Ugh, it has been a terrible few weeks. The Kolache place that I like to walk to closes down at 2:00 PM, which does not fit my schedule at all. For one, the day isn't at its peak warmness till 2:00 or 3:00 PM, which means that even if I wait till the last minute and leave at 1:00 PM, it is still colder during my walk than I would like. For two, after a long walk I never feel like working, so I'm stuck on the horns of this dilemma of whether I want to go for a nice walk and lunch, or stay in and try to be productive. Anyway, I think I have mostly exhausted their selection, so perhaps my kolache hunger will abate with the coming of spring.
The one bright spot has been a program called Hexcells, which is a sort of neon-ish, highly glowy pixel art painting program produced by two programmers. I picked up Hexcells due to some suggestions on Reddit, and the program has been a real joy to work with. Hexcells is relatively simple and easy to learn (especially compared to the great beast Photoshop), and Hexcell lets even programmers like me produce decent looking pixel art in a fairly fast fashion. I quite literally have negative art skill, so the fact that Hexcell lets me make acceptable looking icons and such is a real accomplishment. The program is only $20, and I'd recommend trying it out if you have any interest in making pixel art or other abstract imagery. They have a demo too, but I only used the demo for ~3 minutes before throwing my money at them.
And as you may have guessed from the above, I've given on trying to make art in the sort of iconic, runic, stained-glass fashion that I linked to in the last update. It turns out that there is a thin line between runic and childish, and I am unable to comprehend or cross that line. All I can do is look at the final products I was producing and go "Hmm, that looks like it was made by a five year old." So, like all the indie devs before me I've switched to a more pixel art style, enabled by Hexcell. Some of the game images I can draw myself, while others are modified or composited versions of Creative Commons works. So far I've been happy with the results. For the first time in my life I've made a halfway-decent background/floor image! As you can tell, I'm very excited. I mean, the results are not great works of art by any means, but they are a definite step up for me.
Hmm, what else. Now that I have some general art direction/process in place and a sort of vertical slice of the art, I've been thinking more about what sort of story and meta-layer to place on top of the battle layer/main-game-loop. The rewards that you build up by playing the game are fairly straightforward; more Runes, items to improve stats, and Creature-pages in your grimoire that give bonuses to certain creature types. The story for the game took me way longer (too long) though. When I first started thinking about the game way back when, my idea was that the story would be about a somewhat hapless or comical cultist, sort of like Black Mage from 8-Bit Adventures. More recently though, that hasn't really been resonating with me and I've been brain-storming for alternate justifications for the battles. The answer, obviously, is to draw from the source material and make it into an epistolary game. I.e. have a log entry about some sort of horror, battle, further log entry, battle, further log entry, boss, then start a new journal/chapter. Something along that pattern. It gives me plenty of source material to draw from too, and just fits the genre. Perhaps not the most original sort of game framing/story, but I think it should be serviceable.
So, that's the next step, developing a story-beat generator and generating opponents to go along with it.