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The Storied Sword -(formerly Project Sword)- Dev Thread


Raftronaut

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Hello! 

Opening this thread as an information dump for Project Sword, an NES action platformer currently in development in collaboration with Bite the Chili (Gauauu)and myself. Hoping to get some conversation going about the game, the features we are working on, and the type of enthusiasm that may be out there as we work to build towards our early demo of the game. As well, hoping to document some of the development processes of the game here when possible. 

Gauauu had contacted me to see if I had an interest in providing graphic assets for a mid-size NES game that he could plug away at between releasing the fantastic Anguna and finishing the hotly anticipated sci-fi exploration game Halcyon. The latter being of special significance to my early interest in homebrew, I jumped at the chance. Gauauu proposed an action platformer inspired by the wall jumping in Sunsoft's Batman mixed with the twitchy pacing of Ninja Gaiden. Set in a fantasy setting inspired by the Princess Bride. All of this sounded like something I would be excited to play myself, so I agreed to help!

We've accomplished a number of things already, Gauauu has a wonderful 4-way scrolling engine set up to handle the larger nametables needed for batman-like wall jumping stages, as well as created some tight and intuitive wall jumping controls. Additionally, we have bank switching player sprites, DPCM percussion, some impressive palette fades, and some interesting powerups. The engine is really smooth, which is about all I am qualified to say about it since Gauauu is the programmer and I am exclusively working on assets, hopefully he can share more about the programming in the project. 

We've got some test levels set up and some initial prototypes to test game mechanics. I also went ahead and composed about 4-5 songs to get us started building the prototype. I have some concept music posted here including our DPCM samples for the proposed Titlescreen/Attract sequence: 

 

My first task on the project was developing our player character:

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I started to draw a princess via princess bride but got bored with that and she quickly became a selectable playable character as well:

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Portraits contributed by my friend and musical collaborator Steve D'eau. These are WIP

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 I started breaking down the tilesets to our source inspiration (batman, and Ninja Gaiden) as well as adding influence from games set in fantasy settings like Simons Quest, shadow of the ninja,  and Megaman 6 (knightman).

 

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*fairytale motif inspired by the princess bride:

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Iterations of the main Sorcerer villain shaping up after a little advice from Mteegfx:

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More portrait work by Steve D'eau:

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The sorcerer in his citadel:

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Supporting characters: 

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The original theme of the project has spiraled out quite a bit since I started heaping in all my TV/Film fantasy influences. I've been doubling down on watching swashbuckling/fantasy/high adventure films while I am working and have been spending a lot of time with MGM's 1962 Harryhausen stop motion knock-off Jack and the giant killer, Erol Flynn's 1938 Robin Hood film, Max Fleischer's 1939 Gulliver's Travels cartoon, Harryhausen's 1963 Argonauts, and 1973's Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and Ralph Bakshi's 1983 Fire and Ice. Of course, accompanied by the aforementioned Princess Bride. As a side note in this thread, if there are any swashbuckling/fantasy/adventure films that should be included here with this, I would love to hear about them and discuss them here. 

AS a personal note, I made a point to finish both Batman and Ninja Gaiden after starting this project, having the proper motivation allowed me to power through each and gave me a newfound respect for those games. Batman especially, what a wonderful game!  Those visuals! That play control! That MUUUUSSSSSICCCCC!!!! (partly the inspiration for using DPCM on this project) 

Again, we're moving forward into our demo phase and will be looking for beta testers and feedback from the community, so if you have any questions about the project or wish to contribute feedback to either Gauauu, or myself you can do so here 🙂

I am very clearly excited about Project Sword and look forward to sharing more with the community going forward. Keep an eye out for us!! 

 

Thanks for checking us out 🙂

-team Sword

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1-9-23 EDIT: Storied Sword demo rom is now live on ITCH: https://gauauu.itch.io/the-storied-sword 

For compatibility: Featured in both GTROM and UNROM512

Edited by Raftronaut
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12 minutes ago, ecmyers said:

This looks fantastic! And I'm always up for beta testing if you need more people.

Yeah, If you're interested, we'd love to have you. 

 

At some point in the near future, we'll be opening a Discord to deal with Beta version testing. We can keep you updated here 🙂 

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13 hours ago, Deadeye said:

Nice!  Been following and happy to see progress all up on one thread.  Especially like those sprites!

Yeah, I told Gauauu immediately after posting this that it was nice to see all this content in one place, really makes the work feel connected, rather than it all living in different folders on my dev desktop. 

It's a good feeling seeing all the pre production work done over the past year! 

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This is actually really inspiring!  My best friend of 20+ years has been loosely writing a story (dozens of 3 ring binders handwritten) since before I met him(7th grade).  We have talked about making it into a video game and I have been seriously debating on jumping into this type of game creating.  I think it would be fun to bring it into existence for people to enjoy.  Albeit I have no idea where to even start.  Keep up the awesome work and I can't wait to hear more about it.  It looks great!!! 😄 Keep up the good work!

Edited by Matchbook
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2 hours ago, Matchbook said:

This is actually really inspiring!  My best friend of 20+ years has been loosely writing a story (dozens of 3 ring binders handwritten) since before I met him(7th grade).  We have talked about making it into a video game and I have been seriously debating on jumping into this type of game creating.  I think it would be fun to bring it into existence for people to enjoy.  Albeit I have no idea where to even start.  Keep up the awesome work and I can't wait to hear more about it.  It looks great!!! 😄 Keep up the good work!

Never too late to start! If you're new to graphics and want to get started with NES development, I would drop in on MteeGFX and Frankengraphic's weekly pixel art challenge in the NESDEV discord, you can build up the assets to make a game just by following along each week. It's mostly wrapped up now I think, but seeing the weekly challenge cards and completing the objectives will have you creating most of what you need to get started 🙂

nesdev graphics discord

 

BTW, all of this artwork was produced with Shiru's Nes screen tool which you can find here: https://shiru.untergrund.net/software.shtml

 

Edited by Raftronaut
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Finally found some time to dedicate to the character select screen. I shrunk the portraits above, recolored them using only a 4 color palette, and organized them in a way that they can easily be palette shifted to greyscale. On our way now.... 

It's possible the demo could be ready in time for MGC at the end of the month. 

PROJECT SWORD SELECT grayscale.gif

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  • 2 months later...

UPDATES!!!

-Too many to list! 

We debuted the demo at MGC in April to an overwhelmingly positive response! We even roped Kevin Bayless and David Wise from the Battletoads team at Rare to take a look and even they were impressed! David had questions about how we implemented our DPCM samples in the soundtrack without interfering with the player inputs. It was amazing talking to an old Nes dev about common problems back in the day.. 

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Temporary title screen: (we needed something to be presentable with the demo)

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SO! updates.

 

-After some notes at MGC we decided to change away from the grey palette of our first stage as it doesn't create the type of separation we'd like with our Grey hero. We'll be choosing another color for the castle bricks, which will change the overall color of the first stage. 1545280956_00SWORDcastlepalette3.PNG.ee95c6265f9107dee9d6b5c922b70379.PNG

-Addressing our first boss fight. A handful of players discovered you could leap over the 1st boss and spam him from behind. We've added some exceptions to this stage to remove this possibility. 

 

-Building out Stage two:2088482921_2-1post3.png.6943f21c540381e39baeb0212d6e92fe.png

ship yard rats:

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Stage Two will be our harbor level that will progress from the docks along the breaker bridge to the lighthouse, where the stage 2 boss will culminate at it's apex. 756234798_LANTERNROOM2ndpass.gif.763cb9f365542d3f09a4fdb34c0a71a5.gif

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- Once we finish our Harbor scene we'll be moving on to our monster-infested subterranean area: 

The enemy threat level will likely be ratcheted up underground. When we shift from brigand types, to magical creatures and monsters 

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Just wanted to give a small update here so everyone knows we're still working hard on this game. 

We're still not quite ready to begin beta testing stage one, but once we have our changes made, we'll be calling on those who've expressed interest here in joining our beta team. 

Thanks for looking! 

 

 

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  • The title was changed to The Storied Sword -(formerly Project Sword)- Dev Thread
  • 10 months later...

Circling back on this thread to give some updates.

I've been relatively quiet about posting updates since Twitter took a dump, so I've been out of the habit overall. Not to mention, Nathan and I spent the last year mostly working on the End Game, so neither of us were sure how much content we should be sharing . We took a lot of feedback from our testers on team Sword and made a lot of quality of life changes to the design and included things like an easy mode, which will help accessibility. 

We've wrapped development on the game design and have entered beta testing where we've been slowly working out the bugs. The good news is that the engine runs great and we're not uncovering too many bugs, but the bad news is that it makes it harder to test/find them 🙂

We want to be thorough and deliver the highest quality game possible.  So we aren't exactly rushing to finish,  but we'd certainly like to wrap it up and release it early in 2024 (hopefully). 

I've been learning Adobe InDesign in an effort to prepare the manual layout ahead of the curve and hopefully deliver a premium full color instruction booklet with the game. Since our theme is has a book theme, I thought it appropriate to make the booklet something special to accompany it. 

Our Illustrator Steve has been cooking up some special illustrations for our box art. He has been posting some of the work he has been doing on his Instagram account, if you'd like to check it out. Steve does fantastic black and white ink drawings, which need to be colored. 

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I recruited our layout artist Arella (fresh from an internship at Disney's consumer products department) from my family. She's been hard at work digitally coloring Steve's work and designing the storybook motifs we'll be using as the theme for cover and back cover. 

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We're hoping to have the bulk of the packaging wrapped by mid-December so we can acquire prototypes early enough to film them for a trailer we'd like to make. In my previous release experience, packaging was only done after the game was finished. In this case, since Nathan and I are collaborating, He is able to focus on the technical side of debugging the game, while I am able to focus on the art department tasks. It works out quite well! 

Finally seeing the game logo I designed in NEXXT come to life via Steve's illustration and Arella's coloration is pretty thrilling for me personally. 

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Might need to put this on a ringer baseball tee 🙂

 

I am very excited about this project and eagerly look forward to sharing it with players. It's been a very fruitful collab, which has led to a much much better game than I would have been capable of designing myself. I'm just so pleased with how it's turned out. 

 

If you haven't checked out the demo, I just want to mention that Level 1 is available as a free demo on Itch: The Storied Sword Demo

We'd love it you checked it out and left us a comment about your time with it. The feedback is so crucial to improving our design skills. 

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Hoping to make these dev updates a little more frequently as we approach the launch.

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Thanks for reading! 

       -Team Sword

 

Edited by Raftronaut
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