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 Post subject: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2019 3:43 pm 
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At JAEPO 2019, a project that I have been working on for a little while made its first public showing. The working title is Gimmick! exAct * Mix, and it is an arcade release of Gimmick! for the exA Arcadia platform.

I am happy to answer questions to the extent of my ability. If not for NesDev as an information resource and community, a project like this probably would not have happened.

I can't really get specific with any details that haven't already been revealed from that demo, but I can say that I have a lot planned, and that nearly all of the demo's assets are placeholder ones. I drew Yumetarou's sprite on a bullet train to Kyoto using a ThinkPad Trackpoint!

There are many things I am already changing, and deadlines are real. I am very picky and attentive to the kinds of details that matter for this kind of game - if something bothers you in the demo, there is a high chance that it really bothers me.

A few videos were put up on YouTube by viewers of the exA stream:
Full Gimmick! Demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TrmauKOwTU
Introductory Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cYIlPcbwW4
Official exA full stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9sC1Gs8pnE

As for the JAEPO demo that was presented:
* The original game engine is in use; the game physics are perfect when compared to the original.
* With the original HUD chopped off, Famicom PAR adjustments (within a tolerance) and only a slight amount of cropping (a-la PocketNES) the game runs in 16:9.
* The graphics were redrawn from scratch (though very closely mimicking the appearance and contours of the original, to a fault)
* Please don't ask about a console release right now
* There is an arranged sountrack, of my own creation, alongside the 2A03+5B original
* Character positioning is done by reading the game state in RAM, rather than the sprite position OAM data, so placement of sprites is done in a more precise 4096-point space.
* Obviously sprite flicker is gone
* I have scoring plans for scoring changes and some (small and subtle) difficulty changes
* If present, buttons C and D on the arcade panel can map to Item Switch and Item Use
* Please stop asking about putting it on a console
* HUD indicates that a checkpoint has been reached
* Popup HUD for item switching

I am cautiously interested in trying to document the development process, since there are some cool technical solutions behind this that would be fun to write/make a video about. I generally trust people on this forum to be civil when interacting with a developer, but fans of games have a pretty bad track record when sharing their opinions with public-facing developer accounts, so I am nervous about this being a chance to receive a lot of hate based on some snap judgements. That said, I value the feelings of others who like this game and would want the best from a modern re-release of it.


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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2019 4:20 pm 
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This sounds fantastic. It looks very nice and looks like the engine is truly replicated.
When I saw the video, I took it to be a standalone remake....but by reading the bullet points it doesnt seem to be the case...?
Is it somehow emulated or something? If you cant say, its fine.

Quote:
* Please don't ask about a console release right now

Can I ask for it later? :D

I wish luck with the project, it looks to be a very good, thought one.


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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2019 5:59 pm 
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This looks absolutely lovely! Congratulations on the showcase!. I really love this project.

Quote:
There are many things I am already changing, and deadlines are real. I am very picky and attentive to the kinds of details that matter for this kind of game - if something bothers you in the demo, there is a high chance that it really bothers me.


This is a personal record in being a nitpicky pain, but i feel as though the rear cloud layer on level 1 has lost a bit of its definition by being just big bubbly forms. Low res pixels can be pretty abstract and leave room for interpretation, but i read the original clouds as a bit more defined in spots (allthough subtly so - the extra definition is placed with care), even for that darker shade. It's just a random theory but i think people are going to be the most comparative in the first couple of scenes, and then going to relax more and more.

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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:00 pm 
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I cannot imagine what kind of negative feedback could anyone have about something like this. Maybe "Loool why not make it 3D??? Developer sucks!". Ignore those people.
I am deeply interested in seeing what you did here! So it's emulated? You have a "layer" running on top on an unrestricted screen simulation? Seems really cool.

edit: though I agree about the clouds hehe.

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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:15 am 
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Looks really awesome!

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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 3:41 am 
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That's awesome!
Is it me or there are still a little bit of details missing, like the fishes when Yumetaro (is that his name?) is crossing the underwater pipe?
Although the clouds on the 1st screen seems a bit different, I really liked the parallax effect on them, that's very cool!!
This seems (and sounds) great!
Excellent work, I'm looking forward to see more!


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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 4:29 am 
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Another thing about the clouds - i couldn't put my finger on it yesterday, but in addition to the remark on the cloud outline... The way i read the original, some of the more minute white fields in those clouds were not intended as being as much "in front of" the darker cloud formations, rather, they were either highlights on the same distance plane, or else distant enough to be somewhere in-between. Having them on the front parallax layer makes the perspectve a bit confused, at least to me.

Maybe, you could experiment with keeping these either at the same scrolling speed as the darker clouds or somewhere in-between.


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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 5:38 am 
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I'll be honest and say I'm deadly jealous of you getting this opportunity!
Gimmick is one of the best games on the NES platform, and just generally a really unique and timeless gem of a game.

I'd like to remind other people in this thread that the graphics shown so far, are temporary placeholder graphics.
I'm really looking forward to seeing how the final assets are going to look, and hopefully it's not just not just upscaled/smoothened versions of the original graphics. I'm hoping for some tasteful details added, in the spirit of the original. Honestly, I'd consider toning down the outlines, or at least keep them at a darker version of the fill color (Don Bluth style), rather than a solid black. I feel like the game would have had that if the NES had allowed it.
(EDIT: Lol, the game does in fact do that! I never really noticed it - they are very dark as it is)

Quote:
* If present, buttons C and D on the arcade panel can map to Item Switch and Item Use

This alone will improve the game by a huge margin.

mikejmoffitt wrote:
* I have scoring plans for scoring changes and some (small and subtle) difficulty changes

I'm really hoping for a functional scoring system! There's a lot you could do with this game, and although the 10p you get for jumping on the head of enemies works great at controlling the "randomizer", there's also an issue with potentially rewarding the player for wasting time (ie. riding stars around in empty rooms). This is made worse in the original by the lack of a stage timer. I'm assuming the arcade version will have a timer so you can never just waste time indefinitely.

The game also has a bit of an issue with extra lives. This isn't a problem at home, but it won't work for an arcade game.
The score extend is way too low (you get a bunch of extra lives just for picking up the first treasure above the first room). And the infinite 1up machine on stage 5 obviously has to go, or at least have its usage limited somewhat. I'm sure you have already thought about these things, of course.

I know BIL on Shmups has a bunch of thoughts on how to improve Gimmick! to make it into a genuine arcade game, did you look into his comments on the game?


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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 11:51 am 
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Thank you all for feedback. I have a few things to which I can reply.

About emulation:

Denine wrote:
Is it somehow emulated or something? If you cant say, its fine.

nesrocks wrote:
I am deeply interested in seeing what you did here! So it's emulated? You have a "layer" running on top on an unrestricted screen simulation? Seems really cool.

I probably shouldn't write about it now, but maybe you can compare it somewhat to M2's ShotTriggers series?
About graphics:
Fisher wrote:
That's awesome!
Is it me or there are still a little bit of details missing, like the fishes when Yumetaro (is that his name?) is crossing the underwater pipe?

Yes - the pipe scene is definitely the hastiest of them all. There was no more time for the fish!
FrankenGraphics wrote:
This is a personal record in being a nitpicky pain, but i feel as though the rear cloud layer on level 1 has lost a bit of its definition by being just big bubbly forms. Low res pixels can be pretty abstract and leave room for interpretation, but i read the original clouds as a bit more defined in spots (allthough subtly so - the extra definition is placed with care), even for that darker shade. It's just a random theory but i think people are going to be the most comparative in the first couple of scenes, and then going to relax more and more.

FrankenGraphics wrote:
Another thing about the clouds - i couldn't put my finger on it yesterday, but in addition to the remark on the cloud outline... The way i read the original, some of the more minute white fields in those clouds were not intended as being as much "in front of" the darker cloud formations, rather, they were either highlights on the same distance plane, or else distant enough to be somewhere in-between. Having them on the front parallax layer makes the perspectve a bit confused, at least to me.
Maybe, you could experiment with keeping these either at the same scrolling speed as the darker clouds or somewhere in-between.

The clouds were pretty tossed together, but even in this state maybe it was my mistake to interpret the small wisps as being in the foreground, rather than highlights in the background. However the clouds turn out, the paralax is definitely here to stay, even if it ends up reduced to one layer.
Sumez wrote:
I'll be honest and say I'm deadly jealous of you getting this opportunity!
Gimmick is one of the best games on the NES platform, and just generally a really unique and timeless gem of a game.
I'd like to remind other people in this thread that the graphics shown so far, are temporary placeholder graphics.
I'm really looking forward to seeing how the final assets are going to look, and hopefully it's not just not just upscaled/smoothened versions of the original graphics. I'm hoping for some tasteful details added, in the spirit of the original. Honestly, I'd consider toning down the outlines, or at least keep them at a darker version of the fill color (Don Bluth style), rather than a solid black. I feel like the game would have had that if the NES had allowed it.
(EDIT: Lol, the game does in fact do that! I never really noticed it - they are very dark as it is)

Thanks for this note especially - dealing with how to use outlines properly has been more troublesome than I had imagined. I was drawing over an onionskin of the original famicom sprites, scaled to the full size, and chose line widths that would respect roughly the size of one famicom pixel. I think a lack of line weight variation sucks a bit of life out of it. It is something I have to continue to play with.
Sumez wrote:
I'm really hoping for a functional scoring system! There's a lot you could do with this game, and although the 10p you get for jumping on the head of enemies works great at controlling the "randomizer", there's also an issue with potentially rewarding the player for wasting time (ie. riding stars around in empty rooms). This is made worse in the original by the lack of a stage timer. I'm assuming the arcade version will have a timer so you can never just waste time indefinitely.
The game also has a bit of an issue with extra lives. This isn't a problem at home, but it won't work for an arcade game.
The score extend is way too low (you get a bunch of extra lives just for picking up the first treasure above the first room). And the infinite 1up machine on stage 5 obviously has to go, or at least have its usage limited somewhat. I'm sure you have already thought about these things, of course.

Yeah, the original scoring system really only serves as a way of milking extends and controlling the randomizer. The latter definitely needs to stay, as it is a big part of playing the game effectively.
As for extends, I found the routine that rewards extra lives, and it's endearingly primitive. Even in this demo build, the table for that routine has been modified, and a lot less extends are rewarded. You'll notice in the demo video that, after getting the secret, I'm not rewarded with an extend!
Almost certainly there will be a stage timer, or at least a segment timer. I would like the scoring system to reward fast progression and nuanced play over life hoarding.
As for difficulty, unskilled players get thrashed pretty quickly, while skilled players enjoy speeding through the game efficiently. That is already how an arcade game should play. I may have a broken sense of difficulty, because Gimmick has felt like second nature to me for a long time now.

I am very interested in reading about this shmups thread about making it arcade-ready; have you got a link handy?


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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 1:46 pm 
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Quote:
but even in this state maybe it was my mistake to interpret the small wisps as being in the foreground, rather than highlights in the background.


I mean, the details in question might very well be intended to be small independent wisps; it's hard to tell. But either way i interpret them as being pretty far off.
Oh and yeah, i didn't have anything against the parallax effect in itself - i think it's a neat addition! Sorry that wasn't clear from my previous comments.

Anyway, excellent work! Congratulations.

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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 3:32 pm 
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Hmm, in the restricted photo FrankenGraphics posted I would consider the small white bits as part of the background cloud layer.

However, in the larger context there are a lot of similar small white blobs that are unambiguously foreground. To me when I'm playing that first level, those definitely feel like foreground, especially because of all the other similar white blobs which are placed in more clearly disconnected places.

I think the palette on my Famicom has slightly more contrast than the one FG is using too, which probably subtly affects my perception.

I think what I'd suggest instead is just moving the blob in question up or down slightly so it doesn't so directly conflict with the line of the background layer. (If we were back in time nitpicking the original Gimmick! art, I'd suggest doing it there too.) Resolve the layer ambiguity rather than trying to add extra depth/texture to the background.

(Of course in a commercial production context I think I'd probably just say it's good enough and tell the artist to keep moving onto something else. :P)


I've said this privately but overall I really like this plain and clean adaptation of the style. I think it works really well.


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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 3:43 pm 
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Yeah, i agree the majority of white blobs are on a foreground plane. Maybe that wasn't clear either from my first comment, sorry about that. I guess the ambiguity of the encircled blob is simply due to that they didn't have to think that hard about it back then, all while there's other tasks to cross of the list.

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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 4:29 pm 
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Oh, uh, I should also post that I'm hoping to hire an artist who is interested in doing HD sprite or tileset work; if anyone is seriously interested then I would like to chat.


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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 8:32 pm 
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FrankenGraphics wrote:
Yeah, i agree the majority of white blobs are on a foreground plane. Maybe that wasn't clear either from my first comment, sorry about that. I guess the ambiguity of the encircled blob is simply due to that they didn't have to think that hard about it back then, all while there's other tasks to cross of the list.

I liked the interpretation, and with the narrowed context (and maybe that subtle palette difference) I definitely saw it too. It made me think about the crest of a wave. I'd never have interpreted it that way without you pointing it out.

Looking at the tiles, it sorta feels like a compromise between trying to break up the limited shape of the dark background cloud, and having small foreground clouds that can also kind of attach or sit near bigger foreground clouds to make their edges a bit fluffier. Kinda trying to do double duty? Hmm.

Maybe a third interpretation... what if it was a third layer of bright clouds behind the dark ones, just peeking its head above? :) Probably not a good idea, but it's another way I can make myself see it.

Gimmick! is so cool... It's always been one of the ones I look to most often for comparison and ideas.


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 Post subject: Re: Gimmick! exAct * mix
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:02 am 
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Just to say this looks amazing, but it's a shame there's those guys talking and we can't hear what the remixed music sounds like.


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