4 Hugues Ross - Blog: Halberd: September Roundup
Hugues Ross

10/2/18

Halberd: September Roundup

It's been a pretty long month. A lot of general life issues cropped up, and I honestly feel like I didn't accomplish enough overall. I also didn't find the time to write any blog posts either, so I thought I'd try and go over the current state of things now.

Where we last left off, I was trying to find a balance between engine and game progress. For the time being, I've settled on alternating weeks. A single week comes out to be enough time to get one or two notable things done, so that seems to get me slow but steady progress on both projects.

Given that the aforementioned life issues probably cost me a week or two, it's hard to tell if the resulting development speed is actually acceptable. I'll probably have a better idea after next month.

State of the Game: Audible frustration

With all that said, I've actually made very little progress on the game. The main culprit is, as with Cloudy Climb, my complete lack of musical skill. I'm slowly improving but making music is still a difficult process for me. I think this problem will eventually go away, but in the meantime it's still a major roadblock.

I've made some progress on the art front, with a finished player sprite and the beginnings of the second area's tileset. Once the music problem is resolved, I should be able to keep going at a steady pace.


State of the Editor: Polish!

One of the things that concerns me about working on Halberd while making a game with it is how to resolve the potential for feature creep. Let's imagine for a moment that I decided to focus on adding NPCs to Halberd. If I succeeded, there would be a pretty strong temptation to add NPCs to the game as well. They would certainly make the game better, but they would also increase the scope of the final product. With enough features, I might find myself overextending the game way too far. Thankfully, I have a long todo list and many items on it have no effect on project scope. This month, most of my focus has been on UX and 'branding'.

UX

Improving the general workflow and looks of an engine is pretty much always useful, especially since Halberd is still so unpolished. So, I spent a couple weeks on making it look and feel better to use. I've been posting occasional screenshots to my Twitter account, here are a few for those who don't want to bother looking for them:
New landing page with a list of recent projects

Asset icons, and a new quick asset selection button

Settings split into sections, and a new vector editing widget with custom icons

There's more than this, but that covers most of the juicy bits. When the time to release this thing comes, I'll probably make another video in the 'walkthrough' style like I did last time.

Branding?

I've never liked branding, advertising, community building, and other 'tangential' aspects of development. This is probably because I'm not a social type, I prefer to sit in a dark room and create. However, reality dictates that if I ever want Halberd to be successful, I need to 'sell' it to its target audience.

Halberd will always be free (in every sense of the word), but in this day in age that's just not enough. I need to convince others that my work is worth using, and one part of that is building a consistent presentation and messaging. To that end, I decided to start thinking about this problem early.

"What should Halberd offer?"

This is an important question, one that I believe is core to making the engine more than just a technical success. A common question that I see whenever a new engine is announced is:

"Why use this instead of insert established competitor(s) here?"

I know that this question will come for me too, and I want to have a real answer ready ahead of time. I already discussed some of my motivations in my original announcement post, but I now have a pretty specific idea of where I want to take Halberd in the future.

Right now, I think there's still a divide between engines that are immediately accessible to newcomers and engines with modern and efficient development pipelines suitable for serious commercial work. Engines like Unreal and Unity have tried to style themselves as welcoming, but the fact of the matter remains that developers must learn to program to make much with them (yes, UE4 blueprints are programming). On the other side of the spectrum, some engines like GameMaker: Studio have tried to modernize and improve. This development is more interesting to me, but curiously a lot of more targeted engines (such as RPG Maker, SRPG Studio, Wolf RPG Editor, etc.) don't seem to have kept up as well.

Not that this has stopped developers, of course. I believe that good games can be made with any engine, but games are best made with a good engine. My hope is that Halberd can someday offer itself to RPG devs as an engine that's dead-simple to start, but offers enough power and depth to be ideal for professional-grade work. It can't live up to that dream yet, but I think having a strong vision from the outset will help ease people's fears.

Thinking about names

I like Halberd. It makes for a simple and memorable name. On the other hand, it's a noun that doesn't really describe anything. That's not uncommon in game engines, but I decided to try and find some other possible names.

To that end, I threw together a bunch of words that I could fit together to try and find something better. I mostly stuck to descriptive words like 'builder', 'editor', 'engine', 'game', 'rpg', etc. Most of the results didn't really impress me, but I do like the ring of Halberd Studio. It's not really any more descriptive or SEO-friendly, but it has a more official tone to me.

Given my end goal, it might be worth sticking to. My only concern is that there are already several 'studio' game engines hanging around, and throwing another one on the pile might not be a good move. I've keeping that name for now, but it's still not a final decision.

Next up

Looking back on this post now, I suppose September was actually rather productive! I'll probably try to focus a little more on the example game next month, since that hasn't seen as much progress lately. I still don't know how long it'll take to finish, but I'm hoping for some sort of official release before the end of the year. We'll see how that works out over the course of the next month or two!
Post a Comment