OK, general feedback:
Overall, I thought it was a pretty promising start; I'm interested in seeing how the game goes, which is saying something, 'cause I generally find high fantasy pretty dull.
That said, most of the bits that I thought worked really
well were bits unrelated to the plot. For example, I really liked the little extra touches which have gone into some of the backgrounds. The parallax on the hill over Landrea and the glow of the fire in Waylon's house I remember in particular, it's good to see those little bits of unnecessary effort which make the whole scene a little more believable. I liked the use of silhouettes - it worked pretty well as an alternative to event CGs, even though it might have been motivated by lack of full-colour art, they fitted in pretty well.
On the plot front, there are a couple of things that didn't quite seem to gel, to me. Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, the near-instant spread of news from Landrea felt a bit weird, given the emphasis earlier in the game on the lack of travel between that town and the next. Secondly, the whole adventure into the forest and the thieves' city seemed a little bolted-on, to me; the motivation to go in was a little convenient, and it ended up feeling like a "we needed to introduce these two characters for later" excursion.
As to Mary-Sue concerns talked about briefly earlier; it seemed to me right at the beginning that Ëre was
pretty Mary-Sue-ish; she's constantly downtrodden and everyone mistreats her for no reason and then she goes and beats herself out of self-pity and it's all rather melodramatic. Then she's surprisingly very capable and both the guys she's with are impressed. She gets better as the game progresses, and she goes from "eeh" to fairly likeable by the end of the demo.
But this is another reason the forest/Jak city excursion feels a little bolted-on, I think; it's also another "Ëre is so special" scene, in that she's wounded and yet manages to go off and bluff her way through the city of thieves and rescue a kidnapped child before she collapses and surprises the doctor that she's not dead yet. Your protagonist is going to be special in some way, sure - otherwise their story wouldn't be particularly interesting - but there's "special" and "suspiciously special".
I quite liked the battle system, as straightforward as the mechanics are; it had the right level of choice between saving-up-AP and doing-something-now, and the various items on sale around gave the impression that it's going to have some depth of choice later on in the game. I liked the cut-in semi-animated silhouettes for special attacks in particular, they added a bit of visual interest to what otherwise could have become a bit of a spreadsheet battle. The one thing I found a bit odd was the turn order - on the player's side, they get one action from their whole party in a turn, while the enemies consistently get one action each
in a turn, which feels a little contrived once you notice it! But it's not a big thing at all, and I imagine it probably makes battles easier to balance.
The one thing I'd mention is that it feels a bit weird to have half the party knocked out or heavily wounded by the end of each battle, only to be hale and hearty again at the start of the next one.
Other than that, I think a lot of the things I'd say have already been said by others. I'd agree that the exit and particularly the journal buttons are a bit hard to find, for that matter.
After working on RockRobin and coming back to this game -- one of the strongest reasons I thought no one would want to play this game anymore is because the character art isn't ... perfect. I cringed upon seeing them again. I asked, who would want to play a game where they can't stomach the art? That kind of stuff. =\
I wouldn't worry about that. To be honest, I for one think I largely prefer the visual elements of Seraphine
to those in Rock Robin
... from the character sprites onwards. They might not be perfect, but I've not seen any game with 'perfect' graphics (except possibly Jet Set Radio
), so it's hardly a problem!
I have no esteem in my coloring. I have never colored sprites before I colored these. These were literally the first time I ever tried shading. And I fully believe the coloring is what ruins the art, even. My first time cell-shading was RockRobin. I tried cell-shading one of these guys, but it looked really, really bad, trust me. =P
If I had to give you a couple of tips for colouring, they'd be:
- Avoid using such saturated colours or such a large range of values (brightnesses). This gives the shading a bit of a plasticky look which can fairly-easily be avoided.
- Try and mix blended edges with sharp edges where appropriate. Personally I would avoid using the spray/airbrush tool entirely and try and concentrate on blending tools like 'smudge' instead. (Presuming you're working without a tablet, that is.)
I had a quick go working over the top of some of the lineart in StriderDen's deviantart gallery, as an example:
The steps are something like:
1: Paint the base colour and then very-roughly block out shadows to give a sense of volume. At this point working with a hard-edged tool is fine, because you're going to alter the edges and blend later.
2: Detail the shadows. Draw shadows on the undersides of fold lines, under the edges of belts and other over-hanging light-blocking things. For half-shaded areas just draw hatching lines of your shading colour, we'll blend it later.
3: Add highlights to the base-colour areas with your highlight colour (use it sparingly, too much and it'll bring back that plastic look), and add highlights to the shaded areas using your base colour. Often highlights look good butted right up against shadow areas, in real life it's actually quite rare to see a smooth gradient across something from-shade-to-midtone-to-highlight.
4: Blend about half the edges together with something like Photoshop's 'smudge' tool, running it back and forth across the join between two different tones.
Generally you want to leave sharp any edges which define shapes (such as those along the edge of a fold, for example the one on the left just above the top-most horizontal belt on Waylon's chest up there) and blend any edges which are across a continuous surface (such as the mid-to-shade line across the right-hand shoulder, or along the edge between the top of a fold and the flat fabric above it).
Generally, I'd advise using highlight and shadow tones which are slightly de-saturated from the main 'base' colour, and it often helps if you move the hue of your shading colour slightly towards blue.
Leaving sharp edges between your shadows and midtones/highlights from time to time gives you a better impression of shape, because those areas of contrast give the eye something to pick up on, they give the impression that there's something on top of something else. If you just airbrush all the shadow on all the time it's inevitably going to go over the lines a bit and then you potentially end up with something that looks like a puffy round shape with black lines drawn on it, if that makes sense.
Here's a close-up of the shoulder in comparison, where I think the effect is particularly obvious - the folds in the fabric look a lot more three-dimensional with some hard edges to define them.
(Curiously, if I were to say anything about the BGs, it's that they often seemed not saturated enough
... or perhaps just that they looked like they'd been reduced to paletted colour or something, there was noticeable banding in a couple of places. If it was done on purpose, I didn't particularly like it myself.)