The year 2018 was a game changer for Santria and marks the third year of development. Similar to 2017 a lot of stuff happened in my private life, which affected the progress of Santria and my view of life in different ways. In the end, gamedev turned out to be my safe haven to release my creativity and tackle challenges in a fun way. It was also the catalyst to meet a lot of same-minded people I become friends with.

A new companion appeared!

The year 2018 started with a big bang: I became aware of an aspiring artist on Twitter, who offered pixel art commissions. I am very picky with whom I am working on projects, and so far it was limited to Sabaku with her help in the character sprite department. The name of this artist was Sam and her clean and adorkable style hits a nerve. After reading some Tumblr posts and relating to her, I commissioned a portrait of Santria’s main protagonist as a potential new twitter avatar. Sam agreed and added even some expressions. The portrait was so well executed and fitting for Santria, that I decided to commission the other playable characters, too!

Sam’s first portrait done for Santria: Tarquin v1 (January 2018)

The idea grows to add these portraits in Santria’s textboxes to improve the quality and expressiveness of the dialogues. I messed around a bit trying to find the right position, and stuck with the approach of the screenshot below. I like to sketch proof of concepts quickly, resulting in such messy, unpolished results.

The first try to implement Sam’s portraits into Santria, including silly overlapping (January 2018).

Working together with Sam went very flawlessly. It was inspiring, and the portraits she did became the monthly highlight I’d look forward to. This was the start of a great and trustworthy friendship, too!

Pine of Time

In February 2018, a new contest at was announced. The scope was to create an innovative battle system. At this time I was thinking a lot about the romance system of Santria, and I decided to use this contest to create a small proof of concept. In this prototype, you are dating Zooey, who wants to play with you her favorite video game, Pine of Time – a charming homage to Link’s Awakening. The walkthrough is interrupted by small dialogues between Tarquin and Zooey, and you can affect the relation to Zooey by multiple choice dialogues. I really enjoyed this kind of approach for dating a lot and wanted to make something unique for other love interests in the game, too!

Pine of Time, a contest entry for in February 2018.

Sabaku helped a lot with additional sprites, and Sam‘s portraits were able to really shine here and Bjoern Means Bear contributed an own Pine of Time theme!

Pine of Time theme composed by Bjoern Means Bear.

Intro? Intro!

With the creation of my own cutscene manager, I really wanted to stress test it with the addition of an intro cutscene. Charlotte, CEO of the Santria Co. and main villain of the game will be introduced and the vibe of the main story set. Charlotte’s portrait was the first portrait after the playable characters done by Sam and I already had a very clear idea for her.

Santria’s intro scene with Charlotte, worked on between June and October 2018.

The work on the intro scene was incredibly useful and fun, since it showed me the limitations of the cutscene manager and what kind of actions were still in need to be implemented.

Implementation of new mechanics

In 2018, a lot of mechanics were introduced to Santria. One of the most outstanding ones was the smart phone with different apps you could actually use. The messenger app used to talk and meet with your friends was the most ambitious project, and is still ongoing. Apps with smaller complexity like the mobile game, the train schedule app and similar are already working as intended. I love to implement this stuff because it adds a new layer of immersion for the player and makes the game much richer of details to explore.

The messenger app of the ingame smartphone, screen capped in October 2018.

The transition cutscene between days was another fun one. This cutscene allows a very clear, distinct but fluent transition between days and shows the player also a tip of the day. It’s like a load screen in an otherwise load screen-free game, eh?

Day transition cutscene, only original with calendar (October 2018).

Another detail I really enjoyed to work on was the painting app of the ingame computer. I learned a lot about surface code magic in Game Maker Studio 2 and wanted the player to leave a mark in the game. What can you do with the save-filed paintings? The future will show… !

The Cepillo app of GalaOS (November 2018).

Fleshed-out locations

Two locations I worked really hard on were the Sea Side Resort and the Ravenstone Mansion, the dungeon entry of the Ravenheim area. I wrote a bit about my motivation and inspiration in the retrospect from 2017, so I will just drop two screenshots from these areas to show the transition from mockup to actual ingame screen.

The Sea Side Resort. Who is Pete? (April 2018)
The Ravenstone Mansion (June 2018).

Portrait extravaganza!

It is insane, how many portraits Sam had created for Santria in 2018. Sam and I agreed to a monthly approach for the portraits and this works very well for me. The monthly format ensures a steady output of portraits while giving me the time to be very thoughtful with the choice and details of the next portrait. We resonated very well with each other and Sam was able to transfer my ideas into wonderful pixel art that was on point without any adjustment needed in most cases. Showing all 2018 portraits would be overwhelming at this point so please enjoy a selection of them below. I enjoy to introduce new character portraits on Twitter with a mockup scene, setting up the mood for the new character.

Tristan is not the best in spelling (September 2018).
Don’t stand in the way of Emily! (October 2018)
Can you keep a secret? (October 2018).

The last animated picture is showing Flora, the shopkeeper of the Occult Grocery Store in Pine Falls. I want to put emphasis on it because this portrait is especially challenging and unusual. Sam was able to pixel Flora’s skull in a cute way fitting to Santria while ensuring that expressions are really sticking out naturally. I am very happy, that Flora as a Skeleton is working well next to the other portraits. Quite the achievement!

The collaboration intensifies…

The collaboration with Sam intensified with time and her art influenced Santria’s style heavily. Therefore, I asked her for additional support in other parts of spritework in the end of 2018. She gladly agreed to help and one of the first projects was the canvas art for the full screen mode. Santria, as a retro-inspired game, has a 320×240 resolution, which will look very stretched and distorted on modern displays in full screen mode. Letterboxing may be one possibility, but pixel-perfect scaling will need black bars not only left and right but also up and down. I remembered playing Game Boy games on the SNES with a cartridge adapter. Stretching a Game Boy game on the whole TV would definitely look strange, and this issue was solved with a canvas element added to the screen. I really enjoy this idea and like to reward the player with unlockable canvas elements for customization. Please check below the first canvas by Sam with the iconic pine tree and Pine Tonic can.

Customizable canvas for full screen mode (November 2018).

The year 2018 ended with a big bang, too: Sam took my programmer art logo and transformed it with a lot of effort and time into the beautiful piece of art below. This new appearence of the title screen did not only mark a new milestone in Santria’s development, but also foreshadowed exciting stuff I will write about in the retrospect 2019. Stay tuned!

Santria’s new title logo (December 2018).

The last thing to show in this retrospect is the traditional Twitter vs. Time chart.

Followers on Twitter in respect of the time period between March 2016 til December 2018.

Phew, this was 2018 after all! Again I am surprised by myself, how much stuff was done. I hope you enjoyed your read as much as I enjoyed the writing!

See you next time!