The Light of the Darkness - Project

Discussion in 'Feedback Requests' started by Fernando Rabello, Mar 28, 2011.

  1. Fernando Rabello

    Fernando Rabello New Member

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    The Light of the Darkness - Need support on Kickstarer

    Update:
    We start a Kickstarter campaign and we need support right now so we can continue with the project. There is a new trailer with new images of the game too:


    Link of the project on Kickstarter is:
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/epifanica/the-light-of-the-darkness-the-game



    Hello,

    my name is Fernando Rabello, i´m a artist and i live in Brazil. I'm currently working on a indie game project called The Light of the Darkness. I believe you probably should hear a very little news about game development in Brazil. Well, we are trying to change that a little.

    The Light of the Darkness, is a side-scroller, with elements of action and RPG, similar to games like Casltevania, Odin Sphare, Muramassa, Actraiser. The game is based on a universe project that i been developing for some time, called "The Light of Darkness". A universe with its own mythology, wildlife, culture and physical. The game has a deep history that goes beyond the game. The game shows a painted art illustrations. The animations has been done in flash using 4 types of animations techniques: Frame by frame animation, object bases animation, 3d animation (pre-render), and pre-render visual effects (particles, energy, explosions effects in general) that are mix together to create good animations with the best of each techniques.

    The universe of The Light of the Darkness is a project of fantasy/fiction set in a new and unprecedented mythology. The universe approaches themes such as prejudice, religion, wars, social relationships and the dialectics between opposite elements. It is constructed through a series of parallel stories and audio-visual materials. These stories interact, generating a huge net of events. Besides the stories and parallel events, the universe of The Light of the Darkness has a main story and a main character. This story represents its spine, and relates to all other events depicted in the universe.

    [​IMG]

    The intention of the universe of The Light of the Darkness is to explore a setting that has a great potential in approaching correlate themes. This setting is constructed through a dialectics between the concepts of Light and Darkness. This allows us to make use of a series of provocative and intriguing themes, controversial and of great dramatic potential, such as racial prejudice (whites versus blacks), religious conflicts and the incompatible relations between social groups that tend to despise one another. This is what the universe is about: the dichotomous association between distinct instances or entities, hereby exploring these metaphoric matters so that they became concrete tensions, almost real. Therefore, in this universe, we have creatures of Light and creatures of Darkness.

    We placed a hybrid creature in this world which belongs to both groups, but at the same time belongs to none. By being hybrid, Sephius, the protagonist, suffers prejudice and despite from both sides, not being accepted by none of them. All this creates an interesting context to be approached. The plot that constructs the stories of the universe is in itself quite complex and deep.

    Game development scene in Brazil is extremely hard and hazy. There is really few game projects here that come out of the paper. Is very difficult to get funding and support. Colleges are very rare and when there are, its just too inefficient to train professionals. Until today there is no game industry in Brazil despite the fact there is a big game market that consuming only foreign games.

    There are about 1 ½ years I've been working with other professionals from various parts of Brazil in this project, we have dedicated much effort. Last year, while professionals who had entered and exited the project, we released a trailer that had a great reception here in Brazil and is widely publicized on websites and blogs. Our demo was done entirely in Flash (Citrus Engine) and we have tried to continue with the project, trying to follow the development within our difficult reality.

    Our Flash demo served a good purpose to show the game, his art and his idea. But given our limited resources, the demo does not show much of GameDesign we plan. Its very uncompleted yet. We realize that development in Flash give us very low chances of getting any support or funding to complete development on this platform.


    We are therefore willing to port it to another platform, such as XNA would enable us to more easily get the support you need. I don´t *have, however, found a 2D engine that is really useful for porting this game out of flash. The overwhelming majority of engines are 3D and look kinda strange to work with 2D sidescrollers.

    I wonder if someone could help us, guiding us, for example, what kind of engine would be better for us porting the game development. I'm currently trying to find new contributors to this porting work, then it would also be very welcome anyone who wanted to collaborate on this project anyway. It is a serious project and has been used quite effortlessly.

    I am posting some pictures and videos of our game below. In the website you can view images and text of the characters and the universe history. Any criticism,comment, of course, is very welcome.

    I will updating this topic as our development progresses.

    Screens
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    Videos:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqWlubZRlZU
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Catb6VsFvJw


    Below is the project's website:
    http://www.thelightofthedarkness.com
    http://blog.thelightofthedarkness.com
     
    #1 Fernando Rabello, Mar 28, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 19, 2015
  2. Andrej Vojtas

    Andrej Vojtas New Member

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    Hi Fernando,

    1st of all kudos for working on a project of passion and making it this far. I am working on a visually similar project (hi-res 2D with dominant characters) for some time now. I have invested a lot of time thinking about how to make my project successful, so I am aware that my feedback may be quite skewed by now, so take everything as a friendly suggestion.

    ENGINE

    After an intense investigation of the engine space, I came empty handed, too. There is no cross platform tool perfectly fit for an Odin Sphere/etc. game. After hearing many similar stories, with different game types, I realized I have to treat the engine question differently. I don't need a perfect tool, I need a good one with the widest possible reach and future promise. That's why I went with Unity a year ago. There is still no native 2D support, but it's good enough for what I need to finish my project. And every time they add a new target platform, (like the announced Flash Molehill, or specific handhelds via the Union program), or there is a new 3rd party add-on for Unity (like the Sprite Manager 2, or EZ GUI) I feel it was the right choice.

    FUNDING

    That being said, I don't think switching away from Flash will help in the current situation. I understand it's a concept proven to sell on consoles (PS2, Wii) but that doesn't mean your chances to get funded are any higher on a console platform. See e.g.: the Joe Danger PS3 title (http://vimeo.com/17518940), they had already a full featured build ready for consoles and still spent 9 months chasing a publisher and came out empty handed. Then they released on their own on PSN and Joe Danger became a top seller. The chance someone will bet money on an unproven IP and developer are minimal as you know, but their are even lower in the console world where the budgets are much higher. Plus there are sooo many risks and complications after you get to work with a publisher, you might be better of not getting one. Furthermore, hi res 2D is a though field, and not very lucrative from publishers point of view. Even Vanillaware is not nearly as financially successful as it would seem: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/4097/king_of_2d_vanillawares_george_.php)

    With what you have, I would focus on PC, OS X, Linux standalone versions and fund the future development with fans:
    - I would try Kickstarter (get a trustworthy person from US to operate for you) or 8bitfunding, etc.,
    - go the open development route = releasing an alpha version for a reduced price, etc. (look at the Wolfire, or the Minecraft model).
    - get all the free publicity you can get
    - use your flash skills, to build small flash games to drive traffic to your site (e.g. see the Dead Frontier Outbreak mini game)
    - another tip is to try the indie fund

    CASE STUDY

    To get an idea about the selling potential of your game on PC, you should try to learn from 'Aztaka' (search threads on this forum). I think business wise, as a product it's very similar to what you are doing. It has a unique setting, high production values. It's a side-scroller with RPG elements and arcade combat, inventory, unique gameplay (transferring energy nodes to open passages, etc.) The lesson was a harsh one, that despite it's high production values, it didn't recoup.

    An example of a more successful 2D hi res side-scroller game is 'Aquaria'. I would say the underwater setting is more broad then a single ancient culture, so that's the 1st advantage. Further more the ambiance was more powerful, the music too. Most importantly the selling points were not about the water world, but about the key character (a water nymph, very likeable), exploration, unique musical spells and quite deep and flashy combat.

    What I would take from that is, that you can't sell your game, based on an unique setting to a lot of people. The unique setting itself is the limiting factor, cutting into your customer base. Try to perceive the Aztaka game, or your project in the current status, from the POV of the customer. The only selling point it manages to get across, is the unique setting and it's visualization. Otherwise it's just running around and slashing. Even there is more to the gameplay and story, the point is it doesn't come across from the trailer's etc. Even the title positions itself as an Aztek game. So if I am not fond of the Azteks, I am not fond of the game.

    My advice and what I'll do in my marketing efforts, is not to push the setting, but to push the most universal theme in my story, the most striking characters and the most visually unique gameplay. The settings is then just a flavor in the storytelling. E.g. I think more people would relate positively to the characters of Aztaka (the main protagonist, or even better, the female character cursed to live in a bird shape) and their personal story arcs, then to the Aztek setting, as they are more fundamental themes, a broader audience can relate to.

    THE FEEDBACK:

    - the in-game graphics is visually quite appealing, still even a gamer (non-artist) will identify, it's not the same quality as Odin's Sphere. If a core team member (you) puts out graphics like that, good for you, play to your strong sides. Otherwise make sure you don't waste funds and time competing where you can't win. E.g. Vanilliaware uses a team of 20+ artists and they are cutting it quite close financially.
    - the English on the web site and in the trailers is very bad. While I can relate, as I am a not a native English speaker, it makes a bad impression and breaks the immersion
    - the theme, title and setting choice come off too simplistic (a basic good and evil allegory) and strikes me as a very limiting choice. Most storytellers in any medium try to create a rich palette of motives, loyalties, values, standards etc. creating interesting choices (the most important principle of game design). The hybrid creature is called a paradox within the game world. For me as a gamer, a paradox in games is just a step away from another non-sense game story, breaking the suspension of disbelief, taking me out of the immersion, going into the 'skipping all the text forward on' mode.
    - visually, I am not fond of the faceless protagonist approach. Where you would expect most detail and character, there is none. Assassin's Creed also has a 'faceless' hero, but the cape and shadow give a lot of detail and character to the figure. It makes the setting even more weird and harder to relate to. I watched the youtube video first and liked the protagonist. The visuals and a winged hero evoked associations like Greek Mythology, or Dante's Inferno (both cool in my mind, thanks to many masterpieces). Then I understood the image in this post with the faceless figure is the protagonist and was immediately put off. You have already achieved uniqueness with the hybrid wings (or even having a winged protagonist). Giving him a non-human face hurts how I can relate to him. As it is now, it's just plain weird to me, cutting again into your customer base.
    - From the text in this post and the one on the web page (and additional CG shots on youtube), it's obvious you have a lot of unique material and a lot of passion for the theme. However you must distil it down with a target audience in mind. Tell just one key sentence (as the tip of the iceberg), let the audience guess and imagine all the surrounding themes. E.g. Dargon Age: Origins wallpapers presented each race (also representing different origin stories) with a single quote.
    - I would also recommend studying the concept of positioning in marketing, to think about how to communicate/design/name your game. To make a long story short: there is no room for a completely new setting/hero/... in the gamer's mind. There is no time to explain him the unique universe from scratch, in his short attention span. Use the existing settings, with accumulated cool factor and position yourself against what the gamer already knows.

    CONCLUSION

    So far you have a setting, a story, a visualization. Focus all your energy to work out, what type of gamer you want to attract. Is it all about the:
    - exploration and obstacles? (platformer)
    - combat with cool animations, skills and combos (hack and slash)
    - level puzzles and use of objects? (adventure)
    - story and character customization: choices, different endings, skills, equipment, etc.? (rpg)
    -...

    If you are on a shoestring budget, the best shot on success is to pick a genre, have a gamer type in mind and invest all energy into those aspects of the game that are important for this genre. Then communicate very clearly your genre and strong points. Otherwise you can end up with a side-scroller with not so great level design, not so great combat, not so great puzzles and not so great story and nothing outstanding to talk about.

    I hope this helps.
     
  3. Dan MacDonald

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    That is probably one of the most in-depth feedback posts I've read on these forums :)
     
  4. Fernando Rabello

    Fernando Rabello New Member

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    Hi Andrej,

    i want to thank for the very useful and deep feedback you gave and the work you spend to write it.

    There are some good informations we can use to improve the work we have done this project.

    For some questions there are elements to add and explain:

    ENGINE:
    The first option that we think about the engine was just the Unity. But do not think the tools user-friendly enough for what we have produced.

    Talking with Alec Holowka (aquaria) on his forum, I was surprised to see that he is developing an 2D engine for multplataform games using the technologies he work in Aquaria. The engine is called Monocle and will support PC and Mac at the moment, and may support other platforms in the future. Its looks a very good tool for the type of game we are developing.
    http://infiniteammo.ca/blog/the-monocle-engine/

    Another option, that seemed good, is a tool developed by Ubisoft called Ubiart Framework (http://ubi-art.uk.ubi.com/). This engine is very similar to the tools we are using Flash (bones + instances). The problem is I have not heard any news about this engine for a while or if they'll actually license it to other developers. The Framework Ubiart apparently supports PC, PS3, Xbox, Wii, DS and PSP.

    [​IMG]

    We have states more inclined to use Alec's engine as it is an engine made ​​for indies, but the problem is timing as the engine is still under development and will take several months to complete.

    FUNDING:
    Great comment, Andrej

    However, the question about Flash did not arise from our purely impression, but from the feedback of some publishers gave us talking about the project.

    We showed the project to some publishers like Atlus, Konami, 1C Company, Interplay, Microsoft, Ubisoft. from Publishers we received responses, we had a good feedback, but some of them put that game development in Flash was an impediment factor.
    Even when explain that we could port the project to other platforms they always tend to want to see a demo already developed on the platform they support.

    The same problem we had here in Brazil with investors (angel investors). As in Brazil we do not have gaming industries, it is difficult to explain to a investor what kind of product a game is. The Flash Platform have somehow a stigma, being considered a platform for simple and silly games that are put in sites for free. I particularly think the Flash platform wonderful, but it has been difficult to explain that it is often possible to develop a very complex game in Flash.

    It seemed to us that the game development in Flash has restricted some how the interest of some companies in the game so that our inquiry. We have now sought Publishers specialized in Flash games like Mochimedia because those interested in games for that platform.

    AZTAKA
    Well, I do not really believe that AZTAKA is a product similar to what we have developing.

    Of course there are many similar elements (sidescroller, RPG elements, new setting). But that does not make the two projects as similar case studies since there are a lot of other features that are completely different starting with the style, theme, story, gameplay, the processes of development, publicity, and so on. It is hard to be able to predict just following the analysis of the project AZTAKA. Like Odin Sphere is a a very different case study than Castlevania. Both selling very different although they are similar in many respects (sidescrollers, fantasy, common mithology, RPG, 2D, etc.). I think AZTAKA is different from our project as well as Zelda CDI is different from Zelda2 Nintendo 8bits. Of course I'm not going into the merits of quality, I think AZTAKA an excellent project.

    I believe that in the case of AZTAKA, we can see that the thematic related to the Aztec civilization has very little appeal to the audience that the game was focused today. In fantasy games, settings inspired by the ancient Greek, Roman and Middle Ages tended to have a much greater appeal, followed by thematic inspired by ancient Japanese civilization, followed by Egyptian civilization that has less appeal. Latino Ancient civilizations generate very little appeal and we see this in other games that has high value production and not sold well like ICO and Shadow of the Colossus.

    I also disagree with regard to a new theme or mythology is a restrictive factor. I do not think that this aspect alone should be restrictive, as there are many ways to put familiar elements that create identification with the public and still maintaining the unique elements of the universe. I think it's more a question of what factors are different what factors are families in this context.

    For the The Light of the Darkness, despite being a new universes, there are a number of factors extremely familiar and appealing and that the public can identify, such as visual refer the concept of angels and demons, the inspiration in the cultures Greek X Middle Ages, the epic style. All this is familiar to the public and the unprecedented mythology of the universe are diluted in these family factors.

    I agree totally with what you say about settings and the importance of inserting elements that create universal appeal and identification with the public. That is some thing we will try to go further.

    FEEDBACK (ON EACH TOPIC):
    - tLotD Art X Odin Sphere art:
    I agree. The result we achieved is close to the limit we can do at this time. The artistic style of the two games however are quite different which also makes a comparison kind of rare and, in fact, from the feedbacks we received from gamers in game sites here in Brazil, never was made that comparison in particular. Even taking into account that Odin Sphere is very adorable here in Brazil and always be a game mentioned by us as a reference. The most common comparisons were made with Castlevania, Demons Chest and ActRaiser, games that do not have a work painting so sophisticated as the Vanilliaware games.

    - the very bad English:
    Yes, that is a big problem. I need to find someone to review all texts and other materials from the site.

    - The theme, title and setting choice come off too simplistic (a basic good and evil allegory)
    Although it may seem, at first look, that the design theme it is about the allegory of good versus evil, in fact, the ambiance and history has nothing that resembles this. There is no right or wrong in this context of the history of this universe. Unlike that there is a plot of contexts, motivations and interactions between characters where each has its own dilemmas and moments of positive or negative behaviors.
    The story actually deals with prejudgment and intolerance by both sides.

    Instinctively, people tend to associate the light and darkness with good and evil and the prejudgment of the viewer is explored by the stories of the characters. But there is no approach of Light being good and Darkness being bad in the events of this stories.

    The story is about a dialectic. The exploration of a particular concept through the contra-position of two opposing concepts. These concepts are not Good and Evil, but Light and Darkness. And this allow to make use of a series of provocative and intriguing themes, controversial and of great dramatic potential, such as racial prejudgment (white people versus black people), religious conflicts and the incompatible relations between social groups that tend to despise one another.

    The main character is not paradoxical. It is a character without a country, without a place or home. And the story is about his search to find its origin and its place in this divided world. This is a theme that many people can identify with themselves. The adjectives given relation to Sephius as "grotesque mistake/error" are part of the manifestation of their prejudgment in relation to this character.

    - the faceless protagonist approach.
    The faceless look has to do with the storyline. His concept here, sought to create a remarkable character and create a sense of anguish that has to do with the pariah essence of the character. This feature is not very common so in some ways make the character more remarkable.

    I believe that this impression has more to do with personal taste, since most of the feedback we have had from public comment on this characteristic has been positive.
    Anyway, it's something that is justified as the viewer following the storyline (not just in this game).

    - Tell just one key sentence (as the tip of the iceberg).
    Yeah. I think you are right. There is no need for too much description in this beginning. I should to review that.

    - there is no room for a completely new setting/hero/... in the gamer's mind. Use the existing settings, with accumulated cool factor and position yourself against what the gamer already knows.
    Well that's what we have been done. As I said above, despite having a new mythology there are a lot of the familiar and universal elements. When I say that is a new mythology, I mean there are no such things as werewolves, dragons, vampires, trolls, elves and other creatures from other mythologies. We see this type of approach in other games/moves/books/HQ also.

    But there are, of course, many creatures that resemble to what people already know, with regard to the visual.

    The part of biology and physics in the universe is a parallel approached. There is no focus on getting showing these issues unless they have a direct relation to some character dilemma witch happens a lot of times. But people should find interesting because it´s not gratuitous.

    FOCUS
    That is a very important comment. We should very attention to this too.
     
  5. bantamcitygames

    Administrator Original Member Indie Author Greenlit

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    Looks awesome from the videos! Reminds me of some old nintendo platformers I used to play.
     
  6. RogerioFM

    RogerioFM New Member

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    Hi Fernando,

    I am very happy to know that Brazil is growing in this business, I always thought we had the drive but somehow lacked the direction to go forward, it is good to find someone doing what he like heads on.

    Maybe I can help you with the english. For my line of work, english is like a tool, although I would never consider my english perfect, but at least I can help speed up the translation process or review some of the writting, your english is not bad, it is really good as a matter of fact, but, as everything in life it can always improve, and I am not even saying mine is better either, God knows sometimes that my writing can be very lazy :) so if you are interested I can help you, just let me know. I would gladly help with more, but I lack skills in coding and I can't draw pictures even if my life depended on it.

    Regarding other stuff, you might not like this, but the main character design could use some improvement, the character design highly remembers what Marvel had to offer in the mid 90's. The concept is there, but you could use some more colours, you choose to concentrate all the duality of the character on the wings alone, for example, his cape could be black on the outside and red on the inside(Maybe not, it would resemble Dracula from Castlevania), his clothes could be larger and not so tight. He could use some more metals on the mask, like those ancient samurai masks. And overall the colour pallete could be more diverse and mixing vibrant with dark colours, that way the character would reallt stand-out from the background.

    I really can't say much about the story and setting, hey, bioware have been doing games with choices that are either Good or Bad without a gray zone for ages and only these days they are trying to be more open to the range of choices, and even so, it is just the illusion of choice.

    The only two game I ever played where the choices really mattered and there was never a clear line of good or wrong were Planescape Torment and The Witcher, well three Vampire Bloodlines could be considered that as well, and the games with the best amoral(not good or bad) characters ever were on the Legacy of Kain series. Anyway a story is usually very personal, and this is an indie game, it is your work, so you have the right to tell whatever tale you want. Of course the delivery can be improved when the dialogues are too simplistic. But overall, very good work.

    Regards man.
     
  7. Andrej Vojtas

    Andrej Vojtas New Member

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    Hi Fernando,

    thank you for being open minded to my feedback. As mentioned before, I realize a lot of it is based on decision I made for my own project (real historic setting, rpg genre, etc.) and I welcome discussion on those points as I can further reflect about my own design choices.

    ENGINE:
    - the UbiArt tool looks really neat for skeletal animation. What's interesting, the wikipedia mentions the intention to release the framework as open-source, after the release of Rayman Origins (based on this article: http://www.joystiq.com/2010/07/06/rayman-origins-slapped-on-xbla-psn-this-christmas-other-platfo/).
    - I don't want to recommend Unity for 2D as there is no proper support, but there have certainly been successful games finished with 2D skeletal animation (using a 3d app to create and animate a simple plane-based skeleton), see e.g. http://forum.unity3d.com/threads/75956-Battleheart-Release-Trailer

    2) Great that you were able to get into touch with publishers and receive first hand feedback, that's invaluable. Still the feedback you got hints on the underlying issue: they will always want from you a game that matches their sales metrics, not the game you want to make. Still it's not like you can't do both: self-funded the PC, OS X, Linux flash based version and then get on consoles. It should not matter to the publishers, as obviously they think the markets do not overlap.

    3) The case study: The games are different and there is a lot of factors contributing to how well the game actually fares, sure. I also think your setting has a broader appeal. What is similar, and what matters, is the first impression, the marketing message you manage to get across: 2d, sidescroller, nice graphics, unique universe, flying. Nothing more. That's not a genre, it's not something that would any group of fans make automatically interested. The only thing I remember from the in-game footage is the flying, it's the only thing that stands out so far in the promo material (similar to the freedom of movement coming from swimming in Aquaria).

    Now mind you, I know, there is more to the gameplay, more to the story, more to the setting and more to the protagonist. But the only thing that matters, both for sales and coverage, is what gets across in the trailer, screenshots and a short pitch.

    I see the protagonist face has to do with the story. But what about hair, a hood, jewellery, scars, eyes of different color, a halo, whatever to add detail and shadowing to the face.

    Best of success with your project.
     
  8. Fernando Rabello

    Fernando Rabello New Member

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    Hi Rogerio,

    thanks for the comments. Are you Brazilian too? It´s very welcome your help about the English. Maybe you can review the texts in the site and help to make then better. Add me in MSN: sephiusr@yahoo.com.br or by mail: sephius@gmail.com we can talk about it.

    About the character i think you and Andrej are right about the lack of more visual elements. The fact is i create this character a many years ago (in 2000), and since then I've never done a real redesign on him. Perhaps he should give a feeling more similar to a wanderer or explorer and less like a fighter.

    There is a lot to improve in this project yet and a lot of things that have more priority than another.

    After getting some good guidance, I am preparing a donation campaign on sites like Kickstarter. I am studying what the best way, since there is a great audience here in Brazil but in the world the project is still kinda unknown and so I need to ensure that the Kickstarter is the best option taking into account as a tool for donation for Brazilians too.

    I'll add the option to donate directly through the site anyway. But the campaign needs to have the maximum possible buzz when it occurs, I'm with the aid of some gaming sites here in Brazil for this, I see how I can get some exposure on sites outside Brazil too.
     
  9. Fernando Rabello

    Fernando Rabello New Member

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    I see that even if we decide to use Monocle or Ubiart, we'd have to wait. I think for now, the best way is to continue development in Flash / Citrus engine and seek a self publishing and after if the project get to be successful, we port to another engine.

    You talked about the 2d frameworks for Unity (2 Sprite Manager, or EZ GUI), you have some link where I can get more infos?

    Yes, i think you right.

    I understand. It is a matter of showing the right things , what attract attention to the game. I see now, thanks!

    Yeah, i see now. There is things to improve actually. Face is too "empty" and the clothes are to much shy perhaps.

    Indeed i had received critics previously about the garments Sephius, for having a feeling much of a fighter and a bit of a mysterious creature, which I agree.

    Well, it will be something to work better in the near future.
     
  10. Fernando Rabello

    Fernando Rabello New Member

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