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Four-Legged Friends (And Foes)



Welcome back everyone! Hope your holiday season is in full-swing and you're juggling social life with the slew of new games coming down the pipeline! Holster those Red Dead pistols, put Pikachu back in his poke-ball, and step outside your Fallout shelter for a minute to enjoy this new Arcadian Atlas update!

BITE Enhanced Map-Editor

Tis the season for new improvements to our BITE engine, and this go-round we've got a vastly improved mapping interface.


What exactly is new? Well, the UI has been completely re-vamped, enabling quick, at-a-glance organization of tiles from base, half-height, height, slants, mutators, and giant props, as you can see below. There is 0 lag in the new system, a vast improvement over the previous map editor!


Organization and placement of tiles has never been simpler, with individually segmented boxes and easy scrolling through long sheets. Patrick's new BITE engine also boasts incredibly small map files, meaning our maps are now 10 times (that's right, 10 TIMES) smaller than they were before, meaning quicker loading times and smaller file sizes!


And the customization options afforded by BITE means we can now quickly sort by a few simple tile sheets, and even customize each sheet to have special properties all the way down to tile-by-tile specifications. Ever wanted to designate certain tiles land, rock, water, or other spell-related affect tiles? Now we can!


And of course, as our map editor is being improved with these new additions, we're working up new maps and exciting new biomes to battle in, just a few of those additions you can see below like some gorgeous desert staples and gnarled stumps and fall colored trees just in time for Winter:


Four-Legged Friends

And these new maps wouldn't be complete without some variety in our battlers. That's why we've been focused on our four-legged friends and foes, fleshing out animations and getting them ready for the fight ahead. Like our Kitsune Fox friend, Robert, below:


When Robert's ready to get down-and-dirty in battle, he's got those trusty fangs of his ready to tear some chunks out of people:


But there are things more fearsome than Robert (and much larger to boot). Our Forest Spirit, who I affectionately call Marilyn, is ready to walk the Forests once more, defending those sacred spaces with her life (at the cost of yours, if you're not careful):


Cruising For a Bruising

And as always we're expanding the repertoire of our classes, with new portraits and battle animations like our Apothecary and Cavalier's gorgeous art nouveau styled portraits:




Along with this we're making the finishing touches on our Cavalier's two-handed sword strike below, giving both their fighting styles unique animations:


With these new attack animations we've also been working on skill/spell animations, with a shoutout to the marvelous Pixel FX Designer program that allows us to make eye-popping pixel animations through particle systems. (You can find out more about Pixel FX Designer at David Masia's Twitter)


This extends to work on simple animations like those above for the Ranger's storing of power with Charge, and the Cavalier's Body Rush skill that damages and pushes targets away to more complex particle systems like custom graphical work with the Ranger's Arrow Rain animation below:


 Come Back Now Ya'll, Ya Hear!?


Before you run off to buy another bottle of Snake Oil or an Ultraball to catch Vulpix, Arcadian Atlas' very own shop keeper wanted to drop in and say hello. He may eat a few bugs, but don't call him out on it. He's very sensitive about those things.

Until next time all you cowpokes! Yeeee-haw!

BITE Engine



Welcome back adventurers! We've got some awesome news this go-round for not just players, but creators, so keep your eyes peeled.

But before we jump in, if you've ever wanted to see the artistry behind Arcadian Atlas live, soon you can! Becca and I have worked to get a Twitch stream set up where you can watch her live-stream art creation, from maptiles, character design, animation work, and more!


Give her a follow and keep your eyes peeled for her first live stream announcement. For more info & polls on things like preferred stream times, check out her twitter page here.

Introducing: The BITE Engine

Way back when we jumped from RPG Maker to the more expansive world of Unity, we had a vision for not just our dream game, but for a creation tool so user-friendly it could be given to anyone who wanted to make a tactical RPG (one of the most notoriously difficult genres to create).


That dream is beginning to become a reality concurrently with the creation of Arcadian Atlas. Patrick has been hard-at-work on the foundation for what we are dubbing the BITE engine enhancement - an add-on that utilizes Odin Inspector's tools to create easily-modifiable units, scenarios, skills, items, weapons, and scenes. The best part: this tool is being developed in conjunction with Atlas, meaning every benefit to the system is a benefit to the game, which includes the following:

More Power to the Game Designer - A large portion of a game designer's life is turning knobs and whistles to balance values and to create the best possible experience for the player. You've all probably played RPGs with horrid difficulty spikes, or gotten bored going hours without a challenge. BITE allows us to easily and quickly implement your feedback when it comes beta time!


Smaller File and Patch Sizes - To get Arcadian Atlas' prototype off the ground, we initially utilized Unity Prefabs. Moving to a new different segmented form of data means we can be much more efficient with the size of the game, as well as any patches we make on Steam (and elsewhere). We know some of you have internet data caps, so we want to keep file sizes as user-friendly as possible!

Advanced Cutscenes and Scenarios - We've forged a giant pyramid of stats, classes, status effects, and skills out of the prototype's design work so far. Cutscenes and scenarios (missions) rely on pretty much everything, so being clean and organized with those building blocks allows us to quickly create, reorder, and modify events.


Plug & Play Capabilities - We've re-structured the logic and data to separate it from the graphics, which is a fancy way of saying Arcadian Atlas and future tactical RPGs using BITE will require far less digging into code-bases to create and play!

Effortless Changes - With BITE's data-driven design, we can remove, add, and change everything from units, status effects, skills, missions, locations, cutscenes (or most anything else) effortlessly midway through development based on new needs and feedback!


Iconic

To celebrate BITE, we wanted to show off some of the graphics we're paring with Patrick's data-driven systems.

Iconography is an integral part of the user experience, and serves both as localization tool (because images require no translation) and ease of navigation. We love the design challenge of creating icons for our stats, items, text boxes, and menus that are at the same time simple, clean, and communicate efficiently. See below just a handful of those we've cooked up for our items:

Interior Designs & Graphics Galore

And of course behind the scenes we've been hard at work on all the graphics, from animations, items, and some drool-worthy interiors. You'll show yourself outside? Why not show yourself INSIDE you reckless warriors!

This go round Becca has been working up some graphics for house interiors and our Recruitment Centers throughout Arcadia. You can see a few of these below.


And if we zoom in a bit you can see some light pouring through new windows, and  bench for troops to sit and wait (because isn't a Recruitment Center just a glorified waiting room), and a fancy desk for processing new troops.


Of course, when you're not waiting, you're training with some quality practice dummies and an assortment of weaponry for our discerning warriors:


And when you're ready to lay your sweet head to rest, we've got a deluxe bed you could probably cram a couple of people in (uncomfortably, but this isn't a charity!) and some barrels full of wine to help the long hours seem short.


Oh, and not zoomed in on is that lil' cactus. Because we might be thrifty interior designers, but we're not animals. Get some greenery in there!


We're also putting finishing touches on our primary attack animations, ensuring all eight frames front and back are as smooth as possible. From the heavy crossbow toting Ranger above, to the gargantuan hammer our Apothecary is dragging around below, we're nearly done with all our CORE classes and their various fightin' styles!


And of course a whole slew of new items for our re-vamped BITE enabled item editors!

Next Time

We're excited to show off some of the interior maps we're working up with these shiny new graphics, the expanded Skill sections of BITE, and lots more art next time! Be sure to check out Becca's Twitch streams and our twitter pages for up-to-the-moment previews and sneak-peaks!

Until then, keep your controllers warm and your bodies cool as we end out this record-setting summer heat!

Anatomy of Animation





Welcome all you wonderful backers to another action-packed episode of Arcadian Atlas! This time around we've got tons of details from all across the game development spectrum. Whether it be animation, portraits, map-tunage, music, or behind-the-scenes on programming - you're in the right place!

So dive on in. The waters are warm and cozy!

Anatomy of Animation

Artistically, animation is the most pain-staking process of game development. It's a multilayered art, both literally and figuratively, and we wanted to give you a peak behind that process in more depth as we finalize the animations for our core classes.

Example Animation Sheet

Each core class has a list of essential battle animations, arranged in a sheet, that are consistent across classes. What's not consistent across classes? Attacks & Skills.

Keyframe Process

So when making new animations, we start with real-world examples and build keyframes from them. In the case of the above Apothecary Bottle Throw animation, I used myself as a base and built from it.
Skeletoning an Animation

New animations typically work in stages:

  • Raw Footage - a video or gif of real-world people performing the action to be animated.
  • Skeleton - the basic shapes of an animation, typically very rough. This is used to ensure the flow of the animation looks correct before detail is added.
  • Naked Base - the naked form all classes can use before hair, clothes, and other details are added.
  • Clothed - usually the final stage where all class-specific content is added to the naked base and added to that core classes' sprite sheet.

From Naked Base to Clothed

So in essence, any new animation we create is actually 3 animations, and from start to finish with the Apothecary Bottle Throw it looks like the example below:

Apothecary Bottle Throw Process

And that's just the specialized animations! We've got a whole slew of basic movements and actions to tackle.

Back to Basics

Ah, the essentials of a fight. We've got our Idling, Walking, Injured, Charging, Jumping, Flying, Landing, Death animations, and the list goes on! And remember, that's for front views, back views, male, and female troops. 48+ unique frames per class, 2 genders, 4 classes - that's 384+ unique frames just for basic animations!

Cavalier & Ranger Walk Cycles

Over the last few months we've been steadily chipping away at them, and we're happy to say we've not only finalized the designs for our male/female Apothecary and male/female Warmancer - but we've even knocked out all of their core animations! Yep, all 384+ of them!

Apothecary & Warmancer Walk Cycles

And now we move on to the specialized attacks for each class, one of which Becca's been hard at work on below:

Hammer SMASH!


Serving Fierce Face

Let's face it (see what I did there?): little Apothecary and Warmancer sprites are super cute, but sometimes we need to look a person square in the high-detailed eye and give them a good talkin' to.

Portrait Process

So Becca and I have been hard at work on portraits to go with our sprites. Because there's nothing sadder than walking into a tavern and the tavern-master won't even look you in the face. That's enough reason to brawl right then and there!

Cavalier Portrait Process

Improvements Abound with Odin

And as pretty as these lil' dudes are walking, slapping, and smashing about - a video game has to be as efficient as possible. Patrick recently upgraded our Unity build with Odin Inspector, a powerful tool that's allowed him to streamline how maps, cutscenes, and menus save data and juggle database information.

We've gone from complicated and rather ugly excel files for items to completely in-engine databases with images and separate, easy-to-read and alter fields like this:

Database Improvements with Odin

But it's not just for databases! Odin has far-reaching implications for space saving, with the potential to reduce both disk and RAM space requirements by upwards of 90%! That's huge for download size and run speed! In fact, we're already applying it to how maps are constructed and saved:

Odin's Vast Improvements to Map Building & File Size

So while we absolutely adore the animations and art side of Arcadian Atlas, this is easily what is making us most happy!

Oh, but we forgot that we're even improving how animations are handled in the background ; ). Blend Trees will allow us to better organize all of our isometric animations within Unity so that we can finish hooking it up to our unique characters and classes faster! Possibly 75% faster! NUMBERS! BIG NUMBERS EVERYWHERE!

Blend Trees to Reduce Animation Work

Tavern Tunes

But wait, there's more! We wanted to serenade you out with the latest tune Moritz is working up for our tavern patrons. Because if there's one thing you want while getting a bit tipsy (or enjoying a nice virgin piƱa colada perhaps?) it's some jazzy tunes:


Oh, and why not grab a contract to smash some more things while you're at it?



Speeding Into Summer

That's it for now, but keep your eyes peeled on our twitter page for glimpses of what's coming up in the Arcadian Atlas pipeline as we get closer to beta!

Arcadian Atlas Twitter

And we'll see all you crazy kids next time with juicy details of skills, fighting' poses, menus, and all the clockwork that makes this beauty tick!

How the Sausage Gets Made


Welcome back to another action-packed edition of Arcadian Atlas Updates, all you gorgeous backers you! This go-round we've got a sneak peak behind the scenes at our march towards beta, with the nitty gritty animation process, graphic design, and our menus as they become full-fledged in-game assets.

So kick back, relax, and breathe in nice and deep. The deluge of content is coming... now!

Dressed to the Nines

We want all our classes prepped and ready for battle, and it's tough to go to battle naked. These are just facts. Not only do you look like a crazy person, but swords and arrows are going to go clean through that tender skin.

So one of the very practical things we've been working on? Animation, and that means putting clothes on these little freaks:


Insider View: For all those who ask, Becca and I (Taylor) primarily use Photoshop and Pyxel Edit for our graphics work. Pyxel Edit is especially useful for animations, as it has digital onion skin layovers and a continuous preview of the animation as you work!


Animating characters involves a meticulous knowledge of each piece of clothing the character wears. With the Ranger, the frills on his boots and loose sleeves move independently of closer-hugging clothing like his gloves. So in action animations, there's a slight delay before those items move in relation to the rest of his clothing.


Likewise with the Cavalier, their capes are bulky and have a real weight to them, so during the jump animation you'll notice it still pulls down and drags until late in the jump.

And this year in the Arcadian Atlas Olympics, who won the high jump event? Fem Cavalier, obviously.

Designers, Make it Work

What's the most important part of the user interface? Design, of course. The look, feel, and usability of each menu needs to have consistency throughout, while still being clean enough to see all the necessary details of your soldiers at a glance.


Menu design is a harry business. From conception to execution, there are several steps we follow:
  • Style Guide - ensuring the colors, font sizes and looks mesh across menus and sub-menus, everything begins with the style guidelines bible.
  • Mockups - in order to then begin constructing menus in-engine, we template out some basic concepts in a mock-up file, similar to what's seen below. These are often messy to look at, but contain necessary details about character limits, color guides, and how the menu operates.

  • Prototyping - Patrick then begins constructing the menu in-engine, following the mock-up guidelines. This step is essential to get a feel for how the player actually moves through the menu.

  • Refinement - animation work, bug fixes, and usability tweaks are the final step to give a menu full polish. This can take place over the life of development, and the more beta input, the better the refinement process.
As you can see from the video below, the refinement process involves more than just animation work. Sound Effects and music are subtle ways to guide through a menu and set a mood, making it clear when funds have run out, purchases are made, and provide much needed chill out music after your fights.


Don't Take It Outside

And did you notice some of those gorgeous interior tiles Becca has been working up? A few shots of the WIP Tavern and Item Shop are below.



We're really excited about these interior tiles for another reason, though! We've got a few fights planned where patrons will most certainly not be taking the fight outside. Not all taverns are friendly places, after all, so look forward to a few arrows flying into a beer keg near you!


Get In Formation

As we keep pushing forward on beta progress, we'll be bringing all you lovely backers a look at the Troop Management screen - where all the skill, class, equipment, and level up magic happens, along with more music, sounds, classes, maps, and everything you've come to know and love from Arcadia. More goodies than you can shake a stick at!

So polish up those swords and brew yourself up some potions - we'll see you next time!