Simpler battle interface revamp

I bought and added two premium plugins to the project: Side Status Battle UI and Weakness Display.

Together, they simplify the game’s battle interface. The re-positioned windows keep the player’s focus closer to the relevant actors.

  • Actor’s actions appear right next to their sprite.
  • Actor’s health and mana is located just to the right of them.

Targeting an actor will cause their status window to slide forward slightly. By a happy coincidence, their character portrait in the timeline display also bobs upward. It makes the interface feel cohesive.

But it’s not flawless. As you can see, when the 4th party member chooses their action, their status is partially obscured.

An enemy’s name, health, and status ailments are shown when you target them.

The plugin also adds new functionality, showing an icon for each of the enemy’s potential weaknesses. Strike the weakness, and it’s revealed so you can remember for next time. Without this type of interface, enemy weaknesses are not signaled clearly enough to be viable.

Unique sprites for each job class

The amazing sprite artist finalbossblues released a side-view battler pack in the Time Fantasy style.

Using this art pack as the base, I grafted my characters existing faces onto other costumes. Each character now has a unique Adventurer outfit. There’s also a shared outfit for each branch of the job tree: Magic-users, Healers, Fighters, and Thieves. That’s 8 different outfits across 4 different characters, and it adds a ton of unique flavour to the game.

Even with a pre-existing base, it’s a time consuming process to create each sprite set.

I decided to give each outfit a pop of red as its primary colour, to keep continuity across the playable characters.

Simple equipment

I’ve cut the number of equipment slots down to 3.

The game’s systems have plenty of complexity in other areas, so cutting down the variety of equipment is a way to keep the game from feeling unnecessarily complex.

I’ve also made it so bows no longer require quivers to work. It was a cool idea, but the complexity it adds is not necessary, and it would have been a challenge to elegantly communicate to the player that quivers and bows can only work together.

Equipment menu showing 3 items equipped

Assigning Items

I’ve added Galv’s Equip Item script. By default, all actors share the same inventory, and can use as many items as they want from the inventory. This script makes it so actors can only use items that have been manually assigned to them.

With only 6 items available per character, it could add depth to each combat. Or if could add a painful amount of time spent in the menu re-equipping items between battles.

To mitigate the latter issue, I’ve made a script that automatically re-equips items to a character after battle, if the party’s inventory has extra copies of the item.

I’ve also been playing around with making items that are not consumed permanently, but can only be used once in battle. This makes healing functionally unlimited, but the player can’t heal indefinitely each encounter. It’s inspired by the estus system in Dark Souls, but it remains to be seen if my execution is nearly as elegant.

Menu for assigning items to a character

No dialog – pictograms only?

My strength is not writing, and definitely not long-form storytelling.

I’m a designer. I communicate meaning through imagery, motion, and composition.

With that in mind, I wonder if it would be better to have this project be entirely free of dialog. Cutscenes could play out with characters popping up a bubble over their heads with a symbol representing the topic of their thoughts, in the style of The Sims. I would also have to ensure the positioning, speed and style of movement of the characters is on-point, to help convey their personalities.

Bestiary

I’m planning to give players access to a bestiary that keeps track of the enemy monsters in the game.

Random mobs might have to be fought before they’re added to the bestiary. But I think it might be useful to add upcoming bosses to the bestiary before the player encounters them. This scheme will give players an optional heads-up of the next big foe and will let them prepare for it.

Bestiary showing phantom boat boss monster, items it drops and its stats

Project management: Kanban

I’ve been using a Kanban-style board to keep track of tasks for the project. Having labels for each columns lets me prioritize tasks, and I like the kinetic feeling of dragging a task from one column to another.

But even with this system, my willpower sometimes slips, and I end up working on something fun and frivolous instead of the most practical task to actually get the project completed.

Dozens of tasks sorted into columns by priority

Interface tweaks

Playing with interface tweaks!

Battle scene showing skill being chosen from a menu. Character names, HP and MP values are also shown.

  • New battle order tracker (changed from DreamX ITB to Yanfly STB)
  • Multi-tier skill choices for a few select situations
  • Wider MP bar, can show max/min with higher values
  • New base character names – all 4 letter
  • States moved from status bar to above character and foe’s heads

New font

BEFORE:

AFTER:

Menu interface showing tall pixel font

SH Pinscher replaces Minecraftia as the game’s main font. This is mostly due to questions about Minecraftia’s legalities. But it also comes with much wider support for symbols (useful for arrows) and is generally more stylish.