January 2013 Development Video

We have something special to share to get the new year started right. Below you'll find a link to our very first development video. This video demonstrates the current state of the game and includes commentary that discusses our designs. This is a great way to check out the project without requiring you to build the game yourself. We hope that you enjoy it, and will leave us any feedback you have by either commenting on the video itself or leaving your remarks on our forums. We will release more videos like this in the future as a way to keep the community updated on our progress.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9scSYkFK5o

Our next immediate order of business is to publish a new development release, so that you can experience the game for yourself as it is presented in this video. We hope to get that release out by the end of this month, if not sooner. We also now have an updated roadmap so you can get a picture of what it is that we need to finish and what we are currently working on.

With our online services cleaned up and restored, project files reorganized, and numerous features that have been backported from Valyria Tear, I'm happy to report that the revival of this project is now complete. Thus, we are now ready to begin working with a full development team again, and we'll spend the next couple of weeks hunting down artists, programmers, and others to help us work on our next release. If you are interested in helping out, please read the following page on our wiki to find out how you can get started. We especially need artists and game designers (who make maps and manage game content) to join our team. Our release is, for the most part, feature-complete and is only missing the appropriate content to bring it all together.

http://www.allacrost.org/wiki/index.php/New_Contributors

Project Revival Updates and More

We're starting to pick up steam again. I hope that by the end of the month, we'll be ready to bring back a full development team. Here's what we've been able to do in the past few weeks.

  • The forums have re-opened for registration. We're still dealing with some spam issues, but otherwise everything is working great.
  • The new wiki is up and available at http://www.allacrost.org/wiki. I'm about half way through migrating all the content from the old wiki.
  • The working copy of the code in the subversion repository has been broken for a while (on Linux at least). That has now been fixed.
  • The code import process from Valyria Tear has begun. New features and bug fixes are streaming into the code at a rapid pace.

And here are some additional tasks that I hope to have complete before next month.

  • Update and enhance our bug tracker software
  • Add a testing interface that makes it very simple to test maps and battles. This will make it much easier for our game designers to do their work.
  • Do a re-organization of our wiki, and update content relevant to new contributors to the project. I want to make it as easy as possible for someone to come along and help out where they can.

As I mentioned before, I don't believe I will have time to update our website by myself, but I gladly welcome anyone who would like to upgrade our Drupal backend and improve our layout. I've had to disable commenting on news posts for now due to issues with spam.

Over on the Valyria Tear project, the first release is estimated to be available in a couple weeks time. Once it is out, I will make an announcement about it here.

Project Revival Progress Update; User Registrations Temporarily Disabled

Our site has completed it's migration to a new server. You may have noticed some parts of the site not working correctly or being completely unavailable, but I believe that everything is now operational again. Unfortunately, this migration has caught the attention of hordes of spammers who are registering fake accounts on the website and forums. I've had to disable registration for the forum and website for now as I try to clean up the mess and install measures to prevent spam in the future. If you already have a site and/or forum account, it should still work, however. Hopefully this problem will be resolved by the end of the month.

In the coming weeks, I'm going to be upgrading the website software (which uses a Drupal backend) and installing a new wiki. Our old wiki, hosted on Sourceforge, had some problems a while back and has remained accessible, but not editable by anyone. After I migrate all the content over to the new wiki hosted on our site, I plan to spend a lot of time updating it. Particularly the code documentation I am going to try to bring up-to-date to help make this project's rebirth easier (while also helping out Valyria Tear in the process).

I'd also like to give our website a major makeover and make it easier to navigate and more content aware (for example, having the latest screenshots on the front page). Unfortunately I do not think I'll have the time or ability to redesign our site, since web development is not something I have much experience in. With that in mind, if you'd like to help out with improving our site, or any of our online services (forum, wiki, etc.), I would gladly welcome the help. I (Roots) am doing all of this work by myself right now and it's taking me quite some time to fix and upgrade everything.

Right now, my goal is to have all of the critical online components fully functional by mid December. If everything goes according to plan, by the end of next month I intend to formally restart this project and seek assistance from both past members of this team as well as any new help we can find. I'll make a post here when that effort is ready to get underway.

Upgrade in Progress. Downtime Expected.

I am in the process of upgrading several important parts of our website, including the main site, forums, wiki, and so on. I expect there will be some periodic downtime and perhaps odd/quirky behavior as I work to fix things up around here. I expect that these construction headaches should be over by the end of the week at the earliest and the end of the month at the latest. If you're having trouble accessing any part of the site and want to report an issue, either post on the forums or see if anyone's around on our IRC channel: #allacrost on irc.freenode.net. Thanks!

Valyria Tear

The blog post that I mentioned that I would make previously can be found in the right margin, or you can read it by simply clicking here. It discusses the why and how the project has reached this state and my personal ideas for how to prevent it from reaching this low in the future.

But what I want to talk about today is a new RPG project in the works called Valyria Tear. It was created by Yohann Ferreira (Bertram) with assitance from his wife. As you can see from the video below, it looks very similar to Hero of Allacrost. That's because Bertram was a new member of our team just before the project went silent, and he felt it was a waste for such a promising project as Allacrost to lay as it did, so he forked the project into Valyria Tear. He has my full support and it makes me extremely happy that our work has now given spawn to two games instead of just one.

Valyria Tear Gameplay Video

You can read more about the Valyria Tear (VT) development on the official blog here: http://valyriatear.blogspot.com/. Bertram has done a great job at adding a number of improvements to the Allacrost code he started from, and he did this work mostly by himself. The video highlights many of those improvements as several are graphical in nature. His work will be backported into Allacrost, so VT and Allacrost can mutually benefit from one another. There will be a lot of similarities between the games both in their design and their content, but they should diverge further apart over time to feel like more unique games in their own right. Thanks to Bertram and VT, it would seem that Allacrost development hasn't been completely dead after all. Rather, it took on a new form.

I learned about VT as I was thinking about how to get Allacrost off the ground again. There's a lot of dust to clean off, and many aspects of this project lay in disorganization. There are usability issues on our forums, a half-written wiki, a stale and seldom used bugtracker, and more problems. After thinking about the situation, I've decided to lend my talents to the VT project for the time being. Working on VT is akin to working on Allacrost, and there is a lot of momentum going over there right now. While I work on VT, I'm going to spend part of my time cleaning up our project here. That includes fixing the problems with our online services, organizing our content and data and getting a handle on what we need to do, and generally making preparations for an active team again. I don't think diving right back in to development on Allacrost would be the best decision right now with the disorganized mess we've got.

I don't know how long I'll be working on VT for or when I'll officially open Allacrost back up for business yet. It depends on when the time will "feel right" to me. I do want to help VT see through it's first release, which should be coming up soon I believe. I'd also like to encourage that anyone who is eager to work on Allacrost come join me on the VT team for the time being. Helping VT is helping Allacrost at this point in time. Of course if you want to volunteer to help me re-populate our wiki or write documentation, I'd be more than happy to accept any assistance there. When I come back to working on Allacrost full time, I'll of course announce it on our site here and start asking for people to join or rejoin the effort.

I hope you're excited about the possiblities with Valyria Tear working alongside Allacrost as it's sister project. I sure am. I feel like we're going to be finally tapping into the true potential of open source game development in the coming weeks and months. We hope that you continue to support both Hero of Allacrost and now Valyria Tear as well.

A Dead Project...Or Is It?

It's been a long while since the last news post here. Over 15 months, in fact. Last year I took a temporary break from this project to focus on other things, and that break lasted a lot longer than I imagined it would. In my absence it would appear that no progress has been made on the project, which I was disappointed by but not terribly surprised about either. Looking at the dust one has to ask themselves "Is this project dead?". Sadly, it certainly appeared so.

I have vowed to continue working on this project and not let all of our past efforts go to waste. I renew this vow with you now. I will continue working on this project while I still live, even if I am not always able to work on it consistently. The problem is that I have many other things going on in my life, as does everyone else on the team, and I/we are not always in a position to work on this endeavour regularly. It will take some work, but I am committed to rebuilding this game, this team, and getting things back on course. Even though doing so will require a lot of effort and certainly will not happen overnight. It's not easy to lift such a heavy and historied project off the ground.

My plan was to rebuild this project and get things moving again. But thanks to the power of open source, I discovered something wonderful had happened while I was away. Allacrost did not die after all, but rather continued on in a different form. And it has seen some great progress. This discovery is wonderful for a number of different reasons, both for Allacrost itself and for open-source gaming in general. After some deep consideration, last night I decided to utilize this new project to assist in the rebirth of the development of Allacrost.

I don't mean to tease you with the lack of details, but I'd rather describe this new project and my intentions with it in a seperate post to follow within a day or two. For now though, I want to make the following points clear.

  1. Development on Allacrost has been dead for over a year.
  2. I am in a position to spend time here again, and I intend to do so.
  3. A new project related to Allacrost has been in the works and will play a key role in our revival.

I'll announce this new project shortly, so look for that post to follow soon. In an upcoming blog post, I will also discuss my own personal view on Allacrost, how to prevent development from stalling like this again, and my own relationship with the project and my life.

July 2011 Development Release

Tonight we're happy to make a new development release available. You can grab it by going to our Sourceforge page and opening the "development releases" folder, or simply follow this link.

We've decided to change our nomenclature of "unstable" releases to "development" releases. This is because we simply felt that it was a more suitable term for describing what these releases are: a snapshot of the state of the game while it is still in development. All the same old caveats apply:

  • These releases are works of progress and are not completed
  • You may encounter various bugs throughout the game
  • There could be pieces of media that are missing or incomplete
  • A substantial portion of the text encountered in game may be placeholder
  • Translation files are not updated and thus running the game in a non-English language will have missing translated text

Here's the list of major changes in this release from our last.

  • The boss fight at the end of the cave leads to a short dialogue and transitions the player outside of the cave back to the opening desert map
  • The opening map has a new event sequence where the knights head back to their home from the cave
  • The Harrvah city map is available for the player to roam around on (this map is largely incomplete)
  • Smart camera panning on maps has been included
  • Several scripted sequences have been updated in the cave map
  • The GUI in battle has been updated to make damage numbers and status easier to see
  • A battle tutorial has been added that is triggered when the player encounters their first battle (the player may choose to skip this if they like)
  • Dialogues are now able to be scripted into battles (this is used for the battle tutorial)
  • Battles may now be scripted, though this functionality is not yet being used except for the battle tutorial
  • The battle system has been updated so that commands can be entered for characters prior to when they need to begin executing them
  • The bottom right area of the battle screen now shows the selected action and target of each character
  • The save/load screen has been updated to provide a preview of the file being saved or loaded
  • A confirmation prompt is given when saving or loading a game, and a dialogue indicating success or failure is provided when saving a file
  • Some improvements were made to address performance issues that were observed on integrated Intel graphics card and other lower end systems

The changes to the battle system we would definitely like to receive feedback on. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we have an active discussion going on about this on our forums, and this is our first release that demonstrates the first results of that conversation. Basically, with this release you can enter commands for the characters while they are in their "idle" state, which is when their icon is in the yellow region of the stamina bar that is situated on the right side of the screen. This allows the battle to flow more smoothly, rather than being a game of "stop and go" where the action stops whenever your character needs to have a command selected and otherwise you are just sitting there watching the action play out. Its a different approach and felt rather weird to me at first, but I've grown used to it. We've gotten various feedback about it in our community, some of it positive and some if it critical. We really need more opinions so we can lead this design in the right direction. So head over to the discussion topic here and lend your voice after trying it out.

Thanks for checking in with us. We might have another surprise coming soon, so keep that in mind. Till next time.

A Response to Recent Feedback

We've had some great positive feedback in recent weeks about the game itself and our recent June release. Amusingly, one of the comments we've heard repeated is "Wow, you guys have been working on this since 2004? That's some intense dedication!". We've heard this from both people that are exposed to Allacrost for the first time, and from people who recently rediscovered Allacrost after playing one of our older demo releases years ago. With these comments in mind, I thought I'd address two general questions that people have about us and this project.

What's taking you so long to complete this?

There are dozens of different answers to this question. The most common response we give is a reminder that everyone works on this project in their spare time. We all have lives outside of this project and sometimes life gets in the way. And not everyone sticks with this project forever either. Some people work during the summer in between semesters of school, others find themselves getting married or becoming parents and no longer having the free time necessary to dedicate themselves here. We perpetually need new people to join our team to replace those that are left, and this really takes a toll on our development pace. We don't have a large, active team like some other open source projects do. I wish we did though.

Another reason I think this is taking longer than expected was that the choice of our development model was initially poor. In the past, our development used to be much more "closed". We only did official releases instead of our unstable/development ones, meaning that there was often several months between releases. The majority of our forum topics were private and internal only to those already on the team. To get on the team, you had to submit a formal application and pass a rather thorough acceptance review. And so on. While this type of model may work for some, it was definitely not working in our favor and it took us much too long to realize this and change our ways for the better.

The scope of this project is also a big factor. In the beginning, the vision I had for Allacrost when we were starting out was much more simple. I saw basically a game with the same mechanics as Final Fantasy VI, but with a much improved battle system and other significant differences. But over time, we've let new features creep their way into our plans and the scope of this game has gotten pretty massive as a result. Some examples include using OpenGL for our graphics back-end, switching from a tile-movement system to a free-movement one, eliminating random encounters off of maps and replacing it with enemy sprites that roam around, etc. Our artwork requirements were initially outrageous as well, and I had to have some sense kicked into me by others before I accepted it. Even today our artwork needs are painfully high. Sometimes I almost wish our artwork was lower quality than it is, because all of the new artwork we make has to match this high standard and it takes a lot more time and a lot of skill to produce art like that. I've been playing some older console RPGs lately and realizing that many of them are incredibly limited and basic compared to Allacrost in terms of both features and content quality.

Finally, I think its worth mentioning that Allacrost is really three software projects in one: the engine, the game itself, and the game editor. Allacrost runs on a custom-built game engine, and the development of this is what we focused our first 3-4 years on. Writing a game engine, even a 2D one, is a lot of work. Especially for a group of people who have no game development experience, which most of those who joined the team did not initially have. If I could go back and do one thing different, it would be to use an existing game engine instead of building one on our own. But writing this engine definitely gave myself and other programmers a wealth of experience so it wasn't entirely without merit. But I feel like we'd be years ahead of where we are now had we made that decision early on. So remember, the last seven years haven't been a constant effort to develop a single product. They've been years with periodic stalls in development while simultaneously working on three product lines.

What keeps you going?

I obviously can't answer for everyone here, but I'll try. For a lot of us, I think its a passion for the type of game that we are shaping Allacrost to be. The SNES-era of RPGs holds a place dear in my heart, and its like that for many others on the team as well. For others Allacrost is an outlet to develop and share their talents. Some people join this team simply to gain experience in game development as part of their step towards getting a job in the gaming industry. (I've actually been approached by game development companies before and have been requested to come in for an interview, but I've always turned these offers down). On a more personal note, Allacrost is a way for me to exercise and practice an eclectic mix of interests. Through my time here, I've learned how to be a better programmer, writer, artist, manager, and communicator. It has been and continues to be a great learning experience for me, and believe it or not remains the highlight of my resume and what I am most often questioned about at job interviews.

Of course not everyone has the same zeal for this work. Of the original five or six members who formed the initial team, only two remain. Currently only three people active on the team have been with us earlier than 2010. Most people don't even last a year with us. Some don't even last a single week. This isn't because working on this team gives them a horrible experience, or we are all slave drivers or anything like that. Some people simply find that this isn't something that they are interested in, something that they have enough skill to do, or they just can't find the time to continue with it. Even I get burned out sometimes, which was the case for over a year up until a few months ago.

And finally, something that keeps me going is the realization of how many thousands of hours I have put into this project so far. To leave it unfinished would be extremely unfortunate and I don't want all that time and effort that I and dozens of others have put in over the years to go to waste. I feel like it would dishonor all those people whom I've asked to come and help out with this project, and who gave a serious effort to move this game forward. I've said before that this project will never die so long as I still live and so far I haven't broken that promise.

Evolution of the Battle System

A few days ago on our forums, I put forth a set of ideas for how to improve the battle system in Allacrost. Usually I don't highlight forum discussions on the main site, but this is a rather important one for us to receive feedback on. The outcome of this dialogue could very well greatly influence the direction we take for our battle system in the future. If you'd like to add your own thoughts, comments, and ideas, we'd gladly welcome them. The link to the forum thread is below. Its a long read, so prepare yourself.

Forum thread: Making battles more player-active

It is likely that our next development release will include some changes to the battle system based on this thread so that we can receive additional feedback after people have actually experienced these concepts instead of just read about them. So be on the lookout for that.

June 2011 Unstable Release

Its been a long time since our last unstable release and today we're happy to break the trend of silence. Head over to our sourceforge page and you'll find unstable releases for Windows, OSX, and Linux/source. In case you're new to this concept or you forgot what an "unstable" release is, they are basically development snapshots that are meant to allow interested parties to observe our current state of progress. We try to polish them up a bit so that things aren't too incredibly chaotic, but they do contain many unresolved bugs, missing features and artwork, etc. Its a little hard to put together a changelist, since this release is part of an entirely new product (the full game instead of a demo). Here are some of the major new additions you can see through this release.

  • Two brand new maps with many scripted events that develop the beginning plot of the main story
  • Enter/exit sequences in battle to smooth the transition from map exploration to battle execution
  • Better display of battle damage and status indicator text and images
  • Receiving damage causes a brief stun on the stamina bar, allowing you to delay opponents actions slightly
  • New skills available to use, some of which can target an entire party
  • Attack points have specific stat modifiers (for defense and evasion)
  • Targeting certain attack points may invoke status effects. For example, targeting legs to reduce agility
  • Enemy's are no longer "leveled up" to match the party's strength
  • If the player loses a battle, they have the option to restart the battle from the beginning, taking a penalty on XP/drunes earned upon victory
  • Two new enemies to fight, one of which is a boss-type

A few miscellaneous notes about this particular release:

  • It is not balanced at all, and currently all battles are extremely easy.
  • I'm not sure if the save functionality works, but even if it does you shouldn't need to use it
  • Don't try to mix saved games of this release with those of past releases, because it likely will cause problems and may crash the game
  • We left the "debug" options on the main menu for you to play around with if you like. These are: "Menu, Battle, Shop" and will take you to those respective environments. There are Lua (text) files which can be modified to change the properties of these modes as well (if you'd like to know how, ask us on the forums)
  • There are a few pieces of placeholder art in this release
  • If you're experiencing any input issues, there's a forum thread detailing the problem and instructions for how to enable a temporary solution that was put in place for this release. This problem seems to be rare, thankfully.

Now our plan going forward is to attempt to try and make a new unstable release every month until we make the official release. This, however, is not a promise and it totally depends on the state of progress that the project is under. If we can maintain our current level of progress, it shouldn't be difficult for us to keep making these releases on a monthly basis. With that, we hope you enjoy this progress snapshot release and continue to look forward to more. If you have any comments, questions, or problems regarding the release, either post on our forums or join our IRC channel and we'll be glad to help you out. Thanks!

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