Though not much has been going on publicly on TAGAP and Penguin DT front, tons of stuff has been happening behind the scenes. In fact, you could say I've entered a new crunch of sorts with the Next Game, hammering away at it with great intensity. However, it has been at the cost of keeping everyone in the loop, for which I apologize. When I get into the 'crunch zone', I loose the track of time. It ain't no excuse, but that's just how my brain seems to work.
The world isn't exactly a happy place to be in – on the contrary, it is going down the crapper at record speed. Instead of witnessing the never-ending decline, I've instead again turned into an urban hermit, focusing exclusively on getting the Next Game into a playable state. I mean, it is playable in terms of mechanics, it just needs tons and tons of content before I can build the first full slice of proper gameplay.
In terms of the world going to hell, one of the great examples is the only social media I've been using, Twitter. For multitude of reasons it is clear the service isn't long for this world. Thus I'm now also on Bluesky. Same name and handle as on Twitter – TAGAP and @PenguinDT.
Or in full: bsky.app/profile/penguindt.bsky.social
The main goal is art assets for the Next Game. Since the game will be quite different, almost nothing can be recycled from the past. Even if this was a direct continuation of TAGAP 4 gameplay, the rendering engine has several new interesting features that would force me to re-do sprite work regardless.
There are several enemy factions in the next game, each faction consisting of several enemy type archetype groups. Vague, I know, but I want to avoid spoilers for now. The point is, I've now fully done one of the groups for one enemy faction. It may sound quite little for several months of work, but remember that at the same time I've been creating both the new kind of 'asset generation pipeline' and the gameplay features.
And by what I mean by that is that this first batch of in-game characters was always going to be the slowest to produce. I don't mean this only terms learning how to work with the new rendering tricks, but also more concrete stuff like attacks; if an enemy has a projectile attack, I obviously need to create the projectile and its assets first. But once that is done, it can be used by any of the enemies that come after.
For an example; one particular enemy took two whole weeks to assemble in-game. Setting up the shaders for rendering, creating the workflow for the asset generation and one week straight of creating the art. For the equivalent archetype in the next enemy faction, it took only three days, almost all of for drawing / painting the sprites.
But it is not all about enemies, naturally. Between every new enemy, I do a batch of environmental art. A few more rounds of this and I can start assembling together the first fully featured maps!
I've also done some documentation on these workflows. This, so that after the Next Game has been properly announced, I can have some in-depth 'making of' content ready to go.
Playlist is a regular feature in our Penguin DT blog; A chance to highlight cool games both old and new that I've been playing. As always, I believe that in order to make games, you need to play them, preferably with a broad scope when it comes to genres, so each day I dedicate at least an hour to actually playing games. The rest of the free time? There is no such thing, it all belongs to TAGAP!
Using game dev as complete escapism from the world, I've been neglecting the blog – sorry yet again about that – I had to take a peek into the past to see what was the last game I mentioned. Turns out it was Relayer... and I only quite recently fully completed it.
Relayer was really interesting – it is a turn-based high-sci-fi anime mecha tactical RPG. The setting is basically 'Mass Effect goes Anime with Mechas'; humanity is pushed into conflict with cosmic bad hell bent on purging the universe, and you're leading humanity's only hope, a rag-tag group of Starchildren (literally young people infused with the souls of the solar objects, just go with it).
The campaign was really good. At first the premise sounded a bit too over-the-top with star souls and the like, but it was way better written and paced than I expected. Even the visual-novel style story presentation grew on my after a while. I wouldn't mind seeing more of this universe.
After completing the main campaign, I was curious to see what others had thought of it and it turns out the buzz was way less positive than I expected for such solid game. Many folks complain of the game's simplicity and I think it is down to Relayer being one of those 'slow-burn' kind of games. The whole gimmick of the combat system is to use the full skill sets of the characters and create synergies in your tactics. However, as all characters are unlocked via story progression, it isn't until dozen chapters in until the combat system gets to fully shine. In other words, it is the case of "the Final Fantasy XIII syndrome".
If you like anime-flavoured sci-fi with big stakes and turn based combat – and don't mind long and slow-burn opening hours – consider giving Relayer a spin. It's one of the meatiest games I've played in ages, featuring a full-length, fully voiced campaign and two extra 'alternate timeline what-if' campaigns that unlock after. Once I had the whole game completed, the gameplay clock said something over 100 hours.
Then there was, obviously, Quake II Remastered. Everyone has already said their piece about it, but it bares repeating; Nightdive might be destined for the fate of the dodo thanks to their new business partners, but they sure are going out with a bang. It's everything you'd want from the remaster – and also things you didn't know you wanted, but gor anyway (like Quake II 64). Go grab it! If you had Quake II via Steam or GOG, you actually have it already.
And finally; Warhammer 40 000: Bolt Gun is something that should've been done already in 1990s and why it took this long, I have no idea. It is a retro-styled first person shooter where you play as a space marine and purge the heretics with tons lead, plasma and chainsword slashes. It is brilliant and the combat feels every bit as weighty as you'd want from a Warhammer 40k space marine. It is one of the best games I've played this year, for sure.
Speaking space marines, narratively Bolt Gun is a direct sequel to the 3rd person action masterpiece Warhammer 40k: Space Marine and – I assume – a prequel to the upcoming Space Marine 2.
In gamedev; more enemies and more environment assets! As well as TAGAP 3 update.
On playlist; this is Spooktober and though Halloween isn't much of a thing in Finland, I do use this as an excuse to binge on horror-themed games. This year I decided to start a Bloodrayne marathon, going through the entire trilogy. The series is a great mix of horror and action with fun characters, interesting monster designs and tons of Nazis to maim. In other words; good times! Huge thanks to the publisher Ziggurat for both grabbing the rights and remastering these cult classics.
And finally; more frequent blog updates, including a new Making of TAGAP 4 entry!