So I finalized the story/dialogue system, complete with speech bubbles... layout needs work but the UI is 100% functional. And I overhauled the rendering pipeline. Not much to show in that regard, but there's an OpenGL stencil mask around the eyes to clip the iris & pupil, and sprites are split into tiers from back to front (backdrop, scene, set, actors, objects, etc) kinda like a theatre production. That was mostly a matter of changing the scene file format and parser. There's not much of a system to it. The render loop is one big special case, with potientially 2 or 3 procedural graphics tiers mixed in. Combat collisions are only actor-vs-actor and actor-vs-object. Motion collisions are only actor-vs-set. Shrug. No need to over-generalize.
There are problems I decided not to solve. This game is what it is: pure 2D, fast paced, close-up, action RPG, with freakin' vector splines in realtime... that's enough. I could go part-3D and rely on depth buffering to solve draworder problems, since it has become clear that my old HTML5 Canvas version of this engine is hopeless performance-wise. Some glitches are acceptable. And I don't even want this game to look too sexy. People like us can't compete on that front, when every other thumbnail on GOG, Steam, Youtube and Netflix is T&A clickbait... which means crap content anyway. So in a way that makes creative decisions easy: when in doubt, female NPCs shall wear pants. Animating those skirts is a pain in the ass by the way. Long dresses, forget it except in scripted setpieces. I tried, I failed. This is a very limited engine. It's meant to be fast and not to overshadow gameplay.
(I haven't completely given up on HTML5... Firefox and Chrome are bloated and rotting, but now we have PaleMoon (salvaged from the wreckage of Firefox) and some other serious contenders. I don't bother looking for HTML5 games to play anymore because 99.99% of them are utter crap; but if I happen to hear of a good one I'll give it a chance. I'm not hopeful about HTML5. It's not my first or second choice... but it's still an option... and I'm still doing a little maintenance on HTML5 projects I started.)
The other day I felt inspired to crank out a backstory. It no longer takes place in a cult (glad to be rid of that old RPG cliche!) ... but it's still governed by a Machiavellian inner circle, and it's still a microcosm of society - the concept that spawned this whole project.
Time to get on with maps and gameplay... then writing, art, music... and release it. New ideas can wait til the sequel, if there is one.
I'm tempted to make a classic turnbased CRPG next... with crappy (but vibrant) graphics... not even iso. It's in the planning stage. Here's a very early prototype: http://tnovelli.net/junk/rpg3a