Finally (after months and months of work) I have completed a playable demo for The Ethereal Plains! I have tested and tuned it to a point where I feel confident releasing a demo.
Or if you have the RPG Maker VX Ace RTP already installed, you can download:
The Ethereal Plains Demo without RTP – v1.03
I welcome any and all feedback for this, so please don’t hesitate to:
Report any bugs you encounter or offer constructive feedback.
In addition, you can find the official thread for the project on the official RPG Maker forums.
Patch Notes (May 28th, 2013), version 1.03:
- Made several performance optimizations in areas that previously slowed-down.
- Per some suggestions received, added some guidance for some of the more “cryptic” parts of the game. Notable in the sewers and Ocean View.
- Reduced the volume of the sound effects in the training scene.
Patch Notes (May 26th, 2013), version 1.02:
- Resolved an issue with the game crashing due to a missing music file (referenced in a script).
- Resolved an issue where the player could get stuck in a NPC while moving.
- Resolved some (mapping) passability issues.
- Resolved an issue where it would always highlight the first character while selecting a target for spells that can only affect the caster.
- Resolved an issue with getting stuck on the edge of the screen while riding the logs in Verona Crossing.
- Resolved a switch conflict resulting in the command codes being automatically entered in the Mines.
- Added an ability to Alaric.
Big thanks to Rev (Greg Owens) for reporting a handful of bugs and issues.
I originally had planned on having a playable demo of The Ethereal Plains out by this point, however I severely underestimated just how daunting of a task battles and balance is.
I have all of the core items at this point, but as I go through and create boss battles, I realize how boring they can be. It’s then that I chose to explore new mechanics to mix things up and then I begin to see how challenging that task can be. Between coming up with new abilities and states, to implementing visual cues for the player to understand what’s going on, it’s a lot of work! But the end result is worth it, as now boss battles will feel different than a normal enemy with increased HP.
Where should I begin?
How about with a whole new cast of character sprites? Instead of using the RTP ones, I went with the awesome offerings from Kaduki, offering much more diverse animations in battle.
And as long as we’re on the subject of battles, instead of using the stock, highly-detailed backdrops, I created my own. Though I will need to create one for each setting, the end result should look both more consistent and (in my opinion) better than the standard offering.
I’ve continued making some steady progress on the game. Most recently I’ve added a new opening scene (after the world history one) with some initial opening credits as well as re-did some switches/variables to clean some things up. My only concern is the amount of cutscenes in the initial parts of the game. I may try to work some more gameplay in there so it doesn’t feel like the player is just stuck watching the game for the majority of the beginning… I’m finding it tricky though because there are items in the story I can only think to portray through cutscenes; short of letting the player roam around a small area in between story elements and dialogue. At that point though, is it even worth it?
In addition, I’ve continued adding new items, armors, and weapons to the database spreadsheet (I would like to see them all side-by-side before I make the numbers official in the actual database).
All-in-all, progress is steady, and now I am starting to work on some additional mapping while I brainstorm ideas for some more opening gameplay.
When it comes to a battle system for this game, I cannot seem to settle on one. As soon as I get one established, I find another I would rather implement. Whether it’s because of simplicity, functionality, or just as an experiment, I guess I just love playing with different battle systems.
The newest one I’ve decided to implement is Yami’s Symphony battle engine. Offering very similar features to the Tankentai battle system without all of the confusion, complexity, and compatibility issues that go along with it, it is now my favorite. While it is plug and play for basic functionality, the ability to customize every aspect of a skill and the accompanying animations for it made me fall in love with it almost immediately. Combined with the side-view format (which I personally prefer) I just had to switch to it.
In addition there is an add-on script that allows me to replace the static enemy battler graphics with sprites. So now the battle doesn’t feel as visually awkward as most side-view battle systems where the players are sprites and the enemies are very detailed static images. Since I am avoiding random battles, I already have sprites for most enemies I will be using so there should be no lack of enemy diversity.
With large amounts of work being done on The Ethereal Plains as of late, foremost among them has been mapping. Lots and lots of mapping. So as a bit of a side blog amidst the game development, I decided to show how I go about my environment mapping.
For this example, we will be looking at Alma Pass; a mountain-esque pass the player must go through to reach the town of Alma. As with all level design, both 2D and 3D, I follow the same basic steps:
I’ve finally finished up what will likely be the final version of the cutscene introducing the player to the story behind The Ethereal Plains. At this point, the story is developed enough where I can feel confident laying out the groundwork for the story ahead. Being that I’ve always preferred “seeing” the story as it is told, I decided to go for what I feel is a much more interesting opening cutscene.
I’ve been playing through other RPG Maker games lately and it seems every single one of them lays out the story for the player with a huge wall of text, mentioning numerous places, people and locations. I probably won’t remember any of them or get “in to” the game until I have a better understanding of the story, so the wall of text does nothing but bore me. Because of this, I chose not to slam the player with too much information right away, making the introduction to The Ethereal Plains that much more entertaining and easy to understand up-front.