Posted on 11/27/2014 - 17:29
Happy Thanksgiving to all you Americans! I hope everyone's getting a chance to revisit with family and chill out. Gonna be a pretty low-key night up here in Canada, but I should probably call my folks this weekend.
As mentioned earlier, I wanted to add some whispers and rumors to sprinkle a sense of the player's accomplishments in NPC conversations. So today was spent adding a few of those here and there, if the player achieves certain things. It won't be game-changing by any means, but it should help with immersion (as well as signifying that something has changed). It's sort of a minor buttress for the game's lore.
Also, I was able to verify that this new batch of endgame content re-opens the possibility to defeat the wraith. I think I'm happy with that setup now, as the wraith is near-impossible in most games, but can be defeated in games where the player has achieved the right feats. An exciting reward for those that go the extra mile!
Once that was done, I decided to follow-up on the new unidentified pills I added recently. In the next build, warfarin won't be the only prescription drug to watch out for. Soon there will be losepine (antacid) and L-thyroxine (synthetic thyroid hormone), each appearing the same as other pills in the game. Neither of these are fatal if taken, but they run the risk of discomfort and side-effects in the hours (and days) after.
Also, to make things a bit more "fun," I added a new type of pill container: the pill organizer! If any of you live with older folks, you probably have seen these. They're plastic pill boxes with a separate compartment for each day of the week. They help people remember to take certain dosages on certain days. However, for the intrepid scavenger, they represent a grab bag of unknowns! See? "Fun."
I also decided to add the ability to "uncraft" a large branch into smaller branches. It was brought to my attention that this isn't there yet, and would make a lot of sense. And best of all, it was easy to do!
Since I still have some time left, I'm considering whether I may need to tackle one of two issues that many new players complain of: hypothermia and disease surprises.
Hypothermia has long been a problem, and I still think this may be due to people not understanding how the sleeping bag works. Almost everyone reports getting the bag, but dying anyway. And as far as I know, it was designed to make freezing impossible (or pretty near). Are people just not aware that the bag must be deployed? Should I make it like the laptop with a "closed" mode and "open" mode, so it's clearer when it is deployed? Should I make it wearable like a fur coat, immobilizing the player but also obviously active? Or should I just bite the bullet and make it work when in the hands?
The disease thing is also still biting new players, and in some cases, even vets. The problem here is that the immune bar seems to be near healthy and then "wham!" a new stage hits, or worse, death. I think this is a valid criticism, since most players think they're managing the symptoms (and rightly so) before things suddenly take a turn.
One possibility is to add a "heartbeat" conditions that ticks away immune system ever so slightly over time. This would replace the all-or-nothing immune penalty that gets slapped on a creature when the disease changes stages. My thinking is that it would make the immune bar more of a gradual battle, and it would be less likely to surprise players. I.e. they wouldn't feel as betrayed if it was obvious they were constantly fighting something.
Of course, there may be better ways to do this. And there's always the risk that it touches way too many existing systems to be safe this late in the game. Still, if you've got input, let me know!
Posted on 11/26/2014 - 17:21
I finished adding the last bit of the functional parts of endgame content today, and was able to start testing it. Turns out it was completely broken! Well, sort of. It looks like I used the wrong template item to base this new stuff off of, which caused it to be an invalid item for the place where it needed to show up. So basically, it was just missing when I needed it.
The good news is that was an easy thing to fix. Just changing a format ID to the right number did the trick. And by all accounts, the first 50% of the content worked flawlessly. The other thing I was watching for was the frequency at which it appears, which also seems pretty good so far (especially considering how hard it is to reach in the first place).
The remaining 50% will be tested tomorrow, and I hope to start work on peripheral related content for it after that. It will likely be more tedious than difficult, though I'm hoping I have enough raw material to make it straightforward.
I also added a new section to the game's readme.txt file for Linux users. I received some good feedback from a Linux user who had some trouble, and I think it was really smart of them to suggest adding this help info to a file contained in the download. Here's hoping that helps others in future builds!
I also received another comment about the surprise and frustration from diseases suddenly resurging as they switch stages. (E.g. Blue Rot 3 -> death) This may be something worth revisiting once I have my endgame stuff done, as more than a few have been tripped up by this. It's frustrating to think you're safe due to a strong immune system, only to have it tank suddenly due to a new disease stage, or worse, kill you. Perhaps there's a way I can make the ride more gradual, so it's a constant down-tick of immune system health while diseased? I'm also thinking this might make NPC carriers easier to spot, since they'll likely show more symptoms in the disease mid-term period.
Something for me to chew on, at any rate. More on that later!
Posted on 11/25/2014 - 17:08
I continued yesterday's work on some rare endgame content today. I had to draw some in-game icons for the new stuff, and managed to start hooking them up to stats. I'm about 75% done with the setup of this phase, after which I'll need to start testing it in-game. I'll be looking into whether the content needs power balancing, how hard they are to get, and how often they can be used. Plus, I want them to "feel" right in the world, and not too bizarre/crazy. We'll see.
After that is done, the next step will be adding sprinkles of in-game reactions to the new content. And, of course, testing those to make sure they're sensible.
Apart from the above, I'm still getting reports of some major bugs, which is concerning. For one, people are still running into situations where the scavenge button doesn't work. And to make it worse, the problem disappears when save/load happens, so it's impossible to repeat via savegame.
So it appears I'll need to do a batch of fixes soon, too. The good news here, however, is that most bugs are pretty rare or minor at this point, and there's technically no deadline for me to fix them, as I'm happy to continue fixing what I can as time allows after launch.
Anyway, not much more to report today without going too spoiler-y. Have a good night, all!
Posted on 11/24/2014 - 17:37
Hey folks! Hope everyone had a good weekend. Winter is officially here in the mountains, as we've shoveled our driveway three times since Saturday already. Nowhere near what I've heard over in upstate NY, but it's keeping us busy nevertheless!
After Saturday's CoinPlay announcement, I decided it was time to update the Blue Bottle Games beta purchase page. The ability to buy NEO Scavenger using cryptocurrency is worth noting. What's more, not many know that they can also buy NEO Scavenger at Indie Ammo Box, which donates a portion of each purchase to Operation Supply Drop (in short, sending games to deployed troops and those in hospitals).
Furthermore, with the Yukon edition sold out, and the Desura link not generating many sales, I figured now was a good time to update the options. If you want to see what it looks like, you can visit the beta page while logged out (or in your browser's privacy/incognito mode).
Once the website was updated, I had some catching up to do on various community sites. Some new bugs have trickled in, questions asked, and comments made. So I popped-in here and there to add my voice where I could.
Part of this catch-up also meant touching base with vendors about launching NEO Scavenger in December. I'm planning a price increase when the game is final, to probably about $15 USD (or $14.99, as most storefronts tend to do). I think that puts it at about middle of the road for indie titles, and leaves room for future discounts. I've received quite a few "worth more than the price" comments, so I think it's a safe move. I'll likely do an announcement preceding the price increase, too, so any last-minute deal-seekers can still take advantage of the beta price.
And come to think of it, this should probably be my cue to start contacting reviewers and LPers. I had been holding off on a major PR push while the game was in flux, but I think a reviewer could get a pretty accurate impression from several hours of play in the latest build.
Finally, I started work on the previously mentioned "spoiler" feature. I've tweaked the work I've done already to better fit the discussed direction, and started work on some graphic assets to support it. I have a pretty good feeling about the mechanical impact of the feature (both in terms of fun and lore), and it'll really be a matter of balancing the reward vs. the risk to see it.
I still need to come up with some peripheral tie-ins to make it more satisfying (i.e. NPCs reacting), but I'm still optimistic I can carve out a few in the remaining time.
More work on that tomorrow. Have a good night, all!
Posted on 11/22/2014 - 11:49
Surprise! It's actually a bit of a surprise for me, too. To-date, I've mostly been reluctant to open up purchases via cryptocurrency due to concerns about taxation, accounting, conversion rates, and my own lack of technical know-how.
However, there's a new player on the game store market which takes on most of these hairy details, and just pays devs like a regular storefront would, in USD. This makes it much easier for small outfits like me to handle. That new player is CoinPlay.io!
Right now, if you visit the following link, you'll have a range of payment options for buying NEO Scavenger Steam keys:
including BitCoin, DogeCoin, LiteCoin, as well as some more traditional methods like credit card and PayPal. So if you were one of those players asking for cryptocurrency support, or a player with some spare coins in need of spending, now's your chance!
I'll be updating the purchase page of bluebottlegames.com accordingly with new purchase options as soon as I get a chance.
Posted on 11/21/2014 - 17:43
Even though most of my day was occupied by errands, I did manage to get some time to consider my development options and brainstorm. And I think I'm going to move forward on the spoilered idea I've mentioned recently. Between the two possible features, the spoilered one seems like it adds more to the game that players don't already have, and it also helps to reinforce the game lore more.
The finer details are still coming, but I've got a short list of workable rewards it could include. I've also come up with enough ideas to feel comfortable about making it a subtle discovery for the player (as opposed to a "ta da! you got it!" message log). I'm still a bit nervous about committing to creative work on a timeline, as muses don't always work that way. But as I said, I think I've got enough to go on in order to make a serious attempt.
Apart from that, not much to report. I'll likely start work on this officially on Monday, and hope to have something workable soon. Ideally, it'll be in your hands long enough before launch for me to balance it based on feedback, and maybe throw in a bit more general items/creatures/recipes content in the remaining time.
Hope everyone has a good weekend!
Posted on 11/20/2014 - 17:25
I'm still mulling over the two proposed features mentioned recently. So far, I'm getting lots of useful feedback, and it's helping me to better understand the impact of either system. Some great pros and cons being presented. I'll respond to those comments in the relevant news post, as the spoiler tag there should keep virgin eyes safe. No need to make this post have a threatening spoiler tag, too.
Apart from some forum interactions and more feature considerations, a big chunk of today was unfortunately spent fixing the Desura Linux build. I screwed up the Desura client upload for Linux, and it caused the app not to launch.
Unfortunately, the Desura client for Linux is a shambles. The official one is ancient and buggy, and the open source one (Desurium) is less ancient and less buggy, but still unreliable. Couple that with Chromium not playing nicely with Desurium, and you have an annoyed dcfedor threatening to never use Linux nor Desura again.
Several hours (and some patient Desura support) later, I was finally able to test the newly-uploaded Linux build and verify that it works. I still resent having to jump through such hoops, but at least I know how now.
Another heads-up: I'll be out of the office for a good chunk of the day, tomorrow. I have a follow-up physical therapist session, and I'm using the trip into town to also tackle some banking that can only be done in person. (When will banking get with the millennium?)
Anyway, I may be quiet during the day, but should hopefully be home in time to post a news update.
Hope everyone has a good night, and (hopefully) see you tomorrow!
Posted on 11/19/2014 - 17:30
As mentioned yesterday, I'm looking into which next steps I should take in my remaining time (about 4 weeks). Yesterday, I mentioned a med-evac service as a "second chance" for characters that have reached the mid-late game.
However, as many have pointed out in the comments, there are both pros and cons to such a system. And it's possible the system may not be worth the effort. I've tried to post my response to these concerns, and more detail on my plans, but I'm still unsure if it's the best thing to work on.
In the spirit of open development, one other feature I'm considering is a "legendary reputation" system. Fair warning, if you're spoiler-averse, you may not want to read about it.
In practice, this tends to be limited to stuff that is plausible to large numbers of people. So change tends to be slow and unremarkable. However, long-standing superstitions and folklore have centuries of head starts, which is why local legends such as dogmen and enfield horrors walk Michigan.
Since this mythology rule is the central premise of the world, it would make sense if Philip was affected by it. If enough people believe something to be true about Philip, it will start to be true. Therefore, I've tinkered with the notion of awarding Philip one of two special abilities if he follows a path that exemplifies those abilities: legendary reputations for being either "unstoppable" or "elusive."
Basically, if Philip narrowly escapes situations often enough in the public eye, he gets "elusive." And if Philip publicly overcomes adversity through brute force enough time, he earns "unstoppable." "Publicly" just means there were enough witnesses to be non-trivial. So a simple battle isn't enough, but evading the SkyCorps hoverbike in full public view is (news reports of a fugitive on the loose, SkyCorps rumors start). Similarly, single-handedly whaling on a robot in Zom Zom's before a cheering crowd is going to garner a rep, too. Each of these abilities can then be used in future encounters or combat.
Part of me worries that this may be too much of a shock for some players, as many people seem to be unaware of NEO Scavenger's supernatural hints. However, it's also kind of the point of my game's universe, so ignoring it sort of betrays the purpose of making this game world have supernatural stuff. In this battle of desires, mine wins :)
My other concern is that the reward makes sense. Assuming Philip is "unstoppable," I'm thinking that this might mean he can now do all the same things a strong/melee/tough person could in encounters, using "unstoppable" ability as a substitute. And ditto with "elusive" substituting for athletic and hiding. It's a lot of rewiring, probably, but I think doable.
The other possibility is to award new special moves in combat for either of the legendary reputations. E.g. maybe a powerful attack/escape that always succeeds, but isn't always available.
If you have thoughts on either the med-evac or spoiler systems, I'm interested to hear them!
Posted on 11/18/2014 - 17:32
By mid-afternoon today, I was able to finish the typo fixes and text edits, and merged them back into the main game data. It was a Herculean task to find all those, so thanks again, Tactless!
And while I was struggling to get my updated XML import to work (data format typo), I finally yanked out the redundant map data in neogame.xml. There were two copies of MapMiniMichigan in the maps table, and one was ignored. I could never remember which one was which, and I'm sure it caused modders some headaches, too. So that will be gone next build.
Finally, it was back to bug fixing, as players have already started finding some issues in v0.9952b. Apart from bugs and balance issues, I'm trying to figure out if there are any other features or content I want to try and add in this final stretch. I'm aiming to graduate from beta/Early Access around mid-December, so there are a few weeks left.
The list of potential stuff is, of course, ridiculously long. Realistically, I might be able to finish a few percent of it if I focused on smaller tasks. However, there are one or two larger ones I'm considering.
One of the bigger ones is the med-evac service I've mentioned in the past. It's meant to be a "second chance" tool for players who have survived a long time and have more to lose (i.e. can afford the huge cost).
In short, it's an implant that detects life-threatening wounds, puts the player's brain on ice, and sends out a distress beacon, calling an evacuation service in. As long as the brain is intact, the rest of the body can be restored (synthetic organs, transfusions, etc.).
The downsides to the service would likely be many. First, it'd cost a huge amount of money to get the implant and coverage. Someone has to cover the cost of monitoring the customer out in the field, not to mention the hazardous ambulance service. Second, it would only work if the player died of wounds other than traumatic brain injury. Third, it wouldn't work in cases where the body couldn't be retrieved (e.g. Zom Zom's, Saginaw, etc.). And finally, each resuscitation would carry a risk of brain damage. In game terms, this would likely mean the loss of one or more abilities.
Of course, it may not be realistic to add to the world. Heck, it may not even be possible to do in the time left. However, I think it's an interesting way to help players who are trying to reach the latter parts of the plot. Random death can be really frustrating when in the late game, and this acts as a partial safety net without removing permadeath.
If you have thoughts on the matter, let me know in this post's comments!
Posted on 11/17/2014 - 18:03
Hey Folks! Hope everyone had a good weekend. My adjustable drafting stool arrived Saturday, so I've been testing that out at my standing desk. It is waaay nicer than the hard Ikea barstool I was using as a stand-in. (I'm too bony to sit on hard surfaces for long.) On the other hand, it's just slightly more upright than my old chair, which means I work harder sitting up in it. But it's all for health!
As for dev work, today was not very outwardly exciting, I'm afraid. A good chunk of my morning (read: all of it) was spent on business admin. Things like getting back to vendors, reviewing contracts, checking up on press copy requests to make sure they're legit, and catching up on forum posts and emails. The forum posts can sometimes be entertaining, I'll admit. But most of that was pretty dry stuff. And there's little for me to show for it.
I did manage to get another big chunk of game text fixed today, though. I'm now in part 2 of Tactless's typo list, and the end is in sight. I'm still amazed at some of the mistakes I made when writing (or editing contractors' writing). Just goes to show you how blind we are to our own mistakes!
Finally, I fixed a bug that sometimes caused items to disappear when switching screens. Namely, if an item was attached to the cursor when switching to or from crafting, the game tried to put it back. And if unsuccessful (e.g. due to rotating the item, or drop-swapping with another item), the item was lost forever. So I added code to abort the screen transition in cases where the game cannot return the item to its home.
Overall, a busy day! Just not very visibly so :)