First Resident Evil Domination fanfilm trailer is out! I am doing soundtrack work for the film, which you can hear near the end of this teaser.
It’s time for Towards The Pantheon’s 11th devlog! You can find previous ones at http://www.connorlinning.com/ttp.
We’ve made a lot of progress this week and things are getting even more exciting! Our pixel artist Leandro released a new Youtube speed art video showing his creation of our initial main character portraits.
This week he has been hard at work on more character portraits, as well as tiles and sprites that we needed to fully begin level design since we’re now past the initially scripting stage and are building levels. We currently have a placeholder title screen and intro sequence and are creating levels starting from the beginning of the game. This means that all the elements of the game we have been working on since the start of the summer are finally coming together, and after enough levels are created the team will begin playtesting demo builds. Here’s a gif of the placeholder title screen I put together in 2 minutes – don’t worry, the final result will look much nicer!
Since it is now autumn, we thought it would be appropriate to reveal a new area of the game with a screenshot featuring Phenez and Bam:
We’ve also uploaded two new soundtrack demos ‘Homesick’ and ‘Horror Sound Design Test 1’. The ‘Horror Sound Design Test 1’ track is completely improvised and shows my experimentation with unconventional production techniques trying to create unique sounds for the horror chapter of the game.
Some people have asked about the tools we have been using to create the game. For pixel art, Leandro has been using GraphicsGale. The engine we are using is GameMaker: Studio, and for audio I use a mix of FL Studio and Sonar X2. My favorite VSTs include Rob Papen’s Blue-II, reFX’s Nexus, Spectrasonic’s Omnisphere, Linplug’s Albino, Image-Line’s Morphine and many more. I also use live guitar, bass, vocal, and drum recordings, along with my KORG Karma and Roland JV-2080 synths.
I thought for the second half of this devlog I’d talk a bit about Towards The Pantheon’s influences.
The Silent Hill series springs to mind immediately – I can still remember listening to the Silent Hill 2 soundtrack for the first time and deciding that I must become a soundtrack composer and game developer. One of my favorite things about those games is that they are often more than just horror games. Silent Hill 2 can be enjoyed on the surface as a great horror title but underneath that is a great love story that explores themes that game developers often shy away from. With Towards The Pantheon, I want people to be able to enjoy the game as a great RPG on the surface, but also be able to look deeper and think about the various themes and questions that have inspired the storyline, lore, and character backstories.
Paper Mario 64 has been a huge influence on Towards The Pantheon in various aspects. The game broke away from many RPG cliches such as the earth/wind/fire/water elements being the basis of the combat system, having potions as standard items, and each party member had unique battle and overworld abilities. Similarly, Towards The Pantheon does not have the earth/wind/fire/water element system, does not use potions as standard items, and each party member has unique battle and overworld abilities. Instead of potions, I included Green Tea as a healing item and our teammate Nicolas suggested adding Coffee based on one of our in-jokes. My memories of playing Paper Mario 64 are also what influenced me to make Towards The Pantheon instead of making another survival horror game. Of course, one chapter of Towards The Pantheon is heavily inspired by survival horror games.
In my previous devlog I mentioned author Yukio Mishima as an influence for our characters Mishima and Phenez. His work, along with the works other authors such as Osamu Dazai and books like Stephen King’s The Shining are what led me to make Towards The Pantheon a personal game instead of a standard RPG. This made me think of including the Fire Emblem style dialog system where you can listen in on character discussions and gain stat boosts. This allows me to explore the characters more in depth than classic RPGs and create as much character development as I can. As far as movies go, The Shining, The Divide, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo have been big inspirations for the horror chapter of the game. Anime and manga are also a big influence. I’m trying to catch up on reading Attack On Titan as Leandro is dying to talk about what has happened in the manga past the end of the anime’s first season!
At the end of the day, I am trying not to be overly influenced by other games when it comes to Towards The Pantheon. Instead of looking to other RPGs for ideas, I am trying to look at other media and the personal lives of our teammates for inspiration. I hope this will result in a more unique game for you to enjoy!
That’s it for this week’s devlog. If you enjoyed it, please share it around and follow the project on social media! We just made a new Instagram account for the game so be sure to follow us there!
It’s time for Towards The Pantheon’s 10th devlog! You can find previous ones at http://www.connorlinning.com/ttp.
This devlog is going to be split into two parts; the first part is about our progress this week, and the second part contains some more info on our main characters.
Our pixel artist Leandro has begun making videos where he shows the (sped up) process of creating pixel art for the game! We plan to release one every week or so, and each video will also contain Towards The Pantheon soundtrack demos as well as some of my original music prior to starting development of the game. This first video shows off his work on Towards The Pantheon’s logo! This week he has also completed more tiles that will be used in areas we have yet to reveal.
On the scripting side of things, I’ve gotten quite a bit done. Items can now be used in battles, a battle escape mechanic has been added, you can buy and sell items at shops, and I’m currently working on saving and loading your game. Last devlog I said that I will most likely begin working on levels and the actual game by the start of November, but if this pace continues I may start before then. I haven’t run into any serious obstacles yet, although at one point I wrote some terrible code that made my framerate drop to 30. I quickly fixed it and have it running well above my goal of 60. After that incident I spent some time refactoring and now my code is more efficient and even easier to work with than before.
I haven’t made any new soundtrack demos this week (as I’m pausing most soundtrack work until I have a handful of finished levels) but I did get to release the main theme I made for a homebrew Dreamcast game called SLAVE. Check it out on Youtube!
Bam the cat is based off my real life cat Bam. Bam is known around our house for being silly and goofy which caries over to him being the comedic character of the game. Bam is a law student who is tired of studying and wants to go on an adventure just like I did when I began coming up with Towards The Pantheon during my final year of university. His adventure involves saving his and other civilizations while my adventure turned out to be creating Bam’s adventure! I want the player to instantly know the type of character Bam is the moment he or she steps into Bam’s house. The way of doing that is through both the music and visuals, so check out my current soundtrack demo of Bam’s house on Soundcloud! I’m going to be buying my real cat Bam a green scarf for either Halloween or Yule so that he can cosplay as himself. Instead of a standard HP/MP system found in many RPGs, each character has a unique system in Towards The Pantheon. Bam has Health Points (HP) and Energy Points (EP).
Freyja follows the trope of an RPG protagonist being mute, but part of her backstory is that she’s a warrior without confidence. She is praised by her friends and family for her skills but she hasn’t found that confidence within herself, which is the cause of her silence. Her opportunity to prove her skills to herself comes when she is called to journey towards the pantheon. She is the first character you control in the game, and is the most traditional RPG character as far as battle system and gameplay mechanics go. Freyja has Health Points (HP) and Stamina Points (SP). The norse godess Freyja (from which the name is taken) coincidentally had a chariot pulled by two cats, and cats are one of the many races in Towards The Pantheon. Since the game is heavily based around my personal life and interests, there is often a lot of purposeful as well as coincidental overlap in the game.
Phenez and part of his backstory are based on a friend of mine who committed suicide a year and a half ago. This summer I was listening to the audio book of The Hobbit while driving at work. I had never asked my friend why he had named one of his music projects Eikenskaden (which means Oakenshield), and when the character Thorin Oakenshield was introduced I immediately wanted to ask if The Hobbit was an inspiration. The next second I remembered that I am not able to ask him. Dealing with the passing of someone who I admired as a musician for many years and later got the opportunity to befriend and make music with has been very difficult. I started wondering what it would be like if we were somehow able to contact those who had committed suicide since the act leaves so many unanswered questions. This was a big part of what would become Towards The Pantheon’s fourth race; a tribe of ‘ghosts’ who had committed suicide but still exist as they have some form of unfinished business in the world. The full backstory of Phenez is fictional and not based around my friend’s life, but the general theme of the character is. When I had yet to meet my friend, I thought of him as a musical legend since very little was known about him or his personal life. After I became his friend I got to know the man himself. Now that he is gone, him and his music are almost mythical to me. The character of Phenez is my way of dealing with the loss of a friend. This tribute to him is my way of saying thanks, something I wish I had said more often while he was here. Phenez has Health Points (HP) and Necro Points (NP).
The character of Mishima was initially inspired by concern over the well being of another friend. Eventually I found overlap between that and some social/political issues as well as some of my views on society and people, and that formed the basis of the character.
Having mentioned that, Towards The Pantheon is not an overtly political game. Some of it is inspired by world history and political/philosophical issues, but I have never liked games or music that push any political agendas. I prefer to leave any questions or themes open ended, so that the player decides for his or herself what the answers are or what meanings can be found (if any). For example Silent Hill 2 can be enjoyed on the surface level as a horror game, but if you look further into its themes of love and violence you can enjoy it in a completely different way. I want Towards The Pantheon to be enjoyable as a game in and of itself for those who want a good RPG while also have a lot of depth and content for those who like to dig deeper.
Mishima is half human and half machine. Parts of her society believe humans to be inferior and that it is an insult to technological innovation for her not to replace her organic heart with a computer chip. Her name comes from the Japanese author Yukio Mishima who wrote ‘Confessions of a mask’. Some of the themes of that book, along with the title and the fact that Yukio Mishima committed suicide in 1970 influenced various aspects of both Mishima and Phenez. Mishima has Central Processing Unit Points (CPU) and Graphics Processing Unit Points (GPU).
Bam has come inside for the night and he wants to play, so that means this is the end of this week’s update! In future devlogs I may write more about the game and my influences and inspirations. If you like these devlogs, please follow the project on social media and help spread the word!
I made the theme song for upcoming Dreamcast/Homebrew game SLAVE! Check it out:
I’ve also contributed soundtrack work for VR Escape Room game A-Escape which currently has a demo available on Steam, as well as soundtrack work for 2D RPG Linked Worlds which has a demo available on Gamejolt. Be sure to check them out!
It’s time for Towards The Pantheon’s 9th devlog! You can find previous ones at http://www.connorlinning.com/ttp.
We’ve had a very good week of progress in the Towards The Pantheon camp! The focus of the week has been on game mechanic scripting, so let’s dive right in. I’ve gotten functionality working for the player inventory, stats screen, options menu and for picking up items. The current UI has placeholder programmer art that will change when Leandro and I go over it further along in development. Here’s a gif that shows picking up an item (green tea) and using it (to heal some HP):
I am taking my time scripting everything in the game so that it is as easy to use as possible. When adding a new item into the game, all I have to do is fill in some variables such as name, sprite, and value (what happens when used). Similarly when adding a new enemy into the game, I just have to type in some information and it all works!
I fixed up the NPC pathing mentioned in last week’s devlog so that you can stop an NPC and have them turn to face you and talk. Here’s a gif of that:
In the options menu you can increase or decrease the volume levels of music and sound effects (as seen in the following gif using sprites of Bam’s head), exit the game, and soon I will add functionality for saving/loading the game and remapping keyboard and controller configurations.
This week has been extra exciting as it feels like all the scripting I have been doing is really coming together. The core gameplay of any turn based RPG – battling enemies, finding items, leveling up – is now there and working! I remember the excitement of the first time I played Chrono Trigger and found a power tab, or the first time finding a super block in Paper Mario 64 and being able to give a stat boost to a party member. Being able to walk around my test level, pick up some protein powder, and give a +1 attack boost to Freyja was a fist-pump-the-sky moment for me. That was an exciting and fulfilling moment!
My plan is to have the rest of the gameplay mechanics completed by the end of the month so that I can start working on the actual game itself in November. Leandro is currently working on more enemy sprites and forest region tiles so that I have everything I need for the first chapter of the game. We’ve shown off some more villager portrait artwork over social media during the last week, but in case you missed it here they are:
I haven’t done much soundtrack work this week but you can listen to the current 20 demos on the soundcloud playlist. I did make new music for our friend Jesper’s Scrap Galaxy teaser as I am the soundtrack composer for the game. Be sure to check it out!
I’ve been working full time on Towards The Pantheon for the last month and I finished my last part time shift yesterday which means between now and next summer I will be doing only game and music work! I’ve been average around 40-60 hours a week working on Towards The Pantheon and I’m hoping to increase it now. Before the next devlog I plan to work on the leveling up system, which is similar to the weapon upgrade system in Dead Space, as well as implementing shops, battle effect shaders, and a few minigames.
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!
It’s time for Towards The Pantheon’s 8th devlog! You can find previous ones at http://www.connorlinning.com/ttp.
I missed posting a devlog last week as I was working on the game itself and didn’t want to be taken away from that. Over the last two weeks, we’ve gotten a lot done! I livestreamed some work on music and just recently Leandro and I livestreamed pixel art and programming work. We had it set up so that you could see both our screens as well as both our webcams, and I worked on adding features (and fixing bugs) to the battle system while he worked on NPC portrait art. Be sure to follow my Twitch channel so that you can jump in and hang out next time we go live! Here is some pixel artwork Leandro did of a Terrorforce soldier:
Here’s a first look at some artwork for some forest region NPCs:
I’ve worked on a few new soundtrack demos that aren’t quite at the level where I’m comfortable adding them to the current Soundcloud playlist. For this devlog however, I’ve uploaded them to instaud.io so you can check them out (and hopefully send me some feedback!) The first is an ambient track that has some instruments playing a 4/4 loop while others play a combination of 6/4 and 4/4 loops. The second is a potential boss battle theme. It currently does not have any melodies or chord progressions as my focus was on rhythm, bass, and ambience. Aside from the classic Sega Genesis drum sample, the drums sound a bit too modern and will likely be replaced when I return to work on the track.
I’ve also released some wallpapers for desktops and smartphones to the game’s main webpage! Some are of single characters and others are of all the characters together, so you can choose what you like best. Pixel art wallpapers will come in the future as well.
I’ve also worked on various programming tasks, such as Phenez’ invisibility mechanic, more battle system mechanics (enemy attacks & AI, entering/exiting battles, ability to cast healing spells, etc), and more. I’ve also changed the dialog system so that I can add descriptions in between characters talking (ie. *Freyja pats Bam’s head.*) in case I want to use that. I’m currently working on fixing some NPC pathing, the inventory system, and adding emotes during dialog (similar to Golden Sun) should I decide to use them.
Our first teaser video for the game has just passed 1K views after two weeks. Thank you to everyone who has checked it out and supported the project, we really appreciate it! Please keep spreading the word about the game!
I’ll cut this devlog short so I can get back to programming! I’m looking forward to finishing up gameplay mechanics so that my focus can shift on building levels and the’ actual game itself’ that will end up in your hands. Seeing the project slowly but surely come together is very exciting, since I’m not making any compromises and it’s going to be exactly the game I want to make.
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!
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.
Maerel has also finished up new artwork for the characters Bam and Phenez!
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!
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.”
“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.
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.
A 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!
The 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
Find more info about 2D RPG Towards The Pantheon HERE!