each month is difficult on the both of us, but I promise to return with more details on the game’s systems. Who knows, maybe I will have reworked another system by then! (Please, don’t make me rework another system) Until next time folks.
Thank you everyone for tuning into another update. We'll be continuing to add more to the event system and story! The next big update will be 8/27/2021. Make sure to follow us on Twitter for all the latest updates. The demo gets closer and closer to complete with each passing week, so see you next time TerraZone Fans!