The Notebook

This summer was a little overwhelming.  For anyone not following the saga, my father-in-law died.  If you've ever had to deal with such a thing, you know that there is a lot of work that goes into the before and after.  Things got hectic, I got busy, and even the simplest parts of my routines felt crunched for time.


For all that, I still managed to release Chasing the White Bear (release: Dec. 2) and The Universe is Black & White (available on The Game Crafter).  But, to be fair, TUIBAW had actually been in the works for a while, since before my father-in-law.


Also on the table for a while was the fact that my laptop was slowly going to hell.  Linux managed to save it once, a new hard drive saved in a second time, but eventually, components just start to physically break down.  Full disclosure: I am still using said laptop, even now, for basic writing (drafts, etc.) and internet stuff.  Recently I got myself a new laptop.  I was quite unprepared for the boost in processing speed, and the difference between an HDD and SSD.  The old laptop, I'd turn it on, get up, stretch, use the bathroom, get a snack, come back, and it would probably be at the login screen.  Log in, get another snack, let the cat in and out a few times, and then it would be ready.  The new laptop, I turn it on, get up, and have to sit back down again because it's ready.


Part of the fun of a new computer is getting all your programs back in order and set just the way you like them.  All the settings and workspaces and flows and whatever else.  Although, honestly, given my track record of computers and OSes, I tend to stick with the defaults.  And running an uncommon Linux distro can make things even more fun.  Some programs adapt, others do not.  It can be fun at times because then you might be introduced to some perfectly viable, nearly unknown, alternatives.  Other times, it's not so fun, and the latest major release of Wine (which handles the execution of Windows programs) has been far less than stellar.


One of the programs that I was unable to run was the engine that I've been using for Journey to Aktiya Waya.  It is called RPG Paper Maker, or RPM.  The Steam version would not work.  The Linux package would not work.  The Windows program would not work, no matter how many times I installed/updated/modified Wine/Winetricks/Proton/Protontricks.  No combination of anything would get it to launch.  Seriously, I could not even open the program, and my computer wasn't registering any errors.  This was quite frustrating.


So began a series of formal and informal inqueries as to the nature of the problem.  I run the same OS on both computers, so why would it work on one and not the other?  Answer?  Well, it had stopped working on the old laptop, too, I just hadn't noticed it yet because I hadn't opened the program in a while.  I am only just now getting my ducks back in a row.  I'm not even sure about that, but at least they're all in the same room.

I feel like I need to pause here for a brief aside.  I am very rarely loyal to a particular program.  RPM attracted my loyalty because it is the only engine out there (that I've worked with) that is truly code-free.  It's an option, but not a requirement in the slightest.  Creating the maps is as easy as painting them in.  Events are super easy to understand.  Show Text.  Begin Battle.  Move Object.  If you followed my J2AW series on Bitchute, you saw just how easy it is to get things going.  But you also saw how frustrating it could be at times, especially on mountains.

I'm not going to sit here and badmouth RPM or Wano.  RPM is an awesome engine and Wano is an amazing developer.  The engine works well, it is possible to create a fully-functional game, and Wano is exceptionally responsive to bug reports.  The problem is that she is just one person.  But on top of that, RPM as an engine is designed for a specific type of game.  It can be modified, but the out-of-the-box product is geared toward a particular type of RPG.

I think part of the reason I was having so many problems, the ones that weren't identified as valid bugs and concerns, was that I was trying to skew it too far in another direction.  Could it be done?  Probably, but the hassle of setting everything up wouldn't be worth it, especially since Wano has announced that she is moving toward a web-based application in future releases rather than a local package.  This way she doesn't have to try and keep up with whatever Mac and Windows are doing, which I fully support.  But this presents me with the problem of not being able to get in where I need to go to make the modifications that I need to make the game do what I want it to do.  For a while, I was having to go directly into the data files and redo sections of code to get the display I wanted.  Unfortunately, code cleanup came through and now that change no longer works.  It makes sense for the engine, but it screwed me over.

So, with these frustrations in mind, as well as not being able to launch the thing anyway, I went on a hunt for another game engine.  I'm not a developer.  I'm a designer.  I can read code (somewhat), but I can't write it.  I can modify RPM files all day long, can't hardly write a line by myself.  Having a visual or node-type editor is a must.


I experimented with Unreal for a while a few years back, but it's really not what I'm looking for in this particular game.  More specifically, I didn't want all of my assets (all of my hundreds and thousands of sprites, objects, and battlers) to go to waste.  This narrowed it down significantly to 2D, DnD engines.

There are a few of them out there, but each one has a reason for me not using it.  Usually it fell along the lines of limited features for free users, limited number of assets allowed, and so on.  Another problem was that I still hadn't solved my launch problem.  I couldn't launch any Windows programs.  Wine was a bust, as was Lutris and PlayOnLinux.

Finally I discovered Bottles.  It's a wrapper, like Lutris or PoL, but for whatever reason, it got the games running.  Did I attempt to run RPM again?  No.  Actually, I discovered GameMaker Studio 2.

I haven't been using it long enough to declare the same kind of loyalty that I had for RPM.  There's a little more learning curve with GMS2.  But, just derping around with it, looking through the tutorials and starting the setup of J2AW, I really think this is going to be a change for the better.  The concept engineering is a lot freer, so I think I'll be able to actually start implementing some of the more essential elements of the story.  In RPM, I either couldn't implement certain abilities or else the coding gymnastics I would have to do was both daunting and liable to break with the next release.  Just reading through the tutorials of GMS2, I can identify 5/7 abilities that I need to implement.  Nothing huge or fancy, they're just there.

What does this mean, then, for all of my progress so far and my desire to have a working beta test by the release of Lone Wolf?  Well, honestly, it could still happen.  First of all, the game itself is basically done.  I know my overall map layout, the story progression, and I also have a laundry list of things that I didn't like about the current alpha version that would be a cinch to clean up in a remake.  It's the difference between trying out a new recipe from scratch and following a more familiar recipe from your mom's kitchen.  GMS2 also gives you the ability to upload your game to the internet for in-browser play (also the only distribution option available for free users).  So it might be a case of uploading the game as it is being made.  Finish a chapter, upload.  Finish a chapter, upload.  Take feedback, adjust as necessary.

What things would change?  Well, GMS2 doesn't have mountains like RPM does.  The maps would have to get remade, but that's to be expected.  I'm also considering redoing the characters.  I don't like turn-based RPGs, and I'll need better animations for the elements of an action RPG.

So did all of my sprites etc. go to waste anyway?  Quite possibly.

There will be more updates in the future.  But for now, that's what's going on there.