Posted on 09/29/2014 - 16:39
Hope everyone had a good weekend! We ended up staying home Friday instead of being social. Though, we did decide to play some co-op Goat Simulator together. I don't know that the game will have a lot of replayability for us, but it was worth the $6 for an evening of goofy laughs.
Today, I fired up the new encounter, and started testing the various paths through it. I found and fixed quite a few minor bugs in short order. And when I got to the meat of the encounter, I noticed a big problem: it was too easy to die.
Now, part of the problem is that I basically chose random skills, teleported straight from cryo, and entered the encounter. I had some good gear, but I haven't done any of the other quests. So in a sense, I'm not well-equipped for this.
On the other hand, there will be those without the right quest items nor skills, and I'll have to think about how they'll feel if they die after a full game. Since it's the finale, there's no going back, and many will enter unprepared (maybe without knowing it).
As a result, one thing I decided is that I might add a "skill" shortcut or two in the encounter to reach the important part (e.g. use hacking to unlock a path). I'm thinking this will produce a higher chance that the player will get there, even if they don't see everything. However, the design goal of the finale is to reveal information to the player based on how much they've accomplished in Michigan. Put another way, the ending will be more satisfying for players who do more beforehand.
And speaking of satisfying, I'm more than a little scared that the ending will never live up to peoples' expectations. People have waited a long time for it. But that sort of comes with the territory, I suppose. All writers and game devs have to go through similar worrying. And as my first game, this will be as much a learning experience as anything else.
Anyhow, work continues on polishing the finale. I still have some notes to self for things to add tomorrow, both within the encounter and in the lead-up to it.
Oh, and completely unrelated, one player recently pointed out that all hexes start with a single scavenge locale, and that was kind of boring. Basically, they liked finding a hex with multiple locations, so they had some risk/reward choices in their scavenging.
I think that's a good point, and I'm unsure when that changed (or if it did). So I decided to try tweaking the initial scavenge locales to be more numerous, and we can see how that feels. I think it not only adds this choice, but it also makes sense that there are more places search-worthy when first entering a new area.
Plus, this might also help some of the new players who struggle with freezing and starving over and over in their first few games. The extra locales will mean a higher chance of clothes and food, hopefully making their first few forays a bit less futile and frustrating.
Of course, we'll have to see how that pans out.
That's all for today. Have a good one!
Posted on 09/26/2014 - 16:21
I managed to finish the encounter retrofitting today. I had to do some rewriting of conversations to make things fit, and some sneaky trigger work, but I think it's setup such that only appropriate branches are available when they should be.
I've finished adding the necessary choice items at each juncture, conditions/flags, and treasure IDs. Next step is to start testing!
I imagine testing is going to be its own can of worms. With all the permutations, it could be a significant effort to cover all the possible paths. However, I can also setup some debug code to grant myself certain items, pass time, and other tricks to speed things up.
Once the testing is complete, I'll probably do another pass on the list of bugs, to see if there are any I can squeeze in without too much risk. And with any luck, a new build shortly after!
As for now, it's time to start the weekend. We're considering going to a nerd-themed party tonight, so that might be a nice change of pace (human contact!). Though, we also got into some heavy Prison Architect recently, so we may also crack open some beers and cocoon with our orange-jumpsuited charges. Either way, I'm looking forward to the break.
Have a good weekend, all!
Posted on 09/25/2014 - 16:53
Work continues on making old encounters reflect new changes. A lot of today was devoted to remapping one of the more complex trigger sets in the game:
I may need to develop software to make sense of this!
Above, the two highlighted regions are clusters of encounters already in the game. There are probably a dozen entry points into the encounter, depending on what stage of the game the player is at, and what they've done.
The very top of the image above is a spreadsheet representation of this trigger set. The first group of columns (red/green/white) are condition requirements. E.g. green=must have, and red=must not have said condition. The orange/white columns are whether those triggers would fire given the faintly visible conditions activated at the bottom.
Basically, this is my quick way to visualize and test that each entry node is active when it's supposed to be. I could test this in-game, but the iteration and testing time would be forever. In-game testing, therefore, is better reserved for when this spreadsheet seems to be working.
I think I've finally got that spreadsheet working, so tomorrow I can start plugging the values into the game to verify.
Another thing I did today was explore some end-game ideas I've been meaning to do. While I don't have any plans for a skill progression system, one thing I do want to include is a way to signal that the player has become a local legend. If the player does this, some new options may become available in encounters and/or combat, a lot like if they gained new skills.
This legend system has a reason buried in the game lore, for folks who are paying close attention. Though, I may have to make it just a bit less hard to ascertain :)
Anyway, I didn't add this system yet, as it would require a full review of all encounter choices for appropriate chances to use it. However, it's something I consider important to the plot, as:
"your story serves as anecdotal evidence for its central myth."
There's a pretty big myth which drives everything in the game, so it would seem negligent of me not to make the player subject to it.
Sounds ominous! Anyway, more on that in the future. That's all for now!
Posted on 09/24/2014 - 16:41
Most of today was spent working on finale stuff. A mix of retrofitting work and new stuff.
The retrofitting involves rewiring encounter nodes for existing encounters to sneak in references to the finale. A few early-game things now hint at it, or even point to it directly. I also means slightly changing some old, well-worn paths. So veteran players may see some changes in their next playthrough.
I still have one more of these new branches to add, and it involves a pretty hairy cluster of encounter triggers. I had to create a spreadsheet just to visualize which of the triggers happens and when, so this new trigger doesn't trip over old ones or block them. I'll be continuing on that tomorrow.
In addition to the above, I also needed to hook up several triggers in the finale. Adding the appropriate hex to the map, setting trigger coordinates, teleport settings when leaving, and site re-entering handlers. This also involved making sure items to control entry to the site were in place at the right times.
Finally, I put together one extra conversation personality for the new faction, so we now have two. I usually do more, but this is really peripheral stuff to the finale, and just there for completeness. I did get to drop a bit of lore into them, though. I'm a little worried that their map behavior can become contrary to their conversations, but that'll have to wait until I have time, if at all. (It's AI, after all, so it has limitations in its replication of reality.)
That's all for tonight. The parade of encounter work continues tomorrow. Have a good one, all!
Posted on 09/23/2014 - 17:03
I created a new faction today, to support the content in the finale. There's a group the player can interact with at least once, and I wanted their choices to have some consequence in the map in general. Plus, conversations with this faction are a chance to unload a bit more lore.
Fortunately, they were pretty easy to put together. I may add an extra conversation or two for variety, and I have a semi-uniform clothing piece in mind for them, but they're essentially done.
In addition to the above, I finally did an editing pass on the random encounters to make them a bit more sensible. A number of players have pointed out that the player sort of narrates some things in certain encounters that they wouldn't know, given their amnesia. Since I was reviewing these anyway to make this new faction consistent with the lore, I decided to make the necessary changes. All random encounters should now only talk about factions in ways that make sense (e.g. what they're doing in the scene or just before, rather than the history-lessons of before).
Tomorrow, I'll be hooking this new faction up to consequences in the encounter, and then patching-up conversations in early-game encounters to line up with this new finale.
That's all for today. Have a good night, all!
Posted on 09/22/2014 - 16:07
I finished the most complex part of the finale today. There was a section with a wide range of possible choices, some of which had sub-choices. And many of them were conditional based on player choices earlier on, or things the player learned. There's one section left, with only a handful of nodes.
However, this handful of nodes might imply the need for a new AI faction. I could squeak by without it, I suppose, but it'd seem weird if the player pissed them off and were was no repercussion on the map. The good news is that they may not be hard to make. They'd primarily be a different loadout, maybe some unique faction brand that they wear, and behave similar to another faction. I probably wouldn't create an HQ for them like I did the Blue Frogs (precisely because that HQ took a month and change to make :).
Once this branch (and faction) are done, I can then turn to early plot integration of the finale. Some characters need new conversation options, which means more logic branching and conditions. I also see at least one new recipe needed for a special item.
And, of course, there's a titanic raft of other things I could add after this is done. But for now, I'm aiming to finish the finale, it's various tie-ins, and see about wrapping that up into a new build. It'll include some much-needed bug fixes, and finally give one complete path through the game for players who want it.
Then, with that pressure off, I can see what remains and is worth doing before launch. (And likely, fix new bugs introduced in the finale work.)
That's all for today. Hope everyone had a good weekend!
Posted on 09/19/2014 - 16:33
Still plugging away at the finale. This time, I finished up one of the two remaining branches of the new location, and started work on the other. This last branch is by far the largest in terms of nodes, but maybe less complex than the other two branches, so we'll see if it takes the same amount of time as the others.
Since it's been a while, I figured I'd share a bit of new artwork. These are some new items related to the finale:
Wav's Potato Chips: So good, they're like an eating disorder in a bag!
"What the heck do potato chips have to do with the finale," you ask? Well, that'll be revealed in due time. For now, though, why not add them to the game? They're one of my favorite foods, they would totally survive the apocalypse (what with the "hyperpreservatives mentioned in game lore"), and it's a new carrying container! (Albeit, an unexciting one.) They'll also have a secret use...
You can also see a variety of more traditional encounter items: documents, cards, keys, and the like.
The cool thing is, I think a lot of this stuff further rounds out the tools modders will have if they want to tell stories, too. More variety in documents and key items are always helpful for differentiating encounters from each other. (E.g. which key was for place A vs. B?)
I also added a few new items specifically for encounter use, in the style of the battle moves/navigation items (e.g. shout threat, go downstairs, exit) I tried to make them as generic as possible, so they can too be reused in other places.
Hope everyone has a good weekend!
Posted on 09/18/2014 - 16:23
Today was a pretty productive day for encounter work. I nearly spent every minute hooking game data up. I had to create a new encounter item "Move Back" as a counter to "Down Hall/Move Forward" in one case, but the rest of the work was attaching items to encounters and making new conditions.
The threshold stuff is now officially attached to at least one encounter, and I'm interested to see if it holds up. Unfortunately, it's an abstract approximation of how painful burns would escalate over time, rather than simulated using game systems. I could've gone down the path of building a new system for it, but we're already way overdue on plot work, so I slapped my own wrist :)
As-is, it should still provide impetus to move fast and not dally, preventing players from revisiting sections without a good reason. And with every move counting against this build-up, players should feel a bit of tension.
Tomorrow, work continues on the game data. I have at least two more major encounter branches to hook up. And after that, I need to rewire some old encounters to flow into this one smoothly, so that may take a few days. Still plenty to do!
Have a good night, all!
Posted on 09/17/2014 - 16:56
Work continued today on the finale-related items mentioned yesterday. I finished artwork for four new items in their various states, then created their stats. I also created recipes for said items, and was able to test them to make sure they work.
So far, so good. Now that they're integrated into the game and loot tables, I think I can finally start to wire-in all the game data to the final encounter. No doubt, there will be new loot tables and conditions needed. But most of the big prep work should be done.
In addition to the new items, I reprioritized the battle moves this morning. There were a few bugs in the way AI prioritized moves, and since the priority data was cobbled together over a long period, it was in need of review. So I went over all the values, and made them a bit more consistent. And while I was in there, I fixed some bugs where priorities were completely wrong.
Finally, I found a bug which was causing forest shack hexes to always start with no scavenge locale. It turns out this was probably a debug setting I applied and forgot to remove later. It should be better next build.
That's all for today. Finale work continues tomorrow. Hope everyone has a good night!
Posted on 09/16/2014 - 16:35
I decided to do some revising and pruning on the ending today. There was one point where the player was offered a choice, and the majority of outcomes were death. Now, that might be okay if the player had any idea what they were choosing, but in this case, I felt it was too random. It was basically a crap-shoot for no reason, so I axed it. Instead, now all players pass that choice alive.
Leading up to that point, however, still offers plenty of chances to die :)
I also did some trimming of extraneous stuff in the final encounter. There was one point where two corpses were found, but I think they seemed out of place, and actually created more questions than they answered. I spent several hours yesterday mulling this over, but I couldn't fit them in such that they made sense.
I think this was the right move, as once those bits were trimmed, it felt more solid. I was more inspired to work again. I guess they were the source of a mental block.
I even thought of another way to end the game. But like the other alternative ending I mentioned a while back, it'll have to sit on the back burner until I finish more critical stuff. If I can do it, though, it makes for three very distinct outcomes in the game, and I kinda like that.
I did some work on a new encounter illustration today, as well as graphics for some new items. Now that the finale is mostly drafted and mapped in the editor, I need to start hooking it up to game variables. And that means some new items, treasures, conditions, etc. Tedious stuff, but at least it's a welcome break from nebulous plot hand-waving :)
Have a good night, all!