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Messages - Zera

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Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: February 24, 2014, 10:16:18 pm »
Since Iambian is still poking around, there's something I wanted to ask him:

How do you feel about the direction of the project? I've done a few rewrites on account of some of the difficulty we had with the original grayscale concept. Do you think we should officially move away from the old assets and stick with the newer, more simplified design? (i.e. The recent mock-ups I posted)

So I have a question for you. Would you be against the idea of quick saves? Or if we have the ability to implement them should we? I feel that on the platform we are programming this for it would be unwise to not be able to exit ... err promptly.

I guess it could be implemented, as long as it doesn't aid in save scumming. A quicksave file would have to be erased as soon as its resumed.

an honest-to-god sprite routine

About time. :P

Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: January 28, 2014, 12:01:00 am »
I don't know how I came up with the title of Escheron. I was trying to think of what to call the game world, and that's the first idea that came to mind. Awkward coincidence how it's similar to ESCHELON, the U.S. data surveillance network.

In terms of difficulty, will the game be more like the hard mode of Final Fantasy II (NES) for the Playstation, more like the hard version of FFVI or more like Ghost N Goblins hard?

The best comparison I can think of is the NES version of Dragon Warrior II + Final Fantasy II (the original Famicom game previously not released outside Japan) + some rougelike-lite elements.

FF4 Hard Type should be easier than Escheron. You can always grind your way to victory at any point in that game, whereas Escheron has a cut off point determined by so-called "safe zones."

You're not safe to leave the current area you're in until you've reached the highest stats the game will allow you to attain by fighting the enemies encountered in that area. At that point, you can move into a new area with tougher enemies, and these new enemies will allow you to resume grinding your stats to higher values. All of this is controlled by the rank system mentioned earlier.

If you try to venture into a different zone too early, not only will you not even be able to damage any of the enemies there, but they'll probably kill you with a single attack.

There are a few other things worth mentioning that really kick the difficulty up a notch:

 - A lot of enemies at different stages in the game have access to instant K.O. spells. Resistance to this effect is determined the target's maximum HP. The weaker K.O. spell is no longer effect against a target when it's maximum HP is above 40, and the strongest K.O. spell won't affect targets with over 128 HP.
 The early to mid-game sequences will be pretty daunting for this reason. Maya should have over 128 HP by the time she reaches the final dungeon, but due to cut offs and safe zones, she definitely won't be able to attain that much HP before then. Just hope you don't get ambushed by any spell-casters half-way into a long dungeon.

 - Armor has a weight factor that penalizes reaction speed. Reaction speed determines battle turn order, preemptive strike rate and probability of fleeing an encounter. If you aren't careful, you will not only ensure that Maya is consistently ambushed by every enemy she encounters, but that she also can't flee from them.

 - If Maya tries to attack fire-based enemies directly, she'll be burned. This is a pretty straightforward counterattack mechanism. To make things tricky, there are a few enemies that are not only fire-based, but have ridiculously high defense power.
 This counterattack formula is based <i>only</i> on Maya's raw attack power, not a percentage of how much damage she actually dealt to the enemy after its defense power had been factored into the equation. In other words, Maya may be able to inflict maybe 1 or 2 points of damage with an attack, but she'll suffer an upward of 120+ damage as a result of coming in contact with the enemy's flames. Thankfully, critical hits don't return additional damage against Maya.
 Magic spells ignore defense power since there's no special type of defense against magic, so these enemies aren't extremely challenging as long as you have plenty of MP to get you through hoards of random encounters with them. Alternatively, you can just run. You'll be doing a lot of that anyway.

 - The attack formula used by undead enemies is different from the standard attack formula used by both Maya and most typical enemies. Undead attacks shave off a direct percentage of Maya's maximum HP, ignore her defense power, and heal the enemy in return. This means undead enemies encountered in the very first areas of the game are still just as deadly even after you've been to the final dungeon and back.
 On the other hand, undead enemies have frail bodies, little HP and the lowest defense power in the game. As long as Maya is fast enough to get the first attack, she doesn't have to worry. Undead enemies are mostly a problem early on when they appear in large groups, because Maya won't have access to a multi-target spell until the middle of the game. But...
 - There are (rare) enemies that are both fire-based and undead. The counterattack damage will render your HP critical, then the enemy's actual attack will probably finish you off. If that doesn't do the trick, then their instant K.O. spells will. :P

Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: January 21, 2014, 01:13:37 am »
Although it will definitely be frustrating, it's necessary to ensure end-game balance. To be fair, I'll explain the ranking system in the game's manual so the player will at least know what to expect.

On that note, I guess I should go ahead and say that Escheron will be an <i>ostensibly</i> difficult game. There will be no hand holding of any kind. It's geared toward only the most seasoned RPG fans, or at least the most masochistic among us who enjoy a good challenge.

Let me highlight a few of the features I've been working on:

 - "Trap rooms." Entering the door places you in the center of the room, as opposed to near the entrance / exit where you should be. Every tile in this room is a forced encounter with challenging enemies. It should be noted that you do have an emergency exit spell at your disposal, but it returns you all the way back to the last monolith you used.
 - Looping warps. You'll often find yourself walking down endless hallways, which are actually just warp tiles that seamlessly and repeatedly transport you a few steps back.
 - Invisible paths, especially into complete darkness, complete with looping warps.
 - Warps to inescapable rooms. Just make sure you have your emergency exit spell before entering a dungeon. If not, there will be swamp tiles so you can kill yourself and be resurrected at the last monolith you used.

 - Invisible warps to trap rooms and inescapable rooms; warps that take you back to the entrance of a dungeon, and look deceptively like the exit you spent 30 minutes trying to reach; trick rooms that look like earlier rooms, giving the impression that you just backtracked or went in a circle.
 - Enemies are fond of instant K.O. spells. There are a couple of ways to resist instant K.O. - either by grinding your HP past a certain threshold, or finding a rare item. Both methods will likely occur very late into the game. There's one method for Maya to be resurrected during battle, but it can be put into effect only once per battle.
 - The best equipment is outrageously expensive. You'll need to have nearly the maximum allowable gold you can carry before you can purchase anything good. On the other hand, most of these items can be found in dungeons, albeit very well hidden.
The save system is a bit complicated, and if not executed carefully, can cause some serious mental stress. I think I'll need a few paragraphs to explain this detail alone.

To save your game, you have to interact with one of the various monoliths found through the world, usually in towns and dungeons. What happens is Maya makes a prayer to the Fates, the three goddesses who govern time and the predestination of all things. The Fates make a record of Maya's exploits up until that point, and should Maya be killed, the Fates will transport Maya's body and spirit to an earlier point in time. In simpler terms, it's just like any typical save game scenario - you pick up where you last saved.

Now, the Fates are very particular about how the player uses this system. The Fates will instruct you to return to them and make an additional save before ending the game and shutting down your calculator. Failure to perform this procedure will screw with the very fabric of time. Suffice it to say, the Fates don't take kindly to this.

What the game does is secretly set a flag in your SRAM file the moment you load a save. This flag remains intact until you use a monolith to save the game and shut down the program from within the game itself. If you do this, then the flag is removed. If you shut down the program without going through this procedure, then the flag remains intact.

The flag lets the Fates know whether or not you followed their instructions and shut down the game within the game, or if you just abruptly turned off your calculator. If you abruptly quit, then prepare for a 10-minute lecture on why you should respect the Fates and take their powers more seriously. If you <i>habitually</i> quit the game without first saving, then the Fates will start to inflict actual punishments on you, such as removing all your items, stranding you in an inescapable room and disabling your escape spell, or wiping your SRAM data entirely.

The purpose of this is to prevent save scumming. If you find yourself in a difficult situation and death seems inevitable, you basically have no choice but to surrender to death and deal with the penalties that follow. If you simply shut down the game and try to reload from your last save file, the game <i>will</i> detect your efforts to circumvent the penalties of dying.

In the event of battery failures or other unforeseeable circumstances, the Fates will give the player a few grace warnings, but after the player screws with them several times, the Fates will no longer accept convenient "battery failures" as an excuse.

That said, be sure to follow their instructions exactly.


I probably won't be around to provide frequent updates, but I am actively working on this project. There's just so much that goes into storyboarding, typing out pages of design documentation, hand drawing maps, porting design from paper to computer, etc. It's really a lot of work, and a huge time sink at that.

Just in case I don't post back in a little while, enjoy some of my cheesy concept work in the meantime. Yes, my art skills suck. :P

Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: January 18, 2014, 12:56:31 pm »
Indeed. I've made a mental note to place gold-bearing chests into the deeper sections of each dungeon so the player can't make a quick trip in, grab some loot, then exit and repeat. Some of the early dungeons are bound to be on the shorter side, but there will usually be obstacles such as random encounters and swamp tiles to make the trip much more tedious. Even so, gold will need to be somewhat plentiful. If you're K.O.'d at any point, you lose half the gold in your possession.

No worries about experience grinding, though. The growth system is similar to FF2j for the Famicom. Instead of gaining experience points, there's something like a 16/256 probability that any of Maya's ability scores will increase by 1 point after a battle. The probability for certain score increases goes up when Maya is equipped with certain items. e.g. Outfitting her with clothing or robes will help her boost her Agility score more quickly, while giving her much heavier armor will boost her HP instead.

To keep the player from getting perpetual increases from weak enemies like Gremlins and Wasps, there's an enemy ranking system in place. Each enemy has a rank from 1 to 8. What this does is determine exactly how many increases Maya can receive from fighting particular enemies. For instance, once all of Maya's ability scores reach a value of 32 or higher, she won't gain any more increases when fighting enemies below rank 3. Gremlins and Wasps are both rank 2. By the end of the game, the only way Maya will be able to gain any additional score increases is by fighting very tough rank 7 and 8 enemies, such as Chimeras.

Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: January 17, 2014, 07:40:42 pm »
The first dungeon in the game, the cave in Dredmoor Swamp. The black tiles with white speckles are sections of swamp. Each time Maya steps in them, she's poisoned. In order to make it to the cave, Maya will have to trek through the swamp leading to the cave. Poison damage will kill Maya outside of battle, so she won't actually have enough HP to walk through the cave while under the poison's effects.

Note that there are no curative items in the game. What the player will have to do is spend a little time grinding for 400 gold and pay the magic guild in Ragnoth to scribe the "Whispering Wind" spell in Maya's spellbook. This will allow her to neutralize her poison status as soon as she makes her way into the cave.

Any chests marked "Gold" will always contain a random amount of GP between 24..48, and will respawn when Maya leaves the dungeon and returns. This is always the case, even for chests found much later in the game. If you don't mind trudging through poisonous swamps and random battles, this is a good way to grind for gold early on.

Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: January 17, 2014, 01:04:07 am »
I'm glad it conveys a Dragon Warrior feel. That's exactly what I'm going for. In fact, I'm using some of the DW series' maps as a reference, and trying to design similar structures throughout Escheron's villages.

By the way, Dragon Warrior IV is a pretty expensive cartridge! The only games in the series that I own (in cartridge form) are DW1 and 2 for the original NES, and DW2 alone set me back $30.

Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: January 16, 2014, 01:39:02 pm »
I had to restructure the overworld due to zoning issues. I have encounters spread across 16 different regions of the map, so some continents had to be brought closer together or moved farther apart. I doubt players want to see overpowered enemies spilling over from Asnoth into the early areas of the game. The game is on the difficult side, but definitely not that cruel.

On that note, I also finished the tileset. I managed to fit everything neatly into a 64-tile binary. There's quite enough to design villages, dungeons, castles - everything. To keep things simple, village maps will be one ubiquitous area (e.g. Dragon Warrior-esque villages) instead of requiring the player to enter buildings and warp to new maps. It's just a lot easier than creating so many back and forth warps for buildings that may contain only a item vendor, or something equally insubstantial. Given the calculator's small screen, it will also probably look a lot better. Some of the structures I used before were frankly too big, and a lot of the detail was always off-screen.

This time around, I'm going to be much more thorough with the dungeon layouts. I think Escheron's original dungeons were too linear, so I'm going to be throwing in several new floors and dead-ends. On the other hand, there's really no pressure to explore every nook and cranny. Treasure chests respawn once you leave an area, and if you ever discard any unique items from your inventory, they re-appear back in their original locations for recollection.


Here's an example map with some of the village tiles I decided to use. This is what will be Ragnoth Outpost. There's a blacksmith, magic guild, inn and tavern. Tucked away in the northeast corner is an underground passage to Ragnoth's resistance base, where Maya receives orders and gets her starting provisions.

If you look closely, you can notice a monolith in the north section of the map. This is how the game records the player's progress. You'll find eight monoliths scattered throughout the world, mostly found in villages and various dungeons. If Maya is KO'd at any point, she'll be resurrected at the last monolith she used. The penalty for being KO'd is half your gold, a random item removed from your inventory and -1..4 to a random ability score.

HP Calculators / Re: Life Force for the HP Prime
« on: January 14, 2014, 09:48:39 pm »
I attempted a similar project once, based on Nemesis (Gradius rebranding) for the MSX1. I actually still have the assets if you want to use them. The project has been dead for years, so feel free to use any of the materials for any purpose.

An advance warning: My project files are extremely disorganized. I threw all the sprites into a rather sloppy PNG file. The level maps and tileset are in CalcGS format, so I included the program's executable in the ZIP file as well.

Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: January 14, 2014, 06:59:44 pm »
I expanded the world map to 64x64 tiles. I believe it was previously 32x32. This allows for much more exploration, which is especially important since you gain access to vehicles at different points in the story.

The geography is more or less the same, but Asnoth is now on an isolated continent, whereas it used to be directly north of Ragnoth Province. This makes more sense story-wise. Set before the events of the game, Ragnoth Castle was destroyed by Asnothian military forces using an airborne assault. Since Ragnoth didn't have access to airship technology at the time, they couldn't defend themselves against the invasion. An airborne counterattack would have been the only way for them to retort against Asnoth, since there's a large sea separating the two kingdoms.

There's also a small underworld to explore, still forthcoming. I originally planned to allow an airship to fly underground, but the underworld area is too small. Everything there can be explored on foot instead.

Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: January 14, 2014, 05:03:36 pm »
I guess I could use a second opinion on some of the bitmaps I threw together. Attached is a full bestiary consisting of all enemy bitmaps that appear in the game. 64x32 bitmaps are split into two parts, so that puts the total bitmap count at 16. Since there are also 16 enemies in the enemy table, a few entries use the same bitmaps. I tried to keep the selection diverse, at any rate.

From left to right, descending order:

Chimera / Rhyos, Gremlin, Wasp, Vampire Bat, Lost Soul / Shrieker, (!)Labolas, (!)Shadow Lord, Zombie / Revenant, Skulldier, (!)Sea Serpent, Piranha, Bomb / Destroyer

"(name) / (name)" indicates different enemies that use the same bitmap, and
boss enemies are marked with (!). In a few cases, regular enemies such as Chimeras will pop out of treasure chests or appear as mini bosses.

hmm, that still looks a bit cramped. maybe you could cut the text box to only two lines tall?

The game uses verbose text to detail every action taken, similar to Dragon Warrior. Trying to fit all that information into just two lines could be challenging. I think I have about 22 characters per line.

That reminds me, although there is no RPG programmer for it yet, there is now a new TI-84 Plus calculator with a color screen and twice more Flash memory

That's very interesting. I didn't know TI was still supporting older models. I'll have to check it out sometime.

Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: January 14, 2014, 02:15:12 pm »
You call that not being a good artist ?

Oh, I didn't actually render any of those sprites - they're all rips from early Final Fantasy games.

Maya's sprite was thrown together using little sections of various sprites, as to give the appearance of being custom work. I didn't use any straight up rips for the characters, but I don't have much choice as far as the enemy sprites are concerned.

Humour and Jokes / Re: black ice+me=major hate
« on: January 14, 2014, 02:10:32 pm »
I saw this topic title and instantly thought you were talking about Black Ice (firewall software) running on Windows ME, to which I was about to respond, "Why on God's green earth would anybody still be using Windows ME?" :P

Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: January 14, 2014, 11:53:36 am »
Wow, i love the new stuff. Well, maybe minus the one-on-one battles...

I thought so too. The battle dialog window to the right looks a bit cramped, so I played around with the idea of smaller enemy sprites and a larger window on the bottom.

The only problem is finding decent 32x32 sprite rips to use for the enemies. Some of the larger enemies (and bosses) could consist of 64x32 sprites, since they would appear alone.

I'm not a very good artist, so I can't draw the enemies myself.

Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: January 13, 2014, 06:55:43 pm »
I'm still alive, although usually busy.

I haven't had any luck getting in touch with Iambian, but he's always welcome to contact me here. I suppose I could check in every once in a while to see if I have any private messages.

I've been messing around with the idea of a monochrome game some more lately. I came up with something a little more "elegant" in its use of memory, and something that will hopefully respect the calculator's memory restraints a lot better.

I toned down the in-game lists and inventories so that there's 16 items per table - i.e. 16 different enemies that can be encountered, 16 different pieces of equipment scattered throughout the world, 16 different character and enemy skills, etc. That should fit neatly into memory without having to cross-reference multiple pages.

Echeron's original design has too much superfluous content, and much of it feels like an afterthought. For instance, you would often have your choice of 4 or 5 different kinds of equipment upgrades at various points in the story, but the stats and abilities of these items really aren't so different from one another. If Sword A and Sword B are almost identical, why give the player a choice in the first place?

Menus have also been grossly simplified. In fact, it's pretty much a clone of Dragon Warrior's menu layout. No more portraits, no more weird scrolling, etc. The whole menu system in grayscale Escheron is a beast that probably eats up most of the program, and all the little bells and whistles that make it that way aren't so spectacular that they would even make it worth the hassle.

The party system is very different. Battles are one-on-one encounters, and Maya is the only character you control. You can take a single guest character with you, but they don't have character stats / equipment of their own. What they do is tag along and occasionally (determined by pure chance) jump in and attack an enemy, or cast a spell. Enemies can't target guest characters, but if Maya is K.O.'d at any point, it's Game Over.

Guest character attack power is actually determined by Maya's own attack power plus a static bonus. This gives the illusion of guest characters being able to "level up" right alongside Maya. Maya's own stats are increased in a fashion similar to the original system I had planned - she'll gain random stat boosts after battles, as determined by probability checks. There's a default probability for any given stat increasing on its own, but wearing certain types of equipment will increase specific stats more often.

Nothing in the actual story had to be toned down. All the changes are mostly cosmetic and technical. Maya still encounters the same characters, has the same allies throughout the story, and the same major events take place. In fact, my script writing is a little more polished this time around. I shifted everything to Early Modern English grammar (i.e. Dragon Warrior) and started elaborating on each scene in much greater detail.

(Has it really been 120 days since I last posted?)

Anyway, assuming Escheron TI never comes to fruition, there's always RPG Maker. It wouldn't take me very long to put this game together in VX Ace considering the limited number of resources I'd have to port. One way or another, I'll tie this project up and post something for you guys. It's been way too long a wait.

Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth / Re: Escheron: Shadow over Ragnoth
« on: June 06, 2013, 12:03:41 am »
Hi, again. I got your PM and am back on my old account.

I'm not sure how to use IRC. It's been quite a long time since I've used it for anything. In fact, I think I deleted the old client I had installed. Could Iambian possibly PM me here and let me know his current email? I've possibly been trying to contact him through an account he isn't using anymore.


I guess I should formally post some kind of update. Since Iambian was having a lot of difficulty implementing the grayscale, I went off to the side and worked on a few ideas for a strictly black-and-white version of Escheron, in case it might be easier to implement. (on account of having to rewrite everything anyway) It's not a definite thing - at least, not unless Iambian wants to go that route.

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