Scarred By Heaven

30-03-24 -- Combat Assists and Art

Hello again!

For the most part, I've still been mostly focused on script-writing since the last post, which I feel has been going well. I'm close to the end of the third chapter, and once that's finished, I might take a break from writing to work on some more code-oriented things.

I sort of like working in 'phases' where I focus mostly on one thing--usually coding, art assets, or writing--to avoid getting burned out on any one area of development. Writing, especially, is the most exhausting thing to do for long periods, as it's much slower than programming and art and lacks any immediate feedback.

Assist Attacks/Battle Partners

As a small detour from all of the writing, though, I decided to finally implement a combat feature I've been very excited about: Assists!

Throughout SBH's story, there are a lot of situations in which Saki isn't fighting alone. Since I first started work on the game, I've been struggling with how I wanted to integrate Saki's allies into the combat.

*Very* early on, I'd considered making characters like Livio, Yuri and Friday playable, though obviously ended up deciding against that, as the writing, balancing and overall workload of having multiple protagonists would have been disastrous. Instead, for most of the game's development time, I'd been planning to have them be AI partners who would join you and fight enemies alongside you during story battles in which they're present.

As I fleshed out the gameplay more, though, I started to doubt this would work very well. As the player, you'd have lacked any means to control your allies. I'm trying to keep attacks and player control consistent and predictable, so having your friend Livio randomly attacking foes of his own volition would make the game even more chaotic, not have much room for strategy, and inadvertently mess up the player's combos by butting in.

Recently, though, I had the thought that it might make more sense to just put control of these partners directly into the player's hands, and so I've settled on this 'Assist' system. During specific fights throughout the story, you'll be assigned an "Assist Partner" who you can call in to perform attacks asynchronously to your own.

This video shows it off in details, and demonstrates Livio's assist attacks.

I was inspired by similar mechanics from fighting games like 'Marvel Vs Capcom'. The ability to perform asynchronous attacks seemed like a natural fit for SBH, and I think the ability to play around with different characters' assists will add a fun twist to the encounters they're present. Though, since they aren't always available, I didn't want to make the system too complex or too 'major' of a feature. They charge up relatively slowly compared to the standard special meter, and I've tried to make them easy to use without as much forethought as Saki's attacks can sometimes require. Of course, there'll still be a lot of potential for unique and powerful combos for those try to put them to more strategic use!

I'm very excited to play around with them more as more characters are added to the game. As with Livio, many assist characters will simply be reusing their boss fight attacks, making them very easy to implement. (And they're also a lot easier to code than (good) AI partners would have been...)

Status Ailments (Again)

The status ailment system I blabbed about in the last post has also been added, with the exception of 'Gouge', which I ended up deciding against, since dealing damage alone seemed potentially too punishing and not that interesting.

They can be cured by either drinking a slow 'Spring Water' consumable, or by a special ability named 'Shrug It Off', that instantaneously cures any ailments in exchange for an amount of special meter equal 50% of the player's current maximum.

An animated gif showing the player becoming inflicted with a status ailment labeled 'WEAKENED BLOCKING', and curing it by drinking an item.

I think enemies that can inflict these effects will be relatively uncommon to see in the game, but will hopefully provide an extra layer of threat and strategy when they do rear their head.

With Ailments and Assists being finished, I think I'm finished with most of the 'core' combat mechanics of SBH. Moving forward, most of my work with it will likely be in creating new enemies, weapons, and unlockable attacks and ability upgrades for Saki--some of which I'm very excited to finally put in action.

Art and Portraits!

While far from the most important thing at the moment, I've been also thinking a little about SBH's portraits and other 'high res' cutscene art. The portraits currently used on the website and in the demo are nice, and were drawn and sprited with help from an acquaintance. However, they're a few years old now, and I feel like some have grown slightly 'off-model' to how I visualize both the characters and the general aesthetic of the game. In the interest of improving my own art skills and making things more 'my own', I recently decided I'd try my own hand at practicing a style for the dialogue portrait.

While it's a little rough, I'm happy with how this depiction of Saki turned out. I think this more 'painted' style is nice, fits the game more, is easier to work with, and is potentially more expressive than the more rigid outlined pixel art ones I've been using until now. While I feel like I probably won't be using this exact portrait by the time the game is actually finished, it was nice practice, and I'd really like to try making more things in this art style. In the coming weeks, I'll likely be replacing the old portraits in the Characters section of the site with newer ones drawn by me.

In the future, I think it'd be nice to accompany all of these blog posts with art, even if it's only sprites or sketches. Admittedly, I've never found drawing for it's own sake to be fun, and usually only enjoy it when it's part of a bigger project. I don't do it much outside of making sprites for the game, so maybe it'll give me an incentive to practice more...! Haha. (Hopefully, they'll be interesting to look at, as well.)

With that, I'll close this blog post with some concept art/sketches for Yuri, Livio and Friday's redrawn portraits.

I've also decided to create 'archive' pages for all of the art, and videos that get attached to these blog posts, to both make it easier to browse, and because I just find it fun to organize things.

Thanks for reading!

- Topaz

Return to the main blog ->

Previous Post