Trails in the Sky – Programming Blog

Hey, everyone! It’s been quite a while since I last posted here. This is Sara, XSEED’s PC localization programmer! I’ve been buried shoulder-deep in my work on Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection recently, but I’m here today to talk to you about something for the Trails in the Sky games. What? Those games have been out a pretty long time now? I know! I just can’t seem to stop supporting them! Send help.

Jokes aside, here’s the deal. With the recent release of Trails of Cold Steel on PC with help from the awesome Durante, I’ve been hit by some strokes of inspiration of my own. Have you read his guest blogs? Go read his guest blogs! I’ll wait.

Okay. With that out of the way, I’ve got two things to discuss here that I’ve been working on for the Trails in the Sky games, and the cool thing is that you can try both of these things out right now on Steam!

– Turbo Mode –

If you’ve been following Durante’s blogs, you’ll already know the general idea of what Turbo Mode is. In Trails of Cold Steel, this is a function you can use to speed up the game by customizable factors just by holding down a button, automatically skipping most battle animations as well. You can even configure field speed and battle speed individually. Knowing that fantastic Cold Steel’s PC release might bring a lot of new players into the series, and thus, into the Sky games, I felt that adding this feature to the Sky games would improve the overall consistency of experience and help these players feel right at home.

This feature is available for testing right now on Steam! It isn’t quite feature-complete yet, though, as it doesn’t skip animations, and there are a couple of minor bugs. The bugs I’m aware of right now are that turboing in the field may occasionally cause you to clip through objects. Please use care when turboing outside of battle. Turboing in battle may sometimes result in some very minor animation errors, too. In the future, most of these animations will be skipped, and I’ll do my best to fix the clipping problem. In the meanwhile, please be sure to report any issues you may have with the feature to our support e-mail at [email protected]!

For those of you who are playing versions of the game from other storefronts, don’t despair; I haven’t forgotten about you! I just want to make sure this new feature is in as good of shape as possible before I do a full official release!

That’s about it for Turbo Mode, so that brings me to the other thing that I’ve been working on…

– DirectX9 Version –

The Trails in the Sky series was originally coded exclusively for DirectX8. I always thought that was a bit odd, since other Falcom games of the era were given the DirectX9 treatment, or even released with both versions supported. “What’s that mean, though?” I hear you guys asking. That’s okay, I can’t blame you! You probably know that DirectX is a graphics API used popularly in Windows games, but at this point, version 8 has gotten pretty old. So old, in fact, that some vendors have stopped supporting it fully — most notably, Nvidia has long since removed full support for it on certain systems, especially laptops utilizing Nvidia Optimus technology. Those are basically laptops with built-in Nvidia graphics cards that also have Intel integrated cards included for less-intensive uses.

Well, people have been having trouble with Trails in the Sky on their Nvidia Optimus rigs for a while now, and I’ve always been a bit sad that I couldn’t help them out very much until now. I had been writing a DirectX9 version of the engine for a while, as DX9 is still well-supported and resembles DX8 fairly closely. Unfortunately, in the process, I ran into a lot of stumbling blocks that resulted in the process being harder than I’d imagined; it led me to understand why Falcom hadn’t bothered, either. As great as their code was, it just wasn’t made with DX9 in mind originally. In the past week, I finally overcame these stumbling blocks, though, and am pleased to announce a public beta of the DirectX9 version of the Trails in the Sky games on Steam! If you own the games on Steam, you’ve already got the beta now!

I’m basically looking to improve these versions and make them function as well as the original DirectX8 versions did before I put them into a wider release. So far, it seems like it’s working out pretty well! There have been a couple noticeable bugs — mostly strange blocky objects that appear rarely, especially beds for some weird reason — but given some time, I’m pretty sure it’ll all get ironed out. That means better performance ahead for pretty much everyone, especially Nvidia Optimus users! Further into the future, it will also lead to better graphics options that make the games look even better, so please look forward to it. You can help me out right now by testing out the new beta versions on Steam and leaving feedback on any problems you might find!

While I’ve got you here, though, is there anything else? Well, maybe just a little, yeah…

– Other Stuff in the Sky –

I always try to make it a point to support the games I work on as much as possible, no matter how old those games get. Along with these two features, I’ve made some small tweaks to the engine to adjust its performance here and there, and I added the long-missing “Monster Guide Button” that really should have been there all along. My bad on not getting to that one sooner! As time moves along, I’d like to improve these games even more, and hopefully continue to live up to the high bar of quality that people are learning to expect from us. I’d like to make better configuration tools, closer to the one Cold Steel has now, with even more options to help these games shine. For the time being, though, I’m going to keep fixing as many bugs as I can, such as the recently fixed New Game+ bugs in Trails in the Sky the 3rd. All of this and more will come to those of you playing from GOG and the Humble Store as well. Just let them have a little more time cooking in the oven. I promise it’ll be worth it.

I’d like to thank all of you fans for being there and giving so much support. Thank you to Durante as well, for inspiring me to do something you guys will enjoy so much. I am forever blessed to have the chance to work on these wonderful games that I dearly love. Until next time!

Sara J. Leen
Localization Programmer, XSEED Games