Thyria Devlog 06: One Year and Going Strong by Raymond Schlitter

Where did the time go? 

The bird beckons...

The bird beckons...

Whew, time flies. It's already been a whole year since we started developing Thyrian Defenders. I don't think either of us anticipated it would take so long to make a shoot em' up, but we have no complaints. What started as 'hey, let's make a scaled-down side project with a short dev cycle,' quickly became 'hey, let's make the best shoot 'em up ever.' Now, after a year of solid development the potential for greatness makes the commitment totally worthwhile. Considering the quality and quantity of content, I say we're still making good time. 

Good Progress

It's been quite a long time since I've given a progress report, so for this devlog I'm going to hit you with all the noteworthy updates from the last five months or so. 

2nd Player - In addition to the main character, Taz, we've created another fully playable character. Let me introduce you to Suri, a confident young woman who tries to keep a cool demeanor, but shows a spunky side in the excitement of battle. This duality gives her an awkward cuteness that everyone seems to be aware of except for her.

In the mobile version the player can choose if they want to play as Taz or Suri before each mission. In the Steam and console versions Suri will be the second player in 2P co-op mode. While there are no gameplay differences between the two character's, the cosmetic differences and unique voiced over one liners keep things fresh. 

Sound Effects and VO - We have been working on SFX and VO in collaboration with sound design students in England for a few months now. Things are nearing completion and sounding quite nice. Voice over wasn't even in the original plan, but when the opportunity came we couldn't pass. Currently, we are in the process of balancing and applying effects to the final cuts. I can't wait to share some examples in context once we actually start implementing the VO into the game.

Player Profiles - In order to emphasize the characters and bring more personality to the game, we've included constant character profiles into the HUD for the main characters and the wingmen. To make it worth the space they occupy we've given them animated feedback when taking damage, receiving power ups, and so on. We've even included mouth movements for when they speak. In addition to VO, there will also be text bubbles that sometimes pop out of the profiles.

Roll animation - It seems like a small thing, but it gives the sprite so much more life when it actually tilts into lateral movements. This is pretty much standard animation in all shmups but it was somewhat difficult to get right. First, the sprite itself is quite detailed with persistent directional lighting. Then, all the power up feedback animations needed to adapt to the animated sprite. Finally, implementing the nuanced movement to look natural with the touch control took several iterations to get right. But now she rolls baby! Now I just need to make roll animations for some of the wingmen characters.  

She rolls!

She rolls!

Projectile design and rate of fire - Back in May we changed the appearance of the player projectiles to make them a bit more unique from the enemy bullets, and significantly increased the rate of fire for the second time. This required a little bit of rebalancing to the level design, but now we have a satisfying flow of bullets and heightended sense of action. 

Magma Tetradon - We completed another boss design earlier this summer, which we are particularly proud of. This squid-like beast required our programmer to spend many hours making handmade animation patterns in order to create smooth and varied motion of the tentacles. The result is another impressive encounter with multiple challenging phases and lots of parts to destroy before blasting its brain to smithereens. 

The mighty Magma Tetradon

The mighty Magma Tetradon

Story - Detailed artwork for the intro and use in cutscenes is beginning to take shape. This is one of the last items on the list but I'm anxious to get the style and format established. The goal is to make full screen scenes on the vertical mobile format that can easily be adapted to full screen landscape format for the console versions. Turns out it's not so easy and is going to take a lot of pixels. But, I'm confident I can pull it off with cleverly designed compositions. 

Thyria is in peril! A calamitous alien force threatens the entire galaxy.

Thyria is in peril! A calamitous alien force threatens the entire galaxy.

New levels - Level 6, Hyperspace Beta was recently completed. The art assets for level 7, Krillis are about 90% complete and we should begin building the level within the week. In total 10 levels are planned, so that means we only have a few left. Moreover, an early 2018 release is still looking doable. 

Krillis is one of our most radical environments.

Krillis is one of our most radical environments.

Patreon

My artistic vision extends far beyond the work on Thyrian Defenders. For the sake of my happiness and well-being I must pursue this vision. At the beginning of August I launched a Patreon page to provide a platform for more pixels and some financial support. The content mostly focuses on my original pixel art, but the funds directly support the development of Thyrian Defenders by allowing me to continue working.

Just one example of the kind of artwork you can unlock and have early access to every week for only $1. 

Just one example of the kind of artwork you can unlock and have early access to every week for only $1. 

100% quality, consistently produced content on a weekly schedule. However, It cannot be sustained without financial support. How much do you value my work? 

Please have a visit and evaluate the quality of the contents for yourself. https://www.patreon.com/slynyrd 

Bye Bye

You read the whole article. I'm impressed. You should be caught up on all the major updates now. Stay tuned for more and keep up on facebook and twitter. 

-Words by Raymond Schlitter 

Slynyrd on Patreon by Raymond Schlitter

The road to pixel town

Never have I been so smitten with an art medium, and I've tried a lot of them over the years. Pixel art offers the control I demand, while its restrictions help funnel my rampant creativity into visions I can capture with efficiency. All the while, its deep-rooted connection with video games serves to enliven the art form with an energy of unlimited potential. I could pontificate all day about the aesthetic purity of carefully placed tiny dots. It's obvious, I love making pixel art. And like everybody else, I just want to earn a living doing what I love. 

Patreon is something I had in the back of my mind for quite some time. My inspiration has been too off the charts lately to hold back any longer. The floodgates are open and I want you to ride this wave with me. 

After a couple months in the making I've come up with a regime of content I feel comfortable I can sustain alongside my work on Thyrian Defenders. But most importantly, it's a nice balance of content that offers aesthetic and educational value to everyone, while satisfying my creative needs. I welcome all to practice my weekly routine with me, so we can grow together. Ultimately, I aim to inspire creativity in others, as I continuously grow.

PIXEL MINIS

Week 1 - Native Grasslands: 1

Week 1 - Native Grasslands: 1

To kick off the week I post an original mini pixel artwork every Monday #pixelminis. These small but detailed compositions pack a lot of charm into 64x64px. I will explore a theme for a few months to make up a series, then I will move on to a new theme. The first theme is naturalistic landscape and architecture based off my local surroundings. Following that I have a variety of themes patrons we be able to vote on. Here are some ideas to anticipate. 

Spaceships

Weapons

Sci-Fi Portraits

Plant Life 

SLYNYRD PIXELCAST

Pixelcast is a series of process videos I post every Wednesday #pixelcast. In these fascinating time-lapse screen recordings you can watch me create an original pixel artwork from start to finish. This provides great insight into my methods and approach to solving creative problems.

I first thought of creating more traditional tutorials, and even toyed with audio commentary. But in the end, I decided to offer a more organic form of observational education that serves to inspire self-discovery, which I believe is the best way to learn art, or just about anything. Furthermore, my straight-forward style clearly illustrates the importance of pixel placement, color choice, and layout. It's even revealing new ways for me to improve.

I also want these videos to be entertaining. Therefore, I carefully edit out idle actions, jerky zoom movements and try to make it as smooth and well paced as I can without compromising the natural sequence of creation. For the audio I'm using original music tracks from myself and any composers who wish to share their music. Please submit your tracks so I care spare you from having to listen to my tunes :) 

ATTENTION COMPOSERS: If you would like some free exposure, I will feature your music track in an Episode of Slynyrd Pixelcast. Your track will be highlighted with titles in the video, and I will include a link to your portfolio in the description. It's best if the track is at least 3 minutes long or loops seamlessly. A variety of music is possible but up-tempo and game related music seems to fit best.

Submit your tracks by emailing an audio file to raymondschlitter@gmail.com, Thank you!

PIXEL WEEKLIES

Every Friday I post an original pixel artwork created at 264x264px #pixelweeklies. These are highly detailed illustrations I put a lot of thought into. Not only do I want each artwork to be a deep work of beauty, but they also make up a series and tell a broader story over time. Forming a cohesive series brings in a narrative game-like quality that fills me with plentiful ideas, and further engages the fans. In some cases I'll even post polls where patrons can vote on the direction the story takes.  

Each series may last a few months, and can be extended or shortened at the request of patrons. The first series is a deep psychological dark fantasy. After that I have a wide variety of ideas on the table. Here's a handful of concepts to anticipate and prepare your vote for, as patrons will be able to vote on upcoming series.

Hero – a hero’s journey across a fantastical landscape to rescue his love

Juncajar – whimsical space tale of cosmic and erotic discovery

Rainbow Fiction Wonderland – cute but complex cartoon world full of unique creatures

Mondo – Japanese monster movie meets young adult struggles in romance.

Beast Planet: gory sci-fi thriller drags a man through hell in a story of redemption

 

Week 1 - Orga and Mekai: 1

Week 1 - Orga and Mekai: 1

be a producer

Another perk of becoming a patron is being credited as a producer in Slynyrd Pixelcast, and Thyrian Defenders. This privilege is only for Pixel Insider patrons, the top membership tier, which unlocks all content for only $5 a month. Your name will appear in the credits of Slynyrd Pixelcast within a couple weeks of becoming a Pixel Insider member, and will continue to be included each episode for as long as you remain a Pixel Insider

In order to have your name committed to the credits of Thyrian Defenders, you must remain a Pixel Insider for 3 consecutive months, or pay a reward amount of $15 or more. This beautiful pixel art shoot em' up is currently expected to release early 2018 on mobile, followed shortly by a Steam version.

Final Thoughts

Well, that covers the core regime of content. You may notice that most of my content is time locked. I've taken this approach because I would like to share my art with as many people as possible, and I especially don't want to completely lock out anyone from educational content. However, I would like to foster a culture that understands digital content isn't supposed to be free. Moreover, as I settle into the routine, I would like to offer more truly exclusive content to patrons, such as behind the scenes material, and resource files. I'm strongly compelled to follow my personal vision, but it doesn't make sense if the fans aren't on board. I'll be listening and working to build this pixel art utopia together. I welcome all interested in making pixel art to join in on the weekly routine with me. But if you just want to kick back and enjoy some pixels you are in good hands.

Allow me to recap the weekly posts. 

Monday - #pixelminis 64x64px size limitation. Super fun practice. Limit colors for bonus points.
Wednesday - #pixelcast Record your work and post it. Amazing way to improve.
Friday - #pixelweeklies Make an original pixel artwork with significant thought and time. I like to work with a 264x264px canvas, but there are no strict guidelines. 

Hop on over to Patreon to see what reward tier suits you best. For less than a fancy cup of coffee you can unlock all content. I look forward to seeing you there!

patreon.com/slynyrd

All earnings directly support the continued production of these Patreon contents, and the development of Thyrian Defenders. Like I said, I'm just trying to earn a living doing what I love. 

- Raymond Schlitter

Thyria Devlog 05: Origins by Raymond Schlitter

Hisashiburi

long time no see. The fact I haven't published a devlog in a few months might indicate stagnation in the dev cycle. Rest assured, it is quite the contrary. We've actually been so busy and engrossed in development that time has just flown by. Also, we don't want to completely pull back the curtain before release and spoil a profound gaming experience ;)

THE NAME

Thyria, a glorious galaxy to shmup in. 

Thyria, a glorious galaxy to shmup in. 

The name 'Thyria' was discovered from a google search of ancient city names. While we were still developing a yet unnamed platformer, 'Thyria' was the name given to the hub city. After several months went on, we still didn't have a name for the game, but we had grown very fond of 'Thyria,' both in phonetics and visual balance of the letters. After some googling we were sufficiently satisfied with the obscurity of the word, as it wasn't being used for any other game title or prominent works of fiction. Thus, we eventually adopted 'Thyria' as the name of the fictional galaxy the game is set in, and therefore, the name of the franchise. The city once called Thyria was then changed to Thalor. When we shifted over to developing a shmup, 'Thyrian Defenders,' came naturally.

Inspiration

We're big fans of shmups, and have played a lot of them. I'm most fond and familiar with Japanese fare from the 90's. For example, R-Type, Gradius, Darius, Raiden, Raystorm, Axeley, Thunder Force, Silpheed, Aero Fighters, U.N. Squadron, Sky Shark, 1942, Strikers 1945, and the list goes on. I grew up button mashing my sweaty little boy fingers and screaming into CRT displays trying to conquer these difficult games. Classic shmups are in my blood and I get a nostalgic itchy trigger finger just listing them. Some of them I still frequently revisit to keep the skills sharp and pull inspiration from sweet 90's pixel art. Furthermore, some of the aesthetics and the enemy behaviors of TD are definitely inspired by this pool of games. 

Just to clear the air, you may have noticed I didn't mention a game called 'Tyrian.' Despite a similar looking name, we had never even heard of this game until about 6 months into development of TD. Now it seems every week someone will reference this game in relation to TD, likely due to the name. However, any similarities both in name and spirit are purely coincidental. Nothing against Tyrian, I'm sure it's a fine game if it shares any qualities with TD. It just feels a bit odd to be under the implication that you are heavily referencing a game you weren't even aware existed. Although, I understand it's not hard to draw similarities between any two titles within the genre, and that's part of the charm. Shmups are like comfort food, and we want to reinvigorate the old beloved recipe with our own take.
 

Not all our inspiration comes from the retro library. In order to adapt the shmup to a modern free to play model that keeps the player engaged we had to analyze more current entries in the genre. As far as the game's structure and progression system, we started with the superb model presented in the mobile versions of Sky Force. However, at every design decision we pushed ourselves to innovate and come up with our own unique twist on the model, while removing any of the free to play aspects we felt had a negative impact on the experience. You can still see Sky Force in the roots of the UI and basic progression system, but the actual feel and moment to moment gameplay completely stands on its own. 

Outside of games, several other inspirations have found there way into TD. Working in the sci-fi genre post 1977 makes it impossible to escape some influence from one of the most heavily referenced icons of pop culture. You guessed it, Star Wars. However, I'm also greatly inspired by nature in all my art. It may not be so apparent, but many of the enemy designs are loosely based off plants, insects, and animals. While the precise and mechanical aspect of my art likely stems from my upbringing. Due to my father's business, I grew up surrounded by airplanes and intricately machined parts. My baby playpen was literally in an airplane assembly shop at one point. 

SAYONARA

I have many actual game updates to talk about, but I told myself I would try to keep it short and on point. No worries, the next devlog will come along without great delay, full of juicy details about the new content we've been cooking. In the meantime keep up with the latest on social media. Cheers!
Facebook
Twitter

Thyria Devlog 04: Story and Characters by Raymond Schlitter

Hi again. The year is no longer new and the devlog is overdue. As promised I will be covering details about the story of Thyrian Defenders in this update. So without further delay let's launch away.

Taz braces himself for a stupendous ride through hyperspace.

Taz braces himself for a stupendous ride through hyperspace.

The Setting

Just a few of the locations you will visit at the beginning of your journey across the Thyrian Galaxy. 

Just a few of the locations you will visit at the beginning of your journey across the Thyrian Galaxy. 

Thyria, an immense spiral galaxy full of countless planets and life forms. Somewhere in this web of worlds our story begins in a small system called Nova 9. The presence of two advanced species in the same system has inevitably lead to war. On one side you have the human world of Gradus, and on the other you have the lizard people of Virdune. After generations of prosperous cultural exchange, the discovery of an awesome new energy source quickly leads to conflict between the species.

It turns out plasma energy harvested from Space Kraken is the hot commodity everyone is after. Space Kraken have illuminated the night sky with their energy rich bodies for longer than anyone can remember. What was once seen as a natural marvel is now a prized hunt. Ironic how the outbreak of violence stems from such a peaceful and beloved creature.

Precious plasma energy is harvested directly from space kraken bodies, or plasma crystals that are produced by the creatures.  

Precious plasma energy is harvested directly from space kraken bodies, or plasma crystals that are produced by the creatures.  

It's a chaotic time full of contradiction. Both sides are shocked by the horrors of war, yet they are unwilling to give up the pursuit of greater power. The atmosphere is tense and it feels like something could give at any moment. Many believed a new weapon or some kind of technological breakthrough would be the turning point. The war would take a drastic turn, but not for a reason anyone predicted. It's at this pivotal moment our game begins. 

You play as Taz, A young fighter pilot for the Royal Space Force of Gradus. After recently completing training (tutorial level), Taz is assigned to an attack squadron of Titan ships. His first assignment is a recon mission to investigate reports of unknown craft operating in the Cryptum Asteroid field, a highly contested sector for its Kraken population and rich deposits of plasma crystals.  

As soon as the squad arrives at the recon point a small squadron of Virdunese fighters also appear on the scene. Apparently both sides are there to investigate unknown craft. Confused and pointing fingers at one another, a full on dog fight is about to go down before both squadrons are ambushed by the real culprit, alien invaders!

Seemingly out of nowhere an alien force surrounds both squadrons. Their sharp angular hulls fashioned with all manner of weaponry suggest hostile intentions. Indeed, the aliens are not there to make friends as they begin attacking both squadrons without bias. Both friend and foe are dying in a blaze of chaos surrounding Taz. Somehow he survives the first onslaught of these mysterious attackers, but it seems he's now all alone with no choice but to fight. Mission one start! 

At this point in the story the first level of the game begins. Cutscenes, and in game conversations will continue the story through the game. You will quickly learn these alien attackers called the Exodon are invading on a galactic scale and all of Thyria is in peril. The petty conflict between Gradus and Virdune ends and a new war against the Exodon begins. Taz bravely joins the fight to save the galaxy, but he won't be able to do it alone. As you travel to new frontiers and liberate worlds from the Exodon, new friends join you in the fight. In time this brave alliance of alien warriors become known as 'Thyrian Defenders.'  

The Characters

TAZ
A young hotshot pilot in the Royal Space Force of Gradus. While his naivety sometimes leads to rash behavior, deep down his actions are always good-willed. Overly reliant on his talents, Taz will have to learn to depend on new friends to stand a chance against the Exodon. 

Taz pilots the Titan, the Royal Space Force's most advanced light attack craft. For in depth details about the Titan and its weapons, check out devlog 03. 

While Taz is the character you play as, you will recruit a few characters throughout the game who will actually come fight at your side during gameplay. We call this the sidekick feature. It is initiated by item pickups found in special chests. Please fly nice, you control their destiny.

There are three characters that become sidekicks and you unlock each of them at different points as you progress in the story. Don't worry, it's a simple matter of progression and they can't be missed. Let's meet your squad.

TAROC REX
Even as a seasoned squadron leader for the Virdunese Space Force, T-Rex can scarcely contain that famous temper his people are known for. He is highly competitive, and after so many years at war with Gradus, he naturally becomes Taz's rival. After the Exodon decimate his squadron he’s lucky to find new friends to bark at.

Piloting the Lancer, T-Rex fires piercing hydro spears from four angles. This is great for attacking enemies on your periphery both in front and behind you. 

REDWING
Hailing from Draconia, Redwing is a powerful dragon cloaked in brilliant red scales. Beyond a stoic facade she carries a deep well of emotion. After her world is thrown into crisis by the Exodon invasion she taps into ancient fighting instincts and learns to release her feelings through fiery combat.

Redwing doesn't need a ship. She flies herself! Her attack is a short-ranged but powerful fireball that shoots straight out and pierces enemies. Major damage!

THEXTER
This ever-inquisitive hunk of bolts is a member of the peaceful robot world known as Krillis. Thexter must learn how to compute war after his mechanical world is laid to ruin by the Exodon. The concept of war sends him into an existential crisis, and his new friends must teach him what it means to be alive. 

Thexter is strongly against violence so he attacks with a stun wave. This temporarily freezes enemies so you can go ahead and take care of the violent shooting part yourself. 

The mysterious Exodon cast their shroud of darkness over the entire galaxy. 

The mysterious Exodon cast their shroud of darkness over the entire galaxy. 

EXODON
You get it by now, these guys are bad business. Exodon seem to be bred for battle, but are they more than just a mindless war race? Little is know about who, or what the Exodon are.   

Captain McCluster with that usual stern look of dissapproval. 

Captain McCluster with that usual stern look of dissapproval. 

NPCs
There will also be many colorful NPCs throughout the story, both friend and foe. For example, the hard-ass Captain Mcluster will brief you on your missions. The quirky boss characters will all have something to say as well.

What's in a STORY?

Gameplay still rules the day, as it should with just about all video games, However, the power of narrative can make a great gameplay experience even more immersive. With Thyrian Defenders you can see we are weaving a story about friendship and unity. The bonds with these characters will not only be formed through story sequences, but also through gameplay with the sidekick feature.

A narrative is also being told through the game's visuals. For example, bomb craters and destroyed structures in the background tell of the destructive power of the Exodon. Bones of an ancient beast on the desert floor tell a story of a different era on that planet. Everything is thought out well beyond what is necessary for the content of the game. This thoughtful design is intended to trigger the imagination of the player and make the world feel alive. 

Recent Updates 

We're always working on balancing but we made a significant change recently by increasing the vertical scroll speed by about 30 percent. This changes the pace of the entire game and required everything to be rebalanced, but the results are well worth it. The action is much tighter and there's never a dull moment. Also the levels go by faster making it a more palpable experience for mobile. All around fun factor is up!

I've mostly been busy grinding out background graphics, but I've also developed some new enemies, including a cool segmented worm boss. Markus has nearly completed the first Hyperspace level and is polishing up the encounter with the worm boss I just mentioned. Alan has been very productive recently and the OST is nearly finished. So as usual, I'll leave you with another new tune to fuel your shooter dreams. This is the hard rocking track for Pyrex, our lava themed level. Enjoy!

BYE BYE

I hope you enjoyed this update. Some time down the line I would like to do another feature on story elements once we have actual story scenes implemented into the game. But that will come at the very end of development. Gameplay always comes first! Perhaps next time I will go in more depth about the worlds and the rich background graphics I've been creating. As Japanese game devs like to say, 'please be excited.' 

 

-Words by Raymond Schlitter

Thyria Devlog 03: Get to Know Thyrian Defenders Part 2 by Raymond Schlitter

This Space Kraken seems to be overexcited about the new year. 

This Space Kraken seems to be overexcited about the new year. 

Happy New Year!

2016 has been a long year of relentless development. Through pain, joy, hope, and fear, the grind has never ceased. The struggle of game development is real folks, but the passion devs have for games can pierce through all hardship. Thanks to this passion the world has been graced with so many incredible works of interactive art. To also share my creative vision through this great medium has been a long dream of mine. I'm quite certain that 2017 will see the release of our first game. Cheers to a great year! 

The struggle of game development is real folks, but the passion devs have for games can pierce through all hardship.

Down to business

The Titan 20XX. Although it's a light attack craft, a well coordinated squadron is said to have the power of a giant.  

The Titan 20XX. Although it's a light attack craft, a well coordinated squadron is said to have the power of a giant.  

Last post I filled you in on the objective based gameplay in Thyrian Defenders, and the awesome addition of music composer, Alan Monteiro. If you missed it get caught up here. This time around I will detail the upgrade system and your ship's arsenal. Of course I will also inform you on the latest development updates.

A main focus of Thyrian Defender's gameplay is upgrading your ship. Along with opening new levels and progressing the story, we want that satisfying feeling of incrementally becoming stronger to continuously motivate the player. Those first baby steps you take out of the gate are especially important. When you first start the game you basically have a pea shooter and that's it. You'll feel weak, but still capable to pick off some invaders and save up enough Gold Parts to put towards a new weapon or ship modification. As long as you keep at it you will always be getting stronger and overcoming greater challenges. A great deal of work will be put into tuning the balance of this progress, as to create an addictive gameplay loop that sprinkles rewards with even consistency. 

... we want that satisfying feeling of incrementally becoming stronger to continuously motivate the player... A great deal of work will be put into tuning the balance of this progress

Now let's look at the actual weapons and ship mods.

Upgrades galore! Each of the 8 mods top out at level 5 with 10 increments to each level. This represents the actual upgrade Ui, but all values are arbitrary in this example. 

Upgrades galore! Each of the 8 mods top out at level 5 with 10 increments to each level. This represents the actual upgrade Ui, but all values are arbitrary in this example. 

Primary mods

Primary mods add functions that are always in effect once purchased and require no additional cost to use in game. 

Canon: The Titan's primary weapon. Pretty standard repeating pellet weapon. Upgrade to improve attack power, fire rate, and spread of the weapon.
Armor: The Titan's armored plating. Upgrade to withstand more enemy attacks.
Magnet: Pulls Gold Parts towards the Titan. Upgrade to improve its power and range.
Drones: Defensive and offensive drones. Defensive drones constantly circle the Titan offering extra protection and can also damage nearby enemies. Offensive drones are essentially homing rockets. Upgrade to unlock more drones, improve their attack power and production rate.
Laser: The Titan's secondary weapon. It has a much slower fire rate than the Canon, but the beams are piercing and damage everything they touch. Upgrade to increase attack power, fire rate, and size. 

SPECIAL MODS

Specials are unique abilities that can be activated in game at the player's choosing. However, they cost additional GP to use and have a limit of uses. Upgrading makes them more efficient and increases the number of possible uses per level. Specials are activated by lifting your finger and pressing one of the three icons. Depending on the situation and the objective you're after, each special offers a specific and strategic use. 

Shield: Makes the Titan invulnerable for a limited period of time. Upgrade to increase duration and number of uses.
Focus: Allows the Titan to go into light speed, making everything else appear slow for a short time. Upgrade to increase duration and number of uses. 
Cyclone: 
Inflicts heavy damage on nearby enemies. Upgrade to increase attack power, range, and number of uses.

That covers all of the Titan's main equipment. Each of the 8 mods top out at level 5 with 10 increments to each level. Let's see, that's a total of 320 upgrades before the Titan reaches full power. But wait, there are also very rare special item drops that give further permanent upgrades. Look forward to more specifics on these later on. Bottom line, this little shooter ain't so little. We're predicting 40+ hours of gameplay for the hardcore completionist, and about a quarter of that time to beat the game. Most important is that it remains fun throughout and never becomes too grindy. Therefore, if the experience needs to be tightened up, we would not hesitate to shave off hours of gameplay to preserve the freshness of the content. 

Recent Updates

As I mentioned in the last devlog, we are fully invested in the development of Thyrian Defenders pretty much until we release the game, so don't expect any tangible progress on Thyria: Hunt For Kroohx until then. Although, I will say it's very much on our minds and seems to make its way into all our brainstorm sessions. Our enthusiasm and passion for that game only seems to grow the longer we postpone its development. Also, since the two games are intimately connected the world building continues to progress and inspire our vision for THFK

Over the past month I've mostly been working on background graphics. The greater part of that work being tedious revisions to the Asteroids and Crypto backgrounds. It's a grind but the results prove the worth. There is now greater detail, which improves depth, consistency of lighting and perspective. Basically, the worlds feel richer and more alive than before. Here are a few comparisons. 

In addition to revising background tiles I've also made some new tiles that introduce more memorable landmarks. On top of that I've made concepts for a couple new levels. Check out the images below.

We've also made several small updates. These include a few functional improvements to the UI. A new animation added to the Focus effect. Item drops that grant the free use of specials and a custom feedback animation for all three of them. Now nearly every pickup in the game has a custom feedback animation.  

Nearly every pickup in the game has a custom feedback animation.  

Nearly every pickup in the game has a custom feedback animation.  

Balancing the challenge and gameplay is a constant effort that will become more intensive the closer we get to launch.

On the technical side Markus has made some clever performance improvements to ensure a steady 60fps, even on older devices. Playing one handed on my good ol' iphone5s is where it's at for me.

As usual, there has been further balancing and tuning done to level design, including an extra layer of polish for the Mega Driller boss. Balancing the challenge and gameplay is a constant effort that will become more intensive the closer we get to launch.  

Progress has also been good on the soundtrack for Thyrian Defenders. Let me end this post on a high note and share another fantastic track. This song will play on the title screen at the game's opening. It sure gets me pumped up to play the game! 

Next post it may be time to delve into story and characters. Don't worry, no spoilers! 
 

- Words by Raymond Schlitter

Thyria Devlog 02: Get to Know Thyrian Defenders - Part 1 by Raymond Schlitter

The heroes from left to right: Thexter, T-Rex, Taz, and Redwing

The heroes from left to right: Thexter, T-Rex, Taz, and Redwing

WELL, HEY AGAIN 

Hey all, here again with another devlog update. Last month I gave a general summary of the formation of our team and an overview of our 2 projects in development. If you missed it get caught up here. Look, I know you’re all excited about our action rpg platformer, Thyria: Hunt for Kroohx, but I’m not going to talk about that today. This time around I’m going to tell you that you should be hyped for Thyrian Defenders, and not just because it’s first in line for release.

Since August 2016, we’ve pushed TD to the forefront of our development efforts and we’ve been in high stride these past few months. In just the past month we’ve completed another level along with dozens of improvements all around the board. But before I go into those details let’s talk about the gameplay and features. 

TD has enough unique gameplay and aesthetic to stand out, and just the right difficulty balance to attract the hardcore and casual.

Sure, it’s a vertical shooter; a genre with countless titles and very few known for innovation. However, if you’re a fan that’s no problem at all. And if you narrow down the list of truly great ones you’ll feel there’s always room for more. Of course we’re big fans and think the simple ‘pew pew’ action of a good shmup never gets old. But this game has the potential to be much more than a love letter to a classic genre that no longer receives the attention like it once did in the 1990’s. We believe TD has enough unique gameplay and aesthetic to stand out, and just the right difficulty balance to attract the hardcore and casual. 

BASIC CONTROLS

The initial release of TD is going to be for mobile so we're talking touch controls here. I tell myself I'm not a fan of touch controls but I must admit when it works, it works well. Moreover, shmups are one of those genres that works great on a touch screen. So much in fact, they've earned their own name as the 'finger shooter.' TD controls pretty much how you would expect. Your ship tracks your finger movement while it constantly shoots and that is the core control. The position of the ship sits slightly above your touch point so that your finger doesn't cover the ship. This is important, because it makes you feel like you are flying the ship, not just shooting out of your finger. If you lift your finger the game drastically slows down and you are presented with 3 special options. Cyclone Bomb heavily damages everything around you ship. Shield gives you temporary invulnerability. Focus slows everything down except for your ship, empowering you with a master of the matrix feeling. 

...you feel like you are flying the ship, not just shooting out of your finger.

MORE THAN SHOOTING STUFF

TD follows tradition by including hand made levels that are each capped off with a unique boss fight. However, it’s how you play the game that makes it feel more modern and replayable. In order to make it to the next level you must do more than survive. Each level has four objectives that earn you a medal, plus 4 difficulty tiers resulting in a total of 16 possible medals for each level. You must acquire so many of these medals to unlock more levels and difficulty tiers. 

In order to make it to the next level you must do more than survive.

• Destroy 100% of enemies - Going for this medal leads to a pretty straight forward strategy, kill everything! This is naturally what most players want to do in these games, especially if they are concerned with score. However, there are often times you will think the better of it and choose an evasive stance when the risk is obvious. Hehe, but you better hold your ground if you want to get that medal.

Cyclone Bomb is especially useful when you're trying to destroy 100% of the enemies. (Umbrella icon is only part of temporary debug UI) 

Cyclone Bomb is especially useful when you're trying to destroy 100% of the enemies. (Umbrella icon is only part of temporary debug UI) 

• Remain Unharmed - So much as a scratch in the paint and you can say goodbye to this medal. Going for this one leads to a much more passive strategy where you don’t want to get too bullish, but you still gotta keep your finger on the trigger or those lingering baddies will cause you trouble.

Strategically timed shield usage can go a long way towards the 'Unharmed' objective.

Strategically timed shield usage can go a long way towards the 'Unharmed' objective.

• Collect all 10 Plasma containers - In every level there are 10 plasma containers the are spawned by destroying crystals, and also absorbed from Space Kraken. Getting them from crystals is easy to understand. Shoot it until it cracks open and wolla, out pops a plasma container. To get them from Space Kraken you must fly nearby the squishy critters for a set amount of time until they relinquish a container. The trick is, they’re always on the move and often flying through crossfire. Patience and timing is the key to earning this medal. Slowing time with the Focus special can be a great help with this one. 

• Special Objective - Every level has one unique objective. These include slaying a rare monster, collecting a high percentage of gold parts, bravely riding wind currents, preserving ancient ice formations, and more. These usually incorporate a unique level mechanic, or simply bring more personality to the level. 

Hey, you missed one! That's not gonna cut it if you want that special objective medal. 

Hey, you missed one! That's not gonna cut it if you want that special objective medal. 

Time to pick up the pace

The trade off for this methodical objective based gameplay is a need to keep the pace of the levels a touch slow, as far as scrolling is concerned. In order to contrast this and pump up the player's adrenaline we plan on including Hyperspace levels. These are very fast paced levels that must be cleared within a certain time limit. To keep up your speed you'll need to stay on a highlighted path and avoid obstacles. Baddies will be there to harass you as well but shooting is not the main focus of the gameplay in Hyperspace. That's the idea anyway, as we have yet to create a tangible mock up. Look forward to that in a forthcoming devlog. 

In order to pump up the player’s adrenaline we plan on including Hyperspace levels. These are very fast paced levels that must be cleared within a certain time limit.

RECENT UPDATES

Our biggest update since the last devlog is the addition of a new level. Introducing planet Crypto, a strange world made of bumpy rock formations intersected by rivers of bright green liquid. Shrouded in perpetual mist this humid environment provides an ideal spawning ground for the Space Kraken. Unfortunately, the Exodon invasion extends to this vital habitat. Strap up lad, those Kraken need your help!

Not only is the environment drastically different than the previous 'Asteroids' level, but several new enemies are introduced. Homing turrets shoot spinning stars that aggressively track you down. Skimmers dash along the surface of liquid and shoot packets of cluster bullets. Swarmers are small and weak but always come in groups, hence the name 'Swarmer.' To kill a Twin Shooter you must dangerously fly in between the bullets firing from its dual canons. 

In addition to this new level we've also made some small graphic improvements. Most notable is the addition of fully animated drop shadows for flying objects including your ship! 

We've also done significant balancing tweaks to the gameplay and controls. Enemies and projectiles have been made faster while your ship has slightly slower movement but a faster fire rate. This all amounts to an intense feeling of action and a much more fun challenge. Before these changes the Titan felt overpowered and the challenge was lacking. 

This all amounts to an intense feeling of action and a much more fun challenge.

NOW WE'RE ROCKIN'

Alas, I'm elated to announce a new member to the Thyria team. Alan Monteiro is a super talented musician/composer from Sao Paulo, Brazil. After looking into several potential composers, and even considering doing the music ourselves, it was Alan's natural musical talent and friendly approach that won us over. He's going to be ripping out some amazing tunes for Thyrian Defenders. You don't have to take my word for it, just take a listen to this sample track for the Asteroids level.

Now, imagine shooting up some Exodon while jamming to this, pretty sweet huh? Well hopefully you won't have to imagine for much longer, as things are still going really smooth. 

BYE BYE

That's it for this Devlog. There are still many features to cover. Next time I plan on detailing your ship's arsenal and the upgrades system. I'm also excited to describe the colorful cast of characters and how they are incorporated into the story and gameplay. Until then, keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for juicy appetizers. 

RUNED (Formerly Remnant) Devlog 3 by Raymond Schlitter

Working color version of 8 frame walk cycle. 

Working color version of 8 frame walk cycle. 

It's been a long long time since the last Runed devlog, and this will be the last devlog coming from me. Due to various circumstances, I politely resigned from the project as of August 13th, 2015. I know that's already a long time ago, but I wanted to button up the issue just in case somebody was waiting to hear more about the game from me. I've also been terribly busy on another game dev project that I can't wait to share more about.

Developing a game requires a great deal of hard work and time. In all I was on board for nearly 8 months as the sole artist for Runed. In that time, I learned a great deal about the technical intricacies of developing a pixel art game. Not only that, my pixel art skills vastly improved from beginning to end. Just look at my first devlog post and some of my most current pixel art to see for yourself.

When it comes to game development you often hear the words, "Never give up." I definitely have not given up. Sometimes you have to quit one thing in order to open to doors to something better. Indeed, that I have. The fire burns strong. 

Where most of the game's light comes from. 

Where most of the game's light comes from. 

If you are interested in learning the current status of Runed, or if you're looking for a C# programmer, try contacting @DeathGameDev for details.