Another month passed means another dev update! Lots of big stuff to cover in this one, including a big technical update, some new background art, early character concepts (including a tease of new characters??), and our announcement that we’ll be featuring the game at one of Florida’s biggest conventions - Metrocon - this July!
Normally we’d start things off by reporting where we’re at on the dev roadmap, but oh boy this month was a doozy so we’ll get back to that a bit later. What we described as a “road bump” in our Discord just a couple weeks ago was actually more of a huge Mario Kart-esque boost ramp that shot us airborne and left us not knowing where we’d land for a few days. Thankfully we landed back on track! But unfortunately with a bit of lost momentum. That’s the short of it in non-technical terms, but if you’re curious keep reading below for the technical details (or just scroll straight to the art stuff!):
What started as just a few technical inconveniences with the game engine the past few months grew unexpectedly into full-on barriers (specifically with the shop and other networking features we had planned). We were faced with the choice of halting progress until a solution was found (since creating one from scratch would take too long) or, what we ended up choosing, which was subverting the issue entirely by migrating to a different environment (libGDX, if you’re curious!). Fortunately the core chunks of progress the past year won’t be affected by this shift, like the servers and account system, and it happens to alleviate many other smaller issues that we thought we’d just have to live with in our previous state. While we’re still in the middle of gauging everything fully, all this should mean running into a lot less progress-blockers in the future as well. The only needed rewrites will involve the gameplay / UI from before, but even there we’d only just scratched the surface content-wise (in that preview build) so it’s not much of a set back. We’re just glad to have caught this now and not later when it could’ve really derailed some important progress. And most of all we’re just excited to be in the clear to focus on gameplay builds again!
Background Art: Expanded
The biggest challenge posed to the art in our game so far has been the newly added support for a wider aspect ratio. With character sprites, UI elements, and even multiple game boards, the art assets remain the same while the position / scale / layout adapts to different screen orientations. But not so for background art! Our prototype on iOS was designed with one screen-size in mind, which allowed us to work quickly, but left us with very “vertical” backgrounds that just won’t work on a 16:9 display format. Stretching horizontally would look awful, cropping / zooming would make for gigantic ugly pixels, meaning the only option was to expand the frame and redraw entire sections for use on larger displays. The idea being: the PC version would see the full background, while smaller screens like phones will simply frame a smaller section of the same background (see the image above).
For a more direct comparison of the old backgrounds VS the new ones, here's a couple examples (the most recent addition being the updated Azure map with a wider view of the city):
Also worth noting is that the new backgrounds are actually a smaller resolution than their original iOS versions. Generally speaking, the less pixels you have to draw, the less time / resources it takes. Both versions are displayed at their true pixel size above, while in game they'll be scaled up to fill the screen while preserving the pixel art qualities (as you've likely seen in other pixel art games you're familiar with). Lastly, the new backgrounds are still in draft form and will likely see some changes / updates over time (with some animated bits as well!).
Concept Art: A First Look Into Emily's Sketchbook!
While our plans for story-based content are still a bit down the roadmap, I couldn't wait to share some of the early concepts of our current (and future!) cast of characters. Emily is our resident illustrator and concept artist, with the majority of our current character sprites being based off her drawings. She recently shared a big batch of scans from her top secret sketchbook, where she was exploring different styles and versions of each character to see what stuck. The only image not from Emily is the Macktooth concepts, which were graciously provided by one of our awesome cousins, Mailiis (taken from a phone camera). I collaged them together, ordered by character, for your viewing pleasure in the gallery below (click to expand each image):
Some of these concepts were made even after the sprites were created, to better nail-down the look and feel of a character in a higher-detail setting (when the time comes produce more story-driven content, or areas of the game that could use higher detailed sprites, like special abilities, dialogue scenes, etc). I also included that last unmarked image at the end, which is an unedited full page scan from the book in all its chaotic glory (why is there a frog in there? You'll have to ask her!)
And while not everything is ready to share just yet, there are definitely plans for new playable characters you haven't seen before as well...
If you want to send some props Emily's way, she goes by "Babbitz" in the discord! (or on Twitter here) Send some love her way!
Super Plexis will be at Metrocon this July!
If you happen to be in the Tampa area between July 19th-22th, stop by our booth running all weekend at Metrocon! We’ll also be hosting a game dev panel that Friday at 7pm. This will be our second time attending Metrocon featuring the game, the first being back in 2016 before we had even finished the iOS prototype (but wanted to gather a good number of beta testers). You can check out the panel we hosted back then in its entirety on youtube here:
Or check out a shorter vlog of that day, with clips from our first-ever tournament, here:
We’ll have more information as the actual date approaches!
That about covers all the new info for this month. As always you can join us on the Super Plexis discord, where we sometimes have more informal updates / news to share outside these official blog posts. Thanks again for following our progress! We hope to have more big news (and builds!) to share with all of you soon.