Author Archives: Matt Roszak

EBF5: Source Code

Hey guys, I’m not working this month, but I still want to do something for my patrons, so I’m sharing the entire EBF5 source code with them.

It’s just for the purposes of personal education, and datamining (for walkthroughs etc).

The code is quite messy in many places, and the comments aren’t always accurate or useful. Timeline code from the animations is not included, so some important stuff is missing, and none of the code will compile unless you edit it to stand alone. You’re best opening the files in FlashDevelop, but any code editor should do okay.

Some files are easy to read without any programming knowledge, like the lists of item stats. While other files will require you to be familiar with Actionscript, Java, or similar languages.

So if you want to see what “real” code looks like, as opposed to ideal textbook code, toss me $1 to get it.

Success and Stress

Hey guys, here’s a long blog about game-dev related stress.

Since around November when Epic Battle Fantasy 5 was approaching completion, I’ve been incredibly stressed about it. It’s actually likely I was stressed long before that, but just worked through it and didn’t notice too much until then. The worst has passed, but even now, 3 months after a very successful launch, the game is still causing me a lot of anxiety. I’ve never felt this way about other games that I’ve made. It’s hard to write about because it sounds weird to say it – nothing even went wrong! – but I’ll try to organise my thoughts and figure out why I feel this way.

EBF5 was by far my largest project, taking up 3 years of full time work, without any major breaks. My previous largest project was EBF4, which maybe took around 1.5 years, but I worked on it on-and-off. It’s definitely not healthy to work on a single project for so long. I’m financially secure (largely from EBF4 doing very well for many years), so I didn’t need any funding to make EBF5, and if it flopped completely I’d still be fine financially. However, it would have still been a major bummer to spend 3 years making a game that no one was interested in playing. I was fairly confident that EBF5 would be a success – just based on the huge number of people that were following its development – but there’s always that nagging feeling that something might go completely wrong before I finish it.

EBF5 was the first game I’ve made specifically for Steam, with the browser version being more of an afterthought. That put a lot of pressure on me to make sure it’s a game worth paying for, and so that no one can say “well, the previous games were free, why do I have to pay for this one?” I know people don’t take kindly to sequels that don’t have at least as much content as the previous game, so I had to make sure the new game was bigger AND better by just about every metric possible, while also trying out some new ideas. It’s hard to please everyone, but I think it’s worth trying. Keeping old fans is way easier than finding new ones.

I like to batch my work and complete each part before moving onto the next. For example, I spent around a month just drawing trees and rocks and other background stuff. Debugging took almost 2 whole months. I did most of the art assets before any coding, so the game was half finished before I even had a playable prototype done! This approach worked efficiently in my previous games, but this time I just ended up doing the same kind of work for too long at a time, and it became really monotonous and demotivating. Maybe I should have taken turns working on different parts of the game, or maybe that would have made development take even longer. It’s definitely going to be a while before I commit to spending more than a year on a project again. A lot of people may say “just don’t work so hard!”, but I’d never get the game finished if I didn’t! Progressing slowly is even more demotivating than being overworked! 

The weeks leading up to the launch were the worst. I set myself a deadline because I didn’t want to go over 3 years of development time, wanted to launch before a bunch of major AAA games, and I was getting seriously diminishing returns from debugging and polishing by that point. I had 2 weeks to fix a few major bugs that turned out to be more complicated than I thought. Deadlines are no fun, but continuing to work on the game instead of launching may have been even more soul-crushing. Things got really emotional, and my whole life revolved around finishing the game. I just had to get it done, even if it wasn’t perfect.

My girlfriend Ronja was a lot of help around launch time. She helped me test the game, and did a lot of customer support, while I was stressing out with debugging. I’ve now hired her to keep doing that, and also to do some social media posts for me. However, it turns out it’s not so easy to hire someone! I had to waste a few days learning about all the relevant laws, and doing tax paperwork. In the long term it’ll reduce my workload and be worth it, but it was a painful transition! I can totally see why many people are opposed to government regulation, or may even illegally dodge taxes. It’s just such a thankless and tedious task to do this stuff correctly!

I always liked to think of game development as a hobby, even when I started making money from it. I’m just some guy working at a computer, from his home, whenever he feels like it. I only have to do the bare minimum paperwork to keep the tax man happy. That approach isn’t really working for me anymore – I’ve got an employee now, my tax situation is getting more complicated, and I’m generally not prepared on the business side of things. I’m starting to feel the weight of new responsibilities that I never wanted. Being your girlfriend’s boss is also a weird dynamic to explore. There will be some growing pains, but I’ll do some studying, hire an accountant, and get over it eventually. What a first-world problem – I’m too successful!

Another issue I’ve been having lately is that I’m spending more and more time dealing with people. There’s many volunteers helping me out, either with moderating the EBF Discord server, writing wikis, helping with translations, or sending in fanart. I’m incredibly thankful that people want to help out in all sorts of ways. However, sometimes this means that I have to sort out disputes and arguments, especially on Discord, and I often don’t know the best way to deal with them. I’m neither their boss nor their friend – I don’t really know what our relationship is – and that makes things quite awkward sometimes. I feel I’ve gotten worse at dealing with this as I’ve gotten older and more mature. In my late teens and early twenties, I wasn’t as sensitive to other people’s feelings as I am now. Especially on the internet, I would often reply bluntly to comments, or ignore many of them completely. I’ve always done my best to read all the comments I receive, but I never really thought of them as being made by real people. Everyone online was just an anonymous user. The internet is a bit more personal these days, so that’s harder to do. I’m still trying to figure out how to be nice to my fans without getting too close to them.

Finally, Adobe Flash being a sinking ship isn’t helping me. I was and still am fairly confident that Flash is viable as a game development tool for me personally – maybe not for the web anymore, but for desktop and mobile games, it still does the job. But being one of the last people defending Flash is not a good place to be in mentally. Most of the developers I know have moved on, and I feel like I’m some old guy who’s been left behind by the rest of the world. Adobe’s lack of transparency isn’t helping either – it’s not really clear how dedicated they are to keeping the technology alive, but I’m not optimistic. (Flash is not dead in 2020 – that’s only the browser plugin!)

Even now that EBF5 is launched and stable, every little update I need to do poses a risk of accidentally breaking something – maybe even deleting saved games! There’s a lot at stake, and I’m still terrified of making a major mistake, even though my fans have always been forgiving. I’ve done my best to mitigate all the risks, but there’s always a chance.

So this might have been a bit of a bummer to read. Launching EBF5 brought me more stress than joy, even though it went incredibly well. I guess next time I’ll try to do things a bit differently, and I’m already starting with the EBF5 DLC – I’m only adding content that sounds like it will be fun to develop, and I’m not going to work so hard this time.

I’m not sure what I’ll work on after that though. I don’t want to jump into another huge project, and the thought of working on another EBF sequel fills me with dread. But at the same time, my career success is solely down to this series, so obviously a lot of my self-esteem is tied to it too. I think a lot of people would be let down if this was my final masterpiece, and personally I’m not sure if I’ll be satisfied with only making small games from now on. I guess there’s no winning either way. Achieving important things is not easy.

I’m not depressed or anything – it’s specifically just EBF5 and all the baggage associated with the series that’s causing me stress. Hopefully I’ll be able to find some sort of balance between what I want to work on and what others want me to do.

EBF5: NES Backgrounds

Here’s a collection of all the pixel art backgrounds I’ve made for EBF5 so far.
They’ll be used for secret areas where pixel monsters appear.

They’re based on the style of Final Fantasy 3 for the NES, and stick to 3 colors plus black.
They’re shown in the order I made them, and you can see I started putting more work into them over time, and using less repetition.

It’s been a lot of fun working on these.
Which one is your favourite?
pixel bacxkgrounds

New Phone

Hey guys, after using a Galaxy Note 2 for 6 whole years, I’ve just replaced the old dinosaur with a Note 8, and I’ve got mixed feelings about it. The specs are nice; internet browsing is fast, games run smoothly, and the camera looks good (see the photos below). But a lot of the hardware design decisions are really questionable! The main speaker is at the bottom of the phone, so when I’m playing games, it’s always covered by either my hand or my stomach. This wasn’t a problem with the Note 2, since the speaker was on the back of the phone. This seems like a major oversight to me!

I also feel scammed by the advertised 6.3 inch screen size. The Note 2 screen is 5.5 inches, so I’d figure it would be an upgrade, but it’s not! The Note 8 screen is just longer! Videos and games aren’t even designed for such a long screen! And some of the screen space is wasted on reflective curved edges. So if anything, the screen looks smaller than on my old phone! Questionable design indeed.

Annoying hardware aside, it’s nice to have a phone that doesn’t crash when I try to open basic apps like Google maps. I’m still happy I got a “flagship” phone, as it’s partly for market research. Speaking of which, I’m trying to play a lot of little indie games on it – the kind of stuff you’d see on Kongregate a few years ago. Looks like a lot of browser game devs have moved to mobile, and I’ve got some catching up to do. It’s a shame that the mobile market is poorly curated and saturated with garbage, so finding those gems will be tricky. Feel free to recommend some wholesome, non-exploitative games. So far I’m enjoying Super Dangerous Dungeons, Monument Valley, and Cat Bird. I was sceptical of on-screen keyboards, but they work okay if there’s only 3 buttons.

Also I’m really liking the EBF5 Foe Competition entries so far. I thought maybe the rules were too specific this time, but it looks like most people understand what I’m looking for.
garden legoAbove is me and Ronja doing a bit of gardening. We don’t actually have a dog, but I do indeed use a pickaxe to till the earth. Below is us crunching before the launch of EBF5. We forgot to change out of our outdoor clothes, apparently.
office lego

EBF5: Pixel Art Foe Competition

Hey guys, it’s time for a second Epic Battle Fantasy 5 foe competition!

As you all should know by now, the game released on Steam a couple of months ago, but I’m still working on additional dungeons and secret areas. The first foe competition had artists submitting designs for enemies, and then I would animate them and put them into the game. The Voodoo Dolls, Haunted Mirrors, Fallen, and Bomber Cats were all created this way.

mirrors
This foe competition is similar, but a little different. This time I’m looking strictly for old-school pixel-art. The final foe animations will look different from the usual EBF style, and because of this, I won’t need to redraw the art you submit, like I did in earlier competitions. Here’s an example of what your submission should look like:
pixel exampleAnd here’s an example of how I will animate it:
Flash VersionYouTube Version

Requirements

• Art must be submitted in .PNG format, and must include a normal-sized and zoomed-in version, as shown above.

• Art must be your own work, and original. No recolored Sonics!

• Art must include several sprites (animation frames), usually including:
◦ 2 alternating “idle” sprites, that will make the foe look like it’s walking or dancing on the spot.
◦ 1 “hit” sprite, for when the foe takes damage or dies.
◦ 1 or more “attack” poses, used during attack animations.
◦ “Skull” and “bone” particles, for the death animation.
◦ Any projectiles or accessories that may be needed.

• I can add any sprites that are missing, and may edit any that don’t work well. You can write a description of how you think your foe should be animated, if you wish. Animations don’t have to be like the ones shown in my example – I can animate completely different death and attack animations for new foes. So the sprites listed above are flexible guidelines.

• Sprites should be small. Mine are roughly 16×16 pixels, and I recommend staying under 50×50.

• You don’t need outlines for your foes, they will always appear on a black background.

• Your image background should be transparent.

• You don’t need to arrange your sprites in any particular way. It’s nice if you keep things compact, but I’ll be cutting the sprites out anyway. Canvas size doesn’t matter.

• I prefer creatures, not humans. But I won’t rule out humans completely if they’re creative.

• Winners will be chosen for style, creativity and uniqueness! I’ll be aiming to animate a huge diversity  of foes.

Ideas

The goal of this competition is to make retro-themed enemies that will remind players of earlier times. This is not essential, but I encourage you to base your art on that of early games consoles, like the NES, Atari, or SNES, taking into account their color and resolution limitations. You can cheat a little if you wish, or just make up your own pixel art style.

My designs are based on Zelda 1 monster sprites, with the battle background being in the style of Final Fantasy 3. You too should refer to old games that you like.

You should also consider what elements or status effects that your foes might use or be weak against, so that they fit nicely into the EBF battle mechanics. Try to design monster types that have not appeared in the game yet.

You can discuss this competition in the Foe-Competition channel on the EBF Discord.
I encourage people to share work-in-progress and pixel-art advice there.
pixel example 2

Submission

Please post your finished art on either:
• Your DeviantArt (I’ll add it to my collections)
• The Newgrounds Art Portal (use the “ebf” tag)
• The Foe-Competition channel on Discord (type “finalArt” in your post so I can search for it)

Make sure it’s public and please send me a link to it. If you post it anywhere else there’s a risk it will get lost. If you can’t do that, you can email your art to me at kupo707 at hotmail.com.

You can submit as many designs as you want.

Prizes

You’ll get to see your art come to life in a popular game series!
You’ll have your name in the credits.
You’ll get 2 free copies of EBF5. (or my other games)

Legal Stuff

By submitting your art you agree that I can use it in Epic Battle Fantasy 5 and in any possible future games, on all platforms, forever (if you win the competition). I will not own your art and you can still use it in whatever way you like. You will not own any part of the EBF games and will not receive any compensation except for the prizes listed above.

Deadline

The Pixel Art Foe Competition will run for a few months. I’m not sure exactly how long, but I’ll end it when it looks like I’ve got enough designs to work with. Winners will be announced on my blogs as I animate each foe.

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

EBF5: Retro Foes

Hey guys, here’s some new foes for secret areas! I’m really happy with how these turned out. I actually made these a day or two before EBF5 launched on Steam, and have been keeping them secret for a while. If you can’t view Flash files, the YouTube version is here.

I’ll be announcing a new foe competition soon!