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May 10th, 2011

For my first “official” blog post I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the sources of inspiration for Spirit Hunter Mineko. The story itself has roots in a variety of movies and anime/manga. We won’t be covering any of that! Instead, I’ll talk about gaming influences 🙂

The most obvious thing that can be seen in the few released screenshots and demo videos for Mineko is the pixel art and style of the sprites / tilesets. Some of the most well-loved RPGs came out during the rein of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, and I wanted to capture the feeling of games like Zelda, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy (before they all went 3D)!. Everything is hand-drawn to approximate the best of the 16-bit gaming era. Even my choice of font (which has not been shown yet) is based on the bitmapped fonts that Square Enix used for games like Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger back in the 1990s.

In addition to the classic elements, I’ve developed a new line of sight and shadow casting system for 2D gaming that you can see evolve in the older tech videos. Since those demos were made last year other more modern features have been added like lighting, particle systems, and even some special mesh-based effects. All of this is my own hand-written code and mathematics, no libraries or game engines were used.

Part of the delays in getting Mineko done are due to the gameplay. My first attempts were just not fun enough. Rather than make “yet another roguelike” or “dungeon crawler #8472” I discarded a lot of work and documentation. Core gameplay has been, and continues to be refined. Now I am taking some of the best experiences a number of games have to offer and blending them into a cohesive whole that fits Mineko’s universe.

Shiren The Wanderer is an obvious choice to take notes from, it is probably the finest roguelike ever created for game consoles. I’ve taken small ideas from Shiren like the mini-map (actually used in Rogue Touch, and making another appearance in Mineko) and the idea that you always have a standard ranged weapon available (unlike Rogue). One of the more interesting aspects of Shiren is being adapted as well- death is used to drive the story forward, and careful planning can allow you to accumulate useful items for your *next* play-through. This helps take away most of the sting from any one death, and even gives options for those who like to grind in RPGs for better gear to make things easier.

Note that grinding is not mandatory, but it may actually be desirable for a few reasons. 1) Mineko has some “collection” aspects that may remind people of Pokemon! The magic system can be used for summoning help if you find the correct things. 2) The item system will allow a stunning variety of weaponry to be created. Expect to find weapons from multiple “tiers” ala World of Warcraft (from common to epic and more, with familiar color auras), with more powerful ones containing several types of magical enhancements and modifiers.

There is no “skill tree” in Spirit Hunter Mineko, but the items you can collect provide such a range of effects that they serve as a function equivalent… without the stupid re-spec or class change penalties found in most Action RPGs these days.

Unfortunately this section is weak at the moment, but it is vital to the finished game! I’ve had a couple of false starts with very talented people, but hoping things are on the right track at last. Currently the idea is that “less is more”… many of the greatest themes in movies and classic games are simpler tunes, that just happen to be very catchy and memorable!

Spirit Hunter Mineko still requires several memorable tunes, combat / gameplay sounds, and a lot of ambient / background noises. If you are a good sound-effects person (or know of one) please post in the comments!

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, I’m still trying to get my blogger skill leveled up! Not sure what my next topic will be yet, but might be one on “what makes games fun” or perhaps on user interfaces and more specifically, touchscreen UI.

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