Delta A.R.C. Devlog - Dec. 2 2018 - Backstory, Current Progress, and Some Images


TL;DR 

  • This game is still being developed, and I'm doing lots of revamping and new stuff.
  • I won a gold medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing awards for the demo version of this game (yay!)
  • There are a bunch of cool old concept art pictures and some sneak peeks of what the game is looking like now at the very bottom of this post. 
  • Follow me on Twitter @SparklightG !

Introduction

So... I haven't really said anything about this project other than what's written on its page. I feel like I should give this game some backstory and tell people what's going on with it, since it's been 6 months since I posted this demo. Not that anyone's really following this project, but I feel like I should post this for future reference, in case I forget what the game used to be like.

The Backstory

I've been working on Delta A.R.C. for over a year and a half now. In that time, a lot's changed. Originally, this project was a joint effort between me and one of my friends. He and I both wanted to make a bullet hell, even though we had never really played any (excluding Undertale). We just thought they were cool. Unfortunately, we didn't communicate that much on the project, so I basically ended up taking full control of it, which he was fine with. 

Originally, the game was actually going to take place in Japan, and all the characters would be Japanese. The only reason I didn't stick with that was because my friend whom I was working with didn't like that idea; He probably thought it was too weeby. Honestly, I'm glad I changed it from Japan to the Daybreak Kingdom (which is still basically Japan, but fictionalized to give me more creative options). Of course, some of the characters' names are clearly Japanese, and some of the text in the background of the Neon City levels is in katakana. In fact, the Japanese characters' names all have meanings. For instance, Amaya Sasaki roughly means "helpful night rain" or something like that, based on the kanji it would be written with. I'm not entirely sure though; I don't speak Japanese. I just kind of scrolled through a lot of names on behindthename.com for a long time and picked out some that had somewhat relevant meanings. It probably won't come as a surprise that this game is influenced by anime and Japanese games as well, especially considering that the bullet hell genre really became popular with the Touhou series. 

Even though I haven't played any of the Touhou games, I watched some footage of some of the levels to get ideas for bullet patterns. The bullet patterns were probably the hardest part of the game to program. Of course, they're not all hard-coded; I basically made a bunch of preset types of bullet patterns that can be edited with a custom editor I made in Unity. It's not the most sophisticated or easy-to-use system though, so I might update it. User-friendliness may be important, but so is developer-friendliness! 

The story behind this demo version of the game is sort of a silly one. The demo wouldn't even exist if it weren't for the Scholastic Art and Writing competition that my digital art teacher always tells his students to enter. It's a big national art competition. A few years ago they added a game design category, so I had submitted a game (Redux, which I actually created specifically for Scholastic) a couple years ago. Unfortunately, Redux didn't win anything, not even at the regional level, but it wasn't that great of a game anyhow. Anyway, the next year (2017), I was already working on Delta A.R.C. when the deadline for Scholastic started to approach, so I decided I would submit it. The only issue was that I had mostly been working on programming gameplay elements like new bullet patterns and the repulsor cannon, and I hadn't actually made any levels. So, I basically rushed out the demo version (this version!) of the game in like 2 or 3 months. Most of the character designs and animations, and all of the levels (maybe excluding some of the training missions?) were done in that time period. I actually won a Gold Key (which is the highest regional award, which sends your work on to the national competition) and a Gold Medal (the highest national award) for the demo, and I got to go to NYC for a ceremony at Carnegie Hall. It was pretty neat, although I'd been to NYC a few times before, so it wasn't as special for me as it was for some of the kids who were there, I'm sure.

What's Happening Right Now

Enough backstory! I'm gonna talk about what I'm actually working on now!

First of all, I've completely redrawn all the old characters in a new style. On the one hand, the new style is very anime-esque, which could turn some people off, but on the other hand, the old style probably would've turned wayyyyy more people off because it was just painful to look at honestly. Seriously, if you want to see some bad character art, play this demo. I've also been working on drawing some new characters. There are pictures below of a couple of the revamped designs.

I've rewritten all the dialogue. It's actually a funny story... I accidentally deleted all the dialogue I had written because I changed the way it was stored, so I was forced to rewrite everything. That was probably a good thing, though. I changed the way it was stored again recently, so now all the dialogue is just stored in text files, which is just easier to deal with (and less likely for me to accidentally delete everything). I've been working on making the story more interesting and longer. I haven't actually made any new levels beyond those in the demo, but I have written some dialogue for unmade levels.

I've done a bit of optimization on my code. It's still not perfect, especially when there are a lot of bullets on the screen. I probably need to instantiate all the bullets I'll need in the entire level at the beginning, instead of making an expandable pooler and letting it instantiate new pooled bullets when it needs more.

I've been working on making the UI look nicer. I recently discovered Unity's Content Size Fitter, which is really nice for making the character names display in perfectly sized boxes during dialogue. I also changed the system for displaying characters during dialogue. It's not noticeable to the user, but I made the characters' faces stored in a separate file to decrease how much memory was being used (previously, the different faces each had an entire body attached to them, so there would be a file with a bunch of duplicated bodies with differing faces).

Now I just need to keep working on drawing new characters and making new levels. I should probably also redo some of the backgrounds...

Images

Anyway, I wanted to share some images from development.

 I have some old character designs from back when my friend was still part of the project. These were drawn by me:

Here are some Sayuri designs. These were the first designs I made for the game. The second image is her second form that she turns into halfway through her fight (though that didn't make it into the demo).


I also have this old picture that I guess was supposed to be the main character Amaya? Not really sure on this one.

A little later I made some concept cover art to put in my game design document:

That one isn't so bad, and I might use a modified version of it to promote the final game. Could be kind of nostalgic.

I've also got some screenshots and stuff from the way the game currently is. I don't want to share too much, but here are just a few peeks at what I've been up to:

First of all, here's a shot of Lan's new design. His is the one I'm the least happy with, so it's probably going to undergo some changes at some point.


Here's Amaya's new design as well, and the new text system. It mostly looks the same, but as you can see, the name box fits the length of the name instead of being longer.

Here's Tetra and some dialogue.

And here's a shot of some gameplay from one of the training missions. Just thought I'd throw this in since it has a redesigned background. Looks much nicer, I think.

There's much more that I've added, too, but I'd rather not share everything. 

If you read the whole post, congratulations. I know it was super long. Maybe it wasn't super interesting. Honestly, I wrote this more for myself than anyone; I really like looking back at old projects so I thought I would at least make some documentation of the development of this one, as it is the biggest, most challenging, and most long-running project that I have ever attempted.

Conclusion

Please look forward to more progress on this game, as well as a release of the final version at some point. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year. I'm not sure. I'm going to college next year, so maybe I'll have a little more free time to work on this since I won't have classes every single day.

You can follow my game dev account on Twitter @SparklightG where I occasionally might post interesting things about Delta A.R.C.'s development process, or maybe other game development related things. I just made the account recently, so right now it's all just posts that link to my games on itch.io, but more content is coming soon, I think.

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