DeskMate Homepage Flower Holder Icon v1

Interactive Flower icon for DeskMate’s homepage

Let’s take just a small break from all of the “DDnD” related stuffs, and mosey on over to another project I’ve been dabbling in, again.  Not too long ago I posted a certain business card I had created for a very special client of mine (here’s a hint, she lives with me), and in receiving it she was blown away.  Aeowen – the client mentioned – has a personal, remote side business as a VA (or a Virtual Assistant), but she still hasn’t gone through all of the motions of having a marketing portfolio (or any portfolio, just yet), and had been looking for some help.  Instead of paying outrageous prices to some other graphic designer, she came to her adoring husband and we sat down with some of her ideas, and I was able to transcribe them “perfectly” (as she said).

Since then, she has been working on a website for her business (which she calls “DeskMate”) with an amateur web designer friend of ours, and was wanting a homepage that would stand out among the rest floating out there.  I then suggested she take the graphics from the front of her business card, and use them to create an interactive menu for her clients.  She loved the idea, and I began work on how the icons would be interacted with, and how they would actually react to someone hovering over each with their mouse.

What you see above was the first attempt I made for the first icon I wanted to work on (and luckily for me, it was the easiest compared to the rest).  I had never made animated .gifs using Photoshop before, creating frame after frame to come up with a solid and smooth animation.  I had only used Photoshop’s Video to Frames option for importing videos (the “DDnD” .gifs I’ve been posting were actually made that way), and never animated based on the tried and true rules of cartoon animation.  Even though this flower is doing a very basic animation of going around in a 360° clockwise circle on a loop, I felt good about it and was motivated enough to start on and complete the rest of them (of which I’ll be posting soon).

Player Turn Effects v1

The Player Turn effect in action

Now that we’ve gone over most of the VFXs seen on the Map Viewer side of the GM Interface for “DDnD – Unsung Saviors” in earlier posts, we can start going over what can be seen on the Player Viewer side of things.  As simple as it looks above, the indication of whose turn it is in the game (typically while in battle, considering when players are exploring, they typically stay in a group, and move and act organically instead of in a turn-based way) is only dependent on whose portrait is glowing yellow from the background.  To achieve this small effect, a GM just needs to click on whichever Character Medallion’s turn it is (which the Medallions will be on the Map Viewer side, as explained before), and the designated portrait will light up!  Clicking and dragging away the mouse cursor from each Medallion will also turn off the golden portraits.

This was one of the last effects I created in a desperate attempt to finalize a “perfect” version of the GM Interface the first time through.  As we all know, iteration is the mother of greatness, so I want everyone (even the current players, included) to know that I still plan on going back to recreate a lot of effects, graphics, and systems and overhaul them in appropriate and miraculous ways!

Buntaien Character Portraits v1

For a quick recap, I wanted to post the original Photoshop portraits – that I had previously created for a prototype fighting system known as “Buntaien Brawlers” – one more time, considering I used them in the first version of the GM interface for “DDnD – Unsung Saviors.”  The faces that can be seen above are of the 5 Buntaiens – the main characters of the current campaigns – that the players will be choosing from and eventually role-play as.  In order from left to right, we have:

  • Yenen Gaiabeta, the Life/Energy Buntaien of Knowledge
  • Kaiel Genhold, the Friction/Water Buntaien of Passion
  • Draegon, the Movement/Wind Buntaien of Understanding
  • Wajoby, the Gravity/Earth Buntaien of Order
  • Luka Soar Akanashi, the Combustion/Flame Buntaien of Purpose

I would go more into what Buntaiens are, but I’ll let RuMa say that, itself, in an upcoming video of actual gameplay, with actual players!  One last thing before I publish this post, within the GM Interface on the Player Viewer side, are different elements of which a GM can control other aspects of the game.  Be on the lookout here soon for more VFX effects, and how they might tie in to the portraits seen above!

Map Reveal Effects (Fire & Electricity) v1

Map Reveal Effect (Fire) in action (during Campaign #1)
Map Reveal Effect (Electricity) v1 in action

I used the same free Shader asset from the Unity Store I had used on the POI and IOI effects – posted about earlier – and went on to create two different textures in Photoshop; one for a fiery effect and the other for a more electric feel.  After messing around with the other effects I had made, it wasn’t too difficult to implement these new ones, and I didn’t find myself changing too many options to get the desired effects I was looking for.

Within “DDnD – Unsung Saviors,” certain parts of maps will be covered up by a shape of a similar color to the environment.  One should think of the “fog of war” effect used in many video games, however, the way it’s used in this is slightly different.  Typically two reasons this “fog of more” (as I would like to call my version) effect would be used when the player’s characters can’t see in the game world.  For the fire effect example above, when the players enter Level 5 of RuMa Temple – known as the Sanctus Cathedra – they can barely see their surroundings, everything being blotted out by an old darkness, with only a beam of light above them to help them see.  After examining the area and through some experimenting with their environment and Buntaien Powers, players will figure out how to lighten the rest of the room up, revealing new, important sub-areas to explore.

Back on the subject of Buntaien Powers: each of the 5 Buntaiens have a distinct Essence that they can harness with their souls.  Like with typical RPG games, the roster of magic being flame, energy, water, earth, and wind – and is the same for “Unsung Saviors” – but this game designates certain physics-based qualities to each (even though that last piece of information is irrelevant for this discussion).  With the fire effect, Luka – the flame Buntaien – would have to create a makeshift torch by harnessing her combustion abilities from within the wood, which would set off the Map Reveal (Fire) effect seen above.  As for the Map Reveal (Electricity) effect above, using a Buntaien that can harness energy (electricity being a primal form energy can take) might be able to power up certain areas that were inaccessible before.

RuMa Earthen Temple of Par’N Maps

In the initial stages of working on “DDnD – Unsung Saviors,” I was debating on several way I could convey the game world to the players that would be playing over Discord.  This was around the time they had just introduced screensharing and video calling options, so I knew I was going to be able to do more than just post static maps (or artwork of certain areas) into the Discord chat, in hopes of immersing the players in a way that I would have deemed worthy of the source material.  That is where the roots of myself wanting to create a GM Interface came into existence, and what you see above is the first version of the RuMa Temple map, the main playing area of Campaign #1 – Tutorial.

The RuMa Temple of Par’N, as envisioned many years before creating this game, has gone through several iterations since “Legends of Saviors'” inception over two decades ago.  Originally, the temple was made up of two giant, castle-like spires, built side by side, sticking out of the ocean off the coast of one of the main continent of the planet.  RuMa, the entity itself – which was a bit more corporeal at the time – would sit in his throne room at the top of one of the spires, while his students would live and train at the top levels of the adjacent one.

As time went on, while creating more aspects of the original version of the story, a character named Yenen would eventually leave RuMa Temple and create his own castle-like domicile, and even right on the same coast that would be near his former home.  Gameplay-wise, Yenen’s Castle would be a hub for players, where they could always come back and rest to regain health, spar with holographic enemies to level up, solve small mysteries within the building, itself, read about lore of Par’N in the library, and eventually build onto the castle to add even more usable rooms.

To make a long story short, I ended up combining both ideas of Yenen’s Castle and RuMa Temple into the newer version of the temple, and was inspired by an actual landmark on American soil (called the Devils Tower), which is a large, laccolithic butte mostly composed of a purple, igneous rock, that also juts out of the ocean (however, with this version, it sticks out at the tip of the northern pole).  Considering the only way to enter the actual mountain, itself, is from a secret entryway on its plateaued top, not many have stepped foot on, or even into, the temple.  On the inside, where certain monks lived for thousands of years – through many generations and historical eras – they ended up carving out hallways and rooms, to accommodate certain needs and wants that they had.  When players enter this area in Campaign #1, some of the overarching mysteries they can optionally solve is who used to live here, why they chose this place to dwell, and where they all might have vanished to after so long of keeping this place sacred and secure.

I could go more into what each level and room above is called and meant for, but I think I will leave that up to the imagination for now, until I am able to post the videos of the game in action, from the very first team that have already tested the first campaign.  Keep on the lookout for it soon!

POI Reveal Effect v1

POI Reveal Effect in action (during Campaign #1)

Through the past few years of going to school for game development and working on indie titles by myself and with others, I have learned many facets of the production of video games: creating models using Maya, creating textures using Photoshop, utilizing the Unity engine, understanding gaming design principles in a more technical light, and even some basic programing with C#. However, I rarely ever delved into the world of sprites and VFX elements, but with the recent creation of “DDnD – Unsung Saviors,” I have gained much needed experience with both!

Just like with the other POI (being an IOI – or Item of Interest) I posted here recently, this POI (Point of Interest) is also known as a POI (but named for a Place of Interest).  Instead of using a monochrome emblem with a question mark (like with the IOI), I decided to make this one have a sort of colorful flare, and went with gold (a color that tends to jump out to humans, presenting something of worth to most of us).  The reason for using an exclamation mark instead of a question mark was to indicate a difference between items that players could collect and use (the latter), versus things that could help move along the story, be interacted with, or otherwise important to the story/game, in general (the former). I also wanted there to be consistency in the look of all POIs (regardless of their sub-genre), so using the same type of emblems and particle effects and creating small changes between them seemed like a viable solution.

Under all golden POIs (which I’m now thinking of renaming to LOIs – for Locations of Interest – to create a clear distinction) will be an important object that can be interacted with by players to further along each campaign or to optionally deepen their experiences in the game.  In the example above, once the VFX happens, the initial sprite disappears, revealing a golden and purple-colored structure, known as the Adytum Apex Tower, found in the beginning of Campaign #1.  Once unveiled, players can examine this structure, further revealing that it is a puzzle of sorts, one of many they must solve in order to get further into the mountain this tower sits upon.  Once the group-based puzzle is solved, players are allowed entry into the RuMa Temple mountain they have sought after.  There are many other POIs (or LOIs) in Campaign #1, and all serve as very important game design elements, to help keep a flow to the story and gameplay, and add excitement and interest to the players.

Interface Soul Charges (Yenen’s)

On the Player Viewer side of the GM Interface for “DDnD – Unsung Saviors,” I created a lot of elements that would be able to convey to players what was going with their characters during battles and each campaign, overall.  More often than not (other than during certain story-based events), players will only need to take their statistics into consideration when they are sparring with one another or battling against enemies.  One important aspect players must always consider when fighting is their Soul Charge Level.

Originally in the prototype fighting system “Buntaien Brawlers” that I created before I enrolled in college back in 2015, players had a Chi Gauge, a Soul Meter, and Soul Charges to indicate their basic statistics.  Every time a player would incur damage, their Chi Gauge would go down (according to a dice roll), while their Soul Charge would always go up by 1 point.  For every 4th Soul Charge accumulated (up to a maximum of 12), the player would gain a Soul Charge Level (up to a maximum of 3).  The importance of the Soul Charge system was to add in a level of growth and challenge during each battle, where for every Level gained, certain abilities could be used, and basic stats would be increased (based on which Level they had achieved).

The reason I just explained the Soul Charge system from an older project is because “DDnD – Unsung Saviors” also incorporates the same ideas and is portrayed through differently-colored emblem sprites for each of the 5 main Buntaien Characters.  For each Soul Charge Level achieved, a designated emblem will show up on the Player Viewer side, to the far right side of each character’s other statistics.

IOI Reveal Effect v1

IOI Reveal Effect in action (during Campaign #1)

Through the past few years of going to school for game development and working on indie titles by myself and with others, I have learned many facets of the production of video games: creating models using Maya, creating textures using Photoshop, utilizing the Unity engine, understanding gaming design principles in a more technical light, and even some basic programing with C#.  However, I rarely ever delved into the world of sprites and VFX elements, but with the recent creation of “DDnD – Unsung Saviors,” I have gained much needed experience with both!

As one can see above, an emblem of sorts (just like the one used for the Character Medallions) is being perforated, while orbs of light trails out and away from it.  Once the emblem with the question marks dissipates, a new emblem is revealed underneath, but this time with a different graphic on it.  Above is what I’ve termed as an IOI (or Item of Interest), one of many POIs (or Points of Interest) scattered around each of the maps in the campaigns of the game.  With this specific one, players can find them, reveal the items below, and then pass out the gear appropriately to one another.  Specifically for the example used, the item revealed is known as a piece of Gear, and is a RuMa Temple Gi Headband (which is part of an entire Gear set that players can collect in Campaign #1).

I eventually created a Unity prefab for IOIs by first making a standard question mark emblem and then some item emblem (which at this time were the 4 pieces of Gear I posted about not too long ago) sprites using Photoshop.  After importing them into Unity, I then created a simple particle effect of white light orbs bouncing away from a center point of the emblem sprites in random directions outwards, each one with a white trail coursing behind them.  At this point, I was going to have the light orbs just do their thing and then the question mark emblem simply disappear, revealing the underlying item.  However, I was in the mood to learn more about shaders and was able to find an amazing and free shader on the Unity Store.  I went into the original shader script, edited it, and then created a unique shader texture to get the desired effect I was seeing in my mind’s eye.  Lastly, I created a simple “IOIReveal” C# script that would allow GMs using the “DDnD” Interface to simply point and click on each IOI, allowing the VFX to take place.

Wajoby’s First Dream Video

A week before I was to host the very first run-through of Campaign #1 – Tutorial for “DDnD – Unsung Saviors,” I felt the need to give the players something to see before they were to jump into the world I had been creating for them.  Akin to the introduction of the Playstation 1, RPG Maker version of “Legends of Saviors” that I created a half my lifetime ago, I wanted to envelope the players in a sort of waking dream that would both captivate them and breed a sense of curiosity.  To do this, I would have to use Unity, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Audacity, and utilize a unique script – not of the mathematical kind – I had written up for each of the 5 main characters that the players had already chosen from.

What you see above is Wajoby’s First Dream: a message that will help set the tone of the game, introduce certain aspects of the character that maybe the player may not know yet (stuff that I didn’t put on one of the pages of their Character Deck – something I’m sure I will keep posting about later on), and give them a driving purpose as to why they are here, and what they could expect from the game to come.

Please enjoy the video!

Character Deck v2 (Yenen’s)

I have, thus far, previously explained and presented the first version of the Character Deck for “DDnD – Unsung Saviors,” and then later, I gave some examples of used Statistic Cards for the 5 main, Buntaien characters.  For this post, I’m going to go into the second version of the Character Deck, and what changes I’ve made to better facilitate future campaign playthroughs (for both the players and GM, alike).

As for the first, Statistic Card, each main character can now equip up to 10 different pieces of gear in all, of which 3 of those Slots will be exclusive to each Buntaien (using the above image as an example, Yenen can uniquely wear a neck piece, a cape, and a belt, but shares the other 7 Gear Slots with the other Buntaiens – each one can wear a head piece, chest piece, legs piece, two feet pieces, and two hand pieces).  I wanted players to be able to trade Gear amongst each other, but also find special pieces for their specific character, to feel attached to their new item and accomplished in unearthing it.

Another radical change on the Statistic Cards is the bottom area – where Kay Memories were to be stored, once – a spot for players to unlock their character’s Secondary Abilities (I went back and also changed the word “Abilities” to “Main Abilities,” to signify the difference in the new new version).  Being a somewhat back burner feature for “DDnD,” I didn’t expect the players from the first run through would uncover so much, so soon.  So, I had to wing it and unlock special abilities for them on the fly during the campaign, of which they could be used to solve puzzles, uncover hidden items or information, to use their special Buntaien Powers in ways other than combat, and a myriad of other uses.  Kind of like with the POIs on the maps, I wanted there to be spaces with the same type of question marks to cover something that they would have to reveal about themselves (or their character-selves, I suppose), again, like with the POI system.  Eventually, each Buntaien will be able to unlock 5, exclusive Secondary Abilties through experimentation, teamwork, and/or specific story-based events, each with their own unique icons.

Since the Kay Memories area is now being utilized differently, I went ahead and made it its own Card, which will give players 6 different slots to fill in (eventually with personalized images for each one), for 6 different memories of the worlds they will be exploring.  Once the first player unlocks the first Kay Memory in a future campaign, I may have to change the Card again, to make sure its a viable space for such a thing.

Lastly, as one can see above, the Inventory Cards and Personal Cards have not been altered (as of yet), and I feel they are suitable for their different purposes.  This Character Deck concept and presentation is a work in progress, and I will keep updating them visually and structurally as needed, so keep a lookout for future versions!