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PAN★TZU - a pixelart style Visual Novel

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    [GAME] PAN★TZU - a pixelart style Visual Novel


    Prototype vid:

    The plot:
    A shy, introverted girl, with a dream to one day become a game developer starts her first year of high school. There, she sets out to build a team and form a game development club.

    At it's core this is a visual novel. But sprinkled in, there are various minigames that take the place of the "choices" seen in normal visual novels.

    Art style:
    Pixel art

    I'm so far handling audio with FL Studio, but since I'm not much a composer (yet) there's not much to about it, other then I'm trying to aim for something cheery and happy.

    The game was inspired by the original Metroid on NES, when I started playing with the idea: "what if Metroid was set in an anime high school," one day. Then it was one (stupid) idea after another and the game started to come together. And now after further design and redesign it has turned into a visual novel. This might not be even it's final form.

    About me (I know people usually start with this, but I think the actual game info is more important):
    I'm a uni student with a dream of developing ever since since preschool. Currently I'm studying for my Master's and I'm thinking I finally need to provide some results before I graduate...
    I like games (probably quite self-evident), my favorites being JRPGs, among which my favorite series is probably Hyperdimension Neptunia.
    I also like anime (also probably quite self-evident), my favorites being shows like Lucky Star and Gintama.
    And based on those I'm aiming for something fun, yet genuine. Something that has heart and doesn't try too much... but we'll see where this goes.

    PS. As for the name, you can think of it like "pan" = bread /all, and "Tzu" as in Sun Tzu... that's where I got the inspiration for it at least.
    Last edited by BulletEye; 03-29-2020, 11:13 AM. Reason: So I decided to edit this first page since it looks like I'll be diving head first into a new direction, down the rabbit hole of visual novels. With the preliminary writing I did, trying out if I coul

    UPDATE #1 (post-prototype):

    I fixed some small problems I found in the prototype and I also improved the BGM system so that it's easier to control between levels.
    Then I added a level transition function to the door to be able to move between levels. I still need to improve it, in order to spawn the player in front of the door where they came from and not just on the "beginning" of the level.

    Click image for larger version

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    I also started making a high level design of the map, it's not finished and it doesn't have any detail but it does serve well as a kind of a guide post on where to go and what to do next go next.
    The colors are mostly for me to keep track of my progress with red = what I've already done, and yellow = what I'm doing now.

    I already started working on the tileset for the next area and the goal for next week would be to at least get the background done for the yellow colored part of the area.


      UPDATE #2:

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      Finished the background for the first part of the yard area, and also largely decided on the platform/speech bubble locations (though they are subject to fine tuning as I add the bg characters and the texts). Ended up spending quite a lot of time pondering how I should do the layering with, for example, the trees... but ended up making them their own tilemaps, which actually makes things a bit more manageable.
      And while I said the reason for making simple art is to not focus on it too much, I still think I spent a little too much time on making the flower-tiles, and I also arrived in the conclusion that I'll most likely end up upgrading the graphics for the final product, but I'll save that for when I get everything else done.

      I also spent time thinking up new obstacles/enemies (whichever you want to call them), and ended up coming with a few pretty interesting ones, one I already managed to implement, another I'm still working on (ended up being a lot trickier than I imagined) and for the third I'm still trying to come up with the best implementation for to set it apart from the other two.
      I've been thinking up different methods for the room spawning as well, but so far the ones I've come up with seem a bit more complicated then I'd hope them to be, so I'll keep my thinking hat on for a while longer (might be that I'm doing something else inefficiently which makes this that much more complicated)

      Anyway, for next week I'll focus on making sprites for the obstacles and the bg characters as well as finishing the coding part of the obstacles I have at hand (with them of course being the priority).
      Last edited by BulletEye; 12-15-2019, 02:06 PM.


        UPDATE #3:

        This week went by faster then I thought and I got less done than I had hoped, but any progress is still progress, so...

        First of all, the obstacles/enemies: the one I had problems with, turned even trickier as I wanted a pretty specific function for it and couldn't really get it working right (even ended up breaking it a couple times completely). After quite a lot of trial and error I finally managed to get it working almost as I want it to (tho it still has some small problems so it doesn't work exactly as I want it to). Hopefully I get it fixed by the time I make the next video on finishing the new area

        Secondly, I did manage to get quite a few new BG characters ready, adding some references to the mix (because they are so pixely, they are probably easier to get away with, tho I might have to make them still a bit more harder to recognize in the end)
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        But now that I'm staying at my hometown with my family through the holidays I probably won't get much done. So I'm not going to give myself any new goals for the next two weeks, other than finishing this week's goals.


          UPDATE #4:

          The past two weeks were pretty slow, as far as project progress is concerned. But I did get most of the characters done as well as fixing the "enemies":
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          Now, seeing the size and placement of the characters I think I might need to make roads a bit narrower... but I'll leave all the fiddling till after I get the texts placed in the bubbles, so that I'll get the final size of the bubbles. I'll take placing the text as my goal for next week, as well as fiddling with the map as necessary, so I'd be able to start working on the next part of the map after that. Though I might also take the week to work on a BGM track for the yard area (I'm not that good at composing so)....


            Looks very promising!


              UPDATE #5: And then there were mistakes

              This week I fell into one of my own traps. About a month ago as I was planning position and approximate size of the boxes, I naturally did it by thinking what I was going to put into them, as one should do. But what I did not take into consideration was my own memory capacity divided by time, and of course I did not even think about write anything down back then... so I've kind of managed to forget most of the text I was planning to put into the boxes and I've had nothing more to go on then the faint idea of what each text might've been related to.
              (I definitely won't let this repeat)
              And I've also been slacking a bit this week. (This is a lot harder to avoid)
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              I only managed to fill a few of the boxes this week, so it looks like I'll use the next on filling the rest of them, which pushes my BGM till the week after that (hopefully).


                UPDATE #6:

                This week everything went as planned (opposed to last week) and I managed to get everything done I had planned to do: finished filling the boxes with text and finished tuning the map for the better, so it's basically a 2.0 version of the previous one. And it certainly became a bit more interesting and harder to navigate as well as a tad more tightly packed.
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                The upper left path is empty for a reason, I'll fill it once I get to it eventually.

                I also started a Twitter account to hopefully spread my name and my game... but it's still a semi-personal account, so most of the tweets are just mostly random stuff about whatever happens to catch my eye. I'm new to social media outlets so I'm starting slow and trying to get a feel for it.

                Anyway, next week I'm going to focus on making some BGMs to go with the game, and possibly also update the AFX sounds (walking, jumping, etc). Might take some time to come up with any decent BGMs (maybe best to spent two weeks on this), but I got time and time's well used for practicing.

                I also better start thinking about the next part of the yard area, expanding to the right...


                  UPDATE #7:

                  So this week feels like I've done a LOT of work, yet gotten nothing done... I mean...
                  I've been working some suitable BGMs, but nothing seem to feel right, either it's too fast or too slow, in the wrong key, too simple, too complex, not enough breaks, or the breaks are too long... sigh
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                  I feel like I've made a hundred loops and patterns (probably not too far off), and yet I feel I've got nothing because nothing fits my game... but as is with any form of art: "every failed piece you make is a piece closer to a good piece", so maybe I'll eventually get the tunes that I want... and of course "failed" in this case doesn't mean "bad", but "unfitting"

                  But on the positive side, I played around with effects and different songs (including classical pieces and music from old games), during which I discovered what polka sounds like 8-bit, and that certain classical pieces made 8-bit sound exactly like something you'd hear in a NES and SNES games (though none of them fit my game). And probably my happiest discovery was that piano and 8-bit sounds go pretty well together, so I'm going to keep experimenting more next week. Maybe I'll get something to show for it in the end as well...


                    UPDATE #8: Saved by the bass

                    Good things happened this week! A couple days ago I was getting extremely frustrated from not getting any passable music done, and then I found the riff machine in FL Studio, but it didn't really work either. Everything I got from it turned into either horror, scifi thriller or action loop, which are not really fit for my game. But then, from the midst of the dark, cold night of frustration and desperation a small glimmer of hope lit the streets, a bass loop:
                    This small loop awakened in me, hope that I could still manage to do the BGMs myself... And that lead to the creation of 4 other loops that are exactly what I've been looking for. Eventually I'll extend them from 10 second loops to actual "songs", but that's still in the future. I also changed a few of the audio effects to better fit the style of the game.
                    Next week I'll start expanding the map to the left direction and maybe try improving the code on the doors and the crouching.


                      UPDATE #9:

                      This week I was quite busy with school work so I didn't get quite as much time to work on the game... but I did get the background all done, even if I wasn't quite able to fill it with platforms:
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                      I ended up expanding both right and downward... I still need to tune the some of the trees a little bit so they don't block as much of the view, while still looking like trees. I'll be placing more platforms during the next couple weeks, las they are easy to add after I come up with the words to put inside them.
                      Next week I'll focus on coding some new features to add some character to the protagonist, as well as implementing a new trap idea I came up with last last week.


                        UPDATE #10:

                        This week, I said and I did! I managed to code some new features and I also managed fix some older problems as well as finally getting the doors working (thou my solution probably isn't the best solution, but it works for now). The most prominent feature that I added was emotional feedback from the character upon receiving damage:
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                        So far I have a few different emotions set, and I'll expand from there as I get further into the game... but next week, I'll focus on creating new characters to go with the new speech bubbles.

                        I also noticed that I'm starting to set in a week cycle of environment design -> coding -> character design -> writing -> music, I wonder how it'll change as the project keeps evolving.


                          UPDATE #11:

                          This week was quite straightforward with me designing some new background characters:
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                          It's starting to become quite difficult coming up with new hairstyles for the characters, I wonder how many I'll be able to do before I start needing more pixels to make them more unique... personally I think around 60 BG characters would be good (along with some reference characters), after that I can start reusing the characters and focus more on their own stories. At the moment I have exactly 50 (if I count in the MC).

                          Next week I'll be focusing on putting the text in the speech bubbles and placing the new characters in the map.


                            UPDATE #12:

                            So this week was a pretty busy one and next week will be even busier, but I still had time to add the text as well as find a better way to make the text than adding each letter one by one (and not using the textRenderer). My new method, if nothing else, is A LOT better performance-wise, or that's what I believe at least (this time I'm making the entire text as one sprite).
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                            I'll have to, little by little, make all my previous texts with my new method as well, but I'll take my time on that.

                            Anyway, next week I'm planning on improving my BGMs, but it'll be a busy week so I'm not sure how much I actually get done (probably have to sprint through the weekend).


                              UPDATE #13:

                              This week has been really mentally exhausting due to a landslide of school assignments from essays to presentations to keeping up a booth at a fair, so I spent most of my weekend just trying to recover... by just throwing away all my responsibilities and lazying around and gaming all weekend.
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                              I did manage to lengthen both of my BGMs a bit, so that is some progress.
                              But since the BGM tracks aren't on the top of my current priority list, next week I'll be expanding the yard area some more. And in the case I feel really productive, I'll also upgrade some of my previous texts so that I'll get those nice triangle savings.