Weekly Penguin
April 19th, 2024

April update

Sadly this update starts on a less positive note. Just when I get one health issue in order, another one strikes. These new ones haven't made me bed-ridden or anything, but they do affect everything.

If you're wondering, I don't like talking about my health etc. online for various reasons, which is why I don't go into specifics about my ailments. Never have. I just feel obligated to keep everyone up to date on the way TAGAP things are progressing. The issues are nothing lethal or embarrassing, just purely pain of the highest order.

As a home-cure for my health issues I invested into building full-on home HQ for game development, complete with an ergonomic furniture. Too bad the delivered table was a dud unit and now I'm stuck in the warranty process waiting for a replacement part. This, whilst I had already dismantled my old less-ergonomic stuff out of the way. Sans proper furniture, it's back to leaning against the wall whilst sitting on the bed. I'm sure the pain will love that.

I'm not cancelling the Next Game reveal for this year yet... but if I can't get myself back to 100% soon, I might have to. The TAGAP Day reveal is almost certainly out of the question by this point, so now I'm aiming for November. As I've mentioned earlier, I have a very specific idea in mind of how I want to introduce the game – and just putting out WIP stuff or a handful of screenshots would ruin that.

Oh well, as if any of it matters. I don't think I can come up with single metric outside of TAGAP Dev that has a silver lining for the aforeseeable future.

But speaking of TAGAP Dev...

What am I working on right now?

I recently wrapped up the alternate gameplay player entities and they turned out even better than I expected. To the point I'm even second-guessing myself if I should re-pivot the whole game – which would be stupid considering the amount of work I've already done. We'll see.

Whilst dealing with the health issues, I've gone back to working on the simple things for a while. Well, 'simple' is relative. See, I've already created the vector bases for about 50% all the enemies – all they need is to be assembled in game and then shaded and coloured in via hand. So, that's what I've been doing right now.

That reminds me, this is my sprite workflow for the Next Game;

  1. I doodle with my tablet the outlines.

  2. Re-draw them in vectors for exact shapes.

  3. Assemble the flat vector versions of the sprites in-game.

  4. If there's something that needs tweaking because it doesn't look good when animated, do the modifications to the flat vectors.

  5. Rescale the vectors to 200% the size (to 8× the 1:1 rendering scale of the game).

  6. Paint in the shapes (shading, highlights, etc.).

  7. Create the masks (lighting and glossiness).

  8. Add in the colours.

  9. Create a separate in-game variant of the 8x sprite, shrunk back to (typically) 4× size.

  10. And finally, replace the flat in-game sprites with the new shaded ones, complete with the masks.

And then the entity can be scripted, tested and marked as 'ready, needs sound'.

The biggest changes to TAGAP 4 workflow are points 1, 5, 6 and 7. Unlike all the previous games, I don't do pencil sketches any more, but draw directly with the tablet. It is a lot faster to create iterations that way, but as a downside, I'm not sure there will be enough content for an extras design gallery this time around. What is better for the gameplay itself triumphs over extras, though, so it is something I can live with.

As for the rescaling, all of TAGAP 3 and TAGAP 4 art was done in 6× the 1:1 rendering scale, so things are more detailed. This allows for better looking close-ups at higher resolutions, naturally.

And finally, the process of shading and masks has completely changed due to how the lighting is done and calculated in the Next Game. It's three-to-five times the work than before, depending on the intended use of the sprite, but it pays of so darn well when you see things in motion. I can't wait to show how it looks!

Fear not, my workflows have gotten pretty darn efficient with things over the past year. Even with three times the work, I can get sprites done in about the same time as I did with TAGAP 4. The more intense '5× the work' sprites take longer, but those are luckily a minority (not by a large margin, but still).

Playlist

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!

This, too, has suffered from my ailments – and the recent dismantling of my previous set-ups.

Anyway, I mentioned Powerslave's remaster last time. Powerslave Exhumed by Nightdive was everything it was billed to be; the best of both worlds remix of the two different releases. It's really darn good – go buy it if you haven't already. It's fun to revisit this after all these years, I don't think I've played it since it was originally launched – and even then only the PC version.

Also, it's nice to see a game that doesn't hold back on its endings, giving the most OTT alternatives for 'good' and 'bad' endings you could dream of. Well, you could try, but I doubt you'd come up with endings this nuts – I love it.

Currently in progress – and almost completed – is War Tech Fighters by Drakkar Dev. It's an interesting halfway between nuts-and-bolts component detail obsession of Mechwarrior and no-bolts-just-nuts space combat of something like Gundam. The battles are all in space, with both melee duels with other War Techs and dog-fighting against space fighters – and between the missions you can research and build more equipment and power for your War Tech.

It's simple but effective game, with nice world building touches. The story is what you'd expect, but there are a lot of clever details for space nerds – like gathering resources on a far orbit of a neutron star, trying to minimize the radiation exposure by taking cover between space debris.

If you like space battles, mechas or gamified space phenomena, give War Tech Fighters a go.

What's next?

If I get the replacement part, putting together the first ever proper dev station for Penguin DT. About time, huh? Only took me 20 years! 🤣

For the Next Game; more enemy assembling. It is stuff that needs to be done at one point or another – and it is something that doesn't require much thinking (and thus can be done even with the painkiller brain buzz).

For the Playlist; absolutely no idea. I'll just reach out to my backlog shelf and see what my hand touches. One of the joys of having a physical backlog!

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin