MechScape- "EARLY BIRD PRICE" IN EFFECT| VERSION 1.2 RELEASED 1-31-20 | DLC IN DEVELOPMENT

MechScapeZH

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UPDATE!
Here's the first boss design for the DLC...

JumboBug enemy

I don't want to give too much away yet, but the icon on this creature's body (the dirt-colored thing that looks somewhat like a face- notice the red eyes) is the sigil of the group it belongs to. This group did not make an appearance in the base game. :D

It emerges from the ground, ripping a hole in the fabric of Cyberspace- in the final scene, the floor of the Battle BG will consist of these green cubes so it looks like the creature is coming out of it.

Also, in other news: I've started looking into the process of getting my game onto Steam- thanks to some great advice from @jkweath , I have realized that this is a much more difficult process than getting it onto itch.

More to come!
 

jkweath

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Good luck! It gets much easier after the first time. Most of the time spent will come from making all the store page assets (there's more than you might think) and learning how the process of actually uploading your game works, which'll involve setting up the Steam SDK with script files and a command line.
 

MechScapeZH

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Good luck! It gets much easier after the first time. Most of the time spent will come from making all the store page assets (there's more than you might think) and learning how the process of actually uploading your game works, which'll involve setting up the Steam SDK with script files and a command line.
...Oh boy. There's so much to this, but I'm sure I'll figure it out. :) I really need to study the SDK...

Thank you so much for all your help! I wouldn't have even started with Steam if not for you!
 

Biestmann

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Good luck with Steam! I dread going through the process already!
 

MechScapeZH

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Good luck with Steam! I dread going through the process already!
Thank you! I'll let everyone know how it goes- it really does seem difficult, and I really do not know what I'm doing. I'll take it one step at at a time- with the help of this amazing forum, there's no way I can fail!
 

MechScapeZH

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UPDATE!
Still working on the first boss- it's probably the most technically advanced character that I've successfully animated. (The dragon boss from the end of the base game was more technically advanced, but I that design wasn't actually completely successful- if you look closely at the in-game spritesheet for that boss, the whole model isn't showing- I had to cut off parts of the model that glitched out.) The ground the creature's emerging from has a gradient "glowing" effect in some shots which was difficult to get right, and having all its legs move at once without crashing Blender also presents a challenge.

Here's an attack animation:
The creature can fire lasers from its mandibles that cause a great deal of damage to all your party members- better take it out before it does!

Also: as I mentioned in my last update, I'm working on getting my game on Steam. Before I do, I want it to be as good as possible since it's difficult to stand out on such a large store. I wanted ask everyone who's played my game thus far: what improvements can I make to the base game before it goes up on Steam? (I know @Biestmann and @rue669 have done so- thank you so, so much to both of you- I'm not aware of anyone else who's on these forums who has, but if you've played the game & happen to have an account here, your feedback would be much appreciated.) I want my game to be the best it can be when it finally goes up on Steam, and I'd love to use the feedback of this community to make that possible. Thank you in advance for your feedback. :)

More to come!
 

MechScapeZH

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UPDATE!
Finally, the first boss is finished- its name may be changed, but its animations and AI are fully implemented.

Take a look-


In the final the Battle BG will consist of green cubes, making it seem as if the creature is emerging from the floor. Any feedback is much appreciated!

And as a reminder- as soon as this DLC releases, the "Early Bird Price" offer will disappear into the void of Cyberspace- so if you'd like to both grab the base game for only $4.99 & get the DLC for
FREE when it releases, dash over to itch.io now!

More to come!
 

rue669

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Finally got a chance to play this.

I do like the battle system of copying enemy skills. I think that's really cool and I've said that before. I didn't realize that it was a kind of visual novel with battles. I think that needs to be made clearer so that audiences of visual novels could gravitate towards this game. I would've liked to have an opportunity to explore as the player but if that's not what you're going for, that's fine.

Another comment I'd add is to slow...things...down. I don't know why RPG Maker developers love to do this, but most RPG Maker games love to speed through dialogue and scenes. Slow it down. Pace yourself. A lot of information is thrown at the player in the beginning and it's kinda difficult to catch up. To The Moon does an excellent job of slowing down the pace during scenes and it's beautiful. There is no RPG Maker game out there that does a better job of scene direction than To The Moon, in my opinion.

Overall, I think it's a good game, but I would definitely bank on the visual novel enthusiasts, because I think that's what you've created here.
 

MechScapeZH

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Finally got a chance to play this.

I do like the battle system of copying enemy skills. I think that's really cool and I've said that before. I didn't realize that it was a kind of visual novel with battles. I think that needs to be made clearer so that audiences of visual novels could gravitate towards this game. I would've liked to have an opportunity to explore as the player but if that's not what you're going for, that's fine.

Another comment I'd add is to slow...things...down. I don't know why RPG Maker developers love to do this, but most RPG Maker games love to speed through dialogue and scenes. Slow it down. Pace yourself. A lot of information is thrown at the player in the beginning and it's kinda difficult to catch up. To The Moon does an excellent job of slowing down the pace during scenes and it's beautiful. There is no RPG Maker game out there that does a better job of scene direction than To The Moon, in my opinion.

Overall, I think it's a good game, but I would definitely bank on the visual novel enthusiasts, because I think that's what you've created here.
Thank you so much for playing and for your amazing feedback!

I'm so glad you enjoyed the copy system- I spent a lot of time creating it & it makes me very happy to see that it's a highlight. I admit that I'm a bit surprised to hear you refer to my game as a visual novel- I have heard of the genre, but I've never played one or thought of my game as being one. (I refer to it as an "RPG-lite" on my store page, but visual novel is definitely a better term.) I thought visual novels were mainly romance-based, but researching further it appears that isn't always the case- I never thought of marketing to visual novel enthusiasts. But seeing as romance-based stories are the most popular form of visual novel (unless I'm wrong- this was a preconception of mine, but my research appears to confirm it), wouldn't my game be dismissed my visual novel fans if I were to market it as such simply because it's not that?

Honestly, the lack of exploration/player input is due to MechScape being written as a comic book first (you can actually see the comic version on my website)- my primary training is as a comic book writer (which is not to say that I have a degree or think of myself as any sort of a professional, but I have sat in a classroom and listened to a teacher teach comic book writing), and MechScape was a comic book before it was a video game. As such, it has a very tight narrative, and I found it difficult to embellish it to the point where it would fit the "traditional" RPG mechanics of towns & dungeons, weapons/leveling up etc.- so I went the direction that I did instead.
I added the running mini-game in Chapters 2-4 to alleviate the "so where's the part where I play" feeling a bit- did that help? The upcoming DLC (which you will get for free since you got the game early, of course) is 100% written as a game and WILL feature much more player interaction, so I believe I have fixed this problem going forward.

I 100% agree with you regarding the pacing- that is my #1 weakness as a writer. The big problem I faced- as I always do- is that the viewer must have certain information about the setting (humanity left Earth, robots now rule) for the story to make sense. In my first draft, I had that information delivered via flashback, but that dragged on & was boring. So in the next draft, I had it delivered by Enigma (the doctor character) throughout the story, but again, that ended up being a long, boring monologue each time it happened that totally stopped the flow of the story. So I went through a couple more drafts & experimented a bit and what I ended up deciding was that (for better or worse) all of the exposition should happen by the end of the first chapter so the subsequent ones can flow well- and then I came up with the "historical data materialized in Cyberspace" scene, which allows the viewer to see everything that happened in the past rather than just be told about it- but yes, it's still more than a bit clunky. This was the best option I could come up with, and to be honest I still can't come up with a better one- I will try to do additional drafts and figure out a solution & fix this before I release on Steam.

Unless the exposition isn't what you're referring to- would you please elaborate on what exactly made the pacing too fast?

Thank you so, so much for all your feedback & help- it's truly invaluable.
 

rue669

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Now that you describe it as coming from a comic book, it definitely clicks, since the scenes seem to play out like the panels in comic books/manga as they move the plot forward. That is maybe something I would add in the description: an RPG in the style of a comic book, or something. Because that tells me what I'm getting into. What would've been nice is to really embrace and lean into the comic book aspect of the game and make that shine. There's a few games out there that have done that you could've used as research. What I mean is having dialogue boxes and maybe even the font similar to comic books.

I'd be hesitant to call the game RPG-lite. I have no clue what that means and no reference point for it. Most everything in the gaming community these days can be called an RPG since most every game out there will have leveling and loot, which these days is what is considered fundamental RPG mechanics (whether that's true or not is an entirely different conversation).

I still like the idea of calling it a visual novel. No, visual novels are not all romance. A lot are mystery and horror (Danganronpa). Some are adventure (Steins;gate). Some are even legal thrillers (Phoenix Wright). And some, especially indies, are fantasy and science fiction. But this is up to you. I'd maybe do some additional research on visual novels (maybe even play one?). Typically a visual novel has backgrounds and then busts then pop in and out to show who is talking and having a conversation. Usually, but not always, those busts have emotional poses.

In terms of pacing, I think things happen too fast. I'm not settled into the setting. Even in comic books and manga, the artist will take a few panels to show the setting or place where the scene is about to take place. Movies do this too where they'll have a wide shot and then zoom in to the characters talking. It eases the viewer/reader/player into the scene.
 

MechScapeZH

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Now that you describe it as coming from a comic book, it definitely clicks, since the scenes seem to play out like the panels in comic books/manga as they move the plot forward. That is maybe something I would add in the description: an RPG in the style of a comic book, or something. Because that tells me what I'm getting into. What would've been nice is to really embrace and lean into the comic book aspect of the game and make that shine. There's a few games out there that have done that you could've used as research. What I mean is having dialogue boxes and maybe even the font similar to comic books.

I'd be hesitant to call the game RPG-lite. I have no clue what that means and no reference point for it. Most everything in the gaming community these days can be called an RPG since most every game out there will have leveling and loot, which these days is what is considered fundamental RPG mechanics (whether that's true or not is an entirely different conversation).

I still like the idea of calling it a visual novel. No, visual novels are not all romance. A lot are mystery and horror (Danganronpa). Some are adventure (Steins;gate). Some are even legal thrillers (Phoenix Wright). And some, especially indies, are fantasy and science fiction. But this is up to you. I'd maybe do some additional research on visual novels (maybe even play one?). Typically a visual novel has backgrounds and then busts then pop in and out to show who is talking and having a conversation. Usually, but not always, those busts have emotional poses.

In terms of pacing, I think things happen too fast. I'm not settled into the setting. Even in comic books and manga, the artist will take a few panels to show the setting or place where the scene is about to take place. Movies do this too where they'll have a wide shot and then zoom in to the characters talking. It eases the viewer/reader/player into the scene.
I actually did have the literal comic panels- here's a sample of what they look like-
on-screen for quite a while when I began this project, but the problem was that since there was no message boxes, I had to event a way for the player to advance from panel to panel- and it simply didn't work. Either the picture on-screen didn't change or only the first and last panels showed. I had to use the unlettered art with dialogue boxes instead by necessity, although I used the same font as I did in the book (pixel fonts are often used for robots, especially by Marvel) to try and match the speech bubbles I devised for the comic. I couldn't replicate the fact that I'd used different colors of speech bubble for every character, so if I were to find a way to use the actual panels I'd be able to have that, so I would like to be able to use them if I could... Of course, I've become a lot better at eventing in the past few years, so I could try to do it again and see if I can't come up with a solution now.

Would you prefer to have these panels on-screen rather than the raw art & message boxes? Do they look better? If so, I'll try to event them in- I just want to make sure they're better than what I have now so that I don't spend a bunch of time implementing them for nothing.

I can't believe I didn't think of making that part of the description- thank you! I'll add it right away.
This sentence is now in the first paragraph of the description:
MechScape is a RPG-lite [may replace this with visual novel] designed to embody the unique “cyber” brand of science fiction popularized by the comics of the late 1990s-early 2000s in both its art style and its dialogue style.

Now that I've done more research, I do like the idea of calling it a visual novel- I do see that there are sci-fi ones, although I wasn't able to glean how popular they are. Although my illustrations, as comic panels, don't fit the character-and-background format that visual novels follow, RPG-lite isn't an accepted term as you said & visual novel describes my game much better than RPG.

I agree that I do have to play one before I decide if my game is one- is there one you'd recommend for reference? (One that's free to play, maybe? Or low-cost?)

I do have an dialogue-less establishing shot in each chapter-
but I agree that things are happening rather fast- this is due to a combination of limited page space (I do hope to get this published someday, and it's traditional for one-shot comics to have 32-36 pages at the most) and my own poor handling of pacing. Do you think more establishing shots would help, considering that there's already one per new location? I feel like multiple would be overkill, but I'm not sure how else to solve the problem. If I were to add more in the middle of the chapters, it would mean that the story suddenly stops while everyone stands around for a minute, so I can't do that... More establishing shots would solve the problem, I'm just not sure where to add them. I'll have to think more about it.

Thank you so much for all your help- it's truly invaluable.
 

rue669

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I mean, a lot of what you're asking is something you've got to decide as the developer. It's your game and your vision. I've told you my first impressions, but I actually don't think I'm your target audience.

And I also don't think you need to change a bunch of stuff in the game to make it enjoyable or playable. It's a good game. But no game is perfect or will be perfect. Best thing to do is make what changes you can and then move on to your second project with the lessons you've learned. Otherwise you're going to drive yourself mad.
 

MechScapeZH

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I mean, a lot of what you're asking is something you've got to decide as the developer. It's your game and your vision. I've told you my first impressions, but I actually don't think I'm your target audience.

And I also don't think you need to change a bunch of stuff in the game to make it enjoyable or playable. It's a good game. But no game is perfect or will be perfect. Best thing to do is make what changes you can and then move on to your second project with the lessons you've learned. Otherwise you're going to drive yourself mad.
I see. Thank you- you're very correct.

I'll just make a few small corrections and keep working on my second project, then- I do think it will be better than the first since I'm more experienced now.

Thank you so much for all your help!
 

MechScapeZH

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UPDATE!
Here's a preliminary render of the second boss-


It's a bit difficult to discern, but if you look closely right below the creature's head, it's sporting the same sigil as the first boss... Hmm... :D

More to come!
 

MechScapeZH

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UPDATE!
Here's an attack animation for the second boss- I'm rather proud of this one...
Copyright Zev Hatfield 2020, all rights reserved.
I really like how this one animates. Notice the chrome effect on the creature's mouth-plate- it reflects the laser bursts firing from its arm-mounted cannons. Honestly the most dynamic effect I've accomplished to date. Overall, this one came out very, very well. Well enough that I'm not going to put this one in a spoiler so it'll be the foremost image on this page. :guffaw:

In other news- I've been thinking about how to solve the base game's pacing problem that @rue669 brought up- I believe I've done so. After reviewing the whole thing in its finished state once again- and sifting through my own writing several times- I think I've arrived at a solution that solves not only the pacing problem, but another problem.

As it stands now, you can only Synthesize the skills you've earned from the lab screen in-between chapters. Therefore, you cannot obtain skills during a stage that synth into another skill, synth them, and then use the synthed skill against a stage's boss. This makes the fact that you can Synthesize at all easily missed.

What I came up with is having a screen pop up before the bosses of Chapters 2 & 3 (and possibly 4, but that might not be a place in the narrative that lends itself well to an interruption) where Enigma stops the Security Bot in a clearing/safe area of some sort (have to do some new renders for that) and have the option to Synth your skills there as well as talk to Enigma like you can do in the Lab Screen.


This would not only provide a "breather" in the narrative so the action isn't so continuous and hectic, but alert the player to the fact that Synthesizing is something that can be done & allow the player to use synthed skills against the boss.

Now, mind that I haven't actually starting doing any work on this feature yet since I am sort of "on a roll" with finishing up the enemy graphics for the DLC and I don't want to interrupt that for fear that I won't easily be able to start again (motivation, time constraints, etc.- the base game is already finished, although flawed in this way, but the DLC isn't finished, so I have to put my time towards that), but I wanted to put this info in the update- not only to get everyone's feedback on it, but to have it out there so I myself don't forget to implement it (if it's received well by everyone).

As for the visual novel/classification thing- visual novel actually seems to be pretty apt description for MechScape, now that I do additional research... But I want to do a bit more deliberating before I change the description of the game to that. Feel free to give feedback on this, everyone.

I think that's it for this time- thanks for reading, everyone!
 

MechScapeZH

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UPDATE!
The second boss' animations are complete-


Again, very happy with how this one turned out.

Feedback is much appreciated! More to come!
 

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Looks really good! I have a question regarding the difficulty: in the video, the fight didn't last particularly long. Will it be the same in the DLC?
 

MechScapeZH

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Looks really good! I have a question regarding the difficulty: in the video, the fight didn't last particularly long. Will it be the same in the DLC?
Oh, no. This is an animation test. All the stats & such are placeholders. In fact, the DLC will be harder (if I balance the game right, of course- that's the goal) than the base game- a "challenge mode" of sorts.

Thank you for your feedback!
 

MechScapeZH

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UPDATE!
All right- I've made my decision regarding the classification of MechScape. I've officially changed the store page to refer to the game as a "visual novel with RPG elements." I've changed the genre setting of the game to visual novel as well- I'll have to see how many views/sales the game gets with this classification vs with the RPG classification- if it does better being called this, I'll stick with it, and if it doesn't, I'll change it back to RPG. (Frankly it's all semantics anyway- I don't really care how the game is classified as long as people understand what it is.)

Feedback on the new store description is much appreciated- only the genre tags & references to the genre in the description were changed, really.

Also working on animations for the final boss of the game- but I can't exactly show that off, can I? :D

More to come!
 

MechScapeZH

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UPDATE!
Since all the enemy animations are done now, I've started work on improving the base game in the ways that I stated earlier, as well as improving some other minor points that have been mentioned to me over the months.

First off, the default windowskin has been changed to a more low-contrast one. This was a big one- many have complained about the high-contrast windowskin making it hard to read the text, and I thought I'd solved the problem by including the option to switch to a lower-contrast one in the Options- but many didn't even check the Options and continued to complain that the text is hard to discern. Therefore, the low-contrast windowskin is now the default one. You can still switch to the old, brighter one in Options.

The new default skin:

And the old one, for comparison:


Is that easier to read?


In other news: I will definitely (if there are no glitches) be improving the Battle Transition effects with a Moghunter plugin in the base game's next version, and I may (if time allows) add a running stage to the first chapter to make the game more interactive right off the bat.

The "rest areas" I mentioned before are almost complete- they only need some text written.

Feedback is appreciated! More to come!
 

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