Developer's Log - August & September 2022

Hello everyone,

First off, I apologize for delaying August's report until now. August and September have been challenging months for me, as I've had some big projects to take care of at my day job and other things in my life that have interfered with development.

The good news is these things are starting to slow down, and I'm getting back into the groove of things. I have a lot of cool and exciting things to share about Legends of Astravia's battle system in this log that I hope you find interesting.

In the end of the log, I will have a little bit of real talk™ regarding the game's roadmap, the challenges with completing it, and more.

Overworld - Fixes & Features

Overworld traversal and exploration is a pillar of Legends of Astravia, and so time spent improving the player's experience in this area is always worthwhile.

I received a lot of positive feedback regarding how smooth controlling Oliver on the overworld felt--a result of the game's "gridless" movement that feels closer to Chrono Trigger and Golden Sun than the tile-based movement of the classic Final Fantasy games.

However, the system had some severe performance issues, made some unusual use of disk read/writes for the collision tables, and also caused great difficulty with handling dynamic objects--the final issue very much required fixing for puzzles later in the game.

The new system now performs much better, has less bugs, and permits doing all sorts of creative things with interactable objects:

Most importantly, dynamic layering of "multiple levels" that is much easier to accomplish with this new system:

All of the lovely Golden Sun-inspired puzzles I had in mind can now be a reality. I can't wait to share more map progress soon!

Battle System - Bugfixes, UX Enhancements & More

The battle system got a lot of much-needed love these past two months. After compiling player feedback from the demo, I finally was able to achieve some quality of life improvements, features, and enhancements that brings the battle system closer to where I want it to be for the final game.

Input Interrupts No More

Those of you who played the demo know this too well--the battle system is exciting and interesting, but the "turnless" gimmick quickly became frustrating whenever you were interrupted while selecting an action

A lot of the solutions I thought up for this problem removed the fluidity that the "turnless" system offers. However, I was able to devise a solution that feels good and stays true to the system's original design:

[Media deleted: Please check out the dev archive for the game's visual history!]

If a battler is "ready for action" while the player is actively choosing an input for a character, the time bar will slow down and the battlers will wait until the player is done inputting before proceeding with displaying animations. It is much less jarring and a lot more tactically interesting than the way it currently is in the demo.

Hold Improvements

The "Hold" mechanic was created with the following consideration: "What if the RPG 'defend' command wasn't useless?" But I noticed a lot of players still had trouble understanding how to use it, and the benefits for healing were unclear.

Now, the character in a "Hold" state will gently and consistently heal after a short time period. This eliminates the awkwardness of needing to wait for actions to occur to get the benefit of defending.

State Display Improvements

Many players were rightfully confused by status ailments and buffs. It was very unclear as to when a buff was added or removed to a character in battle. That has now been improved:

Additionally, states are time-based now, and all of them wear off after a certain period of time instead of after "turns" (which was rather arbitrary). This will eventually be indicated on the UI as well.

Targeting Improvements

Another gameplay issue noted from watching people play the game. If you attempted to use a revival item, or healing item, it would default to whoever was using it--making this pretty problematic for quickly trying to heal another character.

The targeting system was completely revised, and now special state-based targeting is available. Using a revival item, for example, will auto-target the dead character instead of the very much alive one. This may apply to other things like special buffs, healing items, and certain skills as well.

Other Little Things

- The Time Bar's underlying code was refactored and improved, both in performance and stability
- The display for battle state on the time bar was improved
- Various animation timings were improved
- Animations no longer randomly lose SFX, and damage numbers display with better timing
- Any button cancels "Hold" now--which makes it a lot easier to navigate
- Escaping battles actually displays an animation for a couple of seconds now
- Fixed a bug (feature?) where there could be a "critical evade" or "critical miss"
- Caught a couple of nasty bugs that could result in the game crashing to desktop
- I'm sure there's more but I'd be listing a commit history at this point

The Reality of the "Solo Indie Dev"

Disclaimer: I try to avoid being serious and talking about these challenges that are common and my own business to sort out. However, I do know quite a few indie developers--or perhaps people who are just interested in the process of game development--read these logs. And so this section will hopefully make those who feel a similar way feel some solace.

When I released the demo in February, I had anticipated at this point--the end of September--that the final beta for Chapter 1 of the game would be ready, and the game would release in November.

Of course, while I've made a lot of cool changes and progress... I am not anywhere near that point yet.

A hard lesson I still haven't quite learned in the past several years that I've been working on this game is that it is incredibly challenging

 to have a consistent production schedule as a developer who:
- Works alone
- Juggles a full-time day job alongside game development
- Has no budget / pays for all assets out of pocket
- Is a human being (I think) who gets sick and experiences burnout sometimes

Being a "solo indie dev" is a superhuman task.

While I did not get to achieve the goal I set, I have to constantly remind myself that the game will become what I envisioned it to be in time, and that I must be patient with myself so long as I continue to do it the "hard mode" way.

And so, at this point, the game will continue to have an unannounced date, "releasing when it is ready to release", as I develop it at the pace I am capable of. Perhaps I can locate an opportunity that will permit me to get the development support that I need to achieve these goals in a timely manner. However, as long as we are currently living in a difficult time (i.e. pandemic, record-breaking inflation) that demands prioritizing stability, this may be a hard thing to find.

Those of you who follow the game's progress and read these developer's logs every month--I really appreciate you, and will persevere for you as you continue to be so understanding and willing to wait for the game we both wish to see released.

Thank you, as always, for your continued patience and support.

- Jaiden

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