Towards The Pantheon Devlog #7: First Teaser Video

It’s time for Towards The Pantheon’s 7th devlog! You can find previous ones at http://www.connorlinning.com/ttp.

On Wednesday I released the first teaser video for Towards The Pantheon. It contains 50 seconds of basic gameplay footage, the logo, some artwork, and 75 seconds of music for the game. Check it out!

The purpose of this teaser was to give an idea of what I want to do with Towards The Pantheon. I love comfy games like Harvest Moon and Rune Factory, but also love darker games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil. I love dark ambient music but also love music with a strong sense of melody. The game is still in the very early stages of development, but I am pretty happy with the teaser and I look forward to making future teasers as well as a full on trailer closer to release.

Leandro has been hard at work completing more of the pixel artwork needed for the game. Lots of our current assets can be seen in the teaser, but he has also worked ahead on things we have yet to reveal. Most of the compliments regarding the game so far have been on the visuals, and that’s thanks to Leandro! He has also reworked Bam’s dialog portrait sprite and we are much happier with this version. Here are the dialog portraits for our 4 main characters Freyja, Bam, Mishima, and Phenez.

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Maerel has also finished up new artwork for the characters Bam and Phenez!

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As far as scripting goes, there’s not much of interest to report. I’ve done some refactoring and bits of coding while finishing up the teaser video and promoting the game, but now that the editing of the teaser video is over I look forward to having more scripting things to show off in the next devlog.

Five new tracks have been added to the Soundcloud playlist of soundtrack demos. These include “Save Your Game”, “Together In The Future”, “Teaser Video 1 Music”, “Allowed To Dream Again”, and “Bam’s House”.

“Save Your Game” was an attempt to create a Resident Evil save room style theme. In retrospect I’m not happy with my choice of synthesizer patches, but I am happy with the section after 1:10 when the piano has dropped out. What I’d like to do is write a central melody for the save room theme and have variations of it for each area of the game. I also had the idea of making that into a mini album similar to Ulver’s Lyckantropen Themes album. I love how that album is based around a few themes and everything weaves in and out of each other.

For “Together In The Future” I experimented with some different synthesizer patches and chords that I don’t often use. Each chord is a fifth with the ninth on top, and with the synthesizer patches I was trying to mix a bit of chiptune with a bit of VA11 HALL-A influence. If you haven’t heard Michael Garoad Kelly’s music, be sure to do so! The “Teaser Video 1 Music” track is pretty explanatory. “Allowed To Dream Again” is based on a guitar riff I wrote half a year ago. It is an attempt to make some music that sounds a bit more uplifting and hopeful. “Bam’s House” shows my Paper Mario influence. With it I tried to make a track that sounds goofy and comedic so that when you enter Bam’s house for the first time and meet him, the music already introduces you to his character.

That’s it for this week’s update! If you like what you are seeing and hearing, please follow the project on social media and help spread the word!

Follow Towards The Pantheon on: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Soundcloud, IndieDB, Twitch, Google+, Imgur, Pinterest

Follow Lead Developer Connor O.R.T. Linning on:  Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, Soundcloud, Twitch, Bandcamp

Game development and archaic elitism

When you become part of the game development community, a recurring question you hear is some variant of “How do I get started?” or “What are the ‘right’ tools or languages to learn?”

I’ve also heard the same type of questions over and over again in the music scene. The answers are usually pretty good and straight forward. You choose the instrument that appeals to you the most, check out some tutorials and some basic music theory, and thrash around until you either fall in love with it or find out that it isn’t your cup of tea.

Now imagine if a newcomer asked a respected musician how to get started, and this is how the conversation went:

“I want to learn to play guitar and play in a band. Where do I start?”
“Well, first off, you’re going to need to learn how to make your own guitar from scratch.”
“What? Really?”
“Not only that, but you’re going to need to create your own recording software similar to Pro Tools. Don’t use Pro Tools. That’s for sellouts.”
“Are you sure? I just want to play music and write some albums.”
“Come on, a real musician will make his own instrument and recording equipment. Don’t take the easy way out and only learn to play the guitar. Trust me. You’ll be such a better guitar player after doing all of this.”

Never once have I heard a conversation as remotely asinine in the music scene as this (and considering the conversations I’ve heard between drugged up musicians during my time playing in bands, that’s saying quite a bit). Yet I see this kind of bizarre elitism in almost every conversation about learning how to become a game developer. I think this does a great disservice to the community at large.

The roots of “game engine elitism” are understandable. Back before GameMaker, Unity, Unreal, and all other engines were available for everyone to use, it did matter what engine you chose. It did matter whether you or your engine programmer where the next John Carmack, or just someone writing average code. It mattered how well your code was optimized because otherwise you weren’t going to be able to fit even a simple 2D game on a floppy disk. Even if it did it would probably drop frames to the point that you would have to restart your computer to exit the title screen. Back then these game engines weren’t free for everyone to use, which meant that to become a game developer you had to also become a game engine developer.

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The entire scene around game development and the accessibility of entering game development have changed completely, yet due to this elitism we still give poor advice to newcomers. We often tell them to begin making small games like Tetris (to learn the basics of code and the process of finishing projects), while also telling them that to do so they must be learning how C pointers work and how to render triangles in OpenGL. What would have taken a day or two in Unity or GameMaker just became a month long crash course in software engineering. Most newcomers probably quit before they even figure out how to make the Tetris clone. How does this benefit anyone?

The majority of games that require incredible low level wizardry are the multi-million dollar AAA games that are pushing consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One to their absolute limits. The games that most beginners should begin making aren’t going to be pushing our PCs to the limits any time soon (unless they are writing code like this work of art).

When I began learning game development, the first thing I did was grab a book on C++ (because I fell for the trap that engines are for posers). Luckily I actually enjoyed learning C++ to the point that I could recreate a level from the Gameboy Color version of Harry Potter: The Chamber Of Secrets and run it on my Gameboy Advance using a flash cart. However I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of engineering work it would take to make a Gameboy tier game, especially when you consider everything else that needs to be done such as game design, art, and music.

overlooker2A screenshot from my second game Overlooker 2

Eventually in 2015 I decided between semesters to sit down with GameMaker and make a basic game. 22 days later, I finished Overlooker, a Gameboy Color styled survival horror game. The game is far from perfect and far from what could be considered a commercial product, but it was a huge personal success. Not only that, but I felt like I’d learned more about actual game development in 22 days than I had in all of my time up to that point learning C++, as well as during my software engineering courses at university. When I had another 20-30 days between semesters, I made Overlooker 2 which was another big step up as the length of the game was longer and I added features such as an inventory system and save system. Having released these two games has given me the confidence to start up my own game development studio and begin working on my first commercial game Towards The Pantheon. I’m having a ton of fun!

pantheoncharactersThe main characters from my 2D RPG Towards The Pantheon

For someone who was more interested in the game development side of things than the game engine development side of things, it can’t be overstated how big of a deal it has been to use an engine like GameMaker instead of doing the lower level work like in C++.

What I think we should be doing is encouraging people to dive right into actual game development – basic scripting in popular game engines that allows them to see results quickly. Have them tweak variables and add small features to their projects to feel the excitement of having made a small game. It doesn’t really matter whether they choose Unity, GameMaker, Godot, or any other popular engine. What matters is whether they find out if they enjoy the process of making games. That process is much different than learning how the OpenGL pipeline works, or trying to figure out if they should use C and C++ instead of Java or C#. The worst scenario for a newcomer is the dilemma of trying to decide between SDL or SFML because they fear they will shoot themselves in the foot 2 years into development… before they’ve even begun their first full game.

This isn’t to say that people should be discouraged from digging deeper than the surface of game scripting. The opposite is true; people who naturally enjoy the software engineering side of game development should be praised and encouraged. We wouldn’t have the computers, the consoles, the virtual reality HMDs, the game engines, and so much more that exist today without the amazing work of software engineers. They are the mad scientists that enable game developers to do what they do. If someone wants to start from scratch, that’s perfectly fine and to that I saw run, don’t walk. But I think we are doing the future of game development a disservice when some of us look down our noses at people who start off using game engines. I think it would be better for newcomers to actually focus on game development than to risk having newcomers drop out because they got dragged into game engine development by elitism. When newcomers are told they aren’t “real game developers” because they are using game engines, we may be doing the equivalent in the music world of pushing away future James Hetfields from picking up a guitar… and I don’t think I need to tell you that there’s a very sad lack of bad ass rock musicians in our world today.

– Connor O.R.T. Linning
09/17/2016

Towards The Pantheon Devlog #6: Beginnings of the battle system

It’s time for Towards The Pantheon’s 6th devlog! You can find previous ones at http://www.connorlinning.com/ttp.

I began working full time on the game 10 days ago and have been having a blast. I’ve been working on the turn based battle system, which will be the most complex chunk of scripting created for the game. Here is a gif showing the basic setup of the battle system, along with a few backgrounds and enemy designs:

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There is clearly lots of polishing left to do, but my current focus is on getting the functionality down. I’ve decided to place the characters on the left side of the battle field similar to placement in Paper Mario. You can also see that each character has a unique subsystem that differs from the standard HP/MP systems in most RPGs. I will go into more detail about these subsystems in a future devlog. In the gif there are repeated enemies in each battle, but this is because we only have one completed enemy for each area as Leandro is focused on creating more important pixel art for the game. In the full game, you will be able to battle multiple enemy types at once and there will be multiple original enemies for each area, as well as boss battles.

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I have finished basic attacks for each of the main characters and am now moving onto enemy attacks. Once that is completed, I will be working on healing spells and status ailments. I have been taking a lot of care in how I am scripting the battle system as unlike my work with my previous games Overlooker and Overlooker 2 (which were made in 22 and ~30 days respectively), I will be living with this code for the next year. I have also made sure to design it so that when a large chunk of code is written, it can be easily adapted for similar uses. For instance, after completing the code for a fireball attack shot from Mishima’s cybernetic arm, I was able to add a poison attack that Phenez can cast in under 5 minutes.

Leandro has also been working hard to create NPCs for each region of the game. Here’s a screenshot of some villagers in the first region of the game:

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Maerel has also completed artwork for Mishima and is currently working on artwork for Bam and Phenez:

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There are 4 new soundcloud Soundtrack demo tracks including “Sanity?”, “Thoughts By The Campfire”, “City Of Charcoal”, and “Stargazing”. Sanity? shows some experimentation trying to get a Silent Hill 1 sound that may be used in the Survival Horror influenced chapter of the game. Thoughts By The Campfire and Stargazing are drone / dark ambient experiments that may be used in portions of the game where the party is resting for the night and exchanging dialog. One of the most important story elements of the game for me is character development and there will be moments in the game where the player gets to listen in on conversations between the party members. There will be random bits of dialog the player can choose to read (similar to Fire Emblem) as well as scripted moments where the party sets up camp for the night and (hopefully) enjoy each others company. Some of my favorite late nights have been with my friends while listening to dark ambient and drone music by musicians like Akira Yamaoka, Fennesz, Ulver, etc and I want to create similar feelings in the player while playing Towards The Pantheon. City Of Charcoal is an experiment mixing chiptune VSTs, retro drum samples, and modern synths for a later area of the game. Looking back, I think the drum loop could certainly use some cymbals/hi-hats.

I am a huge fan of survival horror game soundtracks, and those often include elements of drone, dark ambient, and noise music. Most RPG games (especially those during the SNES and Genesis era due to hardware limitations) often have very orchestral and classical soundtracks. While I enjoy that kind of music, I am experimenting and trying different things for Towards The Pantheon’s soundtrack. A contention I’ve had with other soundtrack composers is that I find the trend for game soundtracks to move towards as realistic as possible orchestral sounds rather boring. I think part of what made the Resident Evil 3 soundtrack or the Mirkwood project by Austrian musicians Silenius & Protector so enjoyable is the fact that their orchestral patches sound synthesized. This gives the tone of their work some originality.

When you look at more extreme forms of electronic music, you can find some of the most original sounds possible as there is so much you can accomplish with modern synthesizers, whereas a violin is limited to sounding like a violin (unless of course you use plenty of effects afterwards, but then it might as well not be a violin anymore). I am trying to create some unique musical sounds for Towards The Pantheon that will match the plot, characters, and areas of the game. There will certainly be (synthesized) orchestral style sections, but I am trying to avoid that in favor of other genres I enjoy when possible. If you know of any 2D Pixel Art RPGs that have very unconventional soundtracks, please recommend them to me!

I have been working 10-12 hours a day on Towards The Pantheon and along with plenty of exercise, part of the schedule I have set for myself is taking time to sit back and watch movies, play video games, read books, and watch anime. This is to help avoid burn out throughout the year as well as to gain new inspiration for Towards The Pantheon. I’ve watched Evil Dead, The Exorcist, The Sixth Sense, and Halloween all for the first time and am halfway through reading Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. So far it seems that Metallica’s …And Justice For All is the album I am looping the most while working on the game along with Resident Evil and Silent Hill soundtracks, but I am also listening to lots of classical vinyl I have never heard before.

That’s it for this devlog! Livestreaming will begin at some point when I am working on parts of the game that do not take as much concentration as the battle system. This will be announced on the game’s social media pages, so be sure to follow for daily updates! Please help promote the game by sharing info about it on social media and with your friends. Thanks for reading!

Follow Towards The Pantheon on: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Soundcloud, IndieDB, Twitch, Google+, Imgur, Pinterest

Follow Lead Developer Connor O.R.T. Linning on:  Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, Soundcloud, Twitch, Bandcamp

Towards The Pantheon Devlog #5: Fulltime development begins now

It’s time for Towards The Pantheon’s 5th devlog! You can find previous ones at http://www.connorlinning.com/ttp.

Full time development for Towards The Pantheon begins now, and new devlogs will be posted once a week! This devlog will be short and sweet, showing off some progress in the art department.

First off, Leandro has been hard at work finishing the logo for the game! He has also made great progress in pixel art that will be shown in future devlogs.

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Secondly, Maerel has finished up some artwork for our silent protagonist Freyja!

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Be sure to check out her artwork on Deviantart, Instagram, and Twitter!

And lastly, here are some new screenshots.

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Tomorrow I will spend 10 hours working on the battle system, so there will soon be animated gifs of the battle system in action! I look forward to writing a longer devlog next week after a lot of focused hard work. Livestreaming will begin again during September, especially when working on music.

If you enjoyed this devlog, follow the game and us developers on social media for more frequent smaller updates!

Follow Towards The Pantheon on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Soundcloud, IndieDB, Twitch, Imgur, & Pinterest!

Follow lead developer & soundtrack composer Connor O.R.T. Linning on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, Soundcloud, Twitch, & Bandcamp!

Follow artist Leandro Tokarevski on Facebook, Twitter, Tok Arts Media, Twitch, & Youtube!

Thanks for reading!

Towards The Pantheon Devlog #4: Portraits and Enemies

It’s time for Towards The Pantheon’s 4th devlog! You can find previous ones at http://www.connorlinning.com/ttp.

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I have been mostly scripting the past two weeks. If you click the image above, you can see a gif of Phenez moving through one of the snow region cities with snow and mist effects. I added more basic mechanics such as roaming animal AI, the dialog system having a typewriter effect, and I am now working on the battle engine. Click the image below to see the typewriter effect as well as roaming chickens in a test level!

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Leandro has been working hard on the game’s art, here’s the first sneak peek at an enemy designed by Kyle Mountifield and myself for the game:

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I’m still not going to reveal much about the enemies and battle system until it’s fully implemented, but when it is I will be posting lots of animated gifs. One thing I have said though is that each of the four characters have their own unique battle mechanics that will make battling more interesting.

We’ve also shown some of the dialog system portrait art by Leandro for the four main characters Freyja, Bam, Mishima, and Phenez. We have various facial expressions for each character so that they change along with the tone of the dialog.

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I have uploaded two new soundtrack demos “Nightshade” and “Battle Music test” on the Soundcloud playlist. The playlist will soon be reworked so that only tracks that are being used in the game will be featured. Many of these tracks were just sound design demos, but they may reappear in different forms in the games if I want to reuse the melodies. I finally feel like I’ve figured out more of the sound design and how much of a mix there should be of chiptune and modern synth elements in the soundtrack, so further along in development I will begin working harder on the final music.

A new collectible system has been added to the game that also effects the battle system, but I will reveal more about that when it is fully implemented. When developing past games like Overlooker and Overlooker 2 I have tried to always decrease the scope of the game wherever possible instead of increase it. In this instance, once I thought of the idea and realized how easy it would be to implement I decided to go for it as I have already decreased scope in other areas. Since I will wait to reveal more about the system, here are some new screenshots. Click on them to view them full size!

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This will be my second last devlog before I begin working on the game full time at the start of next month! After the next devlog I will begin streaming more of the game’s development on Twitch, so be sure to follow me there and subscribe for updates as to when I go live. I will also begin writing devlogs weekly instead of bi-weekly, as I will be making much more progress. Besides roughly six part time shifts throughout September, I will be working full time on the game all the way until Summer of 2017 and I am very excited. See you next time!

If you enjoyed this devlog follow the game and us developers on social media for more frequent smaller updates!

Follow Towards The Pantheon on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Soundcloud, IndieDB, Twitch, Imgur, & Pinterest!

Follow lead developer & soundtrack composer Connor O.R.T. Linning on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, Soundcloud, Twitch, & Bandcamp!

Follow artist Leandro Tokarevski on Facebook, Twitter, Tok Arts Media, Twitch, & Youtube!

Thanks for reading!

Towards The Pantheon Devlog #3: Comfy Progress While Sippin Green Tea

It’s time for Towards The Pantheon’s 3rd devlog! You can find previous ones at http://www.connorlinning.com/ttp.

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Click on the above image to see some effects!

I’ve been working on various scripts for the game. Above you can see a gif of Bam the cat walking around the mines with some basic fog and lighting effects. I will most likely make the fog more pixelated to match the art style in the future, but the main idea is there. You’ll also notice he is standing on minecart tracks. If I have time during the game’s development I’d love to make a minecart mini game!

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Leandro has been hard at work finishing up the basic tiles for each area of the game! Here you can see new tiles for the sewer area and the insides of the forest region houses, and below you can see the insides of the viking houses that the cats live in. This means that we now have basic tiles for every area of the game. We now have a good idea of how the game looks, which allows Leandro to move forward with working on more of the art assets that are needed!

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I’ve also been working on falling snow and mist effects for the snow region. There is still some work to do to make the effects fit better, but below you can see my first bits of progress. I will be continuing work on this during the next week and will post a new gif when progress has been made that looks better. The snow and mist are programmed so that I can increase and decrease the intensity as I see fit which will provide some variety throughout the region.

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Click on the image to see the snow and mist effects!

In Towards The Pantheon there are cute hamsters that you can ride to quickly travel between areas called the Speedsters. While exploring the different regions of the game you will come across rare tokens which unlock each Speedsters’ service, adding their station to the list of nodes you can travel to and from. This will drastically shorten the time you would have to spend backtracking through parts of the game. I began working on the theme for the Speedsters so check out the soundtrack demo on Soundcloud!

Leandro has also begun working on character portraits that will be used predominately throughout dialog, and I’ve begun implementing the dialog system. I still have work to do in making the dialog box more appealing to the eye, as well as possibly adding more sub-features such as a typewriter effect, but the basic implementation is working!

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Click the image above to see progress on the dialog box!

I’ve ordered myself some books on both European and Japanese culture and mythology to do further research, as two of the regions of Towards The Pantheon are heavily inspired by these cultures. It’s not a coincidence that two of the main characters are named Freyja and Mishima! I’ve also ordered some more green tea so that I’ll be able to drink plenty while working on the game full time starting sometime next month. I’ve been sipping green tea and listening to Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Golden Sun, and Super Mario soundtracks while working on the game so far and I can’t wait to work full time on this! Everything has been coming together quite well and if all goes according to plan I will have the first two chapters of the game complete before the end of the year. I can then send off the demo to my friends who have offered to playtest the game and get feedback while working on the remaining chapters.

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A view of the main test level from inside GameMaker Studio!

I’ve also made an Imgur album to post progress in so if you frequent that site please follow and show some love.

That’s it for this devlog, the next devlog will be posted roughly 2 weeks from now.

If you enjoyed this devlog follow the game and us developers on social media for more frequent smaller updates!

Follow Towards The Pantheon on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Soundcloud, IndieDB, Twitch, Imgur, & Pinterest!

Follow Connor O.R.T. Linning on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, Soundcloud, Twitch, & Bandcamp!

Follow Leandro Tokarevski on Facebook, Twitter, Tok Arts Media, Twitch, & Youtube!

Thanks for reading!

Towards The Pantheon Devlog #2: Laying The Foundation!

It’s time for Towards The Pantheon‘s 2nd devlog! You can read the first devlog “Getting Started!” here.

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New area reveal; a dystopian cyberpunk city!

For the past two weeks, a lot of basic scripting for the game has taken place. Essentially I have been copying over and refactoring scripts from my previous games Overlooker and Overlooker 2 that are the foundation for the overworld mechanics. This includes things such as textboxes that pop up when you examine things such as signposts and bookshelves, an options menu that lets you exit the game, the ability to switch between the four main characters, basic movement, collision, and more.

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Each character has unique overworld mechanics

I did encounter one of the most bizarre bugs I have ever seen. For the textbox I was using GML’s draw_rectangle() function to draw a semi-transparent black box over half the screen so that the text on top would stand out more. When I tested it, objects such as trees in the overworld would disappear while cycling through the textbox, and then reappear when finished. I changed the depth of the textbox object and saw that for some reason GameMaker was taking the tree sprite and drawing stretched versions of it over the map. I have absolutely no idea why it would do that instead of drawing a rectangle, and it’s even more bizarre considering that it was the same code I had used for textboxes in Overlooker 2. I could not find anyone who had a similar bug when searching Google, so I replaced the draw_rectangle() call with drawing a sprite as the textboxes will most likely have their own artwork instead of being simple rectangles anyways. Problem avoided, but still bizarre! That is the first bug I’ve had in GameMaker that was completely baffling.

Edit 7/25/2016: Reinstalled GameMaker Studio and the bugs I had been encountering have disappeared.

pic6Bam is decorating his house with snowcats

I have been working on sound design for the game’s soundtrack, but have not posted any new soundtrack demos since the last batch. I am still having some trouble deciding on how the music should sound, but I think with the basic gameplay mechanics being implemented and artwork being put into the engine it will be easier to figure that out while playing the game.

synthsSetting up the Korg Karma (and JV2080X) for sound design experiments!

Our artist Leandro has been doing great work, and we’ve revealed two new areas that he has worked on; the wasteland (below) and cyberpunk city (above). He has been working on tiles for other areas and sprites for the main characters, and more artwork and areas will be revealed over time so be sure to follow the Towards The Pantheon social media accounts below to keep up to date!

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Testing out depth, walking, running, and recording gifs for social media

I am very happy with the progress so far considering I work a full time job, work with 2 other game development teams, and have other obligations. I will begin working full time on the game in less than 2 months, and I think I’ll have a large majority of the game’s mechanics implemented so I can focus on level creation, balancing, and playtesting. My friend Kyle Mountifield has helped me finish up enemy and boss designs, and he will be a big help in content creation and playtesting! I’m also fortunate to have some other great friends who will be helping out with playtesting throughout development.

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Phenez and Mishima in the new wasteland area

That’s it for this devlog, the next devlog will be posted roughly 2 weeks from now!

If you enjoyed this devlog follow the game and us developers on social media for more frequent smaller updates!

Follow Towards The Pantheon on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Soundcloud, IndieDB, Twitch, & Pinterest!

Follow Connor O.R.T. Linning on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, Soundcloud, Twitch, & Bandcamp!

Follow Leandro Tokarevski on Facebook, Twitter, & Youtube!

Thanks for reading!