Previously I had been documenting all five of my current hacks in one thread to avoid cluttering the forums, but I've come to realize that was a terrible idea because the thread itself was cluttered and often seemed to confuse users as if it were all part of one hack, and I've seen other users maintaining multiple threads here so I figured I should let Stella Somnium branch off into its own thread. I may do the same with the others in the future, but I'd rather wait until I have new stuff to contribute to them.
Anyway, for those of you who are unfamiliar, this is my 'main' hacking project, Stella Somnium. So far, I am aiming for this to give a unique experience by drawing(or occasionally porting) my own graphics with the intent of replacing everything visually. I want to give each level a good and unique aesthetic, since one thing I have always enjoyed the most about video games is the feeling of exploring locations. I wanted to recreate this feeling of truly being immersed in the locations. The slower running speed could also help players feel more grounded to/immersed in the levels. I also plan for it to be very story-based, but I don't have all that much decided on the story yet.
Now, where else to start but level screenshots?
Inversion Frame (name subject to change)
This is the first level I began for Stella Somnium. The tileset was designed so the ground tiles were sorta upside-down smaller versions of a background with hills, mountains and stars visible and the background meant to resemble a large upside-down generic grass tile, though that's less noticeable with the new palette. Still looks neat in my opinion. The level itself has a sort of theme of using these robots(goomba reskins) to hit otherwise inaccessible quantum clusters(? block reskins), which ended up actually being pretty fun.
An area more packed with blocks. The yellow and gray quantum clusters are turn block replacements.
An ambush of X9 robots(chuck replacements).
The second half of the level is when the wind picks up. When the wind starts, aside from the leaves flying by, the windmills start turning and the background bends in the wind. Of course, there's also the added challenge of a constant force pushing you to the left.
The Silent Desert
Some of you may recognize the background from F-Zero's Silence track. This is my first ripped background, and I made the foreground on my own based on the appearance of the background(with the exception of the dirt, which is highly based off F-Zero's dirt tiles). This level is designed to be spacious like a desert but not to the extent of being boring.
Some ruins and a currently-unedited venus fire plant which I still need to make new graphics for.
This is the newest level of the game, quite obviously very early in progress. I'll probably experiment with the ground a bit more as it looks quite empty, but I'm content with the pool of water, palm tree(well, not the right leaf anyway), and the thing to the left which is something that will fling the player into the air upon contact to help navigate the level. The jump thing and pool of water are both animated, and the pool has layer priority so it seems like you truly go in the water. I plan to use the custom 'sprite seed' sprites, which you will need to bring to the pools to grow.. something. I also still need a background, of course. Any ideas/suggestions are welcome since I haven't decided anything yet.
Here is a slightly outdated video showing the unfinished Inversion Frame and Silent Desert levels.
And now more on the story aspect, there will be # characters, most of which initially shown only as silhouettes but gradually revealed throughout the story.
These are all the characters' silhouettes(aside from the main character,
and here are two of the initially revealed characters(who are also present in the silhouettes, because I didn't decide they'd start off revealed until after I took the previous picture)
And lastly, I have a bit of a problem. Today I switched over to AddmusicK because a lot of songs didn't work with Addmusic 4. This meant porting everything to a new ROM as it was incompatible with something, which turned out being a patch, specifically the one to give a custom "Nintendo Presents" palette, and it now runs. I am still having a problem though; whenever the player dies via falling(or running out of time, but time probably won't be used in this hack), the ROM simply crashes or freezes up.
In case it would help identify the problem, the patches I am using so far include Disable Spin Jump, SMB2 HP, disable running, uberASM(only for gradient backgrounds so far) and VWF dialogues. Of course, using insta-kill blocks instead of bottomless pits could work, but I imagine it would feel a bit awkward. So if anyone has an idea how to fix this issue, help would be greatly appreciated. Also P-switch music plays indefinitely but I may have a simple workaround to that.
oh and here's a userbar and stuff if any of you want to support it
Cool, I love your graphics and characters; they're all so cute and charming. As for the pit problem, that's pretty big. I say port everything to a new ROM before you add too much and cannot fix it.
Thank you, it means a lot! And I actually did some experimenting with my patches and AddmusicK today. As I thought, it was the SMB2 HP patch's code which was incompatible with AddmusicK. The problem was that the patch seems to have a custom death code, and the problem within that part of the code was that it set the music to what normally would be the game over theme, but AddmusicK changes some of the songs around and I think the problem was the song it tried setting it to was a sound effect? I'm not fully sure why it didn't work, but I changed it around and the problem is gone!
For the sake of showing something visual, I added a new ground type, changed the background color and slightly edited the tree graphics of the newest level. The object just to the right of the player is the previously-mentioned sprite seed, but I'm still not quite sure what it will become when dropped in the water.
Still don't have any idea what the background should be. I'm sure I'll come up with something given enough time, but if anyone has any ideas whatsoever please tell me.
The background could be a dark purple and starry desert, methinks. It will work well with the bright foreground, and palm trees and fountains fit the desert theme. A nighttime city may also work, or maybe islands. They've never failed as a background before, heh.
And I'm glad you fixed the problem, I'll be watching you man.
I'm going to be honest, and I'm not trying to be rude. I really don't like what you've shown so far. Some of the graphics are simplistic and lacking in detail and shading. This can certainly be an artistic choice, and the style can look good, but the issue is that only some of the graphics are like this.
In the first screenshot, the foreground looks weird. It looks like there are spikes or something inside the ground. If they're supposed to be something else, I have no idea what that is. The background is also very simple compared to the foreground.
The second screenshot is, to be honest, a total clusterfuck. The ground having those spike things causes it to become very busy, which draws attention away from the space in which the player will actually be moving. The blocks are also quite strange. If it hadn't been for your caption, I would have no idea what they are (and I'm still confused about them, actually).
In the third and fourth screenshots, I can say I do like the enemy graphics, the (presumably layer 3) leaves w/ the windmills and animated background (I'd like to see it in motion).
Moving on to the desert stage, I like the graphics here quite a bit, actually. The issue is that these graphics are much more detailed than what we see in the other screenshots. They look great, but they don't fit in with the rest of the hack, and they kind of make everything else look a bit worse in comparison.
The final screenshot goes back to the simplistic style. Again, they don't necessarily look bad, but it seriously clashes with the very detailed graphics of the desert stage. You really need to stick to one style or the other so that the experience is consistent across all levels.
On a final note, I quite like the player graphics you've made.
Overall, the hack's graphics clash with each other, and I take issue with the weird-looking ground and blocks in the first level you showed. The hack isn't bad, and these things can certainly be changed. If you fix them, I think it would greatly benefit the hack.
And again, I'm sorry if anything came off as rude, but I don't see a point in trying to sugar coat things. Constructive criticism is what people should look for when they post threads here, so I hope that you take into account what I have said. I'll be checking this thread in the future as well to see how it progresses.
Edit: Some words were accidentally deleted when I first posted this.
Thank you Lynnes and Crash Kandicoot for the suggestions. I ended up putting your ideas together into a starry desert with some trees. Of course it doesn't really look too much like a desert so much as a semi-surreal landscape, but semi-surreal landscapes are one of they key points of this hack so it all works out. I'm not too sure about how the clouds turned out though, and I feel the gradient is a little off. If anyone agrees with that I'll work on it some more.
K3fka, I appreciate the honesty and it's always nice to hear input on what should be improved upon. The area with spikes in the ground was designed in an attempt to base the ground tiles off a sort of background, so the spike things were mountains in a way, if that makes any sense. I'm not fully sure what they're supposed to be now either, but weird/surreal landscapes are a theme in this hack. I understand why it could seem awkward though, and now having this pointed out has made me realize the dirt tiles are quite lacking in detail, so I'll try to at least do something about that.
The clusterfuck of screen 2 was intended to be a bit crowded and full of blocks. Of course it is just a small section of the level, so players wouldn't need to deal with it for too long, nor is it the first screen or even the first level, so by then the players should probably be familiar with how the blocks function. If it happens to be confusing to players after a demo I'll change things around.
The leaves are a clustersprite actually, and the background-background isn't animated. I originally planned for it to be, but the way ExAnimation isn't very smooth over large areas made me decide against that. The windmills do turn, though.
I definitely see what you mean about the desert. It hasn't truly crossed my mind since I've been mostly focused on one level at a time, not putting much thought into the continuous experience this early on. I personally don't think the clash is too major, but my own familiarity with the landscapes could be influencing my opinion.
The final screenshot in the first post does look jarringly simple especially compared to the desert, but I think the added background and adjusted palettes seen in this post help. It still is a different style, but I'm not quite sure what to do about that really.
Again, thank you for the honest feedback.
Thank you for the compliment on the graphics, Re1Mu. I think the multicolored blocks look fine in-game. They flash between colors, which.. actually probably doesn't help the impression of being out of place, haha. I think it's a bit more of something that you'd need to experience in-game. If anyone wants to test it out to see for themselves(it is possible I have a bias out of familiarity), or even just to get a feel for the level design, I'd be happy to give a micro-sampler demo(thread-exclusive, of course).
Unfortunately I haven't made too much progress level-wise, but I have made a few improvements/changes and it's been a while since I last gave an update on this so I may as well talk about something.
This is another screenshot from the level I've been working on. Perhaps the most obvious change is the player; this will be one level where you play as someone besides Cael(possible name for the main character). The enemies, from left to right, are a new ninji replacement, a clappin' chuck replacement(made possible by a new frame for the X9 robot), and a jumping piranha plant replacement which I'm honestly not very happy with and will probably be changing soon. On the slightly more subtle side, ornament-like decorations in the ground have been added to the tileset to avoid the ground looking too repetitive. It includes both teal(visible in the screenshot) and yellow orbs.
Also the status bar has finally been updated. I'll probably be changing the "PX" to some symbol to represent lives, since the regular text there among the other symbols looks out of place.
EDIT: While I'm at it, I suppose this would be good to show too since I haven't shown the spike graphics yet.
I've been making decent progress on the level's design itself, which currently goes by the name Dreamer's Fountain since it was graphically somewhat based on Kirby's Fountain of Dreams. Here's one screenshot showing a new item, a reskin of the vertical jumping dolphin which lets you reach higher locations.
The level has a theme based around vertical movement, if you couldn't tell.
Also I took a shot at starship design and managed to come up with this.
Any thoughts on its design? If it looks bad, please tell me why. I'm not entirely sure how it should fit into the storyline. I'll probably end up deciding on that after designing a few more ships, which would make it easier for me to decide which ships should take which roles.
Another WIP level from my Super Mario World hack, Stella Somnium. As it is a WIP, please ignore the following issues I am planning to fix:
-Graphical glitch in water splash animation
-Unchanged SMW graphics(moving platforms, etc.)
-Cutoff on some of the spikes
-Terrible jumping piranha plant replacement graphics
-Jumping fountain platform thing showing up partially on the top of the screen for some reason(I plan to just cover this up with level decoration
Also the very end with all the propulsion spires is mostly just playing around with ideas so don't mind that part.
It's been a while since I did any real work on this, but yesterday I finally started to come back to it. So as a result, not too much new content to show. Two very early WIP tilesets are all I have to show for now.
This first one is a potential start to a starship interior. (The light gray borders on the top and sides are not part of the actual tileset)
I'll probably add more detail to the walls, I'm just not sure exactly what yet. Also the door on the right is an empty template. I intend to visually differentiate each door based on the rooms they contain.
And the other tileset is intended to be the start of another level which takes place on the underside of a rocky cliff, and will probably be an autoscroll level of some sort.
I was aiming to break the 'grid' with this tileset. The ground in this testing level is block spam because I don't have anything to exactly stand on yet, since as I mentioned before it will be a 'ceiling' level, but there will be things to stand on such as platforms between the metal walls and most likely metal protrusions and/or plant life coming from the cliff the player can stand on.
A few days ago I finally finished the Silent Desert level, making it the first complete level in the game so far.
Here's a section of said level. Does the interior of the purple ruins look okay or does it need decorations? (Still gotta change the venus firetrap graphics)
New falling platform graphics. (Ignore the messed up clustersprite graphics, I've been meaning to remap it)
Overworld player sprites.
Starship tileset, now in-game with some added detail. I should probably add a bit of shading under the ceiling.
And last, a very early start to a new tileset, a digital area. Also showing a new playable character. One thing the tileset definitely needs is a background, that bright green is really hard on the eyes sorry. Also the solid block on the right side is on just one of its animation frames.
Huh, now that you guys mention it, it sorta does look like a DOS game. (I hope that's considered a good thing here.)
Anyway, it's been a long time since I worked on any hacking projects, but I haven't forgotten about them. Now that they're more in my mind again, I hope to maybe work on Stella Somnium more in the near future.
This message of upcoming progress isn't all I'm here to mention, otherwise I would have waited until I actually had something to show. During C3 I released a last-minute level sampler including demos of a few of my hacks, including Stella Somnium. So if any of you would like to play for yourselves the small bit I have so far (or a few of my other hacks), here it is. Feedback on any of the others would be alright here, though if so I'd prefer most of the focus to be on SS.
I finished up the last part of the first level I started at last for the first time in the last two months; here's the first screenshot since a while, of the last section of the first level.
The level is still not fully polished, especially the last section as first I need to draw a few new tiles, but the last form of the actual design is all there now, first and foremost.
first last first last first last first last first last first last first last first last first last first last first last first last first last first last first last first last first last first last they dont even sound like words anymore holy fuck
I surprised myself by finishing another level a couple of days ago, so now that makes three levels fully designed gameplay-wise. They still need a bit of touching-up in technical areas, mostly custom block functionality and a bit of graphical adjustment (particularly the Dreamer's fountain; I need to shade some things and design a new type of decoration to cover graphical glitches better integrate the swinging platforms into the scenery. I also gotta fix the cutoff on the spikes) Here are a couple of screenshots of the now-finished Dreamer's Fountain and Inversion Frame levels. Ignore the status bar, it's like that because inserting music conflicts with a patch which I need to re-apply to fix the issue, which undoes the status bar customization and I'll need to redo it at some point.
This means I'll now finally be moving on beyond the three levels I've been working on this whole thread and work with some new environments and themes and all that. I only really have one thing to show of that at the moment, that I've changed the background color and added a gradient to a level in very early development stages I showed earlier in the thread. Personally I think it's a lot easier on the eyes. I'll also be adding a graphical background too, of course. Maybe even something with layer 3, we'll see.
I began level design work on the digital level. I've decided it's going to contain four 'sections,' each within the same sublevel but with different foreground graphics and music. It will also have a slight puzzle theme, most likely.
Here's a screenshot showing the first of the four sections, to show the foreground. I will probably be adding more decorations to it depending on how much graphical space is left once I finish the foregrounds for all four sections. There is an exanimated palette to give it a visual effect resembling scanlines.
And here's another, the remaining 'graphical test' structures from before (this foreground style will most likely be used in the third section), to give a better view of the background. (Those stray lines on the right side are not part of the background; it's an exanimated block in the middle of disappearing)