Betrayed Alliance Book 2 Check-in

It’s a small update!

I wanted to give you a quick update detailing some of the work on Betrayed Alliance lately, and that I plan on releasing a demo soon (fingers crossed before year’s end)

So what’ve I been up to?

  • The introduction cutscene is “basically finished.” Essential animations and dialog is now finished, with only some extra touches still to be done. The music for that section is also in the works. But here is a sneak peek (listen?) of the music
  • The puzzles for the demo are now up and running and playable, with puzzle points built in.
  • The coding and implementation of the death tracker is now fully complete, and there are about 11 deaths possible to “collect” in the demo
  • More animations and text is being added every day. It’s now at the point where trying to count the lines of text is far too cumbersome a task.

While there are two or three fairly major things to put into the game/demo before I would consider releasing it into the wild, there are tons of small bugs/inconsistencies and quality of life fixes to be made. I’ve made a list, and I’m going through it to fix up the problems.

Thanks for continuing to be a part of this project. Hopefully it won’t be too long before you have something to play/enjoy.

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Under the Hood: Visual, Control, and Priority

Many people are familiar with the 16 EGA colors, but SCI0 uses these colors for more than just making things look pretty. Today’s dish will be 1 part update and 1 part dive into how SCI0 uses the 16 EGA colors.

Betrayed Alliance News:

My focus lately has been setting up the gameplay elements inside a building that the two characters get separated in. They must use their cunning to solve various puzzles and challenges, meet up together in the main hallway, and escape with new knowledge and maybe an item or two to help them on their quest moving forward.

All together there are 12 “inside” screens: 8 dorm rooms, 2 for the main hallway, and 2 more for the side halls that connect the rooms together.

Instead of drawing 8 unique rooms, however, I’ve opted to use a similar approach as some of the forest backgrounds in Quest for Glory 1, where they reused the same background only reversed as if through a mirror. Filling up the rooms with different furniture, most of which were provided for me by Karl Dupere-Richer.

Of course putting all the same images in each room wouldn’t be enough, so I had the pleasure of taking some of these and changing them a bit. Messing up the bed (or changing the color of the blanket), making some side views of the chairs, breaking the closets and tables, etc.

Additionally, I added a few other items as would be needed:

Of course simply rearranging furniture in each room won’t solve the issue that each room will “feel” the same, so I’m endeavoring to give each room its own unique twist, based on the person who used to live there, but I don’t want to say too much about that.

EGA colors and their non-visual functions:

As promised, I wanted to share a bit about how the 16 EGA colors are used for more than just the visuals of the game. There are actually three versions of each background, but the player only sees one, the visual. But there is also a Priority background and a Control background. They look something like this:

Priority:

The visual background is exactly what you’d expect: it’s what you see. The Priority background is used to determine whether to draw something visually in front of or behind another object. You’ll notice the white outline of the wall on the bottom of the Priority screen. That is to make sure that nothing should be seen in front of the wall that is closest to the screen. As you “go up” the screen, every 10 or so pixels there will be an invisible color change to determine whether the player character should be in front or behind an object. If you were to see them, they would look like this:

Control:

This background is used to determine a couple things: first, where the player can and cannot move, and second, anything else you want to do!

The color white acts as a blocked off area for the player. In this example, I’ve also made it so if you want to interact with the chest at the foot of the bed, you must be in the Silver-colored area, or else you get the dreaded stock phrase: “You’re not close enough.”

The Pink (or “Fuchsia”) is used to trigger an event when the player walks into it. And the color Red (or “Maroon”) is used to take the player to a new room when they step on it.

You can also uses both Priority and Control colors for “right-click-look,” a handy little feature that I always appreciated. Simply determine if the player clicked while the cursor is over a particular color on either of the invisible background versions and you can return a response.

I hope you enjoyed this little look under the hood. Until next time!

February 2022 BA Update

What’s new since last month?

Programming and Systems Work

I’ve been spending basically all of my time working on programming, fixing up some systems, and animations and props for the backgrounds.

What systems am I working on?

Cut scene dialog – if you’ve even accidentally clicked a past a box in a Sierra game, you know the frustration of knowing it’s gone for good and you might have missed vital information. I’ve put together a system that allows your to go forward and backward through the dialog if you miss anything.

Character Switching – Book 2 has two main characters, so the ability to switch between them in important. It’s not completely finished yet, but the basic structure is up and running just fine allowing for each character to hold their own items and retain their positions in their rooms.

Death Log – This one is actually proving to be quite tricky, but I think I’ve mostly got a handle on it. The difficultly comes with how Sierra games save and restore. When you restore, everything is set back to the previous save “exactly as it was,” so having the game “remember” what caused the death you are restoring from was an interesting challenge.

I ended up with the idea of writing variables related deaths to an external file, then reading those variables back into the game when the player restores. Sounds easy enough, but there’s more to it I won’t get into now. The good news is, that the system now works generally as it should and is incorporated into the menubar for easy access (many thanks to the help of more skilled programmers guiding me at the SCI Programming Community forums).

Battle System

The basic structure of the new battle system is now in place and the first (training) battle is complete. Future enemies will build on the foundation that’s already been established, but having the skeleton constructed now will make all the rest from here much easier to flesh out.

Props and animations

A big focus for me right now is getting things playable. A lot of backgrounds and animation work has been done and now it’s time to get some of them up and running!

That’s one way to break into a house.

Book 1 Update

Most of the work on the Book 1 Update has been done by Karl Dupéré-Richer at this point, although I have done been updating it bit by bit as his new artwork comes in and have started a log of fixes and bugs to fix for the updated release.

That being said, Karl has shifted his focus from this project to another for the time being. He has put together a few sketches for updates of a few interiors in the game and they look gorgeous already!

Besides this, there is nothing new to share concerning the Book 1 update, as my main focus is the completion of Book 2.

January 2022 Update

2021 was a great year for the development of Betrayed Alliance, and 2022 is going to be even better!

  • There will be a playable demo of Book 2 at some point this year
  • With Kickstarter funds, we’ll be getting some music for the game
  • Book 1 will be getting a facelift and musical rework
  • More? Probably!

What’s New?

I’ve taken a break from working on background artwork (spending only 1 day a week on them) as a lot of my time has been on getting rooms in the game in a playable state with interaction, dialog, system programming, and a lot of tweaking animations (both artistically and programming-wise). I’m hesitant to show much of that work as it’s more spoiler-sensitive than posting a screenshot of a background.

That said, here’s a video I did make of the last Background I worked on:

But I’m not the only one who’s been hard at work. Karl Dupéré-Richer has been working like a machine updating many of the Backgrounds for Book 1, and in some cases completely overhauling them. Here’s a sampling:

I’m in awe of his work (particularly the architecture!) No doubt he’s sharpened a number of those skills with his work on The Amazing Fix, a game where you tidy up, declutter and repair a Victorian mansion. The goal is to put each object in its place – A variation of a classic hidden object game.

Here’s to 2022! I hope all you can make it great. I know I will try to do so myself! I also hope to have more I can share next update and look forward to sharing not just details, but something to play (but I’m nor predicting dates for that)

Last 24 Hours Kickstarter Update

Great news!

The Kickstarter has been successfully funded (and actually was so one the first day, which was a huge relief to my nerves!)

We’ve also funded our one (and only) stretch goal – to update some of the artwork of Book 1 and overhaul the music to give it the same treatment as Book 2 will have. This goal will be completed only after work on Book 2 has ended, as I didn’t want the stretch goal to impede the original Kickstarter project.

Here’s an example I put together
And here’s one by Karl Dupéré-Richer, who offered to help

You can also listen to a rendition of the main overworld theme here

So now we’re in the last 24 hours (I’m sure even less when this post goes live) and here’s where things stand:

The level of support and enthusiasm for the project, both in pledges, but also in comments has been really affirming and encouraging.

We’ll be live for the remaining 24 hours! Hope to see you there!

Betrayed Alliance November 2021 Update

How’s Betrayed Alliance’s production going?

There’s a lot to say, some of it good, some of it bad, hopefully none of it is ugly. Today I want to talk about it all!

The Good:

The Kickstarter is live today!

Whether or not I should’ve put this in the “The Bad” category will be the subject of the future. But the Kickstarter has 2 primary goals:

  • To help fund the hiring of a musician (Brandon Blume)
  • To help fund the creation of physical game manuals

Full disclosure, I do not have stretch goals. If there was something I wanted to put in the game, it wouldn’t be tied to a conditional stretch goal. Any funds above the KS goal would be used to bolster development costs.

Here’s a preview of the music Brandon is preparing for the game:

Brandon’s goal is to re-orchestrate the soundtrack so that whatever the preferred playback mode that is desired by the player will be available to them, whether it’s the single-tone PC Speaker, the Tri-tone Tandy 3 on up to General Midi and the Roland MT-32. He knows it’ll be a lot of work, but he’s got the passion and the skill, so hopefully the Kickstarter is successful in this regard.

Artwork:

While putting together the Kickstarter was a big goal in the last few months, so is getting assets done, especially those necessary for a demo that I’m hoping will be ready sometime around March of 2022.

Here’s a few newer backgrounds:

Animations and Coding:

In addition to artwork assets, I’ve also been wiring up animations and some basic inputs. This requires a bit of coding, positioning of characters and props when you enter a room or make an action. While that sounds simple enough, it takes time, especially to get the animations running at proper speeds and proper placements, but overall the process is going well.

Animations:

The Bad

Progress slowed

Project work has taken a hit while getting the Kickstarter up and running, which I’m sure is a common experience. While it will help the timeline of completion in the long run (as I won’t have to compose the music myself – in a perhaps subpar way) it is taking a toll on the here-and-now progress.

Game completion date

As we get closer to 2022 and with the Kickstarter live, I want to assess the completion date goal. At the beginning of the project, I aimed at the end of 2022. When I look at all the work that has been accomplished I am happy and amazed at all the assets I’ve put together in the last two years, but also a bit staggered by the work that still needs to be completed.

I work slow. I’m consistent, but slow. I do this in my limited free time and while it is for me a happy retreat from the stresses of the day, I only have a limited time to do it. I have a full time job and 3 young children.

Bottom line, the 2022 timeline to completion I think is too ambitious. If the scope of the game was about the same as book 1, I think it’d be possible, but as it is, I think the end of 2023 is more realistic.

Again, especially with a Kickstarter and people pledging their hard-earned money, I want to be as transparent as possible.

The Ugly

Want to see something really ugly? Here’s the Kickstarter Project video (and my face! Oof!)

Until December, have a great and adventurous month!

Slatts

Betrayed Alliance 2 Backgrounds – Two Years of Pixels

Last month I “celebrated” two years of work on Betrayed Alliance Book 2. At this point, the number of backgrounds has soared way above the 56 backgrounds I had in Book 1.

We’re sitting at around 80 or so, with each one taking somewhere between 2-4 hours to make.

Here’s a nice mix of many of them for you to enjoy…and for me to post somewhere to feel good about myself 😉

I’m now on Patreon

I love making these old-school-style games that many people are nostalgic for, but it takes a lot of work! But that doesn’t bother me, because for me it’s fun and actually a nice relaxing break from “real life.”

That being said, I have lots of ideas for more games in the future! After Betrayed Alliance Book 2 I want to take a short break from finishing that series to make a shorter Adventure Game called “A Night at Snake’s Tail Tavern” which I want to be a bit of a mix of Colonel’s Bequest and Leisure Suit Larry. I know, an odd mix, but I’m loving the ideas I have for it so far.

I also would really like to eventually try my hand at a “Space” style game, but that would be after finished Betrayed Alliance Book 3 and closing the chapter on that series.

Future plans are nice, of course, but all of this takes a ton of time and effort for a guy with a full-time teaching gig and 3 small kids.

Bottom line, if seeing games like these being made is something you like, I’d love your support! Thanks!

https://www.patreon.com/slattstudio

August 2021 Betrayed Alliance Update – Lots of “News”

Summer break has come to an end and it’s back to school for both myself and my kids!

This time of year always comes with a change in routine and that always gets me anxious about whether there will be time to do things. But there always is, so I’m going to try not to worry.

Onto the update!

New Backgrounds

Current total of Backgrounds that are “basically finished” 68 of an estimated 100. Originally the plan was to have around 56 or so, the same as Book 1, but that estimate was clearly way off, most likely due to the fact that there are two playable characters, and each must have a reasonably sized chunk of forest to explore.

New Allies

You might notice a couple things in some of the screenshots as well – creatures! Actual things! This last few months a friend of mine from Twitter and Discord volunteered his talent with some creatures designs. His name? Karl Dupéré-Richer. He’s also the sole artist on Amazing Fix, a hidden object game.

Here’s a few of his designs for Betrayed Alliance:

These lovely monstrosities will feature as battle opponents, environmental barriers, and perhaps even helpers on your quest. Karl is an extremely talented guy and a great follow on Twitter, as you can see from these images and I’m indebted to him for his cooperation.

He’s even illustrated the default pose for a couple of these for combat purposes!

New Battles

Speaking of combat, with new creatures, I also decided to update the Battle System, both gameplay-wise and aesthetically. I talk more about the details here.

New Animations

Things come alive when you start integrating new characters, but even more so when animations get put in and the characters can actually do things, besides getting the “You can’t do that.” response from the text parser.

New Artwork

Also, have I not mentioned that I put together a proper game image for Betrayed Alliance Book 2?

New Music?

I haven’t talked about it much, if at all. I’ve written a little bit of music for the game, and I scored most of Book 1, with the addition of free-to-use music to supplement what I had. While I have some talent for music, I’m not feeling at peace with what I’m producing for Book 2. If the Kickstarter I have planned for November goes well, I will be hiring someone to compose for the game using the MT-32, something I know nothing about.

At this time, there’s not much more to share, but it’s on the horizon.

Overall

The game is still mostly a pile of artwork assets, scattered story notes, and puzzle scribbles, but with each new background, animation, and implementation of code, it is moving closer from project phase to game. There’s still a TON to do before it makes that shift, but the feel of it has already shifted.

Here are the past development updates if you want to see more:

Creating a Battle System Like Quest for Glory 1

Arcade Sequences in Adventure Games

Action elements in the adventure genre tend to be the exception not the rule in modern adventure games, but the early Sierra titles, especially the hybrid Adventure/RPG series Quest for Glory and the space adventure series Space Quest used them frequently.

Also, I like them!

There’s no hiding that my Adventure saga Betrayed Alliance is heavily influenced by Quest for Glory (particularly the EGA ones) series and as such I’d always planned on having a battle system.

Today I want to look at the combat system in Quest for Glory 1 and determine what it did well and what, if anything, can be improved on.

So I asked some people their thoughts: Here’s a sampling of responses:

What Quest for Glory 1 does well:

  • Balanced well over 3 different character classes
  • Difficulty of enemies ramps up with experience
  • Difficulty feels challenging, but not insurmountable
  • Except for the Fighter class, battling was a somewhat optional gameplay element
  • HUD is unobtrusive and easy to read
  • Combat is simple
  • Aesthetically appealing

Some criticisms:

  • Enemy attacks have almost no telegraphing making blocking/dodging nearly useless
  • Can be hard to tell why attacks aren’t landing.

From the responses I think we see that the combat was generally liked, but that they just ended up spamming the attack button as dodging/blocking was not really responsive or intuitive. The stats upgraded fast enough that the “attack-all-the-time” strategy worked and while there were perhaps better examples of combat, this one was good enough for the game it was in.

Since Quest for Glory is a stats based game, this design may be intended. The game doesn’t require any real twitch-type skill, but rather the stats do the heavy lifting, which at least one of my responders remarked as a positive quality as they don’t generally like arcade-style combat. That said, having stats for “dodge” and “parry” make it seem like these skills were designed for use, but from the responses I got most people end up ignoring them.

Takeaway for Betrayed Alliance

Combat in Betrayed Alliance Book 2 will emphasize a strategic block / attack rhythm where the player must read the opponent’s intentions visually. While there will be a few stats that can be upgraded, the game will not reward a reckless “attack at all costs” strategy. As mentioned by some commenters, better signposting of attacks as well as more frames of animation could be helpful.

“But I don’t like combat”

That said, for the many people who dislike arcade style aspects in adventure games, I am including a way to overcome enemies without always entering the combat arena. I want to give the player the freedom to dispose of their enemy obstacles in different ways.

This is not a concession by any means, but an intended gameplay element. There are two playable characters in book 2 and they have different gameplay styles. In Quest for Glory terms, one is the fighter class and the other is more like the thief. I’m building the game-world to allow the player to influence which of the two will be more likely to encounter the various enemies of the game (and how to dispatch them).

Combat in Betrayed Alliance Book 1

It’s a mess! Visually and game-design-wise. Just a mess.

Design:

The rhythm of battle in Book 1 is not bad. Enemies telegraph attacks (but also fake-outs) with enough time to respond. There is a cool down period on both blocking and attacking which forces the player to be more strategic. Successful blocking not only rewards the player with not getting hit, but also gives a chance at a counterattack which doesn’t affect the attack cooldown (and is always a guaranteed hit).

In this way the design of combat in Book 1 is pretty good and has a bit more to it that Quest for Glory 1’s combat, but there are a ton of problems with it too:

  • The HUD is atrocious and confusing
  • It’s quite hard for the player to heal after battle, discouraging it completely
  • There’s *almost* no reason to battle in the game at all
  • The ability to target 3 different areas was underdeveloped and clunky

From a design point-of-view combat in Book 1 is competent in an of itself, but as a mechanic in the overall game itself, it’s completely underdeveloped and useless. This is mainly due to the strange development of the game where the first 1/3 of the game was released as “Book 1,” a division that was not originally intended. The area in which combat was to feature more prominently is not available in Book 1 as it is the sole environment for Book 2. But due to this separation, combat in Book 1 rightly feels unimportant, because it is!

Combat in Book 2

The Combat system is being updated for Book 2, as combat will feature more prominantly. Both the aesthetic and mechanics of combat will change.

The targeting system is being scrapped as it’s too clunky and unintuitive.

The emphasis on blocking will still be operative as it was in Book 1, along with a cooldown counter for both attacking and blocking to avoid spamming either attacking or blocking.

With only two major actions (attacking and blocking) buttons could be freed up for different actions. I’m currently looking at using one for a short-term block that will also render the opponent more vulnerable, similar to the “perfect guard” in Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Just as in that game, this parry offers a reward at the cost of taking a risk: miss the parry and get hit unguarded, but if you parry it just right right, you get an open window for attack (and probably a 100% hit rate and likely a higher critical hit multiplier).

I’m also interested in having both a sword swing and a sword stab, each having greater applicability in different circumstances. We’ll have to see how these develop as I test things out.

What do you think can be done to make combat more enjoyable/challenging/fun?