Monday 21 July 2008

DDD 41: The Finishing Line

41. 12 January 2008

And so the Dungeon is finished. Or should I for once use the correct name, Fortress of Forgotten Souls. The tileset is finished at least when looking in numbers, as now all 1010 tiles are used, and would I say, efficiently. I didn't expect to finish this this early, but I spent a lot of time working on the tileset today. And voilĂ , this is finished. The only problem I am having now is the dysfunctional 8-bit water. It doesn't work. For some reasons the "tops" of the waves become overcoloured indicating that there is something wrong in the Fortress palette. Strangely enough, everything works underwater, the grass, warp background, dirt. All but the bricks. It remains to be seen if I intend to do something with this. I may lose some points at J2O for partially not functioning tieset palette. I doubt, however, that this is a pretty trivial problem now in the year 2008, when most of the people have very powerful computers capable of showing JJ2 in 16-bit color mode.

So, let's write down what led to the finalization of Fortress. First I drew next to the large cross a smaller grave stone. It doesn't look that spectacular, but I accepted it anyway. Then I came up with an idea of a fence which I created with haste and a small amount of tiles. In addition, it is easy to expand the fence to a complex construct, so I consider these tiles extremely well used. Then I thought about some stuff to put inside the ground and created two sets of stones, one for the masked and one for the unmasked dirt ground. They ended up looking real nice, if you restrain yourself from putting them absolutely everywhere. The darker large stone (2*2 tiles in size) is the last tile to be finished in the tileset.

At some point today I re-designed the water drops. The earlier ones looked too much like clustered water. I did some stars for a clear night sky background option. Two of the stars can be animated. Brilliantly the single animation pictures can also be used as still stars. That's genious! :)

It's also the time to think about the whole creation process of Fortress. I am pretty pleased with this finished tileset. It is extensive for varied use, lots of stuff everywhere. Although not so extensive in stuff and colors as Twilight Park was, it doesn't bother me. Fortress couldn't have been a colourful tileset at any point. I was fortunate to think about changing the warp background color to red as it provides a great change from the very greyish nature of Fortress. Now that this darker tileset is done, I can return to lighter themes, like the forgotten island I was thinking about in December.

The Fortress of Forgotten Souls shows again that it is impossible for me to stick in the plan. I made some great concept art, but in the end I didn't follow that stuff so much. Fortress looks good once finished, but on the way to finishing line I had tons of worries about the way the tileset was turning out. Mostly I am now thinking about all the missing human (or hare-like) stuff in Fortress. Originally I had ideas of skulls and bones and coffins in this tileset but at some point I just dropped the idea. It is a dark tileset, but for some reason there is no space for skeletons. Weirdly enough, in Twilight Park there was. This must mean Blade isn't that sharp after all but all soft rubber :D On the contrary to all my Fortress troubles, the grass/dirt land was created mostly without pain. It all looked very grim in October but got better after that. Because of the October grass land troubles I think I left the tileset making for a whole month.

With this diary I can track down how long it took to create Fortress of Forgotten Souls. The answer is close to 45 working sessions. I would have thought that I would have needed more sessions, but no. This means that I made the tileset at 22,444 tiles speed for one session. But now that seems to be very much. When thinking about the used time, one session took averagely some two hours. Some sessions were longer so let's keep to 2,6 hours. With this it can be calculated that Fortress is a fruit of 112,5 working hours. Again, that's not so much to me. It's like I would have done the whole thing in four days and 16 hours! This sounds absurd when remembering that Fortress was in active creation from August to January. Of course the whole Fortress process was way longer than 112 hours as the Fortress idea was conceived in December 2006. Let's think about that next.

Originally the idea for Fortress of Forgotten Souls is pretty old, probably five years. For some reason the Fortress idea came back to me after Twilight Park and in the military service (that was nine months in '06-'07) I started to think what it should look like. I had strong intentions to have the tileset ready in summer 2007 but many things got in between resulting in that I had virtually nothing done at the beginning of August. Some of the reasons are as follows. In the spring I was studying to be a student in university of economics (that was not successful). In June I was used to do nothing with the tileset but the promises for a new tileset in J2O forums kept me trying a little at least. In the summer I did only unsuccessful tries to start the stabile creation. These were the same I showed in this blog about a year ago. In addition there was trips to various places and hanging around with friends. I had no job at the time and that should have enabled me to do something, but no :) During these many years of Jazz Jackrabbit 2 tileset making I have come to realize that I have to have a strong inspiration to do even one tile that looks good. That inspiration is hard to find. As proof it has been now two years from the release of Twilight Park. Man, I am slow. It's hard to know why everything started to work in August. I just said to myself that this has to start working and then tried until it did.

There are four stages in Fortress of Forgotten Souls creation. The planning continued from December 2006 to August 2007, the first development stage in August that year, the second starting in October and lasting until November and the third development stage started in December and stopped with the finishing of Fortress today. The most important stages were the second and third where the tileset got its finalized look and I made the tileset theme clear for myself. Everything started in the first stage, but at that time things were messy and undecided.

In the first stage the basic bricks and the first graveyard background were finished. The progress was pretty good, but the happy stage of getting forward was stopped with the beginning of my studies at one particular university of applied sciences. That was indeed also very happy time with hanging out with like 50 new people from which many became my friends. Being hardly 20 years old, checking out the girls and hanging out in parties (many, many parties) took a lot of my efficient time away.

The second stage of Fortress development included a lot of improvements. The creation of dark background bricks and finalization of all masked brick tiles resulted in a somewhat working tileset. I started working with the dirt ground but lousy success in that area depleted my inspiration for some period of time. In the end of the second stage Fortress was fully playable and included all the important stuff but nothing else.

And again the place of my studies got a better of me (or more specifically, the social events surrounding the studies :) The end of November and the beginning of December had so many events in it that I was not thinking about my half-way ready tileset at all. It would seem that if I am having too much to think about, the tileset progress is in jeopardy. I can conclude, that when nothing happens in my life, tileset making is easier. In addition of the university, many computer games occupied me along the way. From August to January I actually finished all of these games: Psychonauts, Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2 Episode One, GTA San Andreas and Jade Empire. In addition, at some points of the autumn I played a lot of Stepmania, the PlayStation2 dance mat game converted to personal computers. All of these games took tons of my time, and especially while playing San Andreas it was more fun to return to that game, not to Paint Shop Pro and Fortress.

The third and last stage of Fortress development got its full power from the christmas vacation, a time when all the social stuff ceased for a few weeks. At the same time I got a great mood of doing something new to the tileset every day. The third stage included at last success with the dirt/grass ground, almost all eye candy (with the exception of the spider web I designed in October). As you can observe from this blog, every screenshot of Fortress here looks simple before getting to the end of December. Finally I got the background layer stuff in order, that had bugged me since the beginning of making of Fortress. Even this stage included some paralyzing phases but for some reason this time the recovery (heh) did not take weeks, but days. And so we arrive at this point we're standing now.

I haven't started making the example single player level yet, but that shouldn't take too long. The thing that will take more time is that making the example level is actually beta testing of my tileset. I don't need to externalize the beta testing as I discover all the problems when moving forward with the level design. For this reason it is important to make a good and varied level for the tileset release. I can notice that I need some new tiles, but there is not much space to juggle with. Still I am greatly bothered by the 8-bit color mode related problems, but I will probably just ignore the whole thing. 

I have liked a lot of making this tileset, and at this point I believe I will be back with more tilesets soon enough. At that time my operation system has changed to Windows Vista and my monitor is a widescreen one, but I am not yet ready to say goodbye to Jazz Jackrabbit 2. If I have been in the circles for a ten years, why stop now? I know that someday the last of my tilesets will be released, but I will not bother myself of thinking about that. Until that time I will enjoy drawing these tileset, seeing them become better day by day and finally see the opinions of JJ2 community at Jazz2Online. Finishing a tileset (Fortress was finished quite exactly at 22:02 tonight) is one of the most rewarding experiences I know. Why, that's a harder question. It could be the striving to make a finished product for so long and starting from a point where the tileset looks impossible to make reality. The strong effort turns into something tangible, that's just something.

This entry is not the last in this Fortress creation blog, although the end is very near. If I write something here after this, that's because of the little things added alongside with making of the example level for J2O release. The last spring, when I published the idea of making a tileset creation diary, I soon came to thoughts that maybe the promise was not a good thing. I am beginning to see that this is not the case. If these texts and images survive in my hard drives or in the internet for long enough, these will be a lot of fun to browse through. All the other folks could be more interested in comparing the screenshots.

So, thank you and goodbye! Making of Fortress of Forgotten Souls was a great part of my life in the autumn 2007, and I had a lot of fun. To the very end I add some music I was listening when making this tileset. Usually I keep my Winamp running all the time I am making tilesets, but only certain tracks deserve mentioning here. The numbers mark the stages these songs influenced. The X's cannot be affliated with any stage. I love all of these songs, they gave me a fire giant strength for all the fall :) 

1. In Flames - Suburban Me
1. Second Spring - Irresistible

2. Mike Foyle - Shipwrecked (John O'Callaghan vs. Mike FOyle Club Mix) or (Gareth Emery Remix)
2. Mike Foyle - Love Theme Dusk

3. Norther - Going Nowhere
3. The Mystery - Feel 4 You (Original Vocal Mix)
3. Loituma - Ievas Polka (Basshunter Remix)

X. Woody Van Eyden - Unfinished Symphony
X. Kissogram vs. Woody - If I Had Known This Before (Woody's Fumakilla XTC-Express-MiX)
X. Led Zeppelin - When The Levee Breaks
X. Led Zeppelin - Good Times Bad Times