StarOde : NES style, pixel art, grind heavy RPG (indev 7%)

Pre-purchase StarOde and get your name added as thanks in its credits:

For my first small real project with Defold to learn and get used to it, I want to make a NES like pixel art game. I plan to limit resolution height to NES resolution, but to still support wide screen displays (and maybe try to make layouts for portrait screens too). I’ll use a virtual resolution system. Have floating UI which fits within 4:3 view, and can float out either to center or screen corners /edges.

Gameplay will be a NES era RPG like. I want to make it so that it is completely intentionally unfair, and requires a ridiculous amount of grinding to get enough XP to level up and find rare items. Otherwise basic RPG gameplay of that era. Tile based maps. Grid based momement. Villages. Caves. Over world. Turn based combat. RPG text bubbles.

Art style will be as if it were a real NES game with limited color palette, but I’m willing to do some cheating if it’s warranted. Sound / music will be NES tech based too and simple but not absolutely strict.

Other than looks/sounds not going to follow NES technical restrictions strictly, but I still want it to look and feel as if it were a NES game.

For input going to support touch screen style button pressing / touch to move to a grid spot / hold touch down to move toward grid spot. Also will support keyboard and gamepad with rebinding of keys if possible. Plan to make virtual mouse for gamepad play for handling UI - think like Destiny.

I will try to make it as simple as possible to get it finished as a whole real game while still being polished and “fun” for people who like NES looking games with lots of grinding. I may simplify the plan further at some point and avoid expanding it.

Once it’s done will publish Win/Mac/Linux/iOS/Android as a free game (if it’s good enough may monetize it in an unobtrusive non-premium way). Won’t be open sourced, but if I make anything handy I may publicly publish those parts so others can use or learn from them.

Now that it’s described… going to get started. I’ll document the progress here and note any problems or difficulties with Defold as I come across them, but may still make stand alone threads for issues if they are warranted.

I’ll post some initial sprite mockups next. May be slow initially as I get the hang of working with Defold.


Sounds like a great project. I started up a similar myself just to try out the artstyle of such a game. Good luck!!

Yes, we should have a projects/showcase section in here to show/brag/plug all the projects starting up. I would love to see whats going on out there.


Awesome!! I love stuff like this, will follow with great enthusiasm! Good luck to you! :smiley:


Sounds awesome! I created a “Dev diary” category for this. Looking forward to hear and see more!


I am really looking forward to this :slight_smile:

Keep us updated.


Been playing Dark Souls 3 early last few days on top of normal work so a little distracted. :grin:

Going to go for a more scifi theme rather than fantasy. “Space Magic” like Destiny.

Working on making starter tiles sets and sprites. Using Aseprite. I used to use GraphicsGale for pixel art but trying to get used to Aseprite for its nicer features.

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Tiles are 16x16

Some tiles / sprites may be 8x8 if I need them

All tiles / sprites are limited to 4 colors - again trying for NES colors only

Though I plan to support widescreen res with floating UI and so on at first I’m going to get prototype working with NES native 256 x 240 and have default display 2x that at 512 x 480

Using Tiled for making maps

Think going to have zones like Destiny has. Easily leave zones, and return to the ones you’ve unlocked based on a list. Have some doorways in zones that trigger going to deeper areas that have linear story quests associated with them.

For mob spawning I want turn based combat, but also have mobs which spawn on the overworld… I think I’ll have the random battles much more likely to happen when you are moving near an enemy - if there are not enemies on screen then you will rarely get into random battles and not at all in some zones - if you walk into an enemy on screen you then fight an Elite version of the mobs that spawn in that area, with a lower chance of Elite battles from random battles.

Looking to Dragon Warrior/Quest III for GBC for some design inspirations

GBC supports higher range of colors, but was still limited to number of colors displayed at once


Here is NES version gameplay of DW/Q III

Here is GBC version

This project will look more like NES version but design wise looking to GBC color for design elements

The NES version is more difficult

There was a SNES version too


Some first sprites for down direction mobs. I’ll make a few different races with unique looks, and some species of hostile flora / fauna to fight. I’ll make a few variations of each and have them as alt versions for different tileset backgrounds (contrasting color schemes) plus for common / elite / unique variations. These sprites would be for viewing on overworld zones. I plan to make larger pixel art illustrations with dynamic poses for the combat screen.

Valve has a really nice character design guide they made for Dota 2 which I’ll try to follow with this

Asesprite is nice but some of the features are not intuitive to me… not sure if there is a “copy merged” feature or the ability to reorder layers…

For the player’s party, I want them to be able to pick 4 party members for their team.

The gameboy game Final Fantasy Legend has some unique mechanics with player character grow. There are humans which are upgraded by equipping better items, mutants which gain XP from combat, and monsters which eat meat of other creatures and transform depending on what they eat. A made up example is you might start with a kobold monster, and defeat a serpent, have the kobold eat the serpent meat and they may then transform into a naga. I don’t quite remember the specifics of that game’s mechanics, but I think your monster would gain levels based on the level of the creature it ate. Very interesting especially as it was a way to heal your monsters while in the field as after they transform they get their HP and attacks refreshed. Might experiment with a similar mechanic for the player party or items. Maybe have weapons and gear equipped, and be able to fuse the souls of fallen enemies into them to level them up or transform them…

I want basic classes too. Tank, DPS, healer, tech. Have aggro system for combat. Have class advancement so each class sprite begins at stage 1 and over the game can get to stage 5 which looks super epic.


Here you can see very rough design shape ideas for mob sprites. I might do 4 directions only for character sprites, and then have mobs down only as they move around just for less work.

Tested making some more dynamic instead of simply face on. I’ll refine and color these next. Hopefully they give some idea as to what they are that their natural creativity imagines what their full illustration looks like though some maybe more more difficult to imagine compared to others.


Here is Tiled layer setup for tile maps for now.
bg is all of the way on the bottom
bg2 is anything I want to layer on top of bg (would have transparent parts)
both bg layers have not special properties they are only for looks
shadow is for adding shadow hinting on top of backgrounds

The shadow hinting may look like this (from a friend’s project) but more suited for overworld style layouts

Might make autotile assets but also might do things by hand.

fg is anything that is an obstacle
special is for things such as waypoints, entrances, exists, hidden item locations, switches, buttons and so on…


Working on making varied tiling tilemaps. The process is to first make a pattern that repeats reasonably well, and then to cycle through colors in the available palette looking for interesting combinations that are not completely unusable.

Some are 2 colors others are 4 colors. Will have to test when more is ready to see what looks OK and is still readable.

I don’t plan on making randomly generated levels. Instead all zone layouts will be done by hand. There will be lots of little details with FG tiles that work well with the tiles to make areas look interesting.

Did some tests with autotiles.


Here is same color cycling technique (rough with no work to fix them yet) for character colors to quickly go through colors trying to find what color combinations from the limited available colors that work well together. These can be improve still with hinting of other colors than adjacent ones. I left some colors on a few of them around their border that is left over from this process because I noticed the colors work well with the rest and I’ll test using those colors for small details on characters later.


For sound effects and music, I’m using Famitracker for its emulation of Ricoh 2A03 chip (used in the NES). Not going to be super strict like I said before just going to make what sounds good and authentically like a NES game.

Sound effects will be pretty basic. Explosions, powerups, deaths.

Going to write a few short battle songs based on mob power. Normal, Elite, Unique, Mini-Boss, Big-Boss.

Also will write a few ambient tracks to play while walking on world map / in menus / a main theme.

I’m not super knowledgeable with some of this so it will be a learning experience too. Should be fun!


It’s really inspiring to read all of this, best of luck!


I agree! Keep the updates coming @Pkeod!


I’ll keep going until it’s finished and try to not go a day without posting some updates on progress!

This video explains about the constraints of the NES audio channels and how some of them were used in NES games. Very interesting!

This podcast by same author goes over same info but in audio form only

Their channel has some other interesting NES audio related videos too for anyone interested

I have some music themes I’m working on now


Current roughly planned design of the core gameplay and mechanics. Not exhaustive, and I still want to keep things as simple as possible while still making a solidly fun and complete feeling game.

Area Progression

  • Enter area
  • Navigate level to find and kill any mini bosses in order to reach and defeat the big boss
  • Unlock new area + loot piñata from big boss
  • Enter new area and repeat…

Level Progression

  • Begin combat
  • Defeat enemy
  • Get XP
  • Level up
  • Repeat (no level cap, but I want higher levels to require ridiculous amounts of grinding)
  • Diminishing returns the higher you level up? but the difference between 40 and 50 would still matter

Gear Progression

  • Defeat enemy for chance for loot to drop
  • Unit drop lists + global drop lists
  • Gain currency and buy from merchant (gambling)
  • Find items on ground in some places once (like Pokemon or Dark Souls)
  • Gear slots would be like: primary weapon, secondary weapon, body armor, trinket, backpack
  • Gear have item levels
  • Common, Rare, Legendary gear labels

Classes + units

  • Have tank, healer, dps, and tech classes
  • You choose your party loadout, you can create new units, and store old ones
  • If you have high level units you can power level lower level ones, but may run into trouble still with random unique mobs
  • Each class has an ability tree where you can pick either or from a list, and the choices are permanent … perks like in Fallout, or permanently unlocking a sidearm/utility item that has its own slot and ammo, can’t be unequipped, and can be used from action list (guarantee being targeted for next 10 turns, force enemy to miss for next turn, absorb 100% of damage next time enemy hits you…) these would be unlocked say every 5 or 10 levels + have passive ones that do something always such as increase dodge chance by +5%
  • Tank abilities are all about aggro, absorbing damage, a little self heal, and doing high damage at slow speeds
  • DPS is about avoiding damage, doing decent damage often, and having higher critical high chance
  • Healer heals, rez, clears debuffs on your team, and adds positive buffs to your team
  • Tech does situational things that may not always be useful or rely on certain circumstances or requiring turns to setup… such as building sentries which act as permanent additional units for the battle, but takes a few turns to build, and takes limited resources carried in to build… or building traps where if the tech is attacked some major debuff happens to the enemy mob

Death Cycle

  • Die
  • Return to starting tile / entrance of zone alive at full HP,
  • Maybe have a Dark Souls or Division style mechanic where you drop some important currency or items where you died, and if you die twice before picking up what you dropped the older death spot’s loot is lost forever


  • Rock, Paper, Scissors style element shields / weapon elements
  • Some enemies have shields, and once their shield is down they take more damage, their shield may rapidly recharge over turns and absorb a % of damage if special damage of the right type is not applied often enough
  • Some enemies are strong / weak to different elements
  • Most weapons don’t have any elemental attack, just stats like damage range, impact, speed …
  • Weapons that are special have limited number of uses (like Pokemon or other games I referenced) per life / checkpoint / ammo consumable
  • Combat is turn based, number of attacks a single character can do is based on speed
  • I want some kind of gear stat that enables aggro… so higher defense gear may also have a higher aggro modifier - meaning you may not want to put the best armor on your healer / dps because it will mean they will also pull aggro and soak up damage
  • Higher aggro = more likely to be target of enemy units, but there is still random chance
  • I want some kinds of attacks that are AoE - meaning adjacent units take splash damage - such as grenades
  • Equipping some more powerful gear, or using certain attacks may lower a unit’s speed for a while
  • I want some boss battles which take 1 hour of combat to defeat, and maybe in late game bosses that require 10 hours of combat to defeat, which would require buying and equipping tons of expensive consumables to refresh ammo / heal … that’s the end goal of this game’s gameplay to be ridiculous grind on purpose
  • Balance it so if you are not careful even a zone 1 mob could kill you in a few turns?

Misc Notes

  • Area zones can be entered and left at will at any time
  • Areas can only be entered by their entrances
  • Different blobs of tiles within a zone may have different kinds levels of mobs which can spawn.
  • Some tiles may have unique mobs which can spawn there
  • Unique mobs, mini-bosses, and big-bosses each may have higher chance of nicer gear to drop
  • Zones may have sub zones which act as checkpoints - you get a full refresh, and if you die you return to that new zone’s starting point, but you can spawn there from the zone list
  • Not planning any narrative story at all - it’s simply kill boss, unlock next area - you don’t need a reason it’s just a grinding game
  • Players can leave an area at any time with no penalty, but if they run from combat or die they drop something… and they have until they die again to come back and collect whatever that is (even if they leave the zone as long as they do not die again / run from combat again they can return to collect from the tile)
  • I’ll be looking to RPGs of the era for how combat works / xp / weapon damage scaling / hp and so on… I’ve done RPG like mechanics before so it should be straight forward to tune

I’ve had to be busy with normal work more than usual so can’t focus as much on this right now. Thinking about XP requirements for levels and XP gains.

For XP formula I want levels to be gained quickly at first, and then rapidly become more time consuming to level up. Level 1->2 = 100 XP. Level 99-> = 1,000,000 XP.

Different games have different styles of XP gains.

Here is WoW’s

And Dota 2’s

And Pokemon’s

A chart showing XP required for the different classes in Dragon Quest 3

It’s interesting to me that some classes in that game had higher XP requirements than others. It makes me want to consider “ascended” classes… so say you get a unit to level 100. Once you do, you can continue to level them up, or ascend that class to a higher tier, which begins at level 1 again but is a class that you don’t get automatically when you create new units, and if leveled up has much more powerful stats and possible perks than the vanilla classes. At least something like that could provide even more endgame for target audience who enjoys ridiculous grinding games.

Pokemon’s formulas have interesting variations too.

The Disgaea games also have interesting ways of handling XP and levels

In some games, XP is not handled based on killing something but taking an action against them. This is the case with Final Fantasy Tactics.

How I think I’ll handle XP gains from mobs is each mob type has a pre-programmed amount of XP it gives, which is modified based on its level. But still lean toward conservative side with giving XP, and look at the numbers to see how many of x must be killed to level up at certain levels to get an amount of grind required that I’m happy with. I’m not sure of exact numbers yet as I still need to do tests for this.


When I work on other games I usually follow the same design process for screen layouts that I’ll do with this game.

  • Gathering references, thinking about concepts
  • Doing an array of 4:3 size layout sketches on paper with pencil, and making any adjustments
  • Redoing the layouts in photoshop as white wireframes on black backgrounds, and making any more adjustments for better design or including features
  • Doing final asset work in photoshop - usually composed of vector shapes with styles layered together and with painting elements too

The UI elements for this game will all be pixel art. Many of them will be composed with 9-patch style assets with some custom elements. Resolution is constrained so that means simplicity. I want to follow NES era RPG design patterns, but also include some modern elements. There are some stylistic options available that seem to be done more in the past due to platform constraints, and if done may make it appear more authentic, such as how text boxes are drawn.

Next I’ll be uploading images showing the process of going from sketches to wireframes to final assets for the screen UI assets.

I’ll also share initial level layout designs. I’m wanting to do a little more polished and detailed than many games did, but still trying for authentic look.

This site has all of the overworld / town maps for DW3, which I think is a good reference for trying to get things to look right for this.