Project Theta #8

After 12 years of secrecy during which not a single employee dared to leak a word, Valve announced a new Half-Life game! If this isn’t patience, I don’t know what is.

The original games in the series, Half-Life and Half-Life 2, were pioneers. Each brought about an explosion of new ideas of how games could be. I hated first-person shooter games until I played Half-Life 2. It was completely different from other forms of storytelling that I didn’t know existed. Its cutscene-free, seamless storytelling technique and its fleshed-out sci-fi setting engrossed me deeply. The Half-Life franchise was the sole reason that made me want to work for Valve.

Then there was silence. It was quiet anticipation at first, but as years passed without any mention from Valve of a new game in the series, the silence became deafening (in the form of memes). Half-Life 3 became the biggest conspiracy theory in the game industry. It was the single title that shall not be uttered – the Game Which Must Not Be Named.

I expect great things from it – possibly the singular title that will usher in a new age of virtual reality gaming.


Another fortnight of no coding. I’m glad that I kept a coding log which will make getting back to coding much easier. I plan to finish more of the story first, before working on the tilemap again.


Y was pretty busy for the past two weeks, but she still managed to finish some portraits.

Here is Claudia, who undertook sword training together with Felix when they were children. They are now traveling together as adventurers.

And here’s a sketch of the mysterious character I mentioned in the last update.

Yep, it looks just like my own sketch…just…slightly cleaned up!

Felix and Claudia are the second pair of characters I’d like to introduce to the story. With their visual design semi-finalized, I might be able to convince Y to draw some comics revealing their relationship.


I managed to squeeze out 800 words, about 2/5 of the bit I wanted to write before getting back to coding. Stating the word count reminds me of the time I used to write essays. In reality, writing essays is probably easier than making up a story…

I realized that I was unwittingly influenced by Dan Brown’s writing style. Namely, I tend to write relatively short sections from various people’s view. This is probably going to be annoying when translated into gameplay, but I really enjoy this form of storytelling. Upon visiting his website, I realized that he wrote a new book, Origin!

For reference purposes, I bought all his books…even though the only one I haven’t read is Origin…

Time to reveal another bit of the Continent!

Promptly after its founder Lepton Antima passed away, the mourning Empire was under siege from Gemia. The Void, without a second wielder, would be as useful as scrap metal in stopping the Gemian elite magic corps – or so the Council of Five thought. They quickly ordered troops to be mobilized toward Antima.

What awaited the Gemian army was death. For inexplicable reasons, the Gemian magic corps could not fire a single spell off, as if the Void was present on the battlefield. The defenseless Gemian army was massacred by the charging Antima forces. With heavy losses, Gemia called off the offensive.

This was the first of many times when the Void Barrier repelled the neighboring country’s invasion attempts.

Excerpt from A Brief History of Antima

Artist Log [1] – Belgian Comic Art

I went to a lecture yesterday about Strip Comic in Belgium. The presenter is from the Museum of Comic Art in Belgium, and he has mentioned several really famous comics born in Belgium including Tin Tin, Lucky Luke (which a lot of people think is American), and Smurfs (which a lot of people think is American again). It was both nostalgic and inspiring. 

I loved Tin Tin a lot when I was a kid. My cousin has a full collection of them at our grandparents’ place and reading them used to be one of my major activities when I spent my summer there. The lecturer talked about a lot of things I didn’t know about Tin Tin: it started as something to spread political ideologies (Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, and Tintin in the Congo). Herge talked to a Chinese student who was studying in Belgium (Cheng/Chen/Chang/Chan?) a lot before he produced the fifth book, the Blue Lotus, which was about China. That was a huge success and after that, he started to do his own researches about the place before drawing the adventures. Also, Tin Tin’s hair didn’t start with the signature style, while it first appeared in a scene where Tin Tin was in a car and got his hair blown up by the winds. Then they decide to keep that and it became into the symbol of Tin Tin.

I guess the most important takeaway from the lecture is that good comic drawing could convey an incredible amount of motion and emotion through just static lines. And as our media of expression becomes richer and richer, those qualities don’t exist anymore. That is definitely something I should learn when I draw short comics (which are not that good at this stage) for characters in Theta in the future. For the game itself, what I have had so far are mostly avatars, so there are really limited body movements or posts. But their facial expressions should definitely be richer and more distinct.

Finally, another anecdote about Lucky Luke: the undertaker in Lucky Luke is portrayed as a super ugly guy. And that is because the author used to doodle a lot during classes in school, and sometimes he drew his teachers. When he was drawing Lucky Luke, he decides to recycle those old doodles, and the undertaker is an act of revenge to his childhood teacher…

Also, do you know that Smurfs first appeared as side characters in Johan et Pirlouit? But kids became crazy about them so they wrote letters to the author to ask for more stories, and eventually, Smurfs had their own series.

Project Theta #7

I started a YouTube channel for piano, and I even bought a microphone for this endeavor. As a result, I didn’t write a single line of code for the game in the past two weeks. Instead of feeling bad about it, I felt refreshed taking a break working on the tilemap code.

I did, however, make considerable progress on the story. I fleshed out two more plot-heavy characters and I planned the details of the next couple of chapters. Basically about how our carefree protagonists got knee-deep into the whole mess between the two countries at war. More on that in the narrative section!


I got a couple of semi-finalized character portraits to share! Y has been pondering on the character designs for ages. We had countless back-and-forth discussions on how the male characters should look like, and I think we finally reached agreement.

So, without further ado, here’s Edge (20), the protagonist of the story.

And here’s Felix Mendel (26), who used to be a child prodigy sword-wielder.


I really want to focus on the story for a bit, because ever since finishing writing the first chapter of the story back in March, I barely made any progress on it. I keep telling myself that I got the whole story arc plotted out, but there is no content to it! It’s like writing an interface without any implementations and calling it a job finished!

A major blocker for writing narrative happens when the protagonist encounters new characters. How should they act? Why do they do what they do? What are their objectives? What are they thinking? Do they have another side beneath their facade? The questions are endless, and they are all important details to consider. The story cannot progress with empty actors.

So I took some time and brainstormed two more characters central to the rest of the story. A suave guy who just hit 60, and his carefree, mysterious daughter who’s in her mid-20s. I probably can’t reveal more than that without accidentally let out spoilers, but Y might have portraits on them in the next update!

Fun little story. I had a very clear mental image of how the old guy should look like. In an effort to convey that exact image to Y, I promised her I would draw a sketch. I then proceeded to grab my pencil and notebook.

I then Googled “how to draw anime character” and landed on a WikiHow article of the same name. Gotta love WikiHow, they got a guide for everything. After an intense and extensive drawing session, I got this:

I then remembered why I have an artist and closed my notebook…