Sora – A Development Story

It’s been a while since we’ve posted one of these, but we had a lot of fun working on Sora and making it look good on modern systems, so we decided to give a little blurb on the technical changes we’ve made to Sora during the localization. Without further ado I’ll give to floor to Tony, the man behind the code.

Sora-Logo

Tony: I had only played Sora briefly in our meeting with Orange Juice in May 2015, but when I actually got to spend more time with the game, it really clicked; the fast gameplay, setting, soundtrack and presentation were amazing. I was also aware of the fans’ wishes for a new release of Sora, and felt it very important to do a good job with our localized version.

When we start localizing a new game, we evaluate its customization options such as screen settings and discuss what technical improvements we could add to make it more enjoyable for the players. Basically we ask ourselves “What would I like to see in this as a gamer?” and then check how feasible it would be to add it. Sometimes the engine the game runs on makes this impossible, but usually we’re able to add fancy things like higher resolution support.

The first thing we wanted to improve with Sora was the game’s resolution. The original version of Sora runs at 640×480 resolution which feels rather small in modern HD era. Since the base resolution was so low, simply adding resolution options to upscale the graphics to a higher resolution would leave the screen looking blurry and pixelated. I had some concerns about changing the rendering resolution because in shooting games every single element’s positioning is very important, but there’s no harm in trying, right? I set up the necessary changes to launch the game in 720p as an experiment and we got this:

first720p

First higher res shot of Sora running at 720p (16:9 aspect ratio). Notice how the action is centered on the screen because the game area is supposed to be 4:3!

The first tests revealed that the essentials were already in place thanks to Orange Juice’s smart coding, but there was still a lot of work ahead. The view was too far, allowing the player to see more of the game area than they were supposed to, leading to problems like enemies appearing out of thin air. Some of the backgrounds and effects were broken, some boss positions were off, and of course all 2D elements were still happily in the 640×480 land.

Yet even with all the chaotic results, we could see that the game’s visuals got a noticeable improvement from the resolution increase. We went through the graphics assets we were given and found that many images had more detail than the original game resolution could show. Our graphics guys Ozhan and Yulay were on board for creating high-res versions of the menu elements. After some gameplay / image comparisons our minds were set.

As a side mention, we experimented with making Sora’s gameplay fully widescreen while deciding on the new target resolution. We had a lot of fun with it and even had some back and forth with OrangeJuice, sending different builds! However, it was clear from the onset that it would break the game too much. Let’s put aside the stage 1 opening cutscene continuing forever because the missiles never hit their target, and ignore enemies popping out of thin air, how about being able to move behind bosses like Nath and getting some free shots while she’s stuck firing at nothing? The amount of undesired behavior the change would generate was overwhelming.

I’m over here!

I’m over here!

We decided to set the resolution to 1280×960 which doubles the original dimensions, the main reason being that beyond that even the higher resolution graphics wouldn’t benefit much. While our previous attempts at full widescreen were doomed, we were able to add support for widescreen menus and cutscenes specifically. As an added bonus, since the fight against extra stage’s last boss is in a special type of area, we added widescreen support for that too!

widecutscene

Jakke: After upgrading the resolution everywhere else, we were left with the game’s opening (at 640×480 resolution) looking strongly pixelated, not to mention all the Japanese text in it. Unsurprisingly, the original project files for the opening were gone from existence. Luckily, we received most of the original graphics used in the opening, and pieced them together with newly recorded gameplay footage to recreate the opening identically at a 1280×960 resolution with English texts. Our friends at Interweave Productions pulled some miracles with the video.

Sorathumb

Tony: We also changed the texture format. Sora uses a Japanese engine called Luna3D, which is also used by our earlier title 100% Orange Juice. The engine handles a lot of things well, but its texture handling has problems. There’s an issue with texture drawing that causes all textures to appear blurrier and the engine’s own texture format is somewhat slow and also takes up a lot of space. We changed 100% Orange Juice’s texture format some months ago and brought these changes to Sora as well. As result, our version should have faster load times despite having bigger images and the required hard drive space for textures is down to less than 100mb instead of the original’s 1gb.

As for input, the original game only supported DirectInput controllers, but similarly to what we did with QP Shooting – Dangerous!!, we added XInput support to support all types of controllers, as well as added keyboard bind options. Thanks to some helpful feedback from our testers / reviewers, we also added visible keybinds in the tutorial to help new players.

We had a lot of fun with making the achievements. When we started Sora, we were terrible at the game. Back in Japan, I couldn’t even get past the first stage! However as we kept playing we got gradually better and many “How am I supposed to beat this?” fights turned into satisfying victories. We think the game does a very good job at that and that’s why we had no qualms with making the achievements challenging.

Jakke: It took me well over 20 hours to clear the original Japanese version of Sora on easy difficulty. While playing and testing the game, gradually feats that had first seemed impossible, turned possible, then probable, and ultimately felt only fair. I’m not great at shooters myself, so I largely used myself as a guideline for deciding on the achievements – if I can do this, most people can be reasonably expected to be able to. My personal favorite is ‘Dance Like a Flower’, which drove me to near madness before I finally cleared it (with controller burns on my thumb).

 

Finally, go ahead and enjoy these screenshots of things gone horribly wrong during development!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Sora Now Available on Steam!

Tish-Dance-TV

Orange Juice’s shooter Sora is now available on Steam! 

Sora tells the story of its namesake: the lone enhanced human, Sora, and her struggle to protect a fading world. Enjoy breathtakingly fast-paced combat in the Suguri universe, with improved game system and graphics along with original trance music by DEKU. 
Key Features:

  • Fast-paced, tactical bullet hell action 
  • Three game modes: Story, Arcade and Match Mode 
  • Over 20 different weapons to unlock 
  • Bring three weapons to your missions 
  • English localization features new high resolution graphics

100% Orange Juice Version 1.10.1 Adds a Festive Event!

100% Orange Juice Version 1.10.1

Version 1.10.1 is now live, alongside a festive Double Drop Event: chance to unlock rewards from multiplayer is doubled for the duration of the event!

There may also be something else special going on…

Patch notes:

Changes:

  • Double Drop Event is now on! Doubled unlock chance from playing multiplayer games.
  • Monsters and festive-spirited players now experience something new.
  • Changed the way fields are handled in preparation of supporting custom maps (NOTE: the changes will stop FieldMod from working at the moment).
  • Whimsical Windmill can no longer be used if all other players are KO’d.
  • Chapter Count is now drawn a bit higher if Passionate Research is on.
  • Miscellaneous improvements to system graphics.
  • Players can now close the game launcher without starting the game.

Fixes:

  • Sherry’s Combat Flight achievement now correctly checks for winning condition.
  • Crystal Barrier no longer activates on players who have the buff and use Whimsical Windmill to battle others.
  • Alt-tabbed players should now get a blinking taskbar icon when attacked by Sherry or a player using Whimsical Windmill in multiplayer games.

Balance:

  • Changed Sham’s attack to 0 (up from -1).

Sora to Commence Her Operation on January 5th with a Bonus Character


We are most happy to announce that a special bonus is coming for Sora, when it launches on January 5th!

All owners of Sora on Steam will unlock a free bonus character in 100% Orange Juice!

Sora (Military) is an original character designed by Orange Juice, drawn by Hono. She’s a version of Sora from the days before her current appearance in 100% Orange Juice. Driven to fight in an endless war without a break, you can expect her playstyle to be wilder, with new abilities and a new hyper card, “Awakening of Talent”.

The new character is prepared in cooperation with Orange Juice exclusively for the Steam release of Sora.

Sora is available for preorder from the official Fruitbat Factory store.

100% Orange Juice – Sham & Sherry Character Pack Now Live!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now available – Sham & Sherry Character Pack adds 2 new playable characters from Orange Juice’s games. The much anticipated Sham from Sora makes her appearance alongside the laid-back Sherry, the first extra character from Flying Red Barrel.

Sham & Sherry Character Pack includes:
Sham (Sora):
HP: 4
Attack: -1
Defense: +1
Evasion: +1

Hyper (EVENT): Delta Field
All other units receive the following effect until your next turn: All dice rolls will be 1.

Sherry (Flying Red Barrel):
HP: 5
Attack: +1
Defense: +1
Evasion: +1
(Special) Enemy always goes first. If the enemy is Sherry, ignore this effect.

Hyper (EVENT): Whimsical Windmill
Fight all other players in order. The enemy goes first. During battle, gain Evasion +1.

Also, version 1.10 ~Little War~ is now live!

Changes:

  • When using a card in battle, you can no longer see the card disappear from the player’s hand before the battle starts.
  • Redesigned Deck Creation menu to display cards on mouseover in a larger and easier to read size.
  • Redesigned unit selection in Deck Creation and Avatar screens to a single selection pop-up.
  • Consequent Warp Move and Move panel re-rolls are now limited to a maximum of 5.
  • Waylaid achievement condition changed to KO’ing one opponent while using Ambush (down from 2).
  • The central deck now displays the current chapter count.
  • Reworked the deck saving buttons on Deck Creation screen.

    Fixes:

  • Fullscreen no longer flickers in Windows 10.
  • NPC unit cards now display as ‘Player’ instead of ‘Enemy’ cards.
  • Warp/Warp Move panels now correctly take you to any other Warp/Warp move panel.
  • Changed Sweet Guardian card type from EVENT to BOOST.
  • Various consistency fixes in card descriptions.
  • Fixed a bug where characters without a hyper card of their own drawing a hyper from deck would remove it from play.
  • Fixed the shop icon for Kae’s basic color pack.
  • CPU can no longer pick multiple Tomomos if Unique option is on.

    Balance:

  • Kae now gains +Attack for all -Defense even when defending.
  • President’s Privilege card effect now lasts 2 chapters, up from one.
  • Krila now has -1 Defense (down from 0).
  • Plushie Master now heals for 2 HP (up from 1) and sets traps on 3-5 panels, depending on map size (up from 3).
  • Subspace Tunnel now creates 4-6 Warp Move panels, depending on map size (up from 4).
  • Present for You now causes players with a full hand to draw 1 card.
  • Effects that would overlap (such as Extraordinary Specs, Lonely Chariot) now act according to the effect last applied.

Sora Is Coming to Steam!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Eiyuu Senki Now Taking Over Europe

Fruitbat Factory, Ltd. is proud to announce that Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest is now available for purchase in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest can be purchased digitally via PlayStation 3 Network for £32.99/€39.99/AU$59.95 (European PSN account required).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Featuring over 70 characters by renowned artist Oyari Ashito and other industry stars, Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest is a tactical role-playing game developed by TENCO and published on PlayStation 3 in Japan by MAGES. label 5pb.Games.

We are grateful to the fans who have supported us on the quest to bring Eiyuu Senki – The World Conquest to English-speaking audiences. We’ve gone all out on this game, and hope they will like what they see. The world conquest begins here!” comments Jakke Elonen, Project Lead.

The homepage for the game has been updated with new information on the game’s characters, with voice samples for each: http://fruitbatfactory.com/eiyuusenki/.

For more information, business inquiries  and to be included in the press release and review mailing lists, contact Fruitbat Factory at info@fruitbatfactory.com.