One More State-side Update

Sadly this past month hasn’t been as productive as I might have liked.  The main culprit is probably the fact that tomorrow I’ll be flying to the other side of the planet, where I’ll be spending the next year.  Aside from the time I’ve had to spend preparing for the trip, it’s a bit hard for me to focus on development with something like that looming over me!  I guess you could say the move has stolen the game’s thunder for the time being.

For the next week or so I’m guessing I’ll be swamped with getting situated.  After the initial craziness though, I’m hoping that I will actually be more productive overall with Why Am I Dead At Sea than I have been this summer.  Though I’ll have less potential waking hours to contribute to the project, I think that my day job will keep me from burning out and will force me to value my development time more.  When all of my day-to-day structure is self-imposed, it is so much harder to stay on task!

With all that said, there has still been a good deal of progress that I can share, so let’s get into that!  Note:  Every picture is linked to a GIF that shows the same thing but with animation.  If you want to see the animation, just click on the picture!

1. Scenery Layering

One thing I did since my last blog update was rewrite a lot of my collision detection code, mainly because it was legacy code from the first “Why Am I Dead” that was needlessly complicated and honestly just done very badly.  To make my life easier in adding other stuff to the game, I decided to just bite the bullet and tear it all out.

One thing that I then proceeded to do with the help of an improved collision detection system was to include support for layered props.  Previously, only characters could be layered to give an illusion of depth, while props were completely static and could not be moved in front of or behind, but simply around.  Now, they operate in the same way:

So that’s neat.

2.  ‘Spectral’ Effects and Unlocks

I’ve known that I wanted to have a different visual style in the game for the ghostly/supernatural things that happen in the game — something that seems to be separate from the pixel art of the rest of the game.  After flirting with particle effects, I decided on a…motif of sorts, involving relatively simple vector art combined with lots of different animation effects.

The screenshot below, actually, is a pretty bad example of that, but it also demonstrates one of the big applications that this motif will be seen in.

This is still really rough, but gets the idea across.  So…what are we looking at here?

Currently the ghost is using an ability to sense what things it can interact with.  As you might guess, green means that it can, and red that it can’t.

In most cases, both characters and new areas must be unlocked before the ghost can successfully enter them.  In the case of possessing characters, you generally have to be able to understand the motives of that character before you can steer them.  And in the case of different areas, you need to have explored the place behind a door before you can ghost-magic your way through it.  This means that you have to possess someone who has access to that area before you have the ability to visit it as a ghost.

This may strike some as rather un-ghostly; generally ghosts can pass through anything, without question!  However, you will very quickly be able to unlock most areas and will spend the majority of the game floating through everything.  This is simply a way to give some more structure to the early parts of the games, and allow for a few surprises.

3. Mind-reading

You have yet another ability in your ghostly arsenal: mind-reading!  This can be done on anyone at any time, and satisfies two functions:

– Additional, optional background and development for those who are interested in seeking it out

– Hints and cues for those who are stuck

It’s as simple as going next to a character while in ghost form and hitting a button.  You will then be brought to a screen that generally has an animated pattern in the style that I outlined before.  On top of that, the thoughts of the character fade in and out.

Each character will obviously have different text that corresponds to what’s going on in their heads at that time in the story (and it will change over the course of the game).  But more importantly, each character’s mind-reading-screen will have radically different animations and visual effects that correspond to their personality and emotional state.

Given how eccentric some of the characters are, I’m going to have a lot of fun with it.


Well, that’s it for now.  The next update that I make will be from the city of Xi’an!

Some more art for WAID2

I feel I’m a bit overdue for an art update, so here’s a twofer; two new characters in one post!

I’m not sure I want to go into great detail about each character whose art I finish, since I think a big part of the game will be figuring out about them as you play.  And a lot of times they won’t be at all what they first seem, so it’s a bit hard to come up with non-spoiler descriptions.

First up is Xu:

Second is Marcurio:

I’ve already tried to mix up the pace/mood of the characters’ walk-cycles, so hopefully the animations are still clear.  It definitely makes things more interesting, and I generally walk away from each character having learned something new about animating.

Also, here’s the typical spritesheets for both games, old and new, side by side.

Cricket     RevisedAltonanim

The afterlife gets a facelift!

Today I’d like to show the art behind one of the characters in Why Am I Dead 2, and use it as a bit of an example for what can be expected in the sequel’s art.

Meet one of ten major characters in the game, Alton.


As you can see, I’m sticking with the Earthbound-esque style of the previous game, which means bright colors, strong outlines, and simple shapes.  However, I will be putting much more attention to detail in each sprite, making presentation better all around.  This particular sprite above is the result of many iterations, and a lot of time spent learning more about pixel art.  I’m generally not so concerned about visuals, but I really want to cram as much personality into each sprite, since the game is so character-centric.

But the part I take most pride in is the considerable improvements that all animations will have.  In the first game, every walk animation had four frames, but with the huge caveat that two of them were just the regular idle frame.  Doing that saved a lot of time, but it’s poor form and looks really shoddy.  To demonstrate, let’s revisit the character Cricket from the first Why Am I Dead.


These animations served their purpose at the time, but would be a huge limitation going forward.  You can probably notice that the legs come together and apart in an unrealistic way, which is the cost of recycling frames — and overall it’s a bit choppy.  All of the new animations, however, will use six frames rather than four, and all of them will be unique, and they will have full-body animations, not just moving hands and feet.


(There will also be some bonus animations that I shall not be posting yet, but which will be in game!)

The one thing that the previous game did have going for it was that all of the animations were done ground-up for each character; I never used character templates to speed things up, which means that every character had a different walk, as choppy as it was.  Quite a few people pointed this out, as it gave each character a different feel, and brought out their personality more — some ran, some hobbled, some sauntered.  Well, that is a practice that I fully plan to continue for the sequel, as time-consuming as it is.  So, expect to see more characters in the future, each with their own strut!