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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Social Media roundup and a bit of news.

Ooh boy, this place got a bit dustier than we expected.

But here we are again, and this time, instead of apologizing for the lateness and making promises of things to come, we actually HAVE the things to come at hand.

If you have been following M6 through one of our social media places, you already have seen some of these things. If you haven’t, well, good news, there’s even MORE new things for you to look at!

So!, let’s get you started with a recap of the things that have been shown in the past few weeks through the social media, shall we?

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2013: An ungulate Odyssey – 2014: Ungulates strike back

2013 – The year in review

Has it really been one year since we started this project already?

Well, technically it’s one year in February (or April), depending on when you start counting, but let’s pretend it has been one year for now, shall we?

Back in February 2013, our first project, “Fighting is Magic”, got shut down due to legal circumstances already known to you guys, and which we won’t be going into right now.

In March, we announced a new member joining the Mane 6 Devteam for our second project, a 2D fighting game that’d keep the basic foundations of what was Fighting is Magic, improve on the details, and feature an all-new, all-original new cast and universe, as designed by our newest Core Dev character designer, Lauren Faust, and the rest of Mane6.

A few days later, we announced a proposed deal with LabZero, in which, if their crowdfunding campaign reached $725k, we’d get to use their game engine. By April, we had secured use of it thanks to the donations of all people that contributed to the LabZero crowdfund (Thank you!).

Since then, we have been working on the project’s pre-production stage, inspecting the foundation and getting the raw materials we required to get production going, namely, characters and universe design.

Here’s what has come out of it, so far.

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Progress Update and Fighting Games Symposium 2013

Hello everyone!

It’s been some time since our last post in the site. Things backstage, however, have been quite active; We’d like to thank everyone for the continued patience and support, and for sticking with us through the pre-production stage of the game.

This post serves two purposes. First, to assure everyone that we’re still alive, and the game project is also alive and kicking. Work has been done, engines have been learned, characters have started to be implemented in placeholder form to help with that learning, and the character design aspects have progressed as well, (Have we mentioned that Lauren is narfin’ awesome yet?).

Some of the technical things we have been working on are intended to adapt the Z-Engine art & programming pipelines to our own methods of doing things, as well as building tools to make this process easier; Foremost in these new set of tools at our disposal is a new hitbox editor. As Mike Z and LabZero can tell you (and you can see in their work streams), they have been working so far with a paint-program-made-hitbox-editor, assembled out of necessity and perhaps not quite the best tool for the job. Our programmers -Beta and Kenneth- have then been working on creating a different hitbox editor for use with the Z-Engine, automating some of the process and making the designers’ lives a bit easier.

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Polygon Article and general update

Hey everybody!

The team just got an article over at Polygon, with comments from CoreDev (including Lauren) where we talk a bit about the past, the present and the future of the team. You can go read it by clicking on the header image, or via this link!

You can also take a look at the photos of the team sparkling in the rainbow, which make an already great article even better. We’re planning to frame the Nappy one to put into our not-office.

In progress-related news, we’re still at it! – The team has been exploring and learning their way on the Z-Engine; Our programmer duo has also been adapting and preparing some additional tools we’ll be making use of for the new game, and Lauren and core are still working on character design.

All that said, we apologize for the lack of exciting stuff to talk about. There’s been some, actually, but it’s more of the “exciting for us as developers” than “exciting for the general public” kind. We were blind and the Z-Engine is showing us the light.

So we’re going to be a bit slow for a month or two, while the train picks up speed, and from then on, full speed ahead!

We’re working our collective proverbial off, but any progress in the first stage of game creation (pre-production) might not give as much new exciting stuff to talk about until we get into development proper, in which we’ll be talking more as we go through our work, and get to introduce you guys to the new characters and universe we’re planning here. We’ve already got some ideas on how we plan to, actually, and are very excited for the time to come and unveil them. =)

Lastly, a topic we have already touched upon but keeps popping up: We’re currently not looking into immediate team expansion. We most likely will, at some point, but for the moment, no solid plans. Still, we thank everyone interested in collaborating with us, and we assure you that once we know the game’s specific needs related to workforce, we’ll be making any pertinent announcements through this website and our twitter, so please keep following!

As always, thanks to everyone for your interest in our little project.

We loves you.

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!