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How To Create An Action Game, As Taught By Action Game Professionals #5 - Grayfax (Orangeblood)
In this series we ask developers, who have worked or are currently working on action games, what their creative process is. In this fifth part of the series our guest is Grayfax Software, developer of Orangeblood which released on Steam this January.
May 22, 2020
10 Min Read
How To Create An Action Game, As Taught By Action Game Professionals #5 - Grayfax (Orangeblood)
If you are an aspiring game developer but don’t know where to start when it comes to developing action games then read on.
In this series we ask developers, who have worked or are currently working on action games, what their creative process is. In this fifth part of the series our guest is Grayfax Software, developer of shooter RPG Orangeblood which released on Steam this January.
Orangeblood was developed solely by Grayfax and is an RPG set in an alternate timeline on the man made island of New Koza. The player takes control of 4 kawaii but dangerous young ladies who take on yakuza and mafia in turn based gun fights with random loot drops. With beautiful pixel art and a dope soundtrack, the game world becomes something truly unique in the JRPG genre. We interviewed Grayfax before regarding Orangeblood which you can check out here (Japanese only).
For the creation of Orangeblood, Grayfax used RPG Maker. This time he has decided to create an action with Pixel Game Maker MV (PGMMV). Currently the project name is “Prototype(1)”.
-Why did you switch to developing an action game after an RPG?
After finishing Orangeblood I had some time on my hands so I thought I’d play around with PGMMV. Right after I bought it full price though it went on sale! So I decided I’d get my money’s worth and make a game.
Jokes aside, before beginning development on Orangeblood I had actually been working on a side scroller shooter with Clickteam fusion but the object parameter management was giving me trouble so I just gave up. Granted I was still very inexperienced with game development and I felt that I wouldn’t be able to achieve the level of quality that I wanted. In essence, this is the title that I originally set out to develop.
After playing around with PGMMV, it actually seemed possible so I started working on it full time.
-What games inspired you to make Prototype(1)?
I guess regarding this title, Shoot Many Robots and Shindenken’s Escalator Action have influenced me the most.
Controls for these two titles have been optimized for gamepad and mouse respectively, but the primitive enjoyment of shooting at things is expressed in a simple and fun way.
For the background parsing it would have to be The Ninja Warriors Once Again, as I consider this title to be top class when it comes to this aspect.
I also really like Phantom Breaker: BattleGrounds for its excellent representation of Japanese scenery and cute characters.
-What kind of game do you want Prototype (1) to become?
Personally I am not a fan of complex and difficult controls which punish players for not being good at the game so I would like to avoid that as much as possible. I also do not like gimmicky, erratic game systems either so none of that either.
-What points do you want to focus on in this action title?
I want the feeling of landing a hit or destroying an enemy to have impact. Most of the enemies will be mecha but I chose this type of enemy as them blowing up on defeat feels natural. Mechas go boom, feels good right? You can’t have that when the enemies are all humanoid.
Personally I am not a fan of when games deviate from their overall graphical style by introducing a completely different style of enemy, as I feel it detracts from the overall experience, so I would like to keep things as consistent as possible.
-Why did you choose to make a shooter action title?
Because shooters overall have a more simple control scheme. You can shoot and walk at the same time, and the main focus is on aiming and shooting, so players are able to focus on that skill throughout. It puts less emphasis on character movement around the map which becomes important when close quarters combat is involved, as players are required to dash or jump towards an enemy to attack or jump away to avoid attacks. Of course this also requires enemies to have complex movement patterns as well. In shooters, both the player and enemies can have simple, streamlined movements. I admit I do have a personal affinity towards games with less emphasis on movement but as a secondary benefit of this I can focus more on level art design and story event expression.
Also, I like guns more than I like other weapons and when it comes to depictions in games you have to put a lot of research in to inform your designs. By choosing something you like and are familiar with it makes the development process easier and makes for a better finished product in my opinion.
When it comes to weapon design in games, especially in pixel art, it is necessary to caricaturize them. You have to know what looks right, what parts you can remove and what parts you have to leave in for it to look good. This is where familiarity becomes essential as otherwise you will spend a lot of time trying to make something look right but don’t know how.
-Are the first stages of development different when making an action title rather than an RPG?
With Orangeblood I first worked on the maps. It is easier to get the scale down in RPG’s but in action games it is much more difficult to do that. So for this title I started with character action first.
Then I started building the levels in relation to how far you can see and jump etc. It is important that the levels feel natural to move around in so scaling is very important here.
Regarding graphics you can’t really take the same approach as with an RPG. With Orangeblood I set the contrast for the background and characters at around the same level, however, in an action title this causes the character to blend in too much with the background. So for this title I turned down the contrast of the background, especially darker areas I have limited to #404040 hex color code.
-Looking at the art and graphics of Prototype(1), we can see you really like your gun design.
I wouldn’t go as far as calling myself obsessed with guns lol. When I was in elementary school, my parents didn’t want me to spend all my time playing games so instead of buying me a game console they bought me a Kokusai S&W M629. Until middle school I spent a lot of time playing with airsoft guns with my friends. The rules and regulations were a lot less strict back then.
I got a Sega Saturn in high school and for a while it was all games for me, but from the 2000’s there was an influx of really high quality airsoft products from overseas which got me back into my old hobby.
Recently I have been feeling a little uncool about being a dude making gun-centric games but never having shot a live round in my life, so I was thinking this year I would finally go overseas and hit some ranges but then this Covid-19 pandemic happened so that went out the window...
-You seem very familiar with pixel art, have you spent a lot of time on the art in this title?
Personally I like crisp, sharp 2D movements and don’t think it is something that looks better by increasing the frames so the movements become too fluid.
Instead of having lots of imperceptible movements, I think 2D pixel animations look better if the movements are deliberate and obvious.
Regarding the detail of art in this title, if you put too much detail into the frames during movement it doesn’t make for very good animation so I have toned down the colours and put blur effects on the between frame drawings. Although I must admit I am not the best animator.
I think the most important part is that it looks good on screen overall, needlessly increasing detail (and time spent on it) is not necessarily the best choice.
-RPG Maker and PIxel Game Maker are two very different engines. Could you tell us about the bits you found easy/difficult to use?
PGMMV compared to RPG Maker is I guess more difficult to use, or should I say it is much more purist as a game creation tool and requires that you start at the beginning for everything that you do.
That’s not to say that you can do anything you want in PGMMV though and I find that sometimes I can’t quite do the thing that I want, exactly as I want. I guess if you incentivized the creation of user side plug ins and got more creators onboard it would make things a lot better.
Regardless, for people like me who are useless at programming and just want to make 2D action games it is a perfectly fine option. Especially the animation editor, it is a fantastic feature.
Finally, I guess the fact you can make a game without having to study too much is an absolute game changer. In high school I failed mathematics, my grammar is terrible, I can’t even learn the hand combinations in Mahjong. Even with those disadvantages in PGMMV I just have to find the feature for the thing I want to do and I can make it work. I have recently started playing Mahjong online but I am constantly googling if I have a good hand or not lol...
-Is there a trick to using Pixel Game Maker MV effectively?
Hmm, I guess the most important thing is to understand the limitations of the tool, what you can and can’t do. Check if it supports the things you plan on implementing into your game so that you don’t get a nasty surprise later on in development when you go to add something and realize then that you can’t. If there is something that you really wanted to be supported in PGMMV then get on those Steam community boards and let the devs know.
-For Prototype(1) is there a feature that you want to implement but have not done so yet?
Since the announcement of Steam’s local multiplayer, I have thought that it would be great if you can play co-op in Prototype(1). Personally I feel games are most fun when you play with other people.
-Do you have an ETA on completion?
I tend to crumble under pressure so I can’t give you anything here I’m afraid!
I guess we will wait patiently then. Thank you so much.
So it turns out Grayfax was trying to create a 2D action game before starting on Orangeblood. He chose PGMMV because he doesn’t have any programming knowledge. It seems like his posts regarding Prototype(1) have stirred up the PGMMV community who have been voicing their opinions on his work with some surprised at what the tool can achieve. You can follow development on his Twitter.
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