Not a lot of words for this update, just a really big trailer video! Check it out; it shows bosses, enemies, dungeons, cutscenes, puzzles, environments, and original music!
Let me know on YouTube what you think of it!
First things first, I've had a huge gap in time between now and my last development log. I sincerely apologize! The work on the game never stopped, I just had my head down. I'll do better. But there are some exciting things going on in development for me!
My approach to developing Courier, as you may have previously read, is non-linear. In other words, I didn't start with the beginning of the game and I didn't start with areas adjacent to one another in the story progression. I worked on what I was most motivated to work on to ensure I was always making progress. That makes showing the game a challenge, of course, but I at least get to see the volume of stuff created. Well I'm finally to a point where I can put these pieces together. So no, I'm not done making all of the content for the game, but I can finally string long portions of the game together. This has been wonderful for me finally playing through big chunks of the game. It makes my own bugs quite frustrating, though, but I think that's common to all development.
One big change, though, is I redid how every non-playable character (NPC) in the game works. I use Spriter by Brash Monkey to animate all of the characters in my game--it's been wonderful. Well, they recently came up with a faster rendering mode for characters, and I finally converted everything over to using character maps ("clothes") on the same NPC object instead of multiple NPC objects. So that took a while, but it cuts out a lot of unnecessary code and improves performance, so I'll take it.
Lastly for this update, is a fun mistake. During my reproduction of the NPCs, I forgot to include part of what was needed for the Knight characters. I did, however, apply the appropriate animations to the characters. You'll notice that I re-use the skirt object from female characters and make it the shield for the knights. That's cool and all until you end up with half-naked blonde chicks guarding your town. Or is that cooler?
Priorities, am I right?
You may have seen this character in-game a couple posts ago in the video feature about the beginning of the game. This is your classmate and friend who gets her Royal Courier certification with you in the beginning. She's assigned to the next town over from yours and pops up in various ways throughout the story. She just doesn't seem like a good fit for her job, though. Lorin can cause a stunning amount of damage with a simple envelope, but a ways into the story, she finds something that may suit her a little more.
She, along with a couple other key characters, provide help to you throughout the course of the story in various ways. This friend certainly means well, but she might cause a few more problems than she really solves. Only time will tell. Keep a look out for a video feature dedicated to her, and be sure to check out how to help the game out on Patreon!
Learn about some of the texturing techniques I've used to build Courier in the newest video feature! This one's a bit more educational, but you get to see some of the neat ways I can make all of the environments in the game. You learn some ways to use blend modes, bump mapping, multiple layers of textures and more! Want to see something different for a video feature? Support development and you can request it! Patreon. I've also been having live one-on-one video chats with my patrons discussing anything from game dev life management to specific techniques in Construct 2. Come join us!
This time around we get a look into how the story begins in the game. We see a battle scene (still in progress) between the Knights of Veilend and neighboring combatants. We see a fiery struggle, but the Battle Mage class of knights overpowering their enemies. This misuse or abuse of magic is central to the plot of Courier. Fast forward some decades later, and we're introduced to the castle town of Veilend and a young Royal Courier-in-training preparing for their final exam and talking with their longtime friend and classmate. Your journey begins here, but check out the rest in the video! As always, you can help development on Patreon and request the next video topic.
Here's another video feature showing how my maps are made for Courier using Construct 2. It's a sort of hybrid method somewhere between tile-based mapping and fully hand-drawn that gives Courier a look all its own. Don't forget, you can help pick the next topic and help development with my Patreon campaign! There, you can request what my next video feature is and even earn a Steam key for Courier upon release! I'll be posting some patron-exclusive content on there soon, too, so don't miss it!
Remember that devlog I did on magic? See it in greater detail and in motion now in my new video feature! You can also support development on the game with Patreon! There, you can request what my next video feature is and even earn a Steam key for Courier upon release! It also should provide you with ample supplies of good karma, I suppose.
Even though you play as a mail carrier in Courier, you do end up getting some neat magic abilities throughout the course of your adventure! I'm not going to reveal every ability you get in the game yet, but I'll tell you about three of them. The first, which you can see in the trailer I posted last time, is a short Blink (that means 'warp' for those not nerdy enough). You hold down the right mouse button on PC to aim what direction you'll Blink, and let go to quickly warp there. You are temporarilty invincible from this, it speeds you up for the [very] short duration of the effect, and it lets you clear small gaps. The shockwave from it will also impact nearby objects.
The Blue Flame reveals hidden messages.
The second power you unlock is the Blue Flame. This lets you see hidden messages, clues, and directions scrawled across the landscape. It's vital to look for information around you that might help you out. Often, this will give you the solution to a specific puzzle. These hints aren't limited to dungeons, though! You'll find hints scattered all throughout Veilend, so check stuff out!
The Green Flame shanges the world around you.
Oh, look! A bridge.
Lastly, the third power you get in the game is the Green Flame. This one also clarifies things in the environment, but it physically changes things around you. This includes adding/removing objects around you, removing walls, or revealing hidden pathways in the environment. But this isn't just a visual thing—pathways and walls may or may not be there at all without the flame. Be careful, though, because this could reveal extra hazards around you too!
I've been hard at work on Courier for a while, and it's time to show off some of this gameplay in action! Check out a brand new, all-gameplay trailer for Courier!
It's got a little bit of a lot of portions of the game, but, of course, I couldn't fit everything in that I wanted to show! There's much more coming and I'll be showing it off right here on the devlog! Keep checking back to see all the new stuff!
Here's a look at the boss for the first full dungeon you encounter in Courier. This dungeon is ocean-themed, and you acquire a pretty neat ability within it! The specifics of that ability will have to be saved for another devlog, and I'm not going to spoil how to defeat the boss, but it makes for a neat battle! You get to square off against a hybrid sea turtle that shoots fireballs, energy beams, and spawns aparitions.
Cute little turtle! Who still needs a name...
He (or she?) has a few modes of attack that are varied between. He makes himself known from the start as soon as you land on the platform. He'll periodically hop up on his perches (there are two) and fire his main attack—a fast-moving energy beam—in your direction. It will scorch the ground and inflict a nice amount of damage if you get caught in it. He also swims under water around you in circles firing off fireball potshots at you. They're weaker than the energy beam, but there are more of them, and they come from more directions. Lastly, don't step in the fire in the middle of the stage. But why is it there? Oh, you'll see.
Bubbles! And death!
The battle will likely have some tweaks along the way including some more eye candy, but it's essentially complete as-is! The first dungeon is done from start to finish including the environmental puzzles to gain access initially. There are some really neat things in there, so I hope you're looking forward to it! I'm now in heavy development of the mine dungeon. It is a hybrid town/dungeon, but more on that in a later log!
Also, a bit of good news! You'll be able to see an updated build of the game in motion next week when the new trailer is released! Want to find out stuff as they happen? Follow me on twitter @Adam_Creations. Want to make a request or suggestion for my next devlog? Send me a tweet, and I'll do my best!
Water is an important element of the landscape to me because it provides easily-understandable boundaries for the player. As a mail-carrier with a huge, heavy bag, it makes sense that swimming isn't recommended. As such, I can effectively use water as a clear gameplay element. But if I'm using water, it ought to look neat. Courier is a 2D game in a 2D engine, so photorealistic water wasn't a realistic (or wanted) goal for the game. Nice-looking water with some flare, however, was.
A nice day at the beach, huh?
Depending on the environment, you'll see environmental reflections, distortion, and some nice coloring through the world. It also make night-time play something extra peaceful since you can see the stars reflected in the water. Waterfalls are also a prominent fixture in the landscape, but I wanted them to be more than a repeating texture. These waterfalls move and pour in some really neat ways. They're all over the first dungeon, and a key location in the plot is tucked away after a waterfall segment.
Behind the waterfall
For anyone curious how the waterfall effect is pulled off, here's a brief runthrough. I have a single waterfall sprite that is spawned in, stretched, and moved over time repeatedly. The aggregate of all of these waterfall objects is pasted onto a seperate rendering layer where a shader is applied to give it that familiar distortion. The un-shaded version is still present behind the shaded version, so it gets warped with the landscape to make some nice patterns of aerated water and artificial specularity. It's a simple technique with a sort of medium gpu-cost, but it goes a long way in bringing the world to life. Mist and ripples are added to the surrounding landscape as appropriate. You'll get to see it all in motion in the upcoming new trailer! Check back to see it soon!
A peaceful raft journey
I wanted to share a little bit about how I'm introducing players to the world of Courier. I
opted to play on a semi-standard trope of the role-playing genre because it seemed the best way to get the player into the game world quickly. I suppose I'll share how the game begins and my thinking for how I got there. At the opening, there is a brief cutscene of wars and fires with some contemplative text setting up a mood. It cuts to decades later in a peaceful castle town (you don't start off in a remote village!) where you, the hero, are about to complete your final exam.
All final exams are in a water-filled room, right?
Why the school trope? It's simple. The familiarity of it allows me to bypass lengthier exposition. There's plenty of story to tell in the game, but it should not be at the expense of the players! I don't want to frontload everything and greatly delay when the player can actually play the game. The exam serves as a type of tutorial, but it's set up like one room of a traditional dungeon with multiple stages of puzzles to reach the ending. Upon completion, you stumble into a puzzle in the school on the way out that teaches you to use your environment. The player has then been eased through the basic controls and stylings of the game and are prepared as they exit the school and enter the town.
The starting town is full of things to do, people to help, and places to go. You don't have to do any of it at this point if you don't want to. If you want to move the story along, by all means, go ahead! There's nothing to stop you at this point. But, should you choose to stay and invest in the area, you'll be ahead of the curve when this area is re-opened up to you in a later portion of the game (yes, you get trapped).
So, should a player choose, they can be through the intro, tutorial, and first area into the main portion of the game in probably 10-15 minutes. Or they could spend an hour or so doing whatever they want. This all builds your status as a Royal Courier which will help you out a lot long-term. Some people won't trust you any other way.
After a brief introduction detailing a bit of the history of the land of Veilend, you start off the game at the as-of-yet-unnamed Royal Academy in the capital city of Veilend. You are to take your final examination to earn your mail carrier's license. The test is of the physical sort—you have an obstacle room where you must deliver a letter at whatever cost! It's also a good tutorial on the mechanics of how you play. But I wanted to show a bit about this academy as a setting.
Hub-like entrance to the academy.
Upon completion of the test, you head back with your friend to get ready to leave the academy to set out on your first assignment. Upon entering the dormatory (different for whichever gender you choose), you find out the door is locked. You are trapped and must find a way out. Of course, you use some of the stuff you just learned in the previous tutorial to escape.
Fancy dormatory. Showers to the South, mysterious switch to the North.
You end up riding a floating laundry basket out (because those exist!) and wind up in the basement of the Academy. The laundry room is located down there, but it's a bit darker and wetter than the rather nice-looking building above it! Notice the chests? Of course, this is an RPG, so you're expected to go nosing around in stuff that doesn't belong to you!
Dark, damp, and bump-mapped.
The academy serves as your starting point in the adventure. It briefly teaches you the basics and sets you out on your adventure into the capital city and beyond. You'll re-visit the academy at least one other time in the story, so don't forget about it! Also, while you're there, you find out your friend is heading off on assignment the same time as you to a different location. Your paths will intersect plenty of times in the story. She's a bit more high-strung and might not be quite as converted to the pacifist Courier lifestyle. I'll formally introduce her later, but for now I at least want to mention that it's important to me to have females represented as quality characters in the game and not just subjects of romanticism. You can play as a man or a woman in the game, but the cast of characters should be treated as if they are functioning individuals with actions and reactions.
A hallway. Like a hallway, it leads places. Intense.
So I'm launching a new developer log about my progress on Courier. Courier, for the uninitiated, is a 2D Action RPG where you play as a mail carrier in a fantasy world. It is not a game about combat, though. In fact, you can't attack! Rather, it's a game about overcoming your environment while enjoying a unique world.
In-game map. Compare to the next screenshot.
Enough about that. Courier has been in development for a while. I'm a one-man team. So not a team, actually. Why would I make something so ambitious by myself? Firstly, I truly enjoy making the game. Making the game is more fun to me than nearly any other hobby I've tried! So there's no burden. I don't feel like I've "worked" a day on the project. Actually, promotion is work. But the rest of it isn't! Also, I've yet to meet someone who would match my stylings or type of development. And that isn't to say I haven't met people better than me or anything; there's an entire industry of more talented developers out there. I just haven't found anyone who would be a great partner on the project. And splitting profits is demotivating when putting any financial possibilities at the end of the tunnel.
The coastal region of the overworld, zoomed out to show more.
I had a big push to get Courier out there for public viewing and promotion. I prepared videos, screenshots, materials, factoids, information, interview stuff, contacted nearly a hundred media contacts, and did a thorough job spreading the word about Courier. That failed. In fact, it probably backfired. As much as I want to think it was, apparently Courier was just not ready to show. Very few people were excited about it and it seemed essentially no one but myself was spreading anything about the game (I know some of you did!). I'm not blaming this on fans or anybody. I'm blaming it on myself for not adequately communicating the quality and promise of the game. Part of this was because some of the features that people would prefer to see weren't ready to show off. I also have not developed Courier linearly so any demo I made would be potentially disjointed and confusing to people. You dev, you learn, I guess.
As such, I've been pushing to work on the beginning portions of the game now that so much else is done. I consciously chose to not start with the opening to the game solely because I knew I would get better as development went along, and I didn't want peoples' first experience in the game to be the weakest. Ideally, you would make your first area last and blow it out of the water! It won't be my last thing, but it is significantly further into development, at least. And once the opening areas are done, I can give Courier the much stronger showing it deserves.
A section of the castle town, the capital of Veilend. Zoomed out, of course.
So in Courier, after a brief introduction, you start off at the end of your mail carrier training about to be tested on your abilities. It's serious business. You'll eventually exit into the Veilend captial city to be sent off on your adventure. Grandiose camera sweeps, big music, birds flying and the like as you set off on a ferry down the river. That kind of thing. You'll meet your journey-long friend in the beginning, a fellow classmate. This is the first of a few characters who will be key to your adventure. You'll also meet a thief and a warrior a little later on among others. You may be happy to hear that there will be no Navi-like assistant to nag you in your ear, by the way.
I'm heavily working on building the castle town and academy that serves as the backdrop for the opener to the game (which you'll revisit later, so they needed built soon anyways). It's an interesting area because large portions of it are surrounded by water, so you use boardwalks to traverse between them. The western side of the town includes natural terraces that provide some further depth to the area. It's a busy area with many characters to interact with, and it will be home to some bigger moments in the game.
I hope you enjoy my devlog! Be sure to follow Courier on Twitter with @couriergame to hear more along the way!