Woot! All those fancy tools, laborious hours, and revisions upon revisions of copy have finally culminated in a real Kickstarter you could back! Follow the link to check out what we’ve put together and lend your support!
As we prepare for the upcoming Kickstarter, I wanted to get back into the habit of typing into programs other than Visual Studio. So, I’m going to give a quick rundown of how we’re capturing gameplay footage for the Kickstarter video.
Of course, it’s important to show your game in the best light possible without being dishonest. Battle Chef Brigade’s Arena can be difficult to film for this reason, since the monsters are much more interested in stealing your ingredients or attacking than acting cool for the camera. To encourage them to behave nicely, we disable or encourage certain monster actions for each shot. This way, we can trigger behaviors that happen naturally in gameplay without having to do a few dozen takes due to randomness. In other words, instead of hoping for three different monsters to choose and synchronize a set of behaviors, we can force them to!
Hello Stranger! We’ve accidentally become rather stealthy here on the blog, but we haven’t slowed down on Twitter or on the game!
Here’s the lightning edition of what we’ve been up to these last few months:
Most importantly, though, we’ve been preparing for our upcoming Kickstarter campaign! We’re polishing up the game in anticipation of capturing lots of gameplay footage, so Mina and the monsters are finally all getting colored! One of our friends, Mike Antonicelli, is helping Eric color some of the gazillion frames of animation.
Tom Dunkin had a lot of fun working on this next song which will play in our title screen. I provided a quick mock up of what that menu may look like (fire… lots of fire) and essentially asked for something regal with a bit of a military feel. We hoped to capture that feeling of a young cadet standing in the shadow of this grand tournament, anticipating the greatness to come right beyond the gates. Hope you like it as much as we do. Enjoy!
Other than that, the game has been moving along nicely. I hope to do an environment art post eventually, but for now I’d like to also share this mockup where I explored more of the arena and some more basic UI design.
I’ve also been trying to get the monsters more filled out with animations instead of single key frames to represent their states and actions. It’s been a challenge juggling the desire for smooth animations with time and efficiency, gameplay considerations (will this animation be responsive and accurate enough for what we want in combat?), and the ever looming issue of atlas sizes. For instance, while I’d love to always animate a creature as a whole entity to really make it feel alive and not having any part of it be too static, the dragon will be separated into a few parts to hopefully save atlas space as well as time. The legs are more often than not totally still, but the head needs more attention being a focal point.
Another topic of interest for me has been idle states. Idle states are strange for our game because I would imagine players would be engaged with the monsters more than just avoiding them and watching a creature breath and blink, but we still need to create some sort of animation for when this does happen. The smaller the creature is, the easier it is to have that creature always be moving. A lot of pixel art games have their characters bob up and down constantly to make the whole world feel alive. But if you have something large like a dragon to hand animate (not puppetry/rigged style), it would take a lot of frames to get a smooth breathing animation that doesn’t look like hyperventilation, or just excessive movement in general that is a waste of time when more of my focus could be on other attacks and behaviors. So my idea has been to start with something rather robotic, constraining movement to just 1-2 areas of a monster. If I have more time I could always embellish later. Other than hoping those moving areas are interesting I want to show different angles of the monster than just a side view to show off the 2d hand drawn quality of them. I’m really trying to get the most out of the choice to do traditional animation for this game!
We’re hoping to wrap up a solidly working version of our arena section within this month and a half. Wish us luck!
Hi all, Tom Dunkin here. I have the great pleasure of working with the talented Trinket and sound guru George Hufnagl to compose the music for the upcoming demo of Battle Chef Brigade. Since Eric first asked me to take on this quest, I have been both excited and scared out of my pants. I’ve mainly worked in the electronic music genre, so this being my first symphonic project has stretched me and energized me in ways I could not have imagined. Thankfully Eric is a clear creative director, and his artwork is completely inspiring if you haven’t already noticed!
Today I get to share with you the first bit of music for BCB, the main gameplay song for the demo. Since the game was still in early stages of development, I did not compose the music after playing through levels and experiencing all the art and gameplay at once. Instead, I worked with Eric in trying to musically capture emotions and abstract ideas such as heroism, bravery, regality/nobility, fantasy and adventure – all stirred together with the important art of cooking! Of course, the concept art has played a huge role in how I perceive the music should sound (including the fantastic arena environments), and this song is influenced by Mina’s character – she is the main heroine, after all! You could say each character has their own instrument or style, so Mina would be represented by strings and violin.
Probably the most difficult aspect about composing such a piece is understanding that the same music will be playing and looped for both the action-packed arena battle segment AND the strategic cooking segment. So the music itself has to be dynamic and versatile enough to fit in with both gameplay sections (though for me cooking is always an intense battle – I promise since being involved in this project my cooking skills and ambition have increased!)
I hope you enjoy what I’ve come up with so far, and please look forward to future updates on the sound, art and gameplay right here on the DevBlog!
Battle Chef Brigade started as a simple, vague idea. The concept of a fantasy cooking game has been pondered thousands of times; indeed, there are already plenty of games the combine eating with fantasy. That’s all to say that ideas themselves aren’t particularly valuable. That seems to be generally accepted, especially by entrepreneurs. The argument is usually that ideas are common while execution – with all its problem solving, time, and twists – actually creates the product. Even better, it’s much harder to copy a product than an idea.  Not everyone can make a first person shooter MMO, even if they can conceive and design the most brilliant game in their mind. Most importantly to us, we can’t sell game ideas on Steam yet! 
An idea does have quite a bit of implicit value, though, once you’ve demonstrated the capability to bring it to life. Continue reading
For those who are hoping to see us at PAX East again, we’ve got some sad news. We won’t be at PAX East this year.
The new plan is to show the first publicly playable version of Battle Chef Brigade at PAX Prime! We’re disappointed that we won’t be able to hang out with everyone at PAX East this year, but the extra time to polish the game will be well worth it!
Can’t help but think of Sonic with this run for some reason. I’m happy that this run is just 8 frames instead of 12 or more (although some games are even more economical with 6 or even 3!) and I like her loose strand of hair in the front. No one may see that in the final game but for now I’ll enjoy that small detail that is harmless to add.
The few seconds of air combo you see took quite a while, mostly because I was having some trouble figuring out key poses. In a typical fighting game you may have 3-6 options for attacks in the air, but our game currently uses a single attack button. I had to think of an all around basic air attack to start with that would work well in most situations.
She started with just one slash when jumping but we figured she better have an aerial combo as well for more enjoyment and function. The ground combo flows rather smoothly so it took time for me to break out of the idea that the air combo poses also had to blend perfectly. But, this is a game and contrary to real life it’s much better for Mina to snap to poses without worrying about how she got there. I knew this from having jump attack animations from 2D fighters in my head already, but I was too stuck on her very first slash needing to make sense flowing from her jump pose.
Clean line and in-betweens left in combat for Mina: crouch attack, Mina taking damage, knocked out, idles, blocking, and then special moves. Wish me luck!
When we first started on the combat side of the game, Mina used a ladle and pan. Long story short, we ditched that and accepted that our game was just going to be a little more violent (sorry kids!) and gave her proper knives. There will be no “oh that critter isn’t dead it’s just sleeping” going on here. You’re going to hunt monsters and cook them and it’s going to get rough!
I typically work directly in Photoshop for even the rough draft of animations which I did for the cooking animations but this time around I decided to draw a few key poses by hand. I definitely draw faster on paper and can create poses much better since I don’t stress over the drawings as badly as I do when working digitally.
The next step was quickly chopping the drawings out and getting them into Unity so I could quickly see if they were working well. The below GIF demonstrated a loose idea of how I wanted the timing and positioning to work for Mina. I also included quickly animated slash effects to better convey timing, distance, and the sense of power with the attacks.
From there I got back to Photoshop and started to adjust my proportion mistakes, fix any poses that were off model (I often start drawing more compact and then began to scale up and lengthen limbs ever so slightly when I’ve loosened up so I always need to refer back to my first few drawings), and change some poses to be more visually appealing. For instance, later on I didn’t like her strange prey-mantis like way of holding daggers so I adjusted it. As a tangent, I also couldn’t help myself from coloring the first frame so I could make sure the sprite was going to look good overall. So far, I’m going with a colored line and no real shading but the dark brown shadows.
After crudely scaling, rotating, and nudging the key pose sketches around I then felt it was safe enough to begin doing in-betweens. I didn’t quite like the ending of her slash combo so on the fly I experimented with different endings and the one I settled on was what you see in the next GIF. I try to imagine the motions in my head first and sometimes might act out the movements a bit (just with my arms while still sitting in front of the computer) to make sure the attacks flow correctly between the character’s right and left hand.
I have always been a fan of dual weapons. It’s not that I intentionally channeled these characters when I started animating, but after the fact as I reflected on this preference I started to think of Taki (Soul Calibur), Ellis (Battle Arena Toshinden), and while she doesn’t have weapons, the almighty, swift, and spinning Chun-Li (Street Fighter… of course). There’s probably a slew of other fast dagger wielding characters from countless games, anime, and so on that could be brought up in comparison.
After I felt happy with the way the movements flowed and their timing I got to making cleaner lines and also fixing a few remaining pose and timing problems at the same time. In the next GIF you can see her actions more clearly and I also slowed down the animation for my own clarity while working. What you see there is probably the first combo that will make it into the game; a basic 3 hitter. The flourishes and special ending would be something I’d like to add if I have time.
That’s where Mina is now in her combat progress as far as art production. There’s still a lot more to do as far as even a line art stage, such as an idle, run, jump, and more, as you could imagine. Let’s hope I can stay on top of all these tasks and give Mina a proper set of animations come demo showcasing time!
Regardless of how passionate you may or may not be about the way to pronounce “GIF”, I hope you all will enjoy seeing some old animations I made for the cooking side of the game. Since these actions take place at the kitchen station I only needed to animate from the waist up. Currently the latest design of Mina hasn’t undergone these animations but I’m working on the combat side of the game right now (which does have the new Mina).
All of the animations were made using a tank of an old wacom intuos 3 (probably 5 years old now and still going) and Adobe Photoshop (these were CS3 but now I own CS6). Each frame and sometimes separated parts like arms and hair are different layers in a big PSD file. I also test my animations with the incredibly buggy Photoshop animation timeline. The timeline window is very temperamental but once you figure out what makes it angry you can get around in it without too much hair pulling. If there’s any wonder for why I’m not using Flash or an animation program, I just feel comfortable in Photoshop is really what it comes down to. I can work quickly in it and I’m used to the line quality. Most of all, I like the control I can have in coloring and exporting the animations.
No matter the tediousness of making some of the actions (like different permutations of Mina picking up an object), it’s always rewarding to export a looping GIF!