DUNGEONS & DOOMKNIGHTS: An 8-bit AdventureQuest for the NES

Created by Artix Entertainment, LLC

Battle through a new 8-bit "zeldavania" game in the world of AdventureQuest. Available on a real NES Cartridge and emulators.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

8-Bit Shopping, Skins, & the NPC Matrix
10 months ago – Fri, Sep 04, 2020 at 07:02:16 PM

Greetings 8-Bit Undead Slayers,

Grab a drink and enjoy today's "way to deep" progress update on Dungeons & DoomKnights. Lots to talk about and not sure where to start so, how about.......

We have a working shopping system!!!

Want to buy this house for 99 gold coins?

I cannot think of an NES game that actually allowed me to buy a house. And it is not a time-share!  (Also, it does not require membership, microcurrency, or a DLC... XD)

A super big thanks to Dale Coop for coding this awesome feature. It was the last major feature the game needed. We were torn on exactly how to display the shops. Dale had the really clever idea of working into the dialog boxes. It is really versatile, so shop keepers can now sell things like keys, information, or dragons that they may happen to be holding hostage. 

Skin(s) in the game!

Remember in my last Dungeons & DoomKnights progress post where I showed you a screenshot of our game's memory banks? 

You know, how the memory banks were all full.  

Well, except for 2 unused banks....

Which I did not think we could use. 

Oh, I was so wrong XD

WE ARE USING THEM NOW! AWWWWW YEAH!

But it is "HOW" we are using it that is interesting

While I was writing you the last post, I wrote that line about how we had those two sorta-unused banks. I popped over to discord and asked some of my fellow NESMakers if it would be possible to use those semi-empty banks to hold alternative "skins" for the monsters. They all gave me a funny look and said, "of course you can... but it will be a bit of a programming nightmare from where you are at."

Dale Coop overhears the conversation and says changing everything to work would be "easy for him", but we would have to do the graphics a different way. I told him the graphics part would be really "easy for me"..... There was a moment of silence. O_O Then we did it. 

"Double the monsters, double the fun!"

OK, it is not REALLY double the monsters. But instead of just making monsters different colors, we can also change the art. Every monster can have an "alternate skin." Do we really have time to draw alternate art for every monster in the game? Probably not EVERY monster. But this will help a lot with different boss fights. Especially if you remember the feature we added in the previous update that allows monsters to have different attack and defense per screen. Not to mention the AI selector we made too. 

For example.... 

Before the Frost Lich and the Pryo lich had to use the same body and face. Not any more XD.

The best part is, we can also use this for NPCs!

Which brings us to a related, but slightly more complicated topic...  

The NPC Matrix

Of all the things needed to finish this game... I NEVER expected this part to be the hardest. 

It is done now. 

No one will ever know how brain-breaking this was. 

Except for you, if you are still reading.

Which you are, otherwise you would not know I typed this.

Which is why you are my favorite person. 

Thanks for being you.

We have a bunch of NPCs in the game. But our engine was only designed for 64 total game objects (monsters, npcs, items).

More so, many NPCs need to be on the screen along with other NPCs at the same time. 

And NPCs need to be specific colors (remember, the NES has a very limited shared palette)

Adding "alternate skins" doubled the number of NPCs we could add... but compounded the problem because switching skin banks is "all or nothing." 

So this is the story of...

"3D thinking in a 2D Game"

The first part was not eating up 20+ monster slots with NPCs.

So I jammed 4 NPCs into a single monster. Piggybacking off the system that already exists, I got a little sneaky. Depending on which way the monster is facing, it looks like a different NPC.

So now we get 12 monsters for the cost of just 3!

"But wait, there is more!"

Because we have those alternate skin banks too!

(3 monsters x 4 NPCs each x 2 skins = 24)

So we can have 24 NPCs for the cost of just 3! 

I had already built an AI selector, which can change the behavior of a monster depending on which spawn spot I place it in. 

But there is a huge limitation to this... 

Because of how this works, you can only have one NPC from column 1, one from column 2, and so on...

So I created a matrix and started figuring it out.

(With handwriting like this, how did I make it past 1st grade?)

Then, after I got my draft done, I went to work re-grouping them based on the colors they use. 

Town is by far the most crowded place. Things like making sure Yulgar was green, and Serenity and Twig were yellow, etc. The rest of the game got easier. 

Finally, everything started to fall in place. 

We also changed some of the NPCs.... old school AdventureQuest Worlds fans will probably enjoy seeing a returning character-- with one of my favorite video game jokes of all time. Although, I think it was actually removed from AQWorlds when the intro was re-written. 

If we were doing this on modern technology, it would never have even been a thought. *draw graphic... stick in game!* But this is one of the challenges in making a legit retro game that is... hindsight being 20/20 really fulfilling. 

Hope you enjoyed this update. Thank you for your encouragement and support of Dungeons & DoomKnights! 

If you need me, I will be burning the midnight oil to ship you the bizarrest and most ambitious NES games ever made by the end of the year! 


Battle on!

Artix

Chaos, Snow, and why you should ALWAYS jump down spooky wells!
11 months ago – Sat, Aug 08, 2020 at 12:12:53 AM

Chaos, Snow, and why you should ALWAYS jump down spooky wells!

Greetings 8-Bit Undead Slayers,

Hope this 8-Bit screenshot-laced game dev progress post finds you well. I have been making crazy good progress on the game. The goal is still to finish Dungeons & DoomKnights, release the final ROM to you for testing, and then ship the physical cart & merch to you before the end of the year.

I just finished a huge work sprint, and wanted to share screenshots and story with you before diving into my Dungeons & DoomKnights development weekend. 

Entrance to the Chaos Labyrinth

Far too early in the game, you will stumble upon this place of tentacle filled horrors. This is the new entrance. It was surprisingly tough blending the green forest into this purple and eyeball filled area. The final result is nice. It takes place over three screens with an increasing number of tentacles. 

The labyrinth itself requires the Magical Warp ability which you will have to find. 

8-Bit Real Estate Broker

Once the game is ready for you to test, there is ONE question you need to ask yourself. Are you in the market for a house made out of pixels? Just north of town, this beautiful two room, no bath, luxury home build just for a hero like you. It is a steal for only 99 gold. Featuring a killer view of the DoomKnight castle and easy access to town, it is the perfect place to take a rest in between battling the evil undead. What is inside? Great question. No one knows. no one has opened the door since the last owner disappeared. 

There is SNOW place like home...

You will find the entrance to an ice cave northeast of town. It will take you here, to the Frozen North... land under the control of the Frost Lich. Most higher level areas have a tiny preview so you can peek at them before you have the skill required explore the full area. There will also be an character there to give you a hint, so you know what you need to find. 

As per the long standing tradition of NES games, expect snow colored versions of familiar enemies in this snowy area. You know, Frostzards, Ice Skeletons, and Snow Dragons. Because we filled up our memory banks to the brim and ran out of space for more monsters a LOOOOONG time ago! XD 

See for yourself. 

This is Shiru's NES Space Checker tool. 

  • $14 Contains ALL of the code that runs the game. See that 0K free? Nearly empty. SCARY! Every byte left is a precious diamond O_O
  • $1C Contains all of the monster and character stuff! (AI, Animation, Data... it is also near empty. We are tapped.)
  • $13 Monster Art
  • $15 More Monster Art!

What are all of the those other bars?

Great question! The top row are the maps, When the top row is looking near-solid green, the game is done. Like, done, done. Getting closer! Those two that are empty can be used for more graphics. But we do not have much code left to make them do anything. Unless we just used those two banks for alternate "skins"-- that could re-skinned the monsters in the game. I have been making so much progress that I am not going to let myself get side tracked onto low priority stuff like this... but there are some super comical things we could do with this XD #AlwaysThinking

The configuration of this island and the location of that lever are suspicious

New Features

Here is what has been added since the last update (Thanks Dale Coop!)

  • Monster Difficulty! Monster health, attack power, and defense can now be modified on a screen by screen basis. 
  • Night Vision Skill - Who needs candles or torches when you can simply see in the dark! 
  • Unable to Break Block Sound - If you attempt to break a stone, vampire block, sarcoughagus, tentacle, or other breakable object but do not have the skill, it now makes a sound. 
  • Monster immune to your damage sound - If a Monster's defense is so high that  you are unable to hurt it, a special sound now plays. 
Well, well, well....

"Well-come to your doom!"

Throughout Dungeons & DoomKnights you will encounter the occassional well. If you see one, there is a 100% chance you will be able to jump down it. Not sure why... maybe it was my fascination with the movie "The Ring", or that one episode of the TV Show "Lassie" where the boy fell down a well and the dog warned someone about it... but just between you and I, every well in the game has a purpose. It is your solemn duty to jump down every one of these things you find. Normally to comical adventure XD

"All is well that ends well."

On that subject, and talking personally for a moment... the year of 2020 is really a test of our character. We cannot control what happens out there in the world, but we can control our thoughts and actions. I feel we all deserve some sort of "I made it through 2020" achievement badge at the end of the year. The good news is we already made it past half of the way there. Good job! Keep going. 

Battle on!

Artix

Dungeons & DoomKnights Progress, Kubo, and the New 8-Bit Heroes
11 months ago – Sun, Jul 26, 2020 at 11:59:05 AM

Dungeons & DoomKnights Progress, Kubo, and the New 8-Bit Heroes

Greetings 8-Bit Undead slayers,

Hope you enjoyed the previous special post #50 telling the story of the DoomKnight, Sepulchure.

Now, here is your regularly scheduled Dungeons & DoomKnights update post!

3 save books? Only one of them is real... which one do you try?

D&DK Progress Update

It has been 3 weeks since I hired that time management coach with the sole task of helping me complete and ship Dungeons & DoomKnights without compromise. >_> It is working.  It feels like I made more progress in the past few weeks than I did during the last year. Most devs would probably not make a public post that they needed some coaching help to bring out their A-game and get back on track, but I want our relationship to be 100% transparent. I am absolutely committed to the success of our retro video game project.

  • Magic Warp Ability - players can now unlock an ability that will warp them between special runes in Chaos Labyrinth.
  • Daimyo physics - Your undead slaying pomeranian ally now works properly on platformer screens (not sure if you tried this, but the issue was pretty comical)
  • Stone Smash Skill - now works correctly on both adventure and platformer mode and smashed stones will show the correct background when gone
  • Tentacle, Sarcophagus, and other special item break skills now working properly
  • Lava damage can now be assigned to work anywhere that there is water.
  • House Interiors - are now "platformer style" (still altering art)
  • Greenguard Forest (19 Overworld screens)
  • Vampire Graveyard (13 Overworld screens)
  • Pyramids of the Sandsea (25 Overworld screens)
  • Ebil Dread Forest (16 Overworld screens... still needs some clean up)
  • Caverns between Darkovia and Sandsea (11 Overworld screens)
  • Tree Monster boss art complete (Also, new pine tree art)

My next one week sprint is to clean up (finalize) the art for the screens between town and the DoomKnight's Castle that lies in the hills to the North.


Design Philosophy

It has been pointed out to me on multiple occasions that our D&DK overworld map is HUGE. Often followed by "We are busy gamers... how are you going to make sure I am not aimlessly wandering around, lost and not sure what to do next?" Other people are worried about back-tracking, or lack of exploration. For example,  "I want to find happy secrets and be rewarded for doing things that other players who beat the game never found." This is so important... so the design philosophy of Dungeons & DoomKnights should intrigue you.

Dungeons & DoomKnights is a big game for busy gamers. It is intended to be fun and rewarding. The world unlocks, granting you more freedom as you gain more powers. Beating an area will unlock shortcuts allowing you to skip most of the backtracking. You will find prominent characters in the game will be standing at important areas of the game until you solve them. Then, that character will move to whatever the next major objective is. This is a strong visual clue as to what you are supposed to do next.

Going out on a limb here, but this guy is the root of all evil.

Each of the strongly themed areas in the game has one major goal... and always a boss monster inside a dungeon. Save points are typically located at the entrances to major new areas and on the first room of big dungeons. (Oh how I love the save feature!)  In the overworld, you can normally "peek" at the dungeons & places you are supposed to go, making your quest just figuring out how to get to the entrance. If you played the intro demo, you have already seen this philosophy in action. The rest of the game expands on this idea. There are, of course, some areas you DEFINITELY want to return to once you have acquired new skills or completed quests. The Town of Battleon and that cliff at the very beginning of the game being very important ones.

Was a sunny day on Sunday, so did a little photoshoot with the kids.

Celebrating some victories!

Would love to share some other victories happening around the NES development community.

Kubo 3 by Seiji... a 7 year old NES Developer!

Dale Coop is a core member of our team, and a very good friend. He has helped solve our biggest technical challenges and written most of the custom code for Dungeons & DoomKnights. Another fun fact... his son is the youngest NES dev on the planet! Read this amazing article about them.

https://www.videogamesage.com/blogs/entry/169-episode-2-kubo-3/?ct=1594753899

D&DK featured on the June 2020 new 8-Bit Heroes Showcase
One of our major goals was to seek a seal of approval from the creators of the NESMaker community. Being featured on their showcase is one heck of a step in the right direction!

https://www.thenew8bitheroes.com/post/featured-user-june-2020-adam-bohn

Space Raft for the NES hits 100% funding in 24 hours

Another friend from the community just launched a game for the band Space Raft yesterday. They hit 100% funding in less than 24 hours! There are 30 days left if this is your jam...

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spaceraftnes/space-raft-nes?ref=user_menu

Packaging Planning

I have also been working with Stryche from our online shop, www.HeroMart.com, on getting the packaging, print materials, T-shirts, etc ready for Dungeons & DoomKnights. As you may recall, we already have all of the carts and boards (we are officially sold out of the gray carts as of the previous post). He had a few questions for you....

QUESTIONS!

  1. Would you like a world map in your instruction manual?
  2. Are you open to a more unique box option? We have found some interesting, and more future proof boxes that we are leaning towards.
  3. One of our stretch goals was a signed instruction manual. Two people indicated that they did not want their instruction manual signed... what if I included "something else" in the box that WAS signed instead? (Backers of our Moglin Kickstarter probably know where this is going XD)

Battle on!

Artix

https://www.Artix.com


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Legend of the DoomKnight!
11 months ago – Sun, Jul 26, 2020 at 11:58:50 AM

Artwork of Sepulchure (Pronounced "Sep - Pul - Chur") the DoomKnight by Darkon.

The Legend of the DoomKnight, Sepulchure

Greetings 8-Bit Undead Slayer,

For our 50th update post, let us take a deeper look at the undead villain of our game's story... Sepulchure (Pronounced "Sep - ul - chur".... A little different from the word "Sepulchre", which literally means "stone crypt." We spelled it wrong intentionally, so that if you were to Google Sepulchure, you would only see images of the DoomKnight. Highly recommend trying it...)

Sepulchure

Before he sacrificed his soul to wear that cursed armor and talking sword... he was the King's greatest Knight, and the Queen's best friend. Together, long before they were royalty, they undertook a perilous quest to defeat an ancient evil and free the humans from the monstrous lords. His name was Valen. A true hero of the Kingdom.

Alas, Valen the Knight was doomed. Even if he had never found that wretched skull-hilted blade, his fate was sealed. The darkness had chosen him. It whispered to him from the shadows and infiltrated his dreams. Oh, sure... he resisted through the power of his oath, honor, and loyalty.  But it is so easy to twist and turn all three of those things against a good Knight. Especially when you know what their heart truly desires. The fates can be so cruel.

Ask any LoreMaster and they will defend the official story inked in the history books - that our hero’s former enemies kidnapped the Queen and launched horrific surprise attacks across the Kingdom. Doing his duty, Valen bravely lead the King's troops to protect the people. The pages will go on to say he and his troops heroically fell in battle that night, saving the Kingdom. That even facing certain doom against impossible odds, Valen chose to put the good of the many over the good of the... one.

But it was all a lie.

The real story is that Valen turned his back on the people of the Kingdom, and went to save the Queen instead. Many believe she was pregnant. Alas, Valen, breaking his oath and blinded by foolishness... he fell right into his enemy's trap. Just as it was designed for him. Valen and his troops were slaughtered without a fight. All but one. The old man who told me this story survived. He rode with Valen's troops that tragic night. By his account, Valen had suffered mortal wounds, but dragged himself from the battlefield with one remaining, desperate hope. To obtain that cursed sword and DoomKnight armor.

...And we know he did.

Valen did die that night. What returned in his place was the undead Champion of Darkness. The armor consumed him, granting what remained mastery over the shadows and unspeakable powers.  He returned and raised his former troops as Death Knights. They rode into their foe's lair, slaying everything and everyone in their path... and reanimated them too. Each fallen foe swelling the ranks of their army of horrors.

He had sacrificed everything he believed, and was... all for the Queen.

What happened next? No one knows. The Queen was never heard from again. This part of the story remains a complete mystery. At least, there is no "living" person who can tell the tale.

Nearly 18 years later, rumors started spreading that a castle was being built upon the skeleton of the biggest Dragon in the world. You can see it on the mountain in the distance. He is going to re-animate it too. Undead invasions were reported across the land. Organized skeletal armies marched -- carrying the red and black banner of the Shadowscythe Empire. Their destiny? To engulf our world in darkness. To end all pain, suffering, and war... with the eternal embrace of undeath. Now, this army of the dead is preparing to launch their final assault on Castle Swordhaven, and then the rest of the world.

All hail Sepulchure...

Long un-live the ShadowScythe....

But one question remains.

Who is that cute red headed girl we keep spotting in the window of the DoomKnight Castle?

Play the Dungeons & DoomKnights Intro Kickstarter Demo on BackerKit to find out.
https://dnd.backerkit.com/

Your regularly scheduled game progress update soon to follow!

Battle on!

Artix

www.Artix.com

8-Bit Battleon: "Home is where you hang your helm."
about 1 year ago – Sat, Jun 20, 2020 at 01:53:25 AM

Ooooh, the Dungeons & DoomKnights title screen got a little clean up and polish.

8-Bit Battleon: "Home is where you hang your helm."

Greetings Undead Slayers,

For nearly 18 years, players of the AdventureQuest games have begun their journey from the legendary home town of Battleon. You too will discover this town in your upcoming NES game, Dungeons & DoomKnights. Upon entering, you will be greeted by the friendly red moglin,Twilly and see the world-famous Yulgar's Inn.

Here is a peek of it in its 1985 "state of the art" aesthetic glory XD

Town of Battleon

"There's no place like hom.... The Town of Battleon"

This scene really captures the feeling of the town. If you knew how many times it was redesigned before getting here, I would be super embarrassed. One notable feature... is the cross-roads here, are EXACTLY at the center of the world. Which raises the question...

"So, if the world is a flat 2D grid, where's the edge, huh!?"

This is high comedy...

O_O

"Oh......"

Sepulchure the DoomKnight

In order to reach and defeat the DoomKnight, you will need to gain powers and abilities. The people you meet in town will help! (And do not worry, unlike the characters in the one of the games that inspired ours, the characters do not tell lies X_X.)

Every Hero is an Island...

Just be careful where you go when you find that chair board and start exploring....

Want to talk about graphics a little bit?

Above is a peek at everything in our 3 "background art" graphics banks. I printed out this handy sheet for reference and thought you might enjoy seeing it. Yup, what you are looking at is EVERY t16 by 16 pixel square tile that we can use to build backgrounds. We can only have one big one and one small one loaded from the same bank at a time (also leaving room for the hud and some specialty tiles) You might notice we have room for a few more tiles-- which will certainly be used.

Want to see it in action?

Neo... the 8-bit matrix has you.

Looking under the hood

The pic above is a snapshot of the NES's graphics memory (aka the "Picture Processing Unit") . This is what the town looks like in memory when you are playing it. You can do this too! My favorite emulator is FCEUX. It has tools like the PPU viewer which will let you look at things like the image above. Grab the demo from BackerKit and try it out.

Updated Dungeons & DoomKnights DEMO ROM coming!

Soo cool! A player sent me the photo above. They are running our demo ROM on a hand held device.

You can download the current Kickstarter demo from BackerKit now. There is a  new version is coming your way shortly. Since the last release, we added the jump attack, made the skill icon change when you switch to platformer screens, fixed a TON of bugs & glitches including that super weird one that would happen when transitioning between adventure and platformer modes. A new version will be coming your way soon. We are going to need A LOT of help testing before the final launch. Which brings us to...

Production Schedule!

It has been a long while since our last update post. Too long. But with everything that has been happening in the world, every time I went to write a hype-laden good news and progress post, it just felt inappropriate and tone deaf. Hindsight being 20/20 (A phrase that every major news site will be using for their year in review post), I should have posted something anyway. Even if they just read like stereo instructions. It is important that you continuously get updates on the status of your game project.

I really do appreciate your incredible patience and support of this game.

We are still on track to ship the physical game and all of the merch this year. For full 100% transparency, I (cannot believe I am actually telling you this) hired one of those success coach guys who specializes in time management for high performers. I have worked with him before to finish the project successfully. The first thing we did, was to do a full review of the Dungeons & DoomKnights project. He politely indicated that on the path that I WAS going, it would have "only taken me a decade or so" to finish X_X. (Hey now, I was not doing THAAAAT bad!) The new work schedule & mile stones should have us ready to test and ship in October without compromising any of the things I want to accomplish in this awesome game.

Instead of cats, the ancient Lorians worshipped Moglins

If you would like, I would be happy to share some of the things that I am learning (or re-learning in many cases). Concepts like "batching" -- where you do all of one type of thing instead of switching back and forth between lots of things. For example, previously I was editing one screen at a time. I would go back and forth between editing the tile art, the code, the color palette, and the room data in a non-stop vicious circle. This means I would work on a single screen for an entire night (or nights.) It is important to notice how much time it takes your brain to "switch gears" when switching between complicated tasks. Now, I "batch". That is, I do all of one type of activity at a time. If I am working on maps, I do a cluster of maps (i.e. the 3 Pyramids of the Sand Sea Desert above). When I do a room polish pass, I now go through and polish a giant cluster of rooms. When it is time to assign the room data... yup... I do a cluster of rooms. And finally, when it is time to add the monsters, I now do all of the "monster work" in a single batch. Needless to say, this way of doing things can be helpful to doing anything.

Delicious "wall meat" awaits you soon!

There are over 500 game screens in Dungeons & DoomKnights. Our overworld is about twice the size of the original Legend of Zelda. 

See you in the next exciting Dungeons & DoomKnights post.

Battle on!

Artix


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