Saturday, April 5, 2014

Zelda Starring Zelda 2: Download

The moment you've all been waiting for.


Image of Zelda with the Master Sword by Eran Fowler. I really need to turn this into a proper promotional image. That pile of skulls is just the right amount of space for "SAVE HYRULE" in really gritty lettering.

Now, you probably all know the drill by now, but let me refresh you. I can't release the complete game for download. Why? Because we're in legal gray area. To stay on the safe side, I release a "patch", that you apply that "patch", to your own "Zelda - a Link to the Past" ROM.

You can patch your ROM with Lunar IPS in Windows. Some emulators will auto-patch your ROM for you, so check your emulator's read-me if you're not using Windows. 

Some tips: Make sure your "Zelda - a Link to the Past" ROM is for the SNES (not Game Boy Advance) and use one with a .smc file type.

If you're not satisfied with my version and you want to edit your own version of "Zelda - a Link to the Past", you should use the following software, because they are amazing. If there was such a thing as "industry standard" in Zelda ROM editing, it would be these pieces of software.

  • Z-Compress -- Zelda - a Link to the Past uses "compressed" graphics. You won't be able to edit the sprite tiles unless you decompress them, and you can't play-test the game without compressing the graphics again. Z Compress will do that, but it's a bit scary to use because it must be run through command prompt box, but don't worry, you won't screw anything up.
Fun Fact: Super Mario World also uses compressed graphics and you can use this same program to decompress them, though I have a feeling you might need to change the memory location number.

  • YY-CHR -- Incredibly powerful sprite editor. It can read and edit just about any ROM with pixel art. It can't edit the palettes but it can load the palettes from save-state files, so you know exactly which colors you're working with. You can also copy-paste tiles, even tiles from different YY-CHR windows. I know, right?

  • Hyrule Magic -- The description is "a Zelda 3 editor" but it should probably be called "the most comprehensive Zelda 3 editor ever built by humans". Seriously, you can do almost anything with this program. Its designed as a level editor, mostly to move around existing sprites, so I would still edit sprites in YY-CHR, but this is where I changed palettes and changed the script. Without using any code. Apparently, it can absolutely destroy your ROM though, so be careful and save often.

As part of my quest to locate Zelda's original sprite palette, I used Orochimaru's Perfect Guide to Hyrule Magic. It didn't quite have the information I needed, but I could see how it would be useful to someone who was a die-hard dungeon editor. Zelda's original palette, by the by, is the first 8 colors of World Colors 2, Pal 0 in HMagic. It's a "shared" palette, so be aware that you're also changing the colors for other sprites. Hat tip to arc-nova.org for that one.

And of course, no modding project is complete without at least one (or forty) trips to RomHacking.net. I go there all the time, but I still have no idea how to upload my files there. Their uploader doesn't like google drive. But they're always the best resource for rom editing projects. Even if you're not into editing, it's worth a trip over there to see what projects other people have done. People do the craziest stuff in their free time. ...Not me, of course. This is all perfectly normal.

Oh, and if you were wondering, I use the iBuffalo usb gamepad. Totally worth the money.

Big thank you to all of the people that created the resources above, and to all of the fans of the first project. I couldn't have edited all of those sprites without all of you.

If you spot any overlooked pronouns or mislaid sprites in Zelda Starring Zelda 2, leave me a comment. I expect I'll have to do an update here and there. Now, go storm the castle!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Zelda Starring Zelda 2: Dev Blog 3

AND THE TIME OF DESTINY FOR PRINCESS ZELDA IS DRAWING NEAR


If y'all checked my blog recently, you probably saw that I've extended my deadline for myself till this weekend. I really need to get it done this weekend because there's a group of Indie Game Developers I'm trying to impress and they have their monthly meeting this weekend. But never fear. I'm still chugging along. You will get your Zelda.

Here's where I'm at with the sprites. I've got 30 left. I have no earthly idea where they go. There is a very real possibility that some are unused in the game, the others are probably one-offs that only used in one or two scenes. I've got enough of a "feel" for Zelda that I'm going to just paint over them without checking the animation, but it makes me feel like I'm flying blind.

Ah well. Here's the complete sprite list for Zelda as it is right now, without the Link/Lords sprites that I've cooked up.

Hardcore fans will notice that the bunny is now a naked bunny instead of a bunny in a tunic.
This is because Zelda wears a cape and the bunny tail looks weird in the cape.

Yes, "Lords". I promised you some final story decisions. I'm really not changing much. I want to preserve the original feel of the game, so most things are not changing. Zelda is still a princess, Gannon must be defeated, and Hyrule is still kinda worthless at defending itself, despite the wide-spread availability of weapons, magic, and bombs.
The decedents of the Seven Sages are still being captured. You still gotta go fetch them. The biggest change is that all of the decedents are now "Lords" instead of "Maidens". I'd love to make them a mix of Lords and Maidens, but the problem is that Nintendo only made one "Maiden" sprite for the SNES version of Link to the Past. Each "Maiden" is just the same sprite in different colors. I can't change this with the tools I have.

This sprite, actually. In the crystal. "Walking" Zelda originally has her own sprite set,
but her "lying down" sprite is shared with the other Maidens. If you look closely,
the Maiden's right arm is on her dress and the left arm is hidden. This is because
this sprite is also the Maiden's "walking" sprite. So the lords/maidens must look uniform.
Nintendo's sprite decisions continue to boggle me. O_o


But it makes sense. The Seven Sages are all dudes (again, only one sprite) so it makes sense to have the Sage's power follow the male line. It's one of those Fantasy Genere trope things and I feel comfortable conforming to it. 

The other thing that's sorta changing is that Zelda is Link's sister. This isn't a change, really. It's sorta hinted at in the beginning. The text in the screen shot is unedited.

Zelda is my what? WHAT, Uncle? SPEAK TO ME!!! NOOOOOO!!


And then he dies. Like you do.

Zelda-is-Link's-Sister is a fan theory that makes the rounds sometimes. It all stems from Link's Uncle's unfinished death bed confession (seen above). The two most likely options are "destiny" or "sister" and I've always sided on "sister". Remember, the guy that's talking is Link's uncle. Not his dad. Link's parentage is unclear.

Also the original pre-game cut scene says "the time of destiny for Princess Zelda is drawing near", so we can probably eliminate "destiny" from this really, really, really important death bed confession. Sister makes more sense.

The conversation above will be the only time I'll put "brother" into the script. This is the only time that the game hints at a deeper relationship between Link and Zelda (aside from their telepathic connection) so I won't make a big deal about it.

"Save your brother... Link is the ... ..."

And that'll be it. This is just to quickly explain why Zelda is still Princess Zelda, and not Farm-Hand-Gone-Wild Zelda.

So to sum up: Lord Link is your brother. That's all. The other changes will just be cosmetic pronoun changes. I'll rely on you guys to alert me to any pronouns that I miss and I will probably have to release at least one update.

I also realize that not everyone will be 100% on-board with my storyline decisions, so I'll also provide links to the various editing tools to use to change the story in a way that suits you best.

Next post will be the release.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Zelda Starring Zelda 2: Dev Blog Part 2

Number of sprites completed: 151
Number of sprites left: 60


Well, 60-ish.


The extra-long arm is in the code. I can't change it.


She sticks out her butt when she pushes. :)
One of the changes I made to Link's original animation.


Zelda, the character, is mostly done at this point. She moves. She slashes. She spins. She runs. She has a cape and a tiara.

She's a full character. I'm currently doing a play through to check that everything landed correctly. And to take some preliminary notes on the story. There's only a handful of pronouns to flip around, but they're very important.

You know what those last 60 sprites are? About 30 are her "ice rod" moves, ten are her "bunny costume" and the others are odds and ends, including the other princesses in the game. I actually have to get to those parts of the game to check the animations I'm creating.


See those lines? Those are markers for a sprite set. These are the in-betweens for "walking on curved stairs" sprites. The orange is for "up", green is "down". Pink for "not sure". Those in the middle? Some of the "Ice Rod" sprites and "Push" sprites. Only some.  Just... randomly laid there. Nintendo's sprites are a mess.

And yes, that means I've been playing the opening castle over and over for weeks. Pity me.

Link in his broken colors. He looks like a crusader. Hey Link! Where'd you get the coconut?

Remaining issues to deal with
~ Link is the wrong color. Right now, his coloring is white, purple, & red.
~ Not sure how to explain why Zelda is in the shack in the beginning
~ Not sure how Zelda's colors will hold up throughout the game
~ Kinda worried about the "badrom" error at the bottom of my emulator
~ Not sure if added text will wrap in the text boxes.
~ Cannot. Find. Link's. Mugshot.

THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS I DON'T KNOW WHERE THIS IS.

This will bug me.

The mod will be done by the end of this month, barring any bizarre technical difficulties. Please stay tuned. My next post will be about my final story decisions. This game is very important to a lot of people, so I'll need to back up my decisions with lots of complicated reasoning. Don't worry, though. Zelda will always be a Princess.


My work space. I pause the ROM when Link suddenly strobes into view, then I draw a box over possible matches for the sprite. I save, recompress (with the command prompt box on the left), and run the rom again. If the box pops up, I know I've found the sprite. Sprites can sometimes take around 2 hours to track down.


I don't expect this mod to take off in the way that the first one took off, of course. This is mostly for myself and for the people that supported me (And my donors. You all are the best.). But don't worry, I'll still release the patch here.

I'll leave you all with this. A big thank you to Eran Fowler, who painted this beautiful promotional material. Eran posted some amazing progress shots on facebook and I plan to turn them into a .gif.  You can see Eran's professional portfolio (which includes art for video games, hint hint hire Eran hint hint) at EranFolio.com.


https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eran-Fowler-Illustration/518704834838608?



If you'd like to earmark any Coffee Fund donations for Eran just make a note. The donation link is at the top of the page.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Spreading the Wealth

I'm about to get some major publicity for my Zelda Starring Zelda projects (Hi, Wall Street Journal readers! Keep scrolling down for my Zelda projects.) and I wanted to briefly spread some of the love to one of my all-time-favorite game series: The Blackwell Saga, by Wadget Eye Games. I know most of you are here because of your love of Zelda or your love of video game mods, but seriously, do yourself a favor and pick up the Blackwell Saga. It has ghosts, murders, a pitch-perfect leading lady, clever puzzles, and buckets and buckets of class. It's about $15 for the entire series.

And if you have a little left over, please consider donating to my coffee fund. :3  Thanks!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Zelda Starring Zelda SNES: Link to the Past -- Dev Blog

Number of sprites completed: 27
Number of sprites left: 186


There's so much to do in this game I figured I'd take the time to do a proper dev blog. Well, not a "proper" one, if such a thing exists, but I at least want to show you my work flow so you can make your own edits to these kinds of games.

Link to the Past is one of those games where I have to be extra careful to get everything right. If your friends are anything like my friends, Link to the Past is THE Zelda game and they would absolutely murder me if I got the feel of the game wrong. Well, that and Ocarina of Time. I have to be very careful to make it feel like a Zelda game. Zelda can't just be a female Link. This isn't Link's Drag Race (although someone should make that game) She has to be the Princess. She has to move right and the story has to make sense.

The first thing I did was to drop Link to the Past into Tile Layer Pro (an easy to use sprite editor) and see what I could work with. No research. No nothing. I was the kind of kid that didn't use the instructions to make my lego castles. Instructions are for the weak. Sometimes this works out and you end up with a castle. Other times, the "castle" you want to build is one of only two SNES games that used compressed graphics that can't be read by Tile Layer Pro. And then you cry.



NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
Nah, just kidding. Then you google. If you're not very tech savvy, this is he Great Big Secret That Your Tech Support Person Doesn't Want You To Know: your tech support person is google-ing the CRAP out of your tech problems. Tech savvy people aren't smarter. We just google really good.

That's when I found two new tools: ZCompress and YY-CHR. The first tool decompresses the graphics in Link to the Past and puts them in a .bin file. The second tool is a new tile editor that can read .bin files. After you edit, you just use the same zcompress tool to repack the new graphics into the old file. ZCompress is a little harder for me to use since there's no GUI. Instead you have to run it through Command Prompt -- a scary little black box that looks like an old DOS screen.


Up. Enter. Up. Enter. Up. Enter.

If you've never used it before, it can do all of the normal things you do with your mouse (open files, move from folder to folder, copy files, check the status of your network, etc) but Command Prompt does it with text instead of graphics. I've mostly stayed away from it over the years, but my boyfriend warned me that I'd need to get comfortable with the basic commands if I wanted to get into game development. (I do understand why now. Developing a GUI is a lot of unnecessary work for such a simple program.) I have to use Command Prompt and ZCompress each time I want to check my animations. And the animations need a lot of checking.

Because...

They're not in order. o.o The frames are OUT OF ORDER. WHAT IS THIS I DON'T. I can kinda sorta see how one might relate to another one, but there's some that I'm completely lost as to what they do. I'd kill for a map right now.

In order to keep everyone looking right, I'm doing my best to work off of the original images. That means I've dropped the "official" Zelda sprites onto similar looking Link sprites and then I try to edit Link's existing sprites down to something that resembles Zelda. Like so:




Animation powers activate! Anyway, she won't be orange in the final edit. I have one more tool to use after I get the sprites all in the right places. Zelda WILL be purple and Link WILL be green. If I have to go in there and paint them myself, they will be purple and green.

And that's where I'm at. As always, a big thank you to all of the modders who did the heavy lifting in creating these utilities.
Till next time. :)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hire Me!

UPDATE! I've got a Linkedin account now! Please contact me there. Thanks!

Just a brief heads up: I'm available for hire. As you can probably tell, I have a fondness for game design and animation. I'm especially fond of adventure games and hand-drawn animation, but I'm familiar with Blender, Maya, and Unity. If you have a project in the works, make me an offer.

I'm also available for speaking at conferences and for press interviews. I can be reached on Google+ or my youtube channel. Or just leave your contact information in the comments.

Oh! And a BIG thank you to my donors. It's deeply gratifying to know that other people have the same enthusiasm for my projects as I do. You're all wonderful.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to make some more SNES sprites for Zelda...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Somebody Saaave Me: Smallville Cross Stitch Sampler

I don't care how you do it just saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaave me~


Smallville Cross Stitch sampler! The gibberish down at the bottom is the Krypton alphabet as used in Smallville. The border is Lana's necklace. Creating the house took the longest. The pattern is pretty big -- it's about 8 1/2 x 11. This started out as a Christmas gift for my boyfriend, but it's turned into a birthday present.

For all of you wanting Zelda news: The SNES swap is happening. I've got a BUNCH of sprites to edit and some dialogue. The good news is that I've got way more tools to work with -- the bad news is that they're all new tools. lol First it had to be decompressed, then my tile editor wouldn't open the new file, and now we're at the "which sprite is which" phase of the whole thing. Once I isolate Zelda and Link, I'll post some pictures.

Also everyone should check out the in-progress fan edit, Legend of Zelda Zero Legend. It's damn impressive and my Zelda will be making an appearance in all of her dresses. :D Super excited.



And now for my latest project.




My boyfriend is a HUGE Smallville fan. At least... the first few seasons anyway. He got me to watch the first two seasons, but I'm not sure I can handle much more Lana/Clark angst. But I totally get the appeal. It's a fun show.

I browsed the internet for a Smallville-themed sampler. A sampler, for those who don't know, are (traditionally) for practicing and showing off your sewing skills. They're the ones that say "Home Sweet Home" and some kind of blocky house, occasionally with family members. There's often an alphabet.


I didn't find one online, so I made one. A sampler is PERFECT for the down-home feel of Smallville. (Though, those guys have amazing cell-service in that 'remote small town'. My small town *still* doesn't have cell service in some areas. lol)

The house gave me the most trouble. White does NOT show up on yellow, so I played with a bunch of grays to outline the white. I love how it turned out.



Kryptonite Beads! That stuff is seriously everywhere in Smallville. lol



 
 Lana's necklace is a bit off-centered in this pic, but it's another bead. Anyone else out there who was rooting for Lex to hook up with Chloe? Girl, you can do SO MUCH BETTER than Clark. Clark is a ding-dong.



Nice, right? See the little "S"? All of the lettering at the bottom is free-handed. The grass is from a free pattern I found online and I'll link to when I dig it up again. The Kryptonite beading was my idea.

I'll post the pattern if there's interest. The pattern is pretty gnarly and it's not exactly up to DMC standard. The alphabet is all free-handed so you'd have to figure that out on your own.