BYTE is a tactics RPG/visual novel based on the book Dracula, by Bram Stoker. Play as Jonathan as he moves into the Count’s castle to assist in acquiring new plots of land. Very quickly, though, Jonathan begins to suspect something nefarious at work behind the scenes in the castle.
This seven-day demo of BYTE will take you through Jonathan’s first seven days in the Count’s employment, from moving in on Sunday all the way to a certain danger on Saturday (the experience takes about 30 minutes to complete).
To read more about the development of BYTE, check out the devlogs!
Because I would like to have the Week 1 Demo fully completed by May 1, I wanted to make sure that I had all of the major content in the game for this week. It was a bit of a crunch but I got it all done. The game can now (theoretically) be played from start to finish. I haven’t actually done that yet, but I’m fairly certain that it’s possible.
Probably the biggest thing I added was the morning scene for Saturday. I hadn’t done this yet (because I forgot, oops :/), so I went in and tried especially hard to make it both Gothic and romantic. My biggest issue with the writing that I’ve already done is that I didn’t pay close enough attention to the language, so while it feels pretty 20th-century, it lacks a clear vision/tone that I would want to have in a game based on a Gothic novel. This scene, though, is very good. Like, really good. I’m super happy about it. It turned out really well.
I also made sure that all the necessary glue was in so that the player could from Friday to Saturday and make it all the way through the final battle and scene. This then goes to the credits, which then goes to the main menu.
I also finished up the vampire bride models and art (I’m not sure if I did this for last week, but it says I did it this week so we’ll say I did it this week). This art is among my favorite. The models are probably the best because I found a MUCH BETTER PROCESS for doing it. Instead of haphazardly free-handing the whole thing I actually, like, used a reference and it turned out really well. Imagine that. I’m not passionate about one of the bride’s artwork, but the other two portraits might be the best two portraits I’ve done so far. They turned out really striking.
For this next week, it will hopefully just be housekeeping. Making the necessary documents, the itch page, and the final presentation. I also need to do some bug fixing and UI work, but hopefully, that won’t take as long as the other stuff has been taking. I’m so very close to being done.
EDIT: I also added the music my sister made which rips and I’m so excited about it
The two major elements going into this week, as I approach the end of the semester, were to create some Gothic props and architecture for the scenes to make it more generally Dracula and to also start creating the final battle, with the dialogue and the battle setup.
The first of the two was the Gothic architecture. After a completely thorough and definitely intensive research session on Gothic architecture I determined that the Gothics really loved columns and arches and such. From that, I modeled a column and an arch and slammed them into my scenes. I actually did not use the column itself but built the arch using it, so it still made it there in spirit.
I then also made some big pots with some fire in them because that seemed pretty on-vibe and then modeled a pew quickly because it’s Gothic architecture, obviously, it needs to have some church furniture. I also threw these into my scenes as well and called them good. In the end-of-semester cram, I only have time for so much here, so I decided to call it there, though I would have loved to give more time to the construction of better walls and structures in general because I still feel like the scenes feel a little stock overall.
Regardless, I powered on and started creating the final battle. Mostly, I made the dialogue before and after the battle, which went pretty well. The pre-battle dialogue was super fun to write; I feel like I really got to embody the flustered, easily confused, and scandalized person that Jonathan really is, and the end dialogue is, admittedly, mostly ripped straight from the book itself. At first, I just wanted to look for some good Gothic terminology to work into my writing, but the original scene with the brides is already so extremely odd and queer-coded that I couldn’t resist just putting it in word-for-word. It’s such an amazing scene and I won’t claim to be capable of writing with the same repression and intensity as Bram Stoker.
Let’s just say that I had a lot of free time this weekend and spent basically all of it working on BYTE.
For starters, the UI wound up being a major task for this week. I wanted to get to work on the second battle and add in another skill, but in order to do that I had to get the MP system working and get UI that could communicate multiple skills as well as the MP you have.
I also wound up making more UI for the day/month in the process. Now, in the world, the player can see the month, day, day of the week, their party (just Jonathan for now), and how much MP their party has (shown as a filled bar).
On the battle side, the player can now see the buttons in the bottom-right for general controls, pull up a skills panel in the top left, and see their party stats in the bottom left (this is displayed with the exact numbers). They can also see the goal of the battle at the top of the screen, which I think should be helpful for explaining what is actually happening.
All of this was a pretty wild process that involved my brain going “Oh, I need this UI element”, bouncing into Illustrator to make it, adding it to the game, going “Nice, that should be good”, and then immediately thinking of another UI element I needed before I could continue. It was a chaotic process, but it worked well, and I think I have basically all of the UI I’ll need for the game.
Then I set about making the new skill, which I decided would be a “Sprint” skill that lets the player move around faster for one turn. Once again, though, in order to get this skill in, I needed to give the player the means of getting it. Therefore, before I made the Sprint skill, I had to make a little reading activity that would allow Jonathan to read a book and learn the new skill from it. (This is one of my favorite parts of the game so far.)
The animation for the reading is, I would say a mess. Apparently, Mixamo doesn’t have a single reading animation and I was way too in the zone to dedicate time to finding one somewhere else, so I just downloaded a typing animation and parented to book to Jonathan’s hand and called it good. It looks insane, but I kind of love it.
Then I added the Sprint skill. This was more straightforward so I don’t have too much to add to it.
Lastly, I made the second fight. This one requires the player to go to a computer in the scene and get the code for the safe where they’ll get the key to the attic door. This battle is actually pretty cool. The player starts the process once they get to the computer, but they have to wait for three turns until it’s ready, so they need to spend the intervening time avoiding the enemy. It still needs a lot of balancing, but it’s pretty neat.
I also did other stuff but I’m fried from this weekend and barely remember it. I was in the zone and just hammering out stuff. It’s a pretty complete game now, it just needs the ending and a bunch of polish. Oh also I made Jonathan and Dracula sit next to each other in the intro scenes. See the featured image for more content on that front.
The majority of this week’s work was, admittedly, not spent doing any of the things that I said I would do but instead spent trying to create a system for my characters to sit down.
I keep writing scenes where I imagine characters sitting down and talking (in particular, all the scenes of Jonathan working), but I kept pushing off the sitting system, so I decided to go in and do now before I get too far without it.
The system isn’t too complicated; I basically just got sitting animations and, when necessary, spawn the character I want into the chair that I want. Nonetheless, the process required quite a bit of fine-tuning as I had to more or less guess where to spawn the characters because their origins are, most definitely, not centered on their hips (although figuring out how to place them based on their hips would be nice). It’s currently only working on the desk chair for Jonathan, but that was by far the most important to me because I need Jonathan to sit in that chair and work every single day (except the weekends, obviously. Jonathan is all about work-life balance).
Once I got the sitting system working, I went and added all of the morning and night dialogue sections for the rest of the game. There’s not much actual dialogue there now, but I’ll hopefully be able to flesh it out more as time goes on.
From here, I want to start designing and playing with the next battle for next week. I definitely want to brainstorm ways to make the second battle more interesting (maybe a new skill?), but also anticipate spending a decent amount of time trying to get controller input working in the battles, because that will be very important.
This past week on BYTE, I did a lot of miscellaneous little fixes and quality-of-life improvements to get the game up and running for the next section of content.
First, I made a lot of structural changes to the battle system to try and prepare it for actual integration into the rest of the game. Aside from adding Jonathan model into the battle, visually, it still looks the same (which is to say, not very good) but I refactored some of the code to make it more compartmental and make sure that actual characters in battle were executing their commands instead of just telling the battle manager what to do.
Then, I added a little bit of functionality to the enemies. Now, they actually destroy the decoys instead of just running around them all willy-nilly and I made it so that the enemy can now actually target the exact tile you are on instead of accidentally overshooting you every time. I also made it so that the end goal of the battle system sends you back to the castle and plays some dialogue based on whether you win or lose. You cannot currently lose right now, but I will probably add that in later, as necessary.
I also made a bat model and put it in the battle, but it’s not currently animated. I am unsure if I’ll get to animating it any time soon.
From there, I did a few different bug fixes and dialogue changes to make sure that the first two days are more or less completely functional now. They’re not perfect, but movement, dialogue, battles, and the day system should all be (hopefully) ready to throw in the rest of the days.
Lastly, I added in a few different sound effects. There is now a typing sound effect that plays when the dialogue scrawls, footstep sound effects when you walk, and door creaking sound effects for when you open doors.
For the next week, I would like to get the morning and night dialogue for all of the days that I have planned and make sure that it all works in the game. I would also like to maybe write dialogue that you can trigger by looking at things, like traditional adventure game flavor dialogue.
The past two weeks were mostly spent creating and animating models for the game. The first model I made was the model for Jonathan. When thinking about creating the model for Jonathan I wanted to make the suit fit like a suit from the ’80s, while also making the fit sort of evocative of what I feel Jonathan is like. I wound up making the suit very loose-fitting, which is in line with what suits from the ’80s were like but also makes Jonathan look very little. I wanted to Jonathan to have the vibe of a kid who hasn’t grown into his suit yet. Next to Dracula, who I made much taller than Jonathan, Jonathan looks very young and a little oblivious, which is something I’m trying to emphasize with him.
Next, I made the model for Dracula. For Dracula, I wanted his suit to be much more form-fitting and modern. His suit is less accurate to what ’80s suits are really like, but I think will work well for Dracula. I want to hit this kind of dichotomy with Dracula where he’s simultaneously very old-fashioned and archaic but also somehow modern and aware of modern fashion and sensibilities. Luckily, I was able to refresh my modeling skills by the time I got to Dracula so I was able to make his model a little more easily than Jonathan’s.
In terms of animating these characters, I almost lost my marbles. I started by trying to rig the models with Mixamo, which has a free automatic rigging tool, but Mixamo’s auto-rigger was not exactly…well…good, and I could only export it in .FBX, which made editing it in Blender a little difficult. Additionally, all of the animations I was getting from Mixamo were very messy and full of noise for some reason. I then found out that Blender has a very, very easy-to-use rigging tool, so I switched to using that. Then, apparently in order to get the animations to look right I had to download the animations with the skin, which I don’t normally need to do, but that fixed the issue and now they’re both rigged and animated.
Lastly, I made a couple of key models that I didn’t have in my game yet. I started with the computer and then made the spiral staircase that goes up to the attic, which the player doesn’t have access to yet. These were very straightforward.
As the title suggests, this week was all about character art. Specifically, I wanted to get character art for all of the dialogue. The four characters who appear in the first couple of days that I have written right now should be the only speaking characters that appear in the seven-day demo, so I wanted to create characters for all of them to help spice up the dialogue.
I started with Dracula because he seemed like the best option to get the juices flowing. I am not an artist and will never claim to be, so I wanted to start with someone whose iconography is already pretty strong to reduce the brainpower I would have to spend brainstorming and to get myself in the zone to draw. From there I drew Jonathan, the boat driver, and ended with the cashier.
Because my drawing skills aren’t exactly classically trained, these character images are largely trace jobs, where I found people who I imagine in these roles, found good pictures of them, and then traced an outline of them to help get the general posing and facial structure. Then I went in and started detailing more to make them a little more unique and fit the characters better. I’m not in love with how any of the four turned out and they’ll definitely all need pretty extensive revisions eventually, but for now they’re all pretty effective images to pair with the dialogue and make the game feel a little more holistic.
Next up I need to create the 3D models for Jonathan, Dracula, and the bat in the combat scene. I haven’t done any character modelling for probably over a year at this point, so while I’d like to get all three done in the next week, I’ll likely have to split it up over at least the next two weeks.
Among the many, many things that have happened on BYTE in the last two weeks, the most prominent and important addition is the open world space. There are now three separate rooms that the player can move around in. These rooms, the bedroom, office, and common area will be the main areas that the player has access to in the 7-day demo of BYTE, so having the rooms created with the ability to move around them and interact with objects in them was the important final step to creating the core structure of the game.
The game now flows like this: the player goes through the intro dialogue sequences (which still have not been cut down yet), then they are given a tour of the three rooms by Dracula, who then leaves Jonathan to let him go to bed. The player can now explore the rooms, and going to bed will advance to the next day.
At the start of the next day, Jonathan is at work and Dracula introduces him to the computer and tells Jonathan that he has forgotten the password to it. Jonathan tells him not to worry and that he should be able to hack into the computer without issue. The end of this conversation then starts the first battle which has not changed at all yet.
The game is still…uh…very rough and not particularly fun, but the core is there now and the next few weeks will all be dedicated to making actual artwork, which should ideally help.
In addition to the open-world things, in the process, I also made a lot of improvements on some of the overall game things like moving between scenes and the input. Last Monday, in particular, featured a pretty intensive six-hour battle with my arch nemesis the Unity Input System. God forbid I have multiple PlayerInput modules that I can switch between in a scene! Anyways, I got it sorted. I think the solution was ugly and unpleasant but it also seems like the correct way of handling the input in instances like this.
The advancing days system I am also very excited about. I hope that once I write the necessary dialogue for the last six days I should be able to add it all pretty quickly.
This week in BYTE, I focused largely on creating the Ink functionality of the game. I chose Ink because, in my experience, Yarn Spinner’s Unity plugin is…well…not good. Ink, to my delight, worked very seamlessly. After downloading and installing the Unity package from their Git, I just needed to copy my Ink files into the Unity assets and the plugin created the JSON file that C# API uses.
I then made the UI for the dialogue. It’s pretty straightforward right now, with just the dialogue box, character name, and indicator that you can advance, but that’s more or less all I’ll need. I also have the background image component that can theoretically be changed with the Ink script in the future, and then I’ll need to add character art pretty soon. I may need to add choices as well, but I don’t know about that yet.
Finally, I wrote the script that actually handles the Ink JSON file and makes sure that the dialogue and character names get correctly written to UI elements correctly. This was pretty straightforward; in a sense, it’s just like parsing a giant string with some fancy API functions that make it easier.
Once the Ink was all working, I did a little polishing on the battle scene. I made the enemy move faster to increase the tension (I also found that you could beat the fight without needing to use the skill, which I didn’t like), and then I added the “goal” at the opposite end of the battle map.
Once the player gets to the goal, the game will send them back to the main menu right now, but eventually, that will send them back to whatever needs to happen, I just haven’t gotten that far in the prototype yet.