Demon Legend – A year in dev:
Heyas all, Ikkir and Muta we figure it’s a good time to go over everything we have accomplished in a year, and talk about the evolution of our project a bit more retrospectively – to current day (and man have we come a long way).
Demon Legend began as an idea to take an old prototype by Muta around January 2019. This demo showed some promise, but looked a bit more like Metroid. We decided to resurrect the project, and both agreed that a Japanese setting involving Yokai (mythical ghosts and demons) would be a very interesting concept. We officially started work on it in February of 2019, gutting the project and starting fresh – only keeping some simple assets such as small mobs and Daisuke’s sprite sheet.
We more or less only had this old character from a spritesheet, a few tiles, and an idea of what we wanted to do. From there, we started figuring things out: we locked our resolution at 400×240, started getting some critters from some sheets we had, and implementing the setting (as we very slowly began hooking up all the sprite sheet animations we needed). Though we later went on to expand and experiment with different palettes, the game was basically using the NES palette at the time…
(We also started doing boss planning for our original boss right around this time, based on Japanese lore. We are going to wait until we have a bigger reveal for it and have it more polished before showing how ugly the original idea was! Hey, you have to start somewhere and we can look back and say holy crap!)
After that (and a lot of other tweaking) we decided we wanted a lot of high-action player movement, and changed the old character around to use a grappling hook (sorry old Daisuke for chopping your arm off!). The grappling mechanic has definitely come a long way. This was partially influenced by the NES title Bionic commando, but kind of came along organically (Daisuke is a ninja cyborg and all).
And because he is a ninja cyborg, we had to give him some shuriken as well (obviously)! You can also see we started getting a UI base for our characters around at this time. We had experimented with having a black bar at the top and a more retro approach, but decided to have a more compact character UI in order to allow for more screen space at once.
Right about at this time we started exploring knockback and its ramifications as well. After playing some other games (notably, the original Ninja Gaiden and Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon) we figured out around about how much knockback we wanted, and decided that we needed to have an option to allow for knockback to be turned off, similar to how COTM does its casual mode. Safe to say, knockback won’t be as bad as this…
We were also starting to get in other characters at this time, and got some of the base sprite sheet and concept for Hitomi in. We also madea e destructible tiles possible.. Some of our inspiration for Hitomi was fighting game based, and we wanted her moveset to reflect that, and make her a bit faster than Daisuke as well (more on her later).
And then we decided we should have slopes possible as well, which means already we were starting to upgrade what we could do in our scenes.
Speaking of upgrades, we have gone through a lot of things with our background ‘moon’ for the demo level as well. Heck, we are still messing it now!
At this point, we started to work on some more monsters, since we were more or less stuck with the critters we had already, along with a simple runner mob. We had to get in ninjas (evil demon jumping ninjas); we were in a Japanese setting for sure at this point, after all.
We also started concepting for our fourth character at this point (ironically we got this one done before our third character, which we started a little while back but haven’t really revealed too much yet on). Since we were in a fighting game mood we were inspired to have a character that ran on a combo system / using combo energy. In the end we didn’t use this early model for him though, and repurposed it for the karate guys in the village instead.
Sometime around this is when our art direction really started to shift as well. We started moving more and more from old simple NES stuff to more what we called the “AmigaDoom” palette, and started to broaden what we could be doing. (we also gave Hitomi her bird / trusted partner, Genryu, around this time, and had a lot of fun making him)
We also started getting the character swapping system really set up around this time (also, you can see how we drastically reworked our fourth character here- we ended up getting some of his basic moveset done but haven’t gone all in on smoothing everything out on him yet, preferring to work with only Hitomi and Daisuke for now and getting them playing perfectly first)
(sidenote: we also started to fix our gif recording solution around this time and started getting 48 fps video that we could cut and scale as needed. Twitter is absolute murder on gifs so it took more than just this to figure it all out but hopefully our more recent gifs have been way better than our old ones!)
We also went more all in on making a waterfall section now (we actually had some really, really rough logs in the earlier stages as well, but needed a place to put a waterfall area). Honestly this area itself is still a work in progress even now, as it should be connecting two areas as well (and we haven’t gotten the second area fully lined out yet), but we have certainly come a long way. We also started work on some of our signature Oni as well, and got some rock throwers and the original version of our mountain ogre (and the new version is still getting tweaks even now) .
Right about here is when our scope started to expand quite a bit (not that it wasn’t already before!) And we started to get in things like dialogue and cutscenes. Later, we would go on to flesh out an entire village area rather than our original idea of just having pure action stages.
We also started prototyping really rough stuff for our intro right about now (some of it really, really rough. Our cutscene stuff has certainly come a long way since then, though we haven’t really revealed most of it as of yet.). We started with the basics, tried to do something more with a painted style, and have evolved even more since then, and have gotten a lot of external help making this thing worthwhile, so expect to see something drastically different than these early shots.
Other than that, at this time we were working on getting all our UI elements in: with an expanded scope came inventory and with the village came shopping, so we started on some basic UI for such a thing. We wanted something simple that could potentially show who could use any bought item (such as upgrades or resource things like Shuriken for Daisuke. You can also see a little sneak peek at our third character here!).
We also started fleshing out the village itself and getting in npcs, repurposing old sprites, etc. As you can see, we wanted to have a decent variety here. Our plan for the future is to come back to this village as a potential hub as well, and possibly add more npcs later.
You can also see where we were doing more background work around this time as well, trying to figure out just the right balance.
We also went back and started adding some more enemy variety, or at least giving ourselves the options to have them. We wanted to get some more yokai in, so we decided on some flying ones: Namakubi (severed heads of samurai dishonorably decapitated on the battlefield), Obake (lantern yokai / mimics) and Nobusuma (evil flying death squirrels that eat flames and faces too. Anyone who has played Ninja Gaiden will know this pattern…).
And now, we are finally up to where we are today. We have been working hard at doing yet another big, BIG pass at updating our sprites / looks, and taking ourselves out of the NES era of look, kicking and screaming. This includes the start of a revamp of our main character’s look/style (with potential other tweaks later), palette / color changes and additional shading on most things.
Since we are more or less going beyond the NES era of pixelart, we are also going to be stepping up our game on music a little bit. In all, we are sort of adopting the philosophy of: making it good over making it truly retro / limited (think more along the lines of the Playstation Era of games, or heck even just the Amiga, which had a killer sound chip). Will have music previews soon!
We also got our intro mostly completed, and wow, was it worth the effort! In fact, a lot of the intro meshed well enough together that we decided to make a banner out of the assets! Be honest: if you saw this at a convention, would you decide to come over and check out what the game was about?
Speaking of conventions though… we are headed to ECGC (East Coast Game Conference)! This will be held in Raleigh, NC April 7-9th at the Raleigh Convention Center. We will be in a booth in indie alley, with a new demo build to try out! If you are attending, be sure to drop on by!
We will also have a public demo out sometime around that time as well! We might end up cramming stuff in to the last moment though so no idea if it will be right before the convention or just after though, but you can get first notice of it on our Discord at https://discord.gg/qshUMUP , be sure to drop on by!
Thanks to everyone for following us through our first year of dev, and look forward to big things this year!