Before we dive deep into the TerraZone end of things, Let's First start with some brief Hyde & Zeke news! Mystic Mask Media will be 4 years old as a business on June 3rd, and Hyde & Zeke is now going to be 2 years old. To Celebrate, Hyde & Zeke will be going on sale 50% on Steam this week.
Over the past several months, TerraZone has faced many bumps in the road. We had to postpone the video game, and now came the time for the webtoon, except this time, it faces an even bigger endeavor.
With the postponed video game, we figured we could flesh out the story more and give more content through the story of the webtoon. In doing so, a lot has been learned not only for the webtoon, but the game itself.
The game has proven to be quite the challenge to translate well in a comic setting. In a vacuum, the game was doing well, but it also started to show some unforeseen problems. The biggest problem being that both players technically never needed to battle each other seeing how the goal was to deal direct damage 4 time. This was partially a result of the very large playing field, where players could easily snipe damage on side of the board without engaging in combat.
We came up with many solutions to the problem, but those solutions only introduced more problems. Some being the Terrain starting directly in the middle of the field which then made certain decks to have awkward arrow schemes. We then attempted to solve that problem by making arrows completely customizable. Where it was interesting coming up with these solutions, the main problem was still very much present, which was the direct damage problem and the overly complex core mechanics.
We learned the value of keeping core mechanics simple and making the decks and playstyle the part that was more complex rather than the gameplay itself. What this means is we decided it was time to retire this version of TerraZone and start completely from scratch. After 9 weeks of testing, we feel we're on the right track. We're aiming for the 3 S's as Rob puts it ; "Simple, Snappy, Suspenseful".
This will allow games to go a lot quicker as well as the story in the webtoon to also go through battles faster, which was also an issue we where finding ourselves dealing with.
With this wildly different version of the card game we've been developing, we are heavily considering the game to even potentially have a different name than "TerraZone". The new name is uncertain at this time.
Aesthetically, the game was also struggling with an identity crisis. We established a very strong UI for Shoot for the Stars, and the cards themselves didn't feel like they always matched the templates of the cards themselves or "Wake the Will" and especially "Shoot for the Stars". There where some things we liked about the card's template, which was initially the minimalistic design of the graphic design. We had experimented with different "styles" on the creatures including even commissioning artists for guest work on the cards. Even the card back logo created some issues for creating advertisement material as the logo was too big and bulky.
These where some concept images created before we had to put the video game under an indefinite hiatus. As it can be seen with full TerraZone logo, the logo is very "heavy" which immediately serves as a problem.
The logo was created long before Shoot For the Stars become an idea, and served as a "Destiny Dragon-like" mascot in reference to the protagonist running Destiny Dragon as their main card. Later on during our time creating this "New TerraZone" we realized it was not great marketing to establish a heavy emphasis on a mascot in a game where you're supposed to create any deck you want to . You could argue people think of "Blue Eyes White Dragon" or "Dark Magician" when thinking of Yugioh, but it's important to remember those are not the inherent mascots of the game as a whole, but rather mascots associated with Yugi and Kaiba.
The webtoon built up a small audience this past year, however when we where talking to various people about the story and even encountered some things on our own. We've come to the conclusion the art needed a makeover as it needed to be polished up more and the pacing of the story wasn't going anywhere. Chapter 10 was where the story started to get juicy, however, most new readers won't know that going in. Statistically we found there was a loss of interest as well as readers being left overwhelmed by the pilot episode giving too many rules at once at the start of the story.
One of the People we spoke with was webtoon reviewer "Turtle and Bug", whom has a ton of information on their youtube channel going over good story writing and even better art decisions.
One thing that really resonated with us was how a story for a webtoon should establish a sub plot by the end of the first episode, and the over arching plot by the end of the 3rd episode. This in fact is parallel to Even the webtoon staff's general recommendation of posting at least 3 chapters at launch. In retrospect, this makes a lot of sense as a reader needs to have a reason to come back to a story. The pilot was a problem also at the start due to our decision in breaking the pilot into different parts of a battle. (This came across as monotonous after reading even just a few chapters in) Where that method of story telling felt it made some sense at the time, looking back at the story we realize it's very overwhelming for new readers to dive into the story.
Using Yugioh as an example again, where it may not be the "perfect" card game story, it did in fact popularize the genre and did have some decent key points regarding the storytelling in the Duelist Kingdom arc. They start off with a brief explanation of how the card game works and at the end of episode 1, they have a sub plot of Grandpa being stolen away by Kaiba, which then initiates Yugi to battle him. By the end of episode 3, we know they'll be set sail for Duelist Kingdom, which sets the expectation for the entire arc.
Another person we talked to alot in this time was artist "Danielle Rosenstein" whom was a previous contributing artist to our project. Her being both very fascinated in art and story telling had a lot of great advice to share about our story, and one positive thing we do hear over and over about the art in TerraZone is the choice of color. This was something Rob did want to really emphasis in mood and even establishing a sense of color harmony with the existing artwork.
Aside from color however, we did hear a lot of other helpful constructive criticism, which was something that resonated with Rob as well as Kayla. Most notably, a very fine line between what makes art feel "professional" and what makes art feel "amateur". This is a delicate balance, between many aspects of art ranging anywhere from line art, Outfit design, anatomy, Angles in a shot, and even the backgrounds feeling vacant or even "sterile or mismatched". It's important to note that even Backgrounds should be treated as characters, and should have creativity thrown in their direction.
With all of this in mind , aside for the game itself getting a makeover, the webtoon is also under going a make over in style and the story itself to be written differently.
One of the big differences we're working towards is making the background almost like it's own character, and very little to no editing on the background when included in the comic from Blender in the future. Prior, the blender backgrounds where used as a source of reference for the backgrounds and where literally used to block out backgrounds. Below are some examples from the unreleased Chapter 11.
Kayla, being the main background artist has been studying ways to stylize the backgrounds without the need to draw over them too much. She has been studying the Studio Ghibli, Genshin Impact, and the Guilty Gear styles to incorporate in future 3D work.
on the character side of things, Rob has been studying the stories and aesthetics of various card game anime as well as some of his favorite Instagram artists. he recently rebranded his art name to being "0rigin Zer0" and has been heavily focusing on color and shading in his works.
We aim to make the quality significantly better the next time around, and look forward to sharing further updates on the direction of the TerraZone franchise as a whole.
Thank you everyone for tuning into another update. Blog updates will be a bit more spread out as the TerraZone franchise as a whole is officially on an indefinite Hiatus. This doesn't mean the project will be forgotten however. Instead, we're using this time to better improve all of our skills separately and come back to the projects at a later date. The Team will most likely post art updates and video game streams on their pages. to Further follow the journey, you can find Rob's art on: Deviantart, Tik Tok, and Instagram. Kayla's activity can be found on mainly Instagram in the meantime with a soon to be published art station and personal website as well as a game stream channel on Twitch called "Glint Gamers".