Manacaster February Update

Our team numbers have swelled to 4 for the development of Manacaster, and that’s just one of the things that we’ll be talking about in today’s post about the development of our blockbuster game.

Script

While Manacaster only started development in 2019, we’ve been working on the novel that Manacaster is based on - Star Sailors - for a number of years now (check out the “further reading” section at the bottom of this page.

While we were writing Star Sailors, we gradually began to ask ourselves how we were going to write the storyline for the game, as well as what the game would actually be. I’ve always been a big fan of open-world sandbox games, so just being Opus and following the storyline from the original Star Sailors never appealed to me (at least, not for the first game. There will be mini-games and prequel scenes in Manacaster in the near future that will be like this). We quickly decided that getting a script for the characters in the game would be the best way to show the team what the game would be like, and we resolved to start working on it as soon as we finished Star Sailors: Earthlings.

While I’ve written a lot of fiction short stories over the last few years, I had never written a screenplay-style script before. I’ve always found that the worst part of my work when it comes to writing is the dialogue, which I’ve never quite found a way to increase the quality of. Writing a script, which emphasises dialogue, therefore would be a challenge (in fact, it still is a challenge), however I was determined to start working on the game right away. Without a script, we wouldn’t be able to continue working on the game in Unity.

Right now, I’m working on the script solo. I’ve split it up into acts and scenes for easy reading, and the script is fully open-source (so please make it better!) and available for free on the Stellarios Documentation (see further reading).

Game Art

image Something that would be even trickier to manage, if possible, would be the art for the game. When I resolved to do the script myself, I was essentially the only full-time member at AC0RD (which, among other reasons, is why I felt less bad about the old website becoming corrupted - we’ll have a post on that coming next Monday). Because of this, I reluctantly started looking at pixel art tutorials and software on the interwebs, as I felt that due to my lack of proper skills in the drawing department, pixel art would be the simplest way to at least get something into the game. Stick figures were very much my skill limit!

However, along the way I picked up a number of new members in the January-February period this year (thanks largely to a Facebook job application post I sent while holidaying). By chance, a few of the people that applied for a position at AC0RD were pretty decent with pixel art, and thanks to that there’s less of a burden on my shoulders. Don’t get me wrong - I’m loving making the pixel art, but I don’t want to have to do it all myself, and having a few extra hands will be quite useful.

“Manacaster is not destined to be a pixel game forever.”

That’s how I consoled myself back when I made the decision to go with the pixel route. While I had loved Starbound, every other game that I had played - and enjoyed - used more “realistic” styles for game art. I was of the opinion that Manacaster, which was part of the Star Sailors universe, would be better suited to the more realism-focused sprites that I favoured.

Over the following weeks, as I realised how much I enjoyed just messing around in pixilart.com, I came to a shocking revelation: “It’s going to be fine.”

I still have that opinion today, and I likely will even when Manacaster has its full release. Pixel art and realistic game art both have their advantages and disadvantages, not just when it comes to the ease of development, but also with the user experience and the ease of implementing mods. My thoughts about this opinion, though, have changed. Before it was like “I’m just doing it because it’s going to be the quickest and easiest solution.” Now it’s “I think that the user should have the choice of pixel art or realism, because now I love both.”

For the ease of development at this early, tenuous stage in AC0RD’s history, we’ll be going down the pixel art route. Why not? It’s going to look fine. But one day - it may be 5 years from now, it may be 1 year from now - we’ll slowly but surely implement a texture-pack feature. And that’s because our priority is open-source access, rather than making money.

Liam Arbuckle

Further Reading

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Manacaster Script

Resources for game art

  • Itch.io - Background
  • Itch.io - Free Assets
  • Open Game Art
  • More

Technical Discussion


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