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March 30th, 2017

Progress update – and FFXV

What am I working on now?

Work continues steadily, still split between the cut-scenes and the final boss fight. The boss fight arena is ready and I'm now in process of crafting the basic structure of the battle itself. This consists of creating the basic entities and the transformation loops governing their behaviour. Once all that's done, I can start tuning everything into an epic final battle!

With cut-scenes, I just finished the final boss intro and the between-phases-intermission that acts as a mid-battle checkpoint. These were crazy complicated to produce – in a way I can't really explain without spoiling things. I can say, however, that this involved using some of the engine features in ways there weren't intended to. But hey, whatever works!

Now that those two have been completed, I moved my cut-scene development attention to the game intro again. I've already done the final third segment of it, but now I'm tackling the second third. And this has been an interesting experience so far.

See, TAGAP 3 kicks off, as you'd expect, showing Pablo and Pedro back at their Antarctic base of operations. This means I have to recreate the entire Antarctic scene, this time in HD and virtually without the engine limitations. I feared it would be a real pain-in-the-ass to re-do this segment again, but it has been the opposite; This is likely the closest we'll ever get to creating an 'HD remake' of anything TAGAP and it has been great fun!

I'm paying a lot of attention to the details here and try to apply most of the new engine features that make sense. Rough polygon snow mounds are now high-resolution sprites forming smooth curves, packed snow ground now looks like proper snow, the ice surfaces utilize the multi-textured reflections... You get the idea.

Coincidentally, since this is one the first things you'll see in the game, having this by-now-familiar scene polished up is a great way to introduce you to our new engine. Once the scene is ready, I really should do a new blog post showing the comparison between the three iterations, right?

Playlist

Playlist is a regular feature in our Penguin DT blog; A chance to highlight cool games both old and new that I've been playing. As always, I believe that in order to make games, you need to play them, preferably with a broad scope when it comes to genres, so each day I dedicate at least an hour to actually playing games. The rest of the free time? There is no such thing, it all belongs to TAGAP!

It's been a wild ride on the gaming front these past couple of months – especially since we skipped this segment in the previous post in the honour of having the 'Making of TAGAP3' feature. Since I last updated you folks, I've completed Final Fantasy XV, Day of the Tentacle Remastered and Batman: The Telltale Series.

The biggest behemoth of these was, of course, Final Fantasy XV, the latest in the most ill-fittingly named franchise ever. My completion run was around the 40-45 hour mark – and since TAGAP 3 lets me play only a couple of hours per day, it took ages. But it was really fun while it lasted.

In Final Fantasy XV, you take on the role of Noctis, the prince of Lucis, who begins his journey to his wedding with Lunafreya, an Oracle and the former princess of Tenebrae. On this cross-world road trip Noctis is joined by his close friends Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto. Of course nothing ever goes as planned and this final bachelor road trip among friends becomes something of cosmic proportions.

There's of course a lot more to the story than that, but I don't want to give any of it away. I really like how, despite the war between Lucis and the empire of Niflheim, FFXV manages to remain very up-beat and carefree an adventure among close friends. It truly feels like a last-days-of-summer styled road trip in a beautiful landscape. This feel is accentuated further by the way you interact with your friends; They offer their own little sidequests, special exploration skills and – of course – Prompto's photo collection.

You may have noticed some of negative things have been written and said about the final chapters of the game. Whilst I actually enjoyed them a great deal in a narrative sense – there are certain clever storytelling things going on in there – in terms of gameplay there are moments that don't really 'click'. That said, these moments didn't sully the experience for me.

To sum up; Final Fantasy XV is a brilliant game – and it's massive enough that even if you don't like some parts of it, you'll still get your money's worth and then some. Just remember to watch Kingslaive: Final Fantasy XV before you start – otherwise you might be left wondering 'what the heck is going on'.

Next up

With TAGAP 3, next I'll start stitching up the final phases of the final boss – all the while gradually building the missing cut-scenes. There aren't that many of those left, actually, but some of the remaining ones are very complex and excessively time-consuming. Especially the ending cinematic and remaining third of the intro.

On gaming front, I'm reverting back to my backlog. When I was tinkering with Final Fantasy XV, several great games were published, including the intriguing Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. In honour of that, I decided that this would be good time to return to the roots and the original Resident Evil – something I haven't played since the 90s. Let's see how thick those nostalgia goggles are!

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin