RMMV [DEMO] Selling Sunlight - Wandering Merchant RPG

Nagasari

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Love the character art and the watercolor painting for the background is so lovely!
The story is unique, I've never seen something like that in RM. Keep it up. :)
 

Bricabrac

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Hello! We are still alive, more or less. The heatwave in Italy has been unbearable, and we spent most of the month trying not to melt. Nevertheless, we armed ourselves with ice creams, fought the Sun, and managed to get some work done. Here's what we did:

ART
Chiara officially finished working on the Orange City backgrounds! Only two more cities to go and the backgrounds will be all done.
We really liked the way the greenhouse came out, so we decided to make another location that makes heavy use of parallax effects: it's a broken cannon where citizens of the Orange City illegally breed bees.

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Putting all the pieces together.
Meanwhile, Anita painted a... Horse. Plant. Thing. Because it would have been boring to have a normal horse pull your cart, right?

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We also did some work on the UI, with terrible results. Terrible, trust us.
Luckily, we did our taxes and ended up paying way less than expected, which means we managed to fulfil our dream of hiring a UI designer!
Potouto specializes in text-heavy games like visual novels, and already has some experience with art nouveau. We are super excited to work with them and can't wait to see how they will improve the game's interface!


GAMEPLAY
You can now ask questions to random NPCs in the streets. Like story NPCs, they can tell you information about assorted topics — but contrary to other merchants, they don't speak the local lingua franca, so conversations will be stilted and awkward.

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You surely happened to help tourists who didn't speak your language: communication quickly devolves to frantic hand gestures and simple words being repeated multiple times.
We wanted you to feel like those tourists.

Next update will arrive at the end of September! May the Sun hopefully shine a bit less by then.
 

Bricabrac

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Hello friends!
Here's what we've been working on:

MUSIC
Our composer Devin Vibert sent us the theme song for the Orange City, and you can listen to it right now, HERE.

Devin also made us some much-needed sound effects. They have been implemented into the game, and all the menus now bloops and bleeps in an appropriate and satisfying way.

ART
Anita is working on the merchants that will populate the Orange City. She's currently in love with this NPC, the local artist weirdo:

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Chiara started working on the penultimate city: the Teal Atheneum, where fishes are books and fishermen double as librarians.
Our pitch for this location was "a Chinese Venice". Here is a sneak peek:

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GAMEPLAY
There's a reason we still haven't updated the alpha for high-tier backers: we are currently reviewing the bartering system, because it simply wasn't very fun.

We listened to your feedback and we researched other bartering systems, trying to find new ideas.
This article by Sin Vega on Rock, Paper, Shotgun was a big inspiration. It made us understand money is usually the least interesting part about a trading deal, and gave us the idea to check tabletop RPG systems.

The updated bartering system retains the same core, but all the elements work a little differently.
The list of changes includes:

  • Multiple currencies.
  • Each merchant has a default patience level you can increase by befriending them. Grumpy merchants start with lower patience, thus adding some variety.
  • Patience doesn't reset after every transaction, but at the end of the day. Makes merchants feel more human and limits exploits.
  • A renewed focus on trading services and goods. You will be able to complete a transaction without using money, if you want.
  • New skills during bartering now gets unlocked as you befriend the merchants. Gain their trust, and you will be able to unlock risky prepositions like "give me a discount and I will search for this item and bring it to you".
Many of those skills require creating new systems from scratch, and that's why they're taking more time than expected.
Game development is hard. We hope the result will dazzle you.

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Final design for the artist NPC.

BACK NIGHTHAWKS!

Do you like narrative games? And vampires? If so, please support Nighthawks!
There is only one day left to back this snazzy RPG by some of the finest games writers we know. If you are still waiting for a sequel to Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines, this one is for you.

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Have a shiny and luminous day!
 
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Jellicoe

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I’m really impressed by your concept. Very bold and creative. Also kinda realistic as there are planets that might be like this.
 

Bricabrac

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I’m really impressed by your concept. Very bold and creative. Also kinda realistic as there are planets that might be like this.
Thank you! ^^
There are indeed planets in our galaxy that are constantly facing the sun, and they might possibly harbor life. We read scientific papers like this to make sure the setting wasn't too far fetched! So the game is, like, 20% scientifically accurate.
 

Bricabrac

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Monthly update: THERE IS NO UPDATE. OH NOES.

Last month has been a whirlwind of medical issues, assorted troubles and country-wide floods. We are good now, but we hadn't done much apart from coding and admin work.

So no fancy screens this time. Apologies! We do, however, have one thing to show you. Remember when Chiara was trying to set up a camera stand to record her painting process?

Mission accomplished!


We're now back on track and development is continuing as usual. We shall hopefully bring you better news next month!

Until then, may the Sun always shine on your path.
 

Marquise*

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Thanks for sharing I like your perspective
 

Tw0Face

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This game looks so damn awesome. I would die to have a world map like this.
 

vaevictis921

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The hype is real! As someone who really loves watercolor as a medium, i am going crazy waiting for this game. UwU
 

Bricabrac

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Hello! Time for an update!

We spent most of the Christmas break recoiling for 2018 and planning for the new year (*waves fist at Steam bureaucracy*), but we also worked on something new to show you: a preview of our shiny new UI!

It’s SO EXTRA. WE ARE VERY EXCITED.

Let us ramble a bit about the design process before the big reveal.

UI TROUBLES
Our old UI had been cobbled together by Giada and embellished by Tobias Cook from Failbetter Games, who helped Giada a little when she was incubating at the studio. The result wasn’t bad, but it was a single pretty window we recycled everywhere: we had no clear design principles in mind to help us design the rest. We're comic artists, after all, not graphic designers.

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The old, wonky message window.
Tobias is the artist in charge of Sunless Skies'UI, by the way, and he wrote a great Gamasutra blog about his creative process! The guy knows what he's doing.

But since kidnapping him proved to be unfeasible, we had to think of another solution.

ASKING FOR HELP
After many failed experiments, we decided to hire Kathaeris to redo the whole UI from scratch.

Bringing a new person on a project is always a delicate affair. To get a good result, it's essential to write design documents to make sure everyone is on the same line.

That’s when Giada’s experience in comics writing finally paid off. Writing a design document, she realized, is not so different from writing a comics script: in both cases, you are trying to convey through words how an image should look and feel. It requires you to be very practical and very abstract at the same time, to sketch storyboards and to gather visual references.

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Some of the references we included in our design documents. Can you recognize all those games?
The concept we wanted to convey through the UI, we decided, was a mirror framed with gold. Mirrors are important in the lore of Selling Sunlight, and blue message windows would help the text stand out in our warmly-colored maps. We also asked our UI artist to add circular elements, both to represent the Sun and as a callback to classical Art Nouveau posters.

After studying the design documents, Kathaeris sent us some sketches:

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We had to make sure the new window was roughly as big as the old one, or else all the line breaks in the dialogues would get broken! After testing everything in-game, we opted for option 1 and let Kathaeris do their magic.

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We hope you like the final result!

We can't wait to get the rest of the UI, take new pretty screens and finally open our Steam page.

Have a shiny and luminous day!
 

Bricabrac

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Hello!

In an improbable turn of events, our art team members (Anita, Chiara and Lucy) all moved to different cities, and for completely unrelated reasons, between January and February. They have been quite busy, so no fancy drawings to show you today: this time, we bring you menu screens. EXCITING MENU SCREENS.

UI
After messing around with the concept Kathaeris made for us, we realized we needed a person who could handle UX design as well as UI — in other words, a person capable of both designing a menu screen and of making it pretty. Selling Sunlight is not a numbers-heavy RPG, but it features a number of unusual elements, like the different attitudes, that needs to be displayed in an intuitive way.

New entry Joe Neeves took over UI/UX duties. His first step was to elaborate the message window we showed you last month, adding the name box and the friendship/attitude icons.

Here are his initial sketches:

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Good menus must support gameplay. And since Selling Sunlight is "talking with people: the game", the dialog window has been the main focus of our rework.

How to clearly identify who's speaking when there are multiple characters on screen? Who are you going to influence with your choices? A message box may look deceptively simple to design, but there's so much to take into account.

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Joe even had the courage to tackle the bartering screen. You know, the one that previously looked like this:

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And that now looks like this:

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Meanwhile, Giada spent most of her time writing documentation, working with Joe and battling against two-years-old code to implement the new UI. RIP.

Have a shiny and luminous day. ☀️
 

Bricabrac

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Hello! Time for our monthly update.

Art
As you may remember from our past devlog, all members of our art team (Anita, Lucy and Chiara) recently relocated to different cities. Now everyone is back at work, but this change created a challenge: Anita and Chiara now live 100kms apart.

Anita is our character artist. Chiara does backgrounds. But she's also the Sacred Guardian of the Scanner We Bought With the Kickstarter Money, and she has to scan Anita's drawings as well.

We decided against using snail mail, because watercolor paper is delicate and our past experiences as Etsy sellers taught us the mail should not be trusted. Cue a long, long journey to finally meet at some shady train station to exchange suitcases while feeling like drug dealers.

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The suitcase and its contents now safely rest in Chiara's hands.
At least Lucy works digitally, so can just plop all her sprites in a shared folder. She's currently finishing all the sprites for the Green and the Yellow City, finally giving a body to some familiar faces you've seen in the demo:

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Joe, our UI artist, recently got a full-time job and he had to relocate as well. We are starting to think all our art positions are cursed, like the Defense Against Dark Arts teachers of Hogwarts. On the other hand hey, if you have been postponing your relocation attempts for years, consider joining our team.

Only a few menus remain and Joe remains determined in finishing them, albeit slowly. He's currently tackling all the main menu pages, like the quest journal and the items screen:

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Writing
We started brainstorming about the Blue Quarry, the last of the five main locations that will be available in the game (the Red Temple, unlocked in a sketch goal, will later appear as a DLC).

The many populations of Selling Sunlight have their own, wholly fictional customs, but share visual similarities with real-world cultures. When Selling Sunlight was born, we mixed and matched different skin colors, costumes and languages from our world to create interesting combinations. Our goal was to create fictional cultures that feel new, interesting and fantastic, but without alienating the players.

The player character is not an alien visitor, but a person who has always lived in this world. To make the players feel the same way, we tried to fill the world with a sense of familiarity.

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Spreadsheet of doom.
Even though our cultures are fictional, it's important for us to avoid trite tropes that reinforce negative stereotypes. In our first drafts, the Quarry was described as "Ancient Rome + Moria". The people of the Quarry are dark skinned, grumpy isolationists who live in a mountain and reject magic in favor of science.

We took a step back and realized we were basically making Drows 2.0.

Drows are kinda racists. Let's not do that.

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You have already met a character from Indigo Quarry: Miguel.
We're taking steps to make this location less trite without having to radically rewrite all our lore. One simple change we decided to make is to not place the city inside a mountain, but above it. The hollow crater of an inactive volcano is a much cooler location, and better fits the technological background of our fictional city. GEOTHERMAL ENERGY, HELL YEAH.

The Indigo Quarry will pose great challenges, both from a writing and a visual standpoint. But we are determined in getting it right, and we know we can count on your feedback <3

Until next time!

The team
 

Bricabrac

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Hello!

The sun hasn't been particularly kind to us lately, but we remain determined to finish this game.
June has mostly been a "putting the pieces together" month. The good news is that we're finally really, really close to releasing a new beta build to backers who pledged 15€ or more. The bad news is that we don't have many fancy screens to show you today, since we spent most of our time squishing bugs and updating old code. In particular, we gave our dialogue system a big upgrade!

Let us show you how it works.

Making games talk
Truth is, there aren't many efficient ways to handle branching dialogues in videogames. Spreadsheets are the most commonly used solutions, because it's easy to export data from a spreadsheet to whatever game engine you're using.

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The hard life of a narrative designer.
For Selling Sunlight, we created our own dialogue system from scratch, focusing on two important features:

  • Ability to store text in simple text files
  • Ability to program cutscenes from the text
Selling Sunlight has a sprawling, modular structure, more akin to an open-world game than to a linear JRPG. Some quests require you to do different activities, like asking questions, buying stuff and traveling to certain places. Other quests can be completed in different ways, or have different endings depending on your attitude. Organizing all this text can get quite messy!

We designed a system that allows us to write special commands like "show this picture", or "give the player this item", directly in the dialog files. This way we can program entire cutscenes without even having to open our game engine.

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A sample script, featuring a mixture of dialogues and special commands.
This dialog system is the backbone of the whole project, and we keep updating it from time to time to streamline it and add useful features.

Our old message UI, for example, didn't feature name boxes. Our new UI has space to show names, so we updated the dialog system to allow it to automatically retrieve and display the names of people involved in a conversation.

Programming all this might not sound exciting, but having a solid base means we can spend more time writing quality dialogues, and less time fiddling with code to put the dialogues in the game!


That's all for now.

May the Sun stop shining before our laptop melts ;_;
 

Marquise*

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Oh that AC I got is a real gift! Last year I was kinda dead by the same time.
(now if I can beat the bedbugs... )

Hope, you are all right and your material too. I know you use real pigments and... well sometimes they cook with the temperature.
 

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