Saturday, December 10, 2016

Progress Update!




Hey everyone!

Apologies for the lack of updates here!  While I've been meaning to post more frequently here, please keep in mind you can get the latest and most in-depth news via Patreon!  I give a major monthly progress update for $3/mo patrons, as well as weekly technical updates including artwork and previews for the Inner Circle tier.  At any rate, here's a high level overview of the major happenings with the project!

Malise and the Machine v0.0511 Release


I definitely dropped the ball on this one, as I should have made a post about this when it happened.  On October 31 we released v0.051 of MATM, and soon after v0.0511 was released.  This update featured all the remaining artwork for Neon's Tactical Frame armor type, as well as a bunch of bug fixes and performance improvements made by AltairPL since the release of v0.05.  If you're interested, you can get it instantly here via Patreon by pledging at the $3 tier!  In addition, the artwork PDF has been updated as well, so if you're interested in the high resolution artwork you can check it out here!

New Dev Team Member!


Perhaps you noticed the little clip above? It’s a teaser from the new promotional video done by our newest team member! He’s an all-around audio and production badass, and I’ve been working on getting him involved with the project for a while now. From here on out he will take the reins when it comes to audio production, a thing that’s been severely neglected outside soundtrack work and licensing. Having experience in graphic design and video editing, he will also be working on promotion and promotional content (such as the above).

New Render Management Software


Over the past couple of months I've been strongly devoted to optimizing my efficiency with future character and story artwork.  A whole lot of time has gone down the drain due to my software and hardware not meeting the standards for a massive project like MATM, and taking the time to rectify that has been an absolute necessity if we want to carry the level of quality we've gotten the game to through to the finish.

To accomplish the above, I first tackled the software side of things.  One of the biggest drawbacks to using Daz Studio for character art is that its rendering configuration is by no means optimal for a complex render setup like what we have going on.  It’s not to say Daz isn’t useful for character art, as in the past year I’ve discovered some of my favorite game artists that work on AAA projects use it for posing and character design.  For whatever reason however, no one had attempted a solid render management and batch render solution for Daz.  What this boils down to is that with the exception of animations, I had to do renders by hand.  This means I had to manually set the lighting/ load any material presets / change the output file name / whatever and click"render"... sometimes up to 25 times or more per final image (in the case of this last story H scene, for instance). It was both tedious and very time consuming.  This however is no longer the case, because early on in October I determined it was possible to create the render manager / batch renderer I've needed since the start of this project.

The end result is the MATM Render Manager.  This is a GUI-based render manager and batch rendering plugin for Daz Studio customized for Malise and the Machine.  The tool dynamically builds options by recognizing characters / objects in the scene and allows for complex pre-configuration of renders, giving the user the ability to click “render”once and let it run in the background. The tool saves anyone working on character artwork (future additional character artists?) for the game anywhere from 20 minutes to hours per completed image based on the complexity of the scene.

New Rendering Rig / 3D Workstation


The second major area for improvement I focused on was my hardware.  This has been a long time coming, since up till now I’ve been using a mid-range gaming PC from 2012(?) for development. Up till now however it’s been completely out of our price range. This was by far the biggest expense since the start of the game, and I want to thank my patrons on Patreon for giving us the financial backing to make it possible!

This was no small endeavor, as these kinds of systems aren’t standard by any means, and it took a lot of research and searching for parts in order to reduce cost (to give you an idea, the system would have cost $6500+ retail in parts alone had I not found other sources). Admittedly, it was a lot more work than I thought going into it, and the build went anything but smoothly due to difficulties in acquiring parts, but now that it's completed I can say it was a worthwhile move.  So, what does this behemoth do for me you may ask? In short, it not only has the potential to cut a lot of time off of overall development, but will allow for more adventurous undertakings (more animations, etc). In not-so-short terms, check below:
  • Extremely improved rendering times. 
  • Greatly improved hard drive speeds. 
  • Double the SSD space for working drives, double the RAM for binge multitasking in PS/Daz. 
  • Improved editing performance. 
  • Extensibility beyond MATM. 


Engine Development Progress


While I've been focused on artwork development optimizations, AltairPL has been hard at work on the next iteration of the MATM battle engine.  We have a whole slew of potential improvements to balancing and the lust system in the design stages, however APL's work so far has been to better accommodate features we've either been piling on since V0.03, have had to set aside until something like this could be accomplished, or have planned for the future (things like double teaming).  He's made quite a few major accomplishments so far, of which you can check out details and preview screenshots for on Patreon!

Map and Environment Progress


Back in v0.05 we had just introduced the new map engine, along with new maps created by our environment artist, TK.  We're glad to say TK has completed his revamp of the Access Tunnels maps, meaning that in v0.06 you'll see an improved and consistent map style throughout the game.

In addition, TK has begun concept and technical work on the new areas planned for v0.06.  It probably goes without saying, but you can check out his latest work on Patreon :D.


As always, thanks for your continued interest in our project!  We look forward to getting v0.06 out to you as soon as possible!

- Eromancer


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Now Get Instant Access on Patreon!

Hey guys!

Great news.  The Patreon gods have heard my cries and have entered us into the beta for their new charge upfront feature!

For new patrons, this means you will now get instant access to the digital rewards for your tier via the Patreon feed. No more private invoices, no more waiting until the end of the month for your pledge to clear, etc. Basically, this is a much cleaner solution for everyone, and will allow me more time for development as opposed to sending out rewards manually.

As always, you can find the Patreon page at http://patreon.com/eromancer

Please let me know if you have any questions about it!

- Eromancer

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Transition to Monthly Campaign Complete!


Hey everyone!

We've finally completed our transition to our new Patreon campaign model.  Many of our rewards now have a much lower entry cost, so if you've been waiting to pledge then please consider checking it out!

Unfortunately, and due to things out of our control, we're currently unable to utilize Patreon's charge upfront feature that would allow instant access for pledge rewards. We're basically awaiting re-entry to the beta for the feature after non-monthly campaigns were removed from it sometime in the past few weeks.  This means that for now pledge rewards will be sent out on the first of each month.

I'd also like to point out that we've added the soundtrack as a pledge reward, and also added a new goal where we intend to hire an additional character designer / animator if our campaign reaches $16,000 per month!

As always, thanks very much for your interest in our project!
- Eromancer

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!