Saturday, November 9, 2013

001 - Off To A Bumpy Start

Well, I still seem to be stuck in my rut of Saturday updates. I swear I'll make a real effort this week to get an update up on some earlier day and not cut things so close with my goal of letting no more than a week pass between updates. (I guess technically I missed that goal this week by a few hours, but, uh, we can round to the nearest day, right?*)

Anyway, we've seen a little of what 001 has to offer, and now it's time to actually start making the game. I admit I haven't planned out every detail of the game I want to make with it, but I have enough of a concept to get started. As I mentioned in a previous post, given the mixture of fantasy and modern elements in the "Action / RPG (Pro)" template, I decided to make a game that involves travel between several different worlds. Some of those worlds will require me to make my own resources, but I'll tackle that later on. The starting world will be a more or less typical fantasy world, for which I'll be able to use mostly extant resources, so I'll focus on that first.

Of course, preparatory to actually doing anything on the computer, I roughed out a map for the game, or at least for the exterior regions of the gameworld. (Dungeons, or their equivalents, will come later.) Here's what I've got so far:

Don't worry if you don't know what all the marks on the map signify.  I do.

It's not detailed (to put it mildly), but it's enough to let me get started. The plan is for there to be eight worlds, and for each world to comprise a grid of eight by eight maps, though obstacles may prevent the player from walking directly between adjacent maps. (The starting map will, in fact, have an initially impassable ocean to the north; the player will eventually get to the areas to the north by other means.) Two of the worlds I haven't even started laying out yet, and some others are incomplete, but that's okay; those are all worlds that I'll need custom resources for anyway, so it'll be a while before I start mapping them in the program. The starting world is the one in the upper left. And the starting area in that world is in row 5, column 6. So that's where I started mapping.

Here's an early stage of the map for this region:

If you think the inn seems cramped, I agree... but more on that in the next post.

So far, I put in some water, some trees, some changes in elevation, a shop, an inn, and a bit of scenery. This map is, incidentally, at 25% scale, and one of the nice features of this program is that it does allow you to view the map at various scales, from 25% to 200%: the map you see here is scaled within the 001 editor, not externally with an image editing program. Again, this isn't unique to 001; it's a feature I've certainly seen before in other game creation programs; but it's still a nice feature to have. Anyway, though, before going too much farther, I decided to test out what I'd done so far, to make sure everything was working fine. The editor has not one but two buttons to test the game in progress, one labeled "Play" and one labeled "Test". Both allow the user to choose where on the map he wants to start playing; the only difference is that "Test" also allows the user to specify some scripting to run before the game starts.

I'm sure I'll be delving more into this screen when I get into scripting in the system.

Anyway, when I tried out my new map, here's what I saw:

Make your own "pier pressure" joke.

(Incidentally, the motion is much smoother in the game than it is in this .gif; I couldn't find a way to record video from the screen at a decent frame rate. The video above was recorded with CamStudio, which seems to be well reviewed, but I couldn't get it to work as well as I want to. If anyone more experienced than I in such matters has any suggestions, please let me know (though I concede it's entirely possible that the problem is with my computer and not with the software).)

There are two notable issues visible in this video. Well, three if you count the red circle in the upper left, but I honestly have no idea what that's about. It's always there, in that same position on the screen, whenever I test the game (though not when I test the demo RPG that came with the system). It may be due to some script included in the default template; I'll look into it more when I get into scripting. I can't find anything in the documentation that indicates what it might be, though the documentation is rather scanty anyway. On the plus side, though, the documentation is included as a Help file with the program rather than being only available as a webpage. (I'm okay with documentation being in PDF format instead of Windows Help format, but I hate it when the only documentation available is online. And I especially hate it when the program doesn't indicate this, and clicking on "Help" in the program menu takes me to a webpage without warning. Grrr.) Some online resources are available to supplement the in-game help, however, including a wiki and a forum.

And in fact by searching the forum I've just now solved the mystery of the red circle, or the "Big Red Ball Thing", as it was called by the person who started a thread about it. Apparently that's the PC's health bar (as implemented by default in the template). Good to know, though it would have been nice to have something about this in the game's actual documentation. In fact, come to think of it, there's really no documentation of the template at all (unless you count a tutorial that doesn't address such details). Still, when I got to looking at the interfaces, I'm sure I would have found out what the red circle was then even if I hadn't found it just now.

So, yeah, okay, forget the red circle. There are two things in this video of more immediate concern. The more notable of the two is probably the way the PC walks right through the pier and into the water, but I'll deal with that in a moment. First, I want to talk about the fish on the right side of the screen. A fish is a nice decorative thing to put into a watery area in the game, sure, but in this case there are two problems with it. The more egregious problem is that for two frames, the fish decides that it would rather be a part of the pier. As it turns out, this is an easy fix; it's just due to the way the fish animation was defined in the tileset. A couple of right-clicks are sufficient to remove those spurious pier frames and restore the fish to pure piscinity. The very fact that it is such an easy fix, though, makes it all the more inexcusable that the glitch exists in the template as released... I get the impression that the creators of 001 really needed to do more beta testing.

Even after convincing the fish not to aspire to pierdom, however, there remains another, more subtle problem. The fact that the fish is seen entering from the right side of the tile and leaving on the left means that if it's put in the middle of the water it seems to materialize from nowhere, and disappear into nowhere as it leaves the tile. Unless one is content to populate one's world with fish capable of passing through invisible portals, this, unfortunately, makes the fish tile fairly useless. I guess if I'm going to meet my goal of using every tile in the provided resources, I'm going to have to find a place to put it, but the only possibility I can think of is putting it in a narrow gap between two foreground elements that obscure the left and right sides of the tile. That, or making an endless conga line of fish stretching all the way across the screen.

Actually, I guess the timing isn't quite right for the fish conga line to work after all... not that I really wanted to do this anyway.

There's one more note I'd like to mention about the fish, before moving on. A decorative fish as an element of a tileset may seem like an unusual choice, but 001 isn't the first game to include it. A similar fish was included in the tileset of DinkEdit, an editor released in 1998 for the indie CRPG Dink Smallwood. (DinkEdit's on my list, but it's likely to be a long time till I get to it; there are a lot of systems between Eamon and it.) Unlike the fish in 001, the animation for the fish in DinkEdit actually includes its jumping out of the water and splashing back into it, making it rather more practical for actual use.

I spent way too much time looking for the old adventure I started working on with DinkEdit years ago, just so I could get this shot.  I hope it was worth it.

The fish isn't the only similarity between the two systems; there are a few other little things about 001 that reminded me of DinkEdit as well, such as the way the cliffs looked, the way multiple tiles can be selected from a tileset and placed as a block (though admittedly that's also done in RPGMaker), and the way scripts were attached to individual actors. Certainly none of these is a smoking gun proving that 001 took inspiration from DinkEdit, but cumulatively they do suggest the possibility, and given the age of DinkEdit and the fact it had a decent-size fan base it's not inconceivable. It's also possible, though, of course, that the similarities are coincidental. For that matter, it's certainly possible that many of the common features of 001 and DinkEdit came from a third game or system that I'm not yet familiar with.

Incidentally, the "Action / RPG (MSPaint)" tilesets also include a fish, but unlike the one in the "Pro" template—but like the one in DinkEdit—this one is actually seen jumping out of and landing back in the water. (The animation isn't set up in the template, though; all the frames are there, but the user has to make the animation himself. Still, this only takes a second or two.) This makes at least one respect in which the "MSPaint" template is superior to the "Pro". (Actually, there are others; the "MSPaint" template includes a greater variety of indoor floor tiles, for instance. Hmm.)

Though the corners of the shoreline have another ugly animation glitch.  Dagnabbit.
All right, five paragraphs and three and a half animated gifs is more than enough space to devote to a single fish tile. Let's get back to that walking-through-the-pier issue, because that one's a bit more serious. It took me a while to figure out just what's going on here, but there are two separate issues involved.

One is the fact that the PC can walk into water. I remarked on this before on trying out the demo Action RPG, and thought then it was a bug. Turns out it isn't; allowing the PC to walk into water is apparently intended behavior, stemming, I suppose, from a setting called "Submersion Tiles" on the tileset screen. Presumably changing the value of this setting alters the maximum depth to which the PC can be submerged, though I haven't experimented with it to see the results for sure. (I guess I'll do that when I get to making custom tilesets.) The fact that the PC can get stuck in the water I'm pretty sure is a bug, of course.

When I make my own tilesets, think of all the horrible substances I'll be able to submerge the PC in!
That bug aside, I have mixed feelings about letting the PC wade through water like that. Actually, I guess overall I like it; it's a nice touch you don't see too often in action RPGs, in most of which water is simply an insurmountable obstacle unless the PC has a boat (as I assumed it was supposed to be here when I played the demo RPG). I guess my only reservation—aside from the unfortunate bug that allows wading PCs to get stuck—comes from the fact that water does make such a convenient obstacle; in fact, like I mentioned above, in planning out the map for my game before I realized the PC could wade through water I'd intended the water to initially block the PC from going north from the starting map. I guess I can put some invisible blocks preventing the PC from wading too far in the water, both preserving this feature on the map and preventing the PC from going in deep enough to fall victim to the bug and get stuck.

That doesn't explain the bit about walking through the pier, though. As it turns out, that has a simple explanation: the pier isn't actually a "Ground" tile, but a "Lower Object" tile intangible to the PC. The demo RPG had used the "pier" graphic as a bridge and it had seemed to work well enough, but on examination that was only because it was so short; the river was narrow enough at that point that the PC didn't sink into it. A longer bridge suffered from the same issue as the piers.

So I guess this was... a bridge too far.  (Hey, I'm trying to come up with a caption for each image, but they can't all be gems.)

Like the fish animation, this turned out to be simple enough to fix... that is, it took me a long time to figure out how to fix it, but once I did it was very simple to do. All I had to do was edit the tileset and change the "Collision" setting of the pier tiles from "None" to "Flat (32x32x0)". VoilĂ ... now the PC walks on piers and bridges instead of through them, and all is right with the world. Though, again, this is something that really should have been fixed before the template was released.

And the PC will no longer walk amid the pier... or should I say, pier-amid.  (Okay, that caption's even worse than the last one.)
It may seem like I'm complaining a lot, but honestly there's a lot to like about this system. Unfortunately, it has a lot of problems. Like I said, it seems the creators really should have run it by more beta testers before releasing it. (I was about to add that at least for freeware it was understandable that they didn't take too much time for beta testing, but then I remembered that 001 isn't freeware; they do charge money for the pro version.  Yeah, they really should have done more testing.)  Still, I think it should be possible to make a good game with 001.

I'd planned on getting more into the actual mapping in this post, but I think it's become long enough I probably ought to save that for the next one.  I have quite a bit to say about 001's mapping capabilities; there's one very nice but very poorly documented feature, and two features I think the system is sorely missing. But all that'll wait till next time... which I really hope will be before next Saturday.

1 comment:

  1. Finally caught up! I look forward to what you will create, and what you think of them. I kind of think you are being a bit ambitious with each game, but hey, it is your blog.