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The Joy of Palettes 2: Multi-coloured Lineart

A new engine, and new possibilities.

When starting fresh with a new engine, we explored a bunch of possibilities, both mechanically and aesthetically. As we were learning how to work with the Z-Engine to make the base for our game, we were also drafting how the game would look; What cues we wanted to preserve from the previous project, and what we wanted to take in a new direction; For example, the characters we worked with in the past had a soft, cartoony look with plenty of bright, lively colors, which we really liked, and which we wanted to keep for this new game.

Having Lauren, and all her years of experience in the cartoon industry to help us with the character designs was a huge help there, because this time, we wouldn’t only be “porting” an existing franchise’s existing designs and making do as best as we could, but we could craft the characters’ look and feel from scratch, to better suit an interactive medium, and a very specific genre such as fighting games, in which a character is presented and known for their unique flavouring; Their individual quirks, their personality, their whole character has to shine through the artstyle and animation in a medium where long exposition and character buildup are not as available as they’re in a non-interactive medium, such as a comic book or a tv show.

And one of the first steps to achieve that was redefining our pipeline to fit both our artistic vision, and to make the process feasible to build from a technical standpoint.

Artstyle wise, we started with the “default” look we could achieve just by importing assets into the engine using the vanilla pipeline. This assumed black lines, placed on top of the colour and shade layers, which allows the detailed artwork and crazy motions of the Skullgirls characters to stand out from their enviroment, while still giving a huge amount of control over the palettes (the different coloured ‘skins’ for the characters), but while the result suits Skullgirls’ very detailed artstyle, the hardness of the black outlines on our characters wasn’t quite giving off the feeling we wanted to achieve. Our goals and methods with the character designs were too different from Skullgirls.

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Just a small reminder

Hello everyone!

Just a small reminder that we’re:

a) not dead
and
b) still working on this.

And that you can check out (or follow, if you want!) our twitter to catch small bite sized updates that don’t warrant a full article in this site!

For example, this is a thing I was working on earlier, and that Nappy requires me to inform you is nowhere near a finished sprite, a finished placeholder, a finished placeholder sketch, or an unfinished placeholder sketch thought… It’s just a very early test thing we’re using, and may not reflect the final art style of the game. (since it’s currently off model to our reference sheets. What with being a “done in 5 mins” test thing and all.)

Anu out!

ALSO! Tron Lives!

Engine get and three short stories

You guys rock!

Well, turns out it took us a whole two (or is it three?) days to get over the initial shock, surprise and excitement at Skullgirls’ Indiegogo campaign having reached the 725k mark (And beyond!), but we’re back with a (mostly text) update of what’s going on and what comes up next.

But first, let us yet again thank everyone of you who donated, spread the word and supported (and still supports) us and the new game. We seriously can’t say it enough, but you guys rock, and we can assure you we will -not- disappoint. We pushed the FM2K engine well beyond its limits for the previous project, and we intend to push the Z-Engine likewise (even though the Z-Engine’s limits are considerably larger); We intend to give you guys the best game possible for this gift of an engine that you guys (and LabZero) have offered us.

Since we have gotten the engine (and some before) we have been getting questions about netplay and GGPO. We gave a short explanation of how that would work in a previous post, but we will expand it a bit more here.

GGPO is a bit of middleware that lets the game to be used multiplayer over a network. It was created by Tony Cannon (Co-founder of Shoryuken and EVO) and it’s widely regarded as the best networking software for fighting games. SUPPORT for the GGPO library is included in the Z-Engine, but GGPO itself is not, as it is a separate license. Since having good network multiplayer is one of the priorities of our game, tech wise, and having acquired an engine to use, the GGPO license is now one of the first (if not the first) items in our “shopping” list, as it would allow for the best multiplayer experience.

Which brings us to the next thing: The “shopping” list.

Right now, the game is being developed by a staff consisting of 100% voluntaries not receiving any economical compensation for their work. Obviously, this can’t continue forever if we’re to make a -serious- game out of this. Begin with the fact that there’s things to be acquired at certain points of the game’s development that will probably require more money than we could cough up on our own. GGPO license, for starters… Software, hardware, website hosting and maintenance, technical expertise from people we can’t ask to “volunteer” time for free, a gorillion other things if we ever wanted to port to consoles (not in the current plans, but technically doable with the Z-Engine)… Plus as before mentioned, the fact that apparently, game developers need to eat and have a roof over their heads (and somewhere to plug the computers into) to live and continue developing.

Making money, however, isn’t as easy as it sounds. It ain’t just opening a bag and asking you guys for your wallets while wearing clown masks and yelling “hold hands, this is an up stick”; and while we know some of you guys -would- actually throw the wallets in the bag (thank you!), a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign where you receive a bit of a reward for your patronage sounds like a better option, both for us and you, we think.

But again. Not as easy as it sounds, since there’s a lot of things to consider. Budget necessary to complete the game, salaries to be paid to the people helping us make it, costs of software, hardware, licensing, development and stuff; pile on to that the kickstarter costs, reward making costs, the fact that we have to -formally- establish the development team as a company or partnership, which brings up lawyer costs for some stuff that need to be legalese-written, taxes to be paid to the government, and more of that kind of stuff. It’s one of those things where having -less- than the money required (but still some money), is probably more troublesome than having no money at all.

So we need to figure all that out; Some of those things won’t become clear until we have started experimenting a bit with the engine, measuring time and effort required, talking with the people who’ll need to be paid, etcetera.

Cutting to the chase. We’d like this game to remain freeware, but somewhere in the future, there will need to be a point in which we make -at least- enough money to keep on developing with good quality and at a good pace without killing ourselves in the process. We’re trying to figure out just -when- and how that will happen, and we’ll let you know once it does.

But enough of what will need to be done. Let’s move on to what is being done.

M6:The Return of the DevTeam

Mentioned above was the fact that our entire team is still volunteers; Let’s make a team roster of who’s who and what’s up.

In the “Core” Development team, which includes game design and basic development, we’re led by Omari Smith (Nappy), who is our be all and end all when it comes to the game’s technical design. If it works like a charm, you can thank him. If it’s broken, OP or just plain stupid, you can probably blame one of us bugging him to actually try stuff, and said stuff not working (as he most likely told us it wouldn’t). Nappy is in charge of designing (With a bit of input from the rest of Core) and implementing the game’s mechanics, as well as of doing character animation.

Next up we have Jay Wright (MonkeyJay), whose job title and description are formally “Developer in charge of Awesome (and some snark)”. Jay does a bit of everything. Concept designing, art making, special FX & flair animation, character animation, smart-assing, etcetera. If it shines, sparkles, or just looks awesome (With no other words to describe it), Jay made it, or at least had a hand in the process. He also answers stuff around the web with his personal touch of Jayness.

Third there’s Lucas Ellinghaus (Leedin). Leedin is mostly in charge of making the actual character models, basic animations and proclaiming everything needs minute pixel fixing to look correct. While three out of five people in DevCore work in the game’s animation, Leedin’s probably the one taking the most time doing stuff and making sure it looks -just- right.

Fourth we have Francisco Copado (Anukan). Anukan is in charge of everything interfaceish (Menus, HUD and GUI, website and related materials design… Stuff like that), as well as of updating and maintaining the collective front-face of the team on the web. (He’s the one feeding the artificial construct we frankensteined to take charge of the site and twitter, and to answer most of the questions and posting the silly stuff to the interwebs).

Last, but far from least in Core, we have Lauren Faust (Lauren Faust). Lauren is the most recent addition to the team (and most probably the best); Lauren is responsible for the actual character design for the game, with some input from the rest of Core. You may know her for her work in Foster’s home for Imaginary Friends, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Super Best Friends Forever and Galaxy Girls (which you should check out), for being in charge of the lizards at her house, or just for being SUPER AWESOME on the internet and real life.

New to the Team (Officially) is the Programming department, composed of Kenneth Leung (Pineapple) and Chris Robinson (Beta Carotene). Kenneth is the man secretly responsible for making the impossible possible in FM2K (Options menu, sound control…) with his freaky knowledge of knitting programminating and what we’re pretty darn sure is pure voodoo and sorcery. Beta is a friend of the team, and currently working on the creation of the Subatomic Engine, which will power some side projects a couple of our devs are working on; Ken and Beta will be the ones responsible for any adaptations needed on the Z-Engine; Ken in the tool/application side with algorithms, Beta on software engineering and graphics. Welcome to the team!

With us from the start are our three guys in the Music & Audio SFX department:

Stuart Ferguson (RC88) will be taking the role of Music Director for the game. You’ll sure remember him as the creator of the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th character themes for the previous game, as well as the game’s theme.

Working with him, Whitetail (3rd/4th Character themes for previous game) will be with the team as music composer. Yay!

Next up we have Ken McGill, who’s also been with us for a long while, and will continue on his role on the team as Sound Designer for the new game =)

And on our “extended family”, we have Oreo (Who, by the way, was the one responsible for some of the previous game’s videos), Klisk Midori and Cam McFarlane, from the FGB, who will (once we get to it in a few months) be assisting us as our Lead QAs.

So there you have it!, That’s our lineup for this game; Nonetheless, we expect to expand a bit in the coming months as some stuff starts being required.

…And since we’re already on that topic, let us cover one of the frequently asked questions lately: Hiring new people.

Right now, we’re not currently looking into immediate expansion, as we’re still in the pre-production stage of the project. In a future, we might require people, particularly for art and voice acting (For the record, we don’t yet know if we’ll be requiring any male VAs, in case you were wondering), but right now, is far enough into the future that we’re still fuzzy in the details. We’re less likely to be requiring people in the areas of music and programming, but one never knows for certain.

If you’re interested in joining our team, please keep an eye out in this site and in our twitter, as any announcements about open positions will be made in these places.

So all in all, progress is being made, and the project is slowly picking up speed. We’re talking the details and legal bits with Mike Z and LabZero on using their engine; Lauren and Core are still working on character designs, and we expect to have something more to say in terms of programming and engine as soon as we get our hands on it. =)

Oh, and… You may have (or may have not) noticed that the site’s look has been updated. It should load faster now, look better, and have lost all the holes and craters left over by the stuff that the C&D response had us strip from the previous version. It should work properly in Firefox, Opera and Chrome, and degrade gracefully in Internet Exploder (with a small exception in the top menu that will be fixed in a couple days, at most). Any bugs, please report via twitter to @Aleph42, and Anu will get on it. Please note that for the intents and purposes, Internet exploder is considered a “known bug” and irregularities on it shouldn’t be reported.

Thank you!

725k: The final frontier.


Edit: FUNDED! =)

Give us a bit to get out of our lack-of-words-at-the-awesomess-that-is-you-guys and we’ll post something wordier =3

Hello again, folks!

As you might know already, the Skullgirls’ Indiegogo campaign is now in the final stretch, time and money wise. With a bit over 33 hours to go at the moment of this post, the Skullgirls Indiegogo campaign has reached over 650k in crowdfunding, which means that

a) People are awesome
b) Skullgirls gets moar funding
and
c) Our shot at getting the Z-engine to use in our game for free is now closer than ever!

Having said that, we’d like to again invite people to keep on donating and spreading the word, not only because we get the engine at 725k, but also because the guys over at LabZero are FREAKING AWESOME and deserve all the support they can get. Also because they announced earlier on twitter they’d make a playable Robo-Fortune (which by definition has to be the awesomest Fortune ever) also at the 725k goal mark. So that’s not one, but TWO reasons to get it there, now! You can donate to them by clicking the site’s temporary header, by going to this link, or by clicking on the nifty widget in our sidebar.

We’d also like to, once again, thank everyone still supporting us (And Labzero), and donating to the Indiegogo campaign to make their game grow, and to give ours a chance to grow too!, We really can’t say enough how happy we’re to have such a great fanbase! You guys rock!

On related news, the last Salty Cupcakes stream before the Indiegogo campaign reaches its end is happening tonight at 8PM PST on this link!, we’d recommend y’all jumped in there; You can ask the Skullgirls team some questions about their game, and you can also fraternize and interact with the Skullgirls community, which are great people to talk with if you’re a fighting game fan, or if you would like to get introduced into the wonderful world of beating the candy out of people in fighting games.

Oh, and last, but not least: We were given this link by a friend of a friend, to what we’re assured ain’t a doomsday countdown, but a live-updated measure of how much time is left to reach the 725k goal, how much has been reached so far, and the average money-per-minute rate needed to 725k before the time’s up. We don’t know what sorcery this is, but it sure is neat!

Once again, thanks to everyone donating, to everyone spreading the word, and to everyone supporting us (and Labzero!)

We loves you guys.

Skullgirls engine FAQ + teaser

Hey everyone!

We’re gonna go over some of the questions regarding the Skullgirls engine licensing drive that’s going on RIGHT NOW.

Won’t this be a tonne more work?

The bulk of the work (and as labzero can tell you) is going to be art. Concepts, poses, animating, stages, gui. Music, sounds, voices. All of that needs to be redone regardless of engine. Learning a new engine will be a little bit more work, but there are also a lot of rewards for that work, as you’ll see right.. HERE:

So what does the Skullgirls engine give you over FM2K?

MikeZ sent us a nice list of benefits that we can share with you:

For the players:

  • Widescreen and HD resolution support
  • Per-pixel lighting on sprites, a first for ANY 2D engine
  • Real shadows
  • 2D and 3D environment support
  • Camera zooming
  • Negative-edge and multiple-button-input special moves (QCT+PP, etc)
  • No corner problems (rapid sprite-flipping, etc)
  • Continuous collision: characters don’t pass through each other when they shouldn’t, no matter how fast they move
  • Unlimited palettes per character
  • GGPO* integration for seamless, non-delay-based online without a separate client
  • Input display, save/load state, dummy record/playback, and all the other Skullgirls training mode features
  • Frameskip that still accepts inputs on skipped frames, eliminating timing-based problems such as unblockables or dropped combos


For the developers:

  • Full source code and any existing development tools; the ability to fix any problems with the engine themselves instead of having to just DealWithIt
  • Tech support
  • Future engine revisions and bugfixes
  • HLSL shader support – any graphical effects your little heart desires can be created
  • In-game palette editor, customizeable debug keys and many other time-saving features
  • A scripting system written in plain English, with move motions written in regular fighting game notation and a robust munge tool
  • The ability for sprites to tell when they have left the screen, rather than just the stage
  • Support for 32-bit (i.e. truecolor, unpalettized) art for sprites when necessary, and mixing of truecolor and palettized frames
  • Support for teams/assists and a console release, if ever desired

So lots of good stuff that we’d love to play with.

*GGPO?

GGPO basically lets the game be played multiplayer over a network. It’s widely regarded as the best networking software for fighting games. SUPPORT for GGPO is included in the SG engine, but if we want to actually use it we’d have to purchase it separately. And yes, we would very much like to do that if we get the SG engine, because having good network multiplayer is extremely important to us!

Will it run on my crappy computer?

Short answer is that we don’t know. MikeZ develops on his less-than-stellar laptop and it runs fine, but we don’t know the exact system requirements yet.

Are you going to put the game on steam/ps3/360 if you get the engine?

Another one we don’t know yet. All we know is that the SG engine would make all of those options open to us.

Isn’t 725k really expensive?

Well, that’s not the price of the license. That’s just a stretch goal of their campaign that would mean we get it for free. It’s just the easiest and quickest option for our team.

Why can’t I just donate to you guys instead!

If we start accepting money, the SG engine would probably be one of the first items on our shopping list anyway, so some of the the money would go to labzero one way or another. As mentioned above, the stretch goal option cuts out a lot of the complication involved with that.

Will this mean it will play like skullgirls?

Not at all! Well.. apart from it being a 2D fighter. The engine is just a tool. Gears of War, Arkham Asylum, and Mortal Kombat 9 were all built on Unreal engine, but they are drastically different. Plus, as we’ve mentioned, we want to keep our already developed gameplay ideas mostly intact. Also, there is nothing in the SG engine that says it only works for certain kinds of characters (like 2-legged), just as there was nothing in FM2K that made it better for our 4-legged characters!

Is it Galaxy Girls? It’s Galaxy Girls isn’t it.

While we agree that the Galaxy Girls are kickass, Lauren is designing new characters for us. Like, NEW new, not old new. We meet with Lauren every week to talk about and develop these new characters together.

Speaking of which, we think it might be cool to show you guys three of the character concepts we’ve come up with so far. We thought it would be fun to show you them in silhouette form first. See if you guys can figure out who’s who and what’s what!

Enjoy!

previewsilhouette_all