Friday, September 23, 2016

Malise and the Machine V0.05 Released!




Hey everyone!

V0.05 of Malise and the Machine was released on September 21st via Patreon.  If you missed out on the release and are still interested in checking it out, please email me at eromancergames@gmail.com and I'll give you details on how to get your pledge to me!

Here are some additional changes that made it into V0.05 at the last minute.  For the rest of the change log, please see this post.


  • Improved the loot screen UI
  • Improved the layout of the Save/Load screen
  • Added mechanics for learning skills from devices called ‘Glyphs’. 
  • Malise now starts with full HP/SP
  • Fixed a continuity error.  Neon will now have high lust/broken armor after the Fleshfather scene.


Thanks again for your continued interest in the project!
- Eromancer

Monday, August 29, 2016

Expected Change Log for V0.05

Hey guys!

The release for V0.05 has changed slightly to September 15 so that we have some additional time to better test it. Below is the expected change log for V0.05 for anyone interested . I locked in Patreon pledges for the release today, but as usual you can message me if you missed the pledge deadline and I'll send you details on how to get a pledge to me.

Content

  • Added the ‘Tactical Frame’ armor type for Neon.
  • Added approximately 100 portraits as well as the sprite artwork for Neon’s new armor type.
  • Added a new skill for Neon compatible with her new armor type.
  • Replaced the puzzle area in the Breeding Zone with a more straightforward series of exploration-centric maps. These maps were created with and show off the power of TK’s new 3D map editor, and they also do a better job of setting up the main story than the puzzle area.
  • Replaced the Access Tunnels Entrance map with one created using TK’s 3D map editor (over time we will replace all existing maps with improved versions).
  • New story H scene


Map Overhaul

  • Tilemap usage (vanilla RPG Maker’s method of making maps' visuals) was removed or heavily scaled back on all maps in favor of parallax mapping (using multiple layers of pre-processed images to construct the maps’ visuals), resulting in a huge increase to map performance.
  • Redesigned how traversable/non-traversable terrain is set for maps in the RPG Maker editor. This reduces map configuration time and minimizes the chance of errors such as invisible walls, walking in the air, etc. In addition, this allows for more elevation layers to exist on a single map, as well as much cleaner handling for marking areas of maps that utilize multiple elevation layers (for instance, walkways that characters can both walk on top of and underneath).
  • Recoded and improved map elevation levels code, which allows proper and player-independent occlusion and shading of characters and event graphics. What this means is that previous to this change, mobile NPCs and the player basically couldn’t exist on separate elevation levels without the possibility of crazy visual anomalies.
  • Added map data preprocessing, which greatly reduces access time to map data by the engine.
  • We’ve begun implementing a new design system for new maps that should make it easier for the player to judge where the player characters can and can’t move with regard to navigating near walls and ledges.
  • Added custom collision detection for events with graphics bigger than 1 tile (for example, the player character doesn't have to overlap with larger characters like FuseBot to interact with it, and in addition large characters like FuseBot can now hypothetically freely wander the map without overlapping walls or other map events).
  • Added custom activation area for events, meaning an event can be activated from multiple points on the map. This means using less events to perform a task (for example, transfer zones which required up to a dozen events now require only one, resulting in a performance boost). This also significantly speeds up time spent creating complex events, since before this we would have needed events for the sole purpose of triggering other events, and so on.
  • Added a general custom event configuration feature that allows us to quickly and easily make a variety of common edits to events, thus speeding up map creation. This includes but is not limited to setting collision/activation data and being able to shift events’ graphics independently of the event itself.
  • Limited the creation of event sprites to only those that are within or near the visible area of the map, which greatly enhances performance.
  • Updated all existing maps and events to take advantage of new features.
  • Plethora of other fixes, tweaks, optimizations, etc.
  • NOTE: The map overhaul is an ongoing process, so some things, such as map loading times, may actually be worse than before - this will be addressed when more maps get updated with new visuals as then we'll be able to make more proper decisions on what is the best solution for this.


Equipment

  • Fixed a few minor bugs related to armor types that surfaced after implementing Neon's second armor.
  • Implemented separate skill Tetra panels for each armor type.
  • Improved handling of Tetra panels in both Tetra configuration screen and battle. This gives a marginal performance boost, but is way more manageable.
  • Implemented armor type restriction for skills.
  • Added armor/weapon type restrictions to some skills.


Miscellaneous

  • Removed multiple major 3rd party scripts - their functionality, when necessary, was coded from scratch in way more efficient and dedicated way, which improves performance and makes code more manageable.
  • Added cursor speed options to the Options menu, allowing for more responsive navigation of the menus / battle target selection. “Initial Delay” changes the activation time for the cursor to begin repeating movement when a directional key/button is held down. “Repeat Delay” changes the speed at which the cursor repeats movement after the initial delay time has passed.
  • Added 'Y' keyboard key as alias to 'Z' key - their positions are swapped in QWERTY/QWERTZ keyboard layouts, and using Z key in QWERTZ layout is a pain in the... ahem... hand 
  • Filenames for all graphics depicting player characters (portraits, map sprites, etc.) are now dynamically built using current actor state (armor damage, lust sickness stage, states, etc.). This means that character sprites and dialog portraits can now show armor damage / effects of lust / so on. Unfortunately, adding graphics for this wasn’t in the scope of this update, so these changes won’t be visible yet.
  • The ‘Pause’ key/button will now hide all map windows (including message windows). This is basically a simple beta method for being able to hide the message window during H scenes.
  • Added process for displaying ‘under construction’ graphics for battle portraits that don’t have art yet.
  • Added the capability for having loading screens, and added said screens where necessary.


Aaaaaaand back to work!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Progress Update and V0.05 Announcement!

Hey everyone!

We're aiming to release V0.05 of Malise and the Machine on September 10!

This means that Patreon pledges will be processed at the end of August / beginning of September.  This will be the last update before we switch over to the new campaign model (unless Patreon for some reason hasn't rolled out the instant charge feature for all creators yet).  This will likely occur sometime in October.



Progress Update


Work on V0.05 is going great, and all of our work is surpassing the quality I could've expected.  Naturally, we'll be down to the wire as far as getting in everything we want to, but at this point I'm pretty sure that's the price for pushing our creative limits.  Here's a quick rundown of the major accomplishments since the last post:


  • We released an interim build for Inner Circle patrons on August 3 that contains a preview of Neon's new outfit in action and AltairPL's map overhaul framework.  We received a few bug reports that we've fixed, but nothing major, which is pretty outstanding considering the entire map engine was ripped out and rewritten.
  • As mentioned above, we have the mechanics for changing outfit types in place, along with most of the necessary UI edits.
  • I have a total of 87 portraits for Neon's new outfit completed, as well as the map sprites.  I think this is a testament to our workflow / organization / software optimizations because I don't think I could have done this previously in this amount of time.  I still have quite a few to go, by the way.
  • I have quite a bit of artwork done for a new story H scene, but still have a ways to go.
  • TK's 3D map editor is functioning and he is beginning to put out some great results with it.  He's recreated the Access Tunnels Entrance map as the first true test, and while we still have some kinks to work out and a couple of features to add, it's a proof of concept that we'll be able to create more visually interesting maps that maintain the original style in much less time than it took me to process and assemble the old ones by hand.
  • AltairPL's map overhaul now has all of the major features working, including a lot of features that will make creating map events easier for us.  As it turns out, the overhaul came at the perfect time because it would have been nearly impossible to do what we are doing with TK's map editor without some of the major internal changes.  If you're curious about the performance boost, my mid-high end machine went from 70 FPS to 110 FPS on the map (with the 60 FPS limit off mind you... note that if you had really good performance before the overhaul it will be less mind blowing, but a big part of it is that it gives us more room to do crazy stuff in the future).


We're basically on track toward accomplishing everything we set out to for V0.05!  Probably more than any other release this one will resemble an iceberg in that what you see is a small fraction of the work done to improve future releases.  Expect a more detailed list of all the features (front and back-end) once we get closer to the release, but in the meantime feel free to ask any questions!

Lastly, I want to mention that we got a lot of interest in the community manager position I mentioned awhile back, and I want to thank everyone that took the time to talk to me.  I decided it's best for us to get a feel of how the community environment and task requirements will change once we move to the new campaign model before bringing someone on, since part of the goal of the new campaign model is to reduce workload related to distributing rewards.  It's likely that the position will more heavily involve promotional work because recently there's been zero effort going into promoting the game due to effort going toward development.

That's it for now, and thanks again for your continued interest!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

V0.05 Progress Update #2




Hey everyone!

Progress is going smoothly for V0.05, and I wanted to briefly stop in to tell you where we're at with things!


Eromancer: Artwork Progress

All 45 general poses/variations for Neon's new outfit battle portraits were wrapped up earlier this month!  I've taken a break from the new outfit artwork and am working on a story H scene currently.  It's gone a little slower than expected but I'm continuously trying to improve the possibilities I can manage with this artwork style, and I'm happy with the results so far.  


AltairPL: Map Overhaul Progress

I got to test out the latest version of AltairPL's map overhaul just yesterday and the performance improvements were pretty incredible.  In V0.043 I would get about 70 FPS standing around in the Access Tunnels B5 hub map (with the FPS cap raised).  In the version with the map overhaul implemented, I got 110 FPS.

The biggest objective of the overhaul however is to simplify map creation, and it's going great in that aspect as well.  AltairPL recently finished up remapping all of the maps in the map editor with his new system for marking passages and collision detection.  His new system allows for more elevation layers on a map, makes it easier to mark traversable/nontraversable areas, and allows for us to do so on our new maps (which completely utilize parallax mapping as opposed to tilemapping).  In addition, he's been able to considerably reduce the number of events required for standard things like opening chests / doors / traversing between maps and so on.


TK: 3D Map Editor Progress

 TK's map editor is now preeeeetty much at the point where we can replicate the results of the overhead map process I've been using up to this point.  Of course, the important thing is that we can do in about 30 seconds what took hours of busy work previously.   I've provided below a set of renders from a very basic (and still janky) test map TK has set up.  The final image in the set is a processed composite of the previous renders.  Note that there are obvious errors still, but it's just for test purposes.  It's convincing enough that I've included another screenshot from a different angle just to show this is really from the 3D editor :D.  

Images: http://imgur.com/a/kKf0e

Of course, replicating what we could do with our previous map creation process isn't good enough, so soon we'll be looking at ways in which we can create standardized ways to improve the results and make even better maps.  


That's about it for now!  Sorry there isn't more I can show, but yeah, spoilers and stuff :D.  Till next time!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Patreon Campaign Changes - Survey Results

Hey everyone!

If you remember I posted a survey recently asking for your opinions on the proposed Patreon campaign format changes. If you missed the post, you can check it out here. I also posted a survey on Patreon asking for patrons' feedback to gauge whether or not they think we should make the changes.

You can find the results of the surveys below:

1. Patron Survey Results
2. Non Patron Survey Results

The patron survey results speak for themselves, with nearly 90% of those that responded recommending we change our campaign format to monthly (with the reduced pledge tier costs) + add the charge up front feature.

The non patron survey results take a bit more analyzing. Basically, approximately half of the non patrons that responded said they would be more likely to pledge to the campaign if it was in the monthly format with the reduced pledge costs. Though the sample size is small, it's a very promising result since very few answered that they were less likely to pledge due to the proposed changes. What this says is that for every 20 non patrons that check out the project, approximately 10 will be more likely to pledge because of these changes, and approximately only 1 will be less likely.

As it stands and due to the highly positive feedback, we've decided that we will be making the proposed changes starting sometime after the V0.05 release. This means that starting sometime after the V0.05 release all pledge tier costs will be significantly reduced and we will be moving to the monthly payment format. These changes will, we feel, not only benefit existing patrons in the long run, but will be especially beneficial for new patrons, as they will be able to retrieve their digital rewards instantly upon pledging.

Thanks again for all the feedback guys!

- Eromancer


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Proposal for Major Patreon Campaign Changes! Need Feedback!

Hey guys!

So, due to an initial favorable response from patrons, I wanted to get some feedback from you. We're currently considering some major changes to the Patreon campaign structure in an effort to simplify the process for new patrons, attract new patrons, and to remove some of my campaign related workload in order to give me more time to work on development related things.

Patreon is rolling out a feature called "Charge Up Front", which will allow us to utilize the Patreon feed for all releases. This would greatly simplify our release process, allow patrons instant access to their digital rewards, and also be much more intuitive for new patrons. Unfortunately, this feature is only available to (the vastly more popular) monthly campaigns, so it caused us to reconsider whether we could give the same or better experience to our patrons while benefiting from this new feature.

To accomplish this, we would significantly change the pricing for pledge rewards. This would drastically lower the initial price point for new patrons to check out what we are offering, and is something we feel could attract people that were scared off by the relatively high pledge requirements (especially those that hadn't seen a 'pledge per creation' campaign and mistook the reward prices for a monthly cost).

Here are the proposed changes:

  • The $1 reward (Patreon feed access) would change to $1 per month, and remain the same.
  • The $10 reward (access to the latest game version) would become $3 per month. We may not have a major release every month, but we certainly would not have them more than three months apart. On months that we don't have a major release ready, we would have a significant Patreon update showing off content from the upcoming release. The bottom line is that patrons pledging at the $10 tier or greater now wouldn’t be penalized by the new model.
  • The $15 reward (Artwork PDF) would change to $5 per month.
  • The $45 reward (Inner Circle access) would change to $10 a month.
  • The print rewards would be consolidated down to two. $40 a month for US patrons and $50 a month for international patrons. These can't change more due to the cost of printing and shipping, however these rewards would also include Inner Circle access, making them equivalent to the current $70 and $80 tiers.


For further reference, you can see the full descriptions and pledge reward list as it currently stands at http://patreon.com/eromancer (on the right side of the screen).

We're interested in obtaining feedback from those currently not pledging to see if these proposed changes would make you reconsider supporting the project. To do that I've made a very brief anonymous survey (two questions, multiple choice) that you can find below.

Click here to take the survey!

Thanks a lot in advance for your help!

Now, discuss!

Monday, June 27, 2016

V0.05 Progress Update!

Hey everyone!

It's been awhile since there was a legitimate progress update, so the following is my effort to hit the important points of the past month or so without making you read a novel about it.

EDIT: Just kidding, it turned out to be a novel anyways.


Spring Cleaning Complete!


Well, it's summer technically, but as I think I mentioned in the previous post I was making a huge effort for the first few weeks after we put out the last patch to put optimizations ideas into effect that had been stacking up for awhile. This is especially important since TK was coming on board full time and it'd only make sense to reorganize things before teaching him processes and such.


  • We now have complete cloud integration, meaning TK and I share all of the art related files and 3D libraries and receive updates to each other's work in (nearly) real time. It took over a week to upload and sync all of the necessary files.
  • We've moved to a new chat client for development. We're all a bit meh about it, but overall it's better for working with a team than what we had previously.
  • I've personally updated Photoshop from CS 5.1 to CC so TK and I are running on the newest version (and so that I could get the last 6 years of updates). Definitely worth it.
  • I heavily upgraded my internet connection to remedy my super slow upload speeds (would've been nice to have during the V0.04 patching debacle... and for the aforementioned cloud integration).
  • I redid my laptop's OS install entirely (a nightmare by the way since I "downgraded" Win 8.1 to 7 and the laptop has a really weird hybrid SSD hard drive configuration, meaning I had to HIGHLY customize the Win 7 install in order to fit the OS on the SSD partition), with the result being that I now have two rendering rigs that basically share the same file system due to the aforementioned cloud integration.
  • I redid my entire desktop workstation's layout, bought a bigger desk to mount the laptop on, recycled a bunch of old PCs / hardware / sold music equipment and generally improved my cramped living conditions (I live and work in a 9'x13' room, basically). I also added a hefty UPS battery backup so I don’t have to worry about severe weather or hardware damage / data loss from power outages.
  • TK and I found a solution for customizing CPU priority in our rendering engine of choice. This means we can actually work on other stuff while things are rendering instead of the system being completely locked down by an overzealous rendering engine hogging resources.
  • I did at least a week's worth of massive cleaning and much needed reorganization of all the game development files (nearly 200 GB worth).
  • We added a private forum for Inner Circle members so that there can be actual discussion and feedback on topics instead of one way presentation of content.
  • TK introduced me to Pinterest, which we will now be using for easily stashing and visually referring to links to licensable 3D assets, reference art, and relevant game development techniques/tutorials. The idea is that over time we will accumulate a shared library of potential assets / concepts that we can quickly refer back to.
  • I upgraded my phone all the way from iOS 6 to iOS 9 so that I can actually be productive when away from my workstation. Apps now work, and it's pretty glorious.
  • I now have Maya (a popular 3D development program), and now I need to learn to use it… this leads to the next topic.



TK's Map Editor


When TK came on full time he proposed a map editor that should drastically increase our efficiency when it comes to making the overhead retro JRPG style maps.

Our current method is to make 2D tilesets, build the maps in RPG Maker’s editor using these tilesets, and then export images of these maps to be edited in Photoshop. This is highly time consuming and labor intensive since a lot of elements such as shadows have to be placed by hand.

TK’s idea is to use a heavily customized UI in Maya with scripts designed for our workflow needs to remove the need to make 2D tilesets entirely. Instead, the entire tilemap can be built in Maya, and in theory we should also be able to make the maps at a higher quality and seem less repetitive. The results should look comparable to the sideview maps and battle backgrounds, which are done entirely in 3D with relatively easy 2D post in Photoshop.

Some of the major hurdles he’s overcome so far include learning the process for map creation so as to improve upon it, finding and implementing plugins and write additionally required UI scripts for Maya, and replicating our 3D shaders for the rendering engine we plan to use with Maya (shaders are programs used to get the basis for the unique MATM aesthetic when rendering the 3D models).

Assuming it all works out (which at this point it looks like it should), the amount of time saved over the course of the project will be huge, and we should end up with higher quality maps to boot. Naturally, I haven’t used Maya before (I’m a Blender guy… not really by choice, but it’s what I had available and thus stuck with), so TK also will be teaching me the basics of navigating Maya so I can actually use the new map editor.

Here’s a small gallery showcasing his work in replicating the MATM look in the new rendering engine: http://imgur.com/a/cL8SA


AltairPL's Map Overhaul


TK’s map editor is an idea that comes at a good time, as AltairPL has been progressing steadily with his map overhaul, the goal of which is to not only enhance performance but also simplify the map and event making process. He’s written up a super high level description of some of the stuff he's already accomplished. He also included a really impressive summary of the FPS gains he's managed so far.


  • Basic optimizations of maps and characters [performance]
  • Added basic (for now) customization of map events, which allows easier creation of more advanced and dynamic events [functionality]
  • Allowed for RPGMaker’s tilemap structure (which is no longer even necessary for our maps) to be removed entirely, freeing up a ton of processing power on overhead maps [performance]
  • Removed a lot of the map-oriented 3rd part scripts and have begun replacing their functionality with more case appropriate code [performance].
  • Changed how map events are handled, which cuts number of needed events considerably [performance]
  • Added map data preprocessing, which greatly improves access time to map data in game [performance]
  • Changed how map data is created and edited, which greatly improves map configuration time and minimizes the chance of an error (invisible wall, walking in the air, etc.) [functionality]


Sample of map performance change for some of the Access Tunnels maps (in FPS using AltairPL’s PC for testing) - not everything is implemented, so these values may change (both ways):


  • B5 Hub: 56 => 78
  • B5 West 1: 45 => 63
  • B6 Hub: 55 => 84
  • B6 Puzzle: 60 => 93


Neon's 2nd Outfit


The boobs are loose!

I just spent the last few days working on armor damage for Neon’s new outfit.  The idea was to do it entirely in 3D if possible so that the very time consuming manual painting wouldn't be required like it is on Malise's.  As I've mentioned before however, getting the hentai-esque details we want is a really tough task in 3D since the models still have to remain highly poseable.  Suffice to say, it’s been accomplished and looks great.

I’m also roughly halfway through the general combat poses for the outfit. Once finished there will be about 45 total variations on the 9 base poses, since armor damage on this outfit happens in such a way that a few more variations are required.

Here’s a small preview, including a before and after GIF that shows the new post processing I’ve begun using that features more vibrant colors and improved shading: http://imgur.com/a/KKYD2



That's about it for now!