4 Hugues Ross - Blog: Halberd Studio - Priorities and Time
Hugues Ross


Halberd Studio - Priorities and Time

Hello again! Despite 2 months of work, this is somehow my first post of the year. I've got an even deck of good and bad news, but nothing too major on either side.

Tilemap Upgrades

Let's start off with the good stuff. While the task splitting that I started late last year has been slowing down direct progress, it has also given me the opportunity to make some nice improvements elsewhere. During the past few months, I've put some effort into improving the tilemap editor. I'll go through the changes below, but let's see what you can spot first:

Click for a full-size version


The first thing I added to the tilemap editor this year was a tile grid. A grid overlay may seem like a humble addition, but it makes judging distances and lining up elements much easier. Pushing the feature even further, I also made it fully customizable:

Click for a full-size version
With several different line styles, and any color(s) you want, there's a good chance that you can find a grid that fits the maps it overlays. With that said, the grid can also be turned off if you prefer a clean-looking map.

New Tools

To complement the existing pencil and bucket tools, I added tools for placing lines, rectangles, and ovals. All of these tools can be modified with ctrl/shift as you'd expect coming from most art programs, so the result should be pretty straightforward when people pick it up.

I also took the opportunity to re-use the line code to add 'connected drawing' to the pencil tool, so quick strokes won't leave holes behind!


Of course, those tools wouldn't work well if you couldn't see what the results. To that end, I also made all of the tools preview their effects before placement. Before, you could only see the new tile directly under your cursor and it was deceptively easy to flood-fill a tile that you meant to place normally. Now, it's blindingly obvious what will happen so I expect fewer slip-ups.

Priority Issues

As I mentioned at the top, there is some bad news to go with the good. Progress on new features has been excruciatingly slow, mainly due to prioritizing the wrong tasks. I've been slowly realizing this for a few weeks, and I'm finally changing directions.

Right now, there are two main improvements that Halberd needs. First of all is NPCs/dialogue. Without characters and text, it's hard (though technically possible) to tell an engaging story. NPCs can also do a lot of other things in an RPG context, such as selling items or providing avoidable combat instead of random encounters. Second is adding depth to the available combat systems, through skills/items/etc. Such additions can give the player options beyond 'attack' and 'run', and allow for more interesting challenges.

What I think happened is that I looked at both of these possibilities, and saw a common thread: both of these require some UI work. So, instead making direct progress on these tasks, I started working on a fully customizable UI system. At the time, I figured that giving developers the tools to dictate how the UI looked and worked would allow for more possibilities with these features. However, this system turned into a time sink that blocked my progress for a few months.

Don't get me wrong--custom UI is a real feature that Halberd will need. It just isn't the right task for the moment. On the upside, what I did make can still be used even if it doesn't offer much yet.

Next Steps

Whether or not I learn my lesson remains to be seen. With that said, I think the next feature that I'll work on is getting NPC support in. With my tilemap editor upgrades done, it feels like the natural path to take. Ideally, I'd also like to work NPC interactions and dialog into the existing triggers. I think doing so will greatly expand the possibilities that these new features add.

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