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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Game Project Update: Animating and Spriting

Regular readers would know that in addition to shamelessly exposing my privacy to the Malaysian busybodies, I used this blog partially as a developer’s log for my game project, Unlocking Pandora. For those who had just recently metamorph’d into a busybody, you can click the link to find out more about my project.

The short-stuff of the assignment is that I’m working on something that might help me get a head start of my thesis paper v2.0. Unlocking Pandora is a PC role-playing game (RPG) similar to Final Fantasy 1-4 graphic style; you choose a party of fighters, you upgrade by fighting monsters and you save the world by killing the powerful evil guy.

For quite a long time I had to put this project on hold because of my school’s website project but that’s old news now. So when I wasn’t reviewing the last two non-RPG games, I was planning on working of some sprite edits (I’m no good at customizing my own character sprites though).

But that didn’t work because I was distracted by some new material I’ve collected. So instead, I’m gathering graphical stuff and dissect them to arrange into RPG Maker 2003 (RM2K3) format.

This is one of the four new battleset edits I’m working on. The animation for this graphic is used for my healer character’s attack spells.

Like the cell animation techniques that Astro’s TV channel, Nickelodeon, had taught us, I have to arrange each box of graphic one by one in a timely sequence. Recolouring, resizing and transparencies are part of the flexible editing options in the software. Here’s something what I planned to achieve.

These are some of the battlers’ examples, but not necessarily I’ll decide on this design.

And place them in the default battle system like these (old works showing here, by the way but you get the picture, right...?).

Every character’s specialized attack or magical upgrade gets its own animation.

It’ll be a b**ch to calibrate and arrange to make it look really nice but I’m kind of veerrrrry particular about it (I rarely make an animation less than 50 frames now). So far, I’ve got 2 characters whose attack animations are good and done, which makes 7 others to create.

As for other animations, I got some of the generic ones done. But then there are the specialized enemy attacks (a boss sends out a great evil-blue beam!) and monster sprite’s attacks (generic monster strikes and status disability) and sequence/events-triggered animation (like feathers falling very, very slowly from the sky).

I’ll calculate how much animation cells I’ll have to face-off but since I’ve already know that it’ll be annoyingly humungous, I don’t think I want to scare myself with the details (aaccck!).

Speaking of humungous jobs, I’ve made some new problems with a sprite graphics relative to my storyline. In the storyline, my protagonist uses a unique magic circle to draw power out from the earth to *cough* spoiler *cough* against the bad guys. Currently, this is the magic circle sprite graphic I’m thinking of using.

I’m working out a scene sequence but the magic circle doesn’t seem dramatic enough for this scene.

The magic circle I’ve first tried for now seems... kind of wimpy. And it’s too much a reminiscent of Ahriman’s Prophecy’s Power of Eight. So I’ve changed my mind and saved that circle for other stuff, maybe in side-quests.

But now I’ve created a problem of what to use in making a more dramatic magic circle. Looks like it’s going to be another long trip to MS Paint. But I got the ball rolling and I’m sticking with its current course.

The magic circle is significant for the storyline as an informative guide to the magical world of the game, plot development for my protagonist and a nature of the gameplay. There will be eight components, each one representing a raw magical power and so there’s a kind of puzzle system attached to it.

After much doodling, I’ve decided that the bottom-most pattern will suit. Now I’ll just have to resize, adjust and maybe even animate it.

If you’ve read this long, then you’re a bigger busybody that I thought. Okay, the rest of the changes and additions I’ve made are:
1. A game hint system that will tell the answers to quests but will also cost level points.
2. Storyline extensions, mostly in Act 2 and Act 3. Side-quests for both Acts are still in the thinking cap.
3. Music and sound effects are finally finalized! I got two sound effects that are quite big in size but I’m keeping them because it’s the sounds of two people having fun-sex. This way, I can create a Vegas brothel. In my game, that is.

I’m still considering making my two non-playable characters into playable characters since their roles is looking to become more and more significant into the storyline. It’s not that I’m afraid to do the battler and battle animation graphic work (I’ve a full year to complete this project after all), it’s whether turning them into playable characters will affect the intrigue of their backgrounds.

Aaaah... the power of the imagination. Busybody enough for you?

Thaumaturgy and Magic Circles

I loved magic. My interest in it came mostly from Enid Blyton’s faerie tales, Greek and Roman mythology and TV episodes of David Copperfield’s illusions. Thankfully, those childhood days didn’t corrupt me from looking for other magic-potential events. Like voodoo practices or witches haunts or exorcism or the Heroes of Might and Magic game series.

Magic may be all in the mind but it never stops there. Since the mystique of magic is older than Lord of the Rings, so are its variations. I’m referring to a category of magic that I’ve read Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series; thaumaturgy.

Thaumaturgy needs strong concentration and a lot of time to prepare for it, making it opposite of evocation (the latter refers to fireballs and lighting bolts).

In my Webster’s dictionary (which is almost 20 years old, so take it with a raised eyebrow), thaumaturgy means that it is the study of miracles or the effects of miracles. In most fiction novels, thaumaturgy refers to the type of magic when a practitioner or a caster designs, enchants and creates a network of magic, either upon a medium or to achieve a purpose.

For example; a wizard uses a network of small mirrors to channel sunlight into an enclosed circle, thus trapping a dark spirit. He may augment the sunlight circle using various crystals and gemstones. Maybe he uses sapphire for protection or ruby for fire or opal for absorption or rose-quartz for healing.

The making of the sunlight circle is a form of thaumaturgy. Other forms of thaumaturgy are like enchanting a ring, or dispelling a cursed figurine or building a safehouse or making a puzzle trap. Lost, centuries-old tombs, maintained their deadly magical traps using thaumaturgy.

Thaumaturgy, if you do it right, is a whole lot cooler any fireball. Gandalf got nothing on this Chicago wizard and his zombie dinosaur.

Thaumaturgy is like the Engineering Major in a Magic Degree. Just as bank alarms needed electricity to work, an object of thaumaturgy needs energy to maintain its enchanted state, otherwise it’ll fade and dry out.

That factor is probably one of the reasons why magic circles are so popular in thaumaturgy. In real-world physics, a sphere is the shape of which matter can pack the most mass in the smallest space. The wizards of the past ages probably knew about this and utilize the circle shape as a preliminary to the sphere structure (or maybe they have a drugged-induced fascination for bubbles).

A simple circle is enough protection against most imagined evils. Just because you’ve only imagined it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Nonsensical I may sound, but I’m trying to extrapolate on what a magic circle can be made use of.

When a child creates a section of the bedroom he shared with his brother, he is already creating a mental security sphere against whatever his brother might throw at him. If the child uses duct tape to the floor to denote a borderline, this mental security sphere is now visible to his brother.

In magic, that example is one of many what magic circles are mostly used for; a protective barrier. In many structures of thaumaturgy, a magic circle can also be used as a portal, a prison or even a re-channeling of energies. This example had been played around in many popular media, from Charmed series to Marvel comics.

People becomes awed at an illusionist’s magic but hardly anyone would notice that his real workings are in his magic circle, below his feet. Note that none of his ‘objects’ ever stray far from the barriers of the magic circle.

Just as the network of energies in a hurricane or a whirlpool revolves around a circle, every line in a magic circle explains the flow of an accorded energy. Steady pressure energy to create stability or kinetic energy represented by a spinning top or the falling sand in an hourglass. That sort of thing.

Essentially, magic is in the mind of the caster. What you believe and what you concentrate on will affect more than just your actions. Like Disney’s Dumbo and his so-called magic feather, it is the strength of the caster that evokes the magic circles and channels the thaumaturgic energies.

Here’s a magic circle I’ve made.

I made this and others like it years ago.

Here’s my set of magic circles, all lined on my wall. The thaumaturgic energy I pry from them is Creativity. By themselves, these circles don’t flash fireballs or trap midnight monsters (though it’ll be cool if they did). They’re catalyst for my imagination; whenever I feel like I need to do work but no idea how to start, I draw energy to them and the beautiful lines work their magic to me.

I got them all lined up on my bedroom wall, along with other pictures.

Fanciful I maybe, but hey! Of all the magic theories and magic stories I’ve feed myself throughout the years with, this magic is mine.

Two Skyports in Two Different Regions

In making my last two entries, I realized that I didn’t add an image for last week’s Saturday. So for this week, I’m adding two images but I kind of stupidly mindset that way. Both are of the same theme, a skyport in two completely different Regions.

Both of the images are from, from two different artists and thus, belong to them.


I thought this time I’m making something more sci-fi. Kind of remind you of the opening of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with all that snow and earth-embedded buildings. What I liked best about this image is how the cloudy sunlight plays on the snow and the buildings’ gray exterior.

I relate this image to what I’ve envision a very cold and rocky Region in my Imaginary World Ideas. Just as in December’s Dream, Ireulun remembers a Region which homes are made with tree vines, there is a Region in the same world that is covered in ice and snow all year long.

Just as countries make up a continent, this nation in this Region possessed high-tech equipment and advancements in technology, a culture of their people, descendents of refugees from a metallic magic Region.


This one has a beginner’s artist feel to it but there’s a lot of attention to detail placed in it. I liked how the colours build the harmony of the subject matter. I didn’t like the shape of the castle (it looked kind of boxy) but the fine details of the balloon-ship (the crests, the canvas fabric) on the right were very nice.

In the world of the game project I’m making, this image represents one of the hundreds of rural military bases around one Region which derives its magic from the natural forces of water. The countryside is a quiet and idyllic and the military mainly uses this base as a training ground for young pilots.

And just in the background of the latter image are the hard and icy mountains of the former image.

These two different skyports in two different elements represents two different nations on the borderline between two different Regions. Yet they both represent the same need; to build a safe port for people to transact their traveling mode from the land to the air.

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