Published: April 29, 2022
Took another week off, but got right back into things this week and finished putting together the Steam page for Rhythm Quest.
The first thing to knock out was to come up with some new cover art for the game. So far I had just been using this image of the runner character against the green level 1-1 backdrop theme:
The font here, by the way, is taken out of ChevyRay's pixel font pack, which is also where the in-game pixel font comes from. I've applied a simple drop shadow so it doesn't look as flat -- really helps a lot.
I have a lot more character designs in the game now, so I could at least make things more interesting by putting all of those in:
Ultimately, though, it seemed a little underwhelming. Also, while the green background is very "classic" (evokes memories of green-tinted game boy screens), it's a little plain, too. The Steam header capsule image is 460x215 pixels large, so I decided that I would try and just suck it up and try and do a detailed pixel artwork at that canvas size. Before starting, I very roughly sketched out a few possible compositions, trying to figure out what elements to put in the image and where to place the game logo. A lot of these ideas starred Sayuri as the main character, but also aimed to throw a bunch of other elements into the scene as well.
Unfortunately, my initial attempt at drawing something at this scale was too terrible for me to even bother saving and I discarded it after attempting to draw just Sayuri's face and eyes. My next idea was to just reference the art that I already had for my avatar, which I had originally drawn two years ago:
This was only a 100x100 image, so it's a bit small for the 460x215 size. I was considering roughly upscaling it as a guide and then re-pixeling it at the higher resolution, but in the end I just decided to keep the smaller size and draw out the bottom half, extending it into a running pose. I threw in some simple particles as well:
Wasn't perfect by any stretch, but this was looking decent at least, and certainly more appealing than what I had originally. I carried over the simple level 1-1 styled background, but gave it pink/purple hues to mesh well with Sayuri's palette as well as the yellow logo. The heavy focus on pink and purple was a bit incongruous with the previous green aesthetic, but I like that it stands out very brightly against the Steam page backgrounds, which are generally dark gray/blue.
I was originally thinking of adding in a bunch of other elements to fill out the rest of the scene here -- redrawing Ducky at a larger scale, and having Furball flying around in the background, maybe an enemy on the lower-right as well. That's still a future possibility, but I also tried just upscaling by 2x instead:
And I actually liked this a lot! It happens to fit very snugly into the required resolution, and makes everything very readable and simple. Maybe less is more? I decided to just stick with this, and not make more work for myself. All that was left was to move around the elements and crop out some various different sizes of it for the different required Steam assets:
Having the 2x upscaling isn't "ideal" in my mind -- actually, having a pixel art promo image at all seems to be frowned upon as it can seem low-budget or "cheap" (which, admittedly, this game is...) rather than something more professional. But there is also something to be said about the satisfaction of having created even these promotional images by myself, along with everything else in the entire game. In the end, this is a passion project, after all. I =have= also done non-pixel art work in the past, but I'm pretty sure attempting something of that nature would turn out extremely mediocre in comparison.
Something else I really wanted for the Steam page was to feature some nice animated gifs that visually show what the gameplay is like. There are probably a lot of people who simply skim store pages visually without reading much text, so this is probably (?) going to be important to grab people's attention and communicate what the game is about.
To record these I set up new scenes with a fixed camera at a custom resolution, and laid out some obstacle sets to show off different mechanics:
I took a bunch of new in-game screenshots, and re-rendered the gameplay trailer as well. My focus with these screenshots was not only to show different characters, gameplay elements, and backdrop styles, but also to provide variety in color palettes. Again, this is aimed at catering to a favorable first impression -- the idea was to have a row of screenshots thumbnails that look colorful and varied even before you click on them to view them.
And with that, my Steam page is pretty much ready to publish! I imagine that this will be going live very soon, so please stay tuned so you can wishlist + follow the game!
Besides that, I've mostly been continuing to work on the Nintendo Switch port of Rhythm Quest, trying to iron out all of the bugs and kinks here and there:
Saving/loading now works on Switch, after some fenagling with the Switch filesystem APIs and project settings.
Joycon input is also pretty much all done, though I need to tweak the tutorial and maybe look into input rebinding.
There was a bug where game timing was completely thrown off when suspending the game (via the home button) due to my code not getting the correct notification to handle this. That's been fixed! The game automatically pauses when this happens as well, now.
Level loads take a bit longer on Switch as well, and it turns out that during a level load I wasn't locking the character position so it actually was already going through the first part of the stage (and dying) during the black loading screen. Whoops! That's fixed now...
I also put in some code to handle some performance mode settings -- more specifically, the Switch has a "CPU boost" feature that is designed to prioritize CPU over GPU during loading scenes. Might just be placebo effect, but it seems to have helped the loading times a bit!
Next week I might attempt to go back to making more levels...