Shang Mu Architect (Coming Soon™)

Discussion in 'Fangaming Discussion' started by Lilly, Aug 2, 2020.

  1. Lilly

    Lilly

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    Shang Mu Architect
    Hello, everyone! I never thought I'd see the day where I had something to post in this subforum, but here we are! :V

    I'm posting here today, to talk about a Freedom Planet fan game I've been working on for the past three to four years, called Shang Mu Architect! Freedom Planet's engine has been rebuilt from scratch in Game Maker, so I could put a level editor on top of it. It is a mixture of ideas I had for an abandoned Sonic fan game project's level editor, and ideas from Strife's level editor for FP1 that didn't make it into the final game.

    I even made my own wacky tile-based collision system for the project! (And let me tell you: The hindsight from my first attempt at Sonic physics is just :psyduck:)

    Here is the trailer:



    (Forgive the potato quality, I was throttled to 2G data at the time. Now, I'm living in a place with fiber-optic Internet.)

    People have wanted to make their own levels for Freedom Planet for years. Some of the smartest people in the community tried to hack the game, so it could support mods, but it proved so impenetrably difficult a task, it was said that it'd be easier to just rebuild the game from scratch. That's when the lights flicked on in my head. :V

    Here is a short showcase of some of the editor's tools:


    The editor itself is certainly more rudimentary in scope than Lapper's Sonic Studio, but most of the time was spent on researching/poking at the game with Fladvervy's speedrunning trainer, and recreating many of its mechanics with some degree of frame-accuracy. (You would be amazed at how painstakingly intricate the game's design work is!) To say that was a monumental task would be an understatement.

    There's a slew of new art I made for SMA, as well! I wanted the game to feel a little fresher by making new assets where I could, instead of relying too heavily on rips.

    Have a closer look at the assets you're seeing in the trailer:
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    As a solo project, I bit off way more than I could chew, honestly, but I kept on going anyway. I'm a platformer fanatic, and have played so many of them since I was old enough to hold a controller, but Freedom Planet stole my heart in a way so few have. That game, and the people behind its creation, inspired me to change the course of my life in a very big way; I never forgot that whenever I felt like giving up.

    ---

    Now, you might be wondering, when can everyone get their itchy Chaser mitts on this game? :V Well, the project finally hit its 1.0 milestone recently, so as soon as we're done squishing all of the known bugs, it should be ready- for all of you to give me even more bug reports, and quality-of-life suggestions! :specialed: It's the nature of game development, embrace it!

    More is planned for 1.1, so feature-creep doesn't hold back 1.0's release, so if the eventual release seems like it could be more expansive, don't worry. I have many so ideas already.
     
  2. Lilly

    Lilly

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    Shang Mu Architect
    Double-posting to give y'all an update on what's all been going on with the game, since I last posted!

    We have a quick look at speedrunning tech from Freedom Planet preserved in Shang Mu Architect. It also shows off one of the newest tracks our lead composer, stringtunes, has finished! (He's been knocking it out of the park with the game's OST!)



    stringtunes also posted a preview video of the game's tracks!

    https://twitter.com/benjistring/status/1293963025448185856

    I also posted a video on Twitter showcasing the finalized water for 1.0; for later versions, I plan on updating the water backgrounds, so that they're sub-backgrounds to the main background. (Such as sewers below Shang Mu City West, and an underwater cave system for Shang Mu lake!)

    https://twitter.com/WhiteLilyDragon/status/1290414229804265474

    The game's titlescreen has also been updated by troopsushi! And WizToad updated all of Savvy's sprites, which are a great improvement over my versions of the sprites! You'll get to see them all in future updates to the game, where I'll have an in-game tutorial screen for how to play the game, ala Super Mario Maker 2. (Savvy is basically the tutorial lady, possibly with an assistant I might design at some point.)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As for the game itself, I've been crushing bugs nightly, more and more as I can after my shifts at work. (The PS4's been looking a little dusty lately! :specialed:) Given the game's scope, as a level builder for a fairly complex, slope-based combat platformer like FP, there's so many bugs and little things to polish, that we won't be able to make it to SAGE, unfortunately; I can't compress an entire month of beta testing and pack-in example level building into two weeks. You only get that first impression once, so I want to handle the game's 1.0 release right.

    We will be widening our beta testing group as we get closer to that polished state, to help weed out weirder edge cases that a smaller group could never catch, so if any Retro-ites want in on the closer-to-final phases of testing, let me know in DMs and I'll get you the game's Discord server link, so you can be notified immediately when RC builds are released. (We're keeping the server link private until 1.0 is released proper.)

    One last thing, an experiment for a bit of fun:

    [​IMG]

    I made sprites of FP2's cast shrunk down into their Sonic-like FP1 proportions, and the result is- interesting. I discovered through that process that Carol's FP1 sprites lack the level of shading that Lilac and Milla have, (deadlines for FP1 were insane, as far as I understand it) so I may update the shading on Carol's sprites in SMA, at the very least. She is a wonderful character and deserves that level of attention; I want Carol to feel well represented in Shang Mu Architect.

    If I had infinite time, I probably would redraw all of FP1's sprites to look like the cast's FP2 appearances like this, (because SMA is set at a time that's post-FP1's story) but I don't, so- a girl can daydream, can't she? :V
     
  3. Lilly

    Lilly

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    Shang Mu Architect
    Double-posting to say that, yes, I did go over Carol's sprites and adding another layer of shading! I expected that it would be a controversial change, because it's a surprisingly radical difference in Carol's appearance, but thus far, responses on Twitter have been very positive, so there's that. :V

    Here's some footage of her modified sprites in action:



    Milla also has a puppy float meter, now! While it is a simple cosmetic change, it makes a big difference in risk assessment when performing her puppy float. I'm trying to keep "backported" QoL features from Freedom Planet 2 at a minimum, but, I didn't think there was any harm in "backporting" this feature.



    And, if anyone doesn't mind my nerdy lady voice, I made a video presentation some time ago that explains why Shang Mu Architect can't be 100% frame-accurate to Freedom Planet. I don't suspect most people will even notice where SMA deviates from Freedom Planet, but it will be nice to have this video handy in advance, for anyone who might ask the question. A video link to share is much faster than explaining the same thing over and over again. :V



    As for a metaphorical progress bar on the game? Still squishing bugs nightly, as I can, but progress was slowed for a few days while I went over Carol's sprites. I had almost considered giving Milla the same treatment, but her sprites' shading are perfect as-is, and attempting to add more colors just muddied the appreciably hard, lineless separation between clothes and limbs. (This is my theory for why Milla's clothes have limited colors, anyway, besides FP1's whole retro vibe!)

    I'm holding off on any more visual additions to the game until after 1.0's release. There needs to be a functioning video game worth prettying up in the first place, after all! :ruby:

    We definitely missed the mark with SAGE, but considering the progress on bug fixes thus far, and the fact that SMA is not even remotely within the realm of Sonic Studio's complexity/scope, I'm speculating a late September release, we'll see how it goes. (So, if any Retroites want in on release candidate testing, now is a good time to get in touch with me!) Game development is anything but predictable! You didn't hear this from me, shhhhhhhhhhhhhh :ssh: *bricked*

    I will end this post on a torturous level of my own devising: This one might get packed in with the 1.0 build.

     
  4. Creepario

    Creepario

    Random gamedev dude from Germany. Member
    You will probably not appreciate me posting here. ^^;
    But yeah, redoing it from scratch was honestly the best decision you could've made. Even with Clickteam Fusion 2.5+, it's still needlessly complicated. Even with most Qualifer limitations out of the way, I will always feel paranoid about having to check 70+ rooms for consistency.
    Got to learn GML and C# and truly realized how much more powerful GML alone is.

    Those Carol sprites; I'd first need to see the clean versions of them but oof, I kinda dig the soft style they appear to have now. Carol also appears slightly more angry during her attack frames, like, more it's easier to see that she actually is having more of an angry expression.

    First large-scale FP fan game that actually appears to be coming out someday; congrats on that! ^^
     
  5. Lilly

    Lilly

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    Here's a cleaner look at the sprites! I wanted to upload the whole strip straight from Game Maker Studio, but Imgur was, uh- not having it. It's 22,000 pixels wide, after all :V

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The main thing I did was add anti-aliasing, used two brighter colors, and upped the contrast elsewhere on her sprites with the pre-existing palette's dark colors. This was mainly so that Carol would have as much shading as Lilac and Milla does. (Also modified her eyes, I still don't know why, could be some internal artistic bias I don't know how to articulate.)

    We'll see if it was worth the effort of three days to go over all of her sprites that SMA uses; I have no idea how the greater fandom is going to react to that change. Everyone seems easy to please, but I like to maintain reserved expectations about public reception.

    Oh, there's no way I would have attempted hacking the original game to restore/expand upon its lost level editor- or decompiling it to make mods, which is unquestionably not-legal. A professional software engineer gave up on the task of modding the game, (In part because that's, well- not very legal.) what would my odds have been

    Recreating the engine was strangely a more sane task. I only made it harder on myself by making my own collisions- oops :V
     
  6. SuperSnoopy

    SuperSnoopy

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    Great looking sprites.
    Just so we're clear, the one you modified is the middle one, right? I'm not familiar with the one on the right, is it her sprite from FP2? I remember her being way taller in this game.
     
  7. Lilly

    Lilly

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    Yeah, the middle one is the modified sprite, while the left one is the original. I forgot to clarify, forgive me!

    The sprite on the right is also a modified sprite. I edited Carol's sprite to look like her FP2 counterpart, to see how well the new design would translate to Freedom Planet 1's character proportions. It's certainly a testament to FP2's distinct character designs, that they still look nice even at lower resolutions for sprites. (GalaxyTrail's artists wouldn't have much room to draw so many wonderfully expressive facial expressions for FP2, if they had stuck to FP1's resolution, though.)

    A lot of people liked it, as far as I can tell. :V It was part of this group shot:

    [​IMG]

    Another reason is that I was speculating what the girls would look like, if I had infinite time and created modified mid-quel sprites for the characters, (SMA is set at a time post-FP1) to show how their appearances are changing as they grow up into their FP2 appearances. All while including some, but not all, of their new moves from FP2.

    But I don't have time for that, unfortunately. I've got two other original projects lined up after SMA, including a third that I have the story of on the backburner, so- Carol's updated sprites are all I'm able to manage for SMA. At most, I might make new sprites for Milla so that she can aim straight up and down, like in FP2, and that's just two new frames. :specialed:

    A lot of effort largely went into new backgrounds for this fan game, as well. Each of the new backgrounds I have were two to three week projects of their own. (I currently lack the skill to belt these out as quickly as some people can.) There's still another coming in future updates, so there's very little time for sprite overhauls.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2020
  8. First we had Sonic Maker, of which was redone and renamed to Sonic Studio. Now we have a Freedom Planet editor? Didn't expect to see something along these lines, but life will always continue to surprise.
    I do have a somewhat cosmic question. — Would the editor allow for any kind of custom asset creation? Not mandatory, clearly, but something worth asking.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2020
  9. Lilly

    Lilly

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    Shang Mu Architect
    A Freedom Planet maker is something the GalaxyTrail community has been wanting/dreaming of for quite some time. While I worked on the project in secret, many of my friends would smirk in private whenever someone on the GalaxyTrail Discord daydreamed about wanting a Freedom Maker. I'm still amazed at the response to the fan game, nobody saw this coming. :specialed:

    As for custom asset creation, you're not the first to ask! Everybody wants that, I feel, but unfortunately that's out of the scope for the 1.0 release. If I can manage it in future updates, we'll see, but for now, I can't promise anything until I can come up with an intuitive way to make custom texture pages, that people can load into memory from an external file with an INI attached. (Which has all of the assets' coordinates accounted for.)

    It would be neat if I could create an algorithm that automatically sorted texture pages for people, but that's also something I don't know how to do yet. (And I would need a new tool for generating collision masks for slopes- that's a project in of itself.) Allowing custom assets in general would be a little tricky. Custom tilesets aren't be too bad to speculate, however; its custom characters/enemies/backgrounds with logical scripting where my abstract thinking falls apart. Anybody know how to plug Lua scripting into Game Maker Studio? :V

    For now, at least, I do have custom drawing tools for the editor, so you can make little unique details throughout a stage, if you liked:

    [​IMG]

    Currently, these tools *barely* work, they're a huge work-in-progress, but they are slated for the 1.0 release. And, if they turn out well enough, I'll expand on each GUI item's palette, so that people have a total of 104 colors to play with! (And I will need a palette bar toggle for the sidebar, so people don't go insane with tabbing back into the tile menu each time they want to select a new color.)

    [​IMG]

    I don't think many people will take this feature seriously until there's a multi-select tool for Shang Mu Architect, (that way, they can copy "patches" throughout a level) but if I can get it to work, it might be a fun novelty for people to play around with! The idea started as an MSPaint meme; we'll have to see if it goes beyond that meme status.