Chrono Crisis Interview II
ZeaLitY: It's been over a year and a half since the last Chrono Crisis interview. As time passed, Chrono Crisis was reinvented to feature a new story and aim. The project is also competently staffed by sprite artists capable of impressive work. For all intents and purposes, Chrono Crisis is a completely different game from what we witnessed in January 2005. Though chronocrisis.com flaked out, the project has relocated to a new forum where activity is bustling. With the flood of updates coming in, it is now time to sit back down with Chains of Fate and the rest of the team to get a closer look at a veteran Chrono series fan projects. Before we begin, let's look at a quick refresher on Crisis.
Chrono Crisis is a sequel to Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. It's been in development for the past year and a half, though much of that time was spent planning and developing through trial and error. The hopeful release date is Spring 2007. Chrono Crisis is a sequel to both Chrono Trigger AND Chrono Cross. Cross basically cancelled itself out, but Crisis is allowed to happen because Cross occurred, since Cross produces a "merged" timeline, where all ideal parts of the timeline are kept. The team includes Chains Of Fate as project leader and developer, Lena Andreia as spriter, Final Light Celes as artist, Validus (of the Chrono Trigger Remake Project) as tile artist and co-spriter, and RoeTaKa as composer. There are 9 original playable characters in all -- 4 in 1999 AD, and 5 in the other time periods. This isn't counting the many more new minor characters and playable characters from Trigger (who may or may not appear). There will be three characters per party. The characters will use something called a Tech Grid, which will allow them to learn techs more at your discretion. You will receive Tech Points (TP) after battles and will be able to use them as you see fit. The first demo was mostly a test run for the team to get used to RPG Maker. Nothing in it was meant to be taken seriously as a major part of the new plot. Lastly, Chrono Crisis won't hand out any resources. Sprites, tilesets, and everything else graphical are made, ripped, or edited by the team exclusively for Crisis.
At the time of writing, FinalCeres has left the project. If you are a capable artist and would like to help Chrono Crisis, check out the link to their forums at the bottom of the sidebar. Right now, Lena and Validus will be splitting the concept art work.
1. We'll start with Chains of Fate, who leads. Excited about the project?
Yes, probably more so than our current fans. XD I've been working on this project for a long time, and dreaming about making it since I played the wonder that is Chrono Trigger over 10 years ago. I can't express how awesome it is to see my characters and story coming to life before my eyes, and I can assure all that this game will truly be something amazing.
2. Can you identify the major turning point between the development process we witnessed last year and the current mode of creation?
Lena's return a few months ago and Val's addition to the team. With no new sprites or tiles to work with, I wasn't able to get much development done. I experimented with various rips, but nothing satisfied me enough. It did, however give me a chance to work on the script and I got a good portion of the game's events and characters planned out.
3. How did the team change? Who came and went over this period of time?
I worked solely on the project until Lena joined me over a year ago. She had to leave shortly afterwards, but returned a few months ago and has been working with me practically every night. Earlier in the year, RoeTaKa, our composer joined us. He's away currently, but should be back soon with a lot of new songs done. Another spriter, TidalFate helped me for a little while, but didn't get much done and left. Final Light Ceres, our most recent artist, joined the project a few months ago as well. She normally charges commissions, but I was able to convince her to help out for free. Someone going by the name Ghetto Chrono helped out for a short while with video trailers and an intro FMV (which was just an edit of the anime sequences from CT in FF Chronicles), but I decided they weren't needed and would take up too much space and he left the project. Validus joined the team about a month ago, and has been steadily working on NPC, enemy, and boss artwork, and of course the tiles used to make up the maps.
4. Were there any instances in which you felt like giving up, or faced a titanic problem?
Not really, I highly enjoy working on Crisis and decided a long time ago that I would finish this no matter what. Early in development I had to restart a few times due to computer problems, but that never really slowed me down, and each time Crisis improved greatly as a result.
5. Conversely, were there any pleasant surprises that saved the day?
Getting the team together that I have now. I'm finally happy with the course of progress and we're getting a lot done.
6. Describe a typical day of developing Chrono Crisis.
I usually work on the script while Lena's at work, and think of new side quests and mini games and such, then when Lena gets online we discuss the story and work on the scripts together. Val gets on pretty late and works on tiles, and I let him know how I want them and he gets to work.
7. Just for fun, who is your favorite player character in the game?
I'd have to say Xavier. I love all my characters, but Xavier is a lot like myself and he's just a fun character to write for.
8. The storyline mentioned in the exposition -- that the planet is somehow wasting away in the future -- sounds interesting. Without revealing too much, will any of the game's themes play off those of former Chrono titles?
Yes. In Crisis we have a little bit of everything. We focus on many things, including the mysteries of Lavos and just how much it impacts the world, the evil it instilled into humanity, and the importance of a few people putting aside their own well being to preserve the greater good of the world.
9. Chrono fan project plot planners often have a hard time due to navigating time paradoxes and other inconsistencies. How have you dealt with this potential problem?
Lena and I are constantly working on the script, making sure that everything is canon and that everything we put into the script is possible and makes the most sense. We have a lot of fun with the script though, and there are plenty of surprises and plot twists that many Chrono fans will appreciate.
10. What are your thoughts on the fan community's reactions to progress?
I'm very grateful for all the support we've received up to this point by our fans. This game is for fans of the Chrono series and people who've never played either games of the series alike, and we're glad to see so many patiently awaiting it's completion.
11. A few other fan projects have appeared in the last year. Have you taken creative inspiration from any of them?
Not really. I try to steer clear of other fan projects to avoid the desire of taking an idea. XD But I'm looking forward to see others add to the Chrono series as well. I also hope that Crisis sparks more projects to further bring the Chrono name alive.
12. When the game is ready to release, how will it be shipped, and what will fans need to play it?
The game will be available for download on our official website which should be up by then. XD Everything you'll need will be in the .exe file, unlike my earlier demo where you had to download other things.
Switching gears, we'll talk to Lena and Validus, the two artists and spriters for the game. We'll also talk to FinalCeres, the former concept artist (she recently left the team).
1. Starting with Lena -- in shaping the characters of Chrono Crisis, you've tried to copy the art style of Chrono Trigger. Was it difficult? What considerations did you take in mind?
It was very difficult. Mr. Toriyama has always been one of my favorite artists, so coming up with designs that compliment his was my upmost priority at first. I'm not a fan of Cross's character designer--to me, it almost felt like a different series simply because of the harsh differences in styles (right down to clothing!), so I put a lot of effort into trying to "match" worlds. However, I was eventually displaced from the team for a while, and thus was replaced as character designer. Of the original character designs that have been shown, only Xavier's is still heavily based off of my original design. For reoccurring characters from the other games (former PCs and NPCs alike), I'm directly copying their looks from the concept art of their respective game. So you'll see details like Chrono's green socks coming back. XD Sprite-wise, CT has one of the most difficult styles to emulate, especially when you're having to practically double the size of the sprites. At first, I laughed about it and said "Aw, it won't be a big deal. CT's sprites aren't THAT complicated." Boy, was I wrong. Marle's hair is horrid to animate. Just horrid.
So far as considerations, there are lots that I have to make at least when doing the spriting. Color choice, for one. The Chrono universe has always been a very colorful and diverse place, no matter who the artist at the helm is. So when I color my characters, I try very hard to give each of the PCs a unique color palette. I ~hate~ the current "make everything realistic" opinion on games, so I'm quite likely to give a character blue or green hair just for the heck of it. Luckily, the CT universe allows for this. ^^ I did opt to tone down the colors just a tad, however--originally I had copied the color pallets directly from Trigger, resulting in Xavier's bright orange hair, among other things. I took a more realistic and muted approach, and I think the results have been fantastic (giving Xavier sandy blond hair instead of orange. XD) I also try to pay tribute to the original games where possible--giving Kagero a Nu doll, for example. There'll be some Cross references as well, so don't worry, Cross fans--I won't forget you. ^^
2. When did you get started as a spriter, and what are your thoughts on Chrono Crisis?
Oh lord, that's going back. XD Really, my very first spriting (years and years and years ago) was in good ole' Mario Paint. I used to make glorified FF4 sprites. I'm still trying to track down a new MP mouse so I can see what those dang things look like to me now. LOL My "official" entry into the world of spriting coincided with my entry as a game maker. It was summer of 2000 (AKA the coolest summer ever) in which my friend and I discovered RPGMAKER 95. I didn't have a computer yet, so I got to work solely at my friend's house. One day, I was staring at the default sprites and got the idea to edit them. I figured it couldn't possibly be that hard to edit sprites, and so cracked open Paint to give it a try. I wish I had those first sprites. They were HORRIBLE edits. XD Neon pink dresses, I believe. Still, I plodded on, eventually getting Idraw. We upgraded to RM2K, and I kept spriting... Eventually, I got my own computer and Adobe Photoshop (AKA-the holy program). After the hard drive on that thing died and took our game with it, I was forced to start all over again. I couldn't bring myself to work on it, so I started a new project-- Dark Vortex.
I was still doing edits at this point, but was getting pretty good. Eventually, one of my new team members suggested we should have some custom sprites. So... I started trying to learn that. I sucked at first, but eventually, I got the hang of it. This was Spring of '03. Since then, I have sprited almost every day to some degree. Somewhere along the line, I got good. ^^;; When DV's team dissolved and I was left alone, I started a new project for a friend of mine called "Of Light and Darkness", which was my first experience making RMXP sized sprites. I spent about 6 months working on those before I bumped into Chains again online. We talked, and I ended up rejoining the Crisis team in March. I've probably redesigned the sprites about 4 times since then. XD
Chrono Crisis is probably one of the coolest fan projects I've seen. Even waaaay back in the day when I first saw it at gamingworld I thought it was impressive--Chains can map like you can't believe. People were picking on him though, just for the simple fact that it was a fan project. So after reading through the 12 pages or so of his topic (where about 5 flame wars had broken out throughout), I saw that he had this sort of sunny attitude, despite the negativity. So I ended up joining the team. XD I admit, though--I really could have done more in those first days. I just don't think I was equipped artistically to really achieve what I wanted to.
3. In lesson one of your guide on spriting (check it out!), you allude to a former spriting contest. How many of these have you racked up in your experience?
Ah, I've been in 3, actually. The first was at GGZ (gaming ground zero), and that one was INCREDIBLY competitive. I saw spriters there that make me look like a 3 year old. ^^;; The contest was really demanding too. I was asked to sprite things I'd never have attempted before--like the 4 color guy. Animations (always my weakest point) were also mandatory, so it helped me improve there. I came in first (1 step below grand prize--someone called Locham took that). The second contest was the finals for the one mentioned above--I came in second thanks to an animation error on the super sprite I made (super sprites are haaaard). And the third one wasn't really much of a contest--just a "post a sprite set" type of thing at Creation Asylum. I had one for OLAD, so I entered it... I won, and then they banned me from competing again. ^^;;; I'm a forum lurker, so I often don't participate in stuff like that. I often wonder if I'd be more skilled if I did more of those contests, though. ^^
4. Roughly how long does it take to make all the animations for a player character?
Weeks, at best. I'm working on Xavier now. Ah, to break it down, here's what I have to make. Walking frames--6 frames per direction-- 24 sprites. (12 of which are flipped and then edited) Running frames--2 additional frames that are added into the walking string per direction--8 sprites. Battle sprites--4 frames per action. (Draw weapon, battle ready, running, defense, tech usage, magic usage, attack weak 1, attack weak 2, attack med 1, attack med 2, attack heavy 1, attack heavy 2, damage, weak, death (1 frame), putting weapon away, victory) Tech sprites--god only knows. I'll probably be making at least 8-12 custom sprites for the first few techs, but since later ones might reuse some poses, I'm not sure.
Emotions--anything you saw in CT. Looking down, looking left, looking right, looking up, sleeping, freaking out, laughing, damage, jumping, hands out, etc.--plus some more. I'm going to go through the script and systematically try to make as many of the scenes actually play out they way they're written as possible. This will mean that if there's a scene where Marle is upset, and Crono places his hand to her cheek to calm her, and then she hugs him and starts crying, he will actually put his hand to her cheek, she will throw her arms around him (and he'll react), and she'll be crying. Think FF tactics-styled details--it made a big impact on me when they were detailed enough to when Ramza picked up a rock and threw it, he actually knelt down, picked up a rock, and threw it. XD
So per character, I'll say at least a month, maybe more depending on the PC. For main characters like Xavier and Matison, I'm really not sure. But for simplicity's sake, I can have all essential sprites done for a character (walking, battle, main emotions) in about 3 weeks.
5. Can you estimate by percentage how many characters you've completed, and how many are left to go?
Hmmmm. That's a toughie. Most of the PCs are at least designed, and most of the main ones do have basic sprites completed. Chrono, Marl, and Lucca have full walking sets--Xavier has almost a full battle set in addition to his walking set (though I need to animate his hair). There are something like 19 playable characters in Crisis, so I've only scratched the surface. It's really not as bad as it sounds, though--Since I have a style I like now, I don't have to be remaking sprites anymore, which is what I was spending a lot of time doing before. I'll probably be working alongside the team on my sprites while Val works on tiles. I'm a jack of all trades, however--I spend a lot of time writing stuff in the script, doing system graphics (menus and whatnot) and some character arts too. I think that once all that remains is spriting, it'll speed things up. I'll put the percentage at 5%. Gee, don't I talk too much? XD
6. Moving to Validus now. You formerly worked on the Chrono Trigger Remake Project team. What did you do there?
On the CTRP team I worked as a concept artist. I would draw objects, npcs, environments, etc. My goal was to aid the 3d artists by providing visual aids that could let the transition from sprites to models be easier. I was an underling on the team, there were some really awesome artists who worked on it. I was honored to work with such talented people!
7. What were your thoughts when CTRP was given a cease & desist letter?
Well it was pretty disappointing. Having done all that work and then have it ended in a split second was really hard. It was still a great experience though, that's how I see it! On some level though I was relieved: College was coming up so the end of CTRP helped me to more focus on learning, and such.
8. Rehashing a question above -- when'd you get started drawing, and what are your thoughts on Chrono Crisis?
Well I honestly don't know when I started drawing. Basically I don't know a time before I started. haha. So maybe like age 2? Anyways, my Dad's an artist so his interest in art probably rubbed off...
I think Chrono Crisis has a lot of potential! The other team members are really hard workers, so I think this project unlike many others has a very, very good chance of reaching completion!
9. Xavier's room is impressive. How long did it take? Can we expect more interesting locations like this?
Well there were a few different versions, so if you count all the preliminary debating we did, it took about 2 weeks. The final version of Xavier's room took about a week. A lot of the sprites will be re-used though, so it's not like it will take that long to do every structure... Yes many more interesting locations are to come, there will be a wide variety of different places in CC. Dare I say , more variety than CT?
10. Let's go to FinalCeres, who has left the team after making this interview. Despite her exit, her answers will nonetheless shed interesting light on the process of drawing concept art for Chrono Crisis. We'll start at the beginning. How long have you been with the project, and how did you get involved?
I've been with the project for about a year. Chains of Fate IMed me about the project and really wanted me to be the artist for the game. I was very interested, yet hesitant because I had, and still have, a lot of things going on, and the few times I got involved in independant video games and art studios everything fell through. Chains of Fate was very persistant though, and really wanted me to be their artist, and the project seemed it would actually go through (and I absolutely love Chrono Trigger!!) so I accepted.
11. And how long have you been an artist? Could you name any artists you're a fan of?
I've been drawing for about seven years, though I didn't really focus on it and my style until about two or three years ago, and THEN constantly on and off because I was so busy getting ready for and being in college. Artists I'm a fan of: Leonardo DaVinci, Alma Tadema, Yoshitaka Amano, Akira Toriyama, and Hiroaki Samura are the few off the top of my head right now.
12. How did you flesh out the characters for Chrono Crisis? Were you working off descriptions, or creating something totally original?
There were already a few concept drawings of Xavier and Matison from the previous artists, plus I had the character descriptions and the script. For the rest of the characters, I'm working based off of the descriptions and a few designs already made by the spriter, Lena.
13. About how long did it take to do each drawing?
I really couldn't say, haha. I make thumbnail style drawings for the character designs and then make a rough sketch of what I like. The time it takes to design a character is always different, and I have yet to draw a final version of each character, though I have the final designs for the main characters. It may take an hour to a couple hours or so for each character, I suppose.
14. With concept art complete, what are you up to now?
Well..concept art isn't complete yet... -_-;; I'm currently still working on character designs when I have the time, but these days I'm basically trying to get my life organized and survive living on my own, so I haven't had much time to work on my artwork. If I DID finish, I would probably be working on a new website layout for my site and my upcoming webmanga. Hope that answers all your questions, thanks for the interview!! :D
15. We'll end by popping a question to the entire current team. If you could say one thing to the fans awaiting Chrono Crisis, what would you declare?
Chains of Fate: Prepare for an adventure beyond your wildest expectations. ^^
Lena: You shan't be disappointed. ^^
Validus: Be patient! And good things take time, usually.
Thanks for participating.
The screenshots and information we've just been given should be very encouraging to Chrono fans. Chrono Crisis seems to be fueled by a core of hard workers, and we can only wait to see what kind of innovation they'll bring us next. Keep your fingers crossed; it's only a matter of time! ZeaLitY out.